Top 20 games of 2016 you might have missed

FeatureJan 2, 2017 at 7:00a PSTby g40

Top 20 games of 2016 you might have missed

So many games appear each year that we’re never able to check out all of them. Why not take a look at this article in which we’ve gathered the most interesting titles you might have missed ¬– both big and small?

The passing year has probably seen a record-breaking number of games released. Probably, because players have real access only to Steam statistics, which hold just 38% of all games launched in the last 12 months. If you convert the percentage into hard data, this gives 4207 new releases in the last 365 days. That’s more than 11.5 games a day.

It’s clear that in the torrent of titles fighting for our attention some of them are bound to slip by unnoticed. These aren’t always worthy of our time, but sometimes we may miss real gems. And sometimes, we dismiss a game that doesn’t seem interesting at first glance – and perhaps we do it too hastily.

We’ve decided to make a list of 20 most interesting games that you probably missed during this plentiful year. Among these twenty there are both small indie games and quite big titles with tons of money put into them by investors and publishers. And even with so much funds pumped into marketing not all of them managed to make themselves visible to a large enough customer base.

Of course, it may turn out – and most definitely will – that you don’t see eye to eye with us on these titles or you have your own list of games that you think have been unfairly overlooked. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section and add a few words explaining your picks so that other readers may find something to their liking.

Abzu

ABZU in a nutshell:

Genre: action-adventure / TPP

Developer: Giant Squid

Platforms: PC / Xbox One / PS4

Matt Nova worked as an art director on what proved to be one of the biggest achievements in the indie games sector. Or maybe we should say “half-indie”, since Journey was developed under the patronage of a massive corporation specifically for the PlayStatin 3 console. Despite that fact, it’s hard to think of a group of students preparing this and two other programs for Sony as people corrupted by a giant company. Note that Nova has already proved his determination for self-development by starting his own company named Giant Squid.

If you consider Abzu, the debut project of this new development team, outside the context of its creators’ past achievements, the game can be seen as a mere 1.5-hour-long experiment (this is roughly how long it takes to finish it), which puts style over substance. Hundreds, maybe thousand fish that surround you in this undersea journey make up an amazingly colorful world – full of flurry when you flit franticly through water currents and whirls, and more dignified when you visit the more magnificent locations or underwater ruins of an ancient civilization.

However, if you take Abzu as a game that should have taken another step in terms of narrative and build up on the concept of Journey – which focused on the theme of transience and growing old in a truly beautiful way – then Giant Squid’s project falls short on these expectations. Nevertheless, this is a game worth trying out, at least to marvel at its aquatic world, if not for anything else.

Firewatch

Firewatch in a nutshell:

Genre: adventure / FPP

Developer: Campo Santo

Platforms: PC / Xbox One / PS4

Is there a cooler job than that of a national park ranger? You can spend all day long out in the open without having to expose yourself to burning sun. You’re only surrounded by trees, grassy glades, little lakes, and… tourists.

Henry is an overworked park ranger, who has seen and done much in his life. There are still some things that can surprise him, though. Especially ones that are hard to explain, such as the strange occurrences that all of a sudden take place near the protagonist’s fire lookout tower.

Firewatch can be counted among walking simulators, but is one of the less boring ones. Actually, this one is pretty dynamic for this genre. Moreover, all the time you’re in touch with the base and your supervisor Delilah through a handheld radio, which builds intense narrative and creates just the right atmosphere. The latter is also supported by the game’s art style, which – while resembling that of comic books – also holds on to realism.

Furi

Furi in a nutshell:

Genre: slasher

Developer: The Game Bakers

Platforms: PC / Xbox One / PS4

Plenty of guards keeping prison keys. Each one is different. Each one has his own fighting style, strengths and weaknesses. Each one poses a challenge. This is Furi, a game similar to Japanese slashers, such as Bayonetta and Devil May Cry. This one, however, was developed by a French team, The Game Bakers.

The general idea behind Furi was to get rid of all the cannon fodder. In this game there is no place for countless struggles with minor minions serving under the lords of the mysterious prison, which the main hero is trying to escape from. This place is guarded only by the best of the best, opponents who would be bosses in any other game.

While exploring this fantasy world you keep finding pieces of information about your opponents. Studying these carefully may save the protagonist’s life as well as reveal some extra details on the background story. Visualizers may also find it interesting that the enemy design was handled by Takashi Okazaki, the creator of Afro Samurai, popular not only in Japan. As for the soundtrack, it was composed by French indie electro musicians, and builds up an interesting, unconventional atmosphere.

Hearts of Iron IV

Hearts of Iron IV in a nutshell:

Genre: strategy / RTS

Developer: Paradox Development Studio

Platforms: PC

If you think about complex strategy games, you simply cannot overlook the productions from the Swedish team at Paradox. For years now the company has been supplying fans of this genre with the best quality games, so putting Hearts of Iron IV on this particular list may come as a surprise.

However, if you think about it, it turns out that despite keeping the highest quality standards, this game is as niche as it can be, and is picked up only by those who know exactly what they are looking for. These gamers get their hands on another Europa Universalis or Hearts of Iron IV in order to test their leading skills and historical knowledge against what the developers put into the game. So if you missed the fourth installment of HoI, which lets you play in the World War II period, it’s high time you caught up. Who knows, maybe our recommendation will encourage someone who’s always shied away from this type of entertainment to get acquainted with this title? The more so that this time the developers put more emphasis on global strategy and less on micromanagement, which may have been problematic for beginners. It’s time to turn the tide of the history’s greatest armed conflict.

Hitman

Hitman in a nutshell:

Genre: stealth / TPP

Developer: Io-Interactive

Platforms: PC / Xbox One / PS4

Agent 47 has gained many faithful fans, but he still cannot break through to a larger audience. Nonetheless, the developers followed the recent trend and released the game not only without a subtitle, but also with a completely redesigned distribution model.

Instead of investing funds into a completely new game the creators decided to sell it in episodes. Every now and then players receive another part of the story set in a brand new location. We started the adventure in Paris, then moved to Italian Sapienza, Marrakesh in Morocco, a hotel in Bangkok, and we’re still heading to Japan some time in the future. The problem is that despite the best efforts, these individual episodes and the overlying plot lack coherence, something that would give closure to the story in an interesting way.

In these new adventures of the bald agent we can feel much more freedom than before. This can even be described as a sort of a sandbox with some limits, letting you complete your hit contracts in various ways. The developers expected that by releasing one episode per month the game would gain replayability, thus keeping fans interested. We should also mention here the special in-game events, in which mission targets change, regardless of the overlying story.

Inside

Inside in a nutshell:

Genre: platformer / 2D

Developer: Playdead

Platforms: PC / Xbox One

Limbo was one of the biggest discoveries of 2010’s indie sector. A journey of a mysterious little boy through a brutal, black and white world made a lasting impression thanks to a compelling atmosphere of looming danger that developers managed to create. This year’s release Inside features a similar style and premise, and although it’s heavily based on the predecessor’s concept, it does it in an even better, more interesting way.

The protagonist of Inside is a little boy too. Most of the time he travels through a two-dimensional world, walking toward the right side of the screen. Unlike in Limbo, however, the locations you visit in this game are more realistic. At least most of them are, because there are some fantastical ideas here as well.

In some locations, the boy gets a UI stuck on his head, which he can use to control adult characters – supine, zombie-like human-puppets. These mechanics add some logic elements to Inside, but their primary role is to make a comment on the reality presented in this world, which is determined by the devastating power of social exclusion and control over weaker individuals.

A significant role in building the atmosphere is played by the music. It was composed by Martin Stig Andersen, who had previously co-worked with Playdead on Limbo. The composer put much effort into making the music’s tempo resemble the protagonist’s heart rate, thus making it an important element of gameplay.

Obduction

Obduction in a nutshell:

Genre: adventure / FPP

Developer: Cyan Inc.

Platforms: PC

In the early 1990s the Miller brothers hit the jackpot starting a real craze for what was then called multimedia games. Myst was the first video game released on a CD and for many it was also the very first step into the fantasy realms called Ages. In the following years, the franchise only grew bigger, but it never forgot its roots in the adventure genre and unusual puzzles, often based on operating virtual machines.

The latter is also true for Obduction. You play as a man abducted by an unidentified flying object and carried away onto a desert alien planet. As it turns out, this place had been inhabited by a small human community, who had left some strange machinery behind them when they mysteriously disappeared. At least most of them did – your main mission is to find both the remaining humans and alien life forms that were transferred into this desert town and the surrounding scrape yard from their worlds.

Obduction takes patience. Actually, it takes a whole load of patience, since the game offers no obvious hints, and the only key to solving puzzles is extremely careful observation of the environment. At one time, you find a wall with alien signs, at another, a manual for a machine – but these are just some of the most obvious ones. In Obduction every element has a meaning and a use. If you add to it a network of teleports that connect different locations, it suddenly turns out that this is not only a complex adventure game, but also an extraordinarily vast one. But it’s sure gripping. At least for those of you who like to have their patience tested.

Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir

Odin Sphere: Leifdrasir in a nutshell:

Genre: action-adventure / 2D

Developer: Vanillaware

Platforms: PS4 / PSV / PS3

Back in 2007 PlayStation 2 saw a release of a game whose graphics and mechanics really enchanted the gamers’ community. Odin Sphere was one of the last brilliant games that came out for that platform, along with equally colorful Grim Grimoire and truly epic Okami. Now, in 2016, thanks to the recent trend of refreshing old classics, we can play this hit game, which has since earned the subtitle Leifdrasir.

As we have seen by now, there are remasters and remasters. In this case, not only screen resolution was raised, but also gameplay was slightly altered and adjusted to modern standards. The game also features new opponents and bosses. Those of you who prefer the original version can play the Classic mode, which offers the unaltered experience where the only thing enhanced is the graphics.

What is Odin Sphere, though? In a nutshell, this is a fairy-tale brawler, in which most of the time you keep on moving in one direction and beating up the opponents encountered. In order to prevent the player from getting bored too quickly, the game features an interesting story shared between five playable characters, whose fates intertwine.

Offworld Trading Company

Offworld Trading Company in a nutshell:

Genre: economic simulation / RTS

Developer: Mohawk Games

Platforms: PC

Although good economic games are aplenty, we’ll take this one too. The more so that Offworld Trading Company was inspired by a true classic of classics – 1983’s M.U.L.E.

OTC puts you in the seat of a Martian investor, who deals in extracting raw materials, processing them and, obviously, trading. The game offers thirteen different types of resources. The funds earned this way can be put into company’s further development, invested in new buildings, or spent on fuel, food, and air, necessary to survive on the inhospitable surface of the Red Planet. Our actions influence the global market, where prices are shaped in real time based on operations you and your rivals perform to become the best businessman around.

The game’s quality is also proved by the names behind the project, including Soren Johnson, one of the designers of the third and the fourth installment in the Civilization series. This is already a great recommendation, but if you add to it the aforementioned inspiration by M.U.L.E., which is considered by many experts to be the best economic strategy in history, OTC will surely give you tons of fun – and not only with a spreadsheet.

Ratchet & Clank

Ratchet & Clank in a nuthsell:

Genre: platformer / shooter / TPP

Developer: Insomniac Games

Platforms: PS4

Ratchet & Clank is Insomniac Games’ flagship franchise. The series has been with us since PlayStation 2’s days of glory, on which the series had its best time. The duo of protagonists – the last of the Iombax race and a cocky robot accompanying him – have become two of the most recognizable heroes of the Japanese console, serving us hours of platform-shooter experience in brightly colored locations that looked like taken right from cartoons.

It’s no different with the latest installment in the series, which says hello to PlayStation 4. This time, however, the developers decided not to take the story any further, but start it all over – this decision was primarily tied to the release of an animated picture based on the adventures of the two almost inseparable friends. For this purpose, the story was rebooted and changed significantly as compared with the original game, whereas the gameplay resembles more of the couple of newer installments released on PlayStation 3.

Ratchet & Clank does not only feature interesting characters, but most of all it shines with the design of locations, weapons and gadgets used during the exploration of in-game worlds. In this regard, the developers from Insomniac have no match – weapons like the disco ball or Mr. Zurkon are recognizable not only to the fans of the series.

Severed

Severed in a nutshell:

Genre: dungeon crawler / FPP

Developer: DrinkBox Studios

Platforms: 3DS / Wii U / PSV / iOS

Creators of the unusual Guacamelee strike again, this time with a game designed for touchscreen devices. Why these only? Because of the game’s mechanics based on a system of gestures and interactions, which are used for combat and moving around the in-game world.

The game has you play as a one-armed female warrior, who wakes up in a colorful, yet brutal fantasy world, with no memories of losing her arm. During the exploration, you view the world from the first-person perspective and interact with various objects in order to open up new paths. Combat is based on combinations of slashes, which you learn as you make progress in the game – you collect limbs of your opponents and use them to reinforce the heroine.

One of the game’s most obvious advantages is the visuals, featuring a cartoonish, though brutal style. In this regard, the title resembles the aforementioned game by DrinkBox, despite the fact that Guacamelee was dominated by Mexican elements. Another important feature of Severed is the open world, which you can explore freely – nothing’s stopping you from encountering enemies too powerful to defeat, whom you will probably want to challenge only after getting more strength and experience. Is this a perfect game for long train travels? It’s worth it to take the risk and find out yourself.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided in a nutshell:

Genre: RPG / FPP

Developer: Eidos Montreal

Platforms: PC / Xbox One / PS4

Adam Jensen springs into action once more. Two years after the events in the Human Revolution, the augmentation-packed protagonist comes back as an Interpol employee. Task Force 29, created to fight terrorism, has to stop more and more frequent acts of violence done by people with bio-modifications against those citizens who don’t believe in artificial augmentation of their bodies.

This is Eidos Montreal’s second approach to the universe created by Warren Spector. Its bronze-gold predecessor has gained much renown and acclaim from RPG lovers, but there are many for whom the only true model is the first installment in the series, released by Ion Storm. Nonetheless, Mankind Divided is a very attractive offer for fans of this genre, especially for those fascinated by cyberpunk.

Despite all that, the Deus Ex franchise, along with Thief (which, nota bene, was also prepared by Eidos), is a niche game, known mainly among the fans of this type of experience – hiding from opponents instead of killing them. Probably the best-known stealth game series is still Splinter Cell, mostly because of its setting.

SteamWorld Heist

SteamWorld Heist in a nutshell:

Genre: tactical / turn-based / 2D

Developer: Image & Form

Platforms: PC / Xbox One / PS4 / PSV / Wii U / 3DS / iOS

Image & Form started their adventure with SteamWorld universe in 2010, when they prepared SteamWorld Tower Defense for Nintendo DS. This was when the tower defense genre shone bright, and games which had you protect a base endangered by constant stream of enemies would pop up like mushrooms Three years later the market saw SteamWorld Dig inspired by trending 2D survivals. The latest offer of this company sets its own path, taking us into space full of turn-based battles, lasers, hats, and… steam. Because steam is the key.

SteamWorld Heist is a tactical game with turn-based combat, in which you take over a crew of robots gifted with their own intelligence and personality. Whether it is a bar where you get a new mission, space map, or the inside of a ship – your own or the one you are boarding – locations are always presented in a 2D cartoonish style.

The game stands out from the crowd thanks to interesting mechanics that combine elements typical of the RPG genre, such as our crew constantly learning new special skills, rules that are simple, but offer much freedom at the same time, as well as lots of wordplay. It’s a perfect treat for XCOM 2 fans, who would like to take a turn from fierce battles for a bit less serious, but equally compelling gameplay.

The Witness

The Witness in a nutshell:

Genre: logic / FPP

Developer: Thekla, Inc.

Platforms: PC / Xbox One / PS4 / iOS / Android

Remember Braid? This 2008’s platformer by Jonathan Blow, with mechanics based on time manipulation, basically opened the floodgates for a wave of indie games flowing out from our monitor screens and TV sets. After keeping us waiting for several years, the developer offered another project.

The Witness is a game much different from Braid. The predecessor’s 2D backgrounds gave way to a 3D world made up of an island filled with puzzles. Puzzles of one and the same kind, we should add – your job is always to activate strange panels by drawing lines across their surface with predetermined starting and ending points. Sometimes, drawing the right line takes some perceptiveness from the player – the game’s environments offer hints on how to do that not only through various physical objects, but also the right lighting or angle of sun rays.

Why has The Witness landed in this summary? One of the reasons is the monotony of gameplay, which may put off players who don’t have a great deal of patience, which the game requires. For some, the reason to skip it may also have been the price at launch – comparable with the latest AAA titles it was ridiculously high for an indie game. But since the game is often put on various sales now, it may be a good idea to try it out for yourself

Titanfall 2

Titanfall 2 in a nutshell:

Genre: shooter / FPP

Developer: Respawn Entertainment

Platforms: PC / Xbox One / PS4

What happens if your publisher puts your promising game between two big AAA releases, which just happen to represent the same genre as your title? Something that occurred to Titanfall 2 – it may very soon hit half-the-price sales. And not even great reviews in media can help that, which once again proves that players, taken en masse, are not connoisseurs looking for real gems, but they’d rather bet their money on the same horse year after year, either guided by habits or advertisement. True, this statement may sound a bit provoking, but is it so far from the truth?

The first Titanfall already amazed players with its gameplay mechanics, even if those players could only be found among the owners of the Xbox consoles and a few PC gamers. The only real complaint about the game was the lack of a full-blooded single player campaign. The second part made up for that mistake, plus it became available on all mainstream stationary platforms, not to mention that it further expanded the multiplayer experience.

Titanfall 2’s campaign makes the biggest impression, or rather parts of it do, since the story itself and plot twists are not so compelling. One of the missions is especially attractive – one in which you can instantaneously travel between the present and the past with just one press of a button. In these two realities, you fight with different opponents and face varying exploration-related challenges. What’s most important, however, is that being able to travel in time at any given moment opens up many new combat tactics. If you want to visualize this, recall the opening scene from X-Men 2, in which Nightcrawler would appear out of thin air in different places around the White House and eliminate Secret Service agents one by one.

Titanfall 2 is an excellent alternative for players fed up with other multiplayer shooters. It’s available at an affordable price and just waiting to be discovered.

Unravel

Unravel in a nutshell:

Genre: platformer / 2,5D

Developer: Coldwood Interactive AB

Platforms: PC / Xbox One / PS4

When the scene at Electronic Arts conference during E3 2015 welcomed Martin Sahlin, all nerous, holding a creature made of yarn in his hands – soon to be announced as the protagonist of a new game by Coldwood Interactive AB – the audience wasn’t sure what to think of that. Martin’s hands were shaking, his voice faltered, and his announcement appeared really unprofessional. But when a fragment of gameplay was shown on the big screen everyone who was just about to start mocking the inexperienced developer was momentarily left speechless.

In Unravel you play as Yarny – a little creature made of yarn who traverses Scandinavian landscapes trying to reclaim memories of his family. The game’s world is governed by laws of physics, which players must take under consideration in they want to make any progress. While overcoming multiple obstacles – be that natural elevations and pools of water, or manmade objects – the yarn that he is made of comes in handy. Sometimes, it becomes a rope that can help you climb up tree branches, sometimes you can use it to build a bridge over a pool. Although the game is arcade at its core, the fact that the yarn is limited creates a need for logic and outside-the-box thinking.

Despite the liking that the players took to Sahlin after the game’s first demonstration, Unravel remained a rather non-mainstream production, hidden in the shadow of LittleBigPlanet and Yoshi, games that use similar concepts for the main hero. It seems, however, that Unravel sold well enough, since Electronic Arts decided to prolong the contract with the developer in order to prepare its sequel.

Virginia

Virginia in a nutshell:

Genre: adventure / FPP

Developer: Variable State

Platforms: PC / Xbox One / PS4

Fans of thriller TV shows are surely familiar with the 1990s’ productions famous for the atmosphere of mystery and conspiracy. Just a mention of titles such as The X Files or Twin Peaks make some hearts beat faster. Sadly, games inspired by these productions are scarce, although we could name some. Virginia has definitely got a place among them.

In this game, you play as a rookie female FBI agent, who is assigned a case of a missing teenager in an upcountry town somewhere in the USA. You are partnered with a much more experienced agent, who is also rumored to have an unconventional approach to her work. Because of this, your second objective is to investigate your partner’s ways.

Variable State’s project is a sort of experiment among video games, which stands out with its clear inspiration taken from the aforementioned films. Frequen changes of time and setting, visible edit cuts, minimalistic narrative and limited interactions – these are to create an impression of an uninterrupted fluency of action as if you were watching an episode of a TV show. At the same time, Virginia has absolutely no dialogues – the narrative is built through on-screen events, character’s gestures and some scarcely-found documents, as well as several symbolic scenes. The player’s role is often reduced to being a spectator.

The game’s huge advantage is an original soundtrack created by British composer Lyndon Holland. It serves a very important role throughout the story, evoking the right emotions when they’re needed, and making a big impact in the frantic ending.

Worms W.M.D.

Worms W.M.D. in a nutshell:

Genre: tactic / 2D

Developer: Team 17

Platforms: PC / Xbox One / PS4

Players who are unfamiliar with Team 17’s works may get an impression that this is an indie developer whose greatest achievement is the Worms series. In 2016 both these statements are true, but only the latter is an undeniable fact. This year’s installment, entitled Worms W.M.D., is a twenty-something installment in the series of games featuring fighting worms.

This new installment takes the franchise home. Locations lost the third dimension and are nothing but flat backgrounds again – and as always, they can be destroyed. A novelty here is the option to hide inside buildings and drive various vehicles scattered across the locations. Moreover, up to 48 worms can participate in one skirmish. The core gameplay remained unaltered – it’s still about turn-based battles of two teams, which end when an entire team is eliminated.

The lack of enthusiasm about the game, despite the positive opinions of critics, is probably best explained by the fact that the theme is overused. This, however, is unlikely to stop the fans from having tons of fun.

Oxenfree

Oxenfree in a nutshell:

Genre: adventure / horror / 2D

Developer: Night School Studio

Platforms: PC / Xbox One / PS4

What should you do if you employer is continually telling you to make games based on the same concept over and over again, while your head is full of fresh ideas? Quit the job and start your own development studio! This is exactly what several people bored of Telltale Games’ safe policy did. They took the risk of founding Night School Studio and started making a niche horror adventure game.

Oxenfree is a rare representative of the horror genre that uses just two dimensions for telling its story. In the game, you play as a girl named Alex, a soon-to-be high school graduate. Together with a couple of friends, the girl travels to a mysterious island, where students customarily go before they set off to college.

Unfortunately, during their stay a gate to another dimension is open, which resuls in unwelcome strangers coming to this world and weird things happening around the group of friends. The only way to survive is by using a special radio able to detect ghosts that are gathering on the island, and interacting with them.

The developers managed to infuse Oxenfree with an almost palpable atmosphere of fear. It’s emphasized by the right screen filters, constant feeling of danger and ominous soundtrack.

Pathfinder Adventures

Pathfinder Adventures in a nutshell:

Genre: RPG / card

Developer: Obsidian Entertainment

Platforms: iOS / Android / PC

In 2009 the market saw the release of a new RPG system called Pathfinder, heavily inspired by the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons and expanding it to make it compatible with the 3.5 version of the Wizards of the Coast’s system. Four years later a game called Pathfinder Adventure Card Game was created, with the Rise of the Runelords starting set.

With source material like this, Obsidian Entertainment, a company known for many excellent computer RPGs, took up works on a digital adaptation of the aforementioned card game. In it the player – or players, since the game offers a cooperation mode for up to four people –has to prevent the deadly Runelords from coming back to life.

In the days of Blizzard Entertainment’s Hearthstone celebrating its success and the world getting ready for Gwent: The Witcher Card Game, Pathfinder Adventures went by largely unnoticed. One of the reasons for that may have been the fact that so far the game is only available on iOS and Android mobile devices, whereas the PC release is scheduled for the next year.