It’s that time of year again; it’s time to look back on 2016 and all the great experiences it has given us. Yes, yes, there may have been some… er… controversial events over the year (both in entertainment and outside of it), but that’s why celebrating the best games of the year is apt. Games help us to get lost in other worlds – now, we list the very best examples of the medium in 2016.
To judge, we had an extensive conversation nominating games and then rigorously whittling the list down. We ended up with the cream of the crop this year. Furthermore, look out for our Awards for Anime & Manga, coming soon. Now then, let’s get into the Game Awards!
Japanese Game of the Year:
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
When I reviewed Tokyo Mirage Sessions earlier in the year I was already very smitten with it, but since then I’ve completed everything the game has to offer and now I am deeply in love. When I consider what it means to be a JRPG and what that genre of games should offer (and by extension what Japanese games should offer), I feel as though developers Atlus captured it perfectly with this game.
Without a doubt Tokyo Mirage Sessions is the best Japanese game this year with its near flawless gameplay and wonderfully crafted world. Even if we may forget about it in the next few years (especially with Persona 5 on the horizon!), I firmly believe that this is the best JRPG the Wii U has to offer and the best JRPG in nurmous years and will remain so.
Nintendo Game of the Year:
Pokémon Sun & Moon
Pokémon Sun & Pokémon Moon were some of the most surprising games I played this year. Going in without too much expectation, I was greeted with titles that clearly had a conscious effort put in to shake up the formula. From the setting of several multiple islands, to the replacement of the trite Gyms with the new Trials, and even the Alolan forms of classic Pokémon, Sun & Moon just feel utterly and brilliantly fresh. All the new ideas are tied to the accessible yet deep gameplay we love so much, resulting in a Pokémon game that has the best of both worlds; the creative new ideas and solutions (finally, HMs are no more!), as well as the systems that hooked us all in the first place.
Nintendo platforms had less notable releases than in other years, but there was still high quality titles like the Fire Emblem games and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. What makes Sun & Moon stand out isn’t flawless design, but bold design. Game Freak took risks and changed things that desperately needed changing if Pokémon wasn’t to become a tired series. Now, the future of Pokémon is unpredictable and exciting again.
Game Studio of the Year:
Plenty of studios have flexed their creative muscles this year. Naughty Dog with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Game Freak with Pokémon Sun & Moon. PlayDead with Inside; yet, the one which shines through is the bright light of Blizzard Entertainment. Once known as the company which made World of Warcraft, they have created a catalogue of games that spans very different genres and play styles. Yet, they all capture the same sort of wonder, by honing in on gameplay and world-building. Take the continued quality of Hearthstone; the free-to-play card game is ever expanding with more cards and game types, and shows no sign of slowing up.
Then, of course, you have the crowning jewel of Blizzard’s 2016 – the huge success that has been the release of Overwatch. Announced at BlizzCon back in 2014, it has become something of a phenomenon since releasing as a full game this year. Featuring a likeable and interesting range of unique characters, it’s caught the attention of the gaming fanbase. Many of the characters – From the upbeat Tracer to the sinister Reaper – are now iconic of the title. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that it plays wonderfully as a fast-paced, absorbing and frenetic competitive shooter. Blizzard has established a behemoth set of IPs that will likely continue their popularity for years to come. Just look at the aforementioned BlizzCon to see the devoted crowd the studio has behind it.
Best Artistic Direction:
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Naughty Dog had quite the task on their hands in concluding Nathan Drake’s 4-game, generation-spanning story. The result of years of hard work was Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. This was a game that, once again, showed how far ahead of everyone else Naughty Dog is on the presentation front. With the top-quality technological skill and performance capture of Naughty Dog, the characters and environments come to life in stunning fashion. The environments you traverse through, from lush forests to bustling towns, are meticulous in both presentation and detail; to top it all off, the use of direction and camera control throughout the action-packed story adds a cinematic feeling unlike any other game series out there.
Paired with the performances of Nolan North (Nathan Drake), Emily Rose (Elena Fisher), Troy Baker (Samuel Drake), and many more – who proceeded to dominate the nominations for Best Performance at The Game Awards 2016 – the result is an interactive action movie that visually stuns throughout. With The Last of Us Part II on the horizon, it doesn’t look like Naughty Dog are going to hold up any time soon either.
– William Robinson
The first Steins;Gate was a phenomenal experience that really warmed western gamers to the idea of visual novels, with an engrossing narrative intertwining time travel and mystery with a unique, quirky and lovable cast. At the centre of all that was Okabe Rintaro, an eccentric, self-proclaimed “mad scientist” whose delusional flamboyance provided heart-string during the more traumatic turns.
From the moment the curtain opens on Steins;Gate 0, the stellar character writing takes centre stage, re-introducing us to a young man, once spirited, now broken. The change in Okabe is drastic, yet through careful crafting, feels natural and real. Steins;Gate 0 firmly places you in the mind of a man trying to move on from grief and traumatic memories, amidst a powerful and engrossing science fiction story – an unforgettable experience.
In my review (linked above), I noted that visual novels live and die by their narrative – well, we won’t need the Amadeus System to remember this one!
– Josh A. Stevens
Game of the Year:
2016 has been a good year for those who like their games – and especially shooters – gritty and serious. There’s been Battlefield 1, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and Doom, just to name a few. Yet, the one which shines through the pack is Overwatch, a delightfully colourful and characterful competitive shooter. Just like Blizzard’s free-to-play card game Hearthstone, Overwatch focuses on its strengths. These strengths? A varied and vibrant cast of playable characters and immensely enjoyable gameplay.
Overwatch is a hero-shooter at heart, and it knows it. Key to its success is the roster of memorable personalities. In my own case, I quickly grew attached to the likes of Tracer and Widowmaker (that may be me who just sniped you online). With a diverse range of truly unique characters, everyone is likely to find someone they grow attached to. Why else would there be so much, er, let’s call it fan art, online? They all play just as differently, too – whether you want to be an agile scouter like Tracer, a tank like Bastion, or simply ascend to a new level and play as Winston. Few other games in 2016 are as joyous, with such finely-made gameplay and memorable characters. This game will be played for years.
Most Anticipated Game:
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
It feels odd to be writing about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for this award because it’s a game that we talk about every year. Despite the fact the game remains just outside of our grasp it has still held my interest and each new trailer truly excites the gamer in me. It’s for these reasons that the game continues to win this award and perhaps in 2017 we will finally be able to play it! One’s thing for sure, if we’re given the chance to play it or not we’ll always be deeply in love with this game.
As is always the case with Awards like this, your opinion could be different from ours – if you would like to let us know, you can use the comments section below!