Looking back, 2016 has been an interesting year for gaming. We’ve seen iterative consoles, reveals of new ones, and some stunning PC hardware — all that exist to power the latest and greatest video games.
From expansive driving games that take you across Australia, to first-person shooters that bring hell to your screen, 2016 has something for everyone regardless of whether you own a PS4 Pro or an Android smartphone. Here are 10 of the year’s most essential releases.
1. Overwatch (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Valve might not ever make another Team Fortress game as it's busy with hats and Steam, but Overwatch has done a great job of taking on the mantle of "entertaining team-based shooter" that anyone can play. From the likes of Call of Duty-inspired Soldier 76, to Sombra — a character that hacks the game’s highlights reel — the sheer variety on offer ensures that it never gets boring.
There's a great balance between depth and accessibility as well as the right amount of reliance on skill, and moments of magic that make Overwatch well worth playing. All of this, combined with Blizzard's penchant for supporting games for longer than usual periods of time, make this a game you should definitely check out.
2. Firewatch (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
If you were expecting a video game replete with all the big budget thrills you're accustomed to, you might find Firewatch a lean, almost sparse affair. You wouldn't be wrong either. This isn't a game for everyone. In fact, some would question whether it's really a game, because of its narrow focus on telling an immersive tale involving just two characters, who never really meet in the wilderness in 1980s America.
Nonetheless, it achieves what it set out to do. Namely, using well-worn video game elements in order to tell a story that stays with you long after you're done. And for that, Firewatch's a triumph.
3. Forza Horizon 3 (PC, Xbox One)
Forza Horizon 3 is as good as arcade racing games get. There is enough variety in the races to keep you engrossed for hours, and because it's an open world game with plenty of collectibles, you'll enjoy playing even if you don't want to race. It's very beginner friendly and has some stunning visuals to boot. In so many ways, it feels like a big step up for the Forza Horizon series, which makes us wonder what Microsoft can do for the next installment of the game.
Perhaps adding different kinds of vehicles and a different location will work, but the biggest challenge will be topping what's been achieved with Forza Horizon 3.
4. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
The follow up to 2010’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, this year's Mankind Divided puts you in the role of Adam Jensen, as you set out to uncover a chilling conspiracy. There’s enough by way of choices, ensuring that your actions don’t have a binary outcome, and there are plenty ways to play as well, ensuring there’s something for everyone.
If Human Revolution was the foundation for Adam Jensen's adventures, Mankind Divided builds upon it in meaningful ways. From a narrative standpoint, it's The Empire Strikes Back of cyberpunk video games - mandatory for fans and newcomers alike.
5. VA-11 HALL-A (PC)
VA-11 HALL-A doesn’t cast you as anyone unique or special. Rather you’re a bar tender with customers to serve, and rent to pay. You'll be concocting beverages (both alcoholic and otherwise) and the gameplay doesn't deviate from this until the very end. This would be more than a minor annoyance if not for the diverse set of clientele, their motivations, and anecdotes that for the most part balance out any sense of monotony.
The cast is vastly eclectic compared to your standard video game, which makes it extremely endearing. It succeeds in presenting a slice of life in a dystopian future, and drives home the point that you don't have to be the central character of every story, or every video game. And that games can be just as fun with you serving their heroes copious quantities of alcohol.
6. Doom (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
While the likes of John Carmack, John Romero, and Tom Hall - the original creators of Doom - have moved on from id, it is clear that the studio has enough employees who are fans of the series. From the sprawling environments of hell, to claustrophobic corridors of research labs of Mars, the world of Doom is an absolute wonder to explore. The sense of pacing is consistent through the game.
There's a seemingly endless supply of monsters to kill in arenas both big and small, each of them peppered with power-ups, health packs, and armour. There's a steady ebb and flow to platforming, exploration, and gunplay, which coupled with guns aplenty and slick movement, give Doom a personality of its own. Bethesda had the right idea in mind when it brought back Wolfenstein, and reviving Doom after a prolonged spell in development hell is just as welcome.
7. PES 17 (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
PES 2017 is a solid entry in the franchise that rectifies problems of PES 2016 and features enough AI improvements to make it one of the most enjoyable games of the year. Be it moulding a bottom of the table team into a league-winning outfit, or simply playing co-op with friends, PES 2017 is absorbing.
The moment to moment gameplay feels natural with fluid animations and realistic character models. It might not have ultra polished presentation or novel game modes that FIFA brings to the table, but it has heart and personality, which is enough for it make it one of the better sports games of the year.
8. Hue (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
The puzzle genre has seen better days, overtaken by other kinds of games that are a lot more flashy in terms of presentation. Hue combines responsive platforming and cerebrally challenging puzzles that works well with its Limbo-inspired presentation. This story of a boy finding his mother ties its many rooms and obstacles together in a deft fashion.
There’s no conundrum too confusing to impede your progress, with a gradual learning curve ensuring that the next challenge isn’t exponentially tougher than the last. This makes its gentle learning curve and unique sense of pace its greatest strength.
9. Reigns (Android, iOS, PC)
Reigns’ strength is the crisp and enjoyable writing that's full of sly jokes, which play on your expectations and tell a novel story in a completely new way. It might be a choose-your-own-adventure novel by way of Tinder, but it's a great match, and it feels incredibly comfortable on a mobile device — which is where it really shines.
Ever so often mobile games have been hamstrung by counter-intuitive interfaces and a degree of complexity that’s off putting, and this is one of the rare games that’s right at home on mobile platforms. More so when you realise that it uses smart aesthetics and presentation to essentially create a strategic resource management sim.
10. Total War: Warhammer (PC)
Perhaps the easiest way to get involved in a series that’s earned its popularity on miniature figurines is via this strategy game. Where the previous Total War instalments have tried their best to faithfully recreate 15th century Japan or 200 BCE Rome, Warhammer's setting is a love letter to fans of the dystopian franchise infused into a game that combines high strategy and micro-management. It’s an engaging experience, albeit a time-consuming one but one you will not regret playing at all.
What were your favourite games of 2016? Let us know via the comments.