In the 2016 intro/hub page for the Nintendo Resolution, I stated pretty emphatically that there was no way I could match the 36 video games I beat in 2015. Well, I not only matched that number, but I fucking blew it out of the water – in the calendar year of 2016, I beat 48 goddamn games.
Looking at the list, it becomes clear that one reason for this is that I played a lot of smaller games, compared to last year. But the main reason is that I really expanded my horizons this year. Of 2015’s 36 games, all but one were either for the Wii U or the 3DS. But this year I finally dove into Steam and PC gaming, and also got myself a Playstation 4, so Nintendo kinda took a backseat to a much wider variety of video games. Here’s the statistical breakdown of the games I finished this year:
Pretty crazy when compared with last year’s list! Expanding my horizons this way meant that years of previously unavailable video games suddenly became accessible, and I found myself gleefully reveling in tons of “older” games. That was great for me as a gamer, but since I ended up playing very few games released in 2016 itself, it made compiling a year-end Top 10 list pretty difficult. Here’s what I ended up with:
#10 – PAPER MARIO: COLOR SPLASH (Wii U)
The latest game in the Paper Mario series (which I’ve only played about halfway through) is a bit of a mixed bag. The game looks beautiful, is hilariously funny, and is chock full of fascinating locations to explore and interesting puzzles to solve. Color Splash would rank much higher on this list if it wasn’t for its endless parade of pointless, tedious, downright torturous enemy encounters. I know the developers are trying to honor the franchise’s RPG roots, but it’s a misguided effort because aside from these shoehorned-in battles, this is not an RPG, The game shines brightest when it focuses on exploration and puzzle-solving, and would be significantly better if it just exorcised RPG battles entirely. None of this was a complete deal-breaker for me, but at times it came really close.
#9 – UNCHARTED 4 – A THIEF’S END (Playstation 4)
As I repeatedly made clear in my write-up of this game, I’m not really a big fan of the Uncharted franchise’s by-the-numbers hand-holdy gameplay. The game’s appearance on this list is due to two major factors: (a) as the first game I played on my new PS4, it was a simple and fun introduction to the console and its impressive graphical capabilities, and (b) I just didn’t play very many games released this year. So congratulations on squeaking by, Uncharted.
#8 – STAR FOX GUARD (Wii U)
Prior to the release of Star Fox Zero, I was pretty stoked to play the franchise’s first new game in a decade. But once I got my hands on it, I quickly remembered that I fucking suck at Star Fox games. So I didn’t get very far, but that’s okay because most of my time was taken up by the “bonus” game included in the package. Star Fox Guard tasks you with protecting a maze-like base from invading robots, by placing and utilizing several weaponized monitors throughout the structure. It’s basically Nintendo’s take on the “tower defense” genre, but with a unique, manic flavor all its own. It’s also one of the few Wii U games that actually makes creative use of the gamepad controller. I haven’t beaten the game yet (you’ll find that’s a running theme on this list), but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it.
#7 – PHOENIX WRIGHT: ACE ATTORNEY – SPIRIT OF JUSTICE (Nintendo 3DS)
The release of a new Ace Attorney game is always a cause for celebration. And although Spirit of Justice is among my least-favorite in the franchise thus far, it’s still an absolutely wonderful game. I haven’t finished the game yet, but as of this writing I’m nearing the end of the very last case, so it should be any day now. It’s certain to be the first game I beat in 2017, so I’ll save further commentary for my eventual write-up.
#6 – THE WITNESS (Steam)
Jonathan Blow‘s follow-up to Braid is a weird game in which you meander through a series of gorgeously rendered Myst-like environments while solving simplistic line-based puzzles. Simplistic doesn’t mean easy, however, and The Witness gets real motherfucking hard real motherfucking quick. As a result – surprise surprise – I haven’t beaten it yet, but I’ve explored this beautiful world enough to know that this is something really special that everyone ought to try.
#5 – ZOMBIE NIGHT TERROR (Steam)
I’ll sell you on Zombie Night Terror in three words: Lemmings with zombies. Your goal in this game is to guide a hoard of zombies through a series of meticulously designed 2D stages, infecting all the humans before they slaughter your guys. It’s such a brilliant and obvious idea that I can’t believe it took so long for someone to think of it, but I’m so glad they finally did. Zombie Night Terror is yet another game that I came really close to beating in 2016, so hopefully I’ll be writing about it in more detail sometime in the near future.
#4 – AM2R: RETURN OF SAMUS (PC)
This fan-created remake of Metroid II got a lot of attention this year, and rightfully so. As I state in my write-up of the game, AM2R is so well-crafted, fun and visually appealing that it rivals the very best games in the “official” franchise. Unfortunately, part of the reason the game got so much attention is because it got squashed by Nintendo, and therefore is not readily available in any official capacity. But I’d really recommend that Metroid fans seek this one out any way they can, because it’s fucking amazing.
#3 – PICROSS 3D: ROUND 2 (Nintendo 3DS)
Picross games aren’t exactly flashy or sexy in any way, but the sheer amount of time I dedicate to these games (especially a content-rich one like this) makes it hard to ignore it when it comes to a best-of list. This was the last game I beat in 2016, and I have no doubt that I’ll still be returning to it throughout 2017 and beyond.
#2 – FIREWATCH (Steam)
Firewatch falls into a category of games which is often referred to derisively as “walking simulators.” What that means is that the game skews heavily towards story and exploration, and is largely absent of more “traditional” gameplay elements. Getting the balance right for games like this can be a fine line, but when they’re are done well, they are intensely memorable experiences. Firewatch, as I said back in August, is one of the well-done ones. It’s not a perfect game by any means, but it’s still a very, very good one and well worth playing.
#1 – ZERO ESCAPE: ZERO TIME DILEMMA (Nintendo 3DS)
I absolutely adore the Zero Escape series, and as I stated in my write-up, this is probably the best entry so far. An intricate, fascinating story full of completely insane characters kept me on the edge of my seat, but as a lifelong adventure gamer, Zero Time Dilemma‘s puzzles are what really won me over. They are quite simply the best “escape rooms” I’ve ever played through, and that’s what earned this game the top spot of 2016.
So that’s my list. Pretty lame, huh? I mean, I didn’t even finish half the games on there! But if I were constructing a list of the best new-to-me games of the year, it would look entirely different and be chock full of excellent experiences. In fact, even if I were just to revise my list from 2015, the Top 5 would look entirely different, due to games like The Swindle, Undertale, Her Story and Life is Strange.
Overall, it was a great year in gaming for me. A landmark year, even. And, with the impending release of the Nintendo Switch, 2017 seems like it’ll be even more full of fun new video game experiences – and hopefully I’ll be able to knock a few older games off my backlog as well.
Stay tuned, and happy new year!