Most gamers would concur that 2016 was a pretty decent one for video games. We got to see the current-gen consoles pushed to the limit, with previously untapped potential finally being brought to the forefront.
There were those titles that everyone knew would be fantastic, with the likes of Uncharted 4, Battlefield 1, Dishonored 2 and more all coming through for gamers and critics alike. They made good on their promises and while they may not have been the most innovative titles to come to fruition, they were certainly the most satisfying.
However, there were those games that everyone was cautious of. Whether from poor previews or unconventional release methods – there were plenty of games in 2016 that had everyone fearing the worst. And while some of these fears were confirmed with disappointing titles like No Man’s Sky, Mafia 3 and Street Fighter V, there were also several games that managed to overcome the odds.
If gaming in 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that maybe we should reserve judgement until the finished product has been released. Because as you will see here, these 15 fantastic games were unfairly maligned and scoffed at before they even hit the shelves.
15 Watch Dogs 2
It’s probably fair to say that Watch Dogs was one of the biggest let downs on current-gen consoles. And not because the game was bad, but because it couldn’t live up to its own lofty expectations. Ubisoft only added to the anticipation with a controversial trailer at E3 that looked much better than what we got when the game was released.
So it was with great trepidation for gamers when it was announced that a sequel was scheduled for 2016. Promising to fix the wrongs of its predecessor, Watch Dogs 2 had a lot riding on it. Fortunately, it delivered in spades. Given some much needed attention were the driving mechanics, graphical quality, mission structure, and much more. Basically, everything that worked in the original game was ramped-up and everything that didn’t work was scrapped.
It could’ve been easy for the developers to run and hide from the Watch Dogs franchise, but admirably, they stuck it out and finally delivered a game more reflective of their initial goals. Bravo!
14 DiRT Rally
The DiRT series hit a bit of a speedbump with 2012’s DiRT Showdown. From the phenomenal Colin McRae games of the ‘90s to the scintillating early ‘00s DiRT titles – Codemasters’ 2012 attempt felt somewhat complacent compared to those classics.
So it’s no surprise that most gamers weren’t expecting one of the best rally games ever made, but that’s exactly what they got in 2016. The feel of the cars, the jaw-dropping physics, the elation of victory – all aspects that Codemasters completely nailed with this release. It’s no exaggeration to say that DiRT Rally is as close as you’ll get to the real thing.
From the visual fidelity and crisp sound effects, to the smooth as butter handling and picturesque locales, DiRT Rally speeds past its competition in almost every department.
13 Dark Souls 3
Perfect trilogies are a rare thing in the gaming world. By the third time around, things tend to become played out or stale. In some cases, complacency seeps into a once shining beacon in the video game medium, detracting or sometimes botching the whole series in the process.
Up against the odds in 2016 was the third installment in the Dark Souls series. Following the devilish brilliance of its two predecessors, Dark Souls III certainly had a lot to live up to. One of the most worrying signs for fans of the series was early previews stating that the game was much easier than the first two, one of the key fundamentals by which the game has become known for.
Thankfully, these fears were put to rest with an immersive and challenging experience that effortlessly matched the quality of the first two titles. From slicker combat to prettier visuals – Dark Souls III delivered the tough but rewarding gameplay we have come to know and love about the franchise. For those still on the fence because of the difficulty, don’t worry. You’ll still die… a lot!
Developers Blizzard made their mark on the games world with MMO’s like World of Warcraft and StarCraft. But gamers were cautious when it was revealed that they would be entering the first-person shooter fray for the first time. Entitled Overwatch, the game’s main goal wasn't to incorporate the RPG elements of games like WoW, but to deliver a seamless shooter.
And it managed to hit that goal with supreme aplomb. The head spinning variety of characters at your disposal is what sets this one apart from your standard FPS fare. And while it does take influence from Team Fortress’ graphical style and team-based gunplay, it also manages to sculpt its own image and identity.
What’s even more impressive is the support that the game has received since released. Blizzard have made sure to keep players on their toes by constantly adding free updates like new maps and characters. What’s not to love about that?
11 Quantum Break
Talk about blurring the lines between reality and fiction. Developers Remedy set about achieving this lofty goal with a bewilderingly brilliant science fiction third-person shooter by the name of Quantum Break that received little fanfare before launch.
Through the use of live-action sequences and some serious actor firepower, Quantum Break is an intoxicating mix of games and television. With a plot revolved around time-travel that’s so intricately told, the use of TV storytelling is a much welcome addition. But it’s the gameplay and graphics engine that will have your jaw hitting the floor. It takes the traditional third-person shooter framework and throws a stick of dynamite into it with the inclusion of some fantastic special abilities bestowed upon the game’s protagonist. Stopping time, split-second teleportation, and levitating baddies are just a few of the game-altering features you’ll get to play around with.
While there are probably those who still think this one sucks, it can’t be denied just how revolutionary this hybrid title was in 2016.
10 World of Final Fantasy
There’s been so many Final Fantasy spin-off games, that you could be forgiven for overlooking some of them. And in a year that saw the monumental release of Final Fantasy XV, you’d think that Square Enix would just go for a relatively safe placeholder.
Well, you’d be wrong to think that. What we got instead was a loving celebration of all things Final Fantasy with 2016’s World of Final Fantasy. Don’t go thinking that the cutesy visuals mean that the gameplay is just as kid-friendly – this is a variant of the same challenging turn-based gameplay that underpinned the early titles.
While Final Fantasy XV wonderfully demonstrated the evolution of the series, World of Final Fantasy showed us just what has made the franchise such a cherished and sustainable go-to for gamers across the globe.
9 Titanfall 2
When the first Titanfall game dropped, there was a fever pitch level of excitement. So you’d think that the sequel would be even more popular. Well, it didn’t exactly turn out that way. Sales of Titanfall 2 have been somewhat underwhelming since its release last year, which is a crying shame because it’s simply a superb first-person shooter.
One of the most surprising things about Titanfall 2 is how solid its single-player component is. Very few games of its ilk offer such a robust one player experience and for that especially, Titanfall 2 should be applauded. Not everyone wants to play online and it’s good to see a developer offer a fantastic alternative to that.
From a multiplayer standpoint, this is the same glorious gameplay that made the first game so compelling. And while Battlefield 1 may have won the battle when it comes to sales, Titanfall 2’s generous free updates may mean that it wins the war in the long run.
8 The Witness
There were those who felt that the ambitious puzzler The Witness would fold under its own lofty expectations. Originally slated for a 2013 release, the lengthy development time taken didn’t help its cause either.
However, these feelings were soon dismissed when the game finally dropped in 2016. What we were left with was a sensational puzzler. The intelligent puzzle designs and eye-popping visuals are what lie at the heart of this unique title, with a healthy dollop of challenge thrown in for good measure too. Don’t go thinking that this one offers no difficulty because there’s nobody trying to kill you – the intricacy of the puzzles make it incredibly difficult.
This next-gen delight was the perfect antidote to a year dominated by action-orientated releases. And with such a profound groundwork laid down, we’re hoping for an even better follow-up somewhere down the line.
7 Pokken Tournament
While everyone was gearing up for Pokémon GO, one title from the franchise quietly dropped for the Wii U. Entitled Pokken Tournament, the game marked the first time the brand had gone for a 2D beat-em up. Strangely, it was rather brilliant.
Originally released for Japanese arcades in 2015, the game got its console release in the early part of 2016. The childish visuals of the series remain intact, complimented by fun gameplay and tons of unlockables. It’s not what the franchise has been about for all these years, but it’s a fascinating diversion for those previously turned off by the catch ‘em all gaming juggernaut.
With Pokken Tournament, Pokémon fans got a kick from seeing their beloved gaming series in a new light, while fighting game fans got a fine beat-em up. And honestly, this kind of crossover success is what any video game would happily welcome.
6 Rez Infinite
Many would agree that Rez is one of the most underrated games of the current century. Its mix of dizzying gameplay, eye-popping visuals, and adrenaline pumping music is still yet to be matched in terms of innovation.
But the prospect of another remake of the game was enough to have some gamer’s tutting. Well tut no more. The game is here and it’s even more mind-altering than the original. 2016 gave birth to this technicolour masterpiece and with it came a whole host of improvements made to its foundations. The most substantial of these include VR compatibility and the mysterious Area X; the former utilizing the headset with pinpoint precision and the latter allowing players to venture out into space in the most sensory overloaded way imaginable.
Like most special games, Rez is able to adapt and evolve with existing technologies. And with the invention of the VR headset, Rez has never felt more relevant or pertinent than now.
Boy, what a difference 12 years makes. In that time, we saw a gaming great falter with a dull release, only to come back bigger, stronger and deadlier in 2016. Yes, that game was Doom – and I couldn’t be happier that this turned out to be an unlikely surprise, despite negative early reviews of the beta. If Doom 3 bored you to sleep, the latest Doom will pry your eyes open with its razor-sharp fingernails.
What’s great about Doom is how it embodies everything that made the originals so fun, while also evolving to fit modern day standards. This evolutionary leap can be seen in the graphics, particularly the lighting. And while bases on Mars might not be the most scenic locations, everything is given such meticulous care that it’s hard not to be impressed when visceral explosions send unpredictable debris flying past your head.
And that’s just the graphics and physics engine. We haven’t even touched upon the insane weapon variety, the time-killing game mode SnapMap, or the skull-crushing heavy metal soundtrack. But that’s what makes this bloodthirsty title such a gaming tour de force – literally everything is firing on all cylinders (including the guns.)
4 Stephen’s Sausage Roll
Who in all seriousness thought this would be great? The title alone is enough to make you think that this would be awful, but in the rare case of Stephen’s Sausage Roll, you shouldn’t judge a game by its name.
This title is sizzling (excuse the pun) in all the right places. Despite its simplistic aim of simply cooking a sausage, the game is far more difficult than it would first seem. Since it’s a puzzle game at heart, you’ll encounter many obstacles in your sausage cooking quest. Cook all sides of the sausage and you’ve completed the level, but be careful not to burn it!
Who cares how good a name is – Stephen’s Sausage Roll is evidence of gaming at its simplistic best.
3 Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition
One of the most stagnant game franchises of modern times has to be the Call of Duty series. Very little changes from year to year, which is why most gamers (including this writer) opt instead for Battlefield. However, with 2016’s Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition, the roll out of a two game package peaked the interests of even the most ardent critics. Yes, Infinite Warfare and Modern Warfare were the two titles, and they impressed more than any CoD release has for quite some time.
For those who like replay value in their shooters, the Legacy Edition is only happy to oblige. With both games combined, you’ll get two single-player campaigns, two multiplayer modes, co-op mode, zombie mode, dozens of maps and continual support. Now that’s bang for your buck.
And yes, Infinite Warfare was a big improvement over Black Ops 3. Talk about going above and beyond the call of duty – the Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition does this with a panache not seen from the series in many a year.
Typically when a game has a long development time, gamers fear the worst. They’re usually right too, but not in the case of Owlboy. This glorious platformer proved everyone wrong when it dropped in 2016.
What initially began in 2007 finally came to fruition in the most vibrant and colorful way possible. And after 10 years of being poured over, the game’s nostalgic look and feel is absolutely spot on. As Otus, players guide their furry little friend through a world of wonder, while gathering allies in the process. These companions will shoot, bomb and basically do things that Otus can’t in order to save his village from evil pirates. But it’s the loving nods to years gone by that makes Owlboy so immersive. It’s a metroidvania love letter that packs in so much charm and color that it basically bursts from the screen.
Throw in some brilliant level designs, scores of different enemies, and tons of collectibles, and you have a game that will have you hooked for the duration of its 12-hour story. This is how you do a retro platformer right.
From the outset, Hitman looked like it was going to be a flop. All the signs pointed to it. It was the follow-up to the extremely linear Absolution, it had a delayed release, and it caused a stir when it was revealed that it would be released in episodic increments.
Well serve up the humble pie because the game turned out to be a complete stunner. Where do we even begin with the sheer smattering of content at your disposal? Well, there’s the main campaign, which takes you through six stunning episodes of retribution. There’s also elusive targets, bonus episodes, contracts mode, escalation mode and more. Seriously, get the complete season and you’ll get more assassinating goodness than you can handle.
The gameplay is, quite frankly, fantastic. There’s a morbid curiosity that comes with plotting out potential assassinations and, when they come off, you’ll not be able to stop that maniacal grin from etching itself onto your face. The scope of this game is on another level when compared to its stealth counterparts, mainly because of how your mission planning constantly changes and contorts depending on the items your using, where you begin missions, and (of course) the location of your targets. This kind of sandbox-centric focus leads to outcomes that you never planned for, because after all, even the most elusive player will need to think on the fly when situations take a turn for the worse.
And there’s so much more that we haven’t even talked about, such as the ingenious progression system, the stunning beauty of the environments, the variables that come with repeated plays, and the mind-numbing number of different methods to dispose of your target. Make no mistake about it – Hitman is gaming at its absolute finest.