With the Top 10 TV Seasons out of the way, next up are my favourite video games of the year!
10. Far Cry Primal
Far Cry 3 and 4 were some of the most fun I’ve had running around an open world doing side missions and capturing outposts. Thankfully, Far Cry Primal continued this trend but added the pretty original twist of setting it in prehistory. There’s a certain amount of tension (pun intended) when firing a bow when compared with the assault rifles we’re usually shooting in Far Cry games. The characters and story for Primal was also surprising compelling considering it essentially boils down to tribal warfare. For me, Primal was the perfect pre-Easter game for 2016.
9. Shadow Complex Remastered
I know, old game is old. Shadow Complex eventually made its way onto the PS4 (my main console) in May this year. I’d heard good things from friends and reviewers of the original and the words “military sci-fi Metroidvania” were used. That caught my attention and after 7 years of waiting, it lived up to expectations. Sure, the story is basically nonexistent and its not the best looking game of the year but the gameplay and weapons are so finely tuned. The colour coded barriers leave you with that “I can’t get in here yet but I’ll come back when I have some new tools” feeling from classic side scrolling action games. The power suit upgrades are always fun to use and the 3D elements of combat keep things fresh.
I am a proud inhabitant of Vita Island, I have been since Sony’s handheld launched in 2012. These days, Vita exclusives (ones of note, at least) are few and far between. In comes DrinkBox Studios with Severed. You may know DrinkBox from the phenomenal Guacamelee (my favourite Metroidvania game) and their sense of style has carried forward to Severed. A first-person dungeon crawler with touch-screen combat sounds like a terrible idea but somehow, it works. Severed begins pretty simply but gets more complex, and a hell of a lot darker, as the game progresses. It combines an innovative upgrade system and tense combat timing for the best handheld experience of the year.
7. The Deadly Tower of Monsters
Initially released in January of this year, I didn’t pick up The Deadly Tower of Monsters until it was a Playstation Plus game in November. I was very pleasantly surprised by this low budget top-down shooter by Chilean developed ACE Team. It’s not the most polished game on this list but a innovative approach to storytelling and classic presentation style meant I played through the whole game (about 5 hours) in 2 sittings over 2 days. Add the cool weapons and variety of enemies and this was definitely one of the hidden gems of the year for me.
6. Stories: Path of Destinies
Speaking of Playstation Plus games, I had never heard of Stories: Path of Destinies before it appeared in December’s list of games. As it was downloading, I looked up a few reviews and saw the acclaim it had received when it was released on Steam and PS4 in April. The aesthetic of playing an anthropomorphic hero battling against an evil amphibian empire with a feline love interest reminded of a childhood favourite, Bucky O’Hare. I wasn’t expecting anything particularly deep but the counter based combat (think the Arkham games but isometric) and Bastion-esque exploration really swept me up. It was then I realised the branching story-lines and necessary replaying would keep me hooked until I’d found the final true ending.
5. Watch Dogs 2
A very late entry to this list, I picked up Watch Dogs 2 in a December sale. I tried to play the first Watch Dogs and really struggled. Aiden Pearce was a dreary and dour playable character and their version of Chicago was grey and repetitive. This year, we said hello to Marcus Holloway and San Francisco for the sequel and it made it all the difference. Like Far Cry Primal, it’s another great example of open world gameplay drawing me in with side missions and exploration options. Driving around SF and solving puzzles using Marcus’ remote controlled drones is incredibly satisfying. The game map is bright, varied and vibrant offering a great setting for the decent main story missions and in-game app gameplay such as Driver:SF (a take on Uber) and ScoutX (a landmark based photo app). This is definitely the game I’ll be playing the most in the time I have off work for Christmas.
4. Ratchet & Clank
I’ve been a Playstation gamer since I first played Crash Bandicoot in 1997. After I graduated from Crash Bandicoot, my favourite games were Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank. These series have been through a lot since their debuts and the space-faring lombax and robot were in the spotlight thanks to their animated feature-length film debut. The movie was flop (both critically and commercially) but thankfully, the remake of the 2002 original game lived up to expectations and then some. I never played these games for the story, it’s always been the characters, the universe and, of course, the weapons that are highlights. I’d mostly forgotten the plot over the last 14 years so it felt almost as magical as it did the first time around. This is one of the best looking games on the current generation of consoles and is easily the best all-ages game in years.
Playdead‘s Limbo is unquestionably one of the most enigmatic and brilliantly designed games of the decade. Limbo’s haunting visuals and silent, powerful storytelling are unmatched in video games. Until Inside. Inside is everything that Limbo is but better is basically every way. The addition of splashes of colour and an even more ambitious story make Inside the logical progression after Limbo. I would love to talk more about the plot and game’s later stages but I don’t want to spoil it. Go into Inside blind, if you can. When I played it, I hadn’t even seen a trailer and it was of the best and most unique gaming experiences of the year because of it.
2. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
I had pretty lofty expectations for the sequel to 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Despite its flaws, Human Revolution was one of my favourite games of the PS3/Xbox 360 generation. Mankind Divided managed to sort out the vast majority of the problems with its predecessor. With things such as the new setting of Prague (and the other accompanying locales) and new augment abilities add a refreshing layer on top of the already great foundation. Adam Jensen is as gruff as ever and the plot is pretty cliched but the cyberpunk world is still one of my favourites in all of video games. From reading William Gibson’s Neuromancer and playing the original Deus Ex, I’ve loved cyberpunk and Mankind Divided is a brilliant culmination of so many things I love about that genre.
1. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
There are few series that are nearer and dearer to my heart than Uncharted. Catching up with the central trio of Nate, Elena and Sully is one of my most anticipated moments every time an Uncharted game comes out. The characters, the graphics, the storytelling and acting are, in my opinion, the pinnacle of what gaming as a medium have achieved. Naughty Dog are arguably the absolute best game studio in the world right now and Uncharted 4 just might be the best in their seminal series. A Thief’s End introduces quite a lot of new things for a fourth instalment (characters such as Sam and mechanics such as tagging enemies are just the beginning) and most of them are welcome additions. More than anything, it serves as the perfect finale to Nathan Drake’s tale that we’ve followed for the last decade. If you’ve been along for the ride every step of the way like I have, you’ll be tearing up and cheering at the ending along with me.
Next up, my Top 10 Albums of 2016…