Caleb Cajthaml’s Favorite Games of 2016
A month removed from 2016, and huh, not much has changed. Politics are still garbage (no matter what side of the fence you fall on) but hey, the games are top-tier, and I’m here to talk about games. We’ve only been through January and already we’ve seen excellent games like Resident Evil 7 and Gravity Rush 2. And if I don’t find a job soon, I’m going to be screwed because over the course of the next two or so months we’ll have Horizon: Zero Dawn, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Persona 5, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (finally), not to mention a brand new console in the Nintendo Switch. It’s been a good start to the year, and the future has even more potential, but let’s talk about 2016.
The fact that 2016 sucked has been the most overplayed “joke” of 2017, so I’m not going to sit here and tell you all about it, odds are if you’re reading this, you’ve already lived through 2016. What I will say though, is that 2016 was a phenomenal year for video games. It’s not often that I can put ten games I *loved* on an end of the year list. Yeah, this is usually because I’m a broke high school student who usually can’t afford ten games a year, but the sentiment is shared regardless.
That being said though, even with the ten games o this list, there were still so many games, that I just didn’t have the time (or money, probably money) to play. I’d like to give special shout-outs to The Witness, Final Fantasy XV, Darkest Dungeon, Fire Emblem Fates, Superhot, Hyper Light Drifter, the list could go on. There were a ton of games I didn’t get a chance to play, but with that, the ten games I’m about to list were the ten that grabbed my attention and forced me to play through them. So without further ado, here are my favorite games of 2016.
10. Batman: The Telltale Series (Telltale Games)
This is a game that should have been way higher on my list. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a video game, Telltale telling a Batman story, what more could I ask for? And yet, at the end of the day, Batman: The Telltale Series is such a uniquely Telltale game in all the best and worst ways.
In all honesty, it does pretty much everything I wanted it to. Only in a Telltale game can I truly act as Bruce Wayne, making my own choices and seeing them reflected upon characters like Catwoman and Two-face. It tells a Batman story that can only be told by Telltale, and that’s really special.
With all of that though, it just plain runs terribly. Like every other Telltale game. And man, that really sucks. It crashed on me three times, had awful frame rates throughout, and it doesn’t even look pretty, all of the classic Telltale problems, and it drives me mad. I just don’t know why it is their games run so so so poorly. I would give them a whole three years to work on their engine if they’d just release a game that ran well.
Congrats Telltale, you placed number 10 on a list you should have been top 5 on.
9. Watch Dogs 2 (Ubisoft)
I never played the first Watch Dogs, heck, I’ve never even played a GTA game. The sort of urban-open-world genre was always a mystery to me. All of that changed when Watch Dogs 2 infected me with its meme-y goodness. (Just gonna be honest, real proud of that sentence).
There’s just so much personality in Watch Dogs 2, it feels like the exact opposite of what everybody said about the first game. One second I’m breaking into a rapper’s house to make a sound board with his voice, the next I’m stealing a talking stunt car from a movie studio and tricking it out so that I can drive it remotely around San Francisco. The game is so over the top, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Some people complain that it might be too hip, too dank for the youth, but I say nay. Bring it on Ubisoft. If Watch Dogs 3 isn’t titled Watch Dogs: M3M3 they’re missing out on a huge opportunity.
8. Battlefield 1 (DICE)
I’ve never been a fan of first-person-shooters, especially not those of the Call of Duty/Battlefield variety, but Battlefield 1 was totally different. I’ve always thought that the Battlefield games were cool. I’d see people flying jets, jumping out 360 no-scoping a fool, and then jumping back into them, all while 18 different buildings were collapsing, but I was just never replicate the crazy scenarios I’d see others carry out.
But Battlefield 1 was different.
I wasn’t intrigued by the crazy scale of the multiplayer, this time I was in it for the World War 1 setting. When I got into video games, the trend of World War II shooters was long gone and from the ashes every shooter and their mother became a high tech romp through space. That’s cool, and I love space, but I’ve always wanted to play a game with such strong roots in history. And that’s where Battlefield 1 intrigued me.
And boy did they deliver. The vignette campaign, the fun and engaging multiplayer, there wasn’t an aspect of Battlefield 1 I didn’t like, and that’s coming from a guy that didn’t have fun with a Battlefield game before that. So well done DICE, you made a great World War I shooter when no one else would.
7. Ratchet and Clank (Insomniac Games)
Personally, I’ve always been more of a Jak and Daxter fan myself, but Ratchet and Clank has always been pretty cool too, I guess. When the game was first announced a year or so back I was cautiously optimistic. It seemed to hit this weird spot between reboot and remaster, and I was excited to see what a 3d platformer would look like on PS4.
Little did I know that 3d platformers would be one of the genres best taking advantage of “next-gen technology.” IT’S JUST SO PRETTY. I know it’s cliche, but the game really does look like a Pixar movie come to life. If you haven’t played the yet, you owe it to yourself, if only to see the bright colors and perfectly rendered hairs on Ratchet’s chin.
6. Civilization VI (Firaxis Games)
Civilization VI was my most anticipated game this fall and it delivered exactly what I wanted it to.
The franchise is back and better than ever. It’d be easy to just remake Civ V with a new art style, but the game added sooo much more. The clever districts, the new diplomatic and religious victories, those glorious glorious trade routes, and for the first time ever Civilization is feature complete right from the get go, leaving the game open to new and exiting additions with future expansions.
It might not have done too much to differentiate itself from the rest of the series, but at the end of the day that’s exactly what I wanted.
5. Inside (Playdead)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it time and time again, Inside might be the closest a game has ever come to “perfect.” There isn’t anything wrong or out of place in Inside, each design choice feels intentional, there’s just nothing I can say to criticize the game.
It sets up probably the most interesting video game world I’ve explored all year, it has some of the best puzzles in a game this year, and it’s one of the prettiest games I’ve seen all year. With no dialogue, and only a handful of colors Playdead created a game that’s just as beautiful and well written as anything out right now. That’s special. There’s nothing like a Playdead game, and this year is better for having one released.
At the end of the day the only reason this game isn’t my game of the year is simply because puzzle platformers aren’t really my thing. It’s impressive that I liked Inside as much as I did, all considering.
4. DOOM (id Software)
DOOOOOOOOOM. HELL YEAH.
I don’t know how they did it, but id Software made a DOOM game so self-aware and so perfectly DOOM, I just can’t believe it. DOOM feels like a game we shouldn’t have, a game just too good for us, but here we are. All praise id Software, we are not worthy.
When I first heard people talking about DOOM, hearing about the crazy metal soundtrack, the over the top “glory kills,” and that sexy, sexy super shotgun, I figured it’d be a fine mindless shooter to just sit down and enjoy for a bit, but man, oh man did I underestimate DOOM. What I found was a game so over-the-top and unabashedly DOOM.
Id Software took every single idea they had, pumped it to ten and ran with it, and it was perfect. Oh, you like killing demons? Okay, well what if you could actually tear apart the demons and do so over and over and over again, and to the craziest heavy metal soundtrack in a game, quite possibly ever? Oh, you want it fast? Okay okay, we’ll put your character on a non-stop sprint, and we’ll take away any need to aim down sights. But what about weapons? Oh yeah, the weapons will be pretty cool, I guess. How cool? We gave you two shotguns and one’s called a Super Shotgun.
DOOM’s basically one giant Xzbit Yo Dawg meme, but with heavy metal and demons and hell and blood and shotguns. Nuff said.
3. Stardew Valley (ConcernedApe)
Stardew Valley is the Caleb Cajthaml video game. It’s bright, it’s colorful, and it’s like crack-cocaine but cute and only fifteen bucks.
I’m a huge fan of Animal Crossing, and Stardew Valley scratches that same itch, and adds so much more. I still check in with all of my villagers, I still collect random things, but now I can farm and get married and it’s a recipe for disaster.
This game came out of nowhere, and when it was actually released I was kind of disappointed that it was only out on PC, but I gave in anyways, how could I say no to a game so up my alley? I played it nonstop for about two weeks, but then the announcement came that it’d be coming to PS4, and I starved myself of the Stardew goodness. (Trophies duhh). now that it’s out on PS4 I just can’t stop playing it. There’s always one more thing for me to farm, one more fish to catch, one more ore to mine, one more jar of mayonnaise to give to Penny. Oh, Penny how I love you.
Stardew Valley just oozes charm. It’s a game I don’t want to leave, and I don’t see myself doing so for the foreseeable future.
2. Uncharted 4 (Naughty Dog)
Uncharted 4. Beautiful, wonderful, Uncharted 4.
Every year there’s one game. Always one game that I just can’t wait for, and when I finally get it I play it non-stop until I beat it. Uncharted 4 was that game for me in 2016, and it delivered in every single way I wanted it to.
Naughty Dog created a perfect love letter to the Uncharted franchise, in all the best ways. The first act of the game gives us these crazy, crazy set pieces but also sprinkles in some of the best character moments the series has ever seen. Meeting Sam? Wonderful. Calling up Sully for one last ride? *insert kissing fingers gif* That dinner scene with Elena? All I’ve ever wanted in life. And on top of that though, the pure gameplay was better than it’s ever been. The shooting just purely feels better, and the integration of stealth and the open environments created some truly fun sandboxes. The second act of the game though, does a crazy 180 and takes us all the way back to the first Uncharted, exploring the jungle and solving puzzles with Elena. Everything I love about Uncharted, not just the crazy set pieces, was there.
Oh, and that epilogue is the greatest, most rewarding ten minutes of a video game I think I’ve played ever. Very well done, Naughty Dog.
1. Overwatch (Blizzard Entertainment)
In all honesty, I think I liked Uncharted a bit more, but at the end of the day that’s a safe pick. Overwatch made me fall in love with a genre that I absolutely hated beforehand, so for that Overwatch is my favorite game of the year.
I’ve never been one for multiplayer games, especially ones where I had to talk and coordinate with people, but Overwatch changed that for me. Now anytime I have a spare hour or so I call up my friends and we hop online to play some Overwatch together. I’ve never had that before, it’s kind of crazy for me. And only a game like Overwatch could do that for me.
What’s there to be said that hasn’t already been said before?
Overwatch is a masterpiece of a video game. It’s so fine tuned, so perfectly balanced, and just so painstakingly detailed. Almost nobody comes close to Blizzard’s level of love and care, and that shines through in all aspects of the game. Each character is unique, not only in how they play, but in their personalities as well. Overwatch doesn’t have a “story” that they tell over the course of a campaign or anything, and yet through simple lines of dialogue I know so much about the personalities of the different heroes and the world they inhabit. So, while I might be playing a hero-based team shooter, I’m still getting the same amount of charm and personality that I would out of something like Ratchet and Clank.
The game’s also set up to be open for shooter scrubs like me. There are a handful of characters where aim isn’t required at all to have a big impact. I can play a support like Mercy and single-handedly carry my team, all without getting a single kill or landing a sick head shot. And if I do want to play the more classic shooter heroes, the stat system is set up in such a way where even if I’m having a mediocre game, I feel as if I’m playing at a high level. There’s an effort made by the developers to make each player feel good about themselves, and that went a long way towards making me enjoy my time with the game.
Overwatch won me over with its Pixar personality and player-friendly ecosystem, and made me play an online game with a bunch of strangers, and for that, Overwatch is my favorite game of the year.
Those were my ten favorite games of 2016, I hope you had as much fun reading that, or at least skimming through and looking at the list, as I had writing it. Hopefully 2017 proves to be just as great a year. Here’s to fun video games.
And hey, if you’d like to hear me talk about my ten favorite games with one of my favorite people in the world, Alex O’Neil, you can do so here. And if you’d like to hear about my favorite movies and albums, and other stuff of 2016, you can watch this episode of my podcast Bonus Points, hosted by my good pal, Roger Pokorny. It’d probably take you 4 or so hours to read/listen through all of my “Favorite Things of 2016” content, but I’d like to think that someone out there cares. Thanks for making 2016 a wonderful year.
Love, forever yours,