The gaming year in 2016 was dominated by massive shooters and the eventual release of titles that have spent ages in development, including Final Fantasy XV, The Witness, The Last Guardian and Owlboy. It was the best year for the eighth console generation yet.
Forza Horizon 3
Microsoft’s open-world car game has developed a strong following among fans of arcade racers, and the third entry in the franchise is the best yet. With its spectacular Australian locations, neat multiplayer features and dizzying selection of cars, customisation options and activities, this game aims to keep you busy for hours. It’s a looker, it handles well and offers one of the most entertaining sandboxes we’ve seen in a racing game yet. PC, Xbox One
While Call of Duty has morphed into a full-blown science-fiction shooter over the past two years, Battlefield has reinvented itself by going back to the past. EA DICE’s decision to set the new Battlefield game in World War 1 immediately sets it apart from the flood of futuristic first-person shooters released this year and allows it to add some cool wrinkles to the gameplay.
Battlefield 1’s single-player campaign is one of the strongest in the series for years, taking the form of a series of vignettes where you’ll fight in the trenches, fly a biplane, ride with Lawrence of Arabia and drive a primitive tank. But that is all just basic training for the epic online multiplayer matches. With its emphasis on large-scale conflict, stellar presentation and superb maps and modes, Battlefield 1 stands out in a year of great multiplayer FPSes. PS4, Windows, Xbox One
Respawn’s sequel to Titanfall improves on its predecessor in every way, most notably by adding a full single-player campaign to the package. The six-hour campaign is one of the best in an FPS this year, delivering several memorable moments and playfully tossing out inventive new mechanics as you race towards its end. It’s brief, but there isn’t a single wasted moment in there; it’s a fat-free game in the mould of Call of Duty 4.
The multiplayer builds on the solid foundation of the first game, delivering some interesting modes and maps. The biggest disappointment is that the servers are not as full as they should be because the game sold relatively poorly. Whether you’re playing single or multiplayer and whether you’re on foot or piloting a mech, Titfanfall 2’s shooting and movement feel great. The game looks good, too, despite holding a consistent 60 frames per second most of the time. PS4, Windows, Xbox One
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
Despite some quirks and bugs, the latest Civilization game is a fine entry in the series of turn-based strategy games. It adds some neat new mechanics, refine some others, and has enough depth and nuance in its gameplay systems to provide dozens of hours of entertainment. Mac, Windows
Blizzard Entertainment’s energetic hero-shooter throws a welcome splash of colour onto the grey, dour world of competitive multiplayer FPSes. The six-on-six team multiplayer game is immediately appealing because of its charming world building, stylised art direction and roster of loveable player characters. Below the surface polish, the game features tight mechanics, finely balanced gameplay and fantastic map design.
Like Nintendo’s Splatoon, it’s a game that pulls off the trick of being accessible to casual and new players while rewarding veterans for their skill. Though a little light on maps and gameplay modes, Overwatch offers plenty of variety just through the sheer number of heroes it offers for experimentation. It may well be the best class-based team FPS since Team Fortress 2. PS4, Windows, Xbox One
The Last Guardian
Nearly a decade in the making, The Last Guardian was almost worth the wait. Fumito Ueda’s follow-up to his PS2 classic, The Shadow of the Colossus, feels like an endearing, perfectly persevered relic from a different era. Patient gamers who loved the melancholy atmosphere and emotional timbre of Ueda’s previous masterworks will enjoy The Last Guardian’s elegant blend of puzzle-solving and platform traversal.
Though the game’s roots in the previous generation shows in its control scheme and some of the environmental textures, The Last Guardian features one of the most astonishing animal companions we’ve ever seen in a game. Trico, the gigantic bird-cat-dog hybrid, is a miracle of animation and AI. The Last Guardian is far from perfect, but it has so much soul and vision that deserves to be loved. PS4
Playdead’s follow-up to Limbo is a platform and puzzle game that uses minimalist sound and creepy visual design to immerse you in an enigmatic world where death is never far away. Though the stealth gameplay and environmental puzzles are simple, they’re graceful and rewarding. Inside isn’t as startling as Limbo was when it first came out, but its haunting atmosphere stays with you long after you’ve completed the game. PS4, Windows, Xbox One
The original Dishonored positioned itself as a worthy successor to the Thief series, offering free-form, stealth gameplay in a steampunk world. The sequel builds on its solid foundation, offering a choice between two player characters (Corvo, the main character of the previous game and his daughter), tightening both the stealth and combat gameplay, and offering an even wider selection of devious tools and powers to use against your enemies.
Its corrupt, decaying world, in the midst of an industrial revolution powered by whale oil, is as ripe with atmosphere and detail as ever. The mission design is fantastic, offering several ways to tackle each scenario, and this time, opting for a murderous, high chaos approach or a stealthier, low chaos approach are equally viable. The storytelling and voice acting stumble a bit, but not enough to detract from one of the best single-player experiences of the year. PS4, Windows, Xbox One
Twelve years after the disappointing Doom 3, Id Software is back in business with this adrenalin-pumping, blood-soaked reboot of the Doom franchise. With its high-speed gameplay, iconic arsenal, reimagining of classic Doom monsters and new twists like glory kills and a deeper melee system, Doom is a perfect synthesis of old school gibbing and new school game design. With its fantastic gunplay, chaotic action and addictive gameplay loop, Doom is a reminder of how great games can be when they’re not trying to be cinematic experiences. PS4, Windows, Xbox One
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Naughty Dog has said that Uncharted 4 will be its last game with Nathan Drake and his sidekicks, and it has gone all out to give him a memorable send-off. The game expertly mixes its quiet character moments and exploration with gunfights, this time expanding the combat with a range of new moves and mechanics. As a result, Uncharted 4 feels more open, allowing you to switch through stealth and shooting as you move through exotic, lushly detailed locales from Scotland to Madagascar.
As before, Naughty Dog fuses its gameplay and its cinematic storytelling to create a blockbuster that whips you along for a hell of a ride. There are fewer set pieces than before, but the one at centre of the game easily outclasses those in Uncharted 2 and 3. The voice acting is top notch, while Naughty Dog’s artists and programmers have set a new visual bar for other PS4 developers to shoot for. The multiplayer is also good, though not quite reaching the excellence of the competitive play in Uncharted 2. PS4
The following games released in 2016 are also worth a mention:
Dark Souls 3: The third Dark Souls game features the same gruelling action RPG gameplay as its predecessors, along with great art direction and level design. PS4, Windows, Xbox One
Gears of War 4: The Coalition takes over development duties from Epic for the new Gears game. The single player campaign is mediocre, but the horde mode and competitive multiplayer still deliver the goods. Windows, Xbox One
Hitman: Released over the course of the year in six episodes, the new Hitman offers compelling sandbox game design and tight stealth mechanics. Quality between episodes is variable, but the best of them are heaps of fun. PS4, Windows, Xbox One
Owlboy: The long-awaited Owlboy is a charming platform/adventure game that harks back to the golden age of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Windows
Stephen’s Sausage Roll: The concept is silly — push sausages around on grills to ensure they’re evenly cooked — but the puzzles are fiendish and entertaining. Linux, Mac, Windows
Superhot: A heavily stylised FPS with a novel mechanic: time only moves when you do. This adds a layer of puzzle-solving and strategy to the shooting. Linux, Mac, Windows, Xbox One
Super Mario Run: Nintendo’s automatic runner is packed with the company’s trademark charm and humour. Sure, it’s a bit short and simple, but it’s a good effort for the company’s first real game for smartphones and tablets. iOS
Thumper: A brutal rhythm game that demands speed and precision. PS4, Windows
Total War: Warhammer: Introducing Warhammer’s fantasy lore into Total War’s real-time strategy gameplay gives both franchises a new lease on life. Linux, Mac, Windows
The Witness: Jonathan Blow’s puzzle game is intricate, bewildering and engrossing. PS4, Windows, Xbox One — © 2016 NewsCentral Media