Time keeps on slipping into the future
Is it time for Game of the Year already? Well, not quite. 2016’s going by fast, but not that fast.
Still, we’re six months in, and that means it’s time to look back on the year as it currently stands. We’ve had some huge disappointments (Mighty No. 9), but also some surprise hits (Doom, am I right?). So here it is: Our 10 favorite games of (the first half of) 2016, in no particular order.
Got something you think we missed? Let us know in the comments. Hell, maybe you’ll see it pop up on our actual Game of the Year list six months from now.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rise of the Tomb Raider ($60 on Amazon) finally hit the PC earlier this year, and it's about as good as I'd expect for a sequel to 2013's reboot. If we can't have Uncharted 4 on the PC, well, this is at least a decent consolation prize.
Lara's as nimble and deadly as ever, and though the story has some issues (too much shoved into optional codex entries) it's hard to care overmuch when the game's so fun to play. It's also drop-dead gorgeous—especially the ice tech on display at the beginning. And Lara's hair, of course.
The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine
At twenty or so hours long, it’s more massive than some actual games. Numbers aside, it’s also a poignant victory lap. It’s the end of the utterly superb Witcher 3, PCWorld’s 2015 game of the year, and according to CD Projekt it’s also the end of Geralt’s three game-long story—meaning it’s an absolute must-play for fans.
It took Jonathan Blow something like eight years and all the money he made on Braid, but The Witness ($40 on Steam) finally released this year—and it was worth the wait. You might say “It’s just a bunch of line puzzles” and, well, I can’t argue. But they’re great line puzzles, and engaging with the game on its terms (a.k.a. learning the mechanics piecemeal through experimentation) is incredibly satisfying.
If you need more to hook you than mere puzzles, The Talos Principle ($40 on Amazon, though often on sale cheaper via Steam) is still an excellent game and has a bit more narrative framework. But I hold The Witness in equal esteem.
Steve Jackson's Sorcery!
80 Days ($10 on Steam) was one of my favorite games of 2015—a choose-your-own-adventure game with a dazzling number of “If-this-then-that” scenarios to play out as you tooled around the world by train, plane, and (occasionally) robotic horse-drawn carriage.
Sorcery! ($10 on Steam) comes from the same studio, and is based off Steve Jackson’s adventure gamebooks from the 1980s. (Think: A combination of D&D with choose-your-own-adventure books.) Over the course of each episode you’ll guide your character through dozens of pivotal moments, similar to 80 Days, with the ultimate goal of recovering the Crown of Kings from the clutching hands of evil. The episodes released thus far have been great.
The first three episodes are out now on PC and are fantastic. Now we just wait for the conclusion to release this fall.
Everyone’s playing it. Everyone. It’s been a long time since I had a competitive multiplayer shooter where I could count on a group playing every night, but Overwatch ($40 via Blizzard) has captured my friends list.
And for good reason. It’s an excellent hero-based FPS in the vein of Team Fortress 2, featuring a cast of characters that burst with personality: Torbjorn, the Swedish dwarf mechanic; Widowmaker, the French sniper; Mercy, the Swiss medic angel. And something like eighteen others. It’s a ton of fun, and now that competitive ladders are out I’m worried I might get hooked even harder.
Overwatch runs like a champ on a wide variety of systems, too. We even managed to play some matches using AMD’s integrated graphics.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Doom’s overly-long back half, but the game’s going on this list anyway. Why? Because the raw mechanics are fantastic, and I had a blast playing it. Huge guns, over-the-top melee kills, levels littered with secrets, and demons that spray health packs all over the floor in their death throes like gory confetti. What else do you need?
Doom ($60 on Amazon or Steam) is the latest in a string of successful ‘90s shooter revivals (Wolfenstein, Shadow Warrior, Rise of the Triad) and it’s a trend I’m totally on board with. Keep the fast-and-fun shooters coming.
Stephen's Sausage Roll
It looks like a shareware game from 2001, but Stephen’s Sausage Roll ($30 on Steam) is one of the best puzzlers released in 2016. It’s certainly the most difficult. At the time of this writing, I’ve managed to finish maybe two puzzles out of…I don’t know how many. A lot. And that’s where I’ve been for about a month now, paralyzed by the puzzles I’ve left open.
So what is it? Well, you’re a man with a giant fork, and you roll your big sausages onto big grills. Sometimes you drop a sausage in the water, which is bad. Sometimes you burn a sausage—also bad.
It’s damn weird, but also incredibly satisfying to uncover new ways to manipulate your sausage. And no, that’s not a euphemism
Total War: Warhammer
Total War abandoning its historical roots for the fantastical, dwarf and vampire count-filled world of Warhammer? I was admittedly worried.
Yet Total War: Warhammer ($60 on Amazon), despite the awkwardly redundant name, is absolutely the shake-up that Creative Assembly’s flagging strategy series needed. Getting away from the bounds of human history allowed the studio to do something much more interesting with the game, with factions that play appreciably differently from each other and unique win conditions grounded in the Warhammer lore. It’s the best game in the series since Shogun 2, if not earlier.
Oh, and Creative Assembly finally managed to release a game without widespread performance issues and crippling bugs. Good job stepping up that QA department, team.
XCOM 2 ($60 on Amazon) launched with quite a few technical issues—at least on some PCs. Others ran just fine.
But that didn’t stop us (particularly my editor Brad Chacos) from sinking hours into this one. XCOM 2 is an excellent—and incredibly difficult—sequel that builds atop the bones of the beloved XCOM: Enemy Unknown, with a new concealment system and a story that has you on the run after the aliens conquered the earth. Beefed-up customization options let you personalize your squad of squishy soldiers—though putting your own touch on your squad means it hurts all the more when soldiers die—permanently—in the middle of a mission. Steam Workshop mod support is a welcome addition, too.
It’s easily one of the best turn-based tactics games this year, and better than Enemy Unknown, which a lot of people consider one of the better turn-based tactics games of the decade, if not all time.
Editor’s note: XCOM 2 is the first game since the Super Mario days of my youth that I immediately started playing again after beating it. It’s that good. —Brad
Quantum Break’s PC port was a little janky, though not unplayable, at launch. And thus I find it a bit hard to toss it on a “Best Of” list, having not had a chance to revisit/retest it.
That being said: I want to. Aside from the technical issues, Quantum Break ($60 via the Windows Store, Windows 10 only) is an interesting little thriller and a fascinating experiment. Its blend of live-action footage and the actual game doesn’t quite land, but I respect Remedy for taking a chance on it—and the writing is excellent, as always. A cliffhanger of an ending means I’m all prepped for Quantum Break 2. Now let’s cross our fingers it actually happens and doesn’t go the way of the apparently-never-going-to-happen Alan Wake 2.
"The Vive launch"
Bonus: I don’t know if I’d necessarily pick any of the HTC Vive VR headset’s lineup of launch games on their own. Each is a bit short-lived, a bit experimental—not to mention “still inaccessible to many people.” So VR gets only one (bonus) slot on the list, and it’s a group award.
The Vive deserves it, though. While Oculus’s launch lineup had more “real games,” the Vive’s tentpole titles—Job Simulator, Fantastic Contraption, Tilt Brush, Space Pirate Trainer, Audioshield—did more to prove the potential of this fledgling medium. Here’s to six more months of weird VR experiments.