[I love how different Ben’s list is from mine. And despite my revulsion at the inclusion of console-exclusives on this list, it’s a perfect reflection of our buddy-cop partnership of gaming. -Jon]
So close to being my GOTY, just from sheer surprise. Surprise that id made the true rip [ AND TEAR UNTIL IT IS DONE -Jon] roaring sequel to a 20-year-old game, that they made the combat flow so good, it felt like a rhythm game at times, and surprise that they wrote a story for DOOM that was so perfectly pitched in self-awareness that they managed to make one of the better stories of the year from a game where the main character is named Doom Guy (or Doom Slayer in this case).
Putting aside the few things I don’t love about The Witness (the videos and audio logs primarily), this game is a masterpiece. As a puzzle game, I can’t think of another one that consistently evoked this much awe from me. It’s just so goddamn well designed. Everything from the order of the puzzle panels all the way up to the design of the island itself are integral to the experience. Sunlight, tree branches, and colored glass all factor into the puzzles. I can think of at least a half-dozen moments from this game when “it” clicked for whichever puzzle I was doing and I just sat back and marveled at the craft of it all while feeling incredibly smart…right up until the next set of panels. [God, those tetrimino puzzles gave me PTSD, though. -Jon]
It’s so goddamn stylish. This two-hour game kept pulling me back throughout the year for more runs at its endless mode to create dope gunfights over and over. Throwing a katana at an enemy and then teleporting behind them to catch said katata as it passes through their red glass body never, ever gets old. Even without that, though, the brief story that Superhot tells is great fun as told through the framing of their fake OS and VR systems. Superhot indeed.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Just a home run for Naughty Dog. A technical tour de force as usual, their return to the series they seemed to conclude in Uncharted 3 was so assured. A great story that actually questions the character of Nathan Drake and whether his fun globe trotting adventures are fun for those dragged along is bolstered by some of the best gameplay in the series and all leads to one of my favorite and most affecting endings ever in a game. I hope they leave it here, personally, because I cannot see them topping it again.
The Last Guardian
Props to Sony for finishing this thing, because it is a very specific game from a specific creator for a specific audience. This game is never going to appeal to a large portion of Playstation owners. But for us, who’ve been fans of Fumito Ueda’s games, this is another triumph. Its technical problems should not be overlooked. The game runs like absolute garbage too often, and the camera is the worst in any of the three Ueda games. But as a work from a studio with a singular style, it’s goddamn amazing most of the time. The scale of Trico and the environments of the Nest repeatedly took my breath away. The only game to ever make me feel this small before was Shadow of the Colossus. It’s a great story, and possibly the easiest to parse of all Team Ico’s games, with a fantastic conclusion to boot. It won’t work for everyone, but if you’re looking for something quiet, thoughtful, and awe-inspiring and the most impressively animated fake animal ever made, this game has it.
Also Dark Souls III, Overwatch, Titanfall 2, Dishonored 2 and Forza Horizon 3 were all awesome this year too!