Hit the pause button — we’re not done yet.
It’s been a heck of a year for video games, with the release of two upgraded versions of existing game consoles (the Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 Pro), three high-end virtual reality headsets (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR), new lines of high-powered, low-priced PC graphics cards and an absolute avalanche of incredible titles.
It’s a bit of an odd year, too, in that there’s no one single game that absolutely stands out as the year’s finest, but many, many titles that made a lasting impression in their respective genres and categories. Which makes picking the best of the best a particularly tough job.
But hey, we’re up to the challenge. Here — in our own completely subjective and ever-so-humble opinion — are the finest games of 2016. Unpause and dive in.
In what was easily the most hotly contested category of the year, it was Titanfall 2’s blend of an amazing single-player campaign with lopsided-yet-perfectly-balanced multiplayer mayhem that we’ll remember most. That, and our dear, mechanical friend BT. Sniff.
RUNNERS-UP: Overwatch mated precisely tuned multiplayer gameplay with Blizzard’s amazing character design. Battlefield 1 reinvented the franchise by visiting the seldom-trod domain of the First World War.
RUNNERS-UP: Dishonored 2 drew us back into its shockingly detailed steampunk realm with choose-your-own-approach gameplay. Watch Dogs 2 improved vastly on the first entry, with likeable characters and a vibrant, virtual San Francisco.
Not a traditional RPG in the strictest sense, but the cyberpunked-out Mankind Divided had us making the toughest choices of any game this year. On a second playthrough, we still kept uncovering new secrets and locations.
RUNNERS-UP: Dark Souls III couldn’t quite hit the bar set by its cousin Bloodborne, but it was an incredible entry in this tough-as-nails franchise. Final Fantasy XV was exactly as massive, visually stunning and unapologetically cheesy as we’d hoped.
BEST STRATEGY GAME – Civilization VI (PC, Mac)
Each new Civilization game is an iterative evolution of what’s come before, but Civilization VI felt simultaneously more deep yet more accessible, a tricky tightrope to walk. We still play it obsessively.
RUNNERS-UP: XCOM 2 offered some welcome improvements on a formula and world we already loved. Clash Royale sucked many of our friends into an inescapable vortex on their smartphones, and it’s even popping up on the eSports circuit.
BEST SPORTS GAME — NBA 2K17 (Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, PC)
The roundball revolutionaries at 2K pumped out another supremely polished and graphically stunning edition of their red-hot franchise. When friends walk into the room, we like to see how long it takes them to realize we’re not watching basketball on TV.
RUNNERS-UP: FIFA 17 took a page from NBA 2K17’s book, with a story mode that was well done and even emotionally affecting. Steep earned our love just for trying something we haven’t seen in a long while – an extreme winter sports game that’s a lot of fun to play.
Gearheads may lean towards the Forza Motorsport franchise, but we loved the fun, free gameplay of this stunningly beautiful entry in the Horizon series. It managed to be just as rewarding with friends as it was as a solo experience.
RUNNERS-UP: Trackmania Turbo melded racing with platforming in a way that had us obsessively trying to beat our friends’ best times. Dirt Rally might be the most realistic and rewarding rally racing game we’ve seen.
Sure, the Lego game formula is wearing a bit thin at this point. But this is our favourite Lego Star Wars title yet, mixing the events from the blockbuster movie with the charm and humour that sets Lego games apart.
RUNNERS-UP: Dragon Quest Builders was no mere Minecraft clone – it was a wonderful blend of world-building and kid-friendly strategy. Skylanders Imaginators unleashed kids’ creativity by allowing them to dream up and design their own Skylanders characters.
The makers of Limbo outdid themselves with this beautiful, fascinating and completely chilling side-scrolling game set in a mysterious dystopia. The surprising direction taken in the final act was our favourite video game ending of the year.
RUNNERS-UP: Thumper came out of nowhere to enrapture us with its visual design and rhythmic, frantic gameplay. That Dragon, Cancer ripped our hearts in half with its tearful autobiographical tale of a family’s struggle with their young son’s terminal illness.
BEST VR GAME — Batman: Arkham VR (PS4, with PlayStation VR)
This was a game that really made the case for virtual reality, letting us don the Dark Knight’s cowl and use his skills, gadgets and wits to unravel a shocking mystery. It wasn’t a long experience, but it was supremely polished and very memorable.
RUNNERS-UP: The Unspoken used the Oculus Touch controllers to turn us into spell-slinging urban magicians. Raw Data , for the HTC Vive, showed us how a first-person shooter could really work in VR (and was twice as fun with a friend.)
After the hype (and, eventually, disappointment) of Pokemon Go, Nintendo reminded us why we loved these pocket monsters so much in the first place. This pair stood among the finest of decades’ worth of Pokemon offerings.
RUNNERS-UP: Teeny Titans , an addictive and hilarious $ 5 smartphone title starring pint-sized DC Comics heroes, almost out-Pokemon’d Nintendo’s own games. Fire Emblem Fates offered an incredible amount of meaty content packed into a Nintendo 3DS cartridge.
BEST GAME OF THE YEAR — Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4)
Development studio Naughty Dog are some of the best game-makers in the business, and this fourth and perhaps final chapter in Nathan Drake’s odyssey was an absolutely fitting farewell to a hero who felt like an old friend. We expected the incredible visuals and guns-a-blazing action. We didn’t expect to get a glimpse inside Drake’s heart and soul.
RUNNERS-UP: Overwatch amazed us every time we played it, with dramatic multiplayer matches and a huge roster of perfectly balanced characters designed to appeal to many styles. Dishonored 2 ’s intricate and gorgeously realized game world, two playable characters and open-ended approach to overcoming obstacles made it an achievement of both artistic creativity and ingenious design.