John’s Favourite Games Of 2016

One of my favourite things about end of year lists on RPS is they never match the personal list of any individual writer. They’re a compromise between us all, an erratic, uncoordinated vote where consensus sees games of real worth rising to the top and filling our annual advent calendar. It makes for a list that’s far more broad and useful to the largest number of readers. And because it’s driven by nothing other than what we’ve all enjoyed that year is equally likely to be filled with the tripliest of As and the most obscure of indies. Still though, it leaves me wanting to say, “But! But there are THESE games too!” So below is my list of my favourite games of 2016, far less useful to far fewer readers, but goodness me, a collection of games that deserve adulation.

It’s worth adding, even here there are games missed off that were fantastic in 2016. I loved Kathy Rain for instance, as much for what I thought it did well as for where I disagreed with its choices. Owlboy reminded me of the joy of playing the first Mario & Luigi game on DS. There was a superb single-player mission in Titanfall 2, even if I think it perhaps stood out more due to its sheer competence in an incompetent genre. I spent a ridiculous number of hours playing The Division this year. Nelly Cootalot was hilarious.

And then there are the games I now feel guilty for not listing even here! We are spoilt for entertaining games, is my point. And just as the advent calendar leaves people screaming, “BUT WHAT ABOUT DARK SOULS 3/STAR DEW VALLEY/SUBNAUTICA?”, even making my own list leaves me wanting to shout such remarks at myself. (What about the missing advent games? It’s the democratic nature of the calendar that sees such worthy games not qualify into the top 24 – take it up with Horace.)

Just to note, I’ve put links to the games’ Steam sales for each entry, which has ended up making me worry people might think there’s shenanigans here – I just want to make clear we have no referral deal with Steam (they don’t do them), so that’s purely my saying, “LOOK! Great game is cheap atm!”

All that said, gosh, here are some good games. Seven of them, in no particular order:

Pony Island

I called Pony Island “the smartest game of 2016” back on January 5th. I was only kind of joking. Because I wasn’t really sure how any game was going to be smarter. And in a year of so many very smart games, few were.

Pony Island is, on a surface level that it barely even shows, a game about jumping a cute ponycorn over some white sticks. What it really is, is a battle for your soul. Your literal soul. Along the way it messes you about, from its opening muddle of broken menus to its complete collapse at a code level, incessantly throwing ideas at you while making you feel really fucking uncomfortable.

2015-16 has been drowned in games unwittingly made by developers for other developers, where their own passion for the crafting of a game is conflated with the player’s interest in playing it. Coding puzzles have been everywhere, and invariably lose me minutes in when it becomes apparent that a penchant for programming languages that I’ll never gain is necessary for pursuing progress. I was really worried Pony Island would do that too when I saw those screens of code, but if you’re with me on this, fear not. It’s another layer to its multiple deceptions, the code screens themselves closer to an 80s Spectrum game than anything requiring three years training in C++. Chuck in some eloquent Brechtian Estrangement, meta commentary on the nature of meta commentary, and repeatedly changing direction without warning.

There’s a curse to releasing too early in January (I guess devs think the release schedule looks clear and it’ll get them more attention – there’s a reason it’s clear: your game will be forgotten by February), but Pony Island has stayed with me despite this. It’s stunning, preternaturally cruel, and at one point turns into a text adventure.

The game is currently a ridiculously tiny £1.31 in the Steam Winter Sale.

Oxenfree

I didn’t play Oxenfree until this holiday. I don’t know how or why I missed it, especially after Pip’s review, but I think I ended up mislabeling the game in my brain and forgetting about it. Wow, I wish I hadn’t, because I’d have spent the entire advent calendar planning time yelling at everyone that it should be right near the top. I am just bowled away by how utterly brilliant this game is.

It’s a game so completely stunning that I want to start an awards ceremony so I can start handing them out to it. Best Dialogue, Best Acting, Best Animations, Best Sarcasm, Best Use Of A Radio, Best Use Of Player Choice. I swear half of these awards I’d have accidentally given to Firewatch if I’d not played this just in time – it actually beats Firewatch for dialogue and acting. That is quite the feat.

This is the tale of five young adults who sneak their way onto a privately owned island out of tourist season, overnight when everything is closed and everyone is gone. It’s meant to be for a beach party, but most everyone doesn’t show up, and those who do explore some strange rumours that a nearby cave lets you pick up weird radio signals. You play as Alex, a high school graduate who has just gained a new step-brother, Jonas, along for the trip, with her long-term friends Ren and Nona, and the Cordelia of their gang, Clarissa. Carrying a portable FM radio, at Ren’s encouragement she tries to pick up these weird signals, triggering a series of inexplicable supernatural events that see them scattered around the island, sometimes possessed, sometimes dead, utterly confused, and trying to unravel a decades-old mystery before their time is up.

I don’t want to be a dick about this, but I think it’s pretty important to say how Oxenfree really demonstrates how hacky and half-arsed is the majority of what churns out from Telltale. The script is written by Adam Hines, who was the lead writer for Telltale’s only not-awful recent series, Tales From The Borderlands. And just like how their losing The Walking Dead’s Sean Vanaman to see him co-create Firewatch, losing Hines suggests they’re simply not able to facilitate their top talent to unleash their creative best. Because Oxenfree takes those key elements of those Telltale games – dialogue choice defining progress, character relationships adaptable to the decisions the player makes, story ruling over puzzle – and shows you how they can be bloody masterful.

Every single aspect of Oxenfree is so supremely well designed, from the speech bubble dialogue selection, to the birds-eye view third-person perspective, to the way the radio tuning is unobtrusive and elegant, to the exemplary way the island opens up to the player until it’s completely free to access, to… oh, everything. And it’s beautiful. The character animations are so subtle, but so wonderful, the backgrounds gorgeously painted, the presentation of the visual disturbances, the time distortions, the invasions of horror, all exquisite. But more than anything else, it’s the script. It’s Whedon if Whedon weren’t terrible now, the two-thousand-and-teens teens speaking in fast, witty bursts, out-sniping each other in a manner that is affectionate or cruel with pitch perfection. But with depth, pathos, real senses of untouched personal histories that influence who they are and how they act. They’re not “sassy” as they so agonisingly could have been; they’re smart and smart-mouthed, millennial in an honest and perspicacious way that television has so far failed to even understand.

It answers enough questions not to frustrate, but leaves enough unknown not to patronise or undermine your own imagination. It’s a game that gets so, so much right, and very, very little wrong. Goodness me, I wished I’d played this back in January.

Oxenfree is currently a bonkers 75% off on the Steam Sale, so only £3.74! It’s on Humble too, but £16.49.

87 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Captain Narol says:

    I just discovered it 5 days ago thanks to Sir Tim Stone’s confession of addiction, but “Warbands : Bushido” is definitely my game of the year despise being only in Early Access yet ! (well, unless I find something even more perfectly suited to my taste in the 3 remaining days)

    It’s quite the perfect mix between Battle for Wesnoth and Magic !

  2. thedosbox says:

    It’s Whedon if Whedon weren’t terrible now, the two-thousand-and-teens teens speaking in fast, witty bursts, out-sniping each other in a manner that is affectionate or cruel with pitch perfection.

    Sold.

  3. caff says:

    Thank you for describing Oxenfree in such impassioned words that perfectly sum up my own thoughts about it. It’s a wonderful and haunting experience of a game, and one that made me rant and rave about it’s effect on me to my non-gaming friends and family. Yes, they looked at me like I was a loon.

    If you haven’t played it, I also recommend Virginia, which is similar in strength of story and production to both Firewatch and Oxenfree.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      It’s another oversight of mine this year, and it’s in fact already running on this machine waiting for me to start.

      • Premium User Badge

        subdog says:

        I’d also recommend doing a second playthrough of Oxenfree if you get the chance. There is more story (and kind of a dark twist) there waiting for you on a second play- if you can find it.

        Edit: Should have scrolled down just two inches.

      • noodlecake says:

        Yeah. And even more if you play a third time. ;)

  4. aamosnyc says:

    Please tell me you replayed Oxenfree. It’s… different… the second time around.

  5. Yachmenev says:

    Will we get a list like this from each RPS contributor?

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      It’s not planned. And were anyone to want to, hopefully not before we’re back so they’re not working during their holiday!

      • Yachmenev says:

        Well, Oxenfree and Pony Island are two of the games left that I feel I have to play of this years games, so thank you for reminding me.

        And thanks for this years works with the site, the one gaming site I follow regularly.

  6. Blastaz says:

    A few sale suggestions from me, chosen randomly, not all from this year:

    Punch Club 3.49 great management come fighting game. Really good Indy developer continued supporting the game after they had a great start.
    Technomancer 11.89 a great Spyder rpg. Really good world building North Korea on Mars. Ok fighting mechanics. Good plot and choices.
    Mad Max 5.50 great open world, fun fury road art style. Quite like shadow of mordor. But with cars and cams of maggots. At this price a steal.
    Hegemony 3 5.74. Good real time with pause town based strategy game fighting over early roman italy.

    Pre dynastic Egypt 5.09. Not discounted so no reason to buy now but great puzzle cum strategy game telling a story of the founding of Egypt.

    Transitor 2.99 beautiful painterly isometric “turn based” rpg, cum brawler with an amazing soundtrack and world building. Buy the soundtrack version.

    40,000 space marine 4.99 Purge the Unclean!

    • Premium User Badge

      Lars Westergren says:

      I second Predynastic Egypt.

    • Optimaximal says:

      If you can hack buying from Bundlestars, they have Mad Max for £3.99, which becomes £3.59 with the code ‘Wintersale10’.

  7. lokimotive says:

    I’m really surprised that Gonner hasn’t been mentioned as among this year’s best. Hopefully, one of the writers will single it out. I’ve had a lot of fun with it this year.

  8. vahnn says:

    [Yelling about Dark Souls 3]!

    Cereally, it’s my favorite game of the year.

    • ColonelFlanders says:

      It is my favourite game of every year until Dark Souls 4 (never ) comes out. Please, help.

  9. Drakedude says:

    If you’re not willing to mention Sorcery’s grind, you shouldn’t be reviewing it. Part 1 is blissfully free. Part 2 introduces time travel mechanics, and penalises you for not using them. Depending on your adventure up to that point this could be brilliant or just goddamn boring and frustrating as you neuter all your original choices and learn the best option by rote.

    Part 3 can be played straight-forwardly, or you could be fool enough to search the whole map at length in order to beat it (and fail, grudingly accepting the first option.) Part 4’s time travel is just a goddamn stupid idea which undercuts the whole point of one of it’s mechanics.

    The writing is consistently good and the choices are satisfying, though the forward motion and lack of factions/rare recurring characters will usually define you by your actions today and not yesterday.

    • Premium User Badge

      subdog says:

      I mean, every episode has the ability to rewind and try other choices at any point in the game, so I’m not sure the “neuter all your original choices and learn the best option by rote” critique holds a lot of water.

      • Drakedude says:

        The game encourages you to continue because “live or die” failstates are rare. Usually i change as little as possible when i rewind on death, and it’s at my exact location.

        Rewinding from previous locations repeatedly gets old fast.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      “If you’re not willing to mention Sorcery’s grind, you shouldn’t be reviewing it.”

      What an absolutely extraordinary statement! The games contain no grind at all, since they contain no levelling, no enemy levels, literally nothing one could conceivably describe as “grind”! I’d suggest anyone who *did* mention it might not be ideal to review it, since they’d have gone mad.

      • Drakedude says:

        Sorcery 4 forces you to replay from exactly the same point (not your present location) whenever you die, often repeating your previous actions to progress. Sorcery 2, depending on how many times you have to time travel to solve the mystery, leads to the same. Sorcery 3’s slogging across the map leads to a lot of repetition too.

        Maybe i’m too uneducated to call it “grind”! But it aint good.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          That’s the thing I hated about Half Life. Every time I died I had to play the same bit over again until I didn’t die. Way too grindy.

        • Premium User Badge

          Grizzly says:

          It’s perfectly possible to play trough Sorcery 2 just once: The option is offered to you on the spot! Sorcery 3 too can be rushed trough if you want to, and Sorcery 4… When you are doing the same thing over and over in Sorcery 4, chances are you are missing out on a lot of things. There’s several solutions to the final problem and if you fail, the archmage straight up tells you one of them…

    • Premium User Badge

      syllopsium says:

      Complete disagreement here. Sorcery! 2 shouldn’t require too much re-playing because of the amount of rewinding on offer by the time the gate is reached.

      Sorcery! 3 I actively enjoyed rewinding and searching the entire map, and even then I missed things – I know there’s a tunnel under the mountain, and I don’t know where it is (no spoilers, please). It’s fun to play with the timehouses, although I admire the people that have managed to destroy the time serpent without using the timehouses..

      Sorcery! 4 I’m still playing, and yes, parts are a bit repetitive but you then get to replay with different options when you die. It’s perhaps a bit of a copout to reduce your maximum stamina by one each time you die, but then find a way of increasing your maximum stamina, though..

      If that’s grind, it’s far better than the number of tedious trash mobs I’ve had to fight through in other RPGs.

    • Freud says:

      I wouldn’t say they are grindy but there is a lot of trial and error involved. This has some gameplay implications. There are so many fail states that Inkle had to create the rewind system because otherwise it wouldn’t work. Players wouldn’t restart the game if they die. They would just quit playing. But the rewind system completely eliminates any kind of tension in the game.

      I liked the writing for the most part and love the artwork, but as a game I don’t think Sorcery! worked all that well. Shallow combat system, obtuse spellcasting system and lots of trial and error. I just played the first two and it’s possible the third and fourth work better as games.

  10. Viral Frog says:

    I’m a HUGE fan of Enter the Gungeon (and I’m actually starting to become really decent after 55+ hours played), so I’m really glad to see it made someone else’s top list. I agree that it doesn’t do anything particularly new, but that it does everything fantastically. The gameplay feels so smooth, the variation between the crazy number of weapons, the synergies between passive items, and that dodge roll is probably the best dodge roll I’ve ever encountered in a video game. Gungeon is easily my GOTY for 2016.

  11. Faldrath says:

    Hi John! Not sure if you’re reading this, but this seems the perfect place for me to gush about Forza Horizon 3, and since I seem to remember that you love Burnout Paradise, you’d really, really love FH3. It’s got all the best bits of Burnout (save the emphasis on crashes) and all the best bits of Test Drive Unlimited 2 and adds a lot of best bits of its own.

    It’s so generous, and so well done (PC port issues notwithstanding), and such a celebration of driving with a handling model that manages to not be completely arcade-unrealistic while at the same time it’s just realistic enough to make it interesting.

    And it’s so customizable, and there is always something new and interesting to do, and it’s pretty, and it sounds great, and it never nags you to do anything (it just tells you there’s something new, but if you don’t focus on it – other than festival expansions, it just lets go).

    And it has SO. MANY. CARS. I’ve been dreaming about a good car-collect-athon for PC for a while, and TDU2 wasn’t it, the Grid games were almost it, but this is it. This is really it.

    It’s just so… joyful. That’s the TL;DR: Forza Horizon 3 is full of joy. Go play it, please.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      Eurgh, it’s Windows 10 store only, right?

      Am I allowed until a grown up tells someone to release it properly?

      • Faldrath says:

        Yeah, Win store only, I’m afraid, *but* there is a demo! Demos are good, right? We like demos.

  12. Alex says:

    “[Oxenfree] actually beats Firewatch for dialogue and acting.”

    I disagree pretty firmly with this personally, but you make a good case John! I think what’s interesting to note is that both games excel in (very different) areas that have been notoriously hard to get right–jaded middle-aged adults, and millennial teens.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      Oh my goodness, your first sentence is the loveliest thing I’ve read on the internet this year. I’m barely joking. God bless you, thank you.

      • skeletortoise says:

        It amuses me to read this as you complimenting his quotation of you. “Brilliant analysis” – Narcissus, pro games reviewer.

        • geldonyetich says:

          I think what he’s saying there is that, if you’re going to post a disagreeing post, that’s a refreshingly polite way to go about it on the Internet, where everybody is a tad overly prone to jump to a polarized worst interpretation of what was written.

    • KenTWOu says:

      @Alex
      Mechanically speaking, Oxenfree still beats Firewatch for dialogue and acting.

  13. Frank says:

    So this Sorcery! thing, is it a good experience when played on a tablet? I’m thinking of getting it that way instead of on PC.

  14. Koozer says:

    Can anyone give a guide as to how long each game requires to get through? Time is short these days :(

    • Frank says:

      Google led me to a “howlongtobeat” site. All of them are quite short except Sorcery! at like 40 hours, and Gungeon which is endless (since it’s a roguelite).

    • Viral Frog says:

      In the case of Enter the Gungeon, I have 55 hours played and have not yet fully cleared the game. However, I am improving to where I’m now consistently making it to the second to last floor of the game. I’m sure some people have done it in less hours than I have, and some many more. Depends on how long it takes you to really grasp the mechanics and bullet patterns of all the enemies and bosses you encounter.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      Rough guesses, because I’m terrible at getting this right:

      Pony Island: 2 hours
      Oxenfree: 4 hours
      Epistory: 6 hours
      Firewatch: 5 hours
      Sorcery!: 30 hours
      Gungeon: ∞ hours

  15. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to see Oxenfree finally get some more recognition at RPS. I know it’s hard to stay on top of every great game, but this one is firmly in the RPS wheelhouse and it was disappointing to see it come and go so quietly.

    Good on you for revisiting and doing it justice, and on your holiday no less.

    • caff says:

      Pip absolutely nailed it in her review, and I now feel ashamed that, like John, I parked it in that part of my brain that says “maybe one day, if I have time”.

      It’s interesting to read from others that a second run through presents new angles – I’m going to re-install and have another go. Thanks lovely RPS community :)

  16. cpt_freakout says:

    I’m also glad to see Oxenfree getting some love. I also thought that the sound design and the music were pretty great. I listened to the OST apart from the game a couple weeks ago, though, and it’s one of those rare cases where the music shines even more when the game’s being played. On its own, it’s an OK soundtrack, but with the game it becomes something much greater. I guess my point is: Oxenfree’s awesome.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aitrus says:

      The music and the sound design is so good that I never ever want to hear it again because it’s become so unsettling. Thinking largely of the music that plays when you’re doing the reset crank thing. Curse that music! And bless it because it serves its purpose so well in making me want to curse it.

  17. davorable says:

    Thanks so much for this list! Hope your year is better next year. I also really enjoyed enter the gungeon. I haven’t played the other games on this list but they look interesting.

  18. sosolidshoe says:

    “Pony Island” – welp, guess I’m in the not useful camp. I’ll never get why anyone can enjoy these pretentious meta-meta games, they’re meme games for people who can’t stomach admitting they like meme games, so need them to be wrapped in a layer of hipsterish meta-deconstruction(thus making them “clever”).

    • gwop_the_derailer says:

      What makes Pony Island pretentious or memetic?

      • HothMonster says:

        Him not liking it

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        Incidentally, beginning a comment or forum post with “welp” makes it pretentious and memetic. Not sure what about Pony Island, though.

    • Eukatheude says:

      I thought it was tedious, while pretending to be much smarter than it really is. I even got my money back.

  19. Premium User Badge

    pertusaria says:

    Thanks for this, John – I’ve been looking forward to a leftovers-style article or two. I like the Advent Calendar, but the ones that get away tend to be less obvious and therefore more interesting.

    Hope your 2017 is less crap, and thanks for brightening up 2016.

  20. icarussc says:

    Brilliant, John, thank you so much for this additional summary. I picked up Pony Island on Tuesday based on RPS’ earlier recommendations, and while it didn’t hit me the way that it did you (or maybe I just played it wrong / missed the important parts!), I thought it was clever and fun. I’m also snagging Firewatch and Oxenfree right now, thanks to you gents.

    And yes, I feel more or less exactly like you about Enter the Gungeon! It’s a wonderfully good time, and I wish I were skilled enough to ever hope to see the lower levels! My five-year-old son loves it for its cuteness, so I keep hoping the devs will add a kiddie mode, but every time it’s brought up in the forums, the hardcore crowd go mad, so it seems unlikely.

    Anyway, happy new year!

  21. MadTinkerer says:

    GLITTERMITTEN GROVE JUST CAME OUT

    I’ve only played for a couple hours, but it’s already my Game Of The Year. What’s so special about Glittermitten Grove? Well, for starters:

    :)

    (I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler…)

  22. Premium User Badge

    syllopsium says:

    Damnit, John, I’d bought all the games I wanted off GOG and Steam and here you are recommending some very cheap options (Pony Island and Oxenfree look like they may end up in my basket. I don’t like buying anything using DRM, so only ever buy very cheap Steam games, apart from the ones that are Steam and DRM only. I’d buy Portal 3 in a heartbeat..)

    I’m currently also playing Sorcery! 4, but I dropped my tablet and broke it. I’m sorely tempted to see if the 3D maps work on my 3D monitor, and re-buying them all for £8.37 on Steam…

  23. Mi-24 says:

    Interesting read, whilst I’ve read about quite a few of these, they seem to have passed my library by. Will probably pick them up one by one in the occasional sale and realise “oh wait these are great” several millenia after everyone else did.

    Have a happy new year John (and everybody else as well) and I hope your 2017 is a good one.

    P.S: It’s good to know somebody else is as bad at Enter the Gungeon as I am, maybe there’s hope yet

  24. Pravin Lal's Nuclear Arsenal says:

    I should really replay Oxenfree. I played it on my brother’s laptop during one of our cultural exchange programs we have every once in a while, when we’ll borrow each other’s PC for a weekend and I’ll try to understand what the hell is so enjoyable about Sunless Sea anyway and he’ll try to figure out why I raved for days about the brilliance of the alarm level mechanic in Invisible Inc. He’ll also question the entertainment value of spreadsheets, the filthy heretic.
    Anyway. I only had time for one playthrough and I really can’t be arsed to replay it from the start twice, but I also fear I won’t really appreciate a new game + run months after the first playthrough. I guess I can just buy it and have him send me the save file?

  25. April March says:

    I’m torn about Oxenfree being something I really don’t like and something I really love. I might end up playing it because it’s one of the few games that runs on the Linux netbook my girlfriend loaned to me while my main rig is on the fritz.

    I heartily agree with John that Enter the Dungeon is quite possible The Best Game I’m Rubbish At, an incredibly crowded category.

    OneShot isn’t some left-of-left-field peculiarity, only of possible interest to hipsters who otherwise only play Sega Master System games that were only released in Portugal.

    Hey, don’t go dissing Chapolim contra Drácula: Um Duelo Assustador!

  26. pandiculator says:

    Love the One Shot love. It’s brilliant!

  27. TychoCelchuuu says:

    Howzabout Kentucky Route Zero Act IV?

  28. geldonyetich says:

    Thanks for some nice additions to my wish list.

    Not sure if Firewatch/Oxenfree/Pony Island are really my bag, though. Sure, they’re marvelous narratives, but I likes me some gritty simulation over putting on airs. That feels like a confession. Sometimes I can’t make up my mind if I’m an scientist with the soul of an artist or the other way around. But no, the problem I have with those games is it seems to me as though they were conceptual experiments than games.

    There’s a certain quality of a game that, upon just looking at it, I know it’s doing it right. Undertale had that feeling. OneShot did as well. It’s not the pixels, it’s what they did with them. It took… love.

    Perhaps I’m overlooking something in the former trio. I should give it another gander to confirm my feelings.

  29. Zorn says:

    Thank you!

    I really enjoyed reading this list. And I was additionally
    happy, as I’ve yet again been hit by a bout of insomnia,
    to have something positive to read. I also forgot about
    Oxenfree. It sounds like everything I’ve been missing
    from similiar games, that wouldn’t deliver on their
    promises, or at least their stated intentions.

  30. Konservenknilch says:

    Great list, well written.

    As my own, I’ll add Obduction, by Cyan, probably my best kickstarter experience yet. Also, I love the Myst games. Which will get me insta-banned here probably. Teehee ;)

  31. LennyLeonardo says:

    Dear John, you’re brilliant. I love this site and the amazing games I have discovered through it. I’m now off to play Oxenfree. Thanks!

  32. Vurogj says:

    It wasn’t until a week or so ago, when I looked back at my Steam library to see what I actually played this year, that I realised the three 2016 games I’ve enjoyed the most were Oxenfree, Firewatch and Pony Island. Personally, it wasn’t even close, those were miles ahead of anything else new I’ve played (until Motorsport Manager got it’s laptop friendly 2D mode at least).

    Thanks for the great write-ups John.

  33. Premium User Badge

    kfix says:

    Thank you John, and may your 2017 be brighter. You’ve certainly brightened my 2016.

  34. Chitzkoi says:

    Created an account to say thanks for this list… need to get cracking.

    Looks like work will be suffering in January.

  35. UW says:

    Much appreciated – of all the RPSers I would say my taste aligns most closely with John’s so this is a valuable resource for me!

  36. magogjack says:

    I got moderated ??
    Ok well sorry to offend, was trying to be light hearted….

    It really is a good list.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      I’m so bored of the completely baseless claims that most of my coverage is negative that I’m just deleting them on sight.

      • magogjack says:

        Thats fair, I try to do it tongue in cheek, but if its not funny for you then it isn’t for me either.

        Sorry again.

  37. aoanla says:

    I’d been wanting to try out Pony Island for a bit (ever since it was mentioned on RPS back in January, in fact), and this swayed me to finally getting it… but I’ve found that it’s surprisingly hard to actually play on a laptop [I know, it does warn you that bits of it need a mouse, but I didn’t expect it to need quite as much rapid movement as it actually does, surprisingly early on]. I really really wish that games like this [and Undertale also counts, here] actually avoided the physical skill/capability locks on progress :(
    I was moderately enjoying it, too [despite some reliance on the “keep failing at a thing until help arrives” mechanic, which sometimes makes it hard to work out where you’re supposed to keep failing until deus ex machina, and where you need to be actually skilled], but the rest of it is going to have to wait until I actually get back to a desktop with a mouse…

  38. k47 says:

    This article was the reminder I needed that I had to buy the Sorcery series, and so I have before I forget again. I’ll be playing it through the weekend, thanks!

    I had an eye on all of these games at one point or another, and I played a few, Oxenfree in particular being my favourite one. However I’m kind of dissapointed the ARG they were doing post-game didn’t go anywhere, or at least I couldn’t find if there was any conclussion to it.

    I think Rimworld is the only game that absolutely absorbed me during 2016, but I wanted to give mention to Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun for making me love a style of game I was convinced I hated. It’s that well made, with a downloadable demo to boot.

  39. Stevostin says:

    “I don’t want to be a dick about this, but I think it’s pretty important to say how Oxenfree really demonstrates how hacky and half-arsed is the majority of what churns out from Telltale. The script is written by Adam Hines, who was the lead writer for Telltale’s only not-awful recent series, Tales From The Borderlands”

    Yeah well I am sure Kentucky Road Zero was supposed to do that but I’ve never managed to get through the first chapter (did that twice). Even as a non native, I understand how its writting may be seen of superior material to the mainstreamities of Tell Tales. It’s also vastly inferior in term of dramaturgy. And dramaturgy is not more important than writing in entertainment. Dramaturgy is key in entertainment while good words only matter to people who have a *real* liking for word, and that’s even less than the people who have a *real* liking for music. AKA we’re far below the 1% and stylish writing can be seen as anecdotic at best (and more often than not, counterproductive) to the entertainment that are video games.

    What everyone cares more about than stylish writing is the good dramaturgic writing – you know, that things that drives you through those hours on Netflix. Ppl who writes poestry may not be doing a buck over that (because more or less nobody really care) but ppl able to put up solid dramaturgy (which is a tough craft) do get paid for that because people do want that.

    Tell Tales brings two things: smart licensing and dramaturgic standard up to the metric of TV Shows. And really what they do should be more compared to any TV Show rather than a video game. It’s TV Show with a superior degree of engagement for the viewer thank to artifice. And there’s nothing wrong with that, Artifice is the material of story telling.

    Side notes: I do admire The Borderlands bit of Tell Tales, but I also have a hard time coming to it to complete it. It’s interesting, inventive, generous, and it’s also lacking strong dramaturgy (thank to the weak dramaturgy of the two main protagonists). I have had a much smoother run completing The Walking Dead Season 2. When I play that, I am taken. I want to know what will happen, I care for Clementine. I know it’s all because I’ve walked in an engineered dramaturgic trap and that’s all right because like everyone buying his fictions, it’s exactly what I know I’ve bought.

    This is not to say we shouldn’t celebrate games which aim for that unusual, interesting angle rather than your calibrated emotional rollercoaster. It’s just like the only legit/useful critic evaluate an item according to the goals of their authors/publishers rather than the one of the reviewers. Tell Tales games should be seen in that context IMO, which would provide a pretty different outcome. All of sudden Tales of the Borderlands would be criticized for the lack of charisma of its protagonists, which is typically the kind of things user reviews discuss on netflix. The video game aspects, apart from the brillant time out dialog / save system don’t need to be mentioned, as they don’t really matter here. etc.

  40. Premium User Badge

    MajorLag says:

    Not that anyone is likely to read this far down, or care what I think anyway, but my personal Game of 2016 is Recursed. It’s a brilliantly simple-in-conception puzzle game that may well be the only one to ever give me an actual headache trying to work it out. It’s well paced and designed, and challenging without becoming frustrating.

    OneShot is pretty darned good too. Loses a few points with me only because I’m getting a little tired of the replays-required-for-full-experience meme, but never the less totally worth playing at least once.

  41. Ejia says:

    Poor Horace. Didn’t even make it to the new year in one piece. Ah, well, I’m sure a little ritual sacrifice and he’ll be good as new.

  42. crotton989 says:

    I’m guessing this is limited to Steam games only, because if it wasn’t, Overwatch would be somewhere on here for sure.