GUEST: Trevor Starkey’s Top Ten Games of 2016

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Hi there, OK Beast fan! My name is Trevor Starkey and Blessing asked if I was interested in submitting my Top 10 Games of 2016 to the site and I said, “absolutely!” And then he told me when he wanted it by and I said “okay but my list might change in the last couple weeks of the year,” and here we are. I’ll be providing my own extensive coverage over on my own site TrevorTrove.com, including extra lists like my Favorite Non-2016 Games That I Finally Played in 2016, my favorite Revisited Games of 2016, and the dreaded Worst Games of 2016.

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For reference, I’ve played upwards of 90 games this year and about 50 of them were 2016 releases. So let’s whittle those games down to my ten favorites from the year. But first, in the grand tradition of Top Ten lists, here are a few others I want to highlight because I’m a big old cheater. These aren’t necessarily 11, 12, 13, etc. just a few other titles I want to highlight from the great year.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Final Fantasy XV, Watch Dogs 2, Batman: A Telltale Series – I’m still in the progress of playing all three of these as of the deadline. It’s entirely possible any or all of these could end up on my final Game of the Year list when the dust has settled. The combat and gameplay hooks of Final Fantasy XV a scratching an itch even as other aspects of the game drive me up a wall. Watch Dogs 2 improves on its predecessor in pretty much every way and has a beautiful open world that’s just fun to run around in. And Batman is telling one of my favorite Telltale stories to date. I’ve really enjoyed how they’ve subverted my expectations on the Batman mythos and I’m looking forward to getting to the season finale before I make my final calls on where it falls in the year.
  • Job Simulator – I played a handful of PlayStation VR games this fall and Job Simulator was my favorite. The game is incredibly rich with my kind of humor. The cartoonish nature works well in the virtual reality experience was better than something trying to be realistic (because the technical fidelity isn’t quite up there yet). The game never makes the mistake of trying to take itself too seriously and there are a ton of different things to try and experiment with in each of the game’s four scenarios. Definitely worth grabbing if you have any of the VR devices.
  • Severed – A great portable game this year. I played it on the Vita but it game out to other devices too. I’m a huge fan of the Drink Box Studios art style and the dungeon-crawler exploration mashed up with Fruit Ninja-style combat and light RPG mechanics made for an all-around great experience. The story was darker than I was expecting but I loved it. In fact, I just wanted more of it.
  • Titanfall 2 – I’ve mostly avoided first-person shooters in recent years but this year I went full tilt and played a lot of the big fall releases. The story is absolutely forgettable but the way the game introduces fun mechanics in each of its levels made it my favorite of the shooters in the last couple months.  Being a pilot felt great and manning a Titan felt great! I didn’t dive into the multiplayer because that’s still not really my kind of thing but from a single-player perspective, I was really glad they decided to incorporate one this year.

Alright, enough cheating. Here’s my top ten (until I change my mind).

10. [email protected] (Stormcloud Games)

I had a lot of fun with [email protected] for a couple weeks this year. As the first pre-release game I ever was provided for TrevorTrove (ironically after I had already pre-ordered it anyway), I was excited to get my hands on this game. I loved the ASCII-inspired art style when I first saw it at last year’s PlayStation Experience. And even though I generally avoid roguelikes, the combat in [email protected] was really satisfying and getting the hang of what kind of skills and combat approach worked best for me kept me coming back. Fun fact: I’m the First Achiever of the Platinum Trophy on psnprofiles.com.

9. Oxenfree (Night School Studio)

Oxenfree strikes me as a game a lot of people might unfortunately forget about in the Game of the Year conversation because it was a smaller title that originally launched way back in January. But the supernatural ghost story, beautiful animation and art style, and choose-your-own-adventure story and dialogue choices all combined for a wonderful experience.

8. Stories: The Path of Destinies (Spearhead Games)

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As I’m writing this, Stories: The Path of Destinies is one of the December PlayStation Plus Free Games and I couldn’t be happier for that because it’s a really fun game that I had a blast with earlier in the year. Another choose-your-own-adventure kind of game, Stories mixes Batman Arkham style combat with a storybook/fairy tale narrative filled with charm. You choose how the short five-chapter story plays out and your choices introduce new elements that can then be incorporated into the future playthroughs by design. For example, if you learn about a characters treachery in one playthrough, when the story “ends” and takes you back to the beginning, you might have a new option available to you as a result of what you’ve learned.

7. Dishonored 2 (Arkane Studios)

Earlier in the year, there might have been a spot on this list for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: a game that gives you a sandbox and some tools and says “play how you want.” I really enjoyed that game but I also knew that Dishonored 2 was coming and if it did half of what the original had, it would bounce Deus Ex off the list. And Dishonored 2 delivered. Level design is phenomenal and manages to make the stealth approach or a combat-driven approach equally satisfying.  While the overall story plays out largely the same regardless of if you play as Corvo or Emily, their variety power sets makes the gameplay approaches for both fun and diverse.

6. Headlander (Double Fine Productions)

Two Metroidvanias hit my PlayStation 4 at about the same time: the 70s/80s sci-fi-themed Headlander and the fairy tale-esque Song of the Deep. And Headlander won me over with its humor, aesthetic, and much more fast-paced gameplay (compared to Song of the Deep’s more tranquil approach). If you are a fan of the Metroidvania genre, this was the game to play this year and popping your head from robot body to robot body never wore out its welcome.

5. Ratchet & Clank (Insomniac Games)

Prior to this year, I never played a Ratchet & Clank game. They were always one of those PlayStation platformers I admired from a distance without ever really feeling the need to jump in. But Sunset Overdrive was my favorite Xbox One title (and remains as such) so I thought I’d give Insomniac’s reboot of the franchise a try. The gameplay is a ton of fun, the weapons feel great, and the graphics are gorgeous. I’m definitely onboard if Sony keeps the series going.

4. Stardew Valley (ConcernedApe)

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When Stardew Valley came out, I probably became the most “hipster” I’ve ever been, initially dismissing everyone who was loving the game begrudgingly because I’ve been a fan of Harvest Moon since the Super Nintendo. But when I finally played Stardew Valley, I sunk some 80 hours into the game because it hit all the right notes I wanted. Harvest Moon (now Story of Seasons) hasn’t really delivered an experience I’ve truly wanted since the original PlayStation’s Back to Nature. The Rune Factory games scratched the itch enough for their time for Stardew Valley is the love letter to that quirky little farming/datingsimulator game that I’d been waiting for for nearly 20 years.

3. Doom (id Software)

The game that really brought me back into the first-person shooter fold this year. As someone who grew up with the original Doom and Wolfenstein games, id Software’s latest take on the series manages to simultaneously honor the best of the games that came before it while punching 2016 in the face with its attitude and style. Fast and fun from the first moments, any shooters that don’t match the pace of Doom will feel like turtles as a result.

2. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog)

An incredible closing chapter for Naughty Dog’s Nathan Drake story, which could have failed just as easily as it succeeded thanks to the risky long-lost brother element of the story. This game does so many things right: characters, performances, visuals, direct storytelling, environmental storytelling, the list goes on. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End quickly surpassed the other games in the series for me because it built on and honored so many of the characters I’ve come to connect with over the course of the previous games and as I have grown up, so have they. This will be a lot of people’s Game of the Year and I don’t fault them for that at all. One of the only reasons it’s not mine as well is because even with all of its greatness (from small beginnings), a lot of the game still feels just like the others in the series, for better and worse.

1. The Witness (Thekla, Inc.)

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The Witness has an incredibly simple premise: you wake up on a beautiful and mysterious island and are presented with a series of puzzles to solve. Every puzzle in the game involves getting from point A (the full circle starting point) to point B (the semi-circle ending point). New rules and tricks are added throughout the world in a largely non-linear fashion. You might stumble upon an incredibly complex puzzle with all sorts of unknown shapes and colors well before you’ve discovered the simpler versions of each of those shapes and colors that “teach” you what each one means. There is no feeling “cheated” in this game. Every reward comes as a result of solving a logic puzzle. The rules of the world are defined and unbreaking. The game’s most difficult challenge – a set of randomized puzzles that must be completed in succession within a time limit – took me easily more than 100 attempts over the course of a week before I finally stumbled into the right mix of luck and headspace and managed to complete it. The Platinum Trophy I secured in that moment will likely live at the top of my favorite gaming achievements for years to come. It feels even more special because I was among the throngs of players in those early days after release who played through refusing to look up even the smallest of hints online. Every puzzle I solved in that game was a combination of exquisite design and my own brain being tested.

 

Thank you so much for checking out GOTY week on OK Beast! Make sure to stay tuned for more lists and holiday surprises!

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