All the video games that were coming out in 2016 are now on shelves. As much as we’re looking forward to what 2017 has in store on the gaming front, we’re happy to still be playing these gems through the holidays and beyond.
Best FPS: Titanfall 2
Launched in the shadow of Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2 has simply nailed the action and frenzy of scurrying through a future warzone. Unique movement, huge loadout variety and an improved leveling system dissuaded the fears we had after Titanfall 2’s stress test beta and edged out some stiff competition in the shooter category. The glory of stomping enemies with a giant, oversized robot suit is unparalleled this year.
Best Third Person Shooter: Quantum Break
Probably the most innovative and ambitious story of the year, Quantum Break culled Hollywood talent (thanks, Little Finger and Iceman) into a choose-your-own-adventure that truly embraced its own episodic nature with gorgeous, extensive cut-scenes. Top that off with tight gunplay and impressively destructive powers and Quantum Break succeeded on all fronts.
Best Adventure: Uncharted 4
Nathan Drake’s adventures are always a highlight of the year. Uncharted 4 takes the cake as, hands down, the best PS4-only game of 2016 and may actually be the best overall game of the year. The story that swings from Drake’s early memories all the way to the supposed end of his treasure-hunting career was gripping from start to finish. Uncharted 4 was a globe-trotting race against time with one of the most satisfying resolutions to a story we’ve ever seen in a video game series. It’s even worth a replay on the PS4Pro since it’s one of the games with insane, sweeping environments that look sick in 4K and HDR.
Best RPG: Final Fantasy XV
Ten years waiting, it was hard to imagine that FFXV would be anything besides overhyped. Somehow the most recent Final Fantasy didn’t just live up to the hype, it exceeded it, balancing homages to longtime fans in a way that doesn’t alienate newcomers. Noctis’ quest is epic and personal, touching on moments of true heroism as often as it nails the feeling of you and your buddies walking away victorious from a barfight. Perfectly paced, perfectly scored, perfectly free to explore the wide world—on foot or in your sweet, Audi-inspired whip—Final Fantasy XV delivers on a promise Square made to fans a decade ago.
Best Racing: Forza Horizon 3
Even as the competition dwindles in this category, Microsoft refuses to rest on the laurels of its recent racing successes. The Forza series continues to push the envelope of realism in terms of the jaw-dropping representation of the world’s hottest cars. The Horizon off-shoot takes that hotness and bends the realism factor, offering up wild scenarios for you to use them. The Aussie outback setting of Horizon 3 was a good idea, letting us loose in that outback in a Lamborghini Centenario is what makes it great.
Best Mobile Game: Super Mario Run
We know, Super Mario Run only debuted last week, but damn. We have never played an app game that captures the simplicity or quality of console video games while still feeling crafted specifically for a smartphone. Until last week, that is. Run does every bit of it right. It is iPhone crack, and the best part is it doesn’t come with the guilt of making the Kardashians richer, nor does it require any begging to your Facebook friends. The single-handed, bite-sized gameplay is infinitely replayable thanks to some smart design cues. At the moment, there’s not a game in the entire app store we’d rather be playing.
Best Sports Game: Steep
Incremental improvements to every officially licensed sports game seemed to be a theme in 2016. The officially licensed FIFA, Madden, NHL, NBA and MLB games were all as good as ever, but not one blew us away. Maybe that’s why Steep, the skiing, boarding, flying extreme sports title has been a mainstay of our gaming rotation since it launched. It bucks the trend of small, safe annual updates to blow out the extreme sports genre, something we’ve been missing on this current generation of consoles. Owning the mountain (Steep really does make you feel like you have your own private mountain) in every way is an expedition worth undertaking.
Best Platformer: Inside
The studio behind Limbo struck gold again with Inside. Defined by its moody monochrome and head-scratching setups, Inside became truly memorable as a result of the endless and gruesome death sequences that befell its pint-sized main character. Or maybe it just felt that way because Inside required tons of trial and error, much of which ended in said gruesome deaths. It was an outstanding follow-up to a spectacular game like Limbo and a high point for both puzzles and platforming this year.
Best Fighting: Street Fighter V
Certain games seem to retain their title as gold-standard no matter what. Street Fighter is a great example of that and V, though it got off to a rocky start and leaned on its fanbase’s patience initially, has paid them back tenfold since. Best of all, SFV is a shockingly accessible game for newcomers as much as it’s a common denominator for some of the most competitive, longtime e-sports players in the world. It’s no easy task to build a platform so revered and Street Fighter V is a true accomplishment over the many iterations of its predecessors.
Best Online Multiplayer: Overwatch
Not a single game in 2016 can boast fan-dedication the way Overwatch can. Overwatch is proof that Blizzard can break character with their Warcraft ways to create a spectacular shooter experience that’s quickly become a yardstick for competitive multiplayer in record time. The huge cast of characters isn’t just cosmetic, each one represents a different style of play and a unique way to contribute to your team and that means near-infinite replayability since each character’s abilities take a lot of time and dedication to master... and it’s totally worth it.
Worst Game of the Year: No Man’s Sky
It actually pains us to say this because we had the same impossibly high hopes for No Man’s Sky as everyone else. Truth be told, the “game” wasn’t all that awful. Space exploration is cool even if it bucks the Star Trekkian idea of clashing with every single species you meet in favor of a more peaceful approach. What really sank No Man’s Sky—in stores and in the eyes of fans—was the misleading marketing, some incredibly poor decisions by the publisher after the launch, a vast galaxy utterly devoid of actual purpose and that one jackass who spent $1300 for an early copy of the game that raised the hype to feverish levels. The end result was a bomb so big it’s destined to leave a crater in video game history.