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The Best & Worst Games of 2016

by William Schwartz

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2016 was another year with a full slate of video game releases big and small.  Virtual Reality pushed into the mainstream with PlayStation VR, Oculus and HTC Vive.  Consoles from Sony and Microsoft matured and evolved, while a couple of platforms died.  Nintendo games can now be played on mobile devices.  In this incredibly dynamic year for games, there were disappointing ones and some broken, but there was also plenty of innovation.

Looking back at the year, our staff is going to outline our best/worst games of 2016 by genre.  We’ll give our final decision on which console had the best 2016, as well as our individual Top-10 games of the year lists.

Below you’ll find the best and worst games of 2016 broken into the following categories:  Game Platform of the Year, Best PlayStation Game, Best Xbox Game, Best Nintendo Game, Best PC Game, Best Multiplatform Game, Best Handheld Game,  Best Shooter Game, Best Sports Game, Best Racing Game, Best Action Adventure, Best RPG, Best Fighting Game, Best Multiplayer Game, Best Indie Game, Most Innovative Game, Most Disappointing Game, Game with the Worst Launch, and our overall Game of the Year for 2016.

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Best Console of 2016

Winner: Xbox One S

Honorable Mentions: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro

Microsoft and the Xbox One had a great year.  The third year of the Xbox One era saw the release of the Xbox One S, the announcement of the “Scorpio,” a decent amount of high-quality exclusives, and a burgeoning catalog of backwards compatible Xbox 360 games playable on the console.

Microsoft played their cards right in almost every aspect of the Xbox One S

Even while staring down the barrel of three hardware releases by Sony:  PS4 Pro, PS4 Slim, and PlayStation VR, Microsoft played its cards right in almost every aspect.  Consumers flocked to the Xbox One S console when it launched earlier this year.  HDR capability, a sleeker form factor, and an UHD 4K Bluray player pushed consumers to purchase the new console, along with very enticing bundles that included multiple copies of games with the purchase.

Whether you went out and purchased a new console or not, Microsoft did not forget its existing player base.  A number of high-rated exclusives were released across the year.  Quantum Break, ReCore, Forza Horizon 3, and Gears of War 4 was a solid offering.  Microsoft also offered these titles across both the console and PC in a cross buy arrangement that allowed for purchasers of one version to own both.  Alongside multi-plats to arrive, Microsoft also made a ton of Xbox 360 games backwards compatible on the Xbox One.  This catalog has grown to over 300 games at this point, and they’ve really made good on the promise of backwards compatibility with games big and small arriving on the system.

Microsoft and the Xbox One ended 2016 on a good note and with more horizon.  2017 should see the release of Microsoft’s high-end Xbox One “Scorpio” console that was announced back at E3 2016.  Already said to be more powerful than Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro, we’ll have to wait and see if Microsoft’s proclamations come true.

Best PlayStation 4 & Xbox Game of 2016 

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Best PlayStation Game of 2016

Winner: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Honorable Mentions: The Last Guardian

Naughty Dog’s formula for Uncharted games has been a hit since Uncharted 2 arrived on the PlayStation 3 all those years back.  Chocked full of big action sequences, beautiful graphics,  great story-telling, and top-notch actors, the PlayStation 4 was the perfect canvas for Naughty Dog to paint their latest adventure.

The best game to arrive on the PlayStation 4 this year… and quite possibly to date.

Whether on the PlayStation 4 or the PlayStation 4 Pro, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is easily one of the best exclusives to have arrived on the console to date.  To steal a quote from our Uncharted 4 Review:  “There’s a special element to games from Naughty Dog that deliver the type of single player experiences that can stand on their own, offering the perfect blend of story telling, visuals, and gameplay.”

Without a doubt, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was the best game to arrive on the PlayStation 4 this year… and quite possibly to date.

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Best Xbox Game of 2016

Winner: Gears of War 4

Honorable Mentions: ReCore, Quantum Break

The Gears of War series was an arguable difference maker for last-generation on the Xbox 360.  The new franchise introduced third-person cover shooting gameplay to an audience that couldn’t get enough of it.  Four Gears of War games released last-generation, but it took Microsoft three years to get the franchise on their new console.

Gears of War 4 captured all that was great about the series and brought it to Xbox One.

Led by Rod Fergusson at the newly-formed The Coalition, Gears of War 4 managed to capture all that was great about the Gears of War series and bring that to Xbox One and Windows 10 PC.  A campaign that leveraged the more capable machine led to a beautiful game on the Xbox One (or PC).  Multiplayer remained the real centerpiece, however, offering both competitive and cooperative modes to sink your teeth into.

The wait was definitely worth it.  Gears of War 4 looks and feels like a technical achievement for the Xbox One.  Taking advantage of HDR capabilities of the Xbox One S, while offering beautiful visuals and high frame rate multiplayer.  Like its PlayStation GOTY counterpart, Gears of War 4 may very well be the best we’ve seen on the Xbox One to date.

Best Nintendo Game of 2016 

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Best Nintendo Game of 2016

Winner: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

Honorable Mentions: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, Paper Mario: Color Splash

Looking back on 2016, it’s obvious that the Wii U is on its way out, even without knowing about the Nintendo Switch. There was a steep drop in the quantity and quality of games coming out of Nintendo. We still got a couple nice new games, but the true star of Wii U’s 2016 was a remaster. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD was a wonderful return to Hyrule on Wii U. The game still has its problems, and its more realistic art style doesn’t upgrade to HD as well as Wind Waker, but this is still a Zelda game through and through. It’s funny though, 2017 will be the death of the Wii U, but it will likely have one of its best games ever with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

 

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Best PC Game of 2016

Winner: XCOM 2

Honorable Mentions: Civilization VI, Darkest Dungeon, Overwatch

The strategy genre may not be the most popular genre out there right now, but it nevertheless still delivers some excellent games to this day. When it comes to the one strategy game that shined the brightest this year, it’s easy for us to recommend XCOM 2 as the game to check out. The game once again has you controlling the humans in a resistance force fighting back against overwhelming alien occupation, and how you go about handling the increasingly intense challenges is all up to you. There are always so many factors when it comes to making decisions during each battle, from sightlines, battlefield elevation, character classes and more that keep each and every battle engaging and unique. It’s also the type of game that just feels more natural playing on a PC compared to consoles, with the constant menu navigation being perfectly suited for the mouse and keyboard. The XCOM series made a great return with XCOM 2 this year, and there will hopefully be more where that came from.

 

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Best Multiplatform Game of 2016

Winner: Overwatch

Honorable Mentions: Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Dishonored 2

Blizzard has long been known for their PC offerings first, but 2016 saw them take a big step with Overwatch. Coming to Xbox One, PS4, and PC, Overwatch has found a player base on each of the platforms, with the console versions not ever feeling like they are lagging behind the PC version. Making it even better, Blizzard has been adding special events, such as the recent Christmas themed one, which has kept players coming back again and again. There is no doubt that Overwatch is one of the best games of 2016 and anyone with a current generation console or computer can jump in and enjoy the fun.

 

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Best Handheld Game of 2016

Winner: Pokemon Sun & Moon

Honorable Mentions: Fire Emblem Fates

2016 was a big milestone for the Pokemon franchise as it has been celebrating its 20th anniversary in style. Pokemon Go may have been the most talked about game of any this year, but the tried and true handheld entries on the 3DS with Pokemon Sun and Moon take the crown. Every mainline Pokemon game has been pretty great, but there was a definitely feeling of it getting a little stale. Pokemon Sun and Moon looked to change this pretty drastically, which included replacing gyms with the enjoyable Island Trials and very fittingly giving a tribute to the original games with the Alolan forms of certain Kanto-based Pokemon. The Alola region is based on Hawaii and playing through Pokemon Sun and Moon truly felt like a well deserved vacation with a new Pokemon game.

 

 

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Best VR Game of 2016

Winner:  Job Simulator

Honorable Mentions: EVE: Valkyrie, Batman: Arkham VR, Super Hyper Cube, Superhot

2016 was the year of VR, and while the many headsets are still working to get off the ground and deliver on the promise of the technology, a few games have helped show what is possible in this new world. Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives is certainly one of the best out there for this. The game still has a bit of that tech demo vibe that most VR titles do, but it’s much more robust and really shows off what the full VR experience can offer. Whether your looking for a full game experience for yourself, or another great demo title to use on your friends and family, Job Simulator fits the bill perfectly, and it’s available on all three major VR platforms.

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