To say that this was the biggest year for gaming yet is probably a bit cliché at this point. Every year, developers wow us with great experiences – whether it be new installments in beloved series or brand new IPs yearning to prove themselves – and 2016 was no different.
This year saw the return of Nathan Drake, a brand new Final Fantasy installment (finally!), and Marcus Fenix’s son inherited his father’s Lancer. We were spoiled with fantastic new narratives, too – Firewatch, Inside, VA-11 HALL-A, and Batman: The Telltale Series come to mind. And even those games that didn’t quite deliver in the end, as is the case with No Man’s Sky, at least they were ambitious and tried to give us something new. I hope the industry continues in that direction.
It’s always really difficult to pick only five best games of the year – which is probably why I always leave it until the last possible moment – but I’m pretty happy with our picks this year. The gamers among the Den of Geek staff got together and compared lists – a couple of these we all agreed on while others we admittedly went back and forth on. But now we have our five and we stand by them.
The five games we chose exemplify great gameplay design, wonderful presentation, and a compelling narrative. And in the case of one of our picks, it’s a game that’s just too much fun to leave off the list.
So, without further ado, here are Den of Geek’s picks for top 5 games of 2016:
5. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Eidos Montreal | XBO, PS4, PC
We’d almost forgotten how much fun it was to sneak through an enemy fortress by crawling through vents. Luckily, this sequel to the fantastic Human Revolution reminded us. As a series, Deus Ex has always been a sci-fi behemoth – full of cool tech and gadgets, weird science, cyberpunk, plenty of conspiracies, and a very healthy dose of action – and Mankind Divided doesn’t disappoint.
While Mankind Divided isn’t quite as innovative as its predecessor in terms of new mechanics or storytelling, it’s a perfect example of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Mankind Divided takes everything that was great about Human Revolution – the special abilities, fast-paced shooting, the multiple approaches to any given task, and the compelling storytelling – and just does things a little bit better.
If a video game’s most important mandate is to entertain, then protagonist Adam Jensen’s new adventure is a solid winner that will keep you busy with lots of infiltrating and hacking. Even side missions offer up a heavy dose of adrenaline that keeps up the pace of the game, with very few moments of lull.
With Deus Ex, story is always what you have to come back to in the end. The writing in Mankind Divided is powerful, well thought out, twisting, and full of amazing science fiction. This is definitely our favorite RPG of the year.
Ghost Town Games | XBO, PS4, PC
Overcooked is so much fun that it was impossible to keep it off this list. This indie cooking simulator is the team-based arcade experience that groups of friends dream of, as you try to beat the clock with order after order of food. Whether you choose to chop or bake or fry or grill or wash dishes, every single job is vital to the process. In fact, if you’re not fast enough with those dishes, your whole team is doomed to fail.
Behind the charming presentation and upbeat music is a very intense game. Don’t let its friendly vibe fool you. Even the sad menu tune should tip you off that you’re bound to throw a controller at some point. Overcooked is challenging. Recipes and orders get more complicated as your progress through the game’s many worlds. Getting three stars on any given level can be a frustrating endeavor, but it’s ultimately very rewarding.
Reminiscent of the many cooking games you might play on your phone or tablet, Overcooked is surprising in its quality and in how fun it is. The cooperative experience is what sets Overcooked apart and makes it the best title in its niche genre. This is undoubtedly our favorite indie of the year.
3. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Naughty Dog | PS4
The top 3 games were very hard to rank, especially Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, which is this year’s most emotional experience as we bid gaming ubermensch Nathan Drake farewell. Naughty Dog has a long history of great storytelling, and Nathan’s final adventure (?) continues that legacy. This sequel satisfyingly closes many of the plot points of the series, as Nathan finds himself at a crossroads in his life: will this seasoned treasure hunter choose adventure or those he loves? And along comes Nathan’s longlost brother, Sam, to make things even more complicated.
Uncharted 4 is also the best looking game on this list, with impressive vistas and perhaps the most detailed environments ever put in a video game. The gameplay retains much from past installments, but that’s not a gripe. Again, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And this sequel is as cinematic as it ever was, without bogging down the player with lots of exposition and instead keeping things moving at an entertaining pace. Uncharted 4 balances presentation, action, and storytelling perfectly.
While we would say that this entry isn’t quite as friendly to new players or as standalone as past installments, Uncharted 4 is a fun action-adventure nevertheless. But seriously, play the first three before picking up Uncharted 4. You won’t be sorry.
The Doom series – one of the id franchises responsible for introducing gamers to shooters back in the 90s – seemed all but dead a few years back. Yet here is this reboot, blasting its way through the hellscape of 2016 to take second place on our list. Doom is everything a hardcore fan of the series could want, and in a minimalist package that doesn’t bog itself down with what’s come before – this is simply about shooting your way through countless rooms and hallways full of demons.
From the very first seconds of Doom, from the moment you’re allowed to move your character (named the Doom Slayer), you have to hit the ground running, killing demons the only way you know how. What’s even more remarkable about this fast-paced action game is how familiar the controls feel. The game is very fast, almost retro in its need for speed – a very big change of pace in the Call of Duty era of shooters. This new Doom doesn’t feel like a relic from the past, though. id has captured everything people loved about the originals – demons, big guns, and lots of gore – and put it in a contemporary package.
If there’s one revival that deserves all of the praise it’s received, it’s Doom. id has brought this classic shooter to the current generation of consoles, completely modernized this titan, while never losing sight of what made it great in the first place. A job well done.
And Den of Geek’s 2016 Game of the Year is…
Blizzard | XBO, PS4, PC
Overwatch is the team-based shooter this generation desperately needed. With a presentation unlike any of today’s FPS titles and an emphasis on teamwork, Overwatch is an experience with the power to revitalize any gamer suffering from shooter fatigue. Everything about this game is fun, and Blizzard has even found ways to encourage a more positive fan community – something that’s eluded other hardcore shooters.
While Overwatch lacks a story campaign – we’d really love to play one, Blizzard! – it more than makes up for it in personality. Its diverse cast, which ranges from the plucky Tracer, to an intelligent gorilla scientist named Winston, to the sinister Reaper, gives every player a character to fall in love with. And the animated shorts that further flesh out these characters are great Pixar-quality romps that perfectly complement the core experience, too!
It all comes down to Blizzard’s signature polish. The company delivers a shooter for the old and the new. Even the hardcore, while perhaps turned off by the cartoonish presentation at first, will find something to love about Overwatch. It’s just too charming to ignore.
What were your favorite games of 2016? Tell us in the comments!