As we close the book on an exceptional year of games, we are often inclined to start counting the days to the next big release. The upcoming year has more than its fair share of anticipated games — from Resident Evil 7: Biohazard to Horizon Zero Dawn to Mass Effect: Andromeda — but we believe that there are several 2016 releases that still deserve your attention in the new year. Whether it be for the slew of expected updates, the sheer amount of existing content, second chances, or sleeper hits that you may have missed, we believe these games should remain on your screen after the clock strikes midnight and wrinkled calendars are replaced with new editions.
A surprisingly excellent single player mode, retooled multiplayer that built off the success of the original, and a move to multi-platform, made Titanfall 2 accessible and engaging to a wider swath of gamers in 2016. The timing of its release — sandwiched in-between Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare — was suspect to say the least, but Titanfall 2 found a passionate, if modest, group of players. On November 30, the first batch of free DLC “Angel City’s Most Wanted” dropped, bringing back a beloved multiplayer map from the original alongside new gadgets and upgrades. Respawn and EA’s novel approach of making map packs available to all players — sans season pass charge — means that Titanfall 2 should stay in the minds of players and on screens well into 2017, when additional maps are expected to launch throughout the year.
2016 could be aptly referred to as the Year of Overwatch. Blizzard made its first significant jump to consoles with the Team Fortress 2 inspired arena shooter, and in the process created a phenomenon rarely seen in games. We gave the team-oriented shooter our game of the year honors for its astounding ability to elicit feelings that are frequently “unlike any of the words fans and critics would use to classify it.” Since launch, Blizzard has consistently delivered fresh content — from in-game events to challenges to new characters. Blizzard is about to celebrate 20 years of Diablo, sending new in-game sprays to Overwatch just in time for the new year. This level of support for Overwatch will carry on in 2017, along with much-desired updates such as a server browser for custom games.
Gears of War 4
The first Gears of War title without Cliff Bleszinski at the helm fared well despite being much of the same. Gears of War 4 catapulted players to 25 years after Marcus Fenix took down the Locust and into the shoes of his son, J. D. Fenix. Along with the campaign, the cooperative Horde mode and competitive multiplayer showed off the duck-and-cover play style that the franchise has been perfecting for over a decade. In 2017, owners of the season pass will see full access to all of the maps as they steadily release each month. Yet, even those with only the base game have reason to play in the new year, as all DLC maps are free on a rotating basis. Log back in throughout the year to shuffle across new grounds, and blast enemies to bits with the ridiculously powerful Gnasher.
Forza Horizon 3
The best entry into the stellar Horizon series was also the best racing game of 2016. Forza Horizon 3 gave players the opportunity to take the reins of the Horizon Festival, and make it as big as possible across the lush open-world of Australia. The online component — including the continuously innovative Drivatar system — increased the lasting power of Microsoft’s flagship racing sim. Monthly car packs have dropped since launch, and will continue until March 2017, making the Outback terrain the place to be through the duration of winter. For those who did not purchase the Car Pass, the Drivatar multiplayer — with its constant updates in line with you and your friends driving style — warrants your attention in 2017 nonetheless.
Final Fantasy XV
The long-awaited, repeatedly delayed entry of the iconic series has received a mostly positive response from critics and fans. Regardless of how you feel about the lulls in gameplay created by the addition of modern travel via car, we can all agree that the Regalia should be steered away from chapter 13 of Final Fantasy XV. The confusing, drawn-out chapter in the closing stretch of the lengthy RPG was rushed in spots, and overwrought in others. If you have been taking your time with the latest Square Enix game, that’s good, as studio will be taking the unprecedented, but needed, move of patching the worst chapter of the game to better tell its story. Gameplay refinements are expected in early 2017 with new cutscenes and dialogue set to bring the thirteenth chapter more in line with the rest of the game at a later date. These welcome patches will accompany a New Game Plus option, so players who already beat the game will have an incentive to relive it in all of its updated glory.
The Civilization franchise has always been dedicated to keeping players invested for many months, if not years, following the launch of a new title. The sixth mainline game released on October 21, so many players are still merely scratching the surface of what Civilization VI has to offer. The turn-based, diplomatic and geographical expansion sim just saw its massive Winter 2016 update roll out earlier in December as well. Firaxis Games will continue to support Civ 6 well into 2017, giving even more content for experienced and burgeoning conquerors alike to sink their teeth into throughout 2017 and beyond.
The Harvest Moon inspired game was an instant indie darling upon its release early in 2016 for PC. The gorgeous farming sim was created by a single developer, Eric Barone, and published by Chucklefish games. Immense success on Steam quickly led to the announcement of ports to Xbox One, PS4, and the upcoming Nintendo Switch. The first two were released earlier in December, and spending days on the farm in 2017 is the perfect way to unwind after PS4 and Xbox One owners catch up on the bevy of AAA holiday releases. Barone is also hard at work on a cooperative multiplayer component that could see release sometime in 2017. Stardew Valley rewards players who come back daily, making it the perfect game to recommend for sustained use in 2017.
No Man’s Sky
One of the most hyped games in recent memory quickly turned into the most divisive, controversial game launch of 2016. Indie studio Hello Games promised a universe of over 18 quintillion different planets, but not everyone felt like their marketing tactics and teaser trailers were genuine. Upon No Man’s Sky‘s release in August 2016, players began exploring planets in droves, only to find that the planets were largely barren, and not so different from others in the sky. After the complaints came rolling in, a prolonged period of silence from studio lead Sean Murray kept players wondering if they had been duped. In early December, version 1.1 was released. Dubbed The Foundation Update, No Man’s Sky gained base-building, giving some much needed structure to the open-world game lacking in objectives. While nothing is confirmed for 2017, No Man’s Sky will almost assuredly be supported as it blasts towards its second year in the galaxy, and mastering the new update will take a dedicated explorer.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
The Uncharted series has always focused on its single player experience, and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End brought Nathan Drake’s story to a close in spring 2016. The multiplayer component of the franchise has flown under-the-radar since it debuted in the second game. For PS4 owners, Uncharted multiplayer is the closest thing you will get to Gears of War, and the recent update only further solidifies that truth. Earlier in December, Naughty Dog released a free patch that included the cooperative mode “Survival.” The mode tasks players with defeating swarms of enemies who grow increasingly powerful throughout each of the 50 waves. New trophies, multiplayer maps, and heightened level caps fill out the latest update. 2016 marked Drake’s last adventure, but Uncharted 4 continues to offer enough depth to give gamers new and exciting experiences in 2017.
Tom Clancy’s The Division
Ubisoft’s jump into MMO-style consoles games received varied responses when it hit consoles in early spring 2016. The campaign, whether played solo or cooperatively, was a lengthy, mostly satisfying experience. The Division’s problems arose when players reached the endgame — the hook intended to keep players engaged for a long time. Riddled with infuriating bugs and glitches, the endgame was swiftly panned by critics and fans. Consistent patches eliminated many of the issues, but the two big content packs — “Underground” and “Survival” — have been polarizing. Still, The Division has taken bold steps since launch, enough to recommend that players come back to the snowy streets of New York in anticipation for the final major expansion, “Last Stand,” in early 2017.
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