While 2016 was a year of copious celebrity deaths and political turmoil, it was also a great year for video games. Last year’s releases saw classic franchises returning to former glory and a bevy of surprises that made 2016 one of the most memorable years for gaming in recent memory.
Here’s a rundown of The Blade’s best games of 2016.
Game of the year
DOOM (PS4, XBone, PC)
DOOM might as well be Harry Potter, because like the titular boy wizard this game also thrived despite all signs pointing to a swift death. This revival of the classic first-person shooter series was on nobody’s radar and looked to be yet another middling attempt at cashing in on the recent success of the FPS genre.
Yet, even now I can’t get over how fast, furious, and fun my time with DOOM was.
DOOM manages to hone the mechanics of shooters to a diamond point, presenting one of the smoothest and best-controlling games in years. The combat is all about swift execution of the hordes of demons spewing out of a gate to hell that’s on Mars.
The story is insane and boils down to everything going wrong because of an evil company wanting to frack the demonic energies of hell. Developer Id and publisher Bethesda managed to turn the formerly silly and nonsensical story of DOOM into something funny, thrilling, and pulse-pounding.
In many ways, DOOM has a lot in common with 2012 indie darling Hotline Miami, where the gameplay is less about senseless murder and more about how the player can efficiently manage resources and attack the room in the swiftest manner possible. Despite looking trigger-happy, DOOM is a thinking man’s shooter with higher difficulties that will punish players who don’t respect its authority.
This is all on top of a downright gorgeous game that runs as well on a console as it does on a PC, a rare feat in a year filled with poor PC ports. DOOM is the cure for weak and wimpy military shooters, akin to how the band Nirvana killed off hair metal and early 1990’s adult pop contemporary.
DOOM is the best game of 2016.
Runner-up: Dark Souls 3 (PS4, XBone, PC)
Best Independent Game
Enter the Gungeon (PS4, Windows, Linux, OSX)
Given the rise in popularity of dungeon crawlers as a genre, a special game has to come along to stand out in the crowd. Enter the Gungeon is a quirky, gratingly difficult adventure with a sense of style and some of the most clever, wittiest writing of the year.
Ever wanted to use a gun in the shape of a dinosaur skull that shoots flammable oil? Enter the Gungeon has that and a wonderfully silly piece of writing to explain the gun’s origin. The writing matches the pixelated character and world designs, where you’ll fight waves of bullets that shoot bullets at you, all in an attempt to stop you from reaching the heart of the Gungeon.
If you found yourself turned off by The Binding of Isaac and Nuclear Throne then I promise that Gungeon is the game for you.
Runner-up: Darkest Dungeon (PC, PS4, PSVita, Linux)
Street Fighter V (PS4, PC)
Capcom held every advantage going into the production of Street Fighter V, with a dedicated fanbase and tons of goodwill coming off the universally beloved fourth entry in the classic series.
But the famed developer bungled all aspects of Street Fighter V, releasing a half-baked cacophony of a game that borrows from better titles — all while fleecing their dedicated fans at every turn.
Street Fighter V launched under a salvo of server issues. More to the point, the game lacked features such as arcade mode that are now genre standards. The final straw was a series of expensive downloadable content instead of features that should have made the final release.
Capcom continues to alienate the entire fighting game community. While Street Fighter V has merit on a technical level, the other issues are too large to ignore.
Runner-up: No Man’s Sky (PS4, PC)
Best Art Design
Overwatch (PC, PS4, XBone)
Blizzard once again nails the most important aspect to a game’s longevity and ability to reach a casual audience: style and design. The characters and world of Overwatch are a Pixar film come to life, with the game’s characters gaining fan followings even before the game hit stores.
Runner-up: Superhot (XBone, Windows, OSX)
Best Post-Launch DLC
Killer Instinct (Windows, XBone)
Where Street Fighter V dropped the ball in providing excellent post-launch content, Killer Instinct continues to deliver the goods. Releasing for Windows in early 2016, the seasons 2 and 3 content packs provided interesting and balanced guest characters from franchises like Halo, Gears of War, and Battletoads.
The Shadow Lords campaign mode is also a welcome surprise, providing single and multi-player content that packs a fun and cohesive story aspect. Now is the time to jump on the Killer Instinct hype train, as developer Iron Galaxy is motivated to take over the fighting game genre and dethrone Street Fighter as king.
Runner-up: The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine (XBone, PS4, Windows)