A couple weeks ago, I started my annual trek into the full release calendar for the new year. Thinking it would only take me, at most, half a week's work, factoring in life lol, I quickly realized that the games of 2016 were set on throwing my expectations out the window; just when I thought I had seen it all, I would find another master list that had even more games on it. Suffice it to say, there are an overwhelming amount of titles slated for 2016 (especially when you factor in all platforms), and while many will inevitably get delayed, at the onset, it's still impressive and exciting to have so much to look forward to. So after creating my own master list, I counted a total of 43 games! Way too many. Then began the arduous process of researching (many of them) and somehow narrowing it down to only 10. After finally locking in that last game, I was again surprised, this time to see that some of my delayed titles from last year (i.e. Final Fantasy XV) narrowly missed the mark this time around, and others I thought were shoe-ins—Horizon Zero Dawn especially—didn't make the cut for me at all. But the aspect that floored me the most was how many games I had never heard of prior to researching essentially stole the show. So after many hours of searching and much deliberation, here are the 10 games I am the most exited to play in 2016.
1. Mirror's Edge Catalyst
One of my top 10 favorite games of all time, the original Mirror's Edge stunned me when it came out way back in 2008. I loved the minimalist, Swedish level design, the clarity of the world; I immediately fell in love with the soundtrack, being an electronic music composer myself. Not only did it feature killer uptempo tracks but some memorable, more atmospheric ones too. But the main feature of Mirror's Edge that secured it a spot in my hall of fame was the freerunning in first person. Right from the start it felt unique, fluid, and exciting. It didn't matter to me whether Faith was running full bore or just accelerating, the feel of moving quickly up walls and sliding under barriers was always a rush. And unlike many gamers/critics, I actually enjoyed the gunplay. Based on her background and profession, it made sense Faith wouldn't be a pro with firearms, but I also didn't think the controls were unwieldy either. DICE's always amazing gun sound effects also helped.
Having initially rented it, I ended up beating Mirror's Edge in about a week and returning it. But I loved my experience with it so much I went out and bought it a short time later. There were many times it looked like a sequel would never happen but there were also small flickers of possibility. Even though it has taken almost 8 years for it to materialize, I'm still so stoked for Catalyst. The now open world, the improved fidelity, and refined mechanics all make for what is undoubtedly my number 1 most anticipated game of this year.
2. No Man's Sky
In the summer of 2014, I attended my first E3 ever. Working as a game tester for a large and very busy publisher at the time, I was only allotted one day to take everything in. Since I had so little time to work with, I mostly checked out the games I already knew about and those expected to launch in the near future. Little did I know the whole time what was going on with a little game called No Man's Sky. It wasn't until probably the next day when I was watching E3 footage from home that I started hearing about all the buzz surrounding it. But to be honest, I wasn't really blown away by it at first like so many others were. It wasn't until I started watching actual gameplay vids, not just trailers, that I realized this was totally up my alley: exploration on a scale perhaps unlike any game before, fun-looking space combat, and the chance to personalize near whole worlds were the aspects that converted me most. It may end up lacking in a few areas (story for one) but I'm hoping the prospect of being able to have near limitless freedom, in space, is more than enough to make up for a couple shortcomings.
I have played some of developer Ninja Theory's previous titles: a little DMC and beat Enslaved, which I've enjoyed the most so far. Ironically I guess, I have never played their very first game - Heavenly Sword. It doesn't mean I won't in the future, but with Hellblade peaking my interest more right now, it won't be for a while. ;) My experience with their next game has actually been somewhat similar to No Man's Sky—followed early development for a little while, then, when it seamed like it wound't be coming out for quite a long time, forgot about it for a long while. I didn't even have any plans to put it on my Top 10 list this year. Again, what changed everything for me was watching one of the latest gameplay vids. I was quickly struck by the very dark tone of both the story and some of the world design, something I love but you don't always see a lot in games. The combat looks pretty intense and I am intrigued by how it is set up to occur at unique camera angles. There's still a lot that Ninja Theory hasn't divulged about Hellblade, but I've definitely seen enough now to know I'm sold.
4. Hyper Light Drifter
A carry over from last year's list, Hyper Light Drifter is a 2D action adventure in the vein of Zelda, at least with regards to level traversal. The game captured my imagination early on with one of its trailers. Alongside some instantly mesmerizing EM, it showcased vibrantly cool-colored landscapes blended with futuristic architecture. While the art style definitely feels throwback in certain ways, it also effortlessly breathes more modern vibes. But the trailer didn't show a ton of combat. Just a few days ago, I found a couple of really good gameplay videos that amply showed it off, and all I can say is, it's definitely refreshing when gamplay can actually match the awesomeness of a trailer, right! ;) Combat is a nice mix of quick sword and gunplay, with a decent variety of (guns at least) to choose from. One of the best features of the combat is the ability to deflect enemies' bullets with your sword, even right back at them. Yea, that's right..with your sword! How awesome is that!?
This is one of the "new" games I first found out about while looking at a release calendar for this year. There isn't a ton of content out there about it but after reading the general synopsis alone, I knew Draugen would be something special. It's takes place in the 1920s in the deep fjords and mountains of Norway (sold after reading that part by itself), and follows an American foreigner who ends up in the region while searching for a missing friend, I believe. This leads to a dark and mysterious tale, full of suspense and horror (sold twice over). What's also especially cool about Draugen is the fact that it incorporates a lot of Scandinavian, Norse, and even Icelandic, mythology, folklore, and legends! Can't wait for this one to come out!
I actually saw a little bit about this game somewhere online last year, but wasn't initially impressed. While researching this time around, I totally fell for this humorous, hip little game. Funny how that happens, huh. It's about this dude who is the last human survivor in an alternate version of our universe where control is in the hands of robots. The thing that's different about this otherwise pretty common scenario is that Mr. Survivor only has his head left. Yep. But he can land it onto different robot bodies to more conveniently move through environmental puzzles and ultimately escape (and maybe get his body back in the process?) Along with the zany premise, the art style of Head Lander is also somethin' else, featuring a double coat of 1970s sci-fi styling and atmosphere. Oh, and there are big, blue laser gun battles goin' on too. Way too cool.
Another found gem from my recent searching, Slain pretty much appeals mostly to one type of gamer—likes to wear a lot of black, very long, greasy hair, watches a lot of gruesome horror movies, and especially important, is a hardcore metal fan. lol Seriously though, while Slain will definitely draw in quite a few gamers who simply love to play stuff with a heavy dose of gore, it is definitely a love letter to all things heavy metal. The main character design, level design, and even the enemy design all scream particularly 80s metal themes. And of course the soundtrack is one long metal extravaganza. Otherwise, Slain also features puzzles and big bosses, all in the name of killing said overlords for reasons that can only be explained by...metal.
8. Mafia III
This one is a weird one for me. I had definiately heard the announcment late last year that Mafia III was coming in 2016, and had even heard quite a bit about the premise—an orphan, Vietnam vet in the late 60s returns to his home town of New Orleans, LA to find heaps of trouble and gets tied up with the "black" mafia. Sounds pretty out there for a Mafia game, doesn't it? Well, I really liked Mafia II, but hearing all that about III kinda turned me off from the start. Low and behold, the game is simply awesome, putting it tamely. I recently watched a pretty long gameplay video with developer commentary and was blown away. The world detail and art style are impressive and pretty spot on for the location (I've been there once). The combat allows for a lot of different styles of play, stealth included, and the main character is just bad-ass. Definitely a pleasant surprise.
Stumbled on this little game as well while researching upcoming releases, and it's definitely a pretty interesting mix. Kinda Souls-esque, with a Diablo-style loot system, but it definitely has a very cool art style that is unlike the aforementioned games. Something akin to Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, but I would say with a little more finesse. The story also sounds interesting, having you play as a Shield Maiden who is trying to discover her fate after Loki does, well what Loki does best—cause mischief of course.
10. Rain World
Last but certainly not least is Rain World. I also recently found out about this one and was captivated from the get-go. An unusual-looking slugcat (you heard me right) is trapped in a rain-soaked, industrial/post-apocalyptic-looking world, trying to get back to the rest of his family...interesting stuff, huh. The vibe and atmosphere are very palpable in this one and I especially love the level design. Plus, the stark, little slugcat is animated in crazy, realistic ways. You gotta see it to believe it.