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Game Informer Best of 2016 Awards

by Jeff Marchiafava on Jan 04, 2017 at 11:00 AM

From Nathan Drake's final adventure to the heated overtimes of Overwatch, 2016 was an amazing year for video games. Culling down our annual Top 50 list was harder than ever this year, but now it's time to share the results.

Our full Top 50 list is featured in the latest issue of Game Informer, but that won't stop us sharing our picks for 2016's best platform exclusives, genre standouts, multiplayer experiences, and more. Read on to see which games took home honors, including G.I.'s Game of the Year award.

Best Sony Exclusive: Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Between Uncharted and The Last Of Us, Naughty Dog is undoubtedly Sony's strongest first-party developer – and it doesn't appear the studio will be relinquishing that prestigious role anytime soon. Thanks to some stunning action sequences mixed with more serious and thoughtful story moments, Uncharted 4 continues to push the boundaries of what's possible, both for Sony's console and video games as a whole. The epilogue alone makes it a must-play for fans of the series, as well as Sony's most impactful exclusive of the year.

Best Microsoft Exclusive: Gears of War 4

After proving itself on the Gears of War: Ultimate Edition remaster, developer The Coalition got its first shot at a full-fledged sequel, and you can't argue with the results. Featuring new protagonists, weapons, enemies, and a lot less of the dude-bro attitude, Gears of War 4 felt like a fresh take on the series, while still offering up the same gritty action that fans love so much.  

Best Nintendo Exclusive: Fire Emblem Fates

Intelligent Systems once again came to the rescue of Nintendo fans looking for a deep and engrossing RPG experience. While we weren't fans of Fates being split into two separate releases, both Birthright and Conquest offer the full Fire Emblem experience regardless of which you chose. With a huge cast of interesting characters, Fire Emblem Fates' unforgiving battles are more intense than ever.

Best PC Exclusive: World Of Warcraft: Legion

World Of Warcraft has been the biggest and best MMO for more than a decade, and expansions like Legion are the reason why. The new zones, Mythic dungeons, Demon Hunter class, and Artifact weapons will keep players busy for weeks, whether you're a newcomer to Azeroth or an end-game veteran.

Best Mobile/Handheld Exclusive: Clash Royale

Don't let the smiling king emojis and cartoony sound effects fool you – Clash Royale is one of the deepest strategy titles available on mobile, yet surprisingly welcoming to casual players as well. Supercell's free-to-play monetization scheme borders on extortion, but that hasn't stopped a big chunk of the office from playing the game every day. Unlike some other mobile hits (we're looking at you, Pokémon Go), Supercell has continued to update and improve the game throughout the year – even if their primary goal is to get more money out of you.

Best Action Game: Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Nathan Drake's complicated relationships with Elena and his brother Sam garnered plenty of praise from critics, but that doesn't mean Uncharted 4 was lacking in the action department. The new stealth mechanics nicely complement the series' frantic gunplay, while unforgettable sequences like the bell tower collapse and jeep chase left Drake and players alike with a few more harrowing war stories to fondly look back on.

Best Adventure Game: Firewatch

Not every adventure needs a dashing hero or death-defying antics. Henry's mundane summer job as a fire lookout provides the perfect backdrop for a thoughtful character study of two flawed and believable characters. The trumped-up conspiracy undermines Firewatch's ending, but we haven't forgotten our time in Shoshone National Forest.

Best Competitive Multiplayer: Overwatch

Blizzard didn't just nail Overwatch's gunplay – they nailed it 23 times. No matter what playstyle you prefer, all of Overwatch's heroes feel great, and they're all indispensable under the right circumstances. The sheer number of team combinations and ever-evolving meta keep Overwatch's competitive showdowns fresh, as does the continuous stream of free updates from Blizzard.

Best Cooperative Multiplayer: Overcooked

Forget your shooters – this year's best co-op experience took place in a kitchen, not on a battlefield. Overcooked's riotous culinary challenges serve up the best kind of couch co-op, requiring you to frantically coordinate with (i.e., boss around) your fellow chefs in order to get dinner on the table. With countless variations and a charming art style, Ghost Town Games proves that a simple concept can go a long way.

Best Fighting Game: Street Fighter V

Street Fighter V seemed like it was headed for an early K.O. thanks to a dreadful launch, but Capcom managed to turn things around with subsequent updates and pull out a clutch win. Street Fighter V's roster features old and new characters alike, augmented with consumer-friendly DLC characters that can be purchased via in-game currency. A variety of in-depth gameplay tweaks kept fighting aficionados pleased, locking in its place as our top contender in the fighting genre.

Best Racing Game: Forza Horizon 3

Sometimes bigger really is better. Forza Horizon 3 boasts an open world that's twice the size of its predecessor, along with a whopping 350-car roster to explore it with. The challenges have also been supersized, with players facing off against boats, blimps, and other ridiculous vehicles in more arcade-style races. Sim fans may lament the move away from realistic racing, but we're having too much fun to care.

Best Role-Playing Game: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood And Wine

Most DLC offerings provide a few more hours of familiar gameplay before calling it a day. The Witcher 3's Blood and Wine expansion, on the other hand, is another 30-hour affair in a whole new area. Not only are Blood and Wine's quests, characters, and player choices just as engrossing as the base game (which coincidentally took home top honors last year), but CD Projekt Red also offered up a healthy amount of UI and gameplay improvements to coincide with its release. The result: 2015's best game is even better.

Best Platforming Game: Inside

As one of the first big downloadable hits, Limbo's stunning black-and-white adventure helped establish a new way to buy and play video games. The novelty of downloadable games has long since worn off, but Playdead's sophomore outing is no less impressive. Without a single spoken world, Inside pulls you into a breathtaking and haunting world. It's not hyperbolic to say that the disturbing finale is something you will never see coming, and never forget.

Best Puzzle Game: The Witness

How many puzzle variations can you make out of drawing a line on a grid? The answer is hundreds, and The Witness' beauty is that each puzzle is more ingenious than the last. The story and world remain a little too cryptic for their own good, but no game delivered more "aha!" moments than The Witness, which is exactly what you want in a puzzle game.

Best MMO: World Of Warcraft: Legion

It's hard to keep the same demanding fan base engaged for a dozen years, but Legion keeps the streak going by giving players the ability to track down and obtain the fan-favorite weapons of some of WoW's most legendary characters. A new level of dungeon difficulty assures plenty of opportunities to level up your newly acquired Doomhammer, while a variety of classes got new changes and tweaks to keep things fresh.

Best Rhythm/Music Game: Audioshield

The rhythm/music genre has seen better days, but Audioshield's VR twist made us want to revisit our song libraries. Getting into the groove has never been more immersive thanks to Audioshield's projectile-splattering gameplay that takes Audiosurf's procedurally generated tracks to a whole new level.

Best Shooter: Overwatch

No game got more play time in the G.I. offices than Blizzard's team-based hero shooter, and you probably don't need to be told why. The incredible cast of characters, the smart level design, and the continuous stream of new events and modes kept us thoroughly entertained throughout the year. Whether you're racking up headshots or just flying around the map to heal your teammates, every FPS fan can find a character to fall in love with, and Blizzard shows no signs of slowing down its ongoing support for the game.

Best Simulation Game: Stardew Valley

Eric Barone spent four years single-handedly sowing the seeds for Stardew Valley, and gamers are the ones who get to reap the rewards. The cutesy farming sim takes the classic formula of Harvest Moon and Rune Factory and expands and improves on it in every way. Whether you while away the hours tending to your crops and animals, mining for expensive gemstones, or fishing for that last legendary catch, there's no shortage of fun activities that demand your attention.  

Best Strategy Game: Civilization VI

If you need proof that Firaxis is the king of strategy, the studio's biggest competitor for this year's genre award was itself. While XCOM 2's tense tactical battles kept us on the edge of our seats, we couldn't overlook the sprawling depth and complexity of Civilization VI – anymore than we could stop ourselves from taking "one more turn." The original Civilization redefined the strategy genre; two-and-a-half decades later, the series is still running the show.

Best Sports Game: NBA 2K17

The development cycle for sports game franchises is brutal, but you wouldn't know that by looking at NBA 2K17. Visual Concepts turns in another stellar year of on-court action, with myriad improvements to its flagship modes, tons of character-customization options, and unparalleled presentation.  

Best VR Game: Chronos

Few VR launch titles rose above the rank of glorified tech demo, which is why we were so impressed with Chronos. Gunfire Games concocted a clever blend of Zelda and Dark Souls that would've been impressive in its own right, but the expert implementation of virtual reality transformed Chronos into a uniquely immersive dungeon crawl. Chronos is a great early blueprint for what VR games should be.

Best Remaster: Ratchet & Clank

Nostalgic gamers have no shortage of remastered classics to choose from, but Ratchet & Clank bested its competition by offering a whole lot more than updated visuals. The revamped adventure features a new storyline that coincides with the recent movie, as well as a wealth of new areas and gameplay mechanics. The riotous arsenal continues to be the highlight, with new weapons fitting right in with the classic zany action.

Game of the Year: Overwatch

What can we say about Overwatch that we haven't said before? Seriously: The office's love of Overwatch has spawned countless features, from humor pieces about our obsession, to conversations, to in-depth impressions and suggestions and strategies. Virtually everyone at G.I. has a favorite character and plays on a regular basis, making it an easy call for 2016's Game of the Year award.

Want to share your own picks for 2016's best and brightest games? Well too bad – you already missed the window for our annual Reader's Choice awards, but you can check out the results of your more punctual peers right here.