Best Media 2016: Video Games

ljx170101webbmslugbThis year was a challenging year for games, gamers, and gaming everywhere, according to LJ’s gaming columnist M. Brandon Robbins. Some controversial releases that failed to deliver on developers’ promises cast a dark shadow on what would have otherwise been a stellar year. Fortunately, we still have a lot of great titles that came out in 2016, and they’re definite must-haves for your gaming collection. As you move into next year, be sure to pick up these essentials for your patrons to enjoy.


 

game of the year

ljx170101webbestmvideogame1Sid Meier’s Civilization VI. Firaxis. PC. Rated: E10+.
Veteran PC gamers know this series well, and this entry is yet another progression in a tried-and-true formula. Bringing the precise rules and mechanics of a board game into a digital play space and expanding the possibilities to the limit, Civilization VI offers rich, varied game- play. With each session, players choose a nation to lead from the Stone Age all the way into the future. To be successful, players must balance military, political, artistic, religious, and scientific progress as they work to fulfill a victory condition before their opponents. Playable against the PC or human gamers, this title is as addictive as it is intimidating; for all of its moving parts and complex systems, however, it has the mark of a truly great game—it’s so engaging you don’t really care if you win or lose.

top picks

ljx170101webbestmvideogame2Dishonored 2. Arkane. Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC. Rated: M.
The sequel to one of 2012’s most critically acclaimed games, Dishonored 2 brings gamers back to the gothic-steampunk setting that made the first Dishonored so full of personality and mystery, allowing them to resume the role of the first game’s hero, Corvo, or take on the role of Emily, his trainee and the true star of the show. Fighting to reclaim the throne that was stolen from her, Emily uses magical powers and ruthless techniques to weaken her enemies’ power and influence. Or she can employ trickery and intimidation, bringing her foes to ruin without taking a single life. Huge levels that allow for any number of strategies give the game nearly endless replay value, and the imaginative setting is not one you will want to leave soon ­anyway.

ljx170101webbestmvideogame3Pokémon GO. Niantic. Android, iOS. Rated: E.
There was no escaping this game this year, even as its popularity waned after a series of updates from developer Niantic that left a sour taste in gamers’ mouths. Thankfully, it is on the upswing again, with more features and better performance with each iteration. It’s simplistic in nature, and what really sells Pokémon GO is the social experience it delivers: interacting in a physical, social space, forging real-world relationships, and getting outside to explore are rarely an integral part of the game-play experience. Exceptional for its ambition and social innovation.

ljx170101webbestmvideogame4Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon. Game Freak. Nintendo 3DS. Rated: E.
Like all other Pokémon games for handheld Nintendo consoles, this is actually two games released concurrently. Each one offers players a chance to explore a tropical environment, catching and training the “pocket monsters” that we all know and love while competing against other players, but they have different selections of creatures and different possibilities for how the game turns out. Trading Pokémon is possible for players who are in proximity to one another, allowing for the social interaction this series is known for. Longtime fans and newcomers alike will find lots to love here, with unique re­designs of their favorite monsters and a lush new environment to explore.

ljx170101webbestmvideogame5Titanfall 2. Respawn. Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC. Rated: M.
The sequel to a game that had amazing potential but a short shelf life, Titanfall 2 delivers on bigger thrills, more exciting game-play, and more heart than its predecessor. The air-tight multiplayer format is back, promising fast-paced action punctuated by awe-inspiring giant mech fights, but the standout here is the single-player campaign. While the original game lacked a mode for offline solo play, this entry in the series more than makes up for it. Telling the story of a rookie mech pilot as he bonds with his new mechanical companion, the game is marked by excellent level design and thrilling moments. The campaign is short but hits all the right marks. This Titanfall is a truly complete package.


ljx170101webbestgames1

honorable mentions

Batman: Return to Arkham. Rocksteady. Xbox One, Playstation 4. Rated: T.
Longtime gamers have probably already experienced each installment of this series, but they’re worth revisiting—and gamers new to the series won’t find a better way to play them. With remastered graphics, Batman’s adventures are more visually impressive than ever before.

Battlefield 1. EA DICE. XBox One, Playstation 4, PC. Rated: M.
Taking the first-person shooter (FPS) genre into the previously uncharted territory of World War I, Battlefield 1 delivers a gut-wrenching single-player campaign that doesn’t apologize or pull punches when portraying the brutality and terror of this terrible conflict; this is not the glorified action-movie spectacle of most other FPS games. It also includes the stellar multi­player combat mode that gamers have come to know and love.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Infinity Ward. Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC. Rated: M.
The latest entry in the fan-favorite FPS ­series goes full-on sf with daring outer space dogfights, zero-gravity engagements, and robots armed with laser weapons. For those who tire of the story-driven campaign, there’s also a cooperative zombies mode that features a group of four players working together to make it out of a bizarre theme park teeming with terrifying monsters. Those who pick up the Legacy Edition will also have access to a remastered version of the original Modern Warfare, a classic that set the standard for FPS games.

DOOM. id. Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC. Rated: M.
The original FPS is back, and it’s darker, and scarier than ever before. Fast-paced shooting in wide-open environments makes for a more intense experience than most other modern shooters, and the game doesn’t shy away from the kind of shocking violence that a lone warrior fighting against the armies of Hell would experience. For fans of horror, action, or old-school FPS game-play.

Killing Floor 2. Tripwire. PC. Rated: M.
Just when you thought you had seen every­thing the zombie genre had to offer, this game delivers something fresh. The first in this series was an addictive, intense co-op shooter that saw a quiet release and developed a cult following; the panic has been raised to new levels in this sequel. Working together in teams of up to four, players must survive wave after wave of grotesque mutants who attack with a variety of weapons and abilities, then take out an immense final boss. Players start out with basic weaponry; weapon and armor upgrades must be purchased with currency earned in combat. Though it emphasizes teamwork and communication, this game is not for the faint of heart.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD. Nintendo. Wii U. Rated: E.
Another reimagined classic updated for high-definition displays and a great game to play in anticipation of next year’s Breath of the Wild.

Offworld Trading Company. Mohawk. PC. Rated: E.
Most real-time strategy games work off of a military theme: players construct bases, train units, and deploy soldiers in an effort to destroy their opponents. Offworld Trading Company is different; players run an economic empire, working to defeat their opponents by way of corporate espionage, forced takeovers, and resource control. Deception and trickery are preferred over aggression and hostility—not that things can’t still get ugly. With several different factions to play, there’s something for every gaming style.

There you have it: the best games of 2016. As we head into 2017, get ready for another great year in gaming. We’ll see the release of Nintendo’s new console, the Switch, a sequel to the classic Red Dead Redemption, plus countless other surprises. I’m ready—are you?

This article was published in Library Journal. 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.

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