2016 was a rough year on many fronts, but thankfully there was a shockingly large amount of top tier games to play by the year's end. While it wasn't as tough for me to put together my top 10 list this year since I had been constantly keeping track of all the games I beat on my phone, I was amazed by how many games I thought would make it earlier in the year drop off as even more amazing games released.

This is my sixth time sharing my top 10 games of the year on Game Informer and the rules of my list remain the same. In order to be eligible for my top 10 each game had to release in 2016 (so no simple HD remasters or ports are allowed) and, if applicable, I also needed to have finished them. Furthermore, as my top 10 favorite games of the year they aren't necessarily primarily ranked by their quality, but by how much they resonated with me.

Before I dive into my list I want to highlight some quick honorable mentions. Super Mario Run, Quantum Break, and Hatsune Miku Project Diva X all fell short of my top 10, but I thoroughly enjoyed each of them. Additionally, there were three games this year I was unable to finish, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, Ace Attorney Spirit of Justice, and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, that definitely would have been strong contenders for my top 10 considering how much I enjoyed what I was able to play of them.

With that said, here are my top 10 favorite games of 2016!

10: Guilty Gear Xrd REVELATOR (PS4, PS3)

Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN was my 8th favorite game of 2014 and while I clearly really enjoyed it I always felt like I never connected with it as much as I wanted to due to its intense complexity. REVELATOR, which incidentally was the best gaming subtitle of 2016 alongside the Psycho Pass game's Mandatory Happiness, is still a very complicated fighting game. However, REVELATOR introduces a fantastic collection of new characters that I thoroughly enjoyed learning while massaging the core foundation established in SIGN to create a game that just feels so much better to play. Of the six new characters, my favorite is the return of Dizzy who was released as free DLC for a limited time. Dizzy has a handful of long range projectile moves that have altered properties depending on which of her two familiars/wings executes the attack. Considering how many complex characters Xrd features, I appreciated that Dizzy was a fairly straightforward addition. I also largely enjoyed the conclusion to SIGN's story which again took the form of a five hour anime movie. Every character I cared about had a chance to shine, including the infamous Bedman, and I was pleased that while it resolved the long running mystery of That Man it still left the door open for more adventures. Thankfully we don't have to wait too long for more Guilty Gear, as an expansion, Rev 2, is coming in the next few months.

9: BoxBoxBoy! (3DS)

I absolutely adored BoxBoy! last year so I couldn't wait for the sequel. As the name suggests, BoxBoxBoy! allows Qbby to summon two sets of boxes at once and all of the new puzzles account for this. After a fairly easy main quest, things escalate very quickly in the bonus worlds and challenge stages. Some of the most devious puzzles in the post game, including some with gravity wells and portals, stumped me for roughly 30 minutes as I explored all of the possibilities. One puzzle that revolved around working on a slim pedestal with a ceiling just above you to thwart an easy escape still haunts me even after completing it. As for the challenge stages, I love that many of them focused on the extra abilities granted by Qbby's outfits such as the Bunny outfit that lets you jump higher and the Ninja outfit that lets you sprint much faster since they felt extra fresh. I'm glad Qbby will have one final adventure this year since I'm eager to tackle more of his excellently designed puzzles and challenges.

8: Paper Mario: Color Splash (Wii U)

When I first saw the trailer for Paper Mario: Color Splash I was severely disappointed that it appeared in every regard to be a direct follow up to the dreaded Sticker Star. While Color Splash once again features a battle system that centers around single use items, removes unique NPCs in favor of an army of identical Toads, and discards an interconnected world in favor of single levels, this time I was surprised to find all of these elements were great strengths instead of crippling weaknesses. By showering you with money and rewarding you with hammers that increase the amount of paint you can hold (which lets you trigger more powerful attacks), battles no longer feel like pure resource drains and instead revolve around trying to most efficiently dispatch each formation of enemies. The identical Toad problem is addressed in Color Splash by giving every character the most punchy and hilarious dialogue possible which ensures that you never know what you are in for when you decide to talk to someone. The game also makes great use of Mario's rogue gallery, including the Koopalings, to further add more diversity to the world. Finally, instead of the bland levels of Sticker Star, most of Color Splash's levels are detailed locations and many feature unique stories. For example, many of the levels in the northwest corner of the map revolve around guiding a train and its passengers to a hill for stargazing while another portion of the map sends you on an adventure to find pirate treasure. Along the way you'll gather real world objects called Things, which return from Sticker Star, that will help you combat obstacles that block your path. The solutions for these puzzles make far more sense this time and by adding a hint guy and a shop in town to repurchase Things you've discovered it no longer feels as frustrating or aimless. Given how much I despised Sticker Star I did not expect to love Color Splash, but I was absolutely hooked all the way to its surprisingly emotional conclusion.


7: Titanfall 2 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)

I've been waiting a long time for the original members of Infinity Ward to make a new FPS campaign and Titanfall 2 absolutely did not disappoint as I can confidently say it is one of my favorite FPS campaigns of all time. The shooting mechanics feel as rock solid as you'd expect, but it's everything that surrounds the gunplay that makes it so special. The protagonist, Cooper, has a wide array of movement options available including a double jump and the ability to run along walls with incredible ease. These abilities are super fun in and of themselves and they pair well with his cloaking ability since together they allow you to stealthy attack from any angle. Additionally, Cooper's campaign missions feel inspired as they constantly mix interesting environments with exceptional level design that makes strong use of one off mechanics like moving platforms and time travel. The Titan missions, though weaker than Cooper's, are a nice change of pace and I especially appreciated that you are allowed to swap loadouts as you see fit. While it didn't get its hooks me, I also enjoyed playing the mulitplayer for a few hours because all of Titanfall's unique mechanics foster dynamic showdowns. I'm hopeful Respawn will return for a third Titanfall, because I'd love an even longer campaign next time if it can maintain Titanfall 2's high quality.

6: Gears of War 4 (Xbox One, PC)

I've been a huge Gears of War fan since the very first game so I was both excited and nervous to see how the fourth entry would turn out in The Coalition's hands. Gears of War 4 is the rare reboot that successfully introduces a new set of characters while paying enough homage to the past without drowning in it. A stronger script helps the journey in Gears of War 4 feel fresh and relevant throughout while the gunplay and design are polished to a sheen which makes it so enjoyable and empowering to play. Perhaps my favorite element of Gears of War 4 are the new enemies and weapons. In addition to the Swarm that was hyped before release, another new faction is introduced with the DB robots. These two enemy factions foster exciting new battles throughout the campaign and work really well in Horde 3.0, which incidentally strikes a great balance between classic Horde and Horde 2.0. Given how strong a foundation Gears of War 4 is for The Coalition, I can't wait to see how they expand on it in Gears of War 5.

5: Uncharted 4 A Thief's End (PS4)

I've been conflicted on Uncharted 4 ever since I finished it because while I adore the multiplayer I'm a bit disappointed with Nathan Drake's final adventure. The story and writing in Uncharted 4 are fantastic, but it switches up the series' design philosophy significantly which hurts the experience. Previous Uncharted games encouraged near constant movement and delving right into the heat of battle as one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal was the "steel fist" that instantly KO'd enemies that had been softened up with gunfire. By significantly increasing the size of environments and decreasing the number of encounters the addicting arcade-like gameplay of the series is weakened. I also have two criticisms of the story in that Drake's conflicted feelings on the adventure make certain sections less enjoyable, such as the desolate boat section, and that the late introduction of Drake's brother Sam into the mythos feels awkward and doesn't have the resonance the rest of the game has outside of some strong flashback sequences.

Despite all of my criticism, Nathan Drake's final adventure is absolutely beautiful throughout and has so many powerful moments including the Madagascar chase sequence, huge callbacks to the original adventure, and, of course, the epilogue. While saying goodbye to Nathan Drake, Elena, and Sully wasn't as perfect a sendoff as I had hoped, the multiplayer of Uncharted is truly a love letter to the series and is one of my favorite multiplayer suites of all time. Encounters often feel decisive in Uncharted 4's multiplayer, but you have enough health and the ability to revive downed teammates which can lead to intense, dragged out struggles. The introduction of a mid-battle shop is definitely a success since it allows you to decisively mix up the pace of combat in an instant. The other big addition to gameplay in multiplayer that I also greatly enjoyed is the addition of the campaign's rope which further expands the verticality of maps in addition to offering a risky one-hit kill sneak attack. While I may have said goodbye to Nathan Drake, I intend to play Uncharted 4's multiplayer for years to come.

4: Zero Time Dilemma (3DS, Vita, PC)

I've been a huge fan of the Zero Escape series since the beginning so I was excited to finally experience its conclusion. I correctly guessed early on that the countdown teaser website 4infinity was pointing towards a reveal at Anime Expo 2015 so I made sure to be there in person for its glorious debut. I thoroughly enjoyed attending Kotaro Uchikoshi's surprise panel about the game's development afterwards that he hosted alongside his friend Kazutaka Kadoka the creator of Danganronpa. It became even more surreal when I managed to quickly snap a photo of Zero Time Dilemma's key art to share online. (see above) 

As for the game itself, Zero Time Dilemma is a departure from previous Zero Escape games in that it discards the visual novel format in favor of video cutscenes which definitely has its pros and cons. Certain scenes are more evocative as a result, but you do lose a bit of the imagination that comes from reading text. The escape rooms in Zero Time Dilemma are my favorite in the series since they mostly focus on the logic of combining items. One standout escape room however involves translating symbols and might just be the most difficult in the series. The story was of course the true highlight Zero Time Dilemma as it explored some interesting themes and was delivered/experienced in such a fantastic and unique way. While a few mysteries dropped the ball and others are left hanging, I was amazed that particularly every thread I truly cared about had satisfying payoffs. If Zero Time Dilemma is truly the end of the series, I'm glad it finished as strong as it did.

3: Trails of Cold Steel II (Vita, PS3)

I have an immense love for Falcom's Trails series as it truly captures the essence of the RPGs I loved growing up such as Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger while skillfully incorporating many of the advancements of modern RPGs. I waited as long as I could to post my 2016 games of the year blog because I knew it would not be complete until I could add and rank Trails of Cold Steel II in my list. After 70 hours of playing, and experiencing all of the dramatic twists and turns, I finally was able to see the credits roll. While I'm not actually done yet since I still have a substantial epilogue to experience, I can now safely share how I feel about Falcom's latest.

Cold Steel II is a direct sequel to Cold Steel and is primarily concerned with the civil war in Erebonia and how it effects everyone in the country. Since your classmates and a string of awesome guest party members come from all walks of life, the story is able to offer so many perspectives and insights into the consequences of war that are fascinating to explore. Throughout the journey, you'll end up revisiting many of the locations from the original Cold Steel which offers some of the game's best moments, but occasionally falls flat during some of the weaker sidequests. Overall though, much of Cold Steel II is impactful and empowering. After reuniting with your classmates in the first half of the game, you are given an airship, the Courageous, which serves as your new home base. By scouring the countryside you'll find fellow students from Thors Military Academy that can be recruited to your cause and many of them expand the Courageous' capabilities by opening shops and other services.

The combat in Trails of Cold Steel II is even better than Cold Steel since it introduces a handful of new mechanics that comfortably build on the strong foundation of careful positioning and managing turn order. The most dramatic new feature on the battlefield is the Overdrive mechanic which grants you two extra turns between linked characters while removing their status effects and restoring some HP, MP, and CP. While Overdrive feels a bit cheap, you'll need all the help you can get as Cold Steel II is far more difficult than its predecessor especially with some of its optional super bosses. Of course there are even more options outside of battle too, as orbment customization is nearly as complex as Trails in the Sky SC and a larger party means there are even more choices on how to spend your limited bonding time. All of the choices both on and off the battlefield is what makes Trails of Cold Steel II so deeply satisfying to play and what makes the journey so personal. I can't wait to see where the story goes from here not just in the extended epilogue I still have to play, but also in the series next gen debut in Trails of Cold Steel III.

2: BlazBlue Central Fiction (PS4, PS3, possibly Switch in 2017)

BlazBlue was my favorite new series of the past generation and is my favorite fighting game series of all time, so I was very excited to play its grand finale Central Fiction. Every character I wanted playable except Jubei made the cut for the final roster and many of them surprised me with just how well they turned out. My favorite new characters include Kagura's secretary Hibiki, who is sort of a cross between an assassin and Attack on Titan's Levi (he even has a Levi themed alt color!), XBlaze's Es, whose powerful sword attacks can strike twice with radiating afterimages, and Remix Heart's Mai, whose powerful spear offers incredible reach. I'm still having a blast learning all of the new characters and playing around with old my favorites like Makoto, Platinum, and Noel. While combat remains similar to Chronophantasma, the additions of Active Flow and the Exceed Accel super moves encourage more offense than ever before which significantly impacts how many characters play. As for the story, the other big pillar of BlazBlue, the lack of an English dub definitely mars its conclusion, but the Japanese cast is still quite strong (Tomokazu Sugita's Ragna is especially endearing) and I still left highly satisfied with all of the revelations and developments. While BlazBlue is stopping for now, I'll be playing Central Fiction all the way until the series' inevitable return. No other fighting game is as enjoyable or as deeply satisfying to learn and play as BlazBlue, and Central Fiction only cements its legacy.

1: Final Fantasy XV (PS4, Xbox One)

After more than a decade since its announcement, Final Fantasy XV finally arrived. After such a tumultuous development that even saw it controversially switch directors, I didn't believe the game formerly known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII would ever live up to my sky high expectations. While it didn't, and really how could it, the game we did get fully consumed me for the 80 hours it took to claim its Platinum trophy. It's amazing that after such a long time, we still more or less received the game we were promised. It still features four friends on a road trip in an open world and, while somewhat restrained, it is still an action game featuring a character who can summon swords out of thin air and warp around the battlefield to decimate hordes of enemies. The story in Final Fantasy XV is occasionally lacking and in the second half of the story especially you can see where the developers' ambition was constrained and left unfinished.

Yet, despite all of its shortcomings, Final Fantasy XV deeply connected with me. While not an offline-MMO, FFXV strikes many of the same chords as Final Fantasy XII and Xenoblade, two of my favorite RPGs of all time. For all of its truly impressive size and scale, Lucis feels extremely personal to explore which is an incredible accomplishment. FFXV smartly discourages fast travel which makes the world feel more tangible and meaningful. I didn't care that many of the side quest were lacking or that the hunts often lacked a personal touch, I was just happy to explore Lucis while hanging out with Noctis, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto. For any of FFXV's narrative shortcomings, those four characters and their relationships with each other anchored the story and made me care about what was happening. When their journey came to an end and Florence and the Machine's wondrous cover of Stand By Me played during the credits I shed a tear.

While I have my issues with FFXV's combat on a conceptual level, I appreciated its flexibility that allows you to tackle everything from human sized foes to gigantic titans with relative ease. Combat frequently shines brightest in FFXV's many dungeons which for me were the biggest surprises of the game. The dungeons frequently sparked my imagination and offered a lot of tension as your health bars constantly shrank from demon attacks. One dungeon in particular, The Pitioss Ruins, is now one of my favorite dungeons of all time as it is a four hour gauntlet purely composed of platforming and puzzles. That dungeon is evocative of Final Fantasy XV as a whole as it is largely unafraid to offer unique and personal experiences and execute them on a level only possible by a AAA production. The setpiece moments are another great example of this such as defending a train from a fleet of airships and the frequently epic astral battles.

Final Fantasy XV wasn't everything I hoped for, but it was still a truly fantastic game that deeply resonated me. It is without a doubt my 2016 game of the year.

...

Thank you for reading my latest blog! I hope you enjoyed it! Feel free to share your favorite games of 2016 in the comments below and also some of the games you are looking forward to in 2017. With January being so strong, it already looks like it will be another incredible year for gaming.