Fall is officially here, and September brought the first wave of big releases to our doorsteps, starting with the long-awaited Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Hideo Kojima's supposed swan song with Konami takes the series into open-world territory for the first time, and it serves as the missing piece in a saga that began almost thirty years ago. The newfound freedom on the battlefield was a huge success, paving the way for emergent gameplay that tied the world together and kept you on your toes.
Lucky for Konami, The Phantom Pain wasn't its only great game last month, with the acclaimed soccer sim PES 2016 shipping mid-September. Reviewer Rob Crossley praised its physics engine and artificial intelligence, calling PES 2016 "the best game in the series since the PlayStation 2 era." PES 16 is measured against EA Sports' FIFA 16, another annual update to a long-running and beloved soccer series. This year's FIFA was lauded for its new passing mechanics and other welcome tweaks that added strategic depth to the game's great foundations, introducing fresh skills for seasoned players to master.
Just ahead of Halloween, Frictional Games (developer of Amnesia: The Dark Descent) unleashed the surprising Soma, a chilling and thought-provoking horror game where shrieking spies haunt you in a dreadful and murky world. Soma provokes your fear of the unknown, but it also puts you into unsettling confrontations with puzzling creatures. Reviewer Richard Wakeling believes Soma "succeeds at crafting something much more meaningful in a genre that’s deserving of more than just simple jump scares."
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Nintendo opened the minds of creative Wii U owners with the endearing and versatile Super Mario Maker. It's a level creation tool that puts you in control of elements from four classic Mario Bros games, and it lets you easily share your creations with other players around the world. The results so far have been impressive, with standout achievements cropping up shortly after the game's release. Super Mario Maker is a rewarding experience that's drawn people's attention back to the Wii U.
Soma's terrifying atmosphere and the great competition from both FIFA and PES are commendable, but Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was our near-unanimous choice for September's game of the month. Metal Gear Solid can be a divisive series due to its borderline-inaccessible plot, but The Phantom Pain captivated audiences both new and old alike. It tells an extraordinary story that intertwines real-world events from the 1980s with heaps of melodrama, fantastical characters, and an off-beat sense of humor. It puts you in the boots of a legendary soldier with a dark backstory and an army at his command. The Phantom Pain boasts a massive world that's been crafted with an incredible attention to detail, which is reflected in the interplay of numerous mechanics, the artificial intelligence, and the flexibility of the emergent gameplay moments that await you at every turn.
Crucially, the Phantom Pain is the Metal Gear series' missing link, and while not everyone is pleased by the way Kojima tied things together, he certainly managed to do what he does best: deliver a story that subverts expectations, redefining the truth and your understanding of the series at large. We gave The Phantom Pain a 10 in our review not because it's a perfect game--it isn't--but because it offers an essential experience that we think everyone should try.