So, here we are. It's the end of the year, which means it's time to look back and take stock of the games that have captured our hearts and thrilled us to the very core. Presented via a handy list, of course.
There have been too many great releases for them all to be featured, and there's always an element of subjectivity to the selection process, but I hope you'll generally agree with the shining examples of gaming goodness laid before you. If not, then feel free to let off some steam and tell me about your misgivings in the comments section.
Until then however, sit back, relax, perhaps with a nice tea or coffee, and take in some words about games that if you've got any sense you'll have probably already played. And if not, get them bought. Now!
Best Multiplayer First-Person Shooter - Overwatch
It's been a great year for multiplayer first-person shooter fans, what with the likes of Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 being released. The game that's really set their world on fire though, is none other than Blizzard's excellent Overwatch.
Featuring a colourful and comical cast of heroes, each with their own weapons and abilities, Overwatch has quickly become the first-person shooter of choice for many a savvy gamer. It's understandable when you consider just how much fun it is to play, as well as being finely balanced so as to promote high levels of competition. Sweetening the deal is that Blizzard plans to continue adding new maps and heroes into the proceedings for free, keeping players engaged long into the foreseeable future. [PC, PS4, Xbox One]
Best Single-Player First-Person Shooter - DOOM
This year's reboot of the DOOM franchise may have a suite of multiplayer modes, but for the purposes of this list, forget about them. You see, really, the only reason you need to play DOOM is for its single player campaign, which can be simply described as bloody epic.
Over the course of 15 hours you’ll kill more hellish demons than you can shake your blood-drenched fist at, and trust me, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to do so as you’re ripping them to bits with your armour clad hands. That is, of course, after you’ve softened them up with some good old-fashioned gunfire, be it from your trusty shotgun, fancy plasma rifle or the hugely gratifying and highly destructive Big Fucking Gun.
Honestly, if you appreciate a great single player campaign and don’t mind lashings of gore, DOOM is an essential title. You can pick it up pretty cheap now too, so what’re you waiting for? [PC, PS4, Xbox One]
Best Third-Person Shooter - Gears of War 4
The original Gears of War definitely wasn’t the first third-person shooter to implement a cover mechanic, but my god was it the first to do it so intuitively. Now, almost every third-person game seems to have jumped on the bandwagon, with even a young Lara Croft often ducking for cover before popping a cap into someone’s noggin.
2016 is the year that Gears of War returned to show its competitors who’s boss though, with the long-awaited fourth entry in the series starting a new chapter in the saga. The controls have been improved, enemies refreshed, and multiplayer modes expanded, all coming together to create a package that is bursting at the seams with gaming goodness, just waiting for a chainsaw bayonet to let it out. It isn’t afraid of some healthy fan service either, with Marcus, Cole and Baird all showing up to please long-term fans and give the new cast some much-needed backup.
Despite playing on our nostalgia by shoehorning in the old Gears crew however, Gears of War 4 is still very much its own beast, giving hope for what’s to come in the inevitable sequels. [PC, Xbox One]
Best Racing Game - Forza Horizon 3
Whilst the likes of straight-up racers such as Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport are great at providing thrills for the sensible driver within us, sometimes you just want to let your hair down and go absolutely mental. It used to be that you’d buy the latest Need for Speed or Burnout title to satiate such urges, but… well, you know what’s happened to those series' over the years. No, your best option now is to buy the latest and greatest Forza Horizon title, and luckily, this year’s release is by far the best yet.
Set in the varied and picturesque locales of Australia, open-world racer Forza Horizon 3 casts you as the boss of your very own motoring festival, giving you the freedom to define just how it all plays out. You can choose which venues you want to develop, which races or events you compete in and with which cars. It really doesn’t matter, whether alone or with friends, as long as you’re having fun and gaining fans you’re doing things right.
Best Open-World Game - Watch Dogs 2
With a new protagonist, a new setting and one hell of a sense of humour, Watch Dogs 2 stands head and shoulders over its divisive predecessor in all ways.
Playing as Marcus Holloway, the newest member of the hacker group known as DedSec, Watch Dogs 2 lets you wreak havoc across its colourful recreation of the San Francisco Bay Area. There’s more of a focus on stealth this time around, rather than the frequent shootouts that Aiden found himself in, but then there’s also more ingenious hacking tricks up Marcus’ sleeve to facilitate it. What’s more, he’s got access to some nifty toys too, such as an insult emitting jumping RC car and a handy quadrocopter to get a bird’s eye view of the environment. Cool beans, huh?
Whether you play alone or with a friend in co-op, Watch Dogs 2 has so much fun to offer that its main missions often take a backseat to ridiculous shenanigans uncovered as you explore. I mean, how many games do you know that let you visit a naturist colony and take lewd selfies? [PC, PS4, Xbox One]
Best Adventure Game - Uncharted 4
Set to be the last entry in the series, or at least the last to star Nathan Drake, Uncharted 4 tugs on PlayStation 4 owners’ heartstrings by showing us a more human side of the man behind the wise-cracking mask. It’s got the usual level of Naughty Dog spit and polish, meaning it looks and sounds hotter than a Swedish supermodel, and it’s full of high-action set pieces that deliver an abundance of the “Oh, Crap!” moments we’ve come to love.
For the would-be adventurer, Uncharted 4is undoubtedly this year’s finest example of the genre. It’s got a cracking ending too, which makes a change from the usual disappointments we’ve had to endure from big-name franchises over the years. [PS4]
Best Fighting Game - Street Fighter V
It’s no secret that Street Fighter V had a bit of a shaky launch thanks to server issues and a severe lack of content. Since then though, it’s been continually patched and fleshed out with additional DLC, and what’s more, support for it is set to continue long into the future. The result is a game that finally lives up to expectations.
Characters, both new and old, are wonderfully animated, and the fighting mechanics are expertly crafted. Playing online is now free of troublesome issues, and when you don’t feel like playing against a human there’s a wealth of single player content to get stuck into. Honestly, if you haven’t yet picked up Street Fighter V, there’s no better time than now. Whether you’re a Street Fighter noob or a tournament champion, there’s no doubting that it’s the current pinnacle of the fighting game genre. [PC, PS4]
Best Platformer - Shu
Whilst they’re not so popular these days, colourful 2D platformers were once all the rage. Every now and again though, one comes around that rekindles our love for the genre. In the near past it’s been titles such as Ori & the Blind Forest and Rayman Origins that have warmed our hearts with their platforming goodness, but this year, it’s been the turn of a little gem called Shu.
With its sumptuous graphics and soothing music, Shu is a beautiful 2D platformer that is an absolute pleasure to play. You run around, picking up a myriad of collectables whilst finding friends to hold hands with on your journey that grant you new skills, and while it may sound fairly generic, it feels utterly unique. Part of that is down to the fact that it features no enemies. Well, apart from a screen-sized dark force that chases you like The Evil Dead’s unseen demonic presence from time to time. Need I say more? [PC, PS4]
Best Role-Playing Game - Dark Souls 3
Just like its predecessors, this year’s Dark Souls 3 is extremely challenging, but it just makes it all the more alluring for brave RPG fans. Adventuring around the Kingdom of Lothric is fraught with peril as its grotesque and often merciless inhabitants seek to put an end your existence time and time again, yet you’ll push on, enhancing your character’s and your own abilities in a bid to reach the bitter end. Along the way, you’ll also encounter some absolutely superb bosses that will truly test your skills as well as your ability to swear, but you’ll love every minute of fighting them in some kind of sick and twisted way.
Rewarding in a way that no other game quite manages to be, Dark Souls 3 may at times test your patience, but it will also leave you elated and with your heart pounding with adrenaline. [PC, PS4, Xbox One]
Best Strategy Game - Total War: Warhammer
Strategy and Games Workshop’s world of Warhammer; they go together like pie and peas don’t they? The creators of the Total War series certainly seem to agree; making it the basis of their first ever non-historically bound game, and it is glorious.
Total War: Warhammer has you choosing your favourite Warhammer faction before engaging in epic turn-based and real-time battles. You don’t have to bother buying expensive miniatures and painstakingly paint them beforehand or worry about where you’ve misplaced your assortment of dice; you just jump in and take command of an army with little to no fuss. Even better is that with its fantastical setting and a raft of gameplay additions and enhancements, it’s the most engaging Total War entry in years. If you fancy yourself as an armchair strategist or even just an ardent fan of Game Workshop’s Warhammer universe, Total War: Warhammer should be considered as one of the year’s essential titles. [PC]
Best Puzzle Game - Stephen’s Sausage Roll
To look at it, you wouldn’t think much of Stephen’s Sausage Roll. Someone describing it to you probably wouldn’t change your opinion much either. It’s only when you begin to play it that you realise just what an ingeniously designed puzzler it really is. You just need to give it a chance.
Rolling sausages around environments that look like they’ve been made within Minecraft is strangely appealing, but it’s making sure they get cooked equally on all four sides by moving them over grills that will have you scratching your head. You’ll get angry and frustrated as you fail time and time again, either burning your cylindrical pieces of meat or dowsing them in water. But you’ll persist, refusing to be beaten, and when you finally succeed you’ll move onto the next conundrum and repeat the process again, overjoyed with your previous victory. Stephen’s Sausage Roll may be a little bit crazy, but it’s hands down the best puzzle game released this year. [PC]
Best Sports Game - FIFA 17
To be honest, both Pro Evolution Soccer and FIFA have brought their ‘A’ games to players this year, but thanks to its rather unusual inclusion of a story mode, FIFA just nudged one into the back of the net for the victory in extra time.
Placing you in the football boots of Alex Hunter, FIFA 17’s The Journey chronicles his rise to success from the very moment he catches the attention of a talent scout right up being selected for a place in the England Team. As entertaining as The Journey is though, it’s FIFA 17’s representation of the actual act of playing football that makes it a winner. The gameplay is fluid and authentic, its presentation is without equal, and thanks to EA’s licensing efforts you can (nearly) play as all of your favourite players and teams. For a football fan, FIFA 17 really is the complete package. [PC, PS4, Xbox One]
Best Game for Kids - LEGO Dimensions
Okay, okay. I know that LEGO Dimensions wasn’t released in 2016, but a huge amount of awesome new content for it has been, cementing its position as the best game for kids (or AFOLs) currently available.
Perhaps the only videogame where you can have just as much fun away from the screen as you can sat controller in hand in front of it, building the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog complete with his little blue car and Tails' plane is only the beginning of the joy to come. And if you despise Sonic the Hedgehog with his obnoxious attitude then there are a whole host of other new franchises given the LEGO treatment for you to fawn over, such as Gremlins, Fantastic Beasts and Adventure Time. Whatever set(s) you decide to indulge yourself (or the kids) with, you can guarantee that you’ll at least have a fantastic themed hub world to explore, if not some enjoyable new levels too, making LEGO Dimensions the game that just keeps on giving. [PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U]
Best Mobile Game - Pokémon Go
Pokémon played on a phone? What sort of trickery is this and do Nintendo know about it? That was quite possibly the reaction of Nintendo fans when Pokémon Go was released on smartphones earlier this year before quickly becoming a cultural phenomenon. Either that or they were already too busy hunting for a Jigglypuff behind that dodgy pub around the corner at the dead of night.
Requiring gamers to put their shoes on and actually venture out into the real world to be the number one Pokemon trainer, Pokémon Go is not only fun, but it's good for your health too. Oh, and did I mention that it's free? Sure you can spend money on it if you feel the need - buying coins which can be exchanged for items such as Pokémon attracting incense and additional Pokéballs - but otherwise Pokémon Go is free-to-play mobile gaming at its best. [Android, iOS]