This year, I actually didn’t play as many games as I would have expected to. I also played games that I wouldn’t recommend playing.1 However, when it comes down to it, seven games rose to the top as my favorites this year. Seven, you ask?! Why such a strange number? Why not 10? Why not 5? The answer? This is my list, and I came up with seven.
Some spoilers below for games.
7.) Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (Played on PS Vita)
You may question me again on this decision–why include a game that released nearly 10 years ago on a game of the year list for 2016?Enough is different in the mechanics to consider this a new game, rather than just an aesthetic reskin. If you missed this game the first time around, you’re doing yourself a giant disservice by not playing this one. It’s a side scrolling beat ’em up with Metroidvania elements, and it is rooted in Norse mythology and fairy tales. It is a fight with five main characters which overlaps and eventually leads to Armageddon itself. Each character has a great backstory and fascinating plot developments along the way, and part of the fun is playing through and seeing the interactions of the story from different perspectives.
I’m disappointed in myself for not having a screenshot for this game, I’ll be entirely honest with you. That’s one of the strong points of this game–it has some of the most beautiful background and sprite art I’ve ever seen. The colors and environment of the game are breathtaking. Seeing it in this new form makes me feel that this is truly the most perfect version of this game.
6.) Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero (Played on Wii U)
This game barely made it into 2016! As someone who absolutely LOVES this series, I was quick to jump on the Kickstarter back in 2013. Not only is WayForward one of the best platforming development teams out there, I knew that this game would be clever and interesting with its story and writing. I was not wrong. Honestly, that is where Shantae shines. This game consistently made me laugh while playing it, as it had some extremely clever jokes and references.
The game is also an absolute blast to play. I did get stuck a few times, which can potentially be a testament to the clever puzzles or my own stupidity. You can pick! However, I did beat the game with 93% completion, and I enjoyed every minute of gameplay. If you just want a FUN game that you can play over a few days, I cannot recommend this game enough for you. Not every game needs to be grim dark, and sometimes you just need to hair whip and belly dance your way to victory with a ridiculously catchy theme song backing you up.
5.) Fire Emblem Fates (Birthright, Conquest, and Revelations on 3DS)
Yes, I am counting this as one game. While you can play one single game, I would not ever recommend that.2 I actually had not originally intended to get this game, but as more and more information came out, including the removal of the horrifying petting mini game, I decided it was a good game to give a shot. I started with Birthright due to an original greater interest in the characters on the Hoshido side, then I got drawn into the stories and characters, which led to me purchasing the other two to get the complete tale of Fire Emblem Fates.
If you’re a fan of strategy games, RPGs, or dating sims, this trifecta of games has a lot for you. I typically do not enjoy strategy RPGs, and Fire Emblem has been notoriously difficult to get into because of its perma-death gameplay mechanic. While this game keeps that mechanic to an extent, it also has two separate modes for those of us that do not enjoy brutal treatment while we game. This made the strategy element actually entertaining for me, while not making me feel like I had to give up every two seconds to keep characters I liked alive.
Character building was my favorite part of this game. While combat is fun and inspired in these titles, my favorite aspect was the My Castle element, where you could get to know your teammates better, get items from them, and either marry them or have them marry someone of your choosing. It led to hilarious and often times tear jerking dialogue, and it is absolutely the strongest part of the game. I ended up marrying three different guys across the games.3
Lastly, the story across the three games is actually quite interesting and fun. It does take all three games to get the full picture of what is happening, but every time you unlock a new, strange piece of the puzzle, you’re more and more drawn into this strange world where sometimes it feels like the entire world is against you, besides a singing blue-haired woman who apparently has the power to change everything. Despite the extreme anime trope, it really is a well-made story with twists I personally did not see coming.
As for this game and its controversy with “censorship” and localization, I am here to tell you that
- The game is better without the petting game
- the scene of drugging a girl to get her to date you should’ve never been in there
- The localization is FINE and
- Grow up.
4.) Mystic Messenger (Played on iOS)
When I originally saw information about this game online, I was, to put it bluntly, extremely confused. It’s a dating sim/visual novel where you text, call, and engage in chatrooms with several single, super anime guys (and lady) vying for your attention. I downloaded it, and was afraid that based on the fact that I have severe anxiety about phone calls, I wouldn’t be able to play it. A few days later, I was adjusting my sleep schedule to make sure I was awake for chat rooms at 3am.
The strength of this game is the characters. Full stop. The story is, for lack of better word, wacky. It’s so out there, and it takes a lot of effort to get the full story. The real fun of the game is connecting with and “falling in love” with your fellow members of the RFA. They will send you photos throughout the chats so you connect more with them and their daily lives and struggles. I actually really looked forward to getting into chats and phone calls with these characters so I could understand more about them and their motivations.
The first time I played it, I answered the prompts as myself, which put me on the Yoosung Kim path. Yoosung is a young, college gamer4 who has issues letting go of his cousin Rika. I got extremely attached to this guy, and it actually led to a funny situation with the rest of the game. I ended up getting the Good ending with Yoosung, and I was extremely pleased with this. However, when I wanted to play other routes with other characters, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I never got past day 6 with any of the other characters because I couldn’t watch Yoosung be hurt/become attached to any other characters. If that isn’t a testament to good character writing, I really don’t know what is.
3.) Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice (3DS)
If you know me at all, it’s really no secret whatsoever that I am a huge Ace Attorney fan.5 If you know me extremely well to the point that I’ll talk Ace Attorney with you, you’ll know that Apollo Justice is my favorite character of the series, as well as my favorite of the games. While this game is titled as a Phoenix Wright game, it’s a misnomer. This game stands truly to serve as the second Apollo Justice game, which is overdue and welcome.
Spirit of Justice is a much, much better game than its predecessor, Dual Destinies, and it shows very well how strong characters not named Phoenix Wright can truly be. The story and setting are extremely intriguing and intertwined, except for a strangely placed case with Athena in the middle of the game that felt like an introductory case, rather than a late game hard hitter. There is a lot of fan service within the game, including the reintroduction of fan favorite, Maya Fey. There is political intrigue, family matters, incredibly fun and well-constructed cases, and phenomenal writing. I also had a blast trying to interpret the puns within the names, as always.
My biggest concern with this game is the ending. I am afraid, especially as a fan of Apollo, that it sets him up to be out of the way for future games. While I do like Phoenix and Athena, I feel as if Phoenix has become the mentor figure that Mia always was to him, and Athena is too green to hold a story by herself yet. Apollo is our happy middle-ground, but I just may be saying that because I’m so attached to him.
2.) Zero Time Dilemma (Played on 3DS)
I will straight up tell you that this is the worst game in the Zero Escape series. The story is a bit weaker with some strange plot holes from the other games being left unfilled. That being said, it is still a phenomenal game and a great addition to the trilogy.
Zero Escape is one of my favorite game series, as it invoked the visual novel style with fascinating characters, plot, and fun puzzles. While Dilemma dropped the visual novel style for a fully acted and voiced method, it still works extremely well in its favor. The game doesn’t pull its punches with shock value, and there were several moments of playing that I was truly horrified by events occurring in the game.
There are three teams in the game–C, D, and Q. As someone who has been with the series since the very beginning, Team C was my favorite to follow, since it consisted of 999 veterans, Junpei and Akane, as well as newcomer Carlos, who was surprisingly a wonderfully written character. D had Virtue’s Last Reward characters Sigma, Phi, and another new character Diana, who may seem familiar to those who played VLR. Lastly, Q was entirely new characters, with the series regular of a character with minimal clothes and a large chest in Mira, a very unhinged regular guy in Eric, a small child with a pig helmet that we are led to believe is Q, and then the real Q.
While the build up and various endings are all fascinating to get, the ultimate true ending falls pretty flat, which is disappointing. We’re left with a lot of questions, a lot of confusion, and a lot of really, really great memes. Despite the ending, I can’t forget the journey that got me there, and that aspect of the game is wonderfully done.
1.) Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Played on Wii U)
This game truly was the surprise of the year for me. After I finished it, I felt the need to write a review to counteract all the negative publicity this game was getting, as it was honestly the most fun I had had with a new game up to that point in the year, and it still is at the end of the year. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is as close to a perfect game as we got this year, in my opinion. While some were put off by the concept of playing as Japanese idols in a JRPG, I still wanted to give the game a proper shot, and I am very happy I did.
Due to the fact that it is an Atlus developed RPG with the backing of Nintendo, it’s really no surprise that this game is fun to play. The battle mechanics are perfection, and I really enjoyed the ability to chain attacks and session in with characters who were not currently in battle. It was an inspired choice for RPG battle systems, and I am extremely pleased that they implemented it.
Much like other games on this list, the story and the character building are the strong elements of the game. The usage of the side stories with each party member and co-worker within the agency allow for a glimpse into the heads of your friends and companions, and it is superbly well done. The Mirages, or the Fire Emblem characters, also contribute a lot to the overall cast, and they are tastefully handled and characterized. The main character, Itsuki Aoi, is also given a personality and goals, despite the fact that he is not actually a talented member of the agency. The game is kind of the epitome of the power of friendship trope, but I have absolutely no problems with that whatsoever.
The game is fun. The music is entertaining to listen to and watch, the battle system is in depth and strategic, the characters are all fascinating and well developed, the story is surprisingly quite interesting, and I was sad to see it go when I finished the game. If that’s not a good reason to name this my game of the year, I don’t know what is. I wish more people would have given it a chance instead of discounting it immediately for its theme and controversies. It is a wonderful, wonderful game, and I honestly cannot recommend it enough.
And with that, it’s been a crazy, weird year. While there have been some amazing games this year, 2016 can go away now. I look forward to playing more games next year and seeing what other shenanigans I can get myself into.
- Such as World of Final Fantasy or The Last Guardian.
- For reference, I played it in that order–Birthright, Conquest, then Revelations.
- What a hussy.
- Raise your hand if you’re surprised that this is the route I got.
- I even have a bamboo plant named after Mia then Phoenix’s plant, Charley.