The NWCN's Gaming Guru's Top Ten Games of 2016

Once again it’s time to look back on the year that was and decide what were the best games I played.  As always the rules are simple.  The game was released in 2016, I played it, and I reviewed it.  From there it’s strictly my opinion and my opinion may have changed since the original review.  Some games got better with additional content or fixes.  So let's not dilly-dally, lets jump in.

10. No Man’s Sky

This might be a controversial choice for this list, as so many people were disappointed with what they ultimately got from No Man’s Sky.  There is no doubt that Hello Games and in particular Managing Director Sean Murray over promised a lot of things for this game: multiplayer, base building, combat and much more.  Yet despite what everyone else thought of the game I was very satisfied.  

No Man's Sky provided me with an almost unlimited universe to explore.  Rocketing from world to world, discovering new life, and, if I wanted to, naming all of my discoveries.  I whiled away many an hour just wandering around a planet looking, exploring, poking, prodding, mining, crafting, and being chased by hostile creatures.  Even with all the time I invested, I had only scratched the surface of what was originally available in the game.  Recently Hello Games dropped a massive update that is just the start of fulfilling their promises.  This update fixed many bugs and added content, such as the promised base building ability.  They promise more in the future to make the game what they originally envisioned.  For me, I look at all this new content as frosting, making a game I was already happy with and gave me more to play with. No Man's Sky looks to only get better as time moves on.

The original review of No Man's Sky can be found here.

9.  The Park

My first "horror walking simulator" game, The Park is proof that a strong story can carry a very simplistic game.  A mother searching for her child in a closed down haunted amusement park provided, pardon the pun, quite the thrill ride.  Credit to Funcom for taking just a small piece of their massive multiplayer online world (MMO) and fleshing out some of the lore.

It was a horror story done well.  An overly curious child, a mother unsure of herself, set pieces that made you question her sanity, well timed (but somewhat telegraphed) jump scares and an ending that still has me questioning what happened.  While short, I finished the game in about 90 minutes and played parts a second time just to get all of the achievements, The Park felt well rounded and I recommend it anyone that likes a horror tale.

The original review of The Park can be found here.

8.  Layers of Fear

Speaking of horror, let's take it one step further and add more psychological scares.  Layers of Fear took the haunted house and the "tortured" artist and then mixed them together in a tale that takes you down a spiral of madness.

It started simple.  A great artist wants to create his greatest masterpiece.  You have to search the house for six items to help inspire him.  Only as you look for the items the tale becomes twisted and you learn how one bad day turned a charmed life into a living hell.  Solving puzzles and finding the pieces slowly but surely pulled away the layers of sanity.  By the end, when the masterpiece has been revealed, the chill down your backbone would not go away easily.  Bloober Team would later release downloadable content that not only took you back to the house, but put you into the mind of the artist's daughter for a whole no perspective of events.

The original review of Layers of Fear can be found here.

7.  The Magic Circle: Gold Edition

This odd puzzler gave a fresh perspective on story and gameplay.  It was all based around the concept of the gamer being part the creation of the game.  You are one of quality assurance team (AKA you are a gameplay tester) for a game that has been in development for far too long.  The creative director and the main talent can not agree on how the game should be made.  Add in an eager intern who idolizes the director, but has her own visions of what the game should be, and slip in an artificial intelligence (A.I.) that realizes that it's one shot at actually being in a game played by gamers depends on it being finished.  Each of these elements made for a great story that shined a light on how the gaming industry (in some ways) actually worked behind the scenes.

Then the gameplay furthered that behind the scenes feel.  As a game tester you did not play with weapons or spells, nope you hacked and reprogrammed creatures within the game to fight and work for you.  It made you think outside the box a bit to solve puzzles of how to get key bits of the game working, access areas that you were "locked out of," and even find files that you could use to convince the others (blackmail is such a nasty word) to agree on things. In the end, you could even create a small pseudo adventure game that you could play through.

The original review of The Magic Circle: Gold Edition can be found here.

6.  Kirby: Planet Robobot

Prior to Kirby: Planet Robobot my knowledge of the Kirby series was pretty limited.  I knew the series was mainly a platformer and that Kirby’s main power was to suck in others to gain their power. In Kirby: Planet Robobot they added a power armor suit on special levels that that took Kirby’s power and turned it up to 11.

The game included all the series staples of characters, but they were here mostly for the story.  Kirby took on all new enemies in this adventure.  The result was a great balance of old school puzzle platforming with fun side scrolling shooter action.  It’s still a game I go back to play on occasion to get a little fix of goofy fun.

The original review of Kirby: Planet Robobot can be found here.

5.  Chime Sharp

A surprise sequel, Chime Sharp picked up where the original left off.  A music based puzzle game that mashed up Tetris with Lumines.  With its four modes, it gave me the fun of the original with some new twists.  Just like the original, it was a game that I would start playing and wonder where the time went afterward.  The way that it made the gameplay part of the music still kept me fascinated.  Chime Sharp for me cemented the series as a minor classic for puzzle gaming.

The original review for Chime Sharp can be found here.

4.  Lifeless Planet

A game that really didn’t look to be much of anything when I first started it, Lifeless Planet quickly got its hooks into me.  Always bringing up more questions of what was going on and what happened on a planet that was supposed to be full of life, but one that no human has set foot on.  Yet within the first area, it is a deserted Russian ghost town.

The story slowly pulls itself out as you progress.  Giving you more bits as you work out, not only what happened, but also how to get yourself back to earth.

The original review of Lifeless Planet can be found here.

3.  Hitman

The Hitman franchise has been around for a while and had been doing well, but Hitman Absolution faltered a bit.  It sold well, critics gave it excellent to mixed reviews and players, in general, were happy, but felt it didn't quite measure up to previous offerings.  IO Interactive was tasked with bringing the spark back and they rose to the challenge by making Hitman (2016) an episodic game.  Each episode would be a standalone mission with multiple ways of carrying out the mission.  It would also have various challenges that would test the skills of the players.

Added to that were "Elusive Targets."  These special missions would be available to players for a limited amount of time, but if you failed the mission you would have no chance to replay them.  Players could also create and share their own missions.  The open sandbox style gave all missions a unique feel for players, allowing each of them to develop their own play style.  Want to be stealthy? Be stealthy.  Want to be the master of disguise?  Have at it.  Want to be a guns blazing assassin?  Good luck.  Hitman was not beholden to any style of gameplay and all could be done.  The first "season" of gameplay has finished and IO Interactive provided some extra side missions free as a thank you to players.  Now IO Interactive has the option of starting a season two and providing players with more locations and deepening the storyline of Agent 47.

The original review of Hitman can be found here.

2.  Forza Horizon 3

The Forza Motorsport has become, over time, my favorite simulation racing series.  When I want serious racing it is my go to game, but sometimes you just need some fun.  Microsoft and Turn 10 recognized that need and created Forza Horizon to be a middle ground between the simulation and the arcade racer.  The first Forza Horizon set the blueprint for the open world racer borrowing heavily from the underground car culture and the Fast and Furious popularity.  The next game, Forza Horizon 2, built on that by adding a bit more outrageousness, yet keeping is seemingly grounded.  They also licensed a tie in with the Fast and Furious movie franchise to leave no doubt what the inspiration was.  Forza Horizon 3 perfected the formula.

I’ve had to find time after doing my review of Horizon 3 to keep coming back.  There is so much to do, so much fun to be had that I can’t get enough.  Add into that the fact that there is still a lot of downloadable content yet to come and I will be trying to find time to play even more as we roll into next year.  That doesn’t even count the amount of time I’m trying to sneak in to play it online with friends in the new co-op play.

Forza Horizon 3 feels like the gift that keeps on giving.  Even now when I sat down to write my top ten I contemplated putting it off until tomorrow just to go play a session.

The original review of Forza Horizon 3 can be found here.

1.  Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Really is there any surprise here?  Naughty Dog really took the Uncharted formula, made sure they check off all the boxes that made the series great and then steeped it the power of the PlayStation 4 to make it excellent.  Well told well told and paced story?  Check.  Interesting characters that actually get developed and make you care?  Check.  Challenging gameplay in well thought out levels?  Check.  Employ the same top notch voice actors that you’ve had throughout the series?  Check.  Add some new gameplay touches?  Check.  Make you feel like you are playing through a movie?  Double check.

If Uncharted 4 is the actual end of series, it is an excellent high note to end it on.  But like any superb adventure story, Naughty Dog has left the door open for more and I strongly feel more will come.

The original review of Uncharted: A Thief's End can be found here.

Overall, for my Top Ten, I looked at storylines or interesting gameplay features.  But what it ultimately came down to was how much fun I had playing the game and whether or not I wanted to keep sneaking time from my everyday activities to play.  That was how I chose my 2016 Top Ten games.

 


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