2016 Community Game of the Year - Results posted (at last)!

For once I come prepared... List is ready to go because I tracked it all year instead of just culling it together at the last moment, but I'm going to give The Witcher 3 a chance to knock something off the list.

I want to remember to do this, so I'm going to make a quick post with my games that are eligible for me this year: Amplitude, Pinball FX2, Persona 4 Golden, Persona 4 Dancing All Night, Rhythm Heaven Megamix, Persona 3 FES, Style Savvy Fashion Forward, Paper Mario Color Splash, World of Final Fantasy, Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky

...this was a very Persona and rhythm game heavy year. A good year.

Tagged for later.

This is apparently the year of the flawed game for me.

1. Xenoblade Chronicles X - Combat that is deep to the point of confusing. Badly designed sidequests that necessitate the use of a FAQ. This game is hugely flawed, but somehow this low-budget title on the WiiU gave me one of the most interesting worlds I've ever seen to explore and master.

2. Final Fantasy XV - I'm not finished yet. I know some people have serious (legitimate) issues with this game and find the combat either stupid or confusing. But, I find that it hits a sweet spot of complexity for me, and (again) a sprawling single-player world to explore is always a joy for me. More than anything, though, it's all the little unnecessary touches that make it for me. If you're into pure gameplay, they don't mean anything to you... but the love they put into idle animations and side conversations and cooking. Like most of my favorite games, they created a world where I'd rather spend my time as opposed to the real world, on a road trip in a luxury car.

3. Mafia III - Critiques of the mission design being repetitious is right, but... it was repetitious of a mission design that I really enjoy. Their handling of race could have really gone badly, but they put a lot of effort into showing the ugliness without glorifying or wallowing in it. A fascinating cast of deeply flawed characters. It looked and sounded wonderful.

4. Life Is Strange - Better late than never. Great story, great music, interesting world.

5. The Rise Of The Tomb Raider - "More of the same" isn't so bad when "the same" is so solid.

6. Dishonored 2 - I think I preferred the slightly less sprawling design, and more political story, of the first; but a couple of the levels (particularly The Clockwork House) were amazing.

7. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir - great mix of 2D brawler with just enough RPG mechanics to engage your brain. I kind of love that they force you to play different characters, and the way they weave the stories together is really interesting. Of course, the art speaks for itself.

Although I played and enjoyed several other games, none of them really merited a "best of" list for me. I imagine the next couple of weeks might see me playing The Last Guardian or Final Fantasy XV, but I'll save those for next year.

Dishonorable mention goes to ReCore, which had enormous promise, and seemed like an amazing 15 hours of game with 25 hours of bloat that needed to be trimmed off. (Although I only got through some of that before throwing in the towel.)

Ooh, my first GWJ goty list and in a year I actually finished some games. Counts fingers, maybe not 10, but a few as yet unfinished might well top it up. I'll be back.

This was a very hard year for me. I could make a case for all of my top 5 games to be #1.

1. 7 Days to Die - (PC) I was tired of zombie games. I do love survival games though so I gave it a chance. I was very pleasantly surprised. This game is really probably the best zombie survival game out there in my opinion. The graphics are a bit lacking but that is because of the full minecraft like building/mining. The idea that you are getting ready for hordes every 7 nights was genius because it really gives you something to work towards. There are plenty of settings to adjust for difficulty. The leveling system is a bit of a grind but they give you full access to .xml’s and recipes so you can make changes to fix this (on pc). If you like survival games and are tired of zombies i’d say give this one a shot.

2. The Division - (PS4/PC) Division received a lot of hype. The game 1 - 30 was very enjoyable even at release. It did get a bit tiring at end but was still a great co-op or single player game. The darkzone for those of us that enjoy PvP and tension was an amazing idea. It really allows you to be the good/bad guy and shows in this situations how people really probably would act. On release late game had it’s issues. Similar to destiny first year had some major grind issues. However, going back to it the last month they have completely changed/fixed the loot drop system. So similar to Destiny 9 months after release the game really figured out how to do late game. The incursions are not that great but the new survival DLC is a great battle arena type mode that many people are having fun with. If you were bored of the late game division play I urge you to go back and give it another try.

3. Furi - (PC) This game I heard nothing about until it was released. It is a isometric game with Dark Souls type boss battles. However, the cool part is that is pretty much it. It is boss battle , slow walk story section, boss battle, etc. Now the story sections were a bit slow for me. The boss fights more than made up for it and this is a great indie title. Certainly a difficult and mechanical game but very satisfying if you enjoy that.

4. The Witness - (PC) Most people know about the witness in this community so I will not go on. Overall what a shocker on the puzzle genre. I love puzzle games and this one certainly took over my life for a couple weeks.

5. Salt and Sanctuary - (PS4) This seems to be the year for indie Dark souls like games. This is a full 2d side scrolling game that does not hide how much it takes form dark souls. The game has great level design, great mechanics and is very satisfying gameplay. It truly is dark souls in 2d and is well worth it. If you enjoy Dark Souls and are joke with 2d games then you should play this game 100%

6. Firewatch - (PC) Another big hit in this community so I am not going to go in to that much detail. Great story, moving, and interesting. Less of a game and more of a interactive movie.

7. Dark Soul 3 - (PC) If you told me beginning of this year that Dark Souls 3 would fall to 7th on my list I would of been shocked. This game was great for a lot of reasons. However, it was very generic. The level design was not as good as DS1 or BB. The bosses were good. It was similar to the new Jason Bourne movie. Very good, but overall just more Bourne. I’d buy a DS4 (which they say will not happen) but there really was nothing new in the game. It might be time for the series to end so hopefully they innovate on the ideas like they did with BB.

8. Off World Trading Company - (PC) As an avid RTS fan I can not say I ever imagined playing one that did not have attacking/units. However, this game is was amazing. Various factions with different builds and strategies. Reaction to the map along with the other players and what they are doing. Without a doubt the most original game design of the year.

9. Super Hot - (PC) Well done short shooter with good use of the slow down mechanic. I did find the story to be uninteresting and quite anoying (certainly at one point in the single player game). However, was well worth the play through and can’t wait to play again in VR once it is released.

10. Devil Daggers - (PC) This game was quite a surprise. Runs in a game that often only last 1 - 3 minutes. Very much old quake graphics that are quite bad but the game play is very addicting. Great game for when you have 5-10 minutes although does take some decent twitch reflexes.

HM - Rainbow 6 Siege - (PC) Highly strategic/twitch strategic shooter. I had quite a bit of fun with the PvE in this game. The first few nights Crinkle and I had a blast at just playing 2 man PvE. The PvP is done very well and is quite obvious. However, simply with amount of games I have/want to play and my age growing I simply did not have the urge to get my beat up for enough hours to start to be good at it.

HM - Shadow Warrior 2 - (PC) Quite a good/funny looter/shooter. I very much enjoyed the adult humor in a game like this. The melee combat felt very good and satisfying. The progression and upgrades were good. This game really fell off late game though. This game is like a FPS version of Diablo but without a late game. This game with a better late game and NG+ would of easily cracked my top 10.

One and two were easy this year. Everything afterwards was tricky.

#1 - Stellaris (PC) - A Paradox grand strategy game? In space? Taking the place of Masters of Orion in my heart? I am SO sold. I've nearly hit 200 hours at this point, making it almost as frugal a purchase as Crusader Kings II.

#2 - Assassin's Creed: Syndicate (PS4/multiple platforms) - It's amazing how much of a difference the grappling hook makes. Getting rid of the ten minutes of circling every church to find the best handhold is the best thing Ubisoft's done to shake up the franchise since AC2.

#3 - Tales from the Borderlands (PS4/multiple platforms) - I've only made it through the first three episodes, but this is hilarious stuff, done in Telltale's now iconic style. Much funnier and more enjoyable than the shooter Borderlands games

#4 - Uncharted Trilogy (PS4) - I'd missed these in their original PS3 incarnations. I burned out about 3/4ths of the way through Uncharted 3, but I had a good time shooting and hiding behind cover with Nathan Drake.

#5 - Sam and Max - Telltale (seasons 1-3) (PC/multiple platforms) - I've had these for almost a decade, and only really played two episodes of S3. I finally downloaded them all and had a blast with all the terrible humor and obscure references.

#6 - Overwatch (PC/multiple platforms) - I don't even own this, but I had lots of fun on a few free weekends playing with other GWJers. I'll definitely get it at some point.

#7 - Zero Time Dilemma (Vita/multiple platforms) - Argh. I really wanted to like this more, but something about it - maybe the animation change? - made the game offputting. I'm about halfway through, and I'll come back and finish it at some point, but it didn't grab me the way Zero Escape: VLR did.

#8 - Ladykiller in a Bind (PC) - Christine Love's latest game, this is a psychosocial sex adventure game focused on lesbian S&M erotica. That'll either sell you on it or not right away; it might have risen higher in the ranks, but I just picked it up, and haven't gotten terribly far into it yet.

#9 The Last of Us: Definitive Edition (PS4) - Would probably be higher, but I just haven't played it very much yet.

#10 King's Quest (PS4/multiple platforms) - I've just played the free episode one, but Kittylexy and I had a really good time solving the puzzles together. Charmingly written and acted.

Well it's going to be a short list, but I'm looking forward to compiling it!!!

1. Stephen's Sausage Roll ; SSR gets my GOTY vote because it presented a devious puzzle experience, delivered in a lovingly distilled package. The puzzles are quite simple in presentation, yet maddening deliberate in execution. You can't brute-force these guys, there's ONE solution. The "ah-ha!" moment of discovery is sublime. Bonus props for the inspired lo-fi audio/visual presentation. This is also the first of several one-man-show selections this year, and it shines through as SSR captured my imagination with its singular vision and purpose of design. Making me realize the beautiful possibilities of a single mind can bring about.

2. RimWorld ; I always wanted to get into Dwarf Fortress. The promises of bottomless depth enticed, but the abstract ASCII presentation always eluded me. Enter RimWorld. A promise of DF-lite with actual gosh-darn graphics to ease in DF wannabes. I love the whole setting of this colony sim. Crash-landed and stranded on a lonely yet hostile planet creates great opportunities for primitive to advanced tech development. And micromanaging these little guys is just a blast. The level of minutia between the two is in turns daunting and breathtaking. Another solo-developer game that I absolutely loved this year.

3. Farming Simulator 17 ; Released biennially, FS is the Madden of my world. Every two years I eagerly queue up in line for the latest installment. And every time I wonder if this will be the year FS falls off of my Top 10 list. Not for lack of enthusiasm, but more for dealing in known quantities. After all, the discipline deals in unmoving parts. Farming is farming is farming. And yet here we are, with FS17 appearing in the winner's circle. I think a lot of this is due to how each new release manages to surprise me in its qualitative leap over the previous installment. This year's model is drop-dead gorgeous, with a ton of smart improvements, both fundamental and QoL. For example, this year you can take on jobs for neighboring farmers, using their equipment in the process. This lets the player pilot advanced machinery from the start, equipment costing hundreds of thousands that would have been late-game investments in the past. In the end FS17 winds up feeling like a smart evolution of the franchise and showcases a dev committed to delivering above and beyond.

4. Stellaris ; Leave it to Paradox to take their masterclass grand-strat roots, liberally mix in 4X elements, and ship an amazing strategy hybrid set in space. This is the most approachable I've ever seen the company. While Paradox is known for intimidating learning curves, Stellaris super noob-friendly. I think this is part of what makes the game so much fun for me. While CK & EU feel incredibly tactical & cerebral, Stellaris feels far more freewheeling and loose. To me it says, "Let's just have some fun." Not lacking in depth, but more "gamey" than most Paradox titles. Bonus props to an amazing production package. Gorgeous visuals (in 3D!!), smart UI, and one of the best soundtracks of the year. Stellaris (year one) is an exciting foundation and I can't wait to see where it goes with future DLC.

5. DOOM ; As Doom 1 & 2 stand cemented into my Top 5 GOAT, it's hard to imagine how a sequel can live up to those lofty standards set decades ago. But as I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more this season, Doom 2016 somehow managed to do it. An uncompromising return to roots that captures the liquid speed of the originals, not to mention the blistering carnage. I think this is the secret-sauce for Doom's success. Instead of grafting classic Doom elements on top of modern genre-design sensibilities, id Software did the exact opposite. They stuck with Doom 1 & 2 fundamentals and built a modern game around those simple, sound principles. Doom just fires on all cylinders and makes me want to fist-pump the air unlike anything I've played in years. Another game that deserves special music recognition, in this case for its face-melting soundtrack. Now that's how you dial in audio-presentation with gameplay.

6. Duskers ; Chalk up yet another one-man production. Duskers tasks you with piloting drones through derelict spaceships using command-line interface navigation. The whole presentation has a retro look and feel to it. I've always thought it felt like being a Nostromo nav-officer from the first Alien movie. The audio design in the game is superb, hearing the ships creak & groan as your drones whiz and buzz about. It gives this lonely, detached vibe that is creepy as hell, keeping in tone with the game's themes of unraveling the mystery of why this corner of the galaxy is dead. The command-line interface gives Duskers a unique feel. While I know it's a game, typing in the commands feels immersive and authentic. Far more than traditional control methods. It helps make the game feel special & uncommon.

7. Hitman ; My love for the franchise started with Hitman 2 (Xbox) over a decade ago. I just couldn't shut up about that damn game back in the day. Oddly, none of the subsequent titles grabbed me much at all. Even the crowd favorite Blood Money. Enter Hitman 2016. Man. This is not only a return to form, but easily the best Hitman to date. The episodic release schedule created an environment where the devs squeezed every last bit of content out of each level in the form of Challenges, Escalation Mission, timed Elusive Targets and more. It just went to prove that almost anything was possible in a sandbox Hitman level, the only barrier being your imagination. With so many goals, so much content, Hitman proved to be 2016's Completionist's dream come true and OCD's nightmare. Also loved the level of difficulty customization, where you could pick as much or as little intel the game telegraphs your way. Great way to invite newcomers while respecting franchise vets.

8. Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun ; Continuing with the Silent Assassin theme, Shadow Tactics sneaks in like a ninja with my Dec. eleventh-hour nom. Last time this happened was a couple years ago when Talos Principle (12/11/14) made a last-minute appearance. In much the same way, Shadow Tactics came straight out of nowhere and knocked my socks off. I wasn't following development at all, I just read somewhere that I should check out the demo. That's all it took. Looks like the classic Commandos franchise. Feels like Mark of the Ninja. Shadow Tactics is a joy to play. Levels are large and sprawling, many taking several hours to complete. Opportunities abound for multiple paths to victory. It's a great balance of puzzle-like noodling in a big sandbox environment. Simply brilliant in look & execution. Bonus props for the full Japanese audio dialogue option. Double secret-probation bonus props for the seemingly superfluous but essential "X since your last QuickSave" on-screen timer.

9. Crusader Kings II: The Reaper's Due ; In introducing the Black Death to the world of CK2, Paradox have hit their stride in delivering some of the most entertaining story events I've seen yet. It's truly depraved. The Prosperity mechanic is a welcome addition on the gameplay side. It really is a joy to see substantive content delivered regularly to Paradox's legacy IP. It makes the games feel larger than life when taken as a whole.

10. Alto's Adventure ; Alto's is a simple side-scrolling skiing game on iOS. This one is all about the Zen. Whether it's the liquid smooth animations, scroll-speeds and controls. Or the top-flight presentation, watching the background cycle through the red-golden hues of sunsets to the royal blues of the night sky and back around to the white-pink of the coming sunrise is magical. It's completely hypnotic, and the perfect companion for daily metrorail commutes. The perfect podcast game. Ideal for waking up for or winding down from work.


I wish there were more than 10 slots:

Bus Simulator 16
Stardew Valley
Doug dug.
Software Inc.


I wish there were more time to evaluate (aka 2017's Best games of 2016):

House of the Dying Sun
Civilization VI
DiRT Rally


Favorite 2016 trend: Soundtracks!

I was absolutely blown away with the quality of game soundtracks this year. I've purchased more in the last 12 months than in the last 5 years combined.

Personal standouts:

Stardew Valley


Most Anticipated 2017:

Oxygen Not Included - Klei Entertainment's take on the Colony Management Sim?

Yes, Please!!

Aaron D., your write-up encapsulates everything that I love about Doom. Holy cow, that game is amazing.

I've spoilered everything since I went and pulled gifs for the images. Plus it makes it super suspenseful for you all.

Note: Systems listed are where I played the game.

10. Alienation (PS4).


Housemarque probably doesn't get enough love around here. I feel like I want to start jumping into every thread yell about how only they know how to do action titles anymore. While Resogun wasn't much up my alley, this here twin stick shooter with loot is. Two problems though, only on PS4 instead of Vita where I would've played the hell out of it and a little limited in the loot and powers department.

9. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (Vita).


At some point I'll get the PS4 version since load times on the Vita are a little bad, but this here remake tweaked the annoying bits of the PS2 game, making it a true classic now. Granted, it's a brawler/action title which makes it a bit repetitive and shallow, but the art is simply so amazing it helps offset the repetition.

8. Dying Light (PS4).


I'm so tired of zombies it's not even funny. They're becoming as ubiquitious in gaming as amnesia. They're the perfect enemy for devs since it's okay for zombie enemies to be completely brain dead in the AI department, since, well, yeah. That said, Dying Light is a game that marries just enough survival aspects to the parkour action elements to make for a great zombie title. Also, drop kicks. The day/night cycle split here is quite cool with the night time runs being especially thrilling. Techland continues to do their own thing as devs, regardless of publisher directives, and they get my respect for that.

7. Neon Chrome (Vita, PS4).


I love me some twin stick shooters and Crimsonland is one of the best so when I heard about Neon Chrome I was beside myself cause cyberpunk is awesome. 10ton Ltd. seems to spend most of their time making casual/mobile titles, so it's nice they get a break from that once in a while to make something a bit more ... dark? Anyway, I bounced off of Neon Chrome when it came out in large part because it felt bad after playing Alienation. Months later, however, I picked it back up and found that once I unlocked some more implants and weapons the lack of feel was made up by the fun in combinations. No, this is not quite Binding of Isaac crazy combinations of different powers and buffs, but it's still a decent twin stick roguelike shooter with a good aesthetic and cool soundtrack. It's also hard. Good combination for me. YMMV.

6. One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 (Vita).


I have never seen One Piece nor have I ever read the manga. Well, until now. I've played the previous One Piece Pirate Warrior Musou titles, but it wasn't until Pirate Warriors 3 that I felt the game was more than just a fun diversion. PW3 ignores the previous games' stories and takes you through the basic arc of the One Piece story. That means the story pulls from the source material, so instead of plowing through a barely comprehensible story written by game devs, I get to play the greatest hits from the original author. (FYI: Musou games don't put most of their budget into story. You're welcome for that deep insight.) Part of the appeal here is it not only introduces you to the main characters but makes great use of transitions in and out of cutscenes, making it so you feel like you're playing the manga/anime. One Piece is filled with absolutely bizzare characters and they fit perfectly in a Musou title. If Koei stopped making Warrior titles I wouldn't lose any sleep, but I am eagerly awaiting what other properties they might marry their formula to. I enjoyed my time so much I now own the first volume of the manga omnibus. That's synergy.

5. Front Office Football 8 (PC).



One or two versions of Front Office Football is running on my PC whenever it's turned on. I now prefer FOF to the real NFL. Game has some warts based on the developer's preferences for things and it's still ugly as hell, but there's no football sim out there that's this good.

4. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 (PS4).


Umm, PvZ GW2 is one of the best 3rd person shooters ever made. Want to play solo? No problem. Want to play online with friends? No problem. Want to play splitscreen with your son? No problem. Want to just screw around in the (small) open world that's actually a cleverly designed menu? No problem. Want to open packs of stickers with customizable goodies? No problem. Stupid silly powers? No problem. The only real gripe I have with this game is that many of the character's base powers don't auto shoot. When taking on hundreds of plants or zombies it gets really tiresome to constantly have to pull the trigger. Other than that, it's stupid fun and the Plants vs. Zombies humor has yet to wear off for me.

3. Yokai Watch 2 (3DS)



Might as well read what I said from last year as it holds true for this now. The luster has worn off a little with Yokai Watch since YW2 exists in the same city as YW1, even though you do get to travel back in time and go elsewhere, but overall it felt like more the same. More of the same awesome, but more of the same nonetheless. I won't go back to YW1 though, some smart improvements in YW2 make that difficult. Can't wait for YW3, which is in an entirely new locale. I could post 1,000 gifs from these games. I love the absurdity of it all. And collecting.

2. World of Final Fantasy (Vita, PS4).


Is your game about collecting things? I'm probably interested as the fun little dopamine bumps are something I'm apparently searching for. Are the things I'm collecting super cute versions of Final Fantasy characters and monsters? Super sold, apparently. The real surprise here for me was that the character stacking actually made the combat feel unique, if absurd. Pokemon + Final Fantasy = surprisingly good combination. So much so I bought it on PS4 and Vita. I'm not even that big of a FF fan, but the production values here are top notch and that helps to sell the cuteness of it all.

1. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven (PS4).



To say that I've been worn down this past year or so would be an understatement. Between a lot of huge changes in my life and an election that dominated news and went on for f-ing ever I needed a break from life. My normal go to for that is reading, but I'm beginning to find solitude in the weirdness of, well, Japan, mostly. A number of years ago a friend of mine who was a huge otaku tried to get me into JoJo, but I thought it was entirely offputting because it was so bro-tastic. Earlier this year I found out that the reason JoJo is so bro-tastic is because it started as a satire of then-current serious bro-manga/anime a la Fist of the North Star. I'm not sure if that claim holds up under scrutiny, but it got me to I ordered the first volume of the manga. It was ... okay, but there was something to it. Somewhat horror, some action, all big burly males being uber masculine. Aight. (Fwiw, there are plenty of females in the series, but the original story arc focuses on two boys/men coming of age.)

There have been numerous JoJo games throughout the years, but it wasn't until Jojo fever hit Japan following 2012's anime adaptation that a game adaptation got a lot of praise. CyberConnect2, they of Asura's Wrath and the Naruto games, isn't a name I usually associate with quality, but it appears they've found their niche. My problem with JoJo's All-Star Battle was it's a 2D fighter a la Street Fighter. I have little interest in that. But this past June a new game was released and it ticked off a number of boxes for the current version of me. First off, it's a 3D 2v2 action brawler and not a proper fighting game. Good. And it also has a story that was written and overseen by the manga author. Score! Really, the story is an excuse to jump around to different time periods so the characters can all say their meme-eriffic phrases and do their cool poses. As someone not overly familiar with the JoJo storyline, I just go along for the ride here. It's all silly and absurd, which helps me not care much about the overarching story so much as the minute-to-minute interactions. What's there, I'm told, is faithful to the source material, which I attribute to the author's involvement.

The game plays fine, it's nothing overly spectacular, requiring a bit more skill than a Musou game, but also giving you lots of collectible earned via doing well in battles coupled with unlock trees for each character. The game exudes colorful style at all levels, even if silly moreso than cool a la Persona 5. If you're one of those people who plays games looking for the most fun, well, I can say there's a ton of fun to be had here. JoJo is the highest of high end B-movie shlock, aware of its absurdity and reveling in it. Eyes of Heaven has been my true initiation and I'm smitten. As a game I give it a 5 out of 10. As an experience, I give it a 15 out of 10. Taken together, that's perfect score. It just works!

And that's my list.


Stellaris, Offworld Trading Company, Black Desert Online, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel and a lot more are on my "I wish I had more time" list. With a baby almost here I have a feeling that none of these will get played except for Cold Steel since I'm fairly far into it. The other games require brain strength and, uh, that's not my forte right now with a wife in the third trimester. (Hint for the un-initiated: She doesn't sleep, you don't sleep.)

Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past in particular lost out in the "Yokai Watch 2 just came out, I'll come back to you soon" contest. Speaking of DQ, Dragon Quest Builders is on my "I have yet to purchase because I know it'll be a huge time sink" list.

Some (other) honorable mentions:


Grand Kingdom (Vita). Unique battle system. Can be played sp or mp (clearly designed first for mp). Tons of content. Doesn't quite come together. I hope they get another shot at this because GK is so close to being truly special instead of just a bunch of neat systems thrown together. Definitely unique.

Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds is a great 2D brawler that is just a tad too button mashy. I literally can only play it for a level at a time lest my hand begins to hurt.

Just Cause 3. It's a long grind, but once you unlock some of the toys it's quite a fun game. (Also, DLC added the most fun stuff, so make sure you get those.) The time until you get to that fun isn't quite as immediate as it was in JC2, which is a shame. Absolutely beautiful game that loves to run at 15 or 20 fps on the PS4. Really takes some of the shine off the game.

Elder Scrolls Online. I just keep coming back. I'll put 10 hours in one week and then none for a month or two. If I wasn't such a game tourist I'd probably main this game all the time. Sneaking around and stealing sh*t is just so much fun.

Assault Android Cactus. Good twin stick shooter that feels like it was plucked from the Dreamcast and I mean that in the best way.

Ori and the Blind Forest. Best looking game I've ever played, but have only played it for maybe an hour.

Dishonorable mentions:


Fallout 4. I bounced off this so hard. Bethesda is seriously in danger of being left behind for me.

Skyrim New Edition Thing. Wanted to like it but decided I much prefer Elder Scrolls Online to sp Elder Scrolls. See my point about Fallout 4.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Looks and feels so much like the previous game I couldn't bring myself to want to play it after an hour or two. Maybe some other time.

Thanks for making my life easier, garion.

Sorry, meant to add something in there apologizing for possibly screwing up data collection.

It's just me yelling "I'm special!" as loud as I can, eh?

I was just disappointed that #5 wasn't a gif.

Aristophan wrote:

Thanks Clock for running this! I love this thread!

You are all just old cogs in a sad machine. "I want new experiences" you said. "Enough with the sequels" you said.

Yet here you are, worshiping at her altar and lavishing praise for rehashing the same thread again and again. OPEN YOUR EYES!

(tagging for future participation)

Demyx wrote:

I was just disappointed that #5 wasn't a gif.

Maybe it is a gif... that's the pace of the game

Thus far my belief that this year was gonna be more diverse is holding true and I love it.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

Thanks for making my life easier, garion. :P


As a PC gamer only, I always love looking at the console game top 10 lists. It's like gibberish wrapped in an enigma.

ccesarano wrote:

Thus far my belief that this year was gonna be more diverse is holding true and I love it.

I haven't even heard of half the games being mentioned so far.

This is my favorite thread of the year. I love you, Clocky, thanks for doing it. And thank you everyone for pitching in.

Budo wrote:

Honorable Mention: Assassin's Creed: Liberation: Aveline deserved a better game. AC:L was a good title, but not great. Here was this interesting character that could have had so much more offered to it, but instead the game feels like an afterthought. It's well constructed and entertaining, but I felt the whole time that the game feels...incomplete and I don't know why. Maybe it's overall Assassin's Creed fatigue. The whole Abstergo storyline has become very silly, to the point where Black Flag is sitting unplayed on my Steamlist (playing the titles above doesn't help). I think I'm done with the AC titles overall for a while. Too much of a good thing I guess.

Expressed my feelings about AssLib exactly, complete with AC fatigue + unplayed Black Flag.

My list is in the works. Have to give Dishonored 2 some more time to see where it goes on the list, if *gasp* at all...

Checking in.

Hmm going to be a tough no.1. So many games I lost my spare time escaping reality and just having a ball. It's been a great year in gaming, especially for a 4X/hybrid rpg fan like me. I'll also need to weigh in the fact that Pokemon Go got my wife and I out at eating takeaway pizza on a midnight catch-em-all date.

Placeholder but for now a list of games I played to remind myself, in no particular order:

Total Warhammer
Halycon 6
Civ 6
SWTOR (freemium)
FFXI (after 5 year hiatus)

Shop Heroes
Pokemon Go

Oh, man. Even though I didn't discover this forum until this week I have been preparing for a thread like this all year. I keep a running list of games to buy and, as I buy and play them, I rate them. Having a job and kids, some of these games can be pretty old. It's great that we get to make a list of our GOTY according to what we actually played. Here's my list:

1. Bloodborne- I am finishing up a NG+ run after getting this just a few weeks ago. I am completely sucked in by the combat, atmosphere and lore. Just amazing all around.

2. Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom- I have put in a good 70 hours on this. I love AoT, I love games that give you a Spider-man type swinging mechanic and I love Tecmo Koei, so it's no surprise to me that I've loved this as much as I did. It's great video game junk food in that you can pick it up at any time and have fun but won't feel too terribly invested in it.

3. Xcom 2- Great game!

4. Dragon Quest Builders (Demo only for now): I've only played the demo but I have played it for hours. So much fun.

5. Xenoblade Chronicles X- I'm only a dozen hours or so into it, but have enjoyed what I've played. The environments in the game are some of the most beautiful that I've seen in a game.

6. Broforce- Witty and fun.

7. Super Mario 3D World - I never would have played this if not for the interest of my 6 year old son. I had a great time going through this with him. It doesn't capture the wide-open magic of Mario 64, but the level design is often brilliant.

8. Shovel Knight- So much fun. I hope we see a lot more from these talented devs.

9. Hyrule Warriors- Pretty fun game. If I didn't have so many other games to play I would have really dove into the endgame stuff. Maybe someday.

10. VR Worlds- This is not a great game by any means, but the shark encounter made me scream louder than anything has made me scream in my life. That should count for something.

Okay, let's do this. This list consists of ten months of gameplay, because World of Warcraft: Legion held my interest for a whole two months. (Hint: that is not a good thing.) Strap in people, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Just the list, for the list wrangler:


10. Lara Croft GO
9. rymdkapsel
8. Stellaris
7. Wolfenstein: The New Order
6. The Last of Us: Left Behind
5. Civilization VI
4. The Division
2. Rise of the Tomb Raider
1. The Crew

10. Lara Croft GO (iPad)
This was my first GO game, and I loved every minute of it. That's saying something, because I am normally not a fan of puzzle games. It has branched out from mobile and is now available on PC and PS4, too.

9. rymdkapsel (PC, iPad)
The game's website calls it "meditative space strategy," which is a pretty good three word pitch. It's kind of a minimalist RTS, you have resources to collect and defend, and several different kinds of units to build. The visuals are simple, mostly wordless, streamlined and beautiful. A unique game. Rymdkapsel barely edged out Polytopia (a very minimalist Civilization-like mobile game) on this list.

8. Stellaris (PC)
I only spent a little over 60 hours playing Paradox's masterful mash-up of Space 4X and Grand Strategy. That kind of surprised me, because this game is right up my alley. I think what made me stop is reading about all the plans they have for improving the game, like sprucing up the midgame and adding more stories. I definitely want to revisit it after it has spent some more time in the Paradox ovens.

7. Wolfenstein: The New Order (PC)
It took me just under 40 hours to complete this game, which turned out to be just right. I had a couple of premature starts which were interrupted by some new shiny thing, but when I finally buckled down and charged through it, it was immensely satisfying. Everything about this game is fun. The action feels great, the weapons feel great, there's a wonderful variety of enemies, and the story is much, much better than pretty much any other shooter I've played. Admittedly, that's kind of a low bar, but Wolfenstein: The New Order really does have a well-written narrative at its heart.

6. The Last of Us: Left Behind (PS4)
In December, I saw an offer I couldn't refuse for a PS4, so I bought a console for the first time in eleven years. I kind of made up what I saved by buying a boatload of games, but having never owned a PlayStation of any generation, I was determined to play the "must have" games. The Last of Us was recommended by nearly everyone. I kicked it off. I played for a couple hours. I failed to find the fun.

Thanks to cloquette, I knew that the Left Behind DLC was pretty awesome, so after being reminded of that on Slack, I started it up (somewhat reluctantly). Fun from the get go! Left Behind gets going right away, doesn't let up until it's over. Its parallel timelines and engaging story make it as interesting as it is fun. I would go so far as to say that with the discount pricing, The Last of Us is pretty much worth buying just for the Left Behind part. If you happen to like the main game too, consider it a bonus.

5. Sid Meyer's Civilization VI (PC)
What can I say. It's Civ. I have nearly 130 hours invested in this game in just two months. I spent 1000 hours on Civ V, and at least that much with the various incarnations of Civ IV. Let us not speak of Beyond Earth. Civ VI is pretty much the best version 1.0 of a Civ game since the original. It is chock-full of inventive game elements, which is quite an accomplishment given that it has 25 years of history and the crafty brains of several game design heavyweights to contend with. The only reason it's not higher on this list is that I have spent even more time with the games coming up.

4. Tom Clancy's The Division (PC)
I put 345 hours into The Division, including leveling two characters to max level, and that was all before the recent 1.4 update fixed a whole slew of problems. The thing that makes this game a winner is the environments. Its vision of a post-plague New York City is phenomenal. The story is fairly good, but the fiction around who the Division agents are is pretty hokey. I love the game just to run around in the city, murder looters and help civilians. The cover shooter gameplay is above average, and it is very easy to get into a pickup group to run some of the major areas and events. The PVP area is worthless for me, and it was a bit frustrating at the start as a lot of the best gear was locked behind PVP. That gradually opened up, though, and there is a lot more to do, and a lot more variety of gear than when the game first released.

3. DOOM (PC, PS4)
I think maybe John Carmack traveled into the future and saw this version of DOOM, and that's what made him slavishly devote decades of his life to creating graphics engines. This DOOM reboot may have had a long, storied development (it was first announced as "DOOM 4" 8 years ago), but the end result is incredible. It has once again become the definitive first-person shooter experience. Everything about it is pretty much flawless: environments, demons (oh, so many demons), callbacks to earlier games, weapons, run-and-gun shooting, unlockable levels from earlier games, super-weapons, and did I say demons? Only one thing about it is not flawless: the story, but who cares. The recently released arcade mode gives you all the best things about the game without all the "theatrical" trappings.

2. Rise of the Tomb Raider (PC)
I loved... LOVED the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot, so this was a no brainer. I may have played a bit of it last year, I honestly don't recall, but the bulk of the nearly 180 hours I put into it was definitely in 2016. It improves on the reboot in nearly every respect. The story is more interesting (though still a bit hackneyed). The graphics and environment design are top-notch. Rise has hardly any unnecessarily grisly deaths caused by failure to perform a goddamn QTE. For me, the best part of the game comes after you have finished the story and can replay nearly all levels in various gameplay modes (time attack, collecting glowing orbs, killing everything in sight), using collectible character boosts and/or disadvantages. The DLC added even more gameplay modes. Fantastic game.

1. The Crew (PC, PS4)
Ubisoft, without releasing an Assassin's Creed game, wins two spots on my top ten this year. I spent more time playing The Division, but I spent more money on The Crew, buying DLC and in-game currency for upgrades (NOTE: buying in-game currency is in no way required. Nearly everything in the game earns you money for upgrades, including doing crazy stuff while you free-drive. I just got really impatient and wanted all the things). I had more fun with The Crew, too.

The Crew was savaged by reviewers when it originally released in 2014 (Gamespot: "mediocre", IGN: "okay", Polygon: "road to ruin"). Now, though, after two expansions and numerous tuning patches, it is pretty amazing. The core thing that is great about The Crew was actually there in the original release, and that is the way the environments capture the essence of various regions around the US. Also, road tripping around the country at 200 mph in your Lamborghini Aventador is kind of a blast.

I have spent a lot of time driving all around this country, both as a passenger in the family station wagon as a kid, and on solo road trips while in the Navy, or just for the hell of it as I got older. In The Crew's version of the US highways and byways, I can pretty much always recognize where I am without consulting the map. That's how good the environments are. The improvements of the past two years include a LOT more cars, as well as motorcycles and monster trucks, a lot more events and skills, and monthly "summit" competitions that reward a variety of in-game stuff including a vehicle if you're lucky.

If you like arcade racing games, I cannot recommend The Crew enough. Ubisoft has even given it away for free a couple times. When I recently bought a PS4, I double-dipped - partly to see how the graphics measured up (it really looks great on PS4), and partly to show my support for development of games like this one.

Honorable Mentions:

Offworld Trading Company (PC): solid game, but I got distracted by a new shiny and never really got back to it.

Polytopia (iPad) (originally called Super Tribes): Minimalist Civilization-style game with an interesting polygonal graphics style and fun turn-based gameplay.

Monument Valley (Android): This is a beautiful game in every respect. Beautiful graphics, beautiful sounds, beautiful design. Another puzzle game that nearly made my list, and I'll remind you: I normally can't stand puzzle games.

Dishonorable Mentions:

American Truck Simulator: This game had a very sloppy release. There wasn't much to the map, part of the map was released as free DLC shortly after the game's release, it had a very limited stable of trucks, and the few western states that did get covered had serious problems that yanked me right out of the truck driving fantasy. Stop lights on interstate highways? SCS blew it with this release.

EDIT: The week I posted this list, SCS released an update to American Truck Simulator, six months in the making, that dramatically increased the size of the map, removed a lot of the inauthentic roads, remodeled some cities and landmarks, and made room for more improvements as they fill out the map of the US. I tried it for one haul, and the I-5 corridor of California does look better. However, I haven't spent enough time to reverse my opinion of the release. Maybe when there are a few more states. I mean, it takes some huevos to release a game called "American Truck Simulator" and only include three states and two brands of trucks. Imagine the uproar if Euro Truck Simulator 2 had released with only Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

Dragon's Dogma
Many Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning players raved about this game back when it was originally released. I picked it up knowing that it was a bit dated and that it may have problems with the PC port. It has some okay mechanics, but the color palette and lighting in the game are relentlessly dull, as is most of the gameplay. I found gathering and crafting to be a chore rather than one of the things I usually enjoy in a game that has them.

Wish it was on this list: (These games are on my pile and I really want to spend some real time with them, but I just haven't yet found the motivation.)

Mad Max
Skyrim - Ah, Skyrim. I bought Skyrim when it was originally released. Now there's a remastered version, and I still haven't played it at all. I'm almost afraid to play it after my horrible experience with Dragon's Dogma.

Skyrim and Dragon's Dogma don't have much at all in common past the surface (speaking as someone who poured hours into the former but couldn't get into the latter). You might still find Skyrim dull, but it will be its own unique experience of dullness, distinct from Dragon's Dogma's.

Edit: And Her Story can be finished in a sitting or two, get on that.

1. Doom - An absolutely unexpected metal fist to the face. The gameplay has such a wonderful emphasis on movement, positioning, and distance (where you need to dart in to collect sweet, sweet health) that it is easily my GOTY for 2016.

2. The Fall - Genuinely solid sci-fi, creepy story, and puzzles that made sense.

3. Her Story - Brilliant take on detective work with a truly disturbing and ultimately unclear story. This had the best use of live character work in a game I've ever seen or played.

4. Rise of the Tomb Raider - Like Tomb Raider but with more tomb raiding.

5. Halo - ODST - The case and crew of Firefly is here for you. I enjoyed the back and forth between time and this was my first foray back into the series since 3.

6. Divinity: Original Sin - Great turn based combat system hampered by serious pacing issues and a lack of direction (supposedly fixed in the EE).

1. Titanfall 2 - It may be because I'm currently enamored with it, but TF2 (TiF2? TFall2?) is the most fun I've had playing an FPS since, well, the original TF2. It's fast, the movement is incredible, and it's the first multiplayer game in a long time where I don't care if I win or lose because playing the game is such a joy. Also the campaign was surprisingly good.

2. Uncharted 4 - The final installment hit all the right notes for me and I put #4 up there with the best of the series (that would be #2). I loved the pirate theme, the setting, the story and the writing. I was happy to see Nate & Elena get a proper sendoff.

3. Overwatch - Another fantastic FPS in a great year for FPSs. Blizzard did a great job creating a fun, team-based shooter with the standard coat of Blizzard polish.

4. World of Warcraft: Legion - I was one of those weirdos that liked Warlords of Draenor, but I enjoyed Legion even moreso. The new dynamic zones, the World Quest system, and the Mythic+ system were great additions (to name a few). The legendary RNG system can GDIAF though.

5. Valiant Hearts: The Great War - Originally released a few years ago, I finally got around to playing it. More of an interactive fiction story than a game, it still hit me right in the gut. Great story and I enjoyed the historical WWI aspect as well.

6. Rocket League - I played a lot of this earlier in the year. Have you guys heard of it? It's really fun.

7. Firewatch - A story-heavy game, I really liked the narrative, the characters and the voice acting. The ending was a bit lame, but overall I enjoyed it a lot.

8. The Division - This game was all over the place. A fun 1-30 experience followed by a trainwreck of an endgame (which has thankfully been patched up significantly since release), yet I still have 90+ hours of playtime on record, so I've had a good time with it.

9. XCOM 2 - It's not higher just because other stuff distracted me. I really enjoy this game and liked the design decisions they made for the sequel.

10. Offworld Trading Company - I didn't play this for very long because it just wasn't my cup of tea, but it is brilliantly designed. Very clever mechanics make for a unique experience.

HM - Civilization VI - I just haven't had time to really sink my teeth into this one, so I can't put it on the list, but I like what I've played so far.

edit: I slid Blood and Wine in at #3, and Factorio in at #5, bumping X-Com and Firewatch off the bottom.

Leading off with the Clocky Ez-List, explanations below:

  1. Tales from the Borderlands
  2. Tyranny
  3. Witcher 3 - Blood and Wine expansion
  4. Subnautica
  5. Factorio
  6. Rimworld
  7. Rise of the Tomb Raider
  8. Dragon's Dogma
  9. Stellaris
  10. Doom

Okay, the long version:

  1. Tales from the Borderlands: What a ridiculously good game this was. I picked it up on some sale because I kept seeing people praise it, and man, am I ever glad I did. I like Telltale games, but never much cared for Borderlands, and holy crap, was I surprised by this gem. This is an absolutely flawless little diamond, a fun little story set in a very weird universe. I bounced off B1 after a couple hours, and that's all I knew about the universe, yet had zero trouble keeping up.

    This is not a shooter, it's a point-and-click Telltale adventure, and it is brilliant. It's the best one they've done.

  2. Tyranny -- Classic Obsidian, in that it's a supremely ambitious adventure, something not quite like anything else. They've taken the Pillars of Eternity engine, streamlined the combat, and made the overall game fun in a way that PoE had trouble with. I never engaged much with the PoE storyline until the very end (where it BLEW MY MIND), but Tyranny had my interest right from the beginning.

    I think my major complaint about this game is that you're forced to make choices too early... that is, if you decide to back someone, and then realize that they're going to do something you don't agree with, you have no way to refuse cooperation. You're on their side, right or wrong. You pretty much have to decide someone is a villain and that you can't work with them before you know they're a villain, which is frustrating. It's a game you more or less need to play at least three times to fully understand what your choices will mean, because you're stuck on rails from choices you should be able to override, and can't.

    Still a lot of fun, and a great ride, but for a choice-based game, its handling of choice is flawed.

  3. Witcher 3 - Blood And Wine: An amazing expansion for an extraordinary game. Witcher 3 raised the RPG bar a long, long way, and Blood and Wine was this team at their full glory, flush with success from their base game and (rightfully) feeling very good about themselves. There are many, many full games that are far inferior to just this expansion, never mind the whole game.

    In all seriousness, this is probably the best game ever made. It really makes Bioware, especially modern Bioware, look like second-stringers.

    If there's a downside, it's that this game is freaking gigantically enormous. The expansion is much smaller than the main game, but is still quite large, all on its own. Witcher 3 is so big that finishing it becomes a lifestyle as much as a game. And you'll be seeing genuinely new and interesting things the entire time. The sheer scope of this game is difficult to convey, and could definitely be a real downside for some. This is a big commitment, not something you can finish over a long weekend.

  4. Subnautica -- Underwater survival sim, basically. Still Early Access, but coming along quite nicely. They're working steadily at it, adding new content, expanding the midgame, and creating the endgame. Even without being able to actually finish the plotline, this is a lot of fun. It's also remarkably gorgeous for a product from such a small company.
  5. Factorio -- an automation game. I've always really enjoyed games where I could build systems that would work on their own. Factorio takes that idea and runs with it. It's rather like a 2D Minecraft in some senses, except the focus is on building systems that do work for you. You're bootstrapping a simple economy from nothing, and while you might start out banging individual rocks out with a pickaxe, before long you've got machines doing the digging, and conveyor belts dragging the results into assembling machines and then onto later belts and into more machines, and so on. The scaling factors in the game are impressive; you start with single units and end up transporting thousands per minute.

    Eventually, the goal is to build a rocketship to send a probe into orbit to call for help, but that's almost a placeholder. The goal is rather an afterthought, it's building this amazing machine from nothing that's the fun bit.

  6. Rimworld -- basically, Dwarf Fortress lite. It's one of the agent-based sims, where you describe tasks you want accomplished, and the characters do them according to their own desires. You have tighter control than you do in Dwarf Fortress, and the UI is LIGHTYEARS better, but the overall sim is not as deep. To be fair, however, there probably isn't a sim game on the planet that's as deep as Dwarf Fortress. It's a lot of fun, and well worth your attention. An interesting tidbit: this may be the first game to genuinely consider climate control and food storage needs.
  7. Rise of the Tomb Raider -- not as good as 2013's Tomb Raider, but still good. Actually, as a game, it's probably better, improving on most of the features from TR2013. But the writing is very poor in comparison. It's normal video game schlock, with nothing even vaguely interesting or motivating about it. It's a cardboard cutout plot they dropped on top of some levels. It has nothing like the impact of the 2013 game. Even with the technical improvements, without the underlying story structure, I didn't enjoy it as much.
  8. Dragon's Dogma -- I put a fairly ridiculous amount of time into this game. It's deeply flawed, in that the RPG aspects are really weird and brain-dead in a lot of ways. This is an odd game, almost purely about its fighting mechanics. If you can focus on and enjoy those, it has serious legs -- I got close to 200 hours out of it. But if you're looking for a coherent story or interesting NPCs, keep looking, because you're not going to find those here. This game is such a weird mix of strengths and weaknesses that it's both one of the better games I've played, and one of the poorer games I've played, at the exact same time. I can totally see anyone reacting either way to Dragon's Dogma, and I would probably agree completely with both sides, simultaneously.

    It's a great game. It's also a terrible game. I fell in love with it. You may disagree.

  9. Stellaris -- not done yet. I got about 50 hours out of it, and it's really interesting in a lot of ways, because it's obvious that Paradox decided to completely redo the idea of what a big space game even is. I'm glad I bought it, but there's a ton of stuff just not done yet, and I suspect it will need the full DLC train before it becomes what it was meant to be.
  10. Doom -- simple, stupid fun. Go shoot demons with fantastic graphics. It's what Doom has always been. This is more of the same, shinier. On a technical level, it is surpassingly brilliant. On a gameplay level, you been here, done this, but it's a really good version of this game.

Honorable Mentions:

These were originally on the list at #9 and #10, but got bumped by Blood and Wine and Factorio, after a rules clarification and some thinking the next day.

Firewatch -- walking simulator. Nice graphics, interesting story, weird pacing, kind of a letdown at the end. I was never fully engaged by the plot, but can't really say why without spoilers. I had a good time, but I reacted to this game somewhat like I reacted to Gone Home, a few years ago, namely: it cost too much for the amount of game it had. On sale, this will be a great buy.

XCOM 2 -- I really felt rather burned by the Season Pass. I never buy those, but I figured it was Firaxis, so buying blind would be okay. It wasn't okay, I didn't get my money's worth out of that at all. Base game was good, and I had a good time, but feeling like I got overcharged for not much extra content after the base game shipped put a real pall on my overall feeling about the game.

Originally intended as an honorable mention:

The Blackwell series. I've been going through Wadjet Eye's back catalog, and I've really enjoyed their stuff. I got these early in the year on a steep sale, and had a good time. The voice acting was kinda weak, but the games were fun. I just really like point-and-click adventures, and Wadjet's doing those better than anyone else. I'd put their more recent titles up against anything from LucasArts during their heyday -- they're not funny like the Lucas games were, but they're really solid storytelling.

This year has been the toughest one yet for me to rank my top ten games. There were several genuinely standout titles, but not one that was so amazingly perfect that I could easily settle on it as my #1. Even just narrowing my list down to ten was difficult, because of all the awesome games I've played this year.

Unlike last year where my #1 pick was a no-brainer (and immediately secured a spot as one of my favorite games of all time) I will probably continue to be torn on my pick for #1 for a long time. Put simply, my entire top 5 were equal contenders for the #1 spot, and in fact my top five lineup is far from set in stone; they're all top-notch games that stand out as some great entries in my gaming history and I don't know how my mind will change in comparing them to one another in the future. I can't remember the last time I had a top 5 that was this strong and difficult to sort out.

And just like last year, there are several titles that released this year that, had I the time to play them sufficiently, would likely land on this list -- instead, they will have to wait for next year. I've given up on trying to keep up with the pace of the gaming zeitgeist.

Ok, on with the list!

#1: Dark Souls 3 - PC The Souls crew went all-out for their swan song, and it showed. I know that it's not the popular opinion, but I truly do feel that this final entry in the series is the best one yet. It drew upon influences from both of the prior Dark Souls games, some bits from Demon Souls, and even added a few new tricks from Bloodborne (a Souls game in all but name).

The level design was very impressive, the boss encounters remixed elements from prior games with a few new surprises, and there were a plethora of cameos and easter eggs to reward fans of the series. The PC port was utterly fantastic, and I loved this entry from start to finish (even in spite of the requisite pain-in-the-ass poison swamp area).

#2: Dragon Quest Builders - PS4 When this was announced, my initial reaction was quite negative. I wanted more Dragon Quest, not some chintzy Minecraft reskin. Well, I ate a heaping helping of crow once this released and it became clear that Square-Enix accomplished something special. The game very obviously has its roots in the gameplay and voxels of Minecraft, but the creators managed to build a game that legitimately blends the classic Dragon Quest emphasis on adventure and exploration with a smidge of jrpg mechanics and uses the Minecraft gameplay to bring us something new.

I wasn't even interested in the free-form "Terra Incognita" gameplay mode when I bought the game, figuring that I would get my enjoyment from playing through the story mode and then put it away. However, upon completing the game I just hadn't had enough of exploring and building, and have been happily returning to the game and extending my playtime with pursuing optional challenges in the story chapters and accumulating a collection of materials in Terra Incognita mode so I can begin to play Dragon Quest LEGO.

#3: X-COM 2 - PC It is a private shame of mine that I have never actually finished a campaign of Firaxis's first X-COM. I played quite a bit of it, even started multiple campaigns, and really enjoyed my time with it. But I somehow always bogged down in the late mid-game and just didn't feel the desire to shoulder my way through it and get to the finish.

There's something special about the design of X-COM 2, though, that hooked me from start to finish. The shift from playing defense to playing as underground rebels was a brilliant change from the devs, with a compelling tonal shift to the missions themselves (and the strategic game layer that sandwiched it all together). I normally hate time limits in games. I don't just mean "oh that annoys me", I mean the special kind of "BLOODY HELL f*ck THIS sh*t I QUIT" hatred. But interviews and previews leading up to the game's release somehow managed to convince me to try taking the game on its terms instead of my own.

And in one of the greatest surprises I've ever encountered in my gaming history, X-COM 2 managed to take something I loathed so much that I tend to actively avoid games that rely upon it, and turned it into a solid strength of the game.

Playing each mission as a race against time accomplished two things at once. First, it lended an impressive amount of real urgency to my choice of tactics. Second, it lent a palpable tension to each turn that was missing for me in X-COM. No longer could I (or even moreso, should I) creep along at a snail's pace so that my entire team moved up and activated Overwatch every single turn. No, instead, X-COM 2 left me treating each specialist with their unique reponsibilities, and only utilizing Overwatch when I could spare the time (or when I was setting up an aggressive ambush for my stealthy infiltrator to lure aliens into).

X-COM 2 was a genuinely exciting nail-biter of a game; the soundtrack had just the right amount of bombastic flair, the visuals were enticing, and the game continued to spring surprises on me from start to finish. An outstanding achievement; Tkyl, if you're reading this, make sure you give the team my thanks for a job very well done, and I can't wait to see what you folks come up with next!

#4: Fallout 4 - PC I quite enjoyed Fallout 3, and just like the free-roaming style of Bethesda's take on the Fallout series. Fallout 4 took everything I liked about 3 and built on top of that. They crafted a surprisingly varied post-apocalyptic gameworld based on the Boston region, an addicting new system for customizing and upgrading weapons & armor, threw in a surprise settlement-crafting system that you can mess with as much or as little as you like, and significantly improved the real-time gameplay over that of Fallout 3. In 3, I used the VATS system extensively, relying on it to the point of it being a crutch. In 4, I found myself growing more comfortable with the action, instead using the VATS system as a boost to my capabilities in critical moments.

The vignettes and the small "stories" told through environment design were surprisingly affecting, providing icing on top of an already-solid game. Yes, the core story was weak -- that's just an expectation of Bethesda's games at this point for me. But the gameplay, the experience, of their games is what keeps me eagerly anticipating each of their releases. Hell, the whole time I was playing Fallout 4, I kept thinking "Elder Scrolls 6 is going to be amazing".

#5: Xenoblade Chronicles X - Wii U Speaking of open worlds, this game took the formula of Xenoblade Chronicles' gameplay and asked "how much bigger can we make this?" The answer was, apparently, so big that they added giant mechs for your characters to pilot roughly halfway through the game. This game -- both the sheer size of the gameworld and the plethora of content to experience -- is HUGE. So huge that even when I wrapped up the main story at around 85 hours played (yes, really), I had only experienced maybe half of the optional content.

The combat system is surprisingly deep (I still don't really understand a pretty sizable chunk of what's going on, and I've read some FAQs about it that simply make my eyes glaze over), and there are a lot of optional encounters left for the post-game content that will require you to push your knowledge of the game's systems to conquer them. So while I may have "finished" the game, there's plenty left for me to return to in the future!

#6: Mad Max - PC One part Fury Road, one part Assassin's Creed: Black Flag, one part Batman: Arkham fisticuffs. The story is simple and sparse, the gameworld is miles wide but inches deep, but the action (both on-road and off-road) is bone-crunching, explosive goodness. This game knows exactly what it wants to do, and it focuses with laser intensity on that: give you a world full of sh*t to blow up and bad guys to pummel mercilessly, and it does both to incredible effect.

I had a blast from start to finish on this one. It never stopped entertaining.

#7: Stellaris - PC Europa Universalis - In Spaaaaaaaaace!

Really, that's pretty much it.

I haven't played substantially since late summer; back then, the early game was fantastic, the mid-game was good fun but eventually grew into a galaxy-wide traffic jam, and the end-game was utterly crushing if you weren't well-prepared for it. I thoroughly enjoyed what was there, and have only left it on the back burner because there are so many other great games to play and I'm happy to wait for the first couple expansions to bring this game to greatness. This is more of a Europa Univeralis III than an EU IV; Paradox has a lot they're trying that's new to them, but it's obvious how much enthusiasm and love they have for the project, so I'm happy to give them some leeway given how well they have supported their other primary in-house franchises.

#8: No Man's Sky - PC Ok, ok, put away the pitchforks, folks. All I was expecting or asking for from this game was an endless galaxy of randomly generated planets to explore, and that's what I got. I absolutely acknowledge how shallow the game was (I haven't played with the new "Foundation" update, so no comment on that), and it's obvious that previews were misleading (intentional or not), but this ended up being one of my favorite gaming experiences of the year, so it's on this list.

More than anything else, this game showed me potential for the future. I quite enjoy seeing how computer-generated stuff plays out, so I found a lot of fun with the game in spite of the obvious "man behind the curtain" aspect. It did eventually grow a bit tiresome as the limits of the algorithm revealed themselves, but still -- tens of hours of fun getting to that point is more than enough to earn some solid points in my book!

#9: Forza Horizon 3 - PC The fact that a Forza game (core or horizon) is this far down my list says a lot about how great this year's crop of games to pick from must be. This is the first Forizon game ported to PC, and they nailed it. Gorgeous, runs great, and the choice of locale was simply inspired. Far more diverse terrain than I hoped for, and lots of great content to be had. The customizable events is a nice touch, I hope to see them push this element further in the future! Reminds me a little of PGR3's custom challenges, actually.

#10: Persona Q - 3DS Yes, I am way late to the party on this one. After I wrapped up Persona 4 Golden, I wasn't ready to put aside the characters I'd grown to care about, so I picked this up and started in on it. The Etrian Odyssey games are favorites of mine, and Atlus put a lot of care into figuring out how to layer a Persona conversion on top of that. I don't think there's enough meat there to justify further Persona Q games, but as a one-shot this is quite excellent.