USgamer's Best Games of 2016: Our Game of the Year

At last, we choose our favorite game of 2016!

Article by USgamer Team, .

It's finally time to choose our Game of the Year for 2016!

To recap the process one more time: everyone at USG put their heads together and voted on nine individual categories as a group, and each team member nominated their own pick for the category. Rather than argue long and loud about personal opinions, however, we've taken a scientific approach: We voted on each category through an anonymous survey in which we weighted each nominee from "most" to "least."

This means, in theory at least, that a game that gets nominated by more than one person won't necessarily sweep the category-it's entirely possible for a dark horse to take the prize if it receives enough second- or third-place points from everyone. We'll see!

Want to see the rest of our look back on 2016? Check out our handy hub!.

2016 Game of the Year: The Nominees

It was harder than you might think choosing a Game of the Year for 2016. Lots of games hit that B+ and A- tier this year: good enough that they gained favorable critical notice, but not so good that they were destined to be remembered as classics. This year had a different flavor in general due to the dominance of quirky shooters and major Japanese releases, as well as the emergence of triple-A indies like No Man's Sky (for better or worse). But in the end, one game stood above the rest of the pack and made its mark on 2016. Before we announce our winner, though, here are our nominees.

Jaz: Inside

There's little I can add to what I've already said about Inside other than the fact that it's a game that made a really deep impression on me. Like thatgamecompany's classic, Journey, there's something about Inside that connected with me on a fundamentally emotional level: It elicited thoughts of wonder, melancholy, revulsion, curiosity, frustration, and joy. In the days and weeks after I finished it, I thought about it often - feeling happy that I'd finished it, and sad for the very same reason. It's a game I'd love to be able to erase from my memory, so I could enjoy its incredible experience again. Game of 2016? It's my game of this generation so far.

Nadia: Dragon Quest Builders

Alert the media and call for your fainting couch: I'm going with a Dragon Quest game for my Game of the Year. I just wish I could articulate how much fun I had for that all-to-brief period in my life when I got to put everything aside for an hour or two a day, fire up Dragon Quest Builders, and dedicate myself to rebuilding the lands I loved so much as a kid (and still love as an adult). It really was a special time, and I'm glad I got to experience it. If you're any kind of a Dragon Quest fan, you ought to treat yourself to Builders, too.

Jeremy: Dragon Quest Builders

I'm not going to lie and pretend I've played every single game to make its way to retail this year. Didn't have a chance to mess with Doom, have zero interest in Overwatch, couldn't care less about Dark Souls III. It doesn't matter, though. "Best" is a wholly subjective term to begin with, so why should feign objectivity? Dragon Quest Builders was the game that drilled most efficiently to my mind's pleasure centers, and by god, that's good enough. Perfectly combining the world, monsters, and music of the original Dragon Quest with the construction focus of Minecraft, Builders transcended them both. It's a building game whose literal structure-crafting advances under a figurative structure — specifically, the narrative and advancement structure of an RPG. It would be easy to cynically dismiss this as just Dragon Quest ripping off Minecraft, but the truth of the matter is that the game transcends both of its inspirations to become its own fresh, original invention.

Kat: Overwatch

I will mostly remember this year for one game: Overwatch. In one way or another, Overwatch managed to dominate the headlines throughout the year, exploding onto the scene and drawing in every type of player: hardcore shooter fans, genre neophytes who liked the art, lapsed gamers, and more. At one point, it seemed as if everyone was playing Overwatch; and while things have settled down a bit, I still know plenty of people who are really into it. Overwatch's eSports scene is still growing, but Blizzard has a really intriguing idea for a league on the table, and it's apt to join CounterStrike as a genre heavyweight on that front. In many respects, it feels like Overwatch is just getting started.

Its success is due to any number of factors: accessibility, personality, a refreshing format, those damn legendary costumes. But on a fundamental level, it's just a really fun and balanced shooter with a lot of interesting characters, and that more than anything is what keeps people coming back. It's the kind of game where you'll get tired of one character, then inevitably start experimenting with someone else, and ultimately fall in love all over again. Personally, I think it'll be remembered as a classic down the line, and that makes it an easy choice for Game of the Year.

Mike: Overwatch

I said this earlier, but imagine this. You're the company that made Diablo, Warcraft, Starcraft, and World of Warcraft. You're breaking ground on the next big thing, Project Titan. This is your future. As you forge ahead, you run into a problem: It's just not working. A lesser company wouldn't cancelled the game and moved on. Blizzard took what it could from Titan and created something new. Hence Overwatch.

Overwatch is just great. If you can bang with first-person shooters, are down with multiplayer, and don't want anything too realistic, there's probably something in Overwatch for you. The characters are great and the attention to detail on their animations and interactions breath life into the game. The focus on team-based mechanics means those who are weaker at first-person game still have a place. And the costumes are a drug from which one can never save themselves. Overwatch, from top to bottom, is great.

The Winner: Overwatch

The nominees were evenly split between Overwatch and Dragon Quest Builders (plus Inside), but the majority of the staff decided to go with Blizzard's shooter for Game of the Year. And why not? Overwatch is just a delight to play. It's managed to bring back a huge number of fans who have felt alienated by multiplayer shooters, inspiring long nights pierced by promises of, "Just one more round." Overwatch is the refresh the genre needs after years of dominance by dreary military shooters like Call of Duty—a wonderful burst of color that is charming as it is deep. Blizzard has really created a winner with Overwatch; and while things can change, it wouldn't be a surprise to see it dominate the genre for the next five or even 10 years. It's for that reason (and many more) that Overwatch is our Game of the Year in 2016.

Runner-up (Weighted Average): Inside (1.8)

Previous categories

  1. Best Single-Player Campaign
  2. Best Multiplayer
  3. Best Visual Style
  4. Loveliest Soundtrack
  5. The Game Universe We'd Like to Live In
  6. Biggest Disappointment
  7. Best Surprise
  8. Best Sidekick

Thanks for reading USgamer in 2016! We look forward to bringing you another year of great game coverage in 2017. We'll see you in the new year!

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Comments 21

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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #1 SuperShinobi A year ago
    It's not easy to pick that single GotY of 2016. It's a pretty diverse and even field with lots of great AAA games, indie games, even some great handheld games (Severed, for example) and all the new VR games, which are a new category so different that it's hard to compare them to regular games. In contrast, last year it was pretty much just between Bloodborne and Witcher 3, and maybe MGS V.

    I'm going to go with Batman Arkham VR as my GotY. It looks simply phenomenal and is the most lavishly produced VR game I've played with great atmosphere & voice acting and excellent motion controls. It takes less than 2 hours to play through the story, but like that other 2-hour classic Journey, it condenses so much into those 2 hours. It's the best Batman-related 2 hours I've experienced since going to see The Dark Knight for the first time.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #2 SargeSmash A year ago
    I haven't played any of these. Boy, I'm behind the times or something!

    Anyway, the games I really enjoyed the most from this year (that I've actually finished!) include:

    Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight
    Kirby: Planet Robobot
    Song of the Deep
    Another Metroid 2 Remake (AM2R)
    Titanfall 2
    Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

    Y'all might see a pattern with most of those. I'm going with the unofficial release as my favorite, though. AM2R was a joy to play. I also think the remake of Dragon Quest VII is splendid, but I haven't finished that up!
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  • Avatar for DoorCurtain #3 DoorCurtain A year ago
    I'm very surprised The Last Guardian wasn't nominated. I guess having a companion so sophisticated in AI it stops being interpreted as such and is simply "Trico" wasn't able to override the basic adventure in that game for some people. Which is reasonable, though I personally think it's better than Overwatch in my humble opinion.

    I'm not complaining though. What other site would nominate Dragon Quest Builders for Game of the Year? You guys have taste. You GET IT. So these are still some great nominees.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #4 brionfoulke91 A year ago
    I can understand going with Overwatch, it's certainly popular and it's an okay choice. I also really loved Dragon Quest Builders, so I am totally fine with that being up there too.

    Still, of all the games this year I think the one that will best stand the test of time and be remembered as a truly important game will be The Last Guardian.
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  • Avatar for StrwbrryJams #5 StrwbrryJams A year ago
    Poor, poor Battleborn...
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  • Avatar for qwilman #6 qwilman A year ago
    @StrwbrryJams it ran off with fortress forever and they're enjoying their time together in obscurity
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #7 Kat.Bailey A year ago
    @not_themilkybarkid It was in my Top 10 for the year! That final mission though :(
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #8 UnskippableCutscene A year ago
    @not_themilkybarkid Some of it is just that USG only has five contributors for this, and they don't do a huge number of submissions, probably because that would mean more debating and less deciding.

    A lot of people have said Titanfall 2 and Doom did some pretty amazing things for single-player this year.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #9 MetManMas A year ago
    I totally get why Overwatch is tearing up the GotY lists. The colorful cartoony aesthetics are very welcoming, the variety in roles means you can contribute even if you're not very good at shooting, the game's receiving lots of new content for free, and being a Blizzard production it's a very solidly designed experience all around. If it wasn't a competitive multiplayer game, I'd buy it in a second.

    If it wasn't a competitive multiplayer game...

    I don't mind multiplayer as a sometimes food, but I prefer it more as a thing I can opt out of than as the main experience. Like how I can choose to participate in events as I please then go Passive Mode the rest of the time in GTA Online, or team up with others in Final Fantasy XIV just for the odd raid/dungeon/superboss, or I can just not use the bells in Bloodborne.

    I like having the option to play as a lone wolf basically, and competitive multiplayer doesn't really allow for that.

    I'll totally be getting Overwatch when I see it on sale for the right price, though. Like I said, sometimes food.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #10 nadiaoxford A year ago
    @SargeSmash Definite shout-out to AM2R. I really enjoyed it.
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  • Avatar for AndreasStalin #11 AndreasStalin A year ago
    Overwatch game of the year 2016? That's just plain sad. We have been waiting a decade for FFXV and almost as long for The Last Guardian and when they finally arrive they are beaten by a team based competitive shooter for GOTY. So that's the state of gaming according to USgamer. Well, well not my cup of tea but to each their own I guess.
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  • Avatar for CipherStone #12 CipherStone A year ago
    Zero Time Dilemma will be GOTY in my heart, at least.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #13 NiceGuyNeon A year ago
    @AndreasStalin I didn't realize that length of time between a game's announcement and its release meant it deserved to win GotY over a game other people consider better.
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  • Avatar for JohnnyBarnstorm #14 JohnnyBarnstorm A year ago
    Something about the final chapter of Inside really, really rubbed me the wrong way. Like the game was mocking me for caring.
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  • Avatar for JohnnyBarnstorm #15 JohnnyBarnstorm A year ago
    My Top Ten:

    1. Oxenfree
    2. Overwatch
    3. It
    4. Was
    5. Kind
    6. Of
    7. A
    8. Bad
    9. Year
    10. Gaming-Wise
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  • Avatar for AndreasStalin #16 AndreasStalin A year ago
    @NiceGuyNeon I think you misread my comment pretty badly. Try reading it again.
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  • Avatar for AstroDemon #17 AstroDemon A year ago
    Based on the commotion in general this year for Overwatch, I'm not surprised, but I thought this crew would be more RPG-favored. I guess that's how hard Overwatch hit. It took lots of precious RPG time away, me included, but I didn't end up liking it the way others did. It very much is the shooter for everyone else, like Splatoon with a much bigger audience.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #18 NiceGuyNeon A year ago
    @AndreasStalin I don't think I did. Your comment seems to indicate that Overwatch is an unworthy GotY based on its genre and compares it to two hyped releases from last-gen finally coming out. Whether you found those games not living up to the hype disappointing or found the shooter being the winner as disappointing doesn't quite matter to me.

    The gaming industry is healthier and more varied now than it was when TLG and FF15 were announced. Times were good then but they're better now. The fact that a pure shooter can win is proof that even the genres we expect the least change from are the ones capable of surprising us the most.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #19 NiceGuyNeon A year ago
    @daveyc02909 I'm planning on getting to it if I enjoy Limbo. I bought it recently for my Vita, if it's as great as I hope it is I'll spring for Inside afterwards.
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  • Avatar for dr134 #20 dr134 A year ago
    Overwatch was my choice as well.

    I do not enjoy online twitch shooters. I have only ever played one online FPS that I enjoyed and played for more than a few matches (Bioshock 2).

    Based on the overwhelmingly positive user reviews I bought Overwatch near launch for full price.

    After 140+ hours, I will say it was worth every penny. "Catchphrase!"
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  • Avatar for docexe #21 docexe A year ago
    I didn’t play that many games released in 2016 (I spent most of the year working on my backlog, really), but of the ones I played, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE might be my favorite. In some ways it is like the cheery, more optimistic little brother of Persona, and I love it for that.

    Overwatch is a strong choice in any case. Multiplayer shooters are not my cup of tea, but the characters and the universe of the game are delightful enough to make me a fan.
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