*This list is in no particular order*
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
It’s been one heck of a wild ride following Nathan Drake and company from one adventure to another. He took us on journeys through the golden city of El Dorado, the fabled land of Shambhala, and to an Atlantis in the sands known as the Iram of the Pillars. But as they say, all good things must come to an end. And what an ending Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was. Naughty Dog has once again outdone themselves and set an industry standard for compelling storytelling. Not only does Uncharted 4 provide a satisfying conclusion to the tale of Nathan Drake, it also answers many lingering questions we’ve all had about the main protagonist. Couple that with spectacular visuals and a little nostalgia peppered in, and you have yourself a game of the year candidate.
This dark and haunting 2.5D side scrolling puzzle-platformer (that’s a mouthful) has made it onto many favorite games of the year lists and for good reason. From storytelling, to gameplay, to mechanics, Inside just does everything right. The game is short so I won’t go too far in depth about it, but I do want to highlight what Inside does best, creating moments. There are certain points in this game that are crafted so well that it will make you feel genuine moments of dread, panic, and/or anxiety. Now I know that probably sounds awful, but I mean it in the best possible way. All I’m saying is that game does a phenomenal job producing visceral reactions in its players. On top of that, the controls are tight, the puzzles are clever, and the animation of the main character is exceptional. It’s the culmination of all of these aspects that make Inside a truly standout experience.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
If you know me, then you know that I absolutely love a good cyberpunk game. In my opinion, no one does it better than the Deus Ex franchise. And in a year where people seem to be more divided than ever, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided couldn’t have been released at a better time. What makes Mankind Divided worthy of being one of my favorite games of the year is its deep story, plentiful secrets, engaging dialog, action, and meaningful gameplay choices. The addition of new abilities also opens up new creative avenues for ways to handle certain situations. When it all comes down to it, I had a very hard time putting the controller down while playing this game, even after I beat it.
Hyper Light Drifter
Some games are all style and no substance, others may have substance but can lack in style. When a game manages to have both qualities, that game is special. Hyper Light Drifter is one of those special games. Heavily inspired by The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Diablo, this indie action rpg provides thoroughly satisfying and challenging combat through its variety of complex and dynamic enemies. It also boasts some of the coolest artwork I’ve seen in a game all year.
One of the main reasons why the original Dishonored was a great game is because of the freedom it gave its players. Thanks to the creative level design plus Corvo’s plethora of supernatural lethal and non-lethal abilities, players could choose the way they wanted to accomplish their objectives. Dishonored 2 takes what worked in the first game and improves upon it in every aspect. For instance, in the first game, you couldn't really use your lethal abilities if you wanted to finish a mission with low chaos, obviously because killing is a no-no. In Dishonored 2, the devs found a way to work around that by incorporating mechanical enemies. One of the highlights of this game, however, was the clockwork mansion. The whole level is basically a puzzle. Rooms can shift and shuffle around offering different ways to bypass enemies, lead you to secrets, or even open up new pathways to your destination. This level is so intricate and impressive that I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that it may be the most ingenious level design I’ve ever seen in any game.
*Honorable Mentions: Firewatch, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, SUPERHOT, Doom, Oxenfree