10 of the best video games you may have missed in 2016
There just aren't enough hours in the day. Really, there aren't; once you've been to work, gone home, been to the gym, had a shower, made your tea and watched The Chase on catch up (shout out to our main man The Beast), it's pretty much bedtime. Don't even get us started on the weekend; the last time we had a free weekend, Donald Trump was that bloke with the funny hair off The Apprentice.
Unfortunately, video games do not care for our lack of time. They march on with or without us, hitting shelves at a relentless pace that only the most hardcore of gamers could possibly keep up with. While you were desperately trying to work Uncharted 4 into your busy schedule, you probably missed a couple of gems.
But fear not, time-strapped reader: we hopped into our time machine, set "˜2016' as our destination and brought back 10 fantastic games that you really should play as soon as possible (or as soon as you've got all that boring other stuff out of the way).
LIMBO turned all kinds of gamers onto the joys of indie gaming and following it up was undoubtedly a thankless task. Luckily, Inside more than lives up to the reputation of its older brother.
Like LIMBO, Inside is a monochromatic side-scrolling platformer that relies heavily on trial and error; navigating the game's puzzles and obstacles means trying stuff, dying and then trying it a different way until you succeed.
It's just as mysterious too, although this time the action takes place in some kind of Orwellian dystopian society rather than a creepy forest. Shadowy figures lurk around like mindless drones and industrial structures loom large in the background, somehow making Inside even more unsettling than its predecessor.
Inside is one of the most artistic, interesting and terrifying games of the past few years. Play it as soon as you can.
In theory, running your own farm sounds brilliant: working in the fresh air, growing your own crops, giving your animals cutesy names. Let's all ditch our suits and drive tractors instead!
Of course, farming is actually really hard work. You have to get up an ungodly hour of the morning, clean up animal poo and undertake back-breaking labour on a daily basis (the kind of labour most desk jockeys would moan about for weeks afterwards).
So thank heavens for Stardew Valley, which provides exactly the kind of glorious and transcendent farming experience city-dwellers dream of. It even starts like an office workers daydream, with your character moving out to the sticks and taking control of his uncle's old farm.
From there, the game is pretty much just growing crops, rearing live stock and running a profitable business with none of the stresses of real farming. It's rewarding, relaxing and enjoyable.
But the rural fantasy doesn't end there. Your Stardew Valley farm is situated at the heart of a rural community straight out of a soap opera, with each resident boasting their own hilarious or heartbreaking back story. Honestly, you might shed a little tear. And yes, you can even go on the pull and find yourself a farmer's wife.
Stardew Valley is escapism at its finest, offering the chance to live a slower-paced life without all the early mornings, manual labour and dirty work.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes was actually released in 2015, but we're including it in this post because a) it only came out on PS4 in October 2016 and b) we'll never get bored of typing out that amazing title.
The title sums up the game perfectly. You and your friends are tasked with disarming a bomb. However, only one of you can see the bomb while the others have instructions to disarm the bomb's various modules. The result is a tense, frantic and hilarious conversation as the defuser tries to describe the bomb and the experts try to relay helpful information.
Imagine a bomb-defusing scene from an action movie, replace the calm expert with your mates blabbering at you and you've pretty much got Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. Multiplayer games don't get much better than this.
Salt and Sanctuary
Although it sounds like a newly opened gastropub in a provincial town, Salt and Sanctuary is actually a 2D platformer that plays like the lovechild of Castlevania and Dark Souls.
You play as a chap tasked with protecting a princess, a scenario practically guaranteed to go horribly, horribly wrong. Sure enough, your ship is soon attacked by demons and you're left stranded on an island sans princess.
Instead of going home and explaining what happened and hoping not to lose your job as head princess protector, you press on and face loads of tough-as-nails baddies. Like Souls, the combat in S&S is ridiculously tough; it takes time to master but it's rewarding once you get the hang of it.
Souls fans should feel right at home with the class and upgrade system too, as well as the collectible salt that disappears when you die. You don't need to love Souls to love this though. It's a must-play for anyone who misses the days when completing a game was harder than making a sandwich and doing a backflip at the same time.
A few eyebrows were raised when it was announced that the new Hitman game would adapt an episodic format.
As it turns out, splitting the game into episodes made perfect sense. The premise is pretty much the same as every other Hitman game: stepping into the suit of Agent 47, you have to kill a certain person by any means necessary.
And we really do mean any means necessary. After being dropped into one of the game's locations (Paris, Sapienza, Marrakesh, Bangkok, Colorado and Hokkaido), you're free to kill your target however you like: you can run in all guns blazing, wear a stupid disguise and walk right up to your target, tamper with the environment to make it look like an accident "" whatever you fancy.
Hitman rewards creativity and ingenuity instead of sticking you on a set path and telling you what to do, and it's hugely entertaining as a result.
Zero Time Dilemma
Okay, you're going to have bear with us on this one because it's a little weird.
Zero Time Dilemma follows nine people who've been kidnapped by masked ne'erdowell Zero. The nine are forced to split up into teams of three and forced to play the "˜Decision Game', which is a bit like a combination of Saw and The Crystal Maze.
The game itself takes the form of a series of escape the room puzzles which end with a horrible decision.
So far, so grim. But that's only half the story. Each puzzle is presented as a "˜fragment' and can be played in any order. Each completed fragment is then placed on a flowchart depicting all the possible outcomes, encouraging the player to explore alternative timelines.
Yep, it's pretty weird… but in a good way. Get it if you're looking for a mindbending adventure to play on your commute.
I Am Setsuna
Video games have been around long enough now for older gamers to grumble about how good things used to be "˜back in the day'. RPGs are particularly prone to bouts of nostalgia, a longing for the days of epic stories and turn-based battles rather than huge open worlds and endless fetch quests.
I Am Setsuna is almost certainly aimed at people who pine for the days of Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger. Like those games, it involves exploring dungeons and cities, fighting baddies in glorious turn-based battles and progressing through a fairly linear but engrossing tale. The in-depth magic and skill upgrade system that will satisfy your inner RPG nerd too.
Tonally, it's a little bleaker than your average JRPG. You play as a mercenary transporting a princess who is sacrificing herself to demons for the good of her land, which is having more than a few demon issues. It's not a particularly noble task, and the sombre tone (including a solumn piano soundtrack) reflects that.
All in all, this is perfect for retro RPG lovers. Plus, it's coming out on Nintendo Switch too!
Hyper Light Drifter
A lot of games treat players like children: go over here, do this, talk to this person, kill this thing, pick up the shiny stuff, press A to do some talking… and so on.
Hyper Light Drifter, a Zelda style RPG, goes in the opposite direction, dropping you into a mysterious post-apocalyptic world and pretty much leaving you to it. You don't get told where to go and you don't get told what's happening either; in fact, you won't hear a single line of dialogue in the entire game.
That leaves you free to interpret the game as you wish, a rare luxury in modern gaming. If you're willing to put the time and effort in, Hyper Light Drifter provides an unforgettable experience.
In Virginia, you play as an FBI agent exploring the disappearance of a young boy in a small town. Events soon take a surreal turn, however…
If you haven't guessed yet, Virginia is heavily inspired by 90s masterpiece Twin Peaks; its narrative is littered with strange dreams, heavy symbolism and multiple realities.
Like Twin Peaks, Virginia experiments with its form to wonderful effect too. It frequently utilises Hollywood-style cuts to transport you from one place to another, often in a matter of seconds; one minute you're walking down a corridor, the next you're walking down a street. It lacks any kind of dialogue too, placing extra emphasis on its gorgeous graphics and meaning-laden imagery.
Virginia is only a couple of hours long and is arguably more of an interactive movie than a game, but its well worth it if you enjoy experimentation and surrealism.
Alright, so Firewatch is hardly a secret at this point; it's sold over one million copies, which is amazing for an indie game. It's received a lot of critical attention too.
If you haven't played it yet though, you really, really should. You play as Henry (voiced by Mad Men's Rich Sommer), a fire outlook in the Shoshone National Forest. He spends most of his days walking around and talking to his supervisor Delilah on a walkie-talkie, although it's not long before you're digging into strange events around the forest.
Essentially, all you do in Firewatch is walk around, talk to someone over a radio and occasionally find some clues. But it looks so incredible that you'll feel at peace just walking through the virtual forest, and the story is pretty engaging once you get into it too.
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