As I spend my days now looking forward to the Nintendo Switch, I can’t help but remember this same feeling a year ago, when I was dreaming of finally getting my Oculus Rift. Little did I know that a few months later, a preorder communication/shipping fiasco would result in me switching over to the HTC Vive. Yeah, there was a lot of unexpected chaos in 2016, you might’ve heard.
Typically, late December and January is when I would do the most gaming, catching up on titles I missed out on now that they’re on sale, but that never happened. For a while there I got really sick and decided I only had enough energy to watch Terrace House. So anyway, even though I’m now frantically trying to get through Final Fantasy XV, The Last Guardian, Stardew Valley, Thumper, and a few others, I’m just going to have to write something about them independently when/if I finish them. Like my other lists, these are the games of 2016 that I liked in 2016.
Besides those games I didn’t finish, I have honorable mentions to two party games that turned out pretty good. One is The Jackbox Party Pack 3, the best Jackbox yet – that Tee-K.O. game is awesome. The other is Overcooked, the frantic chef simulator game that’s surprisingly great. Sorry I didn’t make more time for gaming, I’m going to try to be better this year!
The Rise of Iron expansion did little to win over the haters, but for Destiny loyalists like myself, it was a refreshing gasp of air for something we were already way too deep in. With a story drenched in nostalgia, designed to celebrate all the time we’ve spent in this world, Rise of Iron was a fantastic capper to a game I truly love. While it’s hard to guess if there will ever be more meaningful content added, if Bungie is ready to move onto Destiny 2 now, I wouldn’t be upset in the least. I got my money’s worth. And I spent a lot of money on this game.
This year saw Hearthstone roll out its new standard format, which forces players to only use cards from this year and last year, rotating out many important cards. In their place came some great expansions: the old gods from the WOG expansion are really fun, deck-defining curveballs and I love both the Kazakus decks and jade decks that came out of the recent MSG pack. This year’s adventure, One Night in Karazhan, was also the game’s best yet. I play this game pretty much every week, and have for more than a year now. It’s really, really great, and you should probably give it a try when the next expansion comes out and more cards rotate out.
The recent Gundam: The Origin movies have rekindled my interest in the greatest anime series of all time, and that’s why I felt so lucky that not only Gundam Breaker 3 exists, but that it came out in English. I mean, I still had to import it, but being able to actually read everything with ease makes this series so much better! While the combat isn’t much more complex than a typical Dynasty Warriors-esque hack-and-slash, the game avoids getting dull by giving you the ability to constantly customize everything about your mobile suit between engagements. I kind of wish it didn’t have the “these are toys” aesthetic, but otherwise this is a fan’s dream come true. This is Sean Lemme, launching!
The latest game from the developers of Limbo, INSIDE might feel familiar at first, as you start as a boy, alone, being chased in the woods. But this story quickly turns into something much darker and more disturbing. While not a particularly deep or challenging platformer, INSIDE is extremely engaging in the way it uses gameplay to tell a story that ultimately is about, perhaps, the nature of playing games. Plus, honestly, I’m pretty jazzed when a game can be really good and not a million hours long these days.
One of the big barriers to immersion in gaming is the disconnect between cinematics and gameplay. It’s always a little bit of a bummer to watch, say, Master Chief dismantle an alien army with sweet acrobatic moves, only for you to take controller and just run around shooting everybody. SUPERHOT is a first person shooter where time moves as slowly as you do, which makes it more of a puzzle game than anything. But it’s also the only game where I can play through a level not missing a shot, rapidly throwing and switching weapons, and doing sweet stunts. It’s, well… It’s hot. It’s super hot.
The best thing about DOOM was it’s rejection of pretty much everything DOOM 3 tried to be. Instead of dark, hyper realistic graphics, DOOM focused on visual clarity and a high framerate. Instead of lumbering, heavy weapons, DOOM had a huge arsenal and not a lot of ammo. And most importantly, instead of tension and scares, DOOM delivered fun, frantic gameplay. It was a delightful surprise last spring, even though it sounds like I was right to never touch the multiplayer. DOOM‘s back, baby. Who saw that coming?
A lot of people really, really love Overwatch. Like, these characters, who only speak a few lines each and are in a game that is entirely multiplayer, all have an endless supply of fan fiction, forum discussion, and fan-made pornography. I pretty much just played a bunch around launch and then pop in every now-and-then, so that whole phenomenon kind of alarms me, but I wouldn’t dare deny that this is a truly great multiplayer game. If you haven’t tried it yet, chances are you will be made to at some point, just you wait.
Titanfall 2 continues the first game’s trend of doing what you might not expect. For one, it’s amped up pilot movement and flexibility so much that even I, a giant robot aficionado, prefer being a lowly man to a great machine. It also adds a single player campaign that, while brief, is really, really inventive and fun. And also oddly anime-like. Really, surprisingly anime-like. I know everyone would rather play Overwatch multiplayer and DOOM singleplayer, but why not get you a game that can do both?
Pokémon Sun (and Moon, the other version I didn’t play) is the most different a main series Pokémon game has been yet… Still that’s not too different from the series’ core gameplay, which has mostly been tweaked to be more streamlined and easier to enjoy. What I liked, aside from my dear Popplio, was the game’s story, maybe the best ever in these games. I liked that instead of just pursuing my own glory, I was helping a Hawaii-inspired nation establish its own Pokémon league. And the parallel story, a very sci-fi tale of wayward teens and inter-dimensional travel, had a surprisingly touching conclusion. Now I’ve just gotta get my Poliwrath all leveled up.
When we all called Uncharted 3 a solid end to the franchise, we implicitly had to be wary about the announcement of the fourth game. And honestly I was worried, especially since series creator Amy Hennig left Naughty Dog, but then I played the game. This is a story specifically about Nathan Drake and the perils of growing old, changing needs, and toxic nostalgia. On top of that, it has some of the best set pieces in the series’ history, as the addition of grappling hooks and drivable cars opened up a lot of fantastic adventure movie-style potential. This game was so great, you guys. Just, you know, don’t make another one. Please.