In my Top 5 of 2015, I named Bayonetta 2 as my favorite game of the year, which was obvious, because I’d previously called it the best game ever made. I had an incredibly hard time distilling my list down to just five this time around, but 2016 — aside from being a crap year all around for other reasons — also saw me playing too many disappointments.
Yet, 2016 still had some huuuuuuge hits! In fact, I played several games that I invested dozens of hours into. Two of them made this list! I’m actually surprised at how few games I managed to play through because I don’t usually play such long-running titles, but here we are.
Let’s find out what are the Top 5 Best Games I Played in 2016!
5. Super Meat Boy (XBox 360)
At #5 is the first game I started in 2016, Super Meat Boy. This is one I’ve been looking forward to playing since seeing it featured in the documentary, Indie Game: The Movie. I waited and waited for a Wii U port, but gave up hope when I finally acquired my first Xbox 360 ever. (A used one for basically nothing.) My son wanted Castle Crashers and I knew I wanted Super Meat Boy.
And the years of hype was worth it.
Super Meat Boy is fantastic in the three things it does so well. First, it’s a nails-hard platformer which is my favorite genre! (The harder the better!) Second, the levels are quick with some taking mere seconds — all the better for repetition and perfection. Third, beyond just getting through all of them, you are challenged to beat certain time constraints as well as find all the hidden items. These are the ingredients that lead to addiction for me! Getting through the whole game was a blast, but I spent hours after trying to 100% it. In the end, I didn’t…well, not yet. But I did a lot and had so much fun. I’ll get back to it down the road…
As a parting jab, the game eventually did come out on Wii U. If only I’d waited, right? I’m so glad I didn’t.
4. Persona 4 Golden (Vita)
This year saw the death of the PlayStation Vita, Sony’s most recent (and possibly final) portable. Of course, I asked for and received it for Christmas of 2015 just because of this. Dying consoles do mean cheap games, after all. So, I got the console and some highly recommended games along with it — all of which I played through this year.
Tearaway was one of the top rated games for Vita, but honestly I didn’t like it all that much. It did interesting things with the hardware for sure (a touchscreen on the back?!), but I never loved any of the characters or got into the story. It was a bland platformer at best. And much too easy.
Child of Light was a game that took me a little while to get into, but once I did, I loved it. It wasn’t good enough to make this list, but it was a good RPG with a unique battle system. I highly recommend it.
The third game I got was Persona 4 Golden.
Now, I’d never gone though a Persona game before, but I had an hour’s taste of Persona 3 Portable for PSP. For whatever reason, Persona 4 Golden just looked like something I wanted to pour hours into and, wow, did I! I got through the campaign in 50 hours and even though I got the “bad ending,” I enjoyed every minute of it.
What makes Persona 4 Golden so good are the wonderful characters and story. To describe the game as “a high school simulator with dungeons,” is laughably accurate yet terribly misleading. Ultimately, it’s a game I shouldn’t like. It follows a normal calendar and you go day by day studying for school, hanging out at the mall, and grinding for hours on end in the dungeons. Somehow, it’s just so satisfying. I found myself planning out my school weeks in advance. Today, I’ll do lunch with Rise. Tomorrow, I’ll read that book about cooking. Wednesday I’ll grind the dungeons with Yosuke for sure…
What amazed me about the game is how much spoken dialogue there is. Those Vita chips pack a lot of storage! It’s games like this which give me a lot of hope for the Nintendo Switch. The Vita is a mighty little system that failed because of its game catalog and not its hardware. Persona 4 Golden is the gem of the whole damn thing. As a bonus, it’s the finest voice acting I’ve ever seen in a game, too!
3. Paper Mario: Color Splash (Wii U)
Paper Mario: Color Splash was a surprise announcement back in March. With Switch rumors abound, and the most recent Paper Mario game being kinda bad, we were all surprised when a new entry in the series was announced…and a console version to boot!
Honestly, the trailer didn’t knock my socks off. The use of cards harkened to Paper Mario: Sticker Star which was not a good game. (It had all the great story we’ve come to expect, but my god the stickers…the stickers…) As the game got closer, good reviews started pouring in and the updated clips looked a lot better.
Color Splash deviates away from the open-worldedness of previous games and moves to a level-based approach. At first, you might wonder how could this possibly work? But it does! In fact, the levels open up a whole world of smaller stories that made this game such a winner. In one level, you have to fix a bridge. In the next, you have to cook a meal. There’s a series of levels that involve getting a train from point A to point B and in one of those levels you actually construct the whole thing from scratch! There’s such great variety to what you have to do and each effort culminates in getting one of those sweet, sweet paint stars.
Overall, the game is still an RPG, though its elements are much simpler now. Gone are wearing different outfits…it’s just a plumber’s uniform for you, Mario. In fact, you don’t even level up per se. The only thing you improve with battling is your hammer’s ability to contain paint. This is an important element of the game that must be honed, but it’s still the only thing you need to work on. The magic here is the story and your battle strategy. (how many cards should you use, which ones, and when do you use the most powerful ones in your hand.) And oh, but the way, battling is way better than in Sticker Star, as is finding and using the cards.
My family and I enjoyed every second of this game which took us about 2 months to complete. It’s the final 1st-party release for Nintendo on the Wii U if you don’t count Breath of the Wild, and it’s a worthy swan song for the console.
2. Bloodbourne (PS4)
Six or so years ago, I bought a PS3 for Demon’s Souls. Two years ago, I bought a PS4 for Bloodbourne. And, yes, it took me a long time to finally get to this one as it’s one I had to play while my kids were away. A new work situation presented myself with daytime hours to play the not-so-kid-friendly games in my collection and Bloodbourne was my first choice.
And oh my god this game.
As a huge fan of the Souls series, I knew I’d love this one — yet the game still exceeded my expectations. When you die 20 times trying to get past the first enemy of the game, you know it’s gonna be that insane kinda hard. As with previous games, though, you never get too frustrated because the battle mechanics are just perfect.
I could play this game forever.
Bloodbourne is the first game where I’d happily warp to the beginning of the world and just run through and grind by killing everything and anything in my path. As I grew more powerful, it only made me want to go coast to coast even more. The satisfaction of swinging a blade through dudes yelling “Go away!” is indescribable. The bosses are beautiful in their evil and ohhhh so hard. Many kept me at bay for days at a time. The game took me 3 months to complete. I wanted to play through it again as soon as it was over.
In recent years, RPG’s and I have grown apart. Most modern fare overcomplicates too much. Too many are designed to get you looking at websites and strategy guides much too much and make discovery almost impossible. (That sweet ad revenue!) This series has always kept the RPG elements at bay while emphasizing the great combat. You very much control every movement of your character…this is no Elder Scrolls. And while, yes, this game is a little more complex than previous entries, it’s still just so sweet a game.
If you’ve never played any of the Dark Souls games, what’s wrong with you? PLAY BLOODBOURNE!
1. Pokèmon Go (iOS/Android)
In July of this year, the much-hyped Pokèmon Go saw its release on mobile and up until that time I hadn’t been interested in this “real life” version of the game. Yet, the fact that everyone around me was so stoked for it made me download it and give it a shot. Fast forward to today…
There is no game I’ve put more hours into in my entire life than this game.
I’ve played it near obsessively for 6 straight months (sans a few days in August when I “retired” from it). Where before July I’d do the occasional walk while listening to my podcasts, after July my life became hunting Pokèmon. And this obsession is why it takes the #1 title for 2016.
Let me explain.
Pokèmon Go isn’t just a game. It’s a lifestyle. Day to day, I yearn to go walking. I plan my day around squeezing in a window of time where I can walk a couple miles and hunt for new Pokèmon. There’s a location in Golden, CO, nearby where I live, called Lions Park which has to be one of the great locations to go do this in the country. The pathways adjacent to the park run along Clear Creek and offer beautiful views and a plethora of Pokèstops to keep your item bag stocked. This all culminates in the parking lot where FOUR Pokèstops are in reach from one spot.
For a couple months, I worked in Golden which is how I found it, but when I was no longer working there I missed it so badly. I’d grown to love my jaunts, finding some new creatures and evolving others all while hatching eggs. It got me moving like the Wii and Wii Fit did. I don’t go a day where I’m not eager to…exercise. My wife and I will even plan time to go hunting on Parent’s Night Out. We just want to walk!
For a few months after launch, the game saw some (much needed) server fixes and small tweaks, but largely stayed the same. This all changed as Halloween approached. This is when the game’s developer, Niantic, held their first promotion which was a double-candy week that introduced some hard-to-find “spooky” Pokemon into commonality. (Ghastly, specifically.) This promotion was such a success, coming on the heels of a lag in the game’s active player-base, that they’ve followed it up with other special themed weeks and occasionally releasing new Pokèmon to catch. I’m glued to their Twitter account anxious to see what will come next!
Now, everyone is familiar with this game and it’s a good bet all of your friends have played it for at least a short bit. The game has pulled in hundreds of millions of dollars for the Pokemon Company which includes Nintendo. Even when the game began to lag from players moving on to other things, it was still pulling in millions a day. With the community surging again, this is already the biggest cash cow in mobile history.
Yet, it’s my Game of the Year because of how it’s fundamentally changed my life. I exercise more. I’m excited to park far from the store so I can get that bonus hatching time. I keep it running while I’m at Target. I sometimes wake up an hour early to go gym hunting while everyone else is asleep.
I eagerly anticipate catching my first Lapras. My gosh, where is Lapras? I’ve hatched so many 10k eggs and still nothing but I have two Aerodactly’s and six Snorlax’s and WHERE IS LAP–
Oh, sorry. There I was thinking about Pokèmon Go again.
The best game I played in 2016.
Honorable mentions: Super Mario Run (iOS), Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright (3DS), Her Story (iPad), Child of Light (Vita), King’s Quest (PS4), and Pokemon Moon (3DS)