Eurogamer readers’ top 50 games of 2016

Happy New Year, everyone! What will 2017 bring, eh? Well, it’s already brought this: a list of the top 50 games of 2016 as decided by you. Thank you so much for all of your votes. Now, enjoy!

What we said: “Thumper is fast. It’s so insanely fast. Cobble that together with the precision required to succeed and the relentless allure of the wonderfully horrible art, and you have something special.”

Furtin gets Thumper in a nutshell: “Mesmerizing beats whilst driving the subway to hell in VR.”

Eurogamer’s game of the year 2016

You might not have known it from all the drama going on elsewhere, but 2016 was a mighty fine year for video games. Going through the top 10s submitted by Eurogamer contributors that led to our final verdict for game of the year – democracy is still live and kicking here on this website – it was amazing to see the diversity of choices made. Truly there was something for everyone in 2016, and it goes to show how broad this church that is video games has become.

And so the voting was extremely close, with more than a few pleasant surprises. Titanfall 2 only just missed out on the top spot – and please, please, please go and buy this game if you haven’t done so already – while The Last Guardian also troubled the top five, no mean feat given its ten years of tortured development and its release spot late on in the year. Doom also came close to winning the prize, something none of us could have suspected in the run-up to release for id Software’s brilliantly bold reboot of the father of all modern first-person shooters.

If you know Eurogamer, though – and if you’ve ever been into its office on any lunchbreak in recent months, or been witness to the endless conversations on the matter in our IM channels – there was only ever really going to be one winner. Blizzard’s Overwatch has captured the imagination like few other games in recent years, delivering a bright, brilliant and exceptionally designed team shooter that instantly became best in class. Its success means there will be countless imitators in years to come – and 2016 already boasted a couple of lookalikes in its wake – but it’s hard to see anyone toppling Overwatch for years to come. This is simply the foundation for an obsession that’s likely to run and run and run.

Nintendo’s wildest handheld is bowing out with style

Obituaries were already being filed for the Wii U soon after its release in 2012, so now that its days have properly been numbered by Nintendo with the Switch’s impending release there’s been little fanfare around its imminent demise. A shame really, for although there were mistakes – a derivative name put it in the Wii’s shadow from the off, and Nintendo’s inability to market the GamePad ensured it lacked a gimmick to make up for the perceived lack of horsepower – it’s been a fine console, allowing Nintendo to refocus on the core and ensuring a string of delightfully esoteric releases. The sales might have been underwhelming, but those who fell into its weird niche tended to be perfectly happy with that they got. Far too few will mourn one of the greatest cult consoles since the Dreamcast, sadly.

The other side of Nintendo’s current hardware set-up might well be mourned by many more, though you’d hardly know it’s on its way out. Shelves have been emptied of 3DS units on both sides of the Atlantic – thanks, of course, to the release of Pokémon Sun and Moon, which amounted to Nintendo’s biggest ever launch in the UK – and in the run-up to Christmas and well after it’s impossible to get your hands on a handheld that was first launched well over five years ago. I know from first-hand experience – despite having already owned three 3DSs, I’m always toying with the idea of grabbing another, whether for the delicious face plates and coloured buttons of the vanilla New 3DS or the extra screen estate of the XL. I really can’t get enough of this machine.

Such is its success, it’s easy to overlook how strange the 3DS is. First there’s the dual screen set-up, inherited from its immediate predecessor but also cutely calling back to Gunpei Yokoi’s original Game & Watch handhelds. Back at the DS’s announcement in 2004, the set-up felt so unwieldy and, in the original DS model at least, unsightly. It’s only after six years in which the DS established itself as a success that those twin-screens began to feel normal, and not quite so odd. By the time the 3DS was announced in 2010, we’d all got used to the set-up. So Nintendo had to do something else to give it the shock of the new.

Titanfall 2’s buddy story is a very human kind of tragedy

We’re going to be talking about the entire story of Titanfall 2 here, so be warned – there will be spoilers for the whole game, up to and including the ending.

It’s been a good year for companions in games – different kinds of companions. Watching colleagues play The Last Guardian a few weeks back, I was prepared for Trico to behave like a pet. He seemed stubborn, unwilling to follow directions the first time he heard them, but with enough give to suggest that eventually he’d get there. A bit wild, a bit tame, not unlike a housecat.

Now that I’ve spent a little time with the game, however, I can see that there’s much more to him. The opening credits sequence explained to me that I wasn’t just going to be dealing with an upscaled cat at all. I was going to be dealing with a mythical beast, and I wasn’t prepared for that. Within thirty seconds of picking up the controller I realised that presuming to control Trico was a mistake. He’s not a pet, almost an equal. I can understand what he’s doing, but not always why he’s doing it. At his core, he’s daringly unknowable. In a way, it almost feels like you’re his companion character.

VR may not have made much money, but it’s already revitalising games

2016 has been the kind of year that’s probably best spent with your head in a bucket. Luckily for me, that bucket had two little screens wired into it and all sorts of motion-sensing gadgetry stuck on top. I have no idea how VR works – and from a business sense, I gather that it doesn’t really work all that well at the moment. Yet, despite the fact that I couldn’t afford the hardware myself, and despite the fact that VR games aren’t going to be troubling the charts any time soon, VR’s provided me with my favourite gaming moments of this year – and probably my favourite gaming moments of the last few years.

Novelty? Sure. But novelty is actually a bit of a novelty by itself these days. People are pretty good at making games in 2016. I would argue, if I had a better grip on art history, that we’re into the classical stage. Everything’s anatomically correct and very beautifully rendered. Even the duds are generally pretty capable. But what I’ve longed for is a bit of baroque – the madness of grappling with new forms, new ideas. In games that often means new tech. (I feel like I have probably made this point before, so apologies.)

Take Chronos, the first VR game I properly played this year. Chronos is terribly straightforward if you get down to it. Video game maths suggests it’s a bit of Dark Souls added to a bit of, um, Darksiders? Nice enough puzzling and combat in a fantasy setting, with some elegant moments of spectacle that often hinge on drastic changes in perspective. With VR, though, this all felt wonderfully new. The third-person camera that gave me a view of this world was actually me. I was unarguably part of the game, framing the action as I moved my little sword-and-shield guy from one moment to the next and tracked his progress with a tilt of the head. Levels, which would have been artfully handled even if the game was a traditional affair, suddenly became proper dioramas, grottoes and caves I was sat inside. I have never looked at the rumpled edges of a rug so intently in a game as I did here. I had forgotten that feeling – I first got it when I had eye tests at primary school and would look into a little viewer to see an out-of-focus hot air balloon – of being firmly drawn into a private cinema, a world of expectant darkness in which the game itself was suddenly thrillingly bright and up-close.

The year single-player shooters reclaimed their former glory

Every so often a games comes along that is so revolutionary that it inadvertently kills its genre as everyone scrambles to replicate its success. For shooters, that game was Epic’s 2006 shooter Gears of War. As covered in Tom Bissell’s excellent book Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski re-imagined the shooter genre as one of chaos and fear. Where big meaty soldiers would still feel vulnerable when faced with the onslaught of enemy fire chipping away at concrete mere inches from their face. In short, Gears of War wanted to change the old nature of “war is horrible, but isn’t this fun?!” with “war is terrifying for even the most macho of soldiers, but doesn’t it make you feel alive?” It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one. Shooters were no longer about catharsis – or rather they weren’t just about catharsis: they had to instil a feeling of vulnerability.

That’s fine for some games (it worked for Gears), but it shifted the pulse of the genre’s single-player side from the free-wheeling escapist fantasies of the original Doom into the the Michael Bay style of excess by default. How many ‘splosions can we have? Can we cram more NPCs into this battle? Is this shootout “cinematic” enough?

Ironically, this focus on excess took away from the freeform interactive thrills that made the genre popular. Soon, the lion’s share of shooters would look exciting, but in terms of interactivity they’d became increasingly content to let players cower behind cover while scripted series of enemies would filter in following the same familiar patterns. No matter how rousing the surface details were, the bulk of shooters in the last decade came down to cautiously popping in and out of cover.

2016: A year in review

2016 was a strange year for video games. Recent memory is dominated by a handful of high quality blockbusters that failed to excite people. But let’s not forget earlier this year, when a handful of superb blockbusters definitely did excite people. And I’m not just talking about Street Fighter, either (don’t @ me).

In researching 2016, I was surprised to find it jam-packed with video game stuff. Lots of things happened. Lots of people left developers. Lots of people joined developers. Some developers closed down. Some developers sprang into life. Lots and lots and lots of video games came out, mostly on Valve’s ever-bulging Steam. Most were crap. Some were good. But in the pursuit of some kind of meaning, some kind of trend, I was left frustrated. Video games continue to be very good, even though 2016, at its close, feels a little less groundbreaking than I’d liked it to have been.

January, typically a quiet month for video games, saw a number of high-profile developers move on. Marc Laidlaw, lead writer of the Half-Life series, . The move was seen as further evidence, not that it’s needed at this point, that Half-Life 3 is just not happening. Then we learnt Leslie Benzies, long-time leader of Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar North, after a 16-month sabbatical. He later sued Take-Two for $150m in a move that’s already aired . Will the parties settle? I kind of hope not.

Watch: The games delayed into 2017

Some cracking games came out in 2016 – this year we’ve spent hours screaming about onions in , contesting the payload in and, of course, going on overwatch in .

For all the great games we saw this year, however, there were many others that slipped quietly into the night. Well, into 2017, anyway. To remind you of the games you missed this year on account of them still being in development, here are nine games that were delayed into 2017.

If we missed a game you were particularly looking forward to this year off the list, feel free to lament the delay in the comments below. It’ll help pass the time until said game is out, after all.

No Man’s Sky changed the video game hype train forever

Love it or hate it, No Man’s Sky was the most important, influential video game of 2016.

I’m not talking about the rights and wrongs of developer Sean Murray’s pre-release interviews, or the state of the space game at launch. Enough has been said on both those topics already. I’m talking about the fallout, and what it means for video games in 2017 and beyond.

What’s clear is some players felt misled by Hello Games. . Some got one from Valve. Whatever your feeling on it, No Man’s Sky caused one hell of a shitstorm. But this wasn’t a by the numbers video game shitstorm. This one – and the industry noticed.

2016 was the year that Japanese games struck back

The most deafening cheer raised at PSX, Sony’s celebration of all things PlayStation held in a tinselled, sweltering December California, did not follow the news of a sequel to The Last of Us, but rather a surprise trailer advertising a 22 year old arcade game. Windjammers is Pong played with Frisbees. You’re a bronzed Venice Beach bum, dressed in neon pink sweatbands and purple sun-visors, hurling the disc toward your opponent’s goal. There’s never been a better video game interpretation of air hockey but, while the game is often played at hipster-y video game tournaments, nobody anticipated a PlayStation 4 re-release. Fittingly the announcement was made on the same day that SNK, the Osaka-based creator of the enduringly desirable NeoGeo on which Windjammers debuted in 1994, dropped the ‘Playmore’ addendum of its name (picked up when the company reformed following bankruptcy in the early 2000s) to return to its original branding: The Future Is Now.

‘The Past Is Now’ would be a more suitable tagline for the Japanese video game industry in 2016. It’s been a year of unexpected dividends from the country’s storied video game history. Nintendo’s NES Classic and Famicom Mini systems made modern and made miniature the company’s formative system, banking on nostalgia ahead of its Switch offensive in 2017. And while Tokyo’s second hand video game store shelves may sit barren, plundered by so many Western visitors in search of a lost treasure, in 2016 there are more opportunities to play Japanese classics than ever before.

It’s also been the year that Japan’s great white whales, The Last Guardian and Final Fantasy 15, games once lost, presumed dead, finally landed. Both games, to differing degrees, bear the scars of their protracted developments. But the video game ecosystem is richer for their arrival, particularly in the case of Fumito Ueda’s work, which boasts perhaps the best-executed and most cohesive ending of any game to date.