2016 might have been a bad year for world events, but there were a lot of great games released this year.
To narrow it down to the best, I queried more than a dozen of the women who’ve written for remeshed and asked them to give me their first and second choice for Game of the Year. Below are the five that received the most mentions–plus some that earned honorable mention.
5. Stardew Valley (Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4)
This indie simulation game took everyone by surprise when it was released in February, drawing much critical acclaim–and astonishment that it was created by a single developer. “At first, I brushed aside Stardew Valley as a Harvest Moon clone,” explains Nicole Tanner. “But it turned out Stardew Valley is Harvest Moon x 10. There are so many things to do in this game, it’s almost mind-boggling. But the simple tasks of farming, fishing, and figuring out the mysteries of the town you live in are satisfying and relaxing. I love this game for the fantastic escape it provides.”
For Jay Castello, Stardew Valley is “a charming game that took me by absolute surprise and introduced me to a wonderfully calm world filled with a lovable cast of characters.”
4. Dishonored 2 (Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4)
This stealth-action sequel improved on its predecessor by offering the ability to play as either Corvo or his now-grown daughter Emily, and endowing them with new powers. It was my personal pick for Game of the Year because it offers a little of everything: fun action/adventure gameplay, an interesting story, a great environment, and a well-written female protagonist.
“Dishonored 2 is my game of the year because of its complex interweaving of plot, character, and pure game design” explains Cora Walker. “I played the first Dishonored about a week before the second game came out and was pleased to see that the sequel had all the heroic (and sordid) charms of the first one…and the fantastic Emily Kaldwin as a playable protagonist.”
3. Pokemon Sun and Moon (Nintendo 3DS)
The first installment in the seventh generation of Pokemon games did not disappoint. “Cuteness abounds in the latest Pokemon games,” insists Sarah Marchant, “with adorably powerful starters and fantastic Alolan introductions, but they also aren’t afraid to go deep. The games fully flesh out their main and secondary characters, and they tackle mature themes such as family dysfunction and the ethics of animal experimentation.”
Jess Famularo agrees. “Game Freak made some bold changes this year,” she says, “eliminating gyms in favor of Island Trials, getting rid of HMs and substituting them with rideable Pokemon you can summon from outside of your part, and many other changes that have really streamlined the franchise. Sun and Moon also presents a surprisingly enjoyable story and the world of Alola is realized with clear fidelity to its Hawaiian roots.”
2. Pokemon GO (iOS and Android)
Mobile augmented-reality game Pokemon GO was the surprise hit of 2016—and the first game my wife and sister-in-law ever willingly played—even if it was a bit short-lived. The game is “a perfect incentive to go outdoors and explore,” says Jay Costella, “not to mention a fantastic addition to running every day errands. Plus, it’s something I’ve been able to enjoy with my non-gamer family.”
“As a Pokemon fan of 20 years,” adds Emily Kelley, “this was a dream come true and I still play every day. I WILL catch ’em all!”
1. Overwatch (Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4)
Blizzards new first-person shooter was the second surprise hit of the year.”Overwatch was the undeniable mega hit of 2016,” says Emily Kelley. “It was fun, accessible (even for competitive FPS newbs like me), and kept us coming back for more with new characters and game modes. I felt for the characters even though story isn’t actually central to the gameplay, as well as had a blast blowing stuff up and hearing ‘Damn kids. Get off my lawn!’ every other kill.”
Caylie Sadin loves “the variety of body shapes and cultures that are represented in the game. I also love how responsive and communicative Blizzard has been through all the patches and changes they’ve made.”
“Pixar-esque character designs meets truly fun FPS combat,” says Amanda Jean. “I went from a filthy casual to a serious business Overwatch player almost overnight.”
Forza Horizon 3
Jen Allen: “I’m not a huge racing games fan but I adore the freedom of the Forza Horizon series. Forza Horizon 3 came along at the perfect time for me. Just when I needed to feel more free and liberated in life, it gave me escapism in the form of being able to drive around Australia at outrageous speeds, simply enjoying wandering.”
The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine
Jess Famularo: “While it’s an expansion, Blood and Wine could very well stand alone as its own adventure. Its sweeping scope, fairly tale scenery, and conflicting themes make it a worthy conclusion to Geralt’s story–for now.”
Love You to Bits
Anna Tarkov: “Boatloads of charm and whimsy make this adorable and sweet adventure game an instant classic.”
Sophie Weeks: “With it’s blocky graphics and minimal choices, the genius of RimWorld is how granular it lets you get with data, and how weird it allows itself to be. You can see “under the hood” way more than any other sim allows you: if a sim was injured you can see which finger was torn off–and then decide whether you want to upgrade them with a bionic arm. The modding community has stepped up and provided a lot of amazing mods that enhance the experience further, and this is one of the most long-playing sims that I’ve seen in a long time (this, in a year particularly good for unusual sims).”
Nicole Pacampara: “When I played this, I was left speechless. Similar in style to Telltale’s games, 1979 Revolution shows the potential of using this style of storytelling to tell documentary stories (with this game covering the Iranian Revolution). It was such a compelling experience and left me with a lot to think about.”
Amanda Jean: “I don’t want anything more out of life than to pilot giant mechs. This has really been the year for fun FPS, and Titanfall 2 surpassed its predecessor by adding a great single-player narrative mode. ”
This one is my own personal runner-up. The theme park game raises the stakes for simulation games, and the robust modding community had already created some truly fantastic mods before the game was even out of Beta. Although the management aspects of the game still need some work, the simulation features of the game are outstanding, and the developers continue to add new (free) content and updates. Just what we’d expect from Frontier, who also made the excellent Cities: Skylines.