2016’s best games …

by Shane Dillon
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WHILE every year presents plenty of great (and terrible) games, 2016 stood out as a bumper year for gamers.
While mobile gaming continued to quietly make an awful, awful lot of money from people who’d never call themselves a gamer (and yet who still play the likes of Candy Crush Saga on the Luas), console gaming – the most readily identifiable form of gaming for many people – enjoyed a stellar year.
As such, here’s my list of 2016’s best games. Some were critically acclaimed, others were runaway financial successes, and others were quietly fantastic – but they’re all worthy of the list. In order…
1) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4, Cert 16). Even in a year with some superb titles, Uncharted 4 stood head and shoulders above pretty much everything else, setting one benchmark after another in everything from character development and scripting through to level design and environmental detail, and all kinds of technical bells and whistles, too.
Developer Naughty Dog pulled out all the stops – and then some – to deliver a true tour de force in gaming, setting storytelling and gameplay high points that haven’t been surpassed since.
2) Firewatch (PS4/XBO, Cert 16). Another high ranker on many critics’ lists, Firewatch was a narrative-heavy game that greatly impressed..
The tale of a 1980s everyman working for a summer in a national park doesn’t sound like much on paper, but it had a witty, engaging and very human tale to spin, wrapped up with mellow graphics.
3) Pokemon GO (IOS, Android, Cert 9+). Even those of you living under rocks know about Pokemon GO, so I don’t need to say much about Nintendo’s foray into mobile gaming. The global craze provided yet another smash hit for the gaming giant, as millions took to the world’s streets in search of rare Pokemon.
4) Virginia (PS4/XBO/PC, Cert 12). Without a single word of dialogue or narrative to its brief length, this quirky game still wowed, providing a masterclass in storytelling.
Like a curious mash-up of Twin Peaks and The X-Files, its basic characters and simplistic art style, still managed to present a complex tale with a range of human emotion – with its classy soundtrack also impressing.
5) Inside (PS4/XBO/PC, Cert 18). There were a hundred different ways to accidentally guide this game’s little character to his doom in this, but exploring this near-monochrome sidescrolling platformer was a treat.
With humourous touches as dark as its palette, and a slowly revealed narrative, Inside impressed with its pure game design as much as its stark visuals.
6) Overwatch (PS4/XBO/PC, Cert 12). To the surprise of many, Overwatch dominated what I’ll call ‘shooter’ games for much of the year, with a strong focus on the fun, rather than the gun.
Popular with everyone from hardcore gamers to casual players to LGBT gaymers and many more, Overwatch’s colourful graphics, zany characters, quirky powers and other atypical traits saw it reclaim territory from more traditionally grim shooter games. Speaking of which …
7) Battlefield 1 (PS4/XBO/PC, Cert 18). Settings don’t come much grimmer than World War One’s landscapes – yet Battlefield 1’s take on The Great War outgunned rival shooters.
Dumping the tech-heavy nonsense that has smothered rival shooters, B1’s purist back-to-basics approach, coupled with very impressive graphics and levels, saw it hit the target with gamers.
8) The Witness (PS4/XBO/PC, Cert 3+). Released at the start of the year, The Witness could be played by anyone – anyone from Mensa, perhaps, as its beautifuly realised island was full of real head-scratcher puzzles to unlock as you explored.
Something of a cult hit, its laidback pace and variety of puzzles give it a timeless appeal – though I’m probably not the only person who resorted to YouTube walkthroughs to solve some of its trickier bits.
9) Dishonored 2 (PS4/XBO/PC, Cert 18). Although a very late 2016 release – last week’s review, you’ll recall – Dishonored 2 greatly impressed with one of the most singularly realised games of the year.
Its wonderful art direction, intricately designed levels and the ability to complete it as peacefully/violently as you wish give it lots of replayability.
10) Hitman (PS4/XBO/PC, Cert 18). The latest in the long-running franchise (starring everyone’s favourite bald assassin) was initially derided when its developer decided to release the game serially, releasing a new level every month or so.
Despite this unusual approach, and a number of flaws, gamers loved its vast, elabourate levels that were packed full of silly, inventive or practical ways to eliminate a shifty group of very bad people.

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