Ten 2016 Games That Are Better Than Overwatch

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Posted January 17, 2017 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Video Games

For those of you that read my piece about my favorite games of last year, nothing about the list I’ve compiled this year should be much of a surprise. Even the format is similar–there are no ordered lists of ten around here. Yet conveniently, there are still ten games. Did I plan that? Kind of.

I do think that my title this year is better, though. More clickbait-y. Hopefully it works and this article gets lots of clicks. I live and die on clicks, and also my opinions are important and you should care about them.

Without further ado, I present to you: Ten 2016 Games That Are (Easily) Better Than Overwatch. And all of them even get their own award!

(Oh yeah, one more thing: This post contains spoilers, and quite a few of them. So be warned.)

Honorable Mention:

Overwatch

Don’t worry, this post will contain ten games that came out in 2016 that were better than Overwatch, at least for me. But man, it’s hard to talk about this year in video games and not talk about this particular game. The dominance it has had over the community since it came out has been incredible, and the cultural impact is outstanding. Lots of people really love that game. I played the beta, and couldn’t get into it like everybody else, and so I just never picked it up. And I’m bummed, because all my friends were super into it, and I would have loved to play it with them. I was just… I don’t know. Something about the game just didn’t hook me like it did others.

2016’s Grimmest Game:

Inside

Inside continues Playdead’s trend of crafting incredibly depressing games. Does it count as a trend if its only their second game? I’m not really sure, but man, Inside is a brutal reflection on the human condition. It’s certainly not a comfortable experience–the atmosphere established early on is present for the entirety of the four hour game. That alone is worthy of praise, in my book. But there’s so much more to Inside; the puzzles are often clever and fun to figure out, and this may be the best instance of environmental storytelling in any single game I’ve played. Despite the lack of dialogue or a stated narrative thread, I felt a connection to the character. And of course, how could I write about Inside without mentioning the absolutely bonkers final sequence?

2016’s Sequel of the Year:

XCOM 2

Calling XCOM 2 the “sequel of the year” is a little bit reductive in ways that I don’t really mean it to be. But it was the best I could come up with, so feel free to hurl insults at me in the comments, I guess. Anyways, XCOM 2 is everything I wanted it to be. Which is to say, it took the incredible turn based strategy formula of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, added a couple new mechanics, polished it a bit, put together new scenarios, and released it. While not the massive surprise that Enemy Unknown was back in 2012, XCOM 2 remains the skill-testing, thoughtful strategy game that I want it to be. The new systems add just enough to justify the price of entry, and this is a game that I’ll continue to play for x years, where x is the number of years until we get the next installment in the franchise.

Jean-Luc Botbyl presents: We the Nerdy’s Award for Excellence in Walking Simulators: 2016 Edition

Firewatch

Get it? It’s funny because Firewatch takes place in the mountains. So it’s… yeah, Ok, I’m sure you got the joke. Seriously though, Firewatch may very well be the best written game this year. The developing relationship between Henry and Delilah is beautifully handled, and the story that unfolds around them is suspenseful. It’s a wonderful treatise on loss, empahty, and the importance of interpersonal relationships that hit me pretty hard. On top of that, Firewatch handles dialogue and player agency incredibly well, with a system that makes everything you say–or don’t say, for that matter–impactful. So despite some tedious moments of running around the wilderness, I knew Firewatch would be making this list as soon as I finished it the first time.

2016’s “I haven’t finished this game yet but the first two hours are pretty dope” Award:

Even the Ocean

Even the Ocean is a strange game for me. In theory, I know that it borrows a lot from classic games: the art style, the gameplay, the level design. Everything, really. But considering my age, I’ve never really played the games that Even the Ocean takes its cues from, despite being aware of them. It does feel like a somewhat-fresh experience. Honestly though, I think I can chalk that up more to the story than anything else. The world building and character work, even in the small chunk of the game I’ve played (about a quarter, from what I can tell), have been phenomenal. The story it’s telling, in addition to being well told and engaging, feels relevant. I can already tell that this is a game with lasting impact and something important to say. I look forward to playing much, much more of it.

2016’s “I wish I was as badass as this game makes me look” Award:

SUPERHOT

There’s actually nothing about SUPERHOT that I don’t love. It breathes new life into a genre that’s become stale by adding a single gameplay quirk. Every single mission in the game is an enticing puzzle that I was excited about solving. And yeah, it was partially because I knew that at the end, I would be treated to a sped up version that made me look pretty good at video games. But on top of the game being innovative and unbelievably fun to play, it’s absolutely dripping with style. The visuals, music, and even the plot all contribute to the game’s strong sense of style, and that serves to make the experience even better. It also happens to be the first game to really make me wish I could afford a VR headset.

2016’s “What the fuck is going on here?” Award:

Virginia

When I first finished Virginia, I was, and this is putting it lightly, confused. Where had those aliens come from? Why was I sacrificing a buffalo? I really didn’t know, and even now, I think the last five minutes of the game are out there for the sake of being out there. But man, that is nowhere near enough to render my love for everything that came before that sequence irrelevant. Virginia tells an incredible story, one that tackles heavy issues like power structures head on. And it does it all with zero dialogue. Seriously, no one in this game ever utters a single word. Instead, the game allows music, jump cuts, and its animations to tell the story. In some ways, this is the first “walking simulator” that has felt more like an interactive film than a game, and yet, it pushes the medium of video games forward in ways very few experiences are able to.

2016’s Teen Simulator of the Year:

Oxenfree

Ah, teens. It’s odd to think that, a mere four months from now, I will no longer be able to count myself among their number. Fortunately, games like Oxenfree allow me to simulate what it’s like to be a teen. Running off to an island with people I barely know, experiencing weird temporal anomalies, being stalked by some inter-dimensional creature. You know, the classic teen experience. In all seriousness, Oxenfree was easily one of the best games I played this year. It told an engaging story, packed with relatable, well-written characters. Sure, my experience was marred by a few technical issues, but the fact that it’s made my list anyways speaks to the remarkable storytelling chops of the team that made it.

2016’s “I like platformers and this one is pretty cool” Award:

Selma and the Wisp

I feel like the name of this category says it all. I do truly love platformers, and I think Selma and the Wisp was the best paltformer I played this year, and by a lot. Unless you count Inside as a platformer, I guess. Anyways, in Selma and the Wisp you control a wisp of light guiding Selma through a multitude of different scenarios. At its core, the game is essentially about resource management. Selma and the Wisp each have their own health bars, and you can’t get too far away from Selma, as she will die of fear without the Wisp. And yet, there are puzzles that require you to leave Selma behind. The result is a game that has lots of platforming DNA, but doesn’t feel like a conventional platformer. It’s a lot of fun, and the puzzles are all super well designed.

2016’s “I only played this game once but had more fun with it than most other games I played this year” Award:

Overcooked!

In my defense, the one play session of Overcooked! I played was pretty long. And ever since then, I’ve longed to play more of the game, and hopefully the new year will bring more time spent on Skype playing Overcooked! with friends. It’s kind of a tough game to describe, but it boils down to being a cooking simulator in a variety of locales, each with its own twist. It’s over the top and super ridiculous, but that’s part of the game’s fun. And sure, maybe Overcooked! made this list because of the experience I had playing it with friends, but then again, that’s the point.

2016’s Nostalgia Trip of the Year:

Lego Star Wars: the Force Awakens

I almost awarded Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2016’s Lego Game of the Year. Oddly enough, however, I realized that it was the only Lego game I played in 2016, and I’m not even sure there was another one. And that explains why it’s on this list. Despite the core formula of the Lego games being enjoyable enough, I was feeling pretty burned out on them after the first Marvel game, and so I stepped back for a bit. Force Awakens provided the perfect re-entry point–not only is it a Star Wars game, but it feels fresh. Sure, gameplay is relatively similar to previous installments, but I was not expecting it to turn into a cover shooter at any point. It’s a sweet mix of genres that retains Lego’s playful sense of humor, and hence it earns its spot on the list.


About the Author

Jean-Luc Botbyl

Jean-Luc is a grizzled veteran of We the Nerdy. Most days, he just wonders why he hasn't been formally fired. Follow him on Twitter at @J_LFett to make him feel validated.