GOTY 2016 2016

Published on January 9th, 2017 | by Amber

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GOTY 2016 Amber’s Top 5

2016 might not have been everyone’s favorite year, but regardless of how people felt it was unmistakably a great year for video games. For myself I found plenty of games that were all incredibly varied and difficult to put down, from online shooters to farming simulators. This year I made it a goal to try and play as many games as I could, and even still there were so many that I still didn’t have time to get to (sorry Thumper and Doom).

One thing I noticed was how much gameplay played such a big part in my enjoyment of games this year. As someone who usually is drawn to more story-focused games I was surprised at how most of the games on my list completely lacked any story. It makes a strong case for how addicting gameplay was enough to keep me sinking countless hours into such great games. Another great year for video games ends and I cannot wait for what’s in store next year.

 

It’s even cute in legos (constructed by yoshi648)

5. Picross 3D Round 2

The original Picross 3D, which came out on the DS back in 2009, was probably my favorite game I played on my DS Lite. You can then imagine my joy when I heard they would be making another game, and I can happily say Nintendo does it again with Picross 3D Round 2.

Not only does it have more puzzles to solve, but they also added a 2-paint color system that adds a layer of complexity, especially for Picross veterans. This makes each puzzle a tad more difficult than what you would have found in the original game, but similar to the first game, Round 2 eases you into the mechanics puzzle-by-puzzle. It even has small tutorials littered throughout the game that simply show you more advanced techniques to add to your arsenal.

Jumping back into Picross mechanics was like riding a bike, it came back so easily that it felt like I left off right where I started. Picross 3D Round 2 is a great next step for the series, and I hope Nintendo will continue to make more of these for me to enjoy.

 

Goodbye Hank (artwork credit scarlettheknight)

4. Firewatch

Take two fully fleshed-out characters, put them in a world art-directed by the talented Olly Moss, and add a story that is both suspenseful and heartfelt. What you end up with is a great little gem of a game.

Firewatch tells the story of Henry, a guy who after dealing with a personal crisis leaves his life behind to go volunteer as a ranger in Shoshone National Park in the 80s. It’s the summer season and fire danger is at an all-time high, so Henry’s main duty is to keep an eye out for fires which he reports to Delilah, his supervisor. The story is engaging, and what turns into a simple character story becomes something of a mystery thriller. The heart of the game though was Henry and Delilah’s interactions. Even though they only ever communicate via their walkie-talkies they have playful banter, times where they open up, and times of distrust and paranoia. You feel their loneliness and appreciate that Henry has someone to confide in as things start to ramp up.

Oh and also did I mention this game is gorgeous. Every moment is struck with beautiful scenery and lighting, and the entire game is oozing with style. As a graphic designer I’m always incredibly drawn to games that have such a strong art style and pull it off well, and in 2016 Firewatch was that game for me.

I won’t say Firewatch stuck every single landing, and some of the story beats were left a little unclear, but the ending was incredibly effective and I left feeling satisfied.

 

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You can feel the love from here (artwork credit owenoak95)

3. Planet Coaster

Almost everyone I know that was a kid in ‘99 played Rollercoaster Tycoon and loved it. I don’t know what it was, but something about running your own theme park and either trying to make it the most amazing park ever or just trying to build the most crazy coaster was ever so satisfying. Since then, for me the Rollercoaster Tycoon series has never really hit quite like that again, and I kept on wanting something that encapsulated the same magic from the first one.

Enter Planet Coaster. This game takes what worked so well in the more popular of the Tycoon games and builds on it, making it incredibly addicting. The first time Matt and I played it together we literally spent an entire Sunday just glued to the screen as he built his sci-fi western park. Planet Coaster does a great job of giving you endless tools to customize your park however much you want, and also giving you preset items if you don’t have the patience. And can we talk about the Workshop support? Frontier Development was incredibly smart to have the online multiplayer component be just allowing players to build whatever they want and upload it for the masses to enjoy. Being able to see and use assets that people way more talented (and patient) than me was amazing, and my parks were all the more colorful because of it.

Thank you Frontier for allowing me to relive the magic of my childhood. Now to jump back in the game and say goodbye to my life for the next 5 hours.

 

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GONNA GET KILLZ (artwork credit su_pra)

2. Overwatch

Man, if someone would have told me that one of the games I would enjoy most in 2016 was a MOBA-like, online-multiplayer FPS I would’ve laughed in their face. And yet here we are.

Overwatch took me and a lot of the people I know by storm this year with a game that has variety, simplicity, and an all-around solid presentation. From the boisterous personalities of all the heroes to the satisfying gameplay, there is so much to love about Overwatch. For me all the end-game stats really helped me to have a good time playing with other people. It’s no surprise that I kind of suck at shooters, so for an online multiplayer to not broadcast my KDR automatically makes it a win. It’s not just that though, Blizzard has done such a great job at making every aspect of Overwatch an enjoyable and positive experience that it’s no surprise the entire gaming world was overtaken by it.

Now I will admit I never got into the competitive play, and although I was playing it quite frequently in the beginning I have since mostly dropped off of it… but I cannot deny what an impact it made. I loved every moment playing Overwatch, and the fact that Blizzard finally made an online shooter that I enjoy says a lot.

 

harvey__stardew_valley_by_davidmccartney-d9xyjcg

O_O (artwork credit davidmccartney)

1. Stardew Valley

Not too big of a surprise that the game I sunk most of my free time in is my number 1. As someone who only dabbled in the Harvest Moon series growing up I didn’t think this game would get it’s hooks so deep into me. Boy was I wrong.

For me I felt that Stardew Valley has enough variety to keep you wanting to play just one more day. You can work on growing more crops to make more money, build up your livestock, go into the mines to find more treasure, get to know the townsfolk… at times it feels endless. I loved prioritizing my days to achieve small goals to further progress my story. Should I plant all my spring crops now to make sure I get a good harvest before season end? Should I chase around the cute doctor to give him more gifts so he will be my boyfriend? Tough decisions.

Another big draw was the seasons and holidays that you would get to experience. It was exciting to see summer turn to fall, to see the land go from sunny and green to dyed in reds and purples. Each season would also have a couple of special events for you to participate in. Some of these would be a contest or a fun puzzle, others were just a little scene for you to enjoy. I will admit that after year 1 these events lost their luster, but they were still enjoyable little breaks in the game.

Overall I found that a simple little farming game like Stardew Valley really won me over with it’s style, addicting game-loop, and fun mechanics. My reward for sinking tons of hours into it? I now I have a pretty epic farm complete with livestock and a cute doctor for a husband.

 

Honorable Mention:

Hitman

I have never played any of the previous games from the Hitman series, and to be honest I never really had a desire to. I had heard people talk about some of the older installments with reviere, but I felt like Hitman was a series that had already lived through it’s glory days. I’m so glad I was proven wrong with this new installment.

Hitman feels like a complete breath of fresh air for the series. The developers took a gamble on episodic format and it pays off in a big way, breaking up each assassination into what is basically a playground for the player to explore. There are so many ridiculous disguises, opportunities and weapons at your disposal that each playthrough is a complete surprise and delight. You can disguise yourself as a famous model and walk down the catwalk before having a private meeting with your target. You can play some old home movies and a gramophone to make another target think his dead mother is haunting him. You can dress up as a drummer and audition for another target’s world-famous band. The amount of different ways you can tackle each map is astounding, and the game does a good job of giving you the guidance and tools you need without making it too easy.

Sadly since I only played the first map on this game I feel like I didn’t sink enough time to warrant putting Hitman in my top 5, but you better believe I will jump back in and try out all those maps before Season 2 comes out.

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About the Author

Amber Amber designed all of the great logos and avatars for this site. She likes games with strong characters or addicting gameplay, like Legend of Zelda, Rocket League, and Portal to name a few. When she's not guesting on the Pixel Podcast or playing games she is often drawing, listening to podcasts, or looking at pretty things online. She is married to Matt and is currently in the process of turning into an Undertale-themed Tumblr.



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