1. Pokémon Moon, available on Nintendo 3DS
2. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, available on Playstation 4
Firewatch is a tough game. And when I say tough, I don’t mean that it's difficult to play — I mean that it’s emotionally devastating. And when I say that it’s a game, what I actually mean is that it’s an interactive movie with some light decision-making moments that guide the story along. But despite being easy and not a game, it was one of my favorite games of 2016, one of the most trying stories I went through this year, and one of the prettiest games I’ve ever played.
The story of Firewatch (and keep in mind that it’s pretty much JUST story) follows a fire lookout named Henry as he spends the summer of 1989 in the Rocky Mountains, keeping an eye on a patch of land from his little watchtower. Henry sought a minimum-wage job after his wife was diagnosed with early-onset dementia, hoping that being alone in the woods would help him escape his problems. Suffice to say, it doesn’t at all. Henry’s story is tragic and compelling and even though I played through the whole game in under five hours, it’s still a game I think about months later.
When it was announced that Doom was making its grand return in 2016, I was skeptical of how a 23-year-old game could somehow compete for my screen time against newer franchises like Call of Duty. Needless to say, Doom (2016) surpassed my expectations of revitalizing the title and completely expanded the horizon of what first-person shooters are capable of. Everything that I love about the original Doom is there — the carnage, the horror, the fluid action and vertigo-inducing platforming. But there are also the other things that come with a modern shooter: extraordinary graphics and lighting, an engaging storyline heavy with science and technology, and of course, a new combat feature too gnarly to even describe — “Glory Kills.” The new Doom is a perfect storm of a game that celebrates its nostalgia while avoiding the trap of becoming so consumed by its own history that it fails to offer any new experiences. It’s safe to say that in 2016, Doom brought me back to my childhood and had me looking forward to what comes next.
Game was provided free of charge to BuzzFeed by Bethesda Softworks.
7. Overwatch, available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One
The future is going to be a hopeless, dark place. That’s been drilled into my head by the many, MANY dystopian TV shows and books I’ve consumed since I first got hooked on the genre back in high school. But one thing I never considered was that, even after disaster, the future can hold hope.
That’s the backdrop of Overwatch, the colorful squad-based team game released by Blizzard this year. Don’t be mistaken — the game has no story mode to speak of. It’s exclusively multiplayer. However, Blizzard released a series of Pixar-influenced shorts detailing some of the backstory and the lore is brilliantly peppered throughout the game in the form of dialogue.
TL;DR: A now-defunct team called Overwatch ended an AI/human war and are now being called on again to bring hope back to a desperate world. There are a few edgy, bitter humans in the cast (Reaper and Widowmaker), but for the most part, the incredibly designed cast is populated with these hopeful men, women, and animals (a gorilla, actually) from around the world who say things like, "Our world is worth fighting for!" even though they've faced certain death before. It's strangely inspiring.
The other remarkable thing about my love for Overwatch is that, in its bones, it’s a first-person shooter. I HATE first-person shooters. I hate the guns. I hate the kill counts. I hate the macho culture around it. Overwatch has some of those things, but what makes the game special is that each one of those charming characters incentivizes a different style of play. Sure, you can play the grizzled old commando, femme fatale sniper, or the Egyptian Gundam lady with a rocket launcher. But there are ALSO characters, like old-timey German knight Reinhardt, who literally only exist to be a SHIELD to protect their teammates. Instead of competing to get the most kills, you may pride yourself on the most heals, the most freezes with Mei, or the most defensive plays around the objective. Playing Overwatch with my buddies and figuring out how to best support each other… well, it gives me hope for the future (of FPS's).
Get it from battle.net on PS4, Xbox One, or PC for $39.99 now (down from $59.99!).