The 2016 Game of the Year
2016 was a great year for games, with quality titles spread across just about every genre and category. From indies to shooters, strategy to action to RPGs, this was a year in which the big releases never seemed to stop, to the point that we all enjoyed a pileup of quality shooters in the fall with games like Battlefield 1 and Gears of War 4 (when we could find time to step away from the addictive allure of Stardew Valley and Civilization VI).
There were so many games worthy of recognition this year it's impossible to fit them all into a single post, so make sure to check out our individual category awards for more of the best of the past twelve months.
Without further ado, here are the very best games released in 2016.
Runner-up: Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Uncharted 4 was our action game of the year thanks to its masterful blend of gameplay and storytelling, along with some of the best console visuals of this generation. It's one of those games that makes you sad that exclusivity exists, because it's a title every gamer should play and almost everyone will enjoy, regardless of their allegiance to PC or Xbox One.
2016 was a great year whether you were an established Uncharted fan or brand new to the series, as you now have the ability to pick up the first three games in a single collection before capping it off with one of the year's very best titles in A Thief's End. Playing through the whole series traces the evolution of the franchise from a high quality but fairly straightforward action/platformer into something far deeper, and follows the journey of protagonist Nathan Drake from adventuring young rogue to an aging man facing the realities of adulthood.
The fact that a near-flawless single-player experience comes packed with innovative and engaging multiplayer modes that have taken on a bit of a life of their own is just an added bonus on top of one of the best games of this or any year.
Runner-up: Titanfall 2
The first Titanfall was a very good shooter that was always going to live and die on the strength of its multiplayer scene, thanks to its total lack of a single-player campaign. When that scene failed to materialize in the long-term the game was regarded as something of a failure, but the enormous success of Titanfall 2 takes the great ideas of the first game and elevates them to new heights.
While Titanfall 2 is still a multiplayer-focused title, this time it features a story-driven campaign that is among the year's very best shooter experiences. The developers packed the relatively brief story mode with enough exciting gameplay twists, epic set-pieces, and surprisingly effective emotional beats to have supported a campaign twice as long, and what we get is a mode with all the fat cut away that is a wild joy to play, whether you're on foot, in a Titan, or jumping back and forth through time.
It remains to be seen whether Titanfall 2 can have the staying-power that the first game lacked, but it once again offers an exciting multiplayer scene packed with great ideas (like wall-running and jet packs) that are a lot more common in FPS games now, but which the franchise deserves credit for thrusting into the mainstream in a big way. You have a freedom of movement in Titanfall 2 that most other shooters can only dream of, and you also have access to giant robots you can ride around in to blast the hell out of your enemies. What's not to like?
Runner-up: Dishonored 2
Have we all forgotten about the technical issues that dampened Dishonored 2's launch? I sure hope so, because this stealth-action masterpiece was one of the most enjoyable titles of the year, and exceeded its highly regarded predecessor in every way. Fans have waited a long time for another visit to the world of Dishonored, but their patience was well rewarded, as Dishonored 2 offers complex levels full to bursting with challenges, solutions, and secrets just waiting to be discovered.
Many games boast about their replay value, but Dishonored 2 is one that delivers on the promise. The developers clearly set out to make a world you'll want to explore again and again, with two protagonists to try, more powers than you can master in a single play-through, collectibles around every corner, and a multi-part, multi-shaded ending that changes in big or subtle ways depending on your actions. You can also kill your enemies in dozens of different ways, which is always a nice feature.
When people talk about "good graphics" they are often talking about graphics that look like real life, but Dishonored 2 is a testament to the power of visuals that aren't going for realism but also aren't cartoonish or purposely low-fi. Dishonored 2 often looks like a painting, with light and shadow effects that pack its world with drama and mystery. Combined with both a setting and a story that truly feel unique, this is a game that offers innovation and originality unparalleled in any other AAA release in 2016.
Our shooter of the year is also our game of the year for 2016, as Overwatch was a massive, landscape-warping force in the gaming world this year that deserves every bit of praise it has gotten. In typical Blizzard fashion the company released a new game that has come to dominate its genre so completely that, though there are plenty of competing "hero shooters" still kicking around and more in development, it's feasible that the genre will eventually die out around the titan that is Overwatch in the same way StarCraft 2 effectively killed the rest of the RTS scene.
Overwatch hit the ground in a state of immense polish and Blizzard hasn't stopped improving the game since, adding characters,maps, game modes, competitive rankings, and seasonal events that have kept the game vibrant and fresh. Our initial review of Overwatch called the game limited in scope despite its immense quality, and we'd still like to see some significantly different game modes added to the core rotation, but the game as it exists now feels much broader and better in every way than it did at launch (which is saying as lot, considering how good the launch product was).
One of the primary keys to the success of Overwatch is its cast of characters, which builds on the class-based systems of games like Team Fortress but adds buckets of Pixar-like charm and personality. There's someone for every kind of gamer to connect with in Overwatch's roster, and where other games may offer a single "medic" option this game gives you multiple healers with their own distinct strategies, along with several more Support and Defense characters who can contribute to their teams without really needing to shoot much, if at all.
Though Overwatch has its critics and detractors, the game is here to stay, and it's shaping up to be an even bigger force in 2017 with the launch of the Overwatch League, which could spark a major shift in e-sports if it takes off. With the power and expertise of Blizzard behind Overwatch it just keeps getting better, and the company deserves credit for listening to fans, carefully monitoring the state of their game, and being unafraid to make changes when they are needed.
Congrats to Overwatch, GameCrate's 2016 Game of the Year!