My Top 11 Games of 2016
Rayjay2 here, with another list of the best games I have played during the year. 2016 was filled with lots of new experiences and great gaming moments and so for the first time ever I am doing a top 11 instead of the usual top 10.This is the 10th year in a row that I have made this list, and I wanted to remind everyone that this is a personal list of my favorite games that I played this year and not necessarily games that came out this year. With that said, let’s get started.11. Trials of the Blood Dragon
I’m doing a top 11 list this year because a game as badass as Trials of the Blood Dragon deserves to be mentioned. You have the hardcore, challenging action of Trials, complete with the theming and humor of Far Cry: Blood Dragon, one of my favorite games of 2014. TBD series focuses on the dystopian future of the 1980s where the main goal is the kick some Communist ass, in Vietnam of all places. The story and setting are unique but it’s the classic Trials gameplay that is the star. Going back and replaying levels for the best ranks is as addicting as ever.
This game also mixes things up by adding in a bunch of new gimmicks. Grapple hooks, jetpacking, mine cart riding, 2D platforming and more can be found in this game. One issue that I have with this game is the over reliance of gimmicks over actual Trials riding, but I still had a lot of fun with this game. The platforming can also be stiff at first, but with practice I was able to overcome it.10. Earthbound Beginnings
Earlier this year I decided to play through the Earthbound series for the first time, starting with the first game. Originally cancelled for the NES, the game finally ended up being released through the Wii U‘s Virtual Console. When it comes to 8-bit RPGs, they’re a little rough, but I can forgive that as the genre still was fairly new at the time. Innovations and improvements would come later on in the 16-bit era, but despite later games being technically better, Earthbound 1 offers a lot of charm and memorable moments.
What I liked about this game was the freedom it offered. There aren’t too many barriers blocking progress until later in the game. You can choose to go to areas you’re not technically supposed to be in yet, as long as you can handle the high level enemies. I remember struggling to go through a very long tunnel early in the game and entered a town where I was rewarded by buying high level items for my team. Later on I went back and discovered the way you’re supposed to go through that tunnel; by train.
Unlike other RPGs of the era, Earthbound Beginnings takes place in modern times, or the late 1980s, as that is when the game was supposed to have been released. And there are modern inconveniences to avoid, such as hippies, smog-belching vehicles, and street gangs. Some of the towns are even named after real world places such as Ellay, which was a unique take on L.A. The entire game is unique compared to RPGs of the time and even modern RPGs today and it was that uniqueness that kept me playing to the end.
I also tried the 16-bit Earthbound after I finished this game and couldn’t get into it as much. Unlike the first game, progression was very linear compared to the open ended nature of the first game. I lost interest in the sequel about halfway through.9. Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 1
I started gaming with the Nintendo Entertainment System but I have always been curious about the console that started it all; the Atari 2600. I had played a few compilations over the years but none of them had many games and the controls were poor. Unfortunately, analog sticks and D-Pads can’t replicate the feel of Paddle Controllers and Trackballs, but Atari Flashback Classics at least tries with 10 levels of analog sensitivity. Not only that, but the collection is packed with 52 games consisting of 8 arcade games and 44 games from the 2600.
I wasn’t expecting much from the old Atari games but I discovered that some of these are considered classics for a reason. The simple controls and basic design of some of these old games can still be just as addictive in 2016. Canyon Bomber still holds up as a sort of unique reverse Break Out. Two Player Combat is still as entertaining as it ever was. Yar’s Revenge is a space shooter that I got hooked on back when I bought it on Microsoft’s Game Room and I was happy to see it again here. Not all games are good though and there is some filler here; didn’t care too much for Liberator.
Once I had finished my Atari odyssey, I left with a better understanding of games from that era. Arcades ruled gaming back then and that style of gameplay was well translated to the home consoles of the time. Easy to understand but hard to master, with a challenge that kept you coming back for more.8. Assassin’s Creed
For eight years the Assassin’s Creed franchise has never interested me. That changed this year when it was announced that Micheal Fassbender got the lead role in the recently released Assassin’s Creed movie. Not knowing much about the franchise but loving the actor himself, I took it upon myself to play the first few games in the series so I could be up to speed on things and hopefully have a better understanding of the movie. Unfortunately the movie fell flat in places but the game still held up as a great experience.
With Earthbound Beginnings I talked a little about how I enjoyed that game’s sense of freedom, discovery and exploration and AC was able to deliver all of that as well. The first thing I did when starting this game was turning off the in-game map which allowed me to explore on my own without having to follow the markers and checkpoints that the game gives you. I found it more fun to follow the lay of the land, using roads, signs, and other landmarks to figure out where to go. I discovered the game was designed in such a way in that it was perfectly playable without using the minimap, at least until you discover one of the few major cities in the game.
The historical period was also very interesting for me and provided a unique atmosphere that was well appreciated. The combat was a little thin, but exploration and atmosphere made up for it. The sequel wasn’t so bad either, but the first game left a bigger impression on me. I played this game not so much to follow a story, but to get lost in an unfamiliar world and the game delivered on that end.7. DOOM (2016)
The classics Doom and Doom II are still one of the most intense First Person Shooters out there but there hasn’t been a modern game that has captured the feel of those games until now. The modern 2016 Doom remake/reboot is truly a followup to the originals. From the complicated and non-linear level design that is packed with secrets, to the rooms where dozens of monsters come at you at once with nothing but a lot of guns and ammo to fend them off. Not only does Doom feel like an actual followup to the 1993 original, it does so bringing modern innovations for 2016.
Doom encourages the player to face the demons head on, as opposed to hiding behind cover like most shooters these days. The way it achieves this is through the game’s brilliant health and ammo system. Killing enemies gives you health. The less health you have, the more an enemy will give you. So in times of near death it’s better to go out there and kill monsters for health instead of hiding in a corner waiting for your life to slowly refill. If you’re low on ammo you can use the chainsaw weapon instead, as getting a chainsaw kill drops loads of ammo for the player. The bigger the monster, the more ammo you get! This system makes it possible for hordes of demons to attack the player at once, and near death experiences can always be overcome.
This music is also incredible and is one of the best gaming soundtracks of the year. The music evokes the feeling of hell, and there’s no genre better suited for the job than metal. Even the main menu music rocks and helps the player get pumped for the intensity of the game. A true modern classic.6. New Super Mario Bros. U + Luigi U
Ever since Super Mario Maker came out I have been looking at Mario games through a different perspective, that of a level designer. It wasn’t until MM that I realized how challenging it could be to design level that was actually good. I studied level design of the classics, the NES Mario games and Super Mario World. I learned how to make challenging courses without relying on obvious gimmicks such as tons of spikes and enemies. Most importantly, I learned that a good Mario level can challenge beginning players and experts alike. Mario U is testament to Nintendo’s course making ability, and I never got bored with the challenges on hand, even on the easier levels. The design in MU is amazing. There are tons of secrets hidden in every level much like Mario 3, and some levels have alternate exits that can unlock shortcuts and alternate routes on the world map, like in Super Mario World.
The original MU is challenging and satisfying enough to be it’s own game, but Nintendo also decided to give players Luigi U for an added challenge. LU is DLC for MU, and while it features the same world map as the original, all the levels are completely different. Not only that, but they are designed for expert players who would want a serious challenge. The courses in LU encourage speed and fast platforming. Every level has a time limit of 99 seconds so there isn’t much room for error. Luigi himself is harder to control than Mario because he slides around as if his shoes were greased up, but he jumps higher to compensate.
Together these games give a great Mario experience that is absolutely worth playing if you own a Wii U.5. TrueAchievements Ultimate Head to Head Contest 2
This isn’t a traditional game, but since it dominated my gaming time for 10 weeks I feel I need to talk about it. The Ultimate Head to Head Contest is a competition on the website True Achievements that pits two players against each other to unlock Xbox Achievements that neither player has. Each week I would be paired with someone, the goal would be to pop the same 20 Achievements that neither of us had yet to unlock which were taken from our list of played games. The first player to unlock all 20 would win the round, or the player who could unlock the most after the week long period was over. I took the contest quite seriously for a while, but ultimately got knocked out in the 7th round of pure head to head competition. The first 3 weeks were more of a qualifying round for the real contest.
Every week I would get achievements to unlock that I thought I had no way of accomplishing within a week’s time. And yet, each week I surprised myself by what I was able to get done with the proper motivation. I played games I hadn’t played in years like Bioshock. I completed multiplayer challenges with friends in games such as Halo: Spartan Assault and I somehow beat ‘Through the Fire and Flames’ on expert drums in Guitar Hero. Each week was a grab bag of games to play and Achievements to unlock while being under pressure to complete the list before my competitor. It was a lot of fun and something I would like to participate in again someday.4. Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go at launch was a once in a lifetime experience that may never be replicated again. It was a worldwide phenomenon, whether the game was officially launched in your region or not. It was also one of the buggiest, ‘server-crashingest’ games ever. But despite these issues people continued to play and melt servers and their phones in the summer heat. That’s the power of Pokemon. I even upgraded to my very first smartphone just to play this game.
The gameplay isn’t much to talk about. The main goal is to catch Pokemon, which doesn’t require much thought. The main appeal was the social aspect of the game. You were able to go out and witness Pokemon trainers in real life, many of whom were quite friendly, giving tips and advice to other trainers. Going to the park and witnessing everyone in full Pokemon fever was the closest thing to actually stepping into the Pokemon world. Large groups of trainers would rush over to certain spots where a Pikachu was said to be found. Most interestingly, it was mostly young adults who were playing instead of children. And road trips with the goal of catching new Pokemon was suddenly a thing.
Unfortunately all good things must eventually come to an end, and Pokemon Go is only a shadow of it’s former self and I don’t see the craze returning like it used to be. The game continues to receive minor updates which sometimes removes popular features and sometimes even made the game annoying to play like popups asking whether or not I’m a passenger. The game even still lacks trainer battling and trading, some of the most basic features of the Pokemon games. Nintendo had a good thing going on with this game but completely dropped the ball on it’s potential.3. Star Wars Battlefront
I put off playing this game for a very long time. I couldn’t justify paying $60 for a multiplayer only game with very few maps and more DLC than actual disk content. I still feel this way, but after receiving the game as a surprise gift I discovered that the game was actually quite fun, if a bit basic in a way. But as the Atari games reminded me, simplicity isn’t a bad thing and it can be quite addictive as well.
Originally I had no interest in the shooting and only wanted the game for it’s Fighter Squadron mode. I was very interested in online space combat and it was quite fun to shoot down other players while playing as the Empire or the Rebels. It was no Rogue Squadron, but it was still a lot of fun to shoot down other players in the Millennium Falcon. Eventually I warmed up to the shooting modes as well, playing horribly at first but eventually being able to hold my own after some practice and basic informative videos. Here’s a tip, don’t rush out in the open!
Not only does the game happen to be pure Star Wars porn, the graphics and sound design are amazing. This was the closest experience I found to actually being in the movies. The feeling of playing as Darth Vader and killing hordes of Rebels is fantastic, made better by the fact that you are killing human players and not the computer. Or it can go the other way as well, having barely survived a situation and running behind the corner to get cover only to realize that Vader is on the other side waiting for you.2. Rocket League
Rocket League is a game with a ridiculous concept that works way better than you would expect it to. It’s a game of soccer played with cars and a giant ball. There are no out of bounds, so the ball is always in play during what could possibly be the most intense five minutes of your life. Starting Rocket League can be a lot of fun with players driving around, missing the ball and scoring unintentional goals through ricochets. Actually getting good at RL however, is a completely different experience with an insanely high skill ceiling. It helps that the game offers training modes for practice and after some practice you’ll be able to use your car’s boost to fly through the air, landing those tricky aerial shots and playing “just one more game” until morning arrives. The multiplayer aspect is fantastic and this was the best multiplayer game I played all year.
Better yet, the game continues to get free updates and content to this day. New stadiums have been added, as well as new sports modes like a hockey mode that replaces the ball with a puck on ice or a basketball mode where you need to launch the ball through a giant hoop. There was even a Mario Kart-style mode added with powerups to collect, but the best mode is still the 3 on 3 basic soccer experience. It starts out addicting, gets better as your skill increases, and it never takes long to find a full online game. You can see me on the field spamming the ‘OMG!’ quick text chat after every goal.1. Final Fantasy XV
I never really cared much for Final Fantasy before. But Final Fantasy XV was different. What first caught my attention was the E3 demo this year in which a huge boss was shown but something else caught my eye more than anything else. For the first time, FF removed turn based fighting for real time combat. Immediately I thought of Kingdom Hearts and hoped that FFXV could deliver the same type of gameplay. After watching the demo I decided to go all in with this game. I watched the companion anime series Brotherhood on Youtube. I went out and saw the companion movie Kingsglaive in theaters. And I even played the 2D prequel beat-em-up game A King’s Tale before starting the game proper. Unfortunately, to get the full FFXV story you will have to watch some of these companion pieces as the game won’t mention some of these things.
Once I started playing the game I found that I didn’t care too much about the story at large, instead becoming hooked on the gameplay. Like Assassin’s Creed and Earthbound, FFXV gives you an open world to explore at your leisure. You will discover towns, new regions and dungeons through basic exploration, you will travel the world in your luxury car while listening to music from previous FF games on the radio, you will encounter huge monsters to take down, sometimes by accident, and it’s up to you to decide whether or not you’re a high enough level to take them. You’ll summon the power of gods, innocent people will die, exotic locations can be visited and you can still make it back to camp for a relaxing meal. The game feels like you are on an epic quest worthy of the name Final Fantasy.
Unfortunately the game still has a few issues. While some side quests can be exciting, others can be boring fetch quests and the back end of the game isn’t as good as the first half. But once I was done with the game I went back to that big open world to finish exploring and I found tons of optional stuff I missed the first time. New dungeons, new locations and even an interesting twist on the traditional Final Fantasy Airship kept me going. 90 hours later and I’m still not done with everything.
Posted by Rayjay2
on 31 December 16 at 22:12
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