Well, we’re already half way through 2016, a year many would say has had indie games reigning supreme. And though there is certainly an excellent selection of quality independents, it’s a good sign that the AAA studios can still wow us with games like Uncharted 4.
This is not a mathematical list of the best review scores on the site; rather, they are simply some of our favorite games of the year so far. Is there anything you would add to this list? Tell us in the comments what your best games from the first half of 2016 are!
(This list is in no particular order)
Games like Inside don’t come out very often. It’s one of the few games we’ve awarded a 10 out of 10 to here on OnlySP and it’s a game that instills so much thought in the player without doing really anything all that complex. What makes Inside such an important game, though, is its world-building and the atmosphere it creates. Inside is a game people will be talking about for a long time as they try to piece together the wordless narrative and the world that encompasses it. (Nick Calandra)
2. UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END
It was probably a no brainer that Uncharted 4 would make it on to this list. Naughty Dog sent the series out on its highest note and turned a series that was primarily seen as a Hollywood action adventure game into something more. A series that was traditionally known for its high octane cinematic moments was toned down into a more story focused “final adventure” for the series and it was better for it.
As I said in my review of the game, “We don’t see sequels like this very often.” Usually a sequel is designed to be “bigger and better” than the last game. Uncharted 4 has taken the completely opposite route, going for less action and more substance, and it really pays off, sending the Uncharted series out on its highest note. (Nick Calandra)
3. DARK SOULS III
A world hurtling toward destruction. A terrifying corruption. Factions – self-involved, benign, or mysterious – all pursuing their own goals. Lordran is over, the kingdom of Lothric has lost its ruler and the flame is dying – the end is nigh.
Dark Souls III epitomises, without quite perfecting, all of the stories that have come before in the Souls universe – even including Demon’s and Bloodborne. Continuing director Hidetaka Miyazaki’s fascination with grotesque worlds filled to the brim of monsters and magic, Dark Souls III even improves upon its predecessors in some ways. The difficulty curve has never been more inviting to new players (though it is still an incredibly difficult game), the bosses are bigger and more twisted than ever, and the RPG elements have been greatly expanded on.
Dark Souls III is the most accessible of the Souls games, and also the most polished. Although it cannot beat the classic, densely connected Rubik’s Cube that is the first Dark Souls – and Bloodborne is more thematically accomplished – Dark Souls III is an incredible journey and a fitting send off to From Software’s legendary series. (Mitchell Akhurst)
4. RATCHET & CLANK
Insomniac Games are one-developer video game defence force. At the launch of the PS3, Resistance: Fall of Man was one of the few worthwhile titles. In 2014, Sunset Overdrive was a headline exclusive for the Xbox One. Soon, they’ll be one of the biggest developers of Oculus Rift games, and earlier this year they brought back 3D platformers with the outstanding Ratchet & Clank remake.
It’s no secret that the genre has been under-served of late. Even the Super Mario games have been changing genre, so Ratchet & Clank could have phoned it in and still met great success given the appetite for 3D platformers. But instead of taking it easy, Insomniac Games rebuilt their first Ratchet title from the ground up and made not only the most graphically beautiful entry in the series to date but also the best movie tie-in game ever.
Everything is an improvement on the gameplay of the original. The controls are slick and the weapons are a collection of the best in the series; the puzzles are more accessible and the gadgets have more utility. Even the story – better executed in the game than in the recent movie – represents some of the best humor and world-building that the series has to offer.
Above all, Ratchet & Clank represents a new beginning for a series that deserves such praise and popularity. Bring on the next one, Sony – oh, and try to make the second movie better. (Mitchell Akhurst)
5. DARKEST DUNGEON
Darkest Dungeon scratches an itch for emergent gameplay that few games do. You just never know what’s going to happen – though you can be pretty sure that it’ll be bad. The game puts you in charge of a rundown hamlet with the task of hiring teams of adventurers to delve into the various dungeon and dungeon-like areas to battle the dark, Lovecraftian forces that have brought madness to your ancestral home.
The game can be keyboard-smashingly difficult at times, but it’s hard to argue with the overall quality of the narrative, characters, and even the challenges that have been programmed into the games. A must try for anyone who likes a challenge and doesn’t mind screaming themselves hoarse once in awhile. (Reid Gacke)
No other first person adventure game can boast such a slim, yet robust cast of characters as Firewatch, save maybe Portal. Related to games like Gone Home, Bioshock and Telltale’s The Walking Dead, but particularly the latter for its density of story, Firewatch brings an innovative blend of gameplay and dialogue that will see it held up as a classic of the genre in years to come.
The game is not without its detractors – some press and even comments from the developers suggested pre-release that Firewatch was a mystery story, and those who expected a satisfying reveal, as such, were somewhat disappointed with the ending. However, it’s really about the relationship between the player character, Henry, and his only human contact, Delilah, as he takes a job watching for fires in Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest.
In music, visuals and gameplay, Firewatch balances down-to-earth nature with a cartoon sheen that has to be experienced to be believed. It’s as though Pixar were animating the script of a low-budget indie drama. Though it isn’t truly an open-world game, light Metroidvania elements expand the world alongside the story so that it never feels repetitive over the course of its four to six hour running time.
Before release, Campo Santo’s first game seemed hard to pin down. Was it going to be another walking simulator? A character study? A wilderness exploration game? An interactive movie? It turned out to be a little bit of each of those, and, in the end, Firewatch is Firewatch. I am very happy that Campo Santo is here to stay. (Mitchell Akhurst)
7. QUANTUM BREAK
To say that Quantum Break had a lot of hype behind it is an understatement. The game was a big part of Microsoft’s 2013 E3 press conference, where they announced the Xbox One. Since that big reveal, however, the message got a little muddled, particularly regarding its inclusion of a television series, and up until the release of Remedy’s new adventure game, no one was quite sure what to expect. Luckily, the title is a worthy console exclusive for the Xbox One, despite a handful of issues.
Released April 5, 2016, Quantum Break is essentially an action-adventure shooter game, and a fairly short one at that. The shooting and cover mechanics also left a lot to be desired. What really made Quantum Break such a memorable game, however, is its narrative. Exploring different aspects of theoretical and quantum physics, the storyline has multiple branches and actually allows players to play as both the antagonist and the protagonist. The game’s story, and choices, along with the resulting episodic intermissions make it an experience worth playing. (Lance Roth)
8. FALLOUT 4: FAR HARBOR
For me, Fallout 4 was a huge disappointment, and I’ve spent plenty of time in Bethesda’s post-apocalyptic Boston. I’ve actually written reviews for the main game and each of its add-ons. My biggest complaint is, of course, the narrative, or more specifically its lack thereof. I thought the main story line was uninspired and, overall, just half-baked. To me, it was the equivalent of a giant sandbox with a handful of toys, none of them terribly interesting. Most of my time with Fallout 4 was spent wishing I could go back to playing Witcher 3…at least until Far Harbor came out.
While Far Harbor doesn’t totally elevate my opinion of the main campaign, it does remedy a lot of my original complaints. For one, the narrative is much denser, and everyone’s story just seems more personal. It starts you off investigating the disappearance of a young woman whose parents are understandably distraught. Yeah, I know the main story has your own child being abducted, but it really does a poor job giving it the appropriate weight. With Far Harbor, the trauma is successfully sold, and likewise the rest of the new area is populated with surprisingly relatable characters. The higher level combat can be a chore, but the stories you discover really make it all worthwhile. (Lance Roth)
9. THE WITCHER 3: BLOOD AND WINE
CD Projekt RED struck gold when they released The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt last year. The game was massive, gorgeous, had a great narrative, and, most importantly, was fun to play. Blood and Wine brought us back in lavish style to The Witcher 3 this year with a large new region to explore, new enemies to fight, and a new, more complex narrative to indulge with.
Blood and Wine is Geralt’s final adventure according to CD Projekt RED, and it’s certainly an adventure worth taking. (Nick Calandra)
Combining old-school grid-based dungeon crawling with the touch screen fighting of an Infinity Blade, Severed is in many ways a contradiction. The latest game from DrinkBox, developers of Guacamelee and the Mutant Blob games, has their same striking 2D art style but is much more grim in tone. The story is emotional, even spiritual, but the gameplay is a crunchy dungeon-RPG. Strangest of all, it was released as a high-profile exclusive on the low-profile (some would even say dying) PlayStation Vita.
Yet, despite all this, the resulting game is far from the messy oddity it could have been. Thematically consistent and filled to the brim with exotically weird locales and hauntingly bizarre monsters, Severed is a must-play for RPG fans — and now that it is coming to smartphones, 3DS, and Wii U, more players will be able to experience its quiet, singular beauty. (Mitchell Akhurst).