This handheld strategy epic was my constant companion throughout the entire year. While at times the content of this three-game-spanning behemoth felt like it was being stretched a little thin, this title ultimately coalesced into a satisfying package.
In a year like 2016, sometimes one just feels the need to blow up some stuff, and boy, did Just Cause 2 deliver on that front. Being the star of a cheesy action movie by soaring through the air, commandeering all manner of vehicle, and causing massive collateral damage was exhilarating from start to finish.
Standing as the beginning of a bold new direction for the classic franchise as well as a showcase of what the PlayStation 2 can do, I'm really glad that I went back to finish Final Fantasy XII this year. Though it had a few issues that I'm hoping get ironed out in the upcoming remaster, I still had a great time playing it and would recommend that anyone who considers themselves a JRPG fan give this charming adventure a try.
Inspired by classics like Sonic the Hedgehog and Gunstar Heroes, Freedom Planet shows that the student can surpass the master. This was a thrilling 2D action platformer with a surprisingly in-depth story. A must-play for any fan of the 16-bit age.
While not quite the focused RPG masterpiece that was the original Xenoblade Chronicles, Xenoblade Chronicles X provided an astonishingly massive world to explore; a world that completely absorbed me for more hours than I care to admit among polite company. Even though this was the first game I finished this year, I often found myself thinking back on the time I spent on the alien world of Mira.
For the purpose of this list I'm counting both games as two parts of a whole. These games were my first foray into Western RPGs since the original Diablo, and I was definitely impressed. While some of the gameplay elements could occasionally be a little shaky, the world of The Witcher is a fully realized place full of interesting characters, complex societal issues, and hard decisions; it's a grim place, but a joy to inhabit none the less.
Many indie games are content to either feature a novel gameplay concept, or deliver a heartfelt story: Undertale does both. I know for many people the plot and characters were what resonated the most, but for me, it was the combination of the innovative gameplay and superb music that set this game apart. It's a solid turn-based RPG with loads of creativity and personality packed into its short run time.
This was easily the biggest surprise of 2016 for me (at least as far as gaming is concerned). Doom was fast and frantic in a way that was as stressful as it was thrilling, and I loved pretty much every minute of it. The mixture of the non-stop action of the combat sequences combined with intricate levels to explore cemented Doom as one of my favorite single-player FPSs of all time.
Of all the games I played this year, Life is Strange is the one whose story and characters stuck with me the longest. While the narrative certainly leans heavily on the melodrama, it contained some plot twists and emotional gut punches that I won't soon forget. This game is probably the best example of story-telling in a point and click adventure game I've ever seen.
This game has it all: a combination of exploration, platforming, RPG mechanics, and tight 3rd person shooting that was like pure crack to me. It's rare that a game manages to pull off all these different elements well, but Tomb Raider absolutely nails it.
It pained me that there were a couple of great games that didn't quite make the cut for the Top 10 this year, so here's some quick acknowledgement for those titles:
- Ib & Eternal Senia: These little indie games really opened my eyes to what can be accomplished with RPG Maker.
- Shantae & the Pirate's Curse: A beautifully crafted 2D platformer. Another gem from WayForward.
- Runbow: A challenging platformer with great music that supports up to nine players.
- Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE: A charming and stylish JRPG that would have benefited from some streamlining.
2016 has been a great year for gaming, and I wanted to thank everyone who's joined me on this backlog journey! I'm curious to hear what everyone else has been playing this year, so please feel free to leave your own top 10 in the comments below. Happy Holidays and have a great New Year!