Overwatch

My Games of the Year 2016

With only 5 hours to go, it’s my last chance to tell y’all which games of 2016 I liked best, which is apparently a thing many people do. So, let’s go. They’re not ranked, I like all games on this list equally.

Overwatch

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Me, about to get fragged

Not including Blizzard’s newest franchise on a GotY list is apparently a game crime, so let’s get it out of the way first. It’s good. The characters are diverse, colorful and likeable (except for Reaper, who’s kind of a dipshit). Gameplay is extremely well-paced, fast-flowing and deep yet intuitive. But you probably knew that already.

Pocket Card Jockey

Continuing with something a bit more obscure, Game Freak’s most recent project outside the Pokémon franchise was so engrossing I spent like five hours with the demo alone. This brilliant mix of Solitaire and horse racing may at first seem a bit silly, but then you realize how well all the different mechanics tie in together to create an experience defined by strategic risk/reward choices, challenging timed puzzles and just enough randomness to keep you from thinking about them too much. I highly recommend you check it out.

War Thunder

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My favourite Berlin landmarks are the Reichstag and the huge watery pit.

Truth be told, I first played Gaijin’s WWII-themed vehicle shooter several years ago, but considering the game’s official release not even two weeks ago, it definitely deserves a spot on this list. I’ve been a fan of this kind of game ever since my first World of Tanks match in 2012, and I’ve been following several games in the genre for a while now. War Thunder, with its brutal, unforgiving and incredibly dynamic action-focused tank battles, is a hot contender for the spot of my personal favourite – it’s not quite there yet, but I’m excited what the future will bring.

Pokémon Sun

(I guess Moon is also probably good.)

It’s a Pokémon game.

What, you expected me to say more? Oh, okay then. With Game Freak’s new-found willingness to slaughter sacred cows, this was the first Pokémon game I was hyped for in a long while, and it fully delivered. The trials are so much fun! True, the difficulty curve in this game is all over the place, to an even worse degree than in previous games (yes, I’m looking at you, Emolga). But the series has never been a place for those seeking a fair and well-balanced challenge, and the sense of wonder that drove me through Generation I and II in my childhood is back in full force with this one. I truly hope Game Freak will continue to experiment with new design ideas in future Pokémon games.

Ladykiller in a Bind

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Aside from everything else, the UI looks really good!

I’m a bit hesitant to include it on this list, because it is, y’know, kind of… um… erotica (and therefor not even on Steam). But Christine Love’s latest visual novel was my most anticipated game of this year, and… yeah, it delivered. I did like most of Love’s earlier work, including the brilliant gut punch that was Analogue: A Hate Story, and at this point she could write a VN about watching paint dry and I’d still buy it.

LKIAB is not about watching paint dry. It’s about a lesbian crossdressing as her brother on a school trip (which just happens to be a cruise as well), having lots of kinky sex, making some awful Metal Gear Solid references and getting caught up in a slightly Danganronpa-esque, but significantly less violent game of treachery and social manipulation, as well as in a weird kidnapping scheme by a shady group of definitely-not-bad-guys. The game is funny, sexy, occasionally challenging and intriguing. It also has some of the more interesting gameplay I’ve seen in a VN, and as most of Love’s work is highly nonlinear and interactive – something I often miss in other VNs.

Honorable Mentions

  • I loved Danganronpa, which finally got ported to the PC this year. Monokuma is a great villain who elevates the game from solid murder-mystery into the realm of awesome, truly WTF surrealness. Surreality? Eh, who cares.
  • Shenzhen IO by Zachtronics is a good game. Full stop. But a) it’s still in Early Access, and b) it doesn’t quite live up to the creator’s previous TIS-100, which has a similar premise but is a lot more focused in its puzzle design. Maybe next year, though?
  • Fire Emblem: Fates didn’t quite make the cut because it’s too much of “more of the same”, and the “one game for the price of two” principle of marketing can go die in a sewer for all I care. Also, the game is focused on your choice of either siding with a bunch of decent people, or with an insane, power-hungry maniac, and the writing seems to entirely gloss over to ethic iffiness of the second alternative because, uuuuh… they’re both flawed, I guess? Who wrote this game – CNN?
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