Winter is indeed coming, and fortunately for us we’re not in the lands of Westeros so don’t have to deal with an impending army of Whitewalkers. But we do have to deal with something equally worrisome - a barrage of end of year lists.
Today, it’s a list of the best PC games of 2016, not presented in any particular order. They’re just placed on the page for your eyes to feast upon in case you fancy something new to play or need to buy the PC gamer in your life something special. Actually, scrap that last notion. Most of them are only available digitally unfortunately, so you’re probably better off just buying them a Steam voucher or Microsoft credit instead. Curse PC gamers and their hasty acceptance of new technologies and content delivery methods!
Has Blizzard ever made a rubbish game? Some snide individuals may gesture towards Diablo 3 to claim that they have, but no, they haven’t. Diablo 3 just wasn’t as good upon release as it is now. Overwatch hasn’t had any such trouble through. It’s been great from day one, and just continues to get better and better.
With no single player campaign in sight, Overwatch is focused on being the character-driven multiplayer shooter of choice; a goal that it has already got sewn up as far as I’m concerned. Its success is largely down to its cracking cast of heroes. Split into four classes, each hero has their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as oodles of personality, ensuring that everyone has their favourite that they return to again and again. And of course, as befits any game created by Blizzard, the gameplay is balanced, fun and extremely rewarding, keeping your interest even after 10s or even 100s of hours of play.
If you’re a competitive gamer who likes the virtual bodies they inhabit to have some personality, Overwatch was made just for you, and the PC is the best way to experience it. [Buy it from Amazon | Battle.net]
Total War: Warhammer
As a series that has only concerned itself with real-world historical settings in the past, Total War: Warhammer was unexpected but welcomed with very open arms when it was released this year. I mean, come on, which self-respecting geek could resist the coming together of the award winning strategy gameplay of Total War with Games Workshop’s fantastical Warhammer universe?
Whichever faction you choose to play as, be it the Vampire Counts, the Greenskins, the Empire or the Dwarfs, Total War: Warhammer treats you to epic battles which are far cry from the series’ usual skirmishes grounded in realism. Dragons rule the skies, imposing their fiery wrath over the battlefield, Lords can be developed via their own equipment and skill trees, boosting the power of their army, and some factions have access to powerful magic which can quickly turn the tide of battle. Perhaps the icing on the cake though is the inclusion of a quest mode, rewarding players who complete objectives and battles with unlockable items and abilities. What more could a fantasy loving strategy gamer ask for, eh? [Buy it from Amazon | Steam]
The Battlefield series has always had a solid fanbase on PC, but with the release of the excellent Battlefield 1, I imagine it may find its numbers swelling to uncharted heights.
Despite featuring the series’ best single player campaign in years, letting you witness the horror of war though multiple protagonists’ eyes, Battlefield 1’s real attraction is its epic multiplayer action. All the usual Battlefield modes are in there, along with a brand new Operations mode that has you battling for territory over a number of maps, but it’s the actual combat itself that makes it shine. Buildings crumble around you as missiles and bombs hit their mark, gas clouds swell, trying to infiltrate your lungs before you can reach for your gas mask, and a hail of bullets makes you reconsider your position as you move in to capture an objective. Entering a match on any of Battlefield 1’s finely crafted maps truly feels like entering a warzone, which is an experience you just can’t find anywhere else.
Anyone that works the mind-numbing 9-5 in an office will empathise with the premise of Stardew Valley; a Harvest Moon-inspired farming simulation role-playing game developed by Eric Barone. You see, placing you in the shoes of a disillusioned office worker who’s just discovered that their grandfather left them his old farm just in case they ever find themselves burdened by modern life, it allows you escape the city, be your own boss and live the dream.
With its charming 2D SNES-like visuals, Stardew Valley is the type of game you can easily get lost in for hours at a time, and indeed you will. After tidying up your newly acquired land and meeting the local townsfolk, it’s up you how you go about running things, but if you want to succeed you’ll have to work hard. You’ll spend time rearing livestock, growing plants, adventuring; you may even find time to engage in a relationship and get married, working the farm as a couple. But be weary of your health and exhaustion levels, otherwise, you may find yourself wishing you were back in the city after all! [Buy it from Steam]
Dark Souls 3
The Dark Souls series has served console adventurers well since its introduction in 2011, but poor ports of the first two entries left a sour taste in PC gamers’ mouths. With Dark Souls 3 however, things were different. By taking the best elements of the similarly designed Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne and adding them into the fold, this year’s Dark Souls 3 was a masterpiece, and the best way to play it was on the PC.
Set in the hauntingly picturesque Kingdom of Lothric, Dark Souls 3’s interconnected world was as alluring as you’d ever want such a hostile place to be, with grotesque inhabitants that hit both fast and hard. And its bosses? Well, they were as deviously designed as ever, able to make you swear like a nun with tourette's as you died again and again until you’d learned every nuance of their movesets. That’s the joy of a game like Dark Souls 3 though; getting your arse handed to you on a silver platter until you’ve developed your stats and skills to the point where you can show anything the game can throw at you who’s the boss. You just can’t beat the cathartic feeling it brings. [Buy it from Amazon | Steam]
Stephen's Sausage Roll
Described by its developer as “a simple 3D puzzle game for Windows, Mac and Linux”, nothing can prepare you for the fiendish challenge that Stephen’s Sausage Roll has in store for you. In fact, perhaps a more accurate description would have been “the 3D puzzle game equivalent of Dark Souls”.
Dropped into a world that looks like it’s been created within Minecraft, your goal as the eponymous fork-wielding Stephen is to manoeuvre a load of sausages over grills in order to cook them to perfection. Sounds simple enough, right? Things start to get much more complicated, however, when you realise that Stephen really doesn’t like water, nor, understandably, stepping on hot grills. Also, no one wants a soggy or overcooked sausage. Battling with Stephen’s awkward movement in environments teeming with sausage ruining danger then, making sure all your sausages are cooked evenly on all four sides will throw up conundrums that will have you crying yourself to sleep at night. [Buy it from Steam]
Forza Horizon 3
Following on from the release of the excellent (and free) Forza Motorsport 6: Apex earlier this year, Forza Horizon 3 is the first full game in the series to be released on PC. Considering it’s probably the best Forza game ever made, I’d consider that a big win for PC gamers.
Set in Australia, Forza Horizon 3 offers a sublime range of environments for you to drive around in like a maniac, and it is glorious. Whether you’re tumbling around the dusty dunes of the outback in an Ariel Nomad or speeding around the streets of Byron Bay in a Lamborghini Centenario, you’ll appreciate the stunning graphics and solid handling as you complete events and activities one after the other, striving to build the garage of your dreams. And with game progression driven by you being able to do exactly what you want, when you want, with whoever you want, it feels like a road trip that you never want to end.
Gears of War 4
Despite Gears of War 4 being the fifth entry in the popular series, it’s only the second to have made the jump to PC. That may seem a little strange, but PC gamers shouldn’t dwell upon it too much.
Introducing a new cast of playable characters, new(ish) enemies and some very well handled fan service, both existing fans and those new to the series can jump right in and enjoy what Gears of War 4 has to offer. The campaign is a gripping start to what will hopefully prove to be fulfilling saga, bursting with memorable set pieces. Its wave-based horde mode is an absorbing and challenging co-operative experience that will keep you occupied for hours on end. And to top it all off, it’s suite of versus modes more than meet the needs of any competitive gamer. Honestly, Gears of War 4 on PC is a sublime port of an incredible game that is truly not to be missed. [Buy it from Amazon | Microsoft]
Aliens, eh? Only in videogames do they continually inconvenience us with their machinations for planet Earth. In the case of XCOM 2 they now occupy it, and so it’s up to you to take control of the resistance and create a future for humanity via tactical turn-based battles.
Recruiting, developing and gearing up a dependable squad of soldiers is the name of the game, with multiple classes available that determine their skill trees and abilities. You can customise each of your soldiers to the nth degree too, changing attributes such as their personality, name, nationality and gender to create your own personalised team of alien busting hard-asses. Do try to not get too attached to any of them though – should they fall in battle they’re gone for good, and the local Tesco's doesn't stock man-sized tissues anymore under alien rule.
Featuring secondary objectives for the first time in the series as well as a number of other gameplay enhancements, XCOM 2 is this year’s best title for the wannabe tactician. [Buy it from Amazon | Steam]
Rip and tear. Rip and tear. That was the ethos behind this year’s reboot of the Doom franchise, and whilst there was indeed a hell of a lot of ripping and tearing to be done, it was its fast paced gunplay that really stole the show.
Battling Hell’s minions was an absolute blast as you ran around like Usain Bolt with his pants on fire, filling your enemies’ faces with both barrels of your shotgun. And when you ran out of ammo for that, you simply switched to another of Doom’s awesomely meaty weapons or sliced a demon in half with your chainsaw like an ammo filled piñata and carried on the fun. Need I say more?
Its multiplayer offerings may have been a little on the mundane side, but as far as first person shooters go, Doom’s single player campaign is the best in years. The icing on the cake was that it was extremely well optimised too, running like a dream on even the most humble of PCs. [Buy it from Amazon | Steam]
With so many great PC titles released this year, you, our dear readers, will undoubtedly have your own ideas about what should have been on this list. Don’t be selfish and keep them to yourself. Tell us about them in the comments section below!