Published on December 30th, 2016 | by Ethan
GOTY 2016 Ethan’s Top 5
2016 will probably not go down as a great year for the world, but dammit it was an excellent year for games. Especially those shoot-em-ups.
Tons of fantastic games this year didn’t make it on my list even with three honorable mentions. Mostly I just didn’t dedicate enough time to see if a particular game truly clicked with me. I’ll have you know each game in my top three cycled through basically all possible spots, so they’re all the best games of the year in my book.
I’m pretty proud of this list. It reflects on the many different styles of games this year I’d normally never get into if it weren’t for peer pressure. (It’s not always a bad thing!)
Maybe next year I’ll get into Dark Souls…. Or finally make a dent in The Witcher III.
Despite being a dedicated Blizzard fan boy and dabbling in the beta, I didn’t have high expectations for this game. Another class based shooter? Give me a break. Team Fortress 2 has that locked down.
But Overwatch’s characters, balance and setting give it a leading edge over those other class based shooters. Smart multiplayer changes like the play of the game and voting for the best team members makes every match feel important.
I loved how EVERYONE played it during launch. Some of my best gaming moments this year was staying up way too late playing Overwatch with my pals. Unfortunately, Overwatch’s emphasis on teamwork over skill is a double-edged sword for me. I refuse to play this game with random people online, because if the freaking Genji doesn’t get on the damn point I’m going to lose my mind and the sporadic-ness of my friends list has left me with little desire to boot up Overwatch recently.
Regardless I still love the lore and the characters and follow everything Blizzard will do with the game. It’s Blizzard, dammit and they seem to do no wrong.
Monster Hunter Generations
Ricardo kept yammering on about this game and one night of too much drinking at EVO, I bought it. Turns out it’s a weirdly wonderful game.
The tutorials are complete trash, the interface is clunky and some of the quests are just grind fests, but boy does this game have a fantastic loot and gameplay loop. Shame it’s super hard to get into unless you play with a friend or dedicate yourself to watching online tutorials.
But taking down giant monsters with a friend/s is so much gosh darn fun I love it. I want to play more since Generations has a TON of content I haven’t even touched despite playing it for dozens of hours.
As far as co-op games are concerned this is easily one of the best.
I thought Civilization VI would be my go to strategy game this year, but Firaxis other tactical game took that title handily. XCOM 2 expanded on what made the first reboot great, by adding stealth mechanics perfect for the scrappy, guerilla warfare your team found themselves in.
The story takes place in a world where you lose the first game and it opens up to more desperate situations where you have to grit your teeth, make a decision and hope the worst doesn’t happen. Yet, so frequently the worst always happens. The key to playing XCOM well is: always expect the worst.
It’s a shame the game launched with a ton of bugs and made me a little hesitant to try Ironman mode, where decisions were permanent. Regardless, I felt “one more turn” syndrome more than any other game on this list. Even if that one turn was just to watch Bob Ross get mind controlled by a sectoid and murder his squadmate, Solid Snake.
Top five list:
5. That Dragon, Cancer
This is the first game I’ve played that ever made me cry. Not like, “there might be something in my eye,” cry but full on “I hope we bulk bought tissues in this house” cry.
This game follows the heart breaking true story of the Green family who has learned their one-year-old son has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Created by the Green family as a way to work through their grief, never before have I seen a game that’s so deeply personal and raw.
At times a little too artsy for its own good, the game shines when it shows you glimpses into the Green’s daily life as they struggle with their faith and their ill son who they love while sharing moments of joy with their family. So often we hear about how hard dealing with a sick family member is, but rarely do we get an honest and intimate look into a family’s everyday struggles.
For anyone who has ever had a severely ill family member, That Dragon, Cancer is uncomfortably relatable and deeply cathartic. The game came out in early 2016, but a week hasn’t gone by where I haven’t thought about it.
Please play this game.
4. Street Fighter V
Last year was the first time I took a dive into the fighting game scene by attending EVO in Las Vegas. I later realized it was only $10 to enter and compete in the biggest fighting game tournament ever and the rest was history.
Sadly, the flagship game everyone was hyped for, Street Fighter V, launched as a mess. No single player, half the stats don’t work, the servers were buggy, rage quitting was rampant, but that didn’t matter because the actual fighting is fantastic.
I began to respect the game and the fighting game genre after forcing myself to play Street Fighter V for a video series. Fighting games are truly a tough genre to get into. YouTube tutorials are so entrenched in fighting game terminology it’s a bit hard to wrap your head around how to pull off simple combos or what exactly crush counters are.
Once I jumped online and finally started winning after a long, long streak of losing, it was one of my best moments of gaming, not just this year, but ever. Even losing started to become satisfying, because I’d learn from my mistakes and be hungry for the next match.
Street Fighter V is sort of better after being patched up a bit, but it has a rocky future ahead of it. Capcom seems to be standing behind it though and I’m willing to continue to put more time into it.
I have fond memories of playing through the original DOOM (It still holds up!) on my Xbox 360 with a friend all in one night.
Other games have tried to emulate what DOOM accomplished by melding environmental puzzles and insanely fluid first person shooting, but the likes of Pain Killer and Serious Sam never quite captured the magic. It took the team at ID to refine DOOM into its pure and perfect essence, a fast paced demon murder party.
Between the brilliant inclusion of a techno-death metal soundtrack, beautifully grisly visuals and shooting mechanics that bridge the gap between modern and classic shooters, DOOM is a triumph. I welcome seeing health packs, ammo and key cards right at home next to a modern skill tree.
DOOM Guy is a fantastic protagonist despite not uttering a single word. You clearly know his motivations: Murder All Demons. The actions of punching through a demon and ripping out its guts speaks louder than words.
It’s a shame the multiplayer and snap maps are kind of a disappointment because the absurdly tongue-in-cheek singleplayer is the best shooter campaign I played this year. Few moments in gaming will live up to listening to the “BFG Division” while ripping demons in half with guns, fists and chainsaws.
2. Titanfall 2
The original Titanfall was a good game. Back when the Xbox One first came out, this was the only multiplayer game to get. Weirdly, even after new shoot-man multiplayer games came out, I still found myself going back to Titanfall game despite its lack of singleplayer and progressive unlocks.
Luckily, Titanfall 2 simultaneously expanded and refined so many parts of what made the first game great. A solid single player accompanies one of the greatest multiplayer shooters ever created. The pilot traversal system remains the most fluid movement in a first-person game ever conceived. (Yes, even better than DOOM)
The game is defined by how it feels. After playing it, all other fast paced shooters just feel slow, clunky and unresponsive in comparison. Especially the new Call of Duty.
I was surprised by the single-player, but primarily focused on the multiplayer, where pilots are free to fly through the air doing cool tricks and to murder dudes very stylistically until they drop their Titan down. Titans feel powerful in the right hands, but can be brought to their knees by a few skilled foot soldiers.
The developers at Respawn have already stated there’s no season pass and all updates to the game, besides cosmetic items, will be free going forward. They also created a network system that makes it easy to find a group and should be implemented in all other multiplayer game. It’s decisions like these, that push Titanfall ahead of other multiplayer shooters in my book.
I expected nothing from this new Hitman game. I played Blood Money, but it was a little too obscure for me. Absolution was a little to hand holdy. And the last minute decision to make the game episodic was a big red flag that this game would be a hot garbage pile.
Instead, it was hot fire.
The decision to make this game episodic was actually the greatest decision they made. Each level is so jam packed full of content, between escalation missions, the elusive targets and mastery levels, it takes hours to absorb it all. I’d be forced to play the same level over and over and instead of getting boring it actually made me explore and appreciate the care the developers put into each nook and cranny.
Another smart decision is perfecting the amount of information the game gives to you. Opportunities nudge players in the direction of “cool kills.” An exploding golf ball is way more entertaining than execution via pistol.
Although my favorite part is pushing the game to its limit. Does throwing a knocked out target off of a cliff counts as an accidental kill? If I shoot my target now, will anyone notice? There’s only one way to find out!
Even if something goes wrong, Hitman gives you so many options to try and recover from what realistically would be an impossible situation. Sure you won’t get a great rating in the end, but it’ll be funny/exhilarating if you make it.
The new Hitman is a platform for elaborate, over the top and sometimes goofy assassinations in gorgeous environments and I can’t wait to see where Agent 47 goes next year.