Our 2016 Engaged Family Gaming Video Games of the Year!

Overwatch-Characters

The time has come to bid farewell to one heck of a bad year. 2016 wasn’t very good for much, but we did get some amazing video games. We had a lot of options for our game of the year, because we played a lot of very cool video games. But, at the end of it all there is only one game that stands out as “the best” and that is Overwatch.

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Overwatch – PC, PS4, Xbox One

Overwatch is a brilliantly designed game that is possessed of a level of polish that is rarely seen in games today. Every minute detail in that glorious game is treated with care. You can feel the energy that went into development just like you can feel the excitement in a match rise naturally as it reaches its crescendo.

It isn’t just the details that make the difference though. Overwatch has managed to prove that an online multiplayer shooter with no single player campaign to speak of can be successful. And it achieved this goal by having an amazing set of characters that are well balanced against each other and all but forcing players to learn to play all of them in order to excel at the game. In most multiplayer games players are expected to select a “main.” This is the character you focus all of your effort into learning. With Overwatch the game forces you to learn all of them the same way you would learn the nuances of different weapons in other shooters. This would be bothersome if it weren’t for the fact that all of the characters in this game just so freaking COOL!

Speaking of characters – The world is a scary place and there are a lot of people who are more scared by people who are different from them. Overwatch doesn’t do that. It celebrates a cast of characters that celebrate diversity more than just about any game to have come before. If you have doubts, then look at the character select screen and take a look at all the different nationalities, body types, and genders represented. Its impressive, but what makes it better is that nothing feels forced. All of the characters are complete and well rounded. No one is the “token” anything. This is a great feeling when it feels like the celebration of diversity is being squelched elsewhere.

These are just a few of the reasons that Overwatch is a must play game. But, it wasn’t the only great game we played this year. Take a look below for out other favorites!

Pokemon Go – Mobile

Pokemon Go Logo

Pokemon Go doesn’t really have a lot of “game” built into it. You don’t really have a lot of meaningful decisions to make. It doesn’t look terribly good. But, none of that matters when you take into account the impact this game had on the world as a whole.

It felt like the entire world was on their feet and moving around more starting the day after Go’s release. There are videos from all over the world showing massive crowds of people playing together in spite of the fact that they were all playing on their phones.

I covered it in an EFG show awhile back, but at one point towards the end of last year Pokemon Go players has collectively walked the equivalent distance between Earth and Neptune!

There is no question that Pokemon Go has declined in popularity, but we couldn’t leave it off our games of the year list because of that. Its cultural impact was just too great.

NBA 2k17 – PC, PS4, Xbox One

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NBA 2K17 is one of our games of the year because it is, quietly, three very good games in one package.

Players looking for a near perfect simulation of the sport of professional basketball certainly get their wish here. Gameplay is fluid and the developers spent a lot of time giving skilled players the ability to create magic moments on the court.

That isn’t all the game has up its sleeve though. NBA 2k17 is also an amazing management sim. Players can take on the role of GM for their favorite franchise or create an entire new one as they chase greatness. You get to make all sorts of interesting decisions in this mode. So many, in fact, that you might not even have time for the games themselves (But, don’t worry. You can play those too.)

NBA 2k17 is also one of the best role playing experiences around right now. The single player story mode is a straight-up rpg. Players take on the role of Prez, a young player entering his NBA career. You don’t just play his games though. You control his entire schedule. This includes when (and whether) he practices, who he hangs out with, and how he interacts with some of his teammates. It is an unprecedented level of control and it gives a very accurate representation of the NBA lifestyle.

I can’t recommend this game enough for people who are even tangentially interested in the NBA.

Final Fantasy XV – PS4, Xbox One

Final Fantasy XV

How do I even begin with this one? I have been waiting for this game almost as long as I have been a parent. While I have to admit that Final Fantasy XV didn’t exceed any of my expectations and completely blow my mind… it was still an awesome game.

For starters, the game is absolutely gorgeous. Every time I passed over the crest of a hill or rounded a corner I was greeting by some of the most gorgeous vistas I have ever seen. I was endlessly astonished.

It did not hurt that the action was always intense when I got to my destination. XV passed on the turn based combat that has been a franchise mainstay for three decades. Instead, this game features a combat system that is much more action focused. The best analogy I can come to  is that it will feel immediately familiar to anyone who has played a Kingdom Hearts game in the past.

This is a must play for even lapsed fans in the series, because Square has done everything they could to bring the series back from the brink and I think they succeeded.

Stardew Valley – PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

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Stardew Valley is one of the surprise indie hits of the year. It is an incredibly deep farming, dating, fishing, life simulator that is playing using graphics that look like they could have run on a Super Nintendo.

The simple graphics are just a smokescreen though. This game does everything and does it well. It also has a very slick gameplay loop that gives you just enough time during each game day to do about three quarters of the things you wanted to do. This might sound like a trap, but it just gives that much more motivation to make your next day that much more efficient.

This is a great game that is available on consoles, but it is really best on PC and will run on some of the most antiquated machines. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. You’ll like it.

Pokemon Sun/Moon – Nintendo 3DS

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Pokemon certainly had a big year in 2016. It celebrated its 20th anniversary as a franchise. They released the aforementioned Pokemon Go. They also capped the year off with the release of the 7th generation in the mainline Pokemon titles in Pokemon Sun and Moon.

These games did just about everything right. They provided the most accessible entree to the franchisee in years. They simplified (and reduced some of the grinding) involved in Pokemon breeding. And they rode the wave of success from Pokemon Go into being some of the fastest selling video games in Nintendo history.

If you are a Pokemon fan and don’t already own one (or both) of these games, then I would seriously consider it. These are excellent games that are worthy of your attention.

Super Mario Run – iOS (Android 2017)

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This game only came out a few weeks ago, but it left a very strong impression on me. Super Mario Run is the first in an oncoming wave of mobile games being developed by Nintendo exclusively for mobile devices and it is a great start.

It plays very similarly to  standard Mario games at its core. But, there is one exception. Mario almost never stops running. The only level of control that players have is tapping on their screen to make Mario jump. This game is all about timing your jumps perfectly as you try to collect a set of five special coins.

I have enjoyed all of the time I sent with this one so far, and I think that it bodes well the the games that Nintendo will release in the future.

Street Fighter V – PS4

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My love for the Street Fighter franchise is well documented. I’m terrible at it, but I love it. Street Fighter V is the newest entry in the franchise and it brings back all of the wild action that I have loved from the past and it looks very pretty doing it.

The game has not had the best start, but Capcom has continued to support the game with DLC characters, competitive fixes, and other updates. This is one game that will look very different over the next few years. I can’t wait to see it all.

Ratchet and Clank – PS4

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One of the questionable trends over the last handful of years has been the tendency of companies to remaster their content and repackage it for sale to earn a quick buck. Ratchet and Clank looks like it might have been a part of that trend to the untrained eye, but it is anything but.

The key difference is that Ratchet and Clank is a frame for frame, point for point remake of the original game in the long standing franchise using a new engine, significantly improved graphics, and modern game design sensibilities. It also happens to be a TON of fun.

Do not sleep on this game folks. If you own a PS4, then this is a must own.

Skylanders Imaginators – PS4, Xbox One, Wii U

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Sure. I get it. This is  a games of the year list on a family gaming site. Of course Im going to include the Skylanders game right? I’ll admit it. That was more than likely, but Imaginators is something special,

In my opinion Skylanders Imaginators is the best game in the Skylanders series so far, bar none. My reasoning here is simple. We’ve been used to getting a new batch of interesting Skylanders each year, but there was something special about being able to create and continuously improve my own character. This made me much more invested in everything that happened throughout the game.

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360

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I would have thought that LEGO Star Wars series was dead in the water after Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise and Electronic Arts signed a 10 year license to create Star Wars games. But, lo and behold, the franchise isn’t just alive. It is thriving.

This entry follows the plot of episode VII very closely and even includes some plot points that were hinted at in the movies but never explicitly discussed like C-3PO’s red arm. They even included *that* seen and managed to handle it tastefully while still holding true to their typical humor.

They also managed to, somehow, include several new gameplay modes including cover based shooting and aerial dogfighting. This works out great because the added level variety helped keep the game interesting.

Dragon Quest Builders – PS4, PSVita

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When I first say this game I thought it would be a cheap Minecraft ripoff. I never expected it to be one of the biggest, and most pleasant, surprises of the year.

It is undeniable that Builders takes some of its design cues from Minecraft. Players travel around a map gathering materials by defeating enemies and breaking cubes. They then use those materials to build things.

The difference here is that unlike Minecraft, this isn’t a pure sandbox game. Players are placed in gameplay scenarios and tasked with building up and defending a settlement. This is a significant change, and one that really appeals to me because I enjoy the more focused gameplay experience.

It doesn’t hurt that the game also features the charming Dragon Quest art style.

I feel comfortable recommending this game to anyone who is looking for a change of pace from Minecraft.

Unravel – PC, Xbox One

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unravel

Unravel was a captivating experience for our family when it came out earlier this year. It was one of the most gorgeous games we had ever seen to that point. The story it told resonated with us very strongly. And the puzzle platforming elements brought us all together as we worked together to solve them.

We loved the short time we spent with Unravel. This is a great game for your family if you are looking for a game to work through together.

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