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.
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.
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.
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)
- Best Single-Player Campaign
- Best Multiplayer
- Best Visual Style
- Loveliest Soundtrack
- The Game Universe We'd Like to Live In
- Biggest Disappointment
- Best Surprise
- 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!