This year has been an excellent one for gamers. Whether an FPS aficionado, an RPG hog, or a mobile game maniac, there has been a ton of killer games released this past year alone.
Without further ado, and in no particular order, here's the Court of Nerds approved list of the 10 best games released in 2016:
10. Forza Motorsports Horizons
I'm not a fan of racing games. But this game is friggin incredible. It's an open world racing game set in southern Australia. And even if you're not a gear-head, there's a hell of a lot to like.
It's gorgeous, the controls are friggin' fantastic, and you can SET YOUR OWN PLAYLIST OF SONGS. I cannot stress enough how excellent the last part is. You literally control your songs using the Groove app on your phone. HOW DOPE IS THAT?
There are a metric FUCKTON of challenges, quests, and variety of car and character customizations, excellent multiplayer challenges.
And the game is absolutely, positively gorgeous. Some of the best visuals out of any game on this list. Truly.
9. Final Fantasy XV
You could call it a super gorgeous roadtrip about basically nothing. You could call it a clever attempt for Square Enix to make a few bucks off of Cup Noodle. Whatever you want to call it, it's one of the best Final Fantasy games to be released since Final Fantasy X.
The story of why Noctis and his companions are trekking across the world is really not the most compelling (something something WAR something something Princely duties), but the journey along the way is what makes the game magical. You learn a lot about your companions, what kind of coffee they drink, their dreams and aspirations, and what flavor Cup Noodle they like (seriously, this game has a major hard-on for Cup Noodle). But it's those little interactions interspersed with excellent combat mechanics that give this game serious bite.
Yeah, okay, the story and side-quests aren't exactly the best. But they're a significant improvement over Final Fantasy XIII, and that's pretty alright with me.
8. Plants vs Zombies Heroes
A mobile game on this list? Hear me out.
At it's most basic, PvZ Heroes is another Hearthstone clone. You select a hero that has special abilities, form a proper deck of cards, and face off against either plants or zombies in a turn-based fashion. You're still laying cards down on the board, and their attack and HP determines their effectiveness against the opposing player card's attack and HP.
But it's not as easy as it sounds. See, in Heroes, zombies get the first play, then plants play, then zombies play tricks (sort of like spells in Hearthstone), and then your minions fight. It may seem unbalanced towards Zombies, but different abilities, combos, and types of zombies and plants make things incredibly fresh.
Oh, and those combos? They stop dead in their tracks with a "Shield" system. In essence, you or your opponent get hit enough times, and they block the attack and play a special ability or response. It's kind of Like Elder Scrolls Legends' Runes.
And that's to say nothing of the excellent visuals and goofy comic book-like storytelling. Oh, and there's TONS of single-player content, if you're not ready for PVP (and the competitive PVP scene is fucking excellent).
7. Hyper Light Drifter
Boiled down to it's most basic parts, Hyper Light Drifter is a pixel-art hack-n-slash with deep, rewarding combat mechanics, gorgeous visuals, and (one of my favorite things ever) implied storytelling.
First, we gotta talk about the combat, because it's excellent. You get three basic actions: attack with a sword or gun, and dash. Throughout the course of the game, you can purchase upgrades, but they're non-essential (if you're really freaking good). The game throws a relative fuckload of bullet-hell like projectiles at you, requiring careful, precise dashes (which can be chained together), quick thinking, and keeping an eye on enemy attack patterns. It's difficult, without being incredibly frustrating, and you feel like you've made a major accomplishment when you fell a particularly rough boss (similar to Dark Souls).
The music, visuals, and storytelling are out of this world beautiful.
6. Virtual Reality Tech
Okay. Not actual games, but bear with me here. 2016 has been a significant year for Virtual Reality systems.
This past month, we saw the release of Oculus Rift's Touch controls. Sleek, impressive finger motions and haptic feedback. The full-room scale of the HTC Vive is bloody brilliant.
And this is just the beginning. Sure, the current generation of VR headsets presents with the same problem: hardware cost. Unless you save up, the HTC Vive and the Oculus are not for budget gamers and tech heads. But if the current shipments of the Playstation VR Headset are any indication, the market seems poised to explode in the coming year.
So while the games aren't yet there, they're coming. And the technology is incredibly exciting to behold.
5. Stardew Valley
The little Harvest Moon clone that could.
You could think of it as a relaxing farming simulator, but it's way, way more than that. The game delights with its simple, yet complex mechanics. Sure, there's farming, fishing, social interactions... but there's a whole lot more.
Delve deep into a mine, and you'll find monsters. Collect ore to build up your weapons and tools to unlock new areas around the valley. Yeah, it's an RPG/Farming Sim, and it's effortless. Even more impressive is that it was conceptualized, designed, and programmed by one guy.
In the days before Call of Duty and Battlefield, before Half Life and Halo, two games ruled the PVP FPS scene: Doom 2 and Quake. They were fast, precise shooters that cultivated and honed our competative skills as gamers. DOOM 2016 may not be the same experience as the golden yesteryears of gaming in the 90's... but it's still stupid, gory fun.
An overhaul of sorts from the almost disappointing survival horror of Doom 3, DOOM 2016 is a bloody, brutal, fast-paced, old school shooter. It's totally unforgiving in difficulty. You smash and explode enemies with reckless abandon. And grabbing a demon's face and ripping his lower jaw from his still breathing body before curb stomping his face into the blood-soaked brimstone of Hell is exhilirating.
No, the PVP isn't as fast-paced or satisfying as Quake, but it's a solid FPS with excellent game-modes and a lovely, stupid fun story mode. Welcome to Hell.
3. Dark Souls 3
Every new iteration of the Souls series has had its ups and downs. The first game suffered from a horrendous PC port, and the controller-throwingly frustrating, and poorly designed Bed of Chaos. The second game struggled with level design as a whole, with a few uninspired bosses (also, screw the Smelter Demon). The third takes all of the best pieces of Souls games past and mashes them together to form a kind of Voltron-like "Best Of" for the series.
All of the elements for a great game are here. The bosses are fantastical. The level design is impecable. The weapons are like re-skins of the best you'd find in Dark Souls 1, 2, and Bloodbourne. There are dragons to fight, Hollow knights and berzerkers to fell, and giant beasts to run from. There's a vibrant PVP scene. There are boatloads of secrets and hidden treasures. There's a damned near impossible to understand (and barely present) story.
But mechanically and overall, it's an absolute blast.
As with every Souls game prior, each world and area you traverse is a terrifying mix of duels and labyrinths. Everything wants you dead, and it's an absolute delight to fight back. It may not be the best game From Software has released, but it's damned good fun.
2. Pokemon Sun/Moon
Without a doubt, the best handheld game(s) released all year. The story is significantly better than X/Y (sure, Team Skull looks like a meme waiting to happen), and new regions and minigames make this a formidable entry into the Pokemon Universe, and more than makes up for the shortcomings of Pokemon Go.
Sure, not much has changed thematically, or even really gameplay-wise outside of a metric fuckload of new minigames and features (the different islands and new Alola forms for different Pokemon are, honestly, freaking SWEET), but that's not why we keep coming back to Pokemon.
We keep coming back because the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We love battling trainers, we love the new and improved Global PVP mechanics. Pokemon Sun/Moon are the best handheld games to be released all year. And in fact, are contenders for the best Pokemon games to be released in quite a long time. Also, Dugtrio looks like this:
Polished, beautiful, frantic, and utterly, insanely fun team-based FPS. Overwatch is, with zero reservations, the game of the year. Placing ice-walls as Mei, screaming "GET OVER HERE" while chain hooking someone across a map as Roadhog, booping the snoot as Lucio. Each and every single character plays in a unique manner, and each and every one has a strength and weakness against each and every other character.
It's the fast-paced ridiculousness of DOOM, crossed with team-centric combat of Team Fortress 2, crossed with the unique character design of League of Legends.
This game fucking great.
I will say, the biggest problem so far has been the community. If you're playing using a controller, or you're playing on console, or you're playing in some way the community deems "lesser," you're immediately branded as "inferior."
Guys, chill out. Have fucking fun. This game is amazing. And if you're new to it, just dig it, man. Experiment with different character combinations, find your niche, and go hard.
Dishonored 1 game was one of my absolute, must-play favorites from the last generation. The stealth, action, and story were absolutely divine, and while the story was predictable, the game's variety of playstyles and secrets kept it both interesting and a blast to play.
Also, substitute 1 for 2 in the paragraph above, and you'll have basically the exact same review of Dishonored 2.
We have more enemy variety this time around, a new story that feels like the old one, and new playstyles that feel like the old playstyles. Nothing terribly innovative in terms of gameplay, but the new areas, and the ability to play as Emily Caldwin (with her own set of powers) was great fun.
It's a little disappointing that Emily and Corvo's stories are essentially the same, and the binary choice of High and Low Chaos endings feels incredibly outdated. And really, you're doing a lot of the same things as the first game.
It's still a blast to play. It's still gorgeous. It's more of the same from Dishonored 1, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Far Cry Primal
Did you enjoy taking down enemy outposts in Far Cry 3 and 4? Fighting wild animals as well as people? Would you like a Sabre Tooth Tiger as your pet? Far Cry Primal delivers.
Unfortunately, that's about all it is. You play as a prehistoric hunter with no real personality embarking on a quest with no real significance.
But it's bloody good fun. You hunt fuzzy creatures in the bush and can tame them, and turn them into pets. You hunt fuzzier cavemen and sic your aforementioned Sabre Tooth Tiger pet on them. You take down enemy outposts. What it lacks in originality or depth of storytelling, it makes up for in straight up awesome shit.
There's a slightly derivative undertone of African and Native American mythology with some bizarre supernatural stuff. And while the side characters are great, the villains are stupid and uninteresting (C'mon guys. You're the same people that brought us Vaas and Pagan Min, you can come up with a better villain than whateverthefuck his name was).
Also, don't pet your badger. He hates that.
What's on your Top Games for 2016 list? Leave a comment below!