It’s Loresworn Games of the Year Week, and the main event is finally here! This is our definitive list of the best games we played in 2016. Something missing that you expected to make the countdown? Chances are, it’s one of our Games We Didn’t Get To in 2016 (But Wish We Had).
And don’t forget to swing back by tomorrow for our Most Anticipated Games of 2017.
Let the countdown begin!
I can’t deny that Overwatch is a fantastic game. D.M. was kinda shocked that it didn’t show up on my Game of the Year list, and I don’t really blame him. The fact is, I’m just not a shooter guy. Especially an arena shooter guy. Overwatch is like the best quiche I’ve ever had. I gotta hand it to the quiche-chef, but when it comes right down to it, I’m just not the biggest fan of quiche. I had a lot of fun playing it, especially with other members of the Loresworn crew and community. But was it one of the best 10 games I played in 2016, the Year of Strategy? Well, not quite. Top 20? Definitely. Even if we were going to go Top 15, I’d be hard-pressed to not include it. But to me, it will always be nothing more than a really great game that didn’t quite fit in my wheelhouse.
Tyranny was fairly fun to play, a more polished take on the combat and exploration we got in Pillars of Eternity. The setting was interesting and the writing was vivid, detailed, and incredible. That said, it felt at times more like a novel than a game: I was reading more than I was playing, and my reward for stretches of playing was tons more reading. I love lore and story, and this experience was drenched in it. If it was only done a bit more smoothly and satisfyingly as an RPG, Tyranny might well have been my Game of the Year. It is, absolutely, an honorable mention though, as it is an absolute triumph of world-building and storytelling.
T.J.’s Picks, #10 – #6
Starbound might be the game that took me most by surprise this year, in terms of how much more I enjoyed it in comparison to how much I thought I would enjoy it. I’ve played hundreds and hundreds of hours of Minecraft, but taking that same concept to a 2D space with games like Terraria never quite had the same appeal for me. Starbound is the total package, though. It’s a better space exploration game than No Man’s Sky, a better Mega Man-style, boss-blasting platformer than Mighty No. 9, and a pretty gratifying space colony crafting game to boot. You can read my review at IGN for more.
9. Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
Deserts of Kharak was easily the most fun I had with a traditional RTS this year, and possibly since the early days of StarCraft 2. The controls and interface are great, allowing for a focus on high-level strategy while also keeping the action moving. The campaign is grounded, lovingly-crafted, and exciting. If I had to pick one game from 2016 that I wish all future RTSes would try to copy, there’s no question that this would be it. Check out my review at IGN for more.
8. XCOM 2
Perhaps paradoxically, I have fewer fond memories of XCOM 2 than I do of its predecessor. But it’s still one hell of a game, improving on almost every aspect of the original. New alien types, new squad options, a more interesting strategic layer, and a fresh story of fighting an underground resistance against an alien regime that’s already won are really no more than icing on the cake. The main reason I adored this one was simple: It’s more XCOM. As long as Firaxis keeps putting out tactical, squad-based action of this quality, I’ll be hopping on the first Skyranger to the danger zone.
7. Dark Souls 3
Dark Souls 3 was just about everything I wanted from a trilogy-capping monument to the brutal, challenging series that, after I’d already decided to hate it, eventually forced me to love how much it hurt. The return of From Software’s A-Team and their peerless world design brought me to some of the most unique and astonishing fantasy environments I’ve ever had my guts splattered across. The combat was fantastic and balanced as ever, even for a raging barbarian like myself who refuses to ever equip any magic. Like the original Dark Souls (and to a lesser extent DS2), it’s a game I can see myself replaying over and over partly just to remain immersed in its universe. And if this is really the last Dark Souls, it’s a hell of a sendoff for a series that absolutely deserved no less.
A lot of the narrative surrounding Stellaris has been focused on the ways in which it didn’t live up to the hype. And on some level, that’s accurate. It was my #1 Most Anticipated Game of 2016, and yet here it sits at a mere #6 when the year’s lineup has had its say. But I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the fact that it is still a fantastic game, braving the darkness between the stars to bring space 4X (a genre recently subject to a revival movement mostly led by reboots and nostalgic copycats) into uncharted territory. Paradox’s focus on politics, societies, diplomacy, and building an evolving galaxy through events and decisions transported me to a place where I could live out some of my greatest sci-fi fantasies for the first time ever. And Stellaris is only improving with every patch. A year from now, I think its remaining skeptics will be few.