I can’t think of a better year for video game releases this decade and these are my favourite 5 of the year. I’m not being super strict on release dates. I tend to buy games a few months after release to take advantage of sales, so there are a couple of games here that are from the last half of 2016 and one which is a re-release. They are however all games I played this year. I’m going to write a separate post on the Nintendo Switch which I think is a transformative gaming console. Not only is it a great bit of hardware it has had an astonishing run of releases two of which have made this list.
Owlboy has problems mechanically, it’s ultimately a so so twin stick shooter with some Metroid/vania mechanics. But it is stunning to look at, the pixel art is unbelievable. The story is touching but tragic with themes of environmental collapse and technological hubris. And the music is sublime, the overworld theme in particular just made me want to explore so I could keep listening to it.
4. Titanfall 2
The Titanfall single player campaign has some of the most inventive mechanics I’ve seen in a first person shooter. More than that it takes those mechanics which other shooters would advertise as their USP, creates an engaging level around them and then throws them away for the next thing. I didn’t even really touch the multiplayer and it was still one of the best things I’ve played this year.
3. Stardew Valley
The Switch version of Stardew Valley is the best version. Sitting in bed watering pixel art potatoes it turns out is all I want to do. Stardew Valley looks, sounds and plays gorgeously but when you scratch beneath the earth there is a faithful look at the highs and lows of rural life. It’s a game that reminded me of my childhood growing up in a village at times and a lovely place to spend time at others. It’s the perfect way to spend 30 minutes to relax after a stressful day at work.
2.The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I could play this game to watch it’s sunrises alone. It is astonishingly beautiful at times. I love Zelda games, Wind Waker is up their with the best games I’ve ever played. I don’t think Breath of the Wild quite hits those highs but at it’s best it is brilliant. There are some missteps, I’m not overly fond of the weapon degradation mechanic and the questing can be boring. But whiling away hours exploring it’s vast open spaces is sublime. I love the music, I love the combat, I love how interactive every object in the game is. Any other year this would be my favourite game by a long stretch.
1. Super Mario Odyssey
Super Mario Odyssey is easily my favourite game of the year. Super Mario 64 was the first time a video game seemed expansive and solid. 3D Mario games are the essence of video games to me and I was expecting that I would love this one. That it managed to surpass those expectations is astonishing. It is inventive, challenging, celebratory and utterly utterly joyous. It is one of the best games ever made and you should play it.