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Justin’s Top Ten Games of 2016

Hey there.  Time to make one of these lists again.  I mean, who doesn’t like lists?

Before I get started here, I just wanted to thank everyone for supporting Talking Games and sticking with us in a year of transition!  It still blows my mind that people actually listen to what I have to say about any of this, so I just wanted to say thank you to all of you who help me get through arguing with Bobby every other week.  <3

Okay! Video Games time! 2016 was a really great year for games.  One might argue that all years are great for games, but it looks like 2016 will be one of those standout years people talk about for a while.  This year we got the rise of Virtual Reality, the return of the great FPS campaign, some legitimate surprises in the form of sequels and some reboots that were impossibly better than any could have hoped.  If 2017 is anywhere near this good, I weep for my wallet in advance.  So here in 10-1 order are my favorite games from 2016.


10) Steep– My late year obsession. The perfect “I just want to lay back, not think about anything and do cool tricks game.” Years ago, my buddy and I would go to Vermont and spend hours on the same trail because it had the most perfect jump.  We’d spend an entire day just working on this one jump over and over again.  Fast forward a decade and the two of us are doing the same thing in Steep.  Steep is one of those games that won’t be for everyone, but for those it hits with, it can hit hard.  Spending an entire play session trying to get gold on this one wingsuit challenge can be frustrating but when you get it, it feels great. Zero load times helps with the restarts and for quickly moving around the mountain.  Steep is a sneaky beautiful experience with some of the best sound design I’ve heard in a winter game.  It’s not Tony Hawk and it’s not Skate, it’s found that perfect middle ground.  It’s chill and relaxing and one of my favorite games of the year.  I’ll be playing this well in 2017.

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9) Oxenfree–  Hey.  Hey you.  Yeah YOU.  We’re you one of the countless people on my timeline raving about Stranger Things?   Oh, you were?  Great!  GO PLAY OXENFREE.  Looking at Oxenfree’s art style, you wouldn’t think they would be able to pull off creepy, but you would be totally wrong.  A teenage crew goes to an abandoned military island and finds out that things aren’t what they seem.  Tense with great characters and dialog, Oxenfree is well worth the handful of hours you’ll put into it.

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8) Battlefield 1– I wasn’t sure about the series move to World War 1.  I didn’t want to go back to older weapon types and away from a more modern combat game. I didn’t think Dice could pull it off.   Well, I was super wrong.  Battlefield 1 nails it in almost every single way from a gameplay perspective.  It has a campaign worth playing! That alone should be something worth celebrating but they didn’t stop there.  The large-scale battles are something no other game (on console) really can compete with. The sheer amount of destruction that two teams fighting over control points can inflict to a stage is staggering.  Good level progression is aided by a support system that allows all players to feel like they’re helping their team.  Died ten times? That’s okay! You healed the right player at the right time. That player helped capture the base we needed to flip the map in our favor.  Battlefield 1 is full of little moments of wonder.  In the span of a minute you can spawn into a plane, jump out, parachute down to a friendly tank, get in, shoot down some enemies, hop out and revive your teammates, just in time to look up and see the enemy airship blast you into a million pieces.  That’s Battlefield.

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7) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End– When Naughty Dog announced The Last of Us Part ll, I felt a quick moment of worry and then I remembered Uncharted 4 existed.  For as much as I think The Last of Us doesn’t need a sequel, I especially thought the same of the Uncharted series.  The ending of Uncharted 3 was a very good send off for the series, a fourth game wasn’t needed.  Well, there I go being wrong again.  Uncharted 4 is a technical and storytelling masterpiece.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still Uncharted.  There’s dudes to shoot, things to climb, and numerous somersaults to do, but it’s everything else that makes the game shine.  There’s an emotional story here.  It’s quiet moments shine. It’s loud, explosive moments can’t be matched.  Uncharted 4 has some of the best moments a game has to offer.

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6) Watch Dogs 2– My “hey I wasn’t going to play this at all and it turns out I love it,” winner. I was so turned off by the first game that I didn’t bother to pay much attention to Watch Dogs 2.  I’m glad I started to around the time it came out because this game ended up being super fun. It’s amazing what good writing can do for a game. I say that because Watch Dogs 2 gives us a shockingly lovable cast of characters. You wouldn’t think that going into it from some of the promotional material, but man, I grew to really enjoy spending time with those guys.  Also, what helps is a massive departure from the bland overly serious tone of the first game into a colorful, fun world.  Some interesting seamless PVP encounters can be distracting depending on how you enjoy those concepts, but the real draw here is the world and the characters in it.

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5) Deus Ex: Mankind Divided– Deus Ex was always a series that passed me by.  Never had jumped into one but after playing this game I don’t think I’ll miss another.  After a 10-minute intro video that does a great job of setting up the world you’re going into, I was familiar enough with the story to feel at ease.  That’s not an easy thing to do!  Jumping into a game mid-series is hard, but the developers did enough to make me feel welcome.  That being said, the gameplay is what drew me in the most. You have a ton of powers to work with and how you use them is up to your discretion.  I never do this (because I’m awful at stealth,) but I decided to play that way through the entire campaign, and it worked!  I beat the entire game without killing anyone and the game still made me feel like a badass while doing it.  Also, I can’t overlook the music in the game.  It’s not an overpowering score, but more subdued and suits the game perfectly.

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4) Hitman– I was late to the party on this one, but wow, Hitman is great.  I’ve dabbled here and there in previous Hitman games but never had one grab me like this.  Playing with a friend and taking turns trying different insane things to see if we can get away with it has been one of my favorite experiences of the year.  Playing the game however you see fit is amazing but also, doing escalation missions and trying to fit the mold the game wants you to is also a great way to go as well.  Go in guns blazing?  Poison the target?  Become a fashion model and walk the runway in Paris?  Hitman leaves those choices up to you.  It’s not a shooter or a stealth game, It’s a chaos simulator.  The more you try the more fun it becomes.  Currently, I’m trying to drop a moose on my targets head.  Yeah… Hitman is super rad.

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3) Dishonored 2–  Lets run down all the things Dishonored 2 does really well.  Choice of protagonists? Check. Inspired level design? Check.  Interesting world and setting? Check. Awesome powers? Check.  Stealth/assault gameplay?  Check, check and check.  Dishonored 2 is a game that does so many things right, it leaves you shaking your head.  The thing is, at least for me, it didn’t hit me until I was nearly through the game.  I was just enjoying my time with it and then it hit me how much I was having fun with it.  Missions 4 and 7 are some of my favorites in any game I’ve ever played.  Seriously, “A Crack in the Slab” is just a fantastic level from start to end.  Dishonored 2 is one of the more perfect examples( read on for the most perfect example) of a sequel done right.  Even if you never played the first game, you should play this.

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2) Titanfall 2 – In any other year, Titanfall 2 would be at the top of this list without a doubt.  The fact it came as close as it did for me to knocking Overwatch (and it was close) out of the top spot, should speak volumes about a massively impressive game.  Titanfall 2 does what a great sequel should do, it takes what worked very well in the first game (core gameplay) and adds some new things to the formula (campaign, new titans.)  The result?  A very good game becomes a generation defining game.  Titanfall 2 has the capability to redefine shooters in the way Call of Duty: Modern Warfare did ten plus years ago.  It’s fast and the gameplay is so smooth.  How do you explain that though right?  Once you play Titanfall, it’s hard to go back to other first person shooters. It’s like going back to when there was no sprint in games.  Everything feels like it was made to make you feel like you’re the best.  I was and still am blown away every time I start the game.  Did I mention the giant robots?  Oh, yeah those too. Titanfall 2 has six new titans, each of which is different enough, yet fun enough to keep you trying new ones.  The game has new abilities, new modes, and an impressive networking system that other games should steal immediately.  I haven’t even mentioned the campaign that tries new things and has maybe the best level I’ve ever played in a FPS.  Titanfall 2 is exhilarating.

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1) Overwatch–  Overwatch is without a doubt the shooter I’ve put the most time into since Halo 2. Nearly 200 hours in now and I cant get enough.  It’s a rare game that  has exceeded the hype surrounding it, and it being the next thing from Blizzard, there was a considerable amount of hype there.  It’s succeeded in the way it has for many reasons.  Overwatch is inviting. You see it and you want to try it.  It’s so colorful and it has beautiful art design.  It’s fluid and understandable gameplay is easy to pick up but has lots of depth for you to master.  It’s character roster is diverse and well balanced enough to make you want to try out everyone (spoilers: they’re all fun to play.)  Blizzard made a game where each class is fun to play.  That’s an achievement in itself.  Also the game rewards those who are in what other games would make the lesser roles.  You healed a ton of people and resurrected three people at the right time?  Here everyone, watch this play of the game. Quickplay is great.  Arcade mode is great.  Competitive mode is great if I’m winning!  There’s so much here that blizzard can play with.  The lore of this world is begging to be opened up more fully.  I cant wait to see what comes of this game in the years to come.  In the mean time ill be over here yelling GET ON THE #$%@ING PAYLOAD AND STOP POWERING UP ZARYA!

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Game that just missed the cut. 

Firewatch– A moving story with a beautifully designed world and the most natural conversations I’ve ever heard in a game.  The ending leaves you thinking about the game for a good while after you finish it. I debated putting this in the top ten and taking something else out all week.  I love this game to death, but the ending just fell a little flat for me.  Still, its an absolutely wonderfully made game and I highly recommend it to everyone


Best of the rest

Forza Horizon 3– The best car game I’ve ever played. I want to spend more time with it this year.

Gears of War 4– My favorite Gears game, starts and ends with a bang, but the middle areas are a bit of a slog.  Horde 3.0 is fantastic with friends though and Marcus does an amazing get off my lawn old man bit.

Overcooked – The best couch co-op game I’ve played in years.  Tell your friends about it and watch them laugh it off, but watch them play it, and watch them laugh hysterically.

The Witness– The most frustrating game I’ve ever played.  I’m terrible at it, yet I know it’s incredible.  The puzzles are so good and hard, that you feel like a genius when you solve them. Or you feel like a giant idiot.  I had both of those feelings many times.  However finding and solving your first environmental puzzle is one of the coolest video game moments I’ve ever had.  It’s one of those “holy crap WHAT” moments that very few things can pull of well.

Super Hot– Style, style and style!  That’s what Super Hot is made of.  I liked it more and more the longer I spent with it.


Game I wish I was better at so I could dig into it more


Games I’m bummed I didn’t get to check out

Stardew Valley, Mafia 3, Planet Coaster, The Turing Test, The Banner Saga 2, Dead Rising 4, Event [0].

Resolution for 2017

Finally playing The Witcher 3

Husband, Father, Nerd. Comic Book reader & Video Game player. You can find me weekly as co-host of the Talking Games Podcast and as a site contributor for Talking Comics.

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