We are officially finished with the first half of 2016, and what a good first half it was. From taking in the view of a vast Wyoming wilderness from atop a fire tower, to successfully bunting with David Ortiz, 2016 has been packed full of great games.
In this list I rank MY top ten favorite games of the year so far. Remember, this is my personal list, so there is a strong chance you might utterly disagree. But remember, everyone has different tastes and opinions, so please try your best to keep those pitchforks in their holsters if you don’t see your favorite game.
Note: before we begin, only games that haven’t been released prior to the start of 2016 are eligible for this list — meaning games like Banner Saga (which already released on PC) and Heavy Rain (which is a remaster) aren’t eligible.
10. Darkest Dungeon
Dungeon crawlers normally aren’t my jam, however, every once in awhile a game comes along that is an exception — Darkest Dungeon is one of those games. Its Lovecraftian madness combined with its hero stress level system made me want to sink deep into my couch and never come up at times. However, the addicting “one more turn” mentality I developed kept me playing through to countless early mornings. Darkest Dungeon is a tonal magnum opus, where everything from the art, sound, difficulty etc., come together to create an equally stressful and brilliant experience that pumps some life back into the team-based dungeon crawler.
Darkest Dungeon is a roguelike dungeon crawler developed by Red Hook Studios that released for PC on January 19th. The game is also planned to release to PS4 sometime in “Q2 2016”. Upon release Darkest Dungeon garnered an 84 on Metacritic.
9. Ratchet and Clank
Ratchet and Clank is from a time when anthropomorphic characters ruled the gaming landscape. Conker, Sonic, Sly Cooper, the Bandicoot — yeah those guys — now, they are lucky to feature on a Shawn Layden shirt at E3. I was dubious to the say the least at the prospect of a Ratchet and Clank game in 2016. But oh my, did Insomniac make it feel great to be back in 2002 again. A game based on the movie based on the game, Ratchet and Clank features exemplary platforming, true laugh out loud moments, and graphics that look like borrowed Pixar assets. More than a return to form and more than just a game for nostalgiaholics, Ratchet and Clank has found a new home on the PS4. 2016 is officially the year of Mr. Zurkon.
“DOOM in 2016” almost sounds like a foreign language. Therefore, my approach with this game was hesitant to say the least — after all, it did go through eight years of development hell. This left me all the more shocked when I turned the game on and found a relentlessly exhilarating, gory festivity. It’s simple: the DOOM single player campaign is the best FPS shooter campaign I’ve played in quite some time. Juking past imp fireballs at a Ricky Bobby pace has no satisfaction equal. Filled to the brim of hellish wholesomeness id’s reincarnation of DOOM is an intelligent, fully-realized, worthy throwback to the iconic and legendary franchise. Too bad the multiplayer is disappointing cat-puke.
The more I reflect, the more I realize how much I love Firewatch. Like a good book, Firewatch provides a good escapist and solitary experience. It’s a combination of branching narratives, unique setting, mature story, and superb voice-acting leaves you engulfed and distracted from the outside world. Beyond the story, is a setting that is beautiful and vibrant, yet also vast, lonely, and harrowing . While, the game stumbles a bit at the end — its complete experience has struck and stuck with me more than any other game so far this year.
6. The Banner Saga 2
The Banner Saga 2 is just more Banner Saga — and that’s fine by me. An atmospheric masterpiece, The Banner Saga 2 improves on everything it’s predecessor excelled at: a touching and enthralling narrative, exacting turn-based gameplay, and providing a vast range of emotions to consume you as you play and make difficult decisions. A mature game for adults in the vein of Game of Thrones or Black Company, with gameplay inspired by Final Fantasy Tactics and Shining Force — what more needs to be said? Not just a game — The Banner Saga 2 is an experience, another beautifully realized world to escape into, and a story full of interesting characters that you won’t want to miss.
The Banner Saga 2 is a Viking-themed strategy RPG developed by Stoic that released for PC on April 19th. It is also set to release on PS4 and Xbox One July 26th. Upon release, The Banner Saga 2 garnered a 83 on Metacritic.
5. Hearts of Iron IV
It’s no secret I love any strategy game with Paradox written on it — in my opinion — they are the best developer in the genre. While their grand strategy series such as Hearts of Iron, Europa Universalis, and Crusader Kings are dauntingly complex and sometimes immensely challenging to learn, they provide far deeper and sophisticated gameplay than anything that be found in the rest of the genre. Hundreds of hours of replayability with countless playthrough approaches, it’s easy to dive into Hearts of Iron IV and not resurface. Some of the best AI on offer in the genre, a beautiful word map, and a complex and well-developed political and infrastructure system, make Hearts of Iron IV one of the best recent grand strategy experiences.
Hearts of Iron IV is a World-War 2 grand strategy game developed by Paradox Interactive that released for PC on June 6th. Upon release, Hearts of Iron IV garnered a 84 on Metacritic.
4. XCOM 2
XCOM: Enemy Unknown was one of 2012’s best games, therefore it’s no surprise XCOM 2 is equally brilliant. Despite numerous performance hiccups I never could put it down.The game improves and refines the issues with XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but more importantly, it’s just more XCOM. The classic great combat, the gut-wrenching decisions, the intense moments, the demand of the player to evolve tactics over time — all of this is what makes XCOM 2 so good. For XCOM fans it’s more of the same, but on a deeper, more customizable level. For newcomers, it can be daunting, but that moment when it clicks, is as rewarding as it gets.
XCOM 2 is a turn-based tactics game with RPG elements developed by Firaxis that released for PC on February 5th. A PS4 and Xbox One version is set to arrive September 6th. Upon release XCOM 2 garnered a 88 on Metacritic.
3. Starwdew Valley
I didn’t see this one coming. Since its launch, I have lost countless hours (more than I care to admit publicly) to Stardew Valley. I was never a huge fan of the Harvest Moon series (which this game is inspired by), and therefore it was that much more shocking when I found myself trapped in SV’s addictive gameplay loop. At first glance, Stardew Valley may look like a simple farming simulation game, but it’s not. The depth of content available is astonishing, and the level of charm and heart the content posses, even better. You combine this with its strong writing, a fun dating system and the simulation-formula and you get a game that is the perfect diversion at the end of a long day. But be warned, once you go to Stardew Valley….you don’t leave Stardew Valley.
Stardew Valley is an indie farming simulation role-playing game developed by one-man team Eric Barone that released on PC February 26th. A console version is set to come holiday 2016. Upon release Stardew Valley garnered a 89 on Metacritic.
Imagine if Team Fortress 2 had a baby with a more awesome version of Team Fortress 2, and that baby was raised by Blizzard — that is Overwatch. Combining smooth, addictive gameplay, a cast full of interesting and distinct characters, and a refreshing presentation — Blizzard has yet again stole more countless hours of my life. The tight 6v6 matches have created some of the most intense and thrilling gameplay moments I’ve ever experienced, and have kept me playing match after match with no regard for my aching eyes or need for food. Playing an online shooter that doesn’t just bring out everyone’s inner Rambo, but rather brilliantly encourages teamwork has enlivened the online shooter formula, and set the bar for all those unfortunate to follow.
Overwatch is a multiplayer first-person hero shooter developed by Blizzard that released for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on May 23rd. Upon release, it garnered a 91 on Metacritic.
1. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
El Goddamn Naughty Dog….Uncharted 4 is a victory lap if I’ve ever seen one. The last chapter of Nathan Drake’s story is as grand, near-flawless, and bar-setting as you would expect it, and at this point, quintessential Naughty Dog. Like The Last of Us, Uncharted 4 continues the trend of demonstrating why the developer is not only the best storyteller in the business, but is in a league of its own. But Uncharted 4 has more to offer than just a wondrous story experience: it has scenes straight out of a National Geographic book, gameplay with four iterations of polish, the best graphics of the 8th generation, and a sense of spectacle that no game has ever achieved to date. It is the best game, in one of the best series of all time. If you have a PS4, but don’t own a copy of Uncharted 4, return it right now, because you’re doing it wrong.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a third-person action-adventure game developed by Naughty Dog that released for PS4 on May 10th. Upon release, it garnered a 93 on Metacritic.
Fire Emblem Fates
Fire Emblem: Fates just does everything well: strong cast of characters, a captivating story, a perfect balance of familiarity and new systems, great design, and lastly an unprecedented amount of content. It’s more Fire Emblem, and the world could always use more Fire Emblem.
The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine
In another world where DLC/expansions are included on this list — The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine ranks number two. Geralt’s last hoorah and a refinement of the base game — Blood and Wine is a MUST play for Witcher fans, and easily one of the best pieces of DLC I have ever played.
Far Cry Primal
Yes, Far Cry Primal essentially just copy and pasted Far Cry 4’s map, and yes Far Cry Primal probably should have been a $40 game — but none of that matters because its more Far Cry and I love it. While Far Cry Primal isn’t as good as Far Cry 4, let alone as good as Far Cry 3, it was still fun and satisfied my Far Cry malnutrition. It was a great diversion in the series and brought us to one of my favorite time periods (Stone Age), that is sadly rarely explored by AAA games. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, there is nothing more satisfying than spearing a punk-ass badger after a long week of work to destress.
Notable Games Missing:
Street Fighter V – Fightings games aren’t my jam. The few times I did play Street Fighter V the gameplay was excellent, but the scanty of content was pitiful and the game felt half-baked.
The Witness – I don’t like puzzle games — sue me.
Quantum Break – As a whole Quantum Break is highly ambitious – but when you break down its individual elements it falls short. Easily one of the bigger disappointments of the year so far.
The Division: If you were to ask me if I enjoyed Tom Clancy’s The Division I would have a very apathetic “kinda” response. Yet, I played it to a great extent. The multiplayer is exciting, the main content is pedestrian, and the side content is ultra repetitive. And really that sums up how I feel about the game as a whole — all over the place
Dark Souls 3: If I didn’t value my mental sanity, it would have made it.
Tyler Fischer is an Associate Writer who loves making Top Ten lists more than he loves his own dachshund. You can find him on Twitter.