The 5 Best Games of 2016 So Far

Highlights of the Best Year Yet for the PS4

Being just through halftime of 2016, we thought it appropriate to look back and see how the year in gaming has shaped up so far. Over the last couple years, since the launch of the PS4, there’s been a sense that this generation wasn’t really living up to its potential. Even at the end of 2015, I wasn’t certain that the system was yet a must-own. That has changed in 2016, as the first half of the year has produced several 5-star games, and we have exciting titles coming up in the Fall to really make the competition for Game of the Year a heated one. Which are the five games that could compete for that title now? All five of these would be in the conversation in lesser years like the last two. That’s how good 2016 has been so far. Alphabetically, because I’m not ranking them until I have to at the end of the year. All must-owns.

1
Dark Souls III

Dark Souls III
Dark Souls III. Namco Bandai

FromSoftware’s latest study in gamer torture is another masterpiece of fantasy action, driven by the developer’s belief that too many modern games hold your hand from start-up to final boss fight. The Dark Souls games treat death as a learning experience and progression as something to be fought for and earned. Consequently, there’s no feeling quite like taking down the larger-than-life bosses in a game like Dark Souls III. Instead of just going through the animated motions, it feels like an actual accomplishment when you discover a secret, open a new level or kill a boss in Dark Souls III. The storytelling doesn’t quite match the gameplay—I long for a game with this attention to detail and this aesthetic with the storytelling of something like Mass Effect or Bioshock to go with it—but the actual experience of Dark Souls III is so unlike anything else on the market that it feels essential to owning a PlayStation 4. 

2
Doom

Doom
Doom. Bethesda

The title in this quintet that I least expected to make this list has to be Bethesda’s reboot of the franchise that warped my college nights into matches of Doom 2. There was a time when Doom redefined multiplayer gameplay, becoming the gold standard of shooter combat in the mid-‘90s. But show me a reboot that works and I’ll show you two dozen that don’t. And when the multiplayer beta for this title disappointed, it looked like one we could write off. Who would have guessed that it was the single-player for Doom that would ROCK? And I mean melt-your-face, heavy-metal ROCK. This trip to Hell and back again is a thoroughly entertaining action ride for adults that intensifies with each level. Also, the sound design in this game should win whatever awards they give for that kind of thing, from the guitar riffs on the soundtrack to the screams of demons waiting to be ripped apart.

3
Far Cry Primal

Far Cry Primal
Far Cry Primal. Ubisoft

Probably the most underrated title on this list (and arguably 5th place if I’m ranking), the latest Far Cry game seems to have been dismissed by most gamers. That’s a shame. The developers of this continuously entertaining title took concepts of the modern open-world game and the modern shooter and transported them back in time to the era of wooly mammoths and spear-hunting. What I love about this game is how it constantly surprises in terms of gameplay, opening up new strategies and mechanics as it goes along. And it’s gorgeous, turning the natural world into a character. Too many games ignore environment in favor of action. The setting matters here, and should more often in modern gaming.

4
Overwatch

Overwatch
Overwatch. Blizzard

The most addictive game of the year is also its simplest as legions of gamers have taken to Blizzard’s character roster in this multiplayer extravaganza. What’s still amazing to me about Overwatch is that it proves yet again that gamers don’t need quantity as much as they do quality. There’s not an abundance of maps in the world of Overwatch. There’s no single-player campaign. There’s just an incredibly diverse array of characters and brilliantly-designed focus on team play, meaning that each game feels a little different from the one before it due to the personalities and strategies involved. Overwatch is also a brilliant example of a game that’s easy to play but tough to master. You could pick it up right now and have fun in its fantasy-action world, but it’s once you really learn the character’s moves and the various tactics you’ll need to employ to win that it really opens up what it has to offer. And, from the sound of it, it’s a franchise that’s just getting started. Like Destiny, this will be one of the most definitive games of the PS4 era.

5
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. Sony

I don’t throw around the dreaded m-word that often but this is the rare game that deserves it. Yes, the final chapter in the story of Nathan Drake is a masterpiece. Arguably the most cinematically developed game of all time, it is an experience rich in both action and character, enhanced by the best graphics yet produced for a video game. The use of color, shadow and light in Uncharted 4 would earn it a spot on this list alone, even if the gameplay wasn’t riveting and exciting from first chapter to last. And just like they did with The Last of Us, the developers of Uncharted 4 never forget that it’s the characters that matter most, ending on a note of hope that really allows one of the most essential heroes of the modern gaming generation the finale he deserves.