These awards are given to the best game I played in a given year. Not necessarily to the best game that came out that year.
Hollow Knight. It came out February 24th. It’s a metroidvania, it has a souls-esque story in that there is one but only if you really go digging and read into things. Otherwise, it’s a highly enjoyable experience, with responsive combat, and is one of the greatest additions to the Genre in recent years.
Europa Universalis IV is a staring-at-a-map-simulator. An ambitious attempt to simulate every single day from November 14th 1444 to January 2nd 1821. All the while giving you control of a nation and it’s international politics and millitary, while letting AI control the other nations. Quickly diverging from the natural course of history into a complex alt-history with many aliences, national fueds, and a map far removed from our own. It released in August 13th 2013, however it only largely came to my attention in 2015 and snuck it’s way to the top spot in 2016 thanks to the efforts of a friend of mine at the time who was highly enamoured with the game.
Life is strange, it’s first episode came out January 29th, and it’s final October 20th. I played each episode within a week of release, and it’s safe to say that this is one of my all time favourite choose-your-own-adventure style games. It’s time travel mechanics and puzzling are fun, and provide enough challenge to be interesting but not too much to be frustrating. Ultimately however, the game is best played for it’s story, which is a fantastical tale of friendship and the different relationships between teenagers in a high school setting. The game ends up picking up darker undertones, and on replay these are much more visible from the beginning of the game, giving it the feeling of a well thought out and executed experience.
Transistor, released May 20th, the second game by supergiant games. A action-rpg narrative featuring a singer who’s lost her voice, a snarky talking sword, and a bunch of killer robots taking over a city. The game is beautiful with an increadible artstyle and it’s time-slow-down effects chaining into it’s combat system, as well as the variability of the combat system, give what is at it’s core a story driven game a surprising degree of replayability.
Hotline Miami, released October 23rd 2012, is a trippy psychadelic puzzle game masquerading as a superviolent twinstick shooter. Not only is it’s highly puzzly combat fast, addictive, and very impactful feeling, it’s story is nothing to complain at. Though it remains shrouded in mystery for most all of the game, the twists and turns taken by the story were enough to keep me very interested, and the game ending was a fantastic way to close up and resolve many unanswered questions, while leaving a few more.
Portal 2, released April 18th 2011, remains the premiere shooting portals and teleporting places with momentum based puzzling game. Arguably also the best entry in the fledgeling genre I will refer to as portal-likes (containing other great games such as, portal, antichamber, Q.U.B.E, and many more). The game has been heralded not only for it’s puzzling but also it’s story, and the efforts gone to provide comedic narration throughout the entire game by your AI companions.
Bastion, released July 20th, is the first game by Supergiant Games. It’s a hell of a debut. Featuring one of the best uses of narration in videogames in the form of the everpresent voice of Rucks, as well as a fascinating and well constructed world. It’s easy to get lost in the stories and lore as it is presented through items and trippy dream sequences, but ultimately the highly responsive and fun action-rpg combat is what makes this game as much of a success as it is. Also it’s gorgeous. Go play it.
The Honourable Mentions
League of Legends. I got into it in 2011, and it’s stayed with me as a way of playing with and maintaining friendships with a lot of my friends of that era of my life. It might be stress inducing, and frustrating, and tilt me off the face of the planet sometimes. But it’s always been there as a good time when I’ve needed it.
World of Warcraft, a persistent addiction of mine throughout all of 2010 and the latter half of 2009. That game is a poison on your bank account, but damn if hanging around with my guild and online friends (with whom I’ve sadly lost contact) back in those days wasn’t some of the highlights of a fairly stressful part of my life.