Downwell is a ton of fun too.
Anyway, another year gone by means it's time to write about some games I'd like to showcase. Like with last year, there's a surplus of worthy stuff to talk about, meaning that I'm sure to have missed playing a game that deserved to be on this list (Owlboy or Oxenfree perhaps?). Also a minor note, but I've changed the "Worst Game I Completed This Year" category to "Awful Game I Played This Year", mainly as a semantic point—I would rather reserve the "worst" modifier for games that truly deserve it, whereas grouping Fahrenheit and Imagine Me together under the "awful" category feels more appropriate. Keep in mind that the order down below is relatively loose and subject to change, and above all else, that numerical list-making is a largely fatuous pleasantry that shouldn't be the end-all-be-all of opinions. Now... behold!
4 - DARK SOULS 3More Dark Souls! Despite wherever I place the SoulsBorne entries on my lists, they're always going to be the games that get the most play time out of me. Whether it be for the ambiance, the lore, the combat, or the jolly cooperation, each Dark Souls title continues to provide an experience that's like no other (and those that imitate or claim influence never truly reach its soaring heights). True, Dark Souls 3 doesn't stray far from the formula that made the very first game memorable, but it's yet another successful, gripping entry in a series that should've grown stale by now. From the swift, brutal swordplay against hollowed monstrosities, to the captivating wonder of exploring the desolate streets of chilly Irithyll for the first time, there's plenty to love about Dark Souls 3, and I suspect my adoration for it will only grow over time.
3 - THE WITNESSOut of every game released this year, nothing feels more fulfilling and complete than The Witness. It might be easy to let this quaint title slip by when looking at 2016 in review, but Jonathan Blow's sophomore effort was an utterly captivating experience that had me and thousands of others seeing lines and circles everywhere we went. Not only is it a vivid, visual masterpiece, but the game strikes a delicate balance between ingenuity and brain-teasing, being trickier than something like Portal but not as impenetrable as, say, Stephen's Sausage Roll. The Witness is structured around attaining clarity, allowing each player to progress through its gorgeous island at their own pace, ultimately culminating in a wild and mentally exhausting gauntlet that tests if you've mastered what you've learned. The Witness—simply put—is incredible, and it's honestly the title that's most deserving of the "game of the year" accolade.
... AND DOOM
What? Am I not allowed two #2s?
Hyper Light Drifter and Doom scratch the same insatiable itch for me—they're games that are interesting in their own right, but their phenomenal gameplay is what takes them above and beyond. My experience paths for each are likewise similar: I beat them on normal and then immediately started a hard playthrough for both. I did a no upgrade run for both. I did a 100% run for both (and did not enjoy doing it for either—seriously, don't waste your time). I could write for pages about why each one deserves this spot over the other, as each game's amazing highs come with their own baffling lows. In spite of the flaws present in Hyper Light Drifter and Doom, they're mechanically the best games I played this year—hands down. If you enjoy sharp, nimble combat that prioritizes impromptu planning via adaptive threat assessment, then boy, have I got two titillating titles for you to play.
1 - THUMPERThumper is the definitive dark horse entry this year, blindsiding me a few days after its release and consuming a lot of my free time. Whereas my relationship with all of the previous entries on this list is more akin to a romance, I was a beleaguered slave to Thumper, enthralled by its angry rhythms and unrelenting speed. I once thought Level 5 was my limit but I continued to climb up Thumper's cruel rungs, eventually finishing the game and then replaying it in order to S rank every stage. Now the Plus campaign is the next frigid, belligerent peak I must climb to, a sped-up permadeath mode which is dead set on bursting my beetle into red sparks and iron ash should my fingers dawdle but for a moment. Compared to the other games on this list I can see that Thumper is far more of an acquired taste, but that does not dissuade me from admitting that this abstract tour through rhythm hell has pounded its way into my heart.
This video right here (played by yours truly) really says all I need to say about why I think Thumper is the most energetic, insane, and amazing game of 2016.
GREAT GAME I PLAYED THIS YEAR - MONSTER HUNTER 4 ULTIMATEMonster Hunter is a franchise that's very special to me. It's extremely slow, very archaic, and astoundingly obtuse; a lot of people get turned off from the franchise when first jumping in, and for good reason! But when you find yourself getting into it, man does nothing feel better than a long, tense, nail-biting hunt. This year I finally climbed through Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate's G Rank with a good friend of mine and had a blast doing so, finding the two-man (+ two-cat) operation to be the perfect level of difficulty for us. We had to use our wits and best items to topple our gargantuan adversaries (I feared that we would never get through the nightmarish Stygian Zinogre & Chaotic Gore Magala duo), and the amount of time (and focus!) I put into this title easily dwarfs all the other games I've played this year. Though I had already fallen in love with the series at Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, MH4U found me spiraling deeper down the sword-sharpening-wyvern-toppling rabbit hole, and I could not be more grateful for the time I've spent with it.
AWFUL GAME I PLAYED THIS YEAR - EXTERMINATION
critical denouement between the major themes existing in the game, I didn't even find myself floored with the gameplay in Uncharted 4. Yes, it's one of the most beautiful games I've ever played and the production values on display here are jaw-droppingly spectacular... but at the end of the day, Uncharted 4 isn't a title that grips me. There isn't an inventive mechanic or section of the game that begs my attention; Uncharted 4 is a breathtaking blockbuster that derives more joy from showcasing its polish than offering the player something interesting that couldn't be found in previous titles. I don't feel particularly offended or perturbed if anyone shrugs Dark Souls 3 off as yet more Dark Souls, but by that same token I find it difficult to call Uncharted 4 anything more than "just another Uncharted". And since I vastly prefer Berserk to Indiana Jones, Naughty Dog had a scant chance of creating a game that could compete with my favorites this year.
Other images obtained from: amazon.com, gaminghistory101, iansteffen.com