With 2016 now well and truly over it is time to engage in one of the most well-renowned of Internet traditions - the totally not pointless top 5 list. As such, allow me to show you which games I enjoyed the most throughout this past year, and most importantly, which games I plan to continue playing well into 2017 as well.
Naturally, all of this is just my opinion and its based around the games I've actually had the chance to play, so don't be surprised if your favorite is nowhere to be found. Furthermore, the whole ranking business is mostly meaningless because I enjoy all of these games for separate reasons, so don't waste your time arguing why X is better than Y. And with all of these disclaimers now out of the way, let's get down to the fun stuff:
I am a big fan of both the Warhamer universe and the Total War series, so I fully expected I would enjoy Total War: Warhammer as well. But what did come as a surprise is how just how perfect this combination ended up being. Unlike our rather boring real world where everyone uses similar technology and fighting styles, the races in Warhammer are about as far removed from each other as it gets. The Vampire Counts don't use any ranged units and instead swarm enemies with vast undead hordes; the entire Greenskins 'battle strategy' revolves around taking the biggest rock and smacking the enemy across the face with it; the Dwarves mostly rely on superior technology and well-entreched defenses in order to compensate for their numbers, and so forth. All of this makes each campaign feel drastically different, and even though you're doing basically the same thing each time I can't say I've gotten tired of it just yet.
Another good thing about Total War: Warhammer, and I can already sense the pitchforks being sharpened, is all of the DLC. I haven't bought any of it because I simply cannot justify spending €15 for a single race, but luckily I don't have to because they appear on the campaign map for free! I might not be able to play as the Wood Elves or Beastmen, but having a constant trickle of new races is a great thing indeed as it keeps Total War: Warhammer fresh and interesting. Combine this with all of the balance updates and dozens of free battle-maps released so far, and you've got a strategy game I fully intend to keep playing well into 2017 as well.
We're only on the second member of this list and already I've started cheating! The Witcher 3 released in 2015, so technically it shouldn't belong here, but its latest expansion Blood and Wine did arrive in 2016, so that's my excuse. And it is a good excuse given that Blood and Wine is one of the best expansions I've ever seen! The world is vast and interesting, the story kept me constantly going forward until I could physically play no more, and the overall gameplay of The Witcher 3 has been brought to its absolute peak. If this is to be Geralt's final adventure before a much needed retirement, I am glad to say that he has gone out with a bang... in more ways than one!
But to understand why I love Blood and Wine so much you only need to take one look at the various quests you can undertake. There is basically no filler, and even some of the sillier quests out there offer enough of an emotional attachment that I found myself getting invested in the outcome. It is amazing how far a combination of good writing and voice acting can take an RPG, and after playing The Witcher 3 I simply could not get into any of the numerous generic open world games any more. If the choice is between completing 3-4 minigames ad nauseam or spending hundreds of quality hours with The Witcher 3, there's really not much of a choice at all, is there?
3) Dark Souls 3
Dark Souls is my favorite game of all time, and even though I hold a great deal of love for it I consider Dark Souls 3 to be the better game objectively. Its world is much larger, the monsters are more diverse and dangerous than ever, there is a far greater variety of viable weapons, and even the PvP imbalance is far larger than ever before! As it turns out, slapping dragons around with a mace made out of their bones is quite an enjoyable activity... well, unless you're the dragon anyway! But all joking aside, I had a ton of fun with Dark Souls 3 and have already managed to beat it twice, and with a brand new piece of DLC coming in the near future I have a feeling that number will soon become even higher.
On a slight side note, it is worth mentioning that the difficulty is greatly over-exaggerated, so if this has kept you away from the series I would recommend you reconsider. You will spend a lot of time getting your teeth kicked in, have no doubt about that, but with each death you'll be slightly more prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. So just take things nice and easy, don't charge forward like one of those bomb-headed freaks from Serious Sam, and you should be perfectly fine.
Unlike most of the games on this list, and in general, I've only heard of Shadow Tactics about a week before its release. And a good thing I did, because Shadow Tactics is one of the best stealth/strategy hybrids I've played in years. The mechanics are solid, the characters are surprisingly engaging, the Japanese setting is beautiful, and most importantly of all, the puzzles are so deliciously tricky that I couldn't tear myself from the keyboard until I've completed an entire level. There's nothing quite like that moment when you rise victorious after an entire hour of getting shot, stabbed, and blown straight off!
Shadow Tactics is a fairly niche game, however, so I'm fully aware that most of you won't enjoy such a thing. But if you number yourself among those players that enjoy deviously difficult puzzles that will force you to restart over and over again in search of a perfect solution, then you are most likely going to find a gold mine in Shadow Tactics. Each level has multiple ways to solve it, each character has a unique skillset, and each and every single new map brings with it new mechanics and features to toy around with. So if you're a fan of the Commandos series, or strategy games in general, make sure to give Shadow Tactics a look as well!
Ever since Valve more or less abandoned Team Fortress 2 I was left without a competitive shooter to play. Call of Duty and Battlefield are too 'serious' and way too random for me, while Counter Strike requires such a ridiculous amount of dedication that I simply cannot play it for long without fear of my sanity slipping away... and then came Overwatch. Given Blizzard's inability to even remotely balance World of Warcraft after a decade of trying I must admit I was skeptical about Overwatch, but once I finally got my hands on the Open Beta I knew this was the game that will consume all of my free time moving forward.
So what is it that makes Overwatch so great? Well, besides the obvious stuff such as great audio-visual design, the most important factor for me is the character variety. Swapping from Genji to Ana feels like a completely different experience, and then swapping from that to Reihnardt feels even more distinct given that his playstyle is truly unique. What this means is that no matter how skilled you are, and no matter what type of playstyle you enjoy, there is something for you! Is your aim currently shit but you feel like you can outsmart the enemy? Go Reinhardt or Winston! Do you feel like an FPS god and just wish to tear the enemy limb from limb? Take Widowmaker or McCree! Do you like winning and would like to ensure your monkey-brained teammates reach a life expectancy of more than 5 seconds? Go for Ana or Lucio!
Combine all of this with the strategy and communication needed to actually beat a competent enemy team, and you've got yourself the virtual equivalent of hard drugs: easy to get into, but so endlessly addictive once you get started! But unlike my terrible analogy Overwatch is pretty damn great, and despite playing it for well over 200 hours now I feel I can easily put in double that amount without ever getting bored. So if you feel like adding a team-based shooter to your repertoire, I fully recommend you give Overwatch a try - it truly is one of the best games out there!
And there you have it: my favorite games from 2016, and games that I am highly likely to continue playing for many years to come. You might not agree with all (or any) of my choices, but I hope you can at least understand why I picked these specific games. Ideally, I hope you can give them a try for yourself as you might just have a sudden change of heart! And speaking of hearts, allow me to end all of this by listing the runner-ups, i.e. a bunch of amazing games that I greatly enjoyed but didn't feel like they belong at the very top for various reasons. Here they are, in no particular order:
• Civilization 6
• Stardew Valley
• Shadow Warrior 2
• Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen (PC)
• Darkest Dungeon
I hope you have a nice and productive year, and here's to an even better year in gaming!