For the 11th year in a row, I’ve tallied a list of all the games I started and/or finished in the previous year. This is a list of games I started in 2016. Some I played for mere minutes, some for hours and some until the credits rolled. Some were good. Some, not so much.
In years past, I’ve bolded games I completed. I’m done with that. The idea of completing a game has become less relevant, so I’m instead bolding the games I really liked. Consider those the ones I can confidently recommend that you go out of your way to play. Note that I didn’t bold some games that are probably very good, because I didn’t play enough of them to give them my personal stamp of approval. Some of these games I bought on my own, though many were provided to me for review for free. I couldn’t afford to sample this many games otherwise.
You might notice that this list is about a month late this year. It’s because I just had kids in late December and was filing to Kotaku in January. Doubtless the impact of having twins will manifest itself in an even more significant way on next year’s list!
Here we go...
My 2016 Games Started List
(Games I started listed below. The games I played that I can confidently recommend are bolded.)
- Azure Strikers Gunvolt
- Azure Strikers Gunvolt 2
- Boxboxboy - A great sequel to a great game.
- Bravely Second - Played a few hours and… I liked it more than the first but just didn’t get hooked.
- Crimson Shroud
- Fantasy Life - Started it in 2015, finished it in 2016 and want those hours back. It was too seductive a grind.
- Feed Mii (Streetpass Game) - I love Streetpass games. This one involves cooking recipes to make Mii warriors hearty enough to kill enemies.
- Gotta Protectors - A terrific throwback to Japanese NES action-adventure games and one of the best 3DS releases of last year. Get it!
- Hyrule Warriors Legends
- Kirby: Planet Robobot - Finished this one. Wow. Not very difficult, but full of imaginatively designed levels leading to an amusingly over-the-top finale. This game forced me to finally realize that I am a fan of Kirby side-scrollers and sent me back to play more of Kirby: Triple Deluxe and the DS’ Kirby Mass Attack, though I didn’t finish either yet. My review.
- Mario & Luigi Dream Team - Started in 2015, finished in 2016. Very good but too long. I’m enjoying its sequel more.
- Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam - So far, better than the previous one, which I liked.
- Mario Party Star Rush
- Market Crashers (Streetpass Game) - You use Miis to help buy and sell stock that is all amusingly tied to fake companies that supply goods to other Mii games. The more Miis you have to help you, the more likely you’ll get an accurate forecast about how much stock to buy and sell as the day speeds by. This is the most charming little economics game I’ve ever played.
- Metroid Prime Blast Ball
- Metroid Prime Federation Force - It’s barely a Metroid game but it plays quite well as a co-op action-adventure. Creative level design and some smartly-crafted challenges. I played with one and two other people. I finished it and can declare that it is good! My review.
- Mighty Gunvolt
- Mii Trek (Streetpass Game)
- Ninja Launcher (Streetpass Game) - I’m a sucker for a game with an absurd premise, and in this one you are launching your initially-naked Mii toward an enemy, hopefully intercepting some clothes and weapons mid-flight before you reach your target.
- Picross 3D Round 2
- Pocket Card Jockey - Horse-racing and solitaire, the video game combo I didn’t know I needed.
- Pokémon Dream Radar - Yes, the 2012 3DS Pokémon augmented reality game. I thought it might be an interesting predecessor to Pokémon Go. Not really!
- Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon
- Rhythm Heaven Megamix - More Rhythm Heaven is always a good thing.
- Slot Car Rivals (Streetpass Game)
- Yokai Watch 2: Fleshy Souls - Some games that are made for kids are still fun to play as an adult, but I’ve now played several hours of both U.S.-released Yokai Watch games and, no, I’m too old for them. They are too much about a kid’s idea of how the world might work. Also, the bug-catching stuff ain’t fun. Too bad, because I like the game’s battle system.
Note: I also played a few more hours of Animal Crossing New Leaf thanks to that game’s surprise patch. I played a game within the game, the newly-added AC riff on Puzzle League.
- Battleborn Tap
- Clash Royale - Wow, this multiplayer card-based combat game is great. Everyone should try it. It’s easy to start, is free, doesn’t force you to pay more or wait more to keep playing. So many people are playing it that you can matchmake within about two seconds. I’ll have more to say about it in future articles.
- Fieldrunners Attack
- Mini Metro
- Pokémon Go
- Really Bad Chess
- Reigns - So many people like this, but it just didn’t do much for me. I’ll try again someday, though I’m playing fewer phone games as is. My 3DS is tempting me back!
- Super Mario Run - Eh. I really do think I’m over Mario side-scrollers. Sacrilege, I know.
- Tap My Katamari - Must stop trying clicker games.
- Uncharted Fortune Hunter
Okay, I need to explain this one. Until last year, I was trying to play PC games on a gaming laptop. It was a fool’s errand. This year, I wanted to be able to try the Vive and Rift VR headsets, so I bought a pretty good desktop gaming PC. I also was able to get access to a ton of VR games for free, and so I tried a LOT of VR games, mostly for a few minutes a pop. Most of them aren’t very good. VR gaming is a pretty raw genre, after all.
- Adr1ft (Rift) - I liked this slow, contemplative space station exploration game better when I played it without VR, but it doesn’t help that I was sick when I did try to play it in VR!
- AirMech Command (Rift)
- Anshar 2 (Rift)
- Ark: Survival Evolved - Others love this game, but I was lost and don’t have time to play more.
- Astroneer - Only played it at PAX and during a livestream. I like it but not enough to recommend it yet.
- Bazaar (Vive)
- Carpe Lucem: Seize the Light (Vive)
- Chronos (Rift)
- Cityscape Repairman 2.0 (Rift)
- The Climb (Rift) - Crytek’s nicely-made mountain-climbing game.
- Cloudlands VR Minigolf (Vive)
- Cosmic Trip (Vive) - Still early access and now also available for Rift, this remains my favorite VR game. It’s slowly developing into a terrific first-person RTS game.
- Damaged Core (Rift)
- Darknet (Rift)
- Dead and Buried (Rift)
- Dead Hungry (Rift) - Really good once you realize that you can satiate a zombie with one burger and one helping of fries!
- Devil Daggers - Look I only played this one for seven minutes, according to Steam. Who am I to judge?
- Dexed (Rift)
- Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor - Tried it, wanted to like it, wasn’t feeling it.
- Divinity Original Sin 2
- Doom - Whoa, this game is amazing! I’m not one for heavy metal music and gorefests, but the gameplay—the need to basically dance among your enemies by shooting them from afar and then rushing in to melee them to get health—is terrific. Plus it has lots of upgrades and nooks and crannies. I’m a person who wishes there was more Metroid in my life and this partially soothes that wound.
- Eagle Flight (Rift) - I wanted more out of this pretty basic bird-flying game.
- Edge of Nowhere (Rift) - I finished this Insomniac-made VR game, a sort of horror-tinged Uncharted/Tomb-Raider set in Antarctica. It’s solid but only begins to realize its potential near the end. Not a bad option, though, if you’re looking for a well-made third-person VR game. My review.
- Epistory - Hooray for games you control by typing. This is a beautiful action-adventure in a pop-up book kind of world. You’re a girl riding a big fox, and you type words to slay your many enemies.
- Eve Valkyrie (Rift)
- Fantastic Contraption (Vive)
- Farlands (Rift)
- Fated (Rift)
- Feral Rites (Rift) - Another Insomniac-made game from some of the key Sunset Overdrive developers. It is a third-person brawler that I like but don’t love. Will play more someday, though now that I have two babies, who can justify putting VR goggles on, you know? Gotta watch the young ones. Keep them out of trouble.
- Final Approach (Vive)
- The Final Station
- Floor Plan (Rift)
- Fruit Ninja VR (Vive) - I’ve got no time for Fruit Ninja in regular reality, but slashing virtual fruit in VR is a pleasure and a privilege.
- The Gallery - Episode 1: Call of the Starseed (Vive)
- Grow Up
- Gunjack (Vive)
- Herobound Spirit Champion (Rift)
- Homefront: The Revolution
- Homeworld: Deserts if Kharak - Great art direction but maybe I’m just not an RTS guy?
- House of the Dying Sun - Our own Kirk Hamilton loves this space-combat game. I am not yet hooked.
- Hover Junkers (Vive) - Plays pretty well in PvP and co-op but needs more polish before I can rave about it.
- Hyper Light Drifter - Look, the map in this game sucks, can we agree? But the art is great, the gameplay is satisfying. It’s very hard and abstract and I’ve not played more than a few hours. Maybe it doesn’t hold up? What I’ve played is very good, at least.
- iOMoon (Vive)
- Jeeboman (Vive)
- Job Simulator (Vive) - Funny! Great use of VR! A winner!
- Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (Rift) - Co-op bomb defusal in VR? A clever concept executed well, though a bit bare-bones. Good for parties.
- LA Cops
- La Peri
- The Lab (Vive) - Come on Valve, make a full-sized game for god’s sake. The bow and arrow thing in here is neat.
- Legend of Luca (Vive)
- Lethal VR (Vive) - A promising but still pretty rough shooting gallery from some of the lead makers of the great Burnout games.
- Light Repair Team (Vive)
- Lucky’s Tale (Rift)
- Mervils: A VR Adventure (Vive)
- Mountain Goat Mountain (Rift)
- NBA 2K VR Experience (Rift)
- Near Death - A survival game without stats. Hooray! My review.
- Offworld Trading Company - Like Civ but entirely about economics and yet it’s terrific. I guess this was the year of economics games for me.
- Omega Agent (Rift) - The VR game that got me closest to barfing.
- Osiris: New Dawn
- Pac-Man Championship Edition 2
- Please Don’t Touch Anything (Rift)
- The Political Machine 2016 - I remember playing this on the afternoon of election day. Oh, it was so funny when the game sometimes said Donald Trump could win the election. Ha ha. What a rib! No need to play it now, but check out the next update in four or so years from now.
- Punch Club
- Quadrilateral Cowboy
- Quar Battle For Gate 18 (Vive)
- Raw Data (Vive)
- Rec Room (Rift)
- Robo Recall (Rift) - Holy shit. One of the best-playing VR games you can try. Too bad it’s only a demo for now.
- Selfie Tennis (Vive)
- Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
- Shenzen I/O - I pride myself as being able to solve puzzle games, but this one broke me almost immediately.
- Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
- Space Pirate Trainer (Vive)
- Stardew Valley
- Stephen’s Sausage Roll
- Subnautica - I suck at survival games and didn’t really get it.
- Superhot VR (Rift) - Heard it was great but haven’t played enough to be sure.
- Surgeon Simulator VR: Meet the Medic (Vive)
- Tyranny - Just sampled it, though I know others love it.
- Unseen Diplomacy (Vive) - The best thing to show to people who’ve never tried VR, if you have about three parking spots’ worth of spare room. It turns the space you’re playing into a lunar base full of doors to open, ducts to crawl through and lasers to evade. People watching you play will think you’ve gone mad as you walk, crawl and bend through thin air. Their loss. You’re having a grand time.
- The Unspoken (Rift)
- Vanishing Realms (Vive) - A promising first-person Zelda-style game in VR, but not enough content to boast about it yet.
- VR Sports Challenge (Rift) - I’ve only tried the first-person VR basketball which should be a disaster but is actually really well done and a lot of fun.
- Water Bears VR (Vive)
- Windlands (Vive) - Some questionable level design, but the basic experience of using each of your hands to grapple to—and swing from—treetops is superb.
- 100ft Robot Golf (VR)
- Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India
- Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Russia
- Batman: Arkham VR - You’re Batman in VR, which has its pros and cons since you are stuck standing still in most of the game’s chapters. The brief game has some clever touches, is canonically part of the Arkham gaming series and was even set up with an easter egg that was cleverly snuck into Batman Arkham Knight via DLC. My review.
- Battlezone (VR)
- Darkest Dungeon
- Dead Star - Multiplayer spaceship combat game with great ship design, good music and a cool invasion mode inspired by the best episode of the Battlestar Galactica reboot. Launched in 2016, shut down in 2016. Bummer.
- Destiny: Rise of Iron
- Dishonored 2 - One level in. Seems good so far, but I haven’t played enough to recommend it.
- Driveclub VR
- Dying Light: The Following - Finished this.
- Dragon Quest Builders - Great concept of putting an RPG quest system around a Minecraft building system, but the quests were vanilla and the stuff I was building early wasn’t that interesting. I don’t have time to play more, but I’m glad I at least tried it out.
- Final Fantasy XV - Started it, liked the first few battles and quests I did in it, but I’m waiting for the big patch that reworks a lot of the game.
- Firewatch - It starts so well and then has such a weak, contrived final quarter.
- Gravity Rush Remastered - Started it, played a lot of it, loved the flaming windmills and colorful characters and falling physics. Really wanted to finish it before the new one, but it got a bit tedious. I can’t recommend it given that I hear the sequel is better.
- Hatsune Miku VR Future Live
- Headlander - Haven’t finished it, but this is a neat Metroid-style game set in a space station, all done up in a groovy 1970s sci-fi style.
- Headmaster (VR)
- Here They Lie
- Hitman - People I trust say this game is brilliant. I haven’t played past the fashion show level, so I can’t confirm that they are right. I’m pretty sure they are, mind you.
- Call of Duty: Jackal Assault (VR)
- Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris - This four-player co-op game came out in 2014, and I probably should have played it then and with other people.
- The Last Guardian - Just started it and haven’t been able to play more. Sounds like it is good.
- Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Good levels, weak hub worlds.
- Mark of Kri - Yes, the 2002 PS2 game with a much-heralded combo system that involves targeting multiple enemies. I liked the bit I played, but I couldn’t make time to play a blurry PS2 game for more than an hour. Sorry, blurry PS2 games!
- Overwatch - I hear people like this. Not for me.
- Playroom VR (VR)
- PlayStation VR Worlds (VR)
- Ratchet and Clank - An impressive remake
- Rez Infinite (VR) - I really like the base game but didn’t feel like playing into VR overcame my sense that I’d already played enough Rez in my life.
- Rigs (VR)
- Rise of the Tomb Raider - I’m in awe of this game. I gushed elsewhere. One of my favorites of the year, and, yes I know it came out on Xbox One in 2015.
- Senran Kagura Estival Versus - The publisher sent us a copy and I thought, well, maybe I should play a game about big-breasted young women fighting until their clothes are torn off in order to see what I think of it. An hour of it was enough.
- Soft Body - A smartly-made puzzle game
- Song of the Deep
- Stories Patch of Destinies
- Super Hyper Cube (VR)
- The Tomorrow Children
- Uncharted 4 - A very good game, though I was shocked to discover that I preferred Rise of the Tomb Raider when I finally played it on PS4. My review.
- Until Dawn: Rush of Blood (VR)
- The Witness - My favorite game of 2016. My review.
- Watch Dogs 2 - Better than the first and, believe it or not, sneakily one of the most interesting 3D platformers released in a long, long time.
- Wayward Sky
In addition to the games above, I dipped in and out of GTA Online a bit and finally had a good time.
- The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel - Couldn’t get into it. Sorry, Jason.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
- Paper Mario: Color Splash
- Star Fox Guard - A rare great use of the Wii U’s two-screen set-up. My review.
- Star Fox Zero - Nintendo’s weakest big-game release in a long time. My review.
- Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE - I played into the second chapter and liked it but don’t feel I know the game well enough to recommend it.
- Yoshi’s Woolly World
Note: I finally played some single-player Splatoon in 2016 and it’s very good. I’m excited to see how much of a campaign the Switch sequel will have. I also finished and reviewed the original Metroid Prime in 2016. I hadn’t played through it since it came out for GameCube. According to the system’s internal stats, I didn’t use my Wii U in November or December. So sad.
- The Division - I played a lot of this game and even vacuumed up every collectible. Finished the campaign. Played a fair amount of the Underground expansion. Did a few runs of the Survival expansion. Not the greatest game ever, but a well-made cover shooter with lots of well-written audio logs. Its missions aren’t fun solo but are fun to play co-op. I wrote a lot about this game.
- Far Cry Primal - Finished this. Surprisingly good spin-off that uses animals to help you kill. More games set in oddball eras like the stone age, please. My review.
- Forza Horizon 3
- Fru - Best Kinect game ever?
- Gears of War 4 - Only played Horde. Haven’t touched the campaign but may someday.
- Inside - One of my favorite games of 2016.
- Kingdom New Lands
- Quantum Break - The most audacious game I played in 2016. Finished it. Reviewed it. Loved that they actually tried to make a game that has interstitial half-hour live-action episodes that play differently depending on what you did in the gameplay parts of the game.
- Recore - So promising, so beautiful but technically hobbled with bad loading times and a tedious end-game. I wish I could recommend it without hesitation.
- Slime Rancher
- Superhot - Another one of my 2016 favorites. A shooter in which the bullets fly only while you’re in motion. Except it’s more than that. Play it without reading about it. So good.
- The Turing Test
- Titanfall 2 - Fun campaign! I liked the assembly line level the best, even more than that level that people kept raving about.
- We Happy Few
- Xcom 2 - I haven’t played much of this game but was amazed by the little bit that I did. I’m eager to play more and am sure it’s worth people’s time based on what I’ve sampled.
I did play a lot of games in 2016, and you can see that there are several promising games that I wasn’t able to play much of. There were also a bunch of games from last year and the year before that I thought I’d play a lot of but that I didn’t start. That list includes: Dark Souls III, Battlefield 1, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Infinite Warfare, Mafia III, No Man’s Sky, Pokemon Sun/Moon as well as Metal Gear Solid V, Fallout 4, and Bloodborne.
Dare I ask what other great games I missed?
The final 2016 tally is: 269 games started (Yikes!)
That compares to:
2015...138 played; 24 finished
2014...129 played; 26 finished
2013...117 played; 31 finished
2012...139 played; 23 finished
2011...161 played; 28 finished
2010... 195 played; 52 finished
2009... 165 played; 48 finished
2008… 135 played; 37 finished
2007… 118 played; 35 finished
2006… 102 played; 21 finished