Sean’s Top 3 of 2016
2016 has been a really solid year for gaming. I enjoyed a variety of games on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo 3DS: some were big, some were small, many were of the entirely unexpected variety. Among the most memorable I played in 2016 were games like Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Moon Hunters, The Witness, Steep, Amplitude, and the free-to-play Let it Die. However, those aren’t the games I want to talk about today.
2016 was yet another banner year for indie games, and thus, you’ll find no AAA titles in my final choices. Without further adieu, my top 3 of 2016…
Hyper Light Drifter
I’m still working my way through Hyper Light Drifter, but what I have played has been sublime. Heart Machine’s debut is a haunting, minimalist love letter to the action RPGs of our childhoods. It rewards players that are patient, observant and thorough with an adventure that poses far more questions than it ever answers. Who are you? What’s happened to this world? Why is my little dude sporadically coughing up blood? These are all questions I don’t yet have answers to, and honestly, I doubt I’ll ever know entirely, well after the credits have rolled.
Heart Machine’s sparse approach extends beyond its story. Combat and exploration strike the right balance of simple and complex, relying more on the proper use of a small set of abilities rather than the bloated skill trees and unnecessary leveling systems that seem to be the norm in larger RPGs. This allows players to spend their time honing strategies instead of continually relearning movesets.
As I get older I find myself gravitating more and more toward games like Hyper Light Drifter. While big budget releases have increasingly realistic graphics, near endless open worlds, vast orchestral soundtracks and full voiceover it’s the smaller, more intimate games that stick with me. I don’t need everything spelled out for me, mechanics or story. What I need are games like Hyper Light Drifter. Games that have clear, concise design. Games that have no interest in overstaying their welcome. Finally, games that are brave enough to give me the tools and get out of my own way.
In terms of pure joy nothing topped Overcooked in 2016, plain and simple. Associate Editor Jessica Wadleigh and I convened on several an afternoon to prepare silly little meals for our pantheon of fictitious customers, all in service of the noble Onion King. There was laughing, yelling and the near immediate rush to retry each and every kitchen we failed to get the coveted 3 star rating on.
What makes Overcooked so delightful is it’s ability to fuel cooperation, to find ways to be more efficient. Each kitchen doubles as a theater for spontaneous storytelling among friends – or enemies, I would assume. Memorable moments are served up (sorry!) every time you play, there’s simply no avoiding it.
With the recent release of The Lost Morsel (paid) and the Festive Seasoning (free) DLCs there’s no better time to fire up Overcooked. It’s the best co-op game I’ve played this year and easily the most fun I’ve had gaming in 2016.
Despite near universal praise Severed seems largely forgotten amongst 2016’s finest. Admittedly, its initial release was almost a year ago on iOS and Vita, which did it few favors – though Apple recently named it their iPad Game of the Year. But Severed is worth a look, as it’s a phenomenal game from a consistently great developer.
Severed hooked me with its mood, its style and its undeniable substance – much like another game you’ll find at the top of this list. It did all of these things whilst being a touch-based title, a form of control for “hardcore” games that is still looked on with skepticism. Just recently I saw someone remark about the surprising depth of Severed, noting that before playing it they’d assumed the game was akin to Fruit Ninja.
Severed is not merely Fruit Ninja + first-person dungeon crawler. It’s a sophisticated reimagining of an old, beloved genre that makes essential use of swipes and taps as its primary form of interaction; it’s great, and it’s my absolute favorite game of 2016.