Bender's Top 5 Games of 2016: Delayed Gratification
Despite some tragic events in news and world culture, the year 2016 turned out to be a great one for the gaming industry. In the past year we've seen an epic finale to a long-running game series, as well as the birth of new properties that show great potential. We've seen reboots of dormant gaming franchises and remasters of classics. We've seen the launch of VR and all the great experiences that came along with it. And, most surprisingly, we've seen the release of not one, but two legendary games that had been in development for nearly a decade. Although it was difficult to narrow it down, this list represents just a few of my favorite games of the past year.
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Few game franchises have blended character-based storytelling with edge-of-your-seat action as well as the Uncharted series. Needless to say, many fans — myself included — were excited to experience Nathan Drake's final chapter. I must say, Naughty Dog didn't pull any punches with this one. I loved pretty much everything about Uncharted 4, from the character development to the epic action set pieces to the beautiful graphical presentation. I enjoyed exploring the backstory between Nathan and his brother Sam, and I especially enjoyed the dynamic between Nate and Elena. Thankfully, the world of Uncharted isn't completely done for, as we have a new story-based DLC to look forward to (hopefully) this year.
Batman: The Telltale Series
As a fan of both adventure games and the Batman franchise, I was excited to see what sort of new take Telltale Games would bring to the Caped Crusader's universe. After playing through all five episodes, I was not disappointed. The Dark Knight's saga has rarely been darker, as the team at Telltale has crafted a gritty story full of unexpected twists and turns. Featuring great voice acting, some cool new takes on familiar characters, and many branching story paths, Telltale's Batman allows you to craft your own Batman story like never before.
The Last Guardian
As I've stated before, Shadow of the Colossus is one of my favorite games of all-time. So, needless to say, I've been anticipating Team Ico's follow-up title ever since it was originally planned as a PS3 game. The Last Guardian was in development for so long that many people began to think that the game was dead, never to be released. I can honestly say that I never gave up hope. And, after all this time, I can also say that I was not disappointed by the end result. Is the game perfect? By no means. There are some technical issues and the controls can be frustrating at times. But, what it lacks in technical achievement it more than makes up for in beauty, artistic expression, and emotional resonance. I genuinely felt a sense of care and companionship between the boy and Trico, and the story had a satisfying ending that actually made sense (as opposed to the ending for Shadow of the Colossus). Truly, The Last Guardian is a game unlike any other.
Final Fantasy XV
Seeing as how I have little-to-no experience with the Final Fantasy franchise, I hadn't been following the development of Final Fantasy XV as closely as I did with The Last Guardian. In fact, this game only became a blip on my radar in the last year or two. But, after seeing the trailers and playing the demos, Final Fantasy XV became a blip that I couldn't ignore. Now, after spending over 40 hours with the game, I'm certain that it's one of my favorite things I've played this year. I've enjoyed almost every aspect of the game, from the unique combat system to the interesting characters to the beautiful visuals. I love all the side quests and having plenty of content to keep me busy. I also enjoy the banter between Noctis and his buddies. Yes, Final Fantasy XV is pressing all the right buttons for this fledgling fan.
Being new to the Xbox ecosystem, I was especially excited to have a great AAA exclusive to play on my new console. I couldn't have asked for a better one than Quantum Break. Developer Remedy Entertainment did a fine job creating an interesting, unique narrative, as well as making the player feel powerful with Jack Joyce's sweet time-manipulation powers. The game's villain, Paul Serene (ably played by Aidan Gillen), embodies the lesson that people can stray into morally gray areas when they think they're doing the right thing. The gameplay and upgradable abilities gave me a real Infamous vibe, while some the game's more intense sequences felt like a blockbuster sci-fi action movie. Finally, the live-action TV episodes that were incorporated into the game's narrative were a very unique and refreshing change of pace. Even though the final boss battle was pretty frustrating, I really enjoyed the overall experience of Quantum Break and the world that it created. Here's hoping this is not the last we see of this franchise.
Honorable Mention: Day of the Tentacle Remastered
Seeing as how it's just a remaster of a 20-year-old game, I wanted to give an Honorable Mention shoutout to Day of the Tentacle Remastered. Tim Schafer and the folks at Double Fine Productions did a fantastic job taking this classic wacky adventure and making it even better. The cartoony visuals were completely redrawn and look crisp and colorful. The music was revamped as well, making it sound much more robust and modern. Those things combined with the already great puzzles, gameplay, and voice acting, make Day of the Tentacle Remastered a must-play title for adventure game fans.
These titles were just the cream of the crop for 2016, in my opinion. I just as easily could have mentioned other great games like Ratchet and Clank, Inside, Mirror's Edge Catalyst, Titanfall 2, Battleborn, Jazzpunk: The Director's Cut, and No Man's Sky (which I really enjoyed, despite what anyone says). As we look forward to other releases like Horizon: Zero Dawn, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Scalebound, and especially the Nintendo Switch, I'm hoping that 2017 will be an even more epic year for gaming.