THIS is not a year many people will have fond memories of.
Yet, putting aside some rather depressing politics and a long list of popular personality deaths, it has been a strong year for games.
2015 was a bit of a train wreck as the new console generation found its feet.
Nintendo continues to stumble, but other companies have been shining; plus the Switch looks very promising.
Anyhoot, here’s my list of the top five games 2016 has produced.
I should also note, I score games on the individual impression they make on me. As this is a comparison piece, their review scores don’t really counter in to where I have placed them on the list. Here we go…
5. Final Fantasy XV
The word ‘epic’ has seeped its way into the common vocabulary.
Yet, what does it take for something to actually be epic?
For me, it would be something of high quality and abundant quantity.
In that respect, the long awaited 15th installment in the main Final Fantasy series is truly epic.
With a colossal open world, a dramatic operatic story and cutting edge visuals; this is a return to form for the legendary Japanese role playing game.
Review is pending.
4. Dark Souls 3
The swan song to a cult phenomenon, the Dark Souls series has left a permanent brand on videogames.
With rising complaints that modern games are made “too easy” in order to sell more, From Software replied with games that used “Prepare to Die” as their slogan.
A minimalist approach to narrative, oppressive level designs, tight combat controls and brutal enemies all contribute to the auteur signature of director, Hidetaka Miyazaki.
It is a thorough masterpiece in which every scrap of content has a purpose, and every step taken feels like an accomplishment.
No other game feels this rewarding to play.
Firewatch proves that games can be an excellent vehicle for storytelling.
Sitting down to play Campo Santo’s delightful Wyoming tale activates the same pleasure sensors as curling up with a good book.
The writing is mature and approaches such topics as dementia and loneliness in a believable manner.
You find yourself empathising with characters, understanding their flaws, and when the final few twists arise you will be processing their emotional implications long after the credits roll.
It also helps that any moment can be screenshotted to make a beautiful desktop background.
A completely different kind of “watch” to Firewatch, Overwatch has capitalised on the success of Marvel over in the cinemas.
Superheroes and superhero teams are more popular than Westerns in the 60s.
In Overwatch you chose one of 23 heroes/villains and jump into a match where you must complete an objective with a team of five other heroes from around the world.
Each character has been designed perfectly, with impressive powers that synergise so well you will frequently create a scene that could seamlessly slip into the next blockbuster.
Not only is the gameplay exciting, but reliable online servers and countless possibilities from team compositions make the proposition of ‘one more match’ difficult to refuse.
There is something very simplistic about Doom, you run around and you shoot things; there is not a lot more to it than that.
The reason it is the game of the year is that it remembers why videogames are fun.
It doesn’t feel the need to explain why you can run around at 50mph or how you are managing to carry 12 guns without even having any pockets.
You are dumped into a level with a horde of monsters and you must get to the other end of the level with them dead and you, not-dead.
It is a fast and satisfying call back to before games were obsessed with realism, remembering that it is just a game, so it can be as over the top as it wants.