Man, 2016 was a real fucker, huh? Everyone dropping dead, a Cheeto dust-covered meme being elected President thanks to an antiquated electoral system (plus a sizable white supremacist contingent), and a general feeling of despair draped over every second of the year. But hey! There were a lot of really good games that came out this year, and this is about those. The Golden Gizmos do not dwell upon the horrible and terrifying — that’s the Golden Gremmies’ job — but instead celebrate the remarkable, as we look at the greatest achievements in interactive entertainment this year.
NOTE: Games released in November or December of this year are eligible for the following year. This includes titles such as Dishonored 2, Final Fantasy XV, The Last Guardian, Dead Rising 4, etc.
GAME OF THE YEAR 2016:
“RIP AND TEAR.” With those words (lifted from the infamous DOOM comic adaptation), you’re plunged into the world of DOOM, which makes sure you start killing everything in Hell as soon as possible. Lightning-fast (for today’s shooters, anyway) action combines with surprisingly dense environments and a healthy dose of absurdist humor to make the best kind of reboot. You can blast a demon in the face with a rocket launcher, double-jump and chainsaw another one to get more ammo, and then rip another one’s arm off and beat him to death with it in one motion — all while a serene voice is telling you what the current Demonic Invasion Level is, as pleasantly as possible.
DOOM also has some multiplayer modes. They’re bad. Don’t play those. — Larry Davis
2. Yakuza 5*
The long-running Yakuza series has had a checkered past of releasing outside of Japan, due to low sales and a general low enthusiasm from publisher Sega. But thanks to Sony’s efforts (specifically, Gio Corsi’s, praise be to Him) Yakuza 5 saw its digital release on the North American and European PSN stores. And man, it’s good.
Yakuza 5 takes the brutal melee combat the series is known for, and builds upon it significantly. Almost every special move(called HEAT moves) has a special context to activate it, and that’s divided among four playable characters(except for the fifth character, Haruka, who partakes in J-Pop dance battles instead). Which is good, since these moves are pretty much the bread and butter of the combat flow. Combined with a completely different fighting style for each character, and Yakuza 5 has the deepest and most rewarding combat in the series to date.
The semi-open world gives way to an absolute deluge of activities, all completely different from each other, and most of them fun. And completely bonkers.The first chapter alone has you cooking up ramen, driving passengers to their destinations in a taxi while following the rules of the road (think the anti-Crazy Taxi), and then you can drive that same taxi in highway races that ultimately lead to a storyline in which you take down a drag racing crime syndicate. Every chapter has these sorts of activities that just keep escalating over the course of the game. Wrap these activities and the combat in an incredibly melodramatic story right out of a Japanese soap opera, and you have one banger of a game. — Joshy
Having played every game in the Hitman series, and enjoying them for the most part, I had my doubts about the direction this new entry would take — after all, developers IO abruptly changed its structure to an episodic format months prior to its release, resulting in refunds being given to those who had preordered it. Even if that didn’t give you vibes of a troubled development cycle, how would releasing monthly installments work for something that’s never done it before?
Fantastically, it turns out. While some episodes were better than others, Hitman achieved a surprisingly high quality throughout its 6-episode (plus bonuses) run, and having a month to fully explore each map lets players who usually plow through as fast as possible discover the myriad insane ways you can assassinate your targets. It certainly helps that this is by far the most accessible entry in the series yet, without resorting to the dumbing-down that Absolution partook in. — Larry Davis
4. Rainbow Six: Siege*
Ubisoft has continued to support Siege, released in December of last year, with quarterly new maps and characters, plus major rebalancing patches in between those content updates. So far, 4 new maps (plus a repurposed one from Terrorist Hunt) and 8 new characters have been added, and that dedication has been rewarded — in a departure from many online multiplayer-focused games, Siege‘s playerbase has actually grown significantly. For my money, there’s no better shooter out there, even if I wish the bullets actually came out of the guns instead of the player model’s eyeballs. Hey, no game’s perfect. — Larry Davis
5. Zero Time Dilemma
The third game in the Zero Escape trilogy, starting with the DS’s 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and followed by Virtue’s Last Reward, accomplishes a Herculean task: tying this entire series together and providing a satisfying ending. If you’ve never played any of them, they’re visual novels with branching paths, and mostly revolve around time travel, dimension-shifting consciousnesses, string theory, and morphogenetic fields. In other words, the branching paths are not a “XX Endings!” gimmick, but a core part of the story and gameplay. There are multiple endings, sure, but you need to see them all. Because they’re all true. Are some more true than others?
Maybe. — Larry Davis
6. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice
Despite how similar every game is to each other in this series, I will always be down to play a new Ace Attorney. But even then, the fact that the writing in Spirit of Justice is the strongest in the franchise since Trials and Tribulations completely threw me for a loop.
The core loop is the same as the rest: you’ll have times where you investigate places for clues for the murder case you inevitably get your dumb ass wrapped up in, and when you’ve satisfactorily explored every nook and cranny(which is way less tedious than previous games) you take your findings to court and use your clues and your brains to find holes in witness testimony to get your client Not Guilty. It’s a simple process, but it’s elevated by the increasingly complex cases you take on, and the increasingly compelling narrative stakes, eventually building up to a finale that is by far the longest chapter in any game in the series, taking me a whopping 14 hours to complete alone. And I loved every second of it. It helps that the cast of characters are almost all incredibly likable, even when they’re the villain. From a very well animated jokester who gets his kicks solely from playing tricks on others, to a Rock ‘n’ Roll Jesus-man, there’s just not much to hate here folks. If you have a 3DS, you absolutely owe it to yourself to play this damn game. — Joshy
7. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
Do you like Shin Megami Tensei? Do you have a Wii U? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then you shouldn’t miss Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Despite the name (although TMS is SMT backwards… WHOA!) this is a Shin Megami Tensei game through and through. Originally conceived as a SMT and Fire Emblem crossover (hence the #FE), pretty much all of the Fire Emblem aspects have been diluted from the game, only leaving its signature rock-paper-scissors weapon weakness system and a couple of barely-recognizable versions of its characters.
Still, that’s only a bad thing if you’re expecting a true crossover. TMS is more or less a new sub-category of SMT, in the same way that Persona or Devil Summoner is. Blending a new, combo-heavy combat system with superb, colorful visuals and likable characters makes the dungeon crawls less of a grind, and should at least slake your thirst until Persona 5, the presumptive 2017 Golden Gizmo winner for Game of the Year, is out. — Larry Davis
8. XCOM 2
Much of my experience with XCOM 2 was marred by persistent technical issues, the worst of which being a bug that corrupted all but one of my save files. Thankfully, Firaxis has done well to clean these issues up. A good thing, because XCOM 2 is an amazing follow up to Enemy Unknown. New classes and enemies shake up the standard formula more than you may expect, and the reworked base mechanics had me rethinking my approach to building facilities and managing resources. The DLC is nothing of the caliber of Enemy Within, however, so you would do well to avoid the season pass on this one. — George Brundle
9. Xenoblade Chronicles X*
Xenoblade Chronicles X might not seem to be anything spectacular at first blush. After all, it just appears to be any other JRPG. Where it sets itself apart is in its surprisingly deep mechanics, as well as a beautiful world with a palpable sense of scale. And that scale is important — specifically, when, tens of hours into the game, you finally gain access to your very own Skell, or giant robutt. These environments that you’ve spent a ton of time running around suddenly look and feel completely different when you’re stomping around like a bad motherfucker in a 50 foot tall mech. Those behemoths you’ve seen wandering the landscape can now be taken down. And if that wasn’t cool enough, later you can fly, turning the whole world into your oyster, I mean, because that’s all the world is.
This is to say nothing of the bizarre plot which begins with Earth’s destruction (followed by the founding of a colony named New Los Angeles on an alien world) and your companions which range from a potato-man to a lady named Murderess. The writing is top-notch for an RPG, with a similar sense of humor to what you would find in a modern Dragon Quest or Monster Hunter localization.
Combat is active, somewhat like that of an MMO, but the synergies of companions’ abilities can be tweaked to a minute level, much like the Gambits of Final Fantasy XII. Using specific skills in certain situations can trigger new effects or buff teammates, and you can set up their AI to make them behave exactly how you want. It’s strange that in a single year, the Wii U received two of the best JRPGs ever made as exclusives… And sad that, because of that exclusivity, not many people will ever play them. — Larry Davis
I LOVE OVERWATCH, DO NOT LISTEN TO THESE CHARLATANS LARRY AND JOSH
IF IT WERE UP TO ME THIS WOULD BE LIKE NUMBER 6
YEAH THE PROGRESSION SYSTEM IS FUCKING GARBAGE OR WHATEVER BUT THAT JUNKRAT THOUGH
*Yakuza 5, Rainbow Six: Siege, and Xenoblade Chronicles X all released late last year, making them eligible for this year’s awards.
Best Game Under $30:
1. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice
2. Let it Die
3. Darkest Dungeon
4. Stardew Valley
Getting this out of the way right now: every game in the Ace Attorney series has played almost exactly like each other ever since the very first game, with minor variances. That largely doesn’t matter, as the strength of each game’s writing(with a couple of exceptions) has made them more than worth the time of any adventure game fan worth their salt. Spirit of Justice doesn’t really break tradition, but instead uses the series’ foundation to build a compelling narrative, one that stands head and shoulders above its predecessors. The rest of the games on this list have a lot to offer (I mean, Let It Die has UNCLE DEATH, c’mon). But for my money, and by that I mean exactly one cent under 30 buckaroonies, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney- Spirit of Justice handily wins this category. — Joshy
1. Zero Time Dilemma
2. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice
3. Mafia III
4. Yakuza 5
Considering Zero Time Dilemma came very close to not existing, it’s astonishing that it is able to wrap up this series as well as it does. Taking place between 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward, it does not engage with the inane retconning and fanservice that plague everything from the Metal Gear series to the Star Wars prequels. Instead of going back to the well, it builds further on what we do know about this universe, and that results in revelations that feel earned rather than cheap. Taking the metatextual implications from the first game to their logical end, many parts of this game challenge your very perception of what’s happened so far. Everything is not as it appears, and the game waits until the very end to fully show its hand. — Larry Davis
1. Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR-
2. Battlefield 1
3. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
We gave this award to Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- back in 2014, but that’s not going to stop us from giving this year’s BEST GRAPHIX to its rerelease, -REVELATOR-. No other game has come remotely close to the cel-shading on show here, with the animation specifically ginned up to look like a classic sprite-based fighting game, switching to 3D at very specific points throughout a match. Battlefield 1 and Uncharted 4 may have insanely detailed and beautifully rendered environments and character models, but GGXrd was and continues to be simply unmatched in terms of its unique graphical style. Basically, every year there’s a rerelease of this game, or a sequel, expect it to win this award. — Joshy
1. Rainbow Six: Siege*
3. Battlefield 1
4. Titanfall 2
5. The Division
Whereas Overwatch is all about ease of access, Siege is about expecting something more critical from its players. You have to think. Players need to know map layouts inside and out, they need to know when is the best time to hunker down and hold a point or when to run, they need to know the best spots to pop holes in the wall to create ambushes, and where to set barricades and traps in order to control the opposing team’s movement. Mistakes are punished swiftly and severely, so be prepared to get shot from half a map away because you stuck your head out ever so slightly at the wrong moment. Indeed, each match has the ability to go sideways in an instant, but the satisfaction you get from a perfectly executed offensive or defensive run is incomparable. It’s a game that — by design — is meant to be rife with exploitation, trickery, and cunning, and it’s a wonder that the whole thing doesn’t come apart at the seams. Ubisoft gets a lot of respect from me for remaining so dedicated towards providing the best experience they possibly can, and while it’s never quite been perfect, it’s been far more solid than you would ever expect it to be.
Just remember, never point the gun at that which you are not willing to destroy. — George Brundle
*Rainbow Six: Siege released in December of 2015, placing 4th in Best Multiplayer of the 2015 GGs. However, at that time I was the only one who had played it, and due to that, combined with the regular additions and rebalancing it has received, we decided it should also be eligible for this year’s awards. — Larry Davis
Best New Character:
1. Uncle Death (Let it Die)
2. John Donovan (Mafia III)
3. Q (Zero Time Dilemma)
4. Gary Busey (Hitman)
5. Mei (Overwatch)
1. Mafia III
2. Let it Die
3. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
5. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice
I have to imagine that half of Mafia III‘s production budget was solely for licensing music. If so, it was entirely worth it. Encompassing a broad swathe of genres to populate the radio stations of 1970’s New Bordeaux, at any point there’s something good to listen to. They’re even used in the game itself, both in cutscenes and during gameplay sequences, taking full advantage of this all-you-can-eat buffet of ear candy.
By the way, this soundtrack has like 6 or 8 CCR songs. So it kinda wins by default. — Larry Davis
Best VR Game*:
1. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
3. Dirt Rally
4. Eve: Valkyrie
5. Lucky’s Tale
Let it Die
Suda 51 has made some great games, as well as some not so great ones, but you can always count on him to make something with styyyyle. That’s why it was strange when it was announced that his game Lily Bergamo had become a free-to-play roguelike, including a partnership with F2P titan Gungho Entertainment.
Even weirder? It works.
Sure, at its core it’s essentially a Souls game, but Let it Die has so much of that signature Suda weirdness, both in the periphery and right up in your face, that it’s obvious nobody else could have birthed this wondrous, strange, somewhat malformed creature for the world to enjoy. A game within a game, where you kidnap fighters and reprogram them in a restroom, or cook frogs and put stickers on your character to make them stronger, isn’t even the strangest thing Suda has made — almost any year he produces something, it’s got a shot at this award. — Larry Davis
Best Troy Baker:
1. Sam Drake (Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End)
2. Theron Shan (Star Wars: The Old Republic)
3. Bruce Wayne/Batman (Batman: The Telltale Series)
4. Snow (World of Final Fantasy)
5. Yamato (Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4)
This was a pretty slim year for quality Troys, but his performance as Sam Drake is the clear standout in that game. He makes what should have been a laughable character (sure, a LONG-LOST BROTHER that’s never been mentioned in the previous three games!) into a three-dimensional character who’s genuinely empathetic despite his occasional shitheadedness. — Larry Davis
The 2016 Golden Gremmies, Rogue One: A Brundle Story
1. Umbrella Corps
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan
3. Super Mario Maker for 3DS
4. 100ft Robot Golf
5. Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs
Resident Evil hasn’t had a good game in quite a while, but sometimes their brand of shit is especially egregious. Such is the case for Umbrella Corps, a truly rotten game by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a third-person zombie shooter where the shooting is barely functional. A multiplayer game where the servers were almost immediately populated entirely by tumbleweeds. A Resident Evil game that’s somehow worse than either RE6 or this game’s predecessor Operation: Raccoon City. Capcom really outdid theirselves on this one.
Meanwhile, Platinum enlisted whatever creatures they have chained in their basement to squeeze out TMNT, a wretched abomination that combines damage-soaking enemies with repetitive random objectives and the worst, most labyrinthine level design this side of Milon’s Secret Castle. Super Mario Maker for 3DS completely botches what made the original Super Mario Maker unique, and 100ft Robot Golf is a slow, sluggish, unfunny disaster from No Goblin, developers of the fantastic Roundabout. That kind of fall from grace is genuinely confusing — apart from some funny character designs, it’s nigh-irredeemable.
Last, but not least (for me, anyway), is Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs. I’m the only one of us who played this, or even knew it existed, and I pushed hard for it to be the number one spot. It’s a visual novel where, instead of dialogue choices, you’re presented with seemingly endless vague symbols to represent your actions. You pick one of four icons, then one of four again from there. You’re given no indication whatsoever as to what they mean, so you’ll often end up groping the womenfolk when you were just intending to shake their hand, or going in for a smooch when you meant to introduce yourself. It makes your character look like an autistic pervazoid, while not being nearly as entertaining as that should be. It also features “combat” where you are tasked with trapping ghosts, but this is completely impenetrable, with the battle scenes displaying as literal graph paper, and all elements abstracted to a point where it’s incomprehensible. This is apparently an “enhanced” version of a game that came out on the Vita and PS3, and it’s hard for me to imagine how terrible that must have been. — Larry Davis
Valve Presents: Worst Developer of 2016
2. Digital Homicide
3. Hello Games
5. Platinum Studios’ Bad Games Division
1. Digital Homicide
3. 2K Games
1. Palmer Luckey’s Meme Magic
2. No Man’s Sky Was a Lie
3. The Saga of Mighty No. 9
4. Street Fighter V Launching Incomplete and Broken
5. Mafia III PC Boxes Containing No Activation Keys
There were a lot of stories that dominated headlines this year when it came to massive video game messes. While No Man’s Sky’s massively misled hype campaign and Mighty No. 9’s multiple mismanaged Kickstarter campaigns leading to a tepid release(also didn’t pay their employees! Whoops!!!) would present a perfectly presentable Shitstorm in any other year, these stories pale in comparison to Oculus founder and former VR playboy Palmer Luckey’s involvement in a racist online organization known as Nimble America.
As reported by The Daily Beast, Luckey invested heavily in the White Supremecist Nimble America, whose main goal was to spread pro-Donald Trump(y’know, the racist, Cheeto-skinned fascist who got elected POTUS?) propaganda to an “internet-raised generation,” through the use of shitposting and “meme magic.” In this story, it was shown that Luckey used a Reddit account by the name “NimbleRichMan” to spread said stupid racist bullshit on the internet message board in order to aid with accomplishing Nimble America’s goal. Soon after this story hit, Luckey took to Facebook and claimed that he did not write any such posts…
… Until Gideon Resnick, the original author of The Daily Beast article outing Luckey, tweeted a screenshot of an email correspondence wherein Luckey states, “yes, it represents me. As far as I know, there are no other wealthy donors to Nimble America.” Hmmmmm.
Since this incredibly embarassing incident, Palmer Luckey has not been seen nor heard from. However, we do know that he is still currently employed at Oculus, and that the VR company would “have more to share on his new role soon.” It has yet to be seen just how this will affect Oculus going forward, but some devs(such as Polytron, developer of SUPERHYPERCUBE and Fez) have stated their opposition to working with Oculus as a result.
Look, if Luckey were to have just donated money directly to the Trump campaign, then it would still be dumb and shitty, but at least you could spin it as him being “concerned about the economy” or whatever Trump supporters like to tell themselves. This was not that. Palmer Luckey financed an explicit White Supremecist organization, was complicit in the dissemination of hate speech(through memes!), and attempted to tepidly backpedal on his actions without any sort of meaningful apology. Fuck him. — Joshy