Just when you think you’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s trending in video games, bam, along comes some stuff that shakes everything up. Augmented reality and virtual reality really hit the big time in the last six months or so. And on top of that, there were some pretty great regular old reality games cranked out this year, too.
Of course, that makes this year’s job of reporting some of the best games of 2016 all the more difficult for yours truly—especially since I have to whittle my list down to only five. Drat! How about next year we up the ante to, say, the top 50? 25? OK, I can see our blog editor giving me that “stop being difficult and get on with it” eye. So here are five of Plugged In‘s favs from this past year:
Pokémon GO: Well, right out of the gate we get a super-popular title using a very unconventional approach. No console game controller to grab here, just a smartphone, your imagination, and a little “augmented” reality. This free-to-download game bids you to wander around neighborhoods and parks in an effort to find little Poké radar indicators that show up on your Google map, and through your phone’s camera those blips become Pokémon critters that can be caught and made your very own. Train your Pokémon a bit and encourage it to “evolve,” and it’s off to an augmented reality Poké Gym to compete for king-of-the-hill dominance. It’s an easy and interactive game that parents and kids can play together … while getting some sunshine and fresh air, too. Just don’t walk off a cliff with your eyes glued to your phone screen!
Platform: Android and iOS Smartphones. Rating: E
Fire Emblem Fates: Another fun bit of entertainment you can hold in your hand is the Nintendo 3DS game Fire Emblem Fates. This fantasy role-playing game divides its turn-based battles and sweeping storyline into three separate games with three separate price tags. Yes, you can stick to one of the versions and play your way to a save-the-kingdom finale, but the gamemakers are hoping you’ll get so involved in their tale that you’ll want to come back to download more story chapters and experience different angles on the action. And you just might. You’ll want to be aware of the game’s light polytheistic undercurrents and love-and-marriage relationships (check out the full review), but there’s a lot to enjoy in this winding adventure.
Platform: Nintendo 3DS. Rating: T
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens: What would a yearly top video game list be without a LEGO game in the mix? Add in the fact that this one also rib-tickles its way through the first movie of the rebooted Star Wars movie franchise, and you’ve got a surefire the-force-is-with-this-one winner. Tag-teaming between heroes, breaking things down to their building-block basics and solving environmental puzzles is just as fun and chuckle-filled as you might expect.
Platform: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Wii-U, PC. Rating: E 10+
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Sid Meier’s Civ games have been challenging gamers to replay and reshape the history of the world for some 25 years now. And that’s a pretty impressive history in its own right. This latest version spreads cities out, deepens the personalities of your historical-leader opponents and gives gamers more layers of development through science, culture, religion and government. And all the while, the game offers players insights into how the stuff of mankind’s advancement came about. Yes, as you might imagine, all those many change-the-world duties can feel pretty vast and complicated at first blush, but with a bit of play, all the various gaming demands start to click into place. Add it all up and you’ve got one of the best strategy titles ever created.
Platform: PC. Rating: E 10+
Battlezone: This past October, PlayStation offered up its mass-market version of virtual reality. And one of the best new titles in the VR lineup is a throwback to an old 1980s tank game called Battlezone. This 360-degree-immersive title is colorful and fun—giving young battlers the joy of maneuvering a powerful vehicle through a futuristic world full of enemy tanks, rocket-towers and hovering drones, all without exposing them to the high-def gore and mess of other cutting-edge games. The whole family will likely want to slap on the headset and strap in to this run-and-gun battler.
Platform:PS4 VR. Rating: T
Well, there you have it, our top games list for 2016. Just as a sidenote I’ll also slip one more under my editor’s radar as an honorable mention. Check out our review of The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance if you’re looking for a creative, kid-friendly RPG with a bit of biblical flavoring.
Oh, and feel free to share your list of favorite games, too. Happy holidays, gamers.