2016 in gaming: The highlights of the year

At the end of every year, GOTY is undoubtedly the biggest topic for every publication that covers video games and the industry connected to it. But top lists are boring, and we want to spare you the time scrolling through a rather subjective version of what appears to be the ten best games that came out in the last twelve months. For this reason, let’s look at the most impactful stories of 2016 – what moved us, what angered us, and what the year essentially will be remembered for. Full subjectiveness ahead.

Tracer’s traces everywhere

Tracer has been the face of 2016. Beginning with the overly discussed presentation of her booty, leading to Blizzard removing a pose from their game, up to her big coming out only a few days ago. Overwatch is huge. From the impact of its open beta, completely destroying the launch of the admittedly inferior Battleborn, it was clear that Overwatch was here to stay. Its memorable heroes accompanied us for the bigger part of the year, and even if our fellow players not moving the payload keep infuriating us, we keep coming back to the best family-friendly shooter of this generation. On the Overwatch hype clock, it’s always high noon.

VR in the age of VR

With three major hardware launches, 2016 was the biggest year in the history of virtual reality gaming. Most importantly, it introduced many non-gamers to the wonders of modern game design and let them experience something they have never even dared to dream about. Next to HTC Vive, which is clearly and literally the richest VR gaming system the industry has to offer, PlayStation VR had a phenomenal launch and succeeded in opening up the medium to people who don’t own a high-end computer. Games such as Eagle Flight and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood amazed me and fulfilled desires I didn’t even knew I had. Thumper might be able to outclass any other rhythm game I’ll play in the future due to its intense and captivating feeling of presence. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is responsible for the most amazing asynchronous gaming experience I’ve ever had in my life. VR is new, exciting and fun, and with this great start and financial stability it provided, I can’t wait what the future holds for us.

Pokémon is back to its form

This year, The Pokémon Company finally realised that its values and heart lie within the first 151 of its beloved creatures. Pokémon GO is an unquestioned phenomenon, especially because it focused on bringing the heroes of our younger years back to the surface. Sure, Niantic had severe trouble keeping up with this unexpected onslaught of mobile game enthusiasts, but I will never forget the picture of people all age conquering streets and public parks just to hunt their dream of becoming the very best. Pokémon Sun and Moon built up on the fresh images and dared to finally move the franchise towards new territories and away from the stagnant formula that overstayed its welcome with the last two generations. By mixing up old and new while breaking its technical boundaries, Pokémon can celebrate the best year for the franchise since its origin in 1997.

Video game movies are still bad

It’s an unwritten law that video game movies are bad – and everybody who thought that 2016 could change this fact is a fool. The Assassin’s Creed series always lived from the sequences in the past, and nobody cared for the events outside the animus. Thus, it might not be the best idea to release a movie where only a third takes place where it actually matters. Warcraft: The Beginning mostly disappointed fans and confused non-fans with a truckload of lore, and the Ratchet & Clank movie based on the game was a way inferior pastime than the gorgeous game based on the movie based on the game. Gosh, I can’t describe how much I adore this PlayStation 4 masterpiece. After this year, I can only hope that Hollywood gets rid of the idea of transporting the stories of Uncharted and The Last of Us to the big screen.

The absence of traditional Nintendo

Yes, Pokémon was a big thing, but apart from that, Nintendo hasn’t had its best year. Despite being one of the fastest downloaded games ever, Super Mario Run earned critique for requiring an online connection and only offering three levels instead of providing a more carefully considered concept of being free-to-play with microtransactions. With Hyrule Warriors Legends and Super Mario Maker for the 3DS, we mainly received downgraded and respectively worse versions of great Wii U games that didn’t sell too well because of the poor number of console units sold. The Wii U is dying, and 2016 has written its death all over it.

Premium mid-cycle consoles and high quality pixels

While Nintendo fans desperately wait for the freshly announced Switch to play games again – and of course a prettier version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Sony and Microsoft fought their battle during E3. Halfway through the current console cycle, it’s time to talk about what systems are in the works, and both companies didn’t do especially well to sell their ideas to the longing consumers. After a sleep-soothing reveal, PlayStation 4 Pro is already out, but hasn’t managed to make a huge impact on the market. Xbox One Scorpio shrouded in mystery, but hey, it will have the highest quality pixels ever – yes, the console.

Remember, remember, the Shooter November

The pre-holiday launch window is always exploding with big triple-A titles coming out. Yet, this year was special. Within a mere three weeks Battlefield 1, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Titanfall 2 launched, which are all franchises that kinda rely on the same mechanics. Shooting is fun, but having them all at once isn’t the best way of getting the most of your experience. Weird that two of these three games are published by the same company. Have you heard of competitor analysis, EA? Might be something to consider for next year, so that you don’t have to sell your actually pretty good games for half the price a week later.

Flawed games that were never supposed to come out

There are always these games that have to deal with many obstacles during development. If you would have asked me a few years ago, I could have rather imagined the sun exploding than all these games to come out in the exact same year. After multiple additional delays, The Last Guardian finally saw the light of day – the heartwarming story was ruined by inexcusable frame rate drops and a camera made to be resented. I fell in love with the boyband and open world of Final Fantasy XV, but I hated how the linear second half and the franchise-typical story abstrusity took away all of its charm. Lastly, there was Mighty No. 9. Let’s not talk about Mighty No. 9.

Indies go big

If you would ask me for some honourable mentions of this year, there are a lot of indie games that come to mind. Inside earned amazing review scores and left a lot of room for discussion and interpretation while also creating a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. Severed made the Vita great again and surprised with depth, completely unexpected due to its gimmicky touch controls. Firewatch played with our emotions, whereas The Witness challenged our minds. In 2016, more than ever, you can get superb games for way less than the full sixty dollar price tag.

Game of the year?

So, after all this bait, what was the the game of the year? To be completely honest: I don’t know. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End provided me with incomparable movie-like presentation thanks to Naughty Dog continuing being the Nintendo of Sony in terms of perfection and quality. Overwatch never failed to keep my multiplayer sessions exciting and offered players from all different genres an easy way to join and master a team-based shooter featuring the most beloved cast of character of all time. No other racing game absorbed me as much as Forza Horizon 3 did, and delivered me such diverse, beautifully crafted environments and dozens of little graphical wonders to fall in love with over and over again. Dark Souls III let me die again, and it was great. Watch_Dogs 2 was stupid, but hell, had I fun fooling around in its hilarious and vivid version of San Francisco.

The collective of terrific and diverse games is admirable and unchallenged by most other years. Video games have come to an age where they able to transport an incredible amount of different emotions, scenarios and interesting characteristics, but all this on a much bigger scale and with less boundaries every year. With a huge spectrum of feelings and many surprises, 2016 was all but boring, and I can imagine in no way how next year will look like.

Shinigaming

Thank you for reading our articles this year – no matter if news, reviews, opinion or event coverage. You are the best. What’s your fondest memory of 2016 in gaming? Do you have a personal GOTY? Tell us in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter!

  • Liebt schwarzen Kaffee und Musik mit Schreierei. Ist Gründungsmitglied, aber trotzdem furchtbar schlecht in kompetitiven Spielen. Besitzt ein lebensgroßes Schlüsselschwert um die Welt vor herzlosen Reviews zu beschützen.

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