So here we are, at the end of the strangest year in recent memory and we’ve got a big ol’ pile of tremendous games to talk about. It’s been the year of VR, the year of the shooter, and the year of the stealth game too for those that have been paying attention. It’s been a year of growth for GoPlayThat, as we premiered new events like MMO March and our 24 Hour Gaming Marathon, as we spent more time in front of the camera, and as we hit a podcasting milestone by releasing an episode every week for a full year. Thank you to everyone that’s been following along, we’re very excited for what 2017 might bring. Before we get into my Top 10 list, I wanted to call out a few other highlights from my year.
24 Hour Gaming Marathon GOTY: Human Fall Flat
Human Fall Flat kicked off our first ever 24 hour marathon live stream, and returned much later on to pull everything together heading into the final few hours. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable 2 player co-op adventure that kept us going and had many in our chat channel captivated.
Non-2016 GOTY: Danganronpa 2
This award is for the non-2016 release that I might otherwise have put at #1. Danganronpa 2 is an incredible sequel to my best personal discovery from last year, which became a newfound love for the visual novel genre. The biggest reveals and twists stick in my mind to this day, and the soundtrack finds its way into my playlist very often. Go play Danganronpa if you’re curious and haven’t tried a visual novel before.
Most Anticipated For 2017: Danganronpa 3
This one almost goes without saying considering the previous item, I am well up for playing the next one alongside everyone else when it gets its western release. Tom and I did a ‘Looking Forward To 2017’ episode of the podcast focused on future game releases, if you’d like to hear what else I’m pumped for.
Just before we go through the Top 10, here are the games that I also recommend, that I should have spent more time with, and that I completely skipped in what was the most quality-packed release schedule you could hope for:
Honorable Mentions: SUPERHOT, Titanfall 2, Hyper Light Drifter, Devil Daggers, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Gears of War 4, Rhythm Paradise Megamix, Slime Rancher, Ratchet & Clank, Ultimate Chicken Horse, and INVERSUS.
Pile Of Shame 2016 Edition: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, The Witness, Forza Horizon 3, Pokemon Sun, Battlefield 1, The Division, Stardew Valley, and more time spent with PlayStation VR.
Notable Misses: Final Fantasy XV, Firewatch, The Last Guardian, Owlboy, XCOM 2, Batman: The Telltale Series, and Darkest Dungeon.
It wouldn’t be my list without some sweet data, so here we go. You can find the full list of games I played in 2016 on my Giant Bomb list here:
Number of games played in 2016: 142 (-16)
Number of 2016 releases played in 2016: 65 (-1)
Number of games completed in 2016: 24 (+0)
Most played games of 2016: Hitman (45 days), Overwatch (45 days), World of Warcraft (21 days)
Let’s get on with it, shall we?
10 - Dishonored 2
In the short time I’ve spent with it so far, I’ve loved the stunning world of Dishonored 2, and the satisfying stealth play. Following advice from Mark Brown on Twitter, I turned off the objective marker that would have guided me directly to my goals, requiring that I forge my own path through each environment and utilize maps, signs and incidental dialogue to lead me to my destination. This #10 spot on my list goes to Dishonored 2 against stiff competition, because it’s the game I’m most interested in continuing to play right now.
9 - INSIDE
This is the splendidly crafted journey of a boy who’s simply too curious for his own good, full of physics-driven puzzles and platforming, moments of terror, and moments of pure oddity. You’ll want to play it in one or two long sessions as it pulls you along, telling its story through its environment and speechless interactions, and its beautiful animation work and stunning visual style. Treat yourself to this one.
8 - Overcooked
I love me a creative local multiplayer romp, and Overcooked took me through many emotions in 2016, as I played through the story mode in 2 player, enjoying it for the most part but lamenting the ice levels and any scenario that has you interacting with floating pedestals. It was also great to try it in 4 player during the marathon, where the issue of “too many cooks” becomes oh so very real, but the satisfaction of running a well-oiled kitchen just cannot be matched.
7 - Mafia III
I was able to overlook the repetition of Mafia III’s core gameplay loop, because it’s a loop that I quickly came to love, bolstered by satisfying stealth gameplay that saw me evolve from whistling goons over for melee kills, to picking off entire warehouses full of them with the help of a silenced pistol I’d worked to unlock. The location and story pulled me along, and the ‘60s vibe bled over into the real world as I sought out the soundtrack to continue listening long after I’d wrapped up the story and left New Bordeaux behind.
6 - Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2 is a real good time! At first, I felt overwhelmed by the mess of icons and options thrown at me by the mobile phone interface, but once I let it all sink in I found lots to love, and a set of gameplay mechanics that worked far better than they did in the first game. One of my favourite gaming moments of the year comes from a mission that has you avoiding detection by the CIA whilst staying in range of their surveillance van in order to hack into it. After several failed attempts, it was clear that I couldn’t get myself close enough to keep the data connection without being seen, and so I played with the game’s unique set of player abilities in a different way: I used a nearby hotel’s rooftop to get close but out of sight, and then hacked into the van to drive it closer to the hotel, putting me in range to retrieve the data, but still completely hidden from the agents on the ground. It felt awesome, and several other high octane moments permeate my time with this specially crafted open world game.
In a similar manner to with Mafia III, I sought out every chance to approach situations in Watch Dogs 2 quietly, and was once again rewarded with satisfying moments of success.
5 - Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
I’m glad Naughty Dog made a fourth mainline Uncharted, because they’re a slick thrill ride of the highest order. Though I felt the game was a little too long for its own good, it’s a fitting final chapter in Nathan Drake’s story, and I in truth have an urge to replay it and see it again. I enjoyed attempting to sneak through enemy encounters, though I failed all but one time, and the sense of exploration and adventure makes it the best in the series and best in class, if you ask me. A lovingly crafted tale, with strong personal relationships and exciting set pieces taking you to a dizzying number of locations of incredibly rendered beauty.
4 - DOOM
2016 has been a year of very pleasant gaming surprises, and perhaps the best of them was when we all realized how brilliant DOOM was, against the odds considering its development story. It feels incredible, as soon as you’re in control you feel badass, able to move around at high speed, switch between your arsenal of weapons quickly to take down hordes of hell’s monsters, and the combat is perfectly tuned to encourage offensive maneuvers, giving you health back for finishing enemies with melee attacks. The single player is of a consistently high quality and a satisfyingly long runtime, and the multiplayer is decent and shouldn’t be overlooked.
3 - Dark Souls III
Through perseverance I have become somewhat competent at the Souls games! Now that I’m able to play through them to completion, I’m able to appreciate that sensation of overcoming significant challenges, pushing that little bit too far in search of another bonfire, and running away from hordes of twisted creatures that look far too powerful for my level.
The setup of Dark Souls III has made it my favourite, I thought it was cool to have the thrones of each “Lord Of Cinder” in front of you in the Firelink Shrine, your hub and safehouse. The design of the gameworld is, as with the other games, very clever, everything connecting together once you open up shortcuts and push out in each direction. It held me tight and didn’t let go until I’d concluded.
2 - Overwatch
I had an absolute blast with Overwatch, it became a daily obsession that brought out the competitive side of me that I’d kept dormant since my Xbox clan heyday. It holds this year’s record for longest play session, where we played for over 8 hours a few times during the launch period. I liked spending time with each of the 21 heroes and finding my favourites, which ended up being Junkrat and Mei. Though I haven’t spent much time with it since summer, it had such an impact at the time that I have to give it #2 placement props.
It’s a vibrant and attractive game, and what makes it truly special is how its built to learn, not to pump hours into in order to unlock better gear: What separates experienced players from newbies is their understanding and skill with the characters, not some high-powered rifle they’ve grinded to obtain. Overwatch’s gameplay balance should be applauded, as should Blizzard’s work to improve it and put out weekly brawls that put a new spin on the standard match setup. A fun first person shooter with heart.
1 - Hitman
The series has been a personal favourite since I played Hitman 2: Silent Assassin on PS2. At long last, IO Interactive has built a game that allows its brilliance to truly shine, and I say that for many reasons.
Hitman now plays like you always wish it did. The underlying logic and mechanics are now more visible and clearly defined, and so you can learn them, rely on them, and use them to your advantage. Objects can be thrown exactly where you want them to go, or be locked on to people for what must be the most satisfying single action of the year. The radar clearly informs you of where people are, and if you should avoid them. Disguises now work in a way that makes their use fully accessible for now players, and vision cones give you confidence to maneuver your way through the environment without feeling like your success boils down to whether the AI is on your side or not. You feel in control, and that’s vitally important to me as a fan of stealth games and someone that felt it was the primary drawback of the series.
The episodic format in which it has been built and delivered has drawn me in like no other game in the last decade. The consistent releasing of new content across the year has me hooked, and as a result I’ve spent time with every mode, felt compelled to reach maximum Mastery level in every location, and visited the game every week to check out the new contracts, Escalations and challenges that IO has released. It has encouraged me to properly learn the game and repeat stages in a way that I simply wouldn’t have if they’d dumped the whole lot out there at once, and not had the ability to experiment with it and learn from player feedback to improve it.
The core concepts of the series remain, and therefore you’re going to have to make peace with needing to restart when you fail and put into practice what you learned. Therein lies the absolute magic of Hitman: Every single attempt teaches you something new that you’ll make use of in the future, from enemy behaviour to level layout to how things interact with each other, and an incredible amount more. The sense of steady personal improvement, and the urge to experiment, are both supported at every turn. The challenge system suggests that you attempt something unique that might just become your new favourite killing method, and the opportunities system gives you a guided tour of the level, introducing new players to the sensation of success at Hitman, but also shows you its freaky side as it leads you to some of the game’s many incredible set pieces that lean heavily upon the series’ consistent flirtation with dark humour.
I can’t go on without mentioning how full of neat little touches it is. Incidental dialogue is one of my favourite things in videogames, and Hitman joins the hall of fame alongside Max Payne 2 for its ridiculously rich bystander chatter. VO aside, there are things to play with in all corners of the six incredible locations such as unusual lethal pickups like the battle axe, and mastery and challenge unlocks that’ll keep you going just to give them a go. The game’s suite of game modes all deserve your attention, and I’ve called out the Escalation mode previously for how it steadily increases in difficulty as you hone your craft in a single scenario. The constant addition of new scenarios across all modes is impressive.
I’ll end by speaking about Hitman’s best feature: Elusive Targets. These events have been a regular source of live stream goodness since May, and their one-time-deal nature has had me shaking with anticipation as I load into them for the first and last time, putting my knowledge of Hitman’s mechanics and locations to the ultimate test, and often requiring me to make snap decisions under pressure. The setup for some of them has been interesting, like needing to take down the target without harming his identical twin brother who he is walking around with. As we head into 2017, IO continues to put more content, and have confirmed a Season 2 is in the works. I’ll be playing the game long into the new year, and can’t wait to see which locations we’ll get to visit, and how far they push the Elusive Target concept going forward.