The latter half of 2016 was all about hardware for Sony, but PlayStation 4 owners still enjoyed a respectable haul of new games. The console's already strong library grew even stronger thanks not only to an embarassment of top-tier multiplatform games but also to several quality exclusives, including timed exclusives like The Witness and Firewatch; console exclusives like Street Fighter V; and true platform exclusives like Ratchet & Clank and Rez Infinite. And those weren't even the best of the best. If you somehow slept through 2016 or just picked up a PS4 recently, here are the five most essential PS4 games that launched this past year.
Many games strive to create connections between their characters, but none have achieved anything like the extraordinary bond that gradually forms between Trico and the nameless boy over the course of Fumito Ueda's The Last Guardian. While most games build bonds through static storytelling, Last Guardian turns relationship-building into an active process. Through the boy, you must train Trico the same way you might train a real-life pet: slowly, through a gradual earning of trust. Watching Trico react just as a real animal might (and overcoming the early frustrations associated with coaxing a stubborn creature to behave a certain way) creates an uncannily real connection that's nothing short of magic. Add to that an enchanting world and satisfying final act and you've got a Sony exclusive worthy of Team Ico's legacy--even if it took nearly a decade to develop.
Sony's other major exclusive also suffered a few delays, but just like The Last Guardian, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End proved to be worth the wait. Not only does it provide some of the most intense and thoughtfully directed action sequences ever, it also manages to layer nuance into familiar characters and reframe our understanding of the series as a whole, all while drawing the story of roguish explorer Nathan Drake to a satisfying close. From the expert voice acting to the subtle visual storytelling, every element of Uncharted 4's presentation contributes to a cohesive vision that's delivered with a level craftsmanship unmatched in the genre. It retroactively enhanced our appreciation of the previous games en route to becoming the new best entry in an already celebrated series.
Arguably the only major flaw with Uncharted 4 is its decent but forgettable multiplayer; thankfully that hasn't been an issue since Overwatch started dominating our online time. Legendary developer Blizzard Entertainment's first new IP in 17 years (as well as the studio's first shooter), Overwatch took the longstanding idea of class-based multiplayer and expanded it to the extreme, crafting a roster of 23 playable characters. Each of its heroes feels distinct in every way: weapons, movement, abilities, even their roles on the battlefield differ measurably. Yet somehow, every character is equally memorable. Regardless of how you like to play, you can find a favorite that suits you, and the strategic depths created by team composition alone turn Overwatch into one of the year's most exceptional online multiplayer games.
When we weren't busy Overwatching, there was another online shooter that commanded our attention: Titanfall 2, the ultimate example of a sequel done right. Everything that made the original so special remains: the agile, gravity-defying movement of the pilots, the earned empowerment of the Titans, the engrossing chaos of online modes populated with both human players and droves of AI fodder. But in each case, Titanfall 2 expands that foundation. Pilots, for example, have new abilities like the grappling hook, and Titans now come in six different flavors, all of which offer distinct ways to play that demand an almost fighting game-like mastery. There's even a brand new single-player component that delivers all these ideas in a neat narrative wrapper, and while the writing is somewhat weak, the campaign still rounds out an already excellent package.
Dishonored 2 didn't excel at storytelling either, but it might be the most mechanically rich game on this list. Like Titanfall 2, it builds on its predecessor by refining and expanding existing ideas--ideas like stealthy teleportation and shadowy dismemberment. The suite of supernatural abilities and inventive weapons at your disposal allows for a breathtaking level of lethal creativity. Whether you're kicking hapless guards through skylights or quietly subduing them from a distance with sleep darts, Dishonored 2 not only accommodates your choices, it adjusts the world and narrative accordingly. Mechanically speaking, this might be the single best example of the "choice and consequences" school of game design--which previously gave us titles like Deus Ex and Thief.
GAMESPOT'S BEST PS4 GAMES OF 2016
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