A couple of days ago we summed up the year with the Top 5 Movies of 2016, and while in this blog videogames are rarely reviewed, I thought it would be a nice idea to write about the best titles of the year. A little note before we start, though. I’ve played lots of games this 2016, and I’d say every single potential GOTY (that stands for Game of the Year) have fallen into my hands sooner or later. There is one exception, though, and that’s The Last Guardian. I’m living abroad currently, and I won’t be able to play Ueda’s latest game until late January. So, even if Trico would probably find a way to enter the list, there’s no way we can know until early next year.
Now, let’s start with the actual list, shall we?
Nintendo joining the mobile ecosystem has been one of the most polarizing news in quite some time. However, they have proved that the magic their games have hasn’t disappeared when changing the platform. Pokemon Go was a global phenomenon, but the real deal is, without a doubt, our favourite plumber’s adventure in iPhone.
Super Mario Run is a side-scrolling runner that shares many similarities with New Super Mario Bros, from assets to the level structure. However, Mario runs by himself this time, and the only thing the player can do is tap on the screen to jump. It may sound overly simplistic, but it adds an interesting layer to the gameplay, as we only have one chance to get each coin and we have to time our actions properly to achieve that.
The levels are cleverly designed to fit this new mechanic, and the screen’s portrait orientation is handled properly. Some new animations that have been thrown in are incredibly detailed, and the parkour-ish moves look flawless. Difficulty has also been managed perfectly, as the levels are simple enough for newbie Mario players but get excruciatingly difficult when trying to collect the different sets of coins placed for the most experienced gamers.
There are some design decisions that I cannot get behind, such as the automatic jumping over small enemies, but they are few and quite minor. It is indeed pricey for a mobile platform, but the 10 euros they ask for are well worth it. Nintendo has poured a lot of love this time too.
I have always found metagames very interesting. Those titles break the line between gameplay and reality and transcend the prescribed rule-sets. This year we’ve seen many of them, from Superhot to Pony Island, but the best of this weird, mind-bending genre, has been, without a doubt, Calendula.
What if a game doesn’t want to be played? That’s the idea behind Calendula, the most original game of 2016. It is hard to explain how the experience is without entering spoiler territory, but it will have the player trying to solve problems to be able to play it. Graphic settings, save files… Everything matters in Calendula. It boasts an out-of-the-box narrative that escapes conventions and makes use of metaphors, which is highly unusual in this medium.
It’s bizarre, creepy, mysterious… But more importantly, it’s surprising. It knows your expectations as a gamer and takes full advantage of that fact. It will make you wonder if it’s you who is playing the game. But it won’t. Calendula will be playing with you. Let yourself fall into its spider-web and enjoy.
This is hard to admit… I have never played Limbo, even if I do own it. As an indie videogame lover, it is unforgivable! I’ll solve this soon, I promise. I have, however, played Inside, Playdead’s newest game. And what a pleasant surprise it was!
Seeing how the story unfold is one of the key elements in Inside, so even if I absolutely loved the plot, I won’t enter into details to avoid spoilers. We play as a kid who is escaping some strange facilities and finds out about weird experiments done with mind controlling devices.
These devices are a crucial part of gameplay, as its puzzle-platformer nature makes extensive use of them. Difficulty is just right. Easy enough not to get stuck for too long but challenging enough to be fulfilling. The four hours it lasts are best played with no interruptions, as it’s the best way to see how things evolve.
A great experience with one of the best artistic directions of the year (Firewatch was perfect in that), definitely a must play.
Naughty Dog knows exactly how to make a bombastic game. They proved it with the original Uncharted trilogy, as the use of witty dialogue, action set-pieces and simple but great gameplay mechanics made it unforgettable. While I still think the second entry in the franchise, “Among Thieves”, is the best of the series, Nathan Drake’s last adventure is nothing short of excellent either. Uncharted 4 – A Thief’s End is, without a doubt, an awesome videogame that will be remembered in the industry for a long time.
Released on the Play Station 4, Uncharted 4 tells the final story about Nate, as he finds himself caught in a gigantic adventure when his brother makes an appearance in his life all of a sudden. Directors Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley handled the action sequences brilliantly, every single one of those moments is thrilling, but I would like to highlight how amazingly they managed to tell a story about maturity, as the protagonist has to choose between adventures and a more formal life with his wife.
The attention to detail is unbelievable, every element of the game has its own subtleties to make it feel as realistic as possible. From the physics of a gas can on the back of a Jeep, to the great texture-work on character’s clothes. That, and the minimal interface, make this one of the most immersive titles of the year.
If you read my review about it, you know The Witness has been the best gaming experience I’ve had all year. Incredibly designed puzzles, atmospheric story-telling, brilliant environments… It’s one of the most perfect games I’ve ever played.
The puzzles themselves revolve around a simple idea: a maze in which a starting point must be connected to an ending point. In the beginning, puzzles are that simple, but as more and more rules are thrown into them, it gets one of the most difficult games ever. Some shapes require you to divide the panels into specific shapes, others make you separate different coloured tiles… Getting into detail would be a massive spoiler, as the best part of The Witness is the sense of discovery, getting to understand something that seemed to be indecipherable.
It’s an all in all great experience that has gone straight into the list of my favourite videogames of all times. Can’t recommend this enough.
Once again, I want to thank you all for your support. I really appreciate you reading and sharing my stuff, as well as giving feedback about it. I have great plans for 2017 and can’t wait to share them with you! Have a safe and happy holiday season!
P.S. Well, as stated in the introduction… The Last Guardian wasn’t considered for this list, but now that I have played it, I’ve reconsidered all of these and… It would enter the list in third place! Which means this would be the new order: