2015 was an exceptional year for video games: The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, Bloodborne, [Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain](tag:2683985), Super Mario Maker, Splatoon, Rise of the Tomb Raider, [Batman: Arkham Knight](tag:2683936), Rocket League, the list goes on!
With such an eye-popping lineup spread over a 12 month period it can be hard to imagine 2016 topping it. But you may not realize that in some cases it already has!
Exactly, puppet thing! So here are our picks for the best games of 2016, so far.
GAMES: 2016 You've Been Good To Me
At times, Firewatch reminded me of Fullbright's Gone Home. Not for how it boldly unravelled its story or how evocative its art design is, but for how it managed to create a remarkable sense of unease and anticipation. I never thought of Firewatch as a horror game, but the atmosphere that this small indie development team managed to create rivals that of some of gaming's great horrors.
This is a beautifully told experience, one which boasts some of the best art, voice acting and narrative arcs of 2016. Having been hooked from the outset of this stunning game and now excited for Campo Santo's bright future, this will assuredly remain in my top ten list for 2016.
Never did I think I'd come across the work of Andrei Tarkovsky — a man regarded as the greatest film director to ever live — in the middle of a video game. But if you complete a certain puzzle in Jonathan Blow's The Witness you'll be rewarded with a twenty minute cutscene from Nostalghia (1983) and that was a truly moving experience.
The Witness is a challenging video game — it drove me up the wall sometimes. But no matter how frustrated you may become by its somewhat obtuse puzzles, the game never fails to challenge you in ways you never thought a video game could. It's a remarkable achievement. I've no doubt that we'll find The Witness at the top of many gamers' lists for 2016.
"Now this is a video game!" I literally screamed this over the roar of heavy metal, shotgun blasts and the cries of demons during the 10th or 11th mission of DOOM's 13-mission-long campaign. Towards the end, Doom Guy is gifted around 10 weapons, a variety of upgrades, loads of armor, tons of health and an attitude towards demons that makes Schwarzenegger look like he liked those kids in Kindergarten Cop: it's delicious. The harder the difficulty is the more enjoyable DOOM becomes and I realize that this is literally the perfect Doom experience for 2016 and I'm so very glad it exists.
Blizzard have returned with yet another foray into a new genre. Overwatch is an approachable, deep and ludicrously enjoyable team-based multiplayer shooter. With nothing but cosmetic upgrades ahead of you, this shooter is all about teamwork and adapting to the situation at hand. The characters are wonderfully eclectic, the art design endearing and the gameplay deceptively deep. One of the best games of the year and a shooter I'm likely to be playing for years to come, Overwatch is something that no one should overlook.
Naughty Dog, seen by many as the kings of the gaming industry, have returned after the incredible The Last of Us with an adventure that simply cannot be rivaled by anything else on consoles. Boasting the best graphics in PlayStation history, an emotional conclusion to Nathan Drake's adventure and some bombastic set-pieces, this is potentially the defining title for Sony's PS4. Play Uncharted 4, you deserve it.
A game with true heart, Stardew Valley has become one of 2016's greatest hits on Steam. Developer ConcernedApe has already garnered praise from the community for their attention to detail, willingness to interact and communicate with their audience, and gifting us all something that will perhaps render Harvest Moon obsolete. Stardew Valley is rife with charm, great characters, deep gameplay and has already claimed the social lives of hundreds of thousands of gamers. Oh well, back to tending to my flock!
Already being called one of the greatest PC games of all time, Firaxis Games have come back with a sequel to X-COM: Enemy Unknown that no one could have predicted. This is one of the deepest and most satisfying strategy games I've had the pleasure of playing. The story is fun, the combat exhilarating, and the sense of death and failure keeps pushing you and your troops in some remarkable ways. You'll lose great soldiers along the way and be driven mad with dread, but when you win in X-COM 2 there's no video game this year that can rival that sense of accomplishment.
Dark Souls 3
Speaking of accomplishments, anyone finished Dark Souls 3 yet? FromSoftware return for one final waltz with death as the Dark Souls franchise draws to a close. But what a way to go out. Taking everything they learned from Bloodborne and imbuing the adored franchise with all of the lessons from (in my opinion) 2016's best game; Dark Souls 3 is the adventure of your dreams. Plenty of new and terrifying enemies, fantastic multiplayer mechanics, a dark narrative and some of the best gameplay of 2016 make this a must for any fan of this art form.
"It's the most innovative shooter in years," is what Superhot itself will try and tell you, and it's right! I couldn't believe how enjoyable I found this successfully Kickstarted project. The idea of time moving only when you do creates some of the most intense and satisfying shootouts in recent memory. The time trials keep me coming back for more and once this title gets exclusive Oculus Rift support, we'll finally have a VR game that we can all revel in while exclaiming "THE FUTURE IS HERE!"
What Do Now Loading's Staff Think Of Gaming In 2016?
Marlon & Uncharted 4
As a fan of all things pirates, plunder and lovable rogues, I was surprised when the 'Uncharted' series ended up not really resonating with me. I mean I loved the Indiana Jones movies as a kid (there is no 4th movie), and I still find myself whooping with joy at Indy 3. But 'Uncharted' just didn't cut it. Until the 4th and potentially final installment slipped into my PS4. I've never played anything quite like it, a glorious walking simulator where every piece of dialogue is fun, filled with character and honestly heartfelt at times. And the set pieces, boy, I think even a master of cinema such as Spielberg should be tipping the hat to Druckmann and co. Yes, most definitely.
Tim & DOOM
Doom is back, after 23 years the Doom experience you deserve has finally arrived. It’s unrelenting, uncompromising action. The refreshing approach to the game narrative redefines the FPS genre and the gameplay hollas back to the classics in a way that is accessible to players new and old. With a whopping campaign fraught with blood, sweat and tears and a multiplayer mode that will have you cursing the very demons you are becoming Doom gets my vote for the best game of early 2016.
Ken & XCOM 2
Despite having loved Doom, been blown away by Uncharted 4, endlessly hooked by Overwatch and being utterly enthralled by Superhot, I'm still campaigning for XCOM 2 to claim the ultimate prize in 2016. In my book it's already game of the year, and I can't see anything else topping this experience in the months ahead.