Last year was pretty damn good for games, but as is always the case, there are games both big and small that end up falling by the wayside when it comes to thinking about and voting on what the best games of the year are. Some games on this list might have deserved to be held in higher regard, or maybe their quirks help them stand out despite obvious flaws.
One of the most mesmerising games of last year, there’s nothing else quite like Bound on the market. Blending the use of ballet with the basics of navigating the world and gradually uncovering a story about family.
It’s the environments that steal the show, presenting a world that looked simply fantastic; a sea of blocks flowing below environments that looked like paper models. Levels can be tackled at any time and each time would manifest with changes to the environment. Add in the VR element and you get a game that felt a lot like watching a live ballet show in a theatre. It was one of the VR games that properly convinced me of the new medium.
Though it started in 2015, King’s Quest took until the middle of December to reach its conclusion. The legend of King Graham – his heroic feats and crushing failures – culminated in one of the most sensitive few hours of gaming I’ve ever played through. When filling the role of a protagonist all we see is a snapshot of their life. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we watch them grow and develop over the course of a series but not to this extent.
Throughout The Odd Gentlemen’s surprise reboot, we see Graham go from little more than a fledgling wanderer to a benevolent king on his deathbed. The way the story is framed, bobbing between past and present, creates one of the strongest bonds I’ve felt with a video game character. And while I’m not usually a fan of goofball humour, Graham’s tangential ramblings and try-hard puns had me laughing more than I care to admit.
Games released toward the start of the year are all too easily forgotten by the time we think of Game of the Year nominations. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 handily built on the breakout original, bringing the zombies into the spotlight, adding new and inventive characters, daily quests to keep you coming back and a single player story to follow.
It wasn’t perfect though, and didn’t really do enough to be on our list for best shooter, but it was a fine sequel to the surprise hit original.
Having covered it throughout 2016, I’m slowly starting to detach myself from Hitman, though can’t deny it’s been one of my most played games of last year. I’m still amazed at how Io Interactive adopted the episodic format to brilliant effect, taking a bold, unprecedented step with its most precious game franchise. Of course, if you’d prefer, it can now be enjoyed in one dose.
While those first couple of romps were utterly fantastic, for me the magic started to slowly fade. Whenever a new episode appeared I’d quickly throw myself in, exploring every nook and cranny while bagging as much Mastery XP I could. Ultimately, Hitman’s penchant for trial and error – an element burnt into its very core – rubbed me the wrong way. The need to manually save at every junction made things awkward the more I obsessed over a particular contract. Still, it’s easy to discount this somewhat fundamental flaw when I considering the hours of joy Hitman has brought me. Hopefully, when Io launch into their second season, I won’t feel this same sense of conflict.
Tethered is a God game like no other, as donning the PSVR headset genuinely makes you feel as though you’re looking down from a cloud on high. You can lean forward to take a closer look at your Peeps, and their world, which thus far has to rank as one of the most consistently beautiful VR spaces yet created.
It’s easy to say that it could be played without the need for VR, but you’d lose the intimacy and the empowerment that the unique viewpoint provides. Its use of the PSVR headset as a means of control works very well, and there’s a sense that you’re playing in a completely new way. Besides the adorable visuals, the soundtrack and audio design is simply stellar, making every moment spent in Secret Sorcery’s world a delight.
Out of all the VR games I’ve played, Batman is by far the most impressive, and in retrospect it was odd not to shortlist it for our Game of the Year awards. While not exactly your typical Arkham adventure, it brings together the best elements of virtual reality in one superbly polished package. It’s a bit on the short side, sure, and almost feels like a tech demo in parts, yet manages to show off just what this tech is capable of.
With two motion controllers in hand you’re free to interact with objects in a way that feels completely natural. Whether it’s something trivial like turning handles or launching an object across a room, Arkham VR does a perfect job in making you feel like a part of this world. The way it gradually blends in elements of horror is also fantastic, combining jump scares with something a little more psychological towards the end.
Perhaps my biggest regret this year was not noticing Owlboy sooner. A game that took a decade’s worth of true grit and determination culminated in a “hi-bit” game that offers gorgeous high fidelity pixels and has some solid and refreshing gameplay ideas, mostly involving carrying allies and flying around the various locations.
What’s more impactful is just how thoroughly well-crafted the story and characters are. I felt empathy for Otus as he initially doesn’t meet the expectations of his mentor, and I felt that he was hard done by because of his inability to speak. Above all else, I wanted him to succeed in his quest just to prove everyone wrong. It’s a fun experience that was well worth the wait, but boy does it hit you where it hurts sometimes.
We’ll be back with the second half of our list tomorrow, but in the meantime, share with us in the comments below. What games stood out for you that didn’t recieve as much recognition as you feel they deserved? Were there games similar to those that you see above, whether indie games like Bound or more mainstream efforts like Hitman?