This was kind of an odd year for me, in a Game of the Year sense, because I honestly felt as though I knew going into the year how my entire list was going to shake out, and I wasn’t entirely wrong. In fact, going back and looking at my picks that went into SmashPad’s Most Anticipated Games of 2016 piece, all but one of the five that didn’t make my top ten here fell off of 2016 entirely – Drift Stage, Tekken 7, Persona 5, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The one that didn’t, which would go on to become Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, I simply didn’t get around to due to other issues in life getting in the way. With that all having been said, here are my top ten games of 2016.
10. NHL 17 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
EA Sports’ NHL has taken great strides since a lackluster 2014-2015 season on eighth-generation platforms. Although the series has yet to return to the plateau it occupied at the end of the seventh-generation, it’s hard to imagine a better-handling game of hockey than this–keep up the good work, Rammer.
9. MLB 16 The Show (PlayStation 4)
Typically, a monopoly only leads to mediocrity, and Sony’s long-running Baseball franchise consistently pushes against the stereotype. MLB 16 The Show is no different, and continues to provide baseball gamers the very best of what the simulation sports genre has to offer.
8. Doom (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
There was plenty of reason to be skeptical when Bethesda first unveiled Id Software’s attempt to modernize a true original at E3 2015, after all, many of its mechanics had fallen by the wayside over the years as other flavors of first-person shooter found themselves at the forefront. Still, Doom succeeded in everything it set out to do, and should by all means lead a charge of new traditional shooters in an era that seems to have seen the Call of Duty flavor through to its end.
7. Super Night Riders (PC, Xbox One)
If 2016 was a particularly disappointing gaming year on any one front, it’s the number of arcade racing games (such as the aforementioned Drift Stage) that failed to find their way to release on schedule. One that did, however, is Super Night Riders, neko.works’ loving tribute to Super Hang-On that hits all of the right cues throughout.
6. Fire Emblem Fates (3DS)
Although Nintendo’s business model was suspect for the rejuvenated Fire Emblem franchise’s sophomore outing under its new dynamic, there’s no denying the overall quality of the game it featured. Is it too early to start discussing remakes cast from the same mold?
5. Brut@l (PS4)
When Stormcloud Games unveiled Brut@l at PlayStation Experience 2015, it was an obvious standout amongst all the indie offerings on display. A solid roguelike action game in its own right, it will particularly find a very special place in the hearts of anyone who spent time with the old ASCII RPG titles of years gone by.
4. I Am Setsuna (PS4, PC)
It was obvious that we were in for something special when Square Enix announced Project Setsuna at E3 2014 alongside its classical JRPG-driven studio, Tokyo RPG Factory. Although the finished product, I Am Setsuna, fell well short of its chief inspiration, Chrono Trigger, it still served as one of the true “high point” games of 2016 and should not be missed by anyone who loves the genre.
3. Street Fighter V (PS4, PC)
It’s really a shame that so many people have written off Street Fighter V outright in the wake of its troubled launch, as Yoshinori Ono and team have done a great job of recovering from the game’s early days to mold it into one of the finest examples to date of the series, and indeed, the 2D fighting genre. If it had launched in the condition it found itself in toward the end of 2016, I’d have to give it serious Game of the Year consideration…and Capcom isn’t even close to done with it.
2. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II (PS3, Vita)
Nihon Falcom’s epic revitalization of classical JRPGs continues with Trails of Cold Steel II. Even though there are still a trio of titles we have yet to receive stateside thus far, it’s still pretty hard to believe that this masterpiece only marks roughly the halfway point in the greater storyline originally planned out by the studio.
1. The King of Fighters XIV (PS4)
When Chinese firm Leyou Millennium bought legendary arcade studio SNK, what first looked like a liquidation grab quickly became a revival, as a wave of mass hires and rehires led to the resurrection of SNK’s R&D1 studio and the announcement of The King of Fighters XIV. Armed with solid financial backing for the first time in their existence, and energized by the opportunity to properly make its mark on the fighting landscape once again, SNK proceeded to lay down an instant classic that was exactly the game the fighting genre needed at a time it was searching for a hero.
In the end, I’d like to think that what came out as my list was interesting enough, but I’d also be lying if I claimed that a couple of my picks didn’t just make the list by doing what they consistently do. On the plus side, 2016’s loss may well be 2017’s gain. We certainly still have plenty to look forward to that started 2016 in the pipeline.