Travis Hymas’ Top 10 Games of 2016
- Overwatch (Blizzard – PS4, Xbox, PC): Full disclosure: I struggled to include this game on my list. Not because it’s bad, of course. Overwatch is the game that finally convinced me that an online multiplayer focused title could be one of the best experiences this year. With a diverse cast, extreme attention to detail, and emphasis on team participation, Overwatch proves Blizzard still has the chops to make the unforgettable. Unfortunately, that just makes the low point lower. The reward system, in the form of Loot Boxes, is still so shady that I can’t take this game higher on the list, no matter how much I love it.
- Dead by Daylight (Behaviour Digital – PC): That’s right, another online multiplayer game! Dead By Daylight manages to properly create an asymmetric experience that doesn’t feel unfair one way or the other. Additionally, it plays an interesting trick with the idea of survival horror by placing the players in control of every aspect of the game. Normally these kinds of games wrestle control away from the player in order to create fear. The stunt pays off, as DBD relies on a strong mechanic to create enough tension through competition. Another extra point for taking the time to create a diverse cast of survivors.
- Pony Island (Daniel Mullins Games – PC): Saying too much about Pony Island will ruin it. What I will say is that Pony Island is the best meta-level game to hit since Undertale blew up last year’s version of these lists. In some ways, Pony Island even takes things further, surrounding itself with a classic arcade aesthetic and even using your Steam profile against you (the trick is in how.) This game is this year’s wild card-completely unassuming but brilliant once you give it a chance.
- Battlefield 1 (DICE – PS4, Xbox, PC): It has been a genuinely great year for the shooter genre. For the first time in what feels like an eternity, various franchises have decided to carve out their own niche instead of chasing trends. In the case of Battlefield 1, DICE decided to fall back on the gritty war experience; and they nailed it. The real revelation was the return to form of the game’s single player, which I had almost complete glowing praise for. Once again, the multiplayer has improved as well, if only because it is no longer imitating, but trying anew.
- Ratchet & Clank (Insomniac – PS4): Boy, did I not expect a mascot game to be one of the prettiest and most refined games this year. Admittedly, Ratchet & Clank is a retread of the original game, but with no easy way to access that classic PS2 title, this is a welcome arrival. Developer Insomniac took the chance to refine their original work for the better. Not only is it gorgeous, but some of the changes are welcome – such as the game being told from the perspective of Captain Qwark. Ratchet & Clank is proof that great games can still be for all ages.
- Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 (Bandai Namco Studios – PS4, Xbox, PC): What’s old is new again as Pac-Man once again shines in a classical arcade-style title. This time around, the rules are tweaked to allow for more bold actions while playing. Between changing mazes and enthralling music, CE2 is a perfect blend of relaxing and taxing. Otherwise, it is more of the same old Pac, but there’s magic in refinement. CE2 may not be breaking convention, but it’s the best possible version a modern Pac-Man was going to be. I think that makes the game pretty special.
- The Westport Independant (Double Zero One Zero – iOS, Android, PC, Mac): Earlier this year, this game would have been way further down the list. Yet as the days in this less than stellar year wind down, I find myself again and again returning to this little newspaper title. I’ve talked about it before, but it bears repeating: this game might be the most important one I’ve played this year. The design might not be for everyone, and the stakes may not be so high on the surface, but the implications are ones we may still see come to pass around us. Best to be on the lookout now.
- Pokémon Sun and Moon (Game Freak – 3DS): Alright, a core Pokémon title was basically a shoo-in for my GOTYs. In spite of that obviousness, Sun and Moon really didn’t need to be as good as they were. Eschewing long-standing designs for new improvements really makes the franchise feel as much alive today as it was 20 years ago. Big shout out to Game Freak for playing way outside convention with some of the new creature designs; mons like Mimikyu, Rowlet, and Cosmog will live on as many fan’s favorites. The world truly does feel organic and alive. Plus, Guzma’s in this game, and he’s my boy.
- Doom (ID Software – PS4, Xbox, PC): Remember how I said it was a great year for shooters? It was, but none of them even compare to the sheer magnitude of the Doom revival. At some point during the game’s development, it was decided to kick most of shooting’s modern advancements to the curb in favor of a back to basics approach. Boy, did that work. Doom is big bombast, balanced with strong pacing, amazing music, an entertaining lead, and enough gore to fill a season and half of Game of Thrones. Doom decided to throw one hell of a party, and I don’t regret the hangover.
- Final Fantasy XV (Square Enix – PS4, Xbox): I love this game. I love that Noctis gets excited when hearing a babbling brook because he wants to fish. I love that Prompto is completely aware of his status in the group but doesn’t care because he’s having fun. I love how committed the story is to itself. I love the frantic combat. I love the stupid car. I even love that a bunch of Ignis’ “new recipes” are just stolen from diners they eat at. FFXV is not most perfect game by a long shot, but it isn’t afraid to have personality; one that I can’t wait to see more of.
Fire Emblem Fates (Intelligent Systems – 3DS): Fates isn’t as good as Awakening, which is one of my favorite games ever. In spite of that, any lesser studio or publisher wouldn’t have been able to pull the trick that was done for the 3 games that made up Fates. I don’t think it still worked perfectly, but it could have been worse. Fates is still a swell game of tactical combat, leveling, adventuring, and making your soldiers kiss, which is fine by me.
Reigns (Nerial – iOS, Android, PC): Devolver Digital will publish just about anything, but when we get games like this how could one complain? Reigns unique design of ruling via Tinder-style swiping is strange at first, but quickly becomes charming. Things stumble a bit as achievements become vague and difficult to navigate to, but the tough and hilarious moments come quickly enough to justify coming back around. Oh, and the devil is in it. That’s not a spoiler, which highlights just how weird this game is willing to be.