By: Steve Zachmann, contributor
Hey, it’s 2016! Happy New Year, everyone. To celebrate, let’s talk about last year. I have lots to say about 2016, predictions, etc…, but before we get to that, I’m going to give you the rundown of my favorite games of the past year.
5. Victor Vran
For the uninitiated, Victor Vran is a an action RPG ala Diablo. It doesn’t have the depth of Diablo, Path of Exile, or even Torchlight, but what it lacks in depth, it makes up for in fun, style, and a bit of innovation.
Set in the Victorian Era, the game’s title character is a Van Helsing-esque witch hunter. As such, he employs all manner of Helsing type of weaponry; from fencing swords, to scythes, to guns and grenades. Victor Vran isn’t the best action rpg ever made, but it was damn refreshing, I’ll say that.
4. Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Edition
PD:SME (because I don’t feel like typing it out) hit me hard. Not only is it incredibly addictive and deep, it’s also easy to pick up and put down. I picked the game up right as we were moving to a new city, so I had little access to a traditional gaming setup. As such, my 3DS became my defacto game system for awhile, and PD:SME was my favorite experience on it.
The game is part arcade puzzler, and part RPG. It mixes those two genres fantastically well, too. It feels a bit like Pokemon, if it were a puzzle game. Where I the grind of Pokemon wore on me though, PD:SME’s progression only made me want to play more.
PD:SME is a game I’d recommend to virtually anyone who likes gaming; it’s got a little of everything, and it’s consumable in as large, or as small bites as you choose.
3. Rebel Galaxy
I recently tried to play Elite: Dangerous and while I respect what that game sets out to do, it’s decidedly not for me. As much as I love the idea of playing out the Han Solo fantasy, a game like Elite: Dangerous takes the details just a little too far for my liking.
Rebel Galaxy, on the other hand, hits the mark just perfectly for my liking. It’s still got plenty of depth, it just doesn’t require a 3 hour practice session to properly dock a ship. There’s lots to do, from mining and trading, to combat and ship upgrading. Considering it’s tiny development team, this is all especially impressive.
2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
I have to say, it’s a bit hard to believe that this game isn’t my #1 choice (more on that later). Its beautiful world is populated with no shortage of ways to immerse yourself; from card games, to crafting, to (of course) monster hunting.
Our third adventure with Geralt of Rivia is one filled with heartbreak, tension, sorrow, misery, and more than a few fantastic puns. The characters are wonderfully fleshed out, and make the world of The Witcher 3 one of the most spellbinding experiences in recent gaming memory.
In fact, the game offers so much that The Witcher 3 can seem very daunting, not that that’s a bad thing. There’s just so much game here, and virtually all of it is so well made and so well presented that it’s hard not to love everything about it.
1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Perhaps no game I’ve ever played has caught me as off-guard as MGSV. I won’t get into all of my reasoning for that (you can read about it here, though), but here’s the (really) short version. I loved MGS1, and hated MGS2. I hated MGS2 so much, in fact, that it soured me on the series as a whole. I never played MGS3, and had no plans of playing 4 until Chris forced me to, via our Homework feature.
So when I MGS5 came out and it was met with stellar reviews, I was skeptical. I had just finished The Witcher 3 though, and I wanted to play something different. I chose MGS5 thinking that I’d hate it for all the reasons I hate the series, in general. I figured it would have a stupid, convoluted story filled with over-the-top characters and a protagonist who seemed willing to go along with whatever ridiculous demands they made of him. Boy was I right…but not quite.
MGS5 is a fantastic game, largely because it’s so much different than all of its predecessors. It has a story, sure, but unlike other MGS games, that’s not the focus. Where other MGS games lean heavily on story, five leans far more heavily on it’s utterly incredible gameplay. And let me be clear, the gameplay is quite possibly the best I’ve ever played.
MGS5 is by far the best stealth game I’ve ever played, and it may also be the best game I’ve ever played. The amount of way that you can choose to tackle situation, the way that enemies respond, the manner in which lethal vs. non-lethal choice matters are all so fundamentally interesting that playing MGSV becomes an experience unlike anything I’ve ever played.
At a time when sandbox games are starting to becomes played out, MGSV manages to not only keep the formula relevant, but use it to create gameplay experiences that feel new and fresh. MGSV is nothing short of a masterpiece in this sense, and because of the manner in which it’s presented, you’re allowed to dictate the pace by which you consume it.