2016 had a solid lineup of video game experiences that helped to make the past 12 months shine. From January kicking things off with the likes of Final Fantasy Explorers, The Witness, and Oxenfree all the way to December bringing us the long-awaited The Last Guardian as well as the zombie-fest that is Dead Rising 4. Even July, a normally slow month dead in the middle of summer, had some big titles for players to jump into such as Monster Hunter Generations, Hyper Light Drifter, and I Am Setsuna.
Exclusive releases also held down the fort quite well, with each platform putting out some of its biggest releases throughout 2016. Sony bolstered the library of the PS4 with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, The Last Guardian, and Ratchet & Clank, showing off the diversity on offer on the PS4 and delivering some of the best titles of the year. Microsoft also put its best foot forward for the Xbox One thanks to Dead Rising 4, Gears of War 4, and Forza Horizon 3. Nintendo isn’t to be forgotten either, even if its offerings on the Wii U were pretty light. Pokken Tournament and Pokemon Sun and Moon made sure Pokemon was always at the front of your mind throughout the year that marked the franchise’s 20th anniversary. Meanwhile, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE gave fans the Shin Megami Tensei/Fire Emblem crossover they’d been waiting for, and Fire Emblem Fates proved that the classic franchise is still a force to be reckoned with.
Then you have all of the amazing third-party titles that released throughout the year, whether they were full games or just mesmerizing expansions. Blood and Wine is one of the best video game experiences of 2016 and it’s not even a full game. Overwatch took the world by storm, winning several GotY awards and birthing a new esport pretty much overnight. Dark Souls III closed off the brutal series in grand fashion, bringing the challenging journey full circle. Shooters shined this year as well thanks to Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2. And we can’t forget the game that was over 10 years in the making. Final Fantasy XV proved to be worthy of the franchise name and was well worth the wait.
Of course, 2016 wasn’t without its low points, but thankfully there weren’t too many. No Man’s Sky had a very rough launch that is finally being addressed now. Homefront: The Revolution was riddled with bugs and other issues leaving the game largely unsatisfying. And if you were looking for multiplatform titles on the PC, chances are that you didn’t have the greatest experience over the last 12 months.
Still, for every bad game, there were three or more solid reasons to game this year. VR joining the scene in a big way in 2016 opened up libraries to a world of opportunities not previously possible and that may have made this year the best when it comes to game releases that we’ve seen in quite some time.
Surprisingly enough, even though the current generation of consoles is still relatively young when compared to past hardware, we saw quite a bit of new hardware this year. On the Xbox side of things we got the Xbox One S. Microsoft took the standard Xbox One, added HDR support, an UHD Blu-ray drive, and 4K streaming all in a much smaller form than the original release. Naturally, this meant that Sony needed to bring something to the table as well, so the company brought two new versions of the PS4 console in 2016 (one of which replaced the original standard model). The PS4 Slim is a smaller PS4 (if you can believe that) with all of the same features as the original system. The PS4 Pro is a more powerful iteration of the eight gen console, allowing for 4K gaming, 4K streaming, HDR support, a better VR experience, and more power for developers to adjust things like framerates, load times, and even resolution in their games. While each has its own supporters and detractors, it was cool to see the companies step it up in the middle of the generation to offer something fresh.
The new hardware didn’t stop at home consoles either. 2016 saw gaming officially dive into VR with the release of the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and the PSVR headsets. While all three are still light on huge experiences, they’re slowly proving that this is a viable platform that can offer games that we’d only dreamed of up until now. Hopefully, 2017 pushes these new platforms even further and develops upon the foundation laid this year.
We also received some announcements for hardware that isn’t due out until next year. Nintendo finally broke the silence on its secret project, the Nintendo Switch. It’s a home console that is also completely portable, allowing players to enjoy their games anywhere on the planet as long as they can get a charge. Before Nintendo broke the silence, though, Microsoft came clean about a secret as well during E3 2016 when they formally announced Project Scorpio, the most powerful gaming console ever. There aren’t a lot of details on either platform, but it was a full year as everyone started revealing the aces up their sleeves.
2016 was very big on choices when it came to gaming, and we’re talking beyond just having competitive platforms for you to choose from. Platforms are opening up and even putting their games on devices you probably would have never expected. Nintendo, the company with the tightest grip on its properties, ventured out into the mobile space where they’ve been raking in the downloads. Sony has put its game-streaming service on certain smart TVs as well as on PCs, allowing fans to jump into a large chunk of the PlayStation library without buying one of the consoles.
The company that has been doing the most with this new choice-focused initiative, though, has to be Microsoft. The company had already spruced up its PC and mobile apps, allowing Xbox fans to communicate with others in the community, browse content, set up play sessions, and more. But Play Anywhere was the biggest step in giving Xbox fans true freedom. All Microsoft games are available on both the Xbox One and Windows 10 at launch, with cross-platform play meaning you don’t have to miss out on playing with your friends. Even better is that Quantum Break, one of the first Xbox One exclusives to release simultaneously on the home console and Windows 10, made its way over to Steam, meaning Microsoft may just be looking to provide even more choice in the future.
It will be interesting to see how much more choice players are given in the coming year.
So How Was 2016?
To put it simply, 2016 was a great year for gaming as a whole. Even with its few shortcomings, most developers, publishers, and hardware manufacturers brought their A-game over the past 12 months. Not only did we see some stunning sequels, some of which have seized the top spot as best in their series, but we got some new titles that were just as amazing. You were hard-pressed to find a month where you had absolutely nothing to play, and that’s saying a lot. Even the summer drought served as an oasis for those looking for something to play before the holiday rush.
Hardware was a big deal, as well, opening up gaming in 2016 to fresh opportunities, especially because of the rise of virtual reality. While VR hasn’t completely caught on just yet, it’s quite intriguing, and in the right hands, it’s proven to be far less of a gimmick than previously thought. It’s allowing for truly immersive gameplay experiences.
When you combine all of the great games and new devices with the freedom being provided to players as time moves on, 2016 has changed the video game landscape for the better. Granted, we won’t see how big all these new introductions grow until 2017. But, if you just joined the gaming community in 2016, there has certainly never been a better time. We give gaming’s 2016 a 9 out of 10 and we can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for us.