It's only the midway point but 2016 is already looking to be a great year for gaming, filled with high profile successes, unexpected surprises, and a really strong lineup of indies. In fact, the first half of the year has delivered some truly impressive interactive experiences, many of which will likely stand out for years to come. And so, without further ado, here are the top 10 games of 2016 so far.
10. Quantum Break
What We Said: "Quantum Break makes for what can easily be considered one of the best console exclusives that the Xbox One has seen thus far, and this is the result of a number of different gameplay mechanics and story-telling decisions. It’s true that the narrative can be a lot to take in as a result of cutscenes and the live-action television show, and even more of what is happening in the world surrounding Jack Joyce is found through collectibles and in-game emails – which some may simply just not want to read. Taking the time to understand what’s happening in the game is well worth it, though. Meanwhile the story-altering decisions may not be as impactful as fans had hoped, but they do help to see certain side characters through (at the very least) to the end of the game."
Why You Should Play It: Quantum Break is an experiment in combining video game and TV series that, while admittedly full of stumbles, offers something unique. It’s gameplay calls back to the days of Max Payne in some fun ways, the time travel story is well thought out, and there are some clever visual flourishes throughout. Those who own an Xbox One owe it to themselves to give the game a try; they might find more than they were expecting.
Available On: Xbox One and PC
9. XCOM 2
What We Said: "At the end of the day, XCOM 2 is the poster boy of the modern turn-based strategy game. The game can feel unfair at times, but Firaxis has crafted a dynamic experience with virtually limitless replay value and a constant level of challenge. Fans of the series will find plenty of enjoyment watching the XCOM troops struggle to protect mankind once again, and Firaxis can pat themselves on the back for making one of the most addictive and rewarding strategy games of all time."
Why You Should Play It: Despite a few hiccups at launch, XCOM 2 builds on the refined strategy experience that Firaxis Games delivered a few years ago. There’s more depth to building your squad, greater tension to the battles, and a story that goes in some really unexpected directions. Even those who may not be intrigued by strategy titles should give XCOM 2 a look.
Available On: PC
8. Tom Clancy's The Division
What We Said: "The real strength of The Division is that it offers something for so many different types of gamers. The game plays incredibly well as a single player experience, the PvP zones are unique and game changing, and the end game offers a challenging grind that is complex enough to keep the hardcore fans engaged. All of that, in combination with the game’s many little touches like a brilliant sound system (play this game with headphones or surround sound and you won’t ever go back), great sense of humor, and a mysterious story, make The Division a must play for just about any type of gamer. "
Why You Should Play It: Tom Clancy’s The Division has experienced some soaring highs and crushing lows since its launch, but either way it’s hard to discredit the hype surrounding the game. Exploring evacuated New York City and collecting loot was an instant appeal to the game, and the promise of a deep endgame experience kept us grinding away. If nothing else, the introduction of The Division’s Dark Zone should stand out as a unique approach to PvP and one that we hope more games “borrow.” Yes, the game has struggled to keep its players happy, but great strides have been made to improve the core experience. And now there is a lot of content for newcomers to explore.
Available On: PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
7. Ratchet and Clank
What We Said: "For younger gamers who missed this franchise the first time around, Ratchet and Clank is a perfect starting point. By the same token, veteran fans will be equally pleased at the opportunity to return to a familiar environment that doesn’t feel repetitive. With a stellar new game and a movie on the horizon, hopefully this is the first in a new chain of adventures for our favorite Lombax and robot team."
Why You Should Play It: Movie tie-in games are notorious for feeling like shameless cash grabs, but Ratchet and Clank bucks the trend by sticking to what the franchise has always done well. Better looking, more refined, and as entertaining as ever, this rebooted Ratchet and Clank origin story is pure platforming goodness. Don’t let the look fool you, Ratchet and Clank packs a lot more action and excitement than many of the other 2016 releases out there.
Available On: PS4
6. The Witness
What We Said: "Much like Braid, The Witness is a game design triumph. It takes great ideas and runs with them, all the while delivering visuals and themes that are just as strong as the gameplay at its core. Many titles released this year will be hyped as ‘must-play’ experiences — but few will have the longevity that this game will surely enjoy."
Why You Should Play It: The Witness is not going to be for everyone, but those who do buy into its puzzle-focused world will become instantly obsessed. Taking a very simple puzzle concept and expanding on it nearly endless ways, The Witness is the epitome of a layered interactive experience. It also does a great job of teaching the player new rules as they progress, ensuring that the lack of a clear narrative never gets in the way. Most importantly, the game offers the most a-ha moments of any game in recent memory, and that sense of accomplishment is enough to make it worth playing.
Available On: PC and PS4
What We Said: "Even without much motivation to replay the short campaign, Firewatch is still well worth the $19.99 price tag for the beautiful landscape, compelling mystery, and amazing character development. Firewatch isn’t a game for everyone, but if you love a good mystery, this is a must play."
Why You Should Play It: The first game from new developer Campo Santo Games, Firewatch is most concerned with telling a compelling yet grounded story. It has layers of mystery, some unique mechanics, and a gorgeous art style, but where the game really shines is in its writing and acting. When we talk about titles blurring the line between film and video game Firewatch stands out as one of the best examples. It’s the perfect game to sit down and immerse yourself in for a few hours.
Available On: PC and PS4
What We Said: "There’s no question that – despite uncertainty amongst the most diehard of fans – DOOM‘s reboot has managed to piece together an enjoyable experience. Its combat is as relentless and fast-paced as fans have come to expect, and this helps it stand out amongst a number of other shooting titles. Combat may become a little tedious after long stretches of play, the load times are a little lengthy, multiplayer is a smudge unbalanced, and SnapMap is a so-so addition, but the adrenaline-fueled gameplay and the ample replayability featured within the campaign makes this a standout entry in the FPS genre – let alone a worthwhile resurrection of DOOM."
Why You Should Play It: Heading into its launch, DOOM didn’t have much buzz around it. Then, the game hit and took almost everyone by surprise. For all intents and purposes DOOM is the modern update that many games seek to deliver, with fast pacing, tight gunplay, and intense enemy encounters. This is DOOM for the 21st century and a whole new breed of FPS experience. Strap in and play DOOM, you won’t regret it.
Available On: PC, PS4, and Xbox One
3. Dark Souls 3
What We Said: "Like previous games offered by From Software, Dark Souls 3 offers a unique experience that blends subtle storytelling, dark settings, and painfully difficult encounters to stand out from the crowd of other action games. The challenge is well worth the countless deaths and hours of practice for players who have the patience, but is likely one that should be skipped by gamers who prefer to get things right on the first try. "
Why You Should Play It: Souls purists have a lot to say about Dark Souls 3, but few can deny it is not a satisfying experience. The way the game ties back into the lore, the improvements to the combat and the deeper customization, and the visual style all add up to a mix of fantasy and horror that few games have ever delivered before. Admittedly, Dark Souls 3 is only going to appeal to a certain subset of gamers, but thanks to Bloodborne that cohort has grown considerably. Everyone is going to die a lot, but Dark Souls 3 sends the series off with a bang.
Available On: PC, PS4, and Xbox One
What We Said: "Despite only a handful of maps, no story, and no ranking system upon release, Overwatch more than makes up for all of that with its masterful focus on teamwork. The game is clearly designed with teamwork at its heart, which is a major strength, but can also lead to frustrations for any lone wolf gamers."
Why You Should Play It: By now few underestimate the power of Blizzard, who has delivered nothing but hits over several decades. Overwatch is just another in a long line of success for the developer, but it’s also something completely new…well for the studio at least. A team-focused FPS, or hero shooter, Overwatch is as addicting as it is balanced, but the product is still growing. Truly, launch was just the beginning for Overwatch and it’s hard to imagine our addiction lessening any time soon.
Available On: PC, PS4, and Xbox One
1. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
What We Said: "Independent of the hype or the series’ legacy, Uncharted 4 is worth the recommendation on its own merits. From the tremendous environments to the incredible character work to the globetrotting story, the design of the game is second to none, setting a new bar for interactive experiences. It’s true that Naughty Dog puts a lot more stock into story and character, but even then Uncharted 4 is pure, unadulterated fun. Those who want to dig deeper, however, will find a story that’s engaging, mechanics that are refined, animations that are technically excellent, and writing that’s mature but also playful. In every way the game feels like the perfect send-off to a beloved character and a major Sony mascot. Uncharted 4 is the best game of this generation, proving once again that Naughty Dog is filled with master storytellers and brilliant designers."
Why You Should Play It: Considering the game received a rare 5/5 score from Game Rant it should come at no surprise that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End leads the pack for the best games of 2016 so far. What developer Naughty Dog has been able to do on a technical and narrative level is second to none, and has set a new bar for visuals in gaming and character development. Moreover, the game ends a hugely popular series by sticking the landing and giving as much closure as possible. Put simply: if there is one game to play this year, we’d give Uncharted 4 first honors.
Available On: PS4
2016 still has plenty to offer gamers in the second half of the year, but thus far it’s fair to say there have been some really great titles released. Whether or not they will be able to stand up against the likes of No Man’s Sky, Gears of War 4, or Battlefield 1 is yet to be determined, but any who are looking for some entertainment now should look no further than the 10 games on this list.