The best video games of 2016

There’s no doubt that 2016 was a frustrating year, but with the beautiful world of The Witness, the puzzle-based game proved to be the best kind of frustrating.

By all measures, 2016 was a good year for gamers. Much as I would’ve liked to try them all, I didn’t get around to some of my most anticipated games — still, I was able to try out some of the year’s best and brightest, all of which stick out in my memory for one reason or another. These are my favourite titles of the year.

Overwatch became a new obsession. No other game was quite as much of a cultural phenomenon this year, and for good reason. So far I’ve clocked over 200 hours playing all of the game’s 23 heroes, and I plan on adding at least 100 more to that tally. Overwatch wasn’t just my favourite game of the year — it was my favourite cultural artifact, period.

INSIDE made me reconsider what video games could do. Coming from the creators of 2010’s Limbo, INSIDE is best played with absolutely no foreknowledge of its story or mechanics. It’s an immersive and haunting experience that could only have been told through the medium of video games.

Stardew Valley gave Animal Crossing a run for its money. I never really got into farming simulators when I was a kid — my rationale was, why play video games that let you do things that you could do in the real world anyways? Stardew Valley proves how wrong I was, giving players plenty of customization and addictive tasks along with a surprisingly compelling story.

Pokémon Sun and Moon confirmed that the Pokémon series still has a few tricks up its sleeves. By eschewing some of the series’ most consistent tropes and adding several new features such as regional variants and Poké Rides, Sun and Moon breathed new life into the franchise and once again gave me the chance to raise my ‘mons and compete to be the very best, like no one ever was.

The Witness challenged me to think outside the box. Since I was a kid I’ve always loved jigsaw puzzles, so this game had me right at home. Solving the puzzles that make up the world of The Witness was a meditative experience that challenged the way I think and frustrated me to no end.

Skyrim Special Edition reminded me why I fell in love with the original. While this new edition didn’t fix all of the bugs from the original, its new coat of paint and added ability to install mods on PS4 and Xbox One made the world of Skyrim feel fresh and renewed. The original game remains one of the greatest western RPGs ever made, and it was a delight to return for a victory lap.

Hyper Light Drifter made me feel like a fucking superhero. Like The Legend of Zelda on acid, Hyper Light Drifter offers lightning-fast gameplay, a hallucinatory colour pallette, time travel, and a typically mute main character. The game is style meets substance, and it’s pretty fun to boot.

Fire Emblem: Fates built on a sturdy foundation of tactical RPGs. While originally released in Japan in 2015, Fates landed overseas in February, and proved once again that the Fire Emblem is the best in the business. The game has just enough cheesy plot points and tactical challenges to earn two (or three!) separate play-throughs of its roughly 30-hour campaign.