Looking Back at 2016 | Games, Gamers, & Gaming, November 15, 2016

It’s been a big year in gaming: big surprises, big successes, and, unfortunately, some big disappointments. A list of 2016’s best games will run in the January 2017 issue, but for now let’s take a look back at the moments that made 2016 the incredible year for games, gamers, and gaming that it was.

superhotvideo-jpg112116farcryprimal-jpg112116Hits and misses

The year started strong, and by June we had innovative puzzle games Superhot and The Witness, the prehistory first-person shooter Far Cry Primal, the long-awaited sequel to the strategy classic X-COM, and Dark Souls III, the game of choice for hard-core gamers everywhere, all available to own.

“World of Warcraft” developers Blizzard enthralled gamers with Overwatch. This was Blizzard’s first original intellectual property in more than 20 years, and the multiplayer shooter delivered on all counts: likable and varied characters, fast-paced game play, and witty charm.

Sadly, while there were amazing games released in the first half of the year, there were plenty that left gamers dissatisfied as well. After much anticipation and hype, No Man’s Sky gave more than a few gamers a case of buyer’s remorse. What was supposed to be an opportunity for gamers to create their own exploits in an open outer space adventure ended up being an exercise in tedium. Such was the gap between the promises made by the developers and the finished product that the company was soon under investigation for false advertising by the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK.

The launch of Street Fighter V was—to say the least—rocky. Essentially releasing an incomplete game, Capcom doled out over several weeks characters and modes via downloadable content. While this content was released at no cost, fans still felt that they were paying to beta test the game for the developer. It led to much ill will, and it’s only been recently that Street Fighter V has started to recover from the initial backlash.

Tom Clancy’s The Division promised to be an ambitious open-world shooter in the vein of Destiny, but, much like the older game, its launch was plagued with technical issues, inconsistent mechanics, and crippled social options. Star Fox Zero was met with a lukewarm reception, despite being the latest entry in a well-loved ­Nintendo franchise.

Luckily, the latter half of the year has an impressive lineup, with Gears of War 4, Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2, and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare up for grabs. That last title is especially noteworthy, as it comes with a high-­definition remaster of one of the last console generation’s greatest hits, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

Fond memories made anew

Some of the biggest releases this year have been reissues of old favorites—Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, all three “Bioshock” games, and the first two entries in Rocksteady’s “Batman” series (Arkham Asylum; Arkham City); even the Nintendo 64 game Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was dragged out of the vault for sprucing up. It seems as if gamers are more nostalgic than ever, eager to experience their old favorites anew with modern graphics and controls. Arguably Nintendo’s biggest release this year will be the Nintendo Classic, a collection of 30 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System games bundled on a plug-and-play replica of the classic console.

Along with sequels and remakes, gaming wrapped up one of its greatest series with The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. “Destiny,” which has grown from a mediocre shooter to a robust multiplayer experience, also saw its final expansion released. It truly deserves the prize for most improved; by the time Rise of Iron was out, it had evolved into the game that developer Bungie had initially envisioned it to be.

Under the radar

Indie games continued to reign supreme this year, representing the innovative narrative and game play experiences that big-budget games can’t always risk. Both Darkest Dungeon and Hyper Light Drifter tapped into the “hard-core” craze—games that punish the player with their difficulty. Darkest Dungeon is a traditional RPG—the player creates a party and descends into dungeons full of monsters that exploit tactical errors or miscalculation—while Hyper Light Drifter is a fast-paced hack-and-slash game.

It was a big year for 4X games (strategy games that have the player exploring new regions, exploiting natural resources, expanding their territory, and exterminating enemies), with indie studios helping to usher that along. Instead of direct combat, Offworld Trading Company makes the most of corporate trickery and espionage to allow players to get the better of their opponents. Stellaris presents a sprawling space opera epic, and the first-person shooter Shadow Warrior 2 gives gamers over-the-top, absurd entertainment in the form of fast-paced martial arts action in a highly comical setting.

As of this writing, there are great games and even more excitement on the horizon in 2017. I look forward to seeing what the future holds, and I hope you’re with me every step of the way. Until next time, keep telling yourself: just one more level!

M. Brandon Robbins is Media Coordinator, Goldsboro High School, NC, and a member of the 2011 class of the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders

This article was published in Library Journal's November 15, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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M. Brandon Robbins About M. Brandon Robbins

M. Brandon Robbins (mbrandon.robbins@gmail.com) is the Media Coordinator at Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, NC. He's a member of the 2011 class of ALA Emerging Leaders.

Comments

  1. Jason Ellis says:

    Good, accurate summary! I would only add the incredibly rebooted shooter, Doom, to the list. A surprise for everyone, to say the least. Also, Inside–the followup to Limbo–was a fun and beautiful platform game. A short 2-3 hour experience was perfect to wrap up in a couple sittings.