The readers (That’s you!) have spoken, and the votes have been tallied. Just below these very words are the winners of the PlayStation.Blog Game of the Year 2016 awards.
This year’s awards pulled in a staggering number of votes — more than a half-million in total! — across categories including Best PS4 Game, Best PS VR Game, Most Innovative, the ever-popular Most Anticipated, and Studio of the Year. There are a few surprises in there, but one title in particular stood out and took multiple Platinum Trophies home… read on to see for yourself!
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
A stupendous year for high-quality games, with strong poll showings from The Last Guardian and Doom. But in the end, it was Naughty Dog’s send-off for Nathan Drake that claimed the Platinum, scoring more than 40% of total submitted votes.
Overwatch. Blizzard’s meticulously designed, ultra-polished, and highly accessible team shooter represents the biggest leap for the competitive FPS genre in nearly a decade. Its impact will be felt for years to come.
Dark Souls 3. It’s been a great year for games, no? Uncharted 4, Titanfall 2 and Dishonored 2 ran it close, but my pick for GOTY (predictably) goes to Hidetaka Miyazaki’s latest dark masterpiece. The “shock of the new” might be gone, but the level and boss design is as good as any in the series.
The Witness. The minimal aesthetic lets Thekla’s brain-squeezing puzzles take center stage, and I couldn’t bring myself to give up on them. Thank goodness for that, because finally completing “The Challenge” is one of the most rewarding moments of any game in recent memory.
Hitman. The masterful level design and vast array of player choice — combined with the brilliant games-as-a-service structure — kept me coming back to the game week after week and resulted in my most satisfying gaming experience this year.
Overwatch. This is one of the strongest debuts by a collection of characters since Street Fighter II. Every hero is uniquely individual and instantly memorable, yet Blizzard manages to make this mob perfectly balance against one another. I can get my fix with a quick match or happily lose an evening to a whole season of them. Just great design, mechanics, and balancing. Brilliant.
World of Final Fantasy
Fan favorites Steins;Gate 0 and Odin Sphere Leigthrasir fared well as write-ins, but ultimately Square Enix’s love letter to Final Fantasy landed the PS Vita Platinum award.
Darkest Dungeon. Red Hook’s unforgiving roguelike RPG practically feeds on the dread and misery it generates in the player. On the bright side, that only makes the thrill of victory all the more intoxicating. Easily one of the best games of 2016, no matter the platform.
Severed. Drinkbox Studios knocks another one out of the park. Severed is an interesting case study: what if a studio took the main mechanic of Fruit Ninja… and built a full-sized first-person dungeon crawler around it? The ensuing RPG is a frenetic, haunting journey that every PS Vita owner should experience.
Downwell. A great mobile game which becomes an even better PS Vita game thanks to snappy physical controls. Addictive, intense, and incredible fun. Arcade shooting given a roguelike spin, and at its very finest.
Day of the Tentacle Remastered. As a long-time fan of the LucasArts stable, this was the one I was desperate to get the Double Fine remaster treatment, and it’s everything I remembered. Hilarious, fiendish, and satisfying. It’s also available to download on PS Plus this month, conveniently. So go and get it!
Though Firewatch was the decisive overall winner, voting trends in this category showed a wide spread. Alone With You, Severed, and Darkest Dungeon all left a strong mark on the polls, though not enough to place.
Darkest Dungeon. I’m determined to plug this game in every available venue! There are plenty of great turn-based RPGs, but few evoke dread and despair as vividly as this macabre gem. It’s a masochist’s dream come true.
Steamworld Heist. Image & Form’s delightful follow-up to quirky 2013 side-scroller Steamworld Dig successfully transposed the action into an entirely new genre (turn-based strategy) while retaining the charm of the original. Flab-free and heaps of fun.
The Witness. Maybe the most impressive part of The Witness is that it was built by such a small team. Crucially, the fact that this massive project was executed by a handful of people accentuates its singular, cohesive vision.
Firewatch. I think Firewatch’s greatest feat was to make its final return to the humdrum of reality feel as fascinating and thought-provoking as its initial slow descent into paranoia.
A decisive win from Battlefield 1, which impressively elevated its graphical presentation on the powerful PS4 Pro hardware. Titanfall 2 and Ratchet & Clank also earned noteworthy support from the PlayStation community.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Infinity Ward’s latest is a tremendous technical achievement no matter where you play it, but it takes on a vivid new dimension thanks to the raw horsepower of PS4 Pro. The action setpieces look spectacular, but it was the UNSA Retribution’s hyper-detailed flight deck that blew me away.
Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration. By offering a trio of settings to fit a range of different visual mode configurations, Crystal Dynamics gives players a clear and easy choice to experience the action-adventure the way they want to. I’d love to see similar practice adopted as a standard in the future.
Final Fantasy XV. Square Enix has been known to embrace new technologies and generate some of the most impressive visuals of any given console generation, and Final Fantasy XV is a perfect showcase of PS4 Pro’s capabilities. Players can choose to experience super-smooth gameplay or render at a massive resolution — either way, FFXV’s spot-on art direction really shines on the new hardware.
Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration. A great example of a developer really going all out to take advantage of PS4 Pro. With an array of options that balance stunning enhanced visuals with a slicker frame rate, Crystal Dynamics took what was already a technical achievement and dialed it up to 11.
Batman Arkham VR
The votes were fairly split here, but Rocksteady’s atmospheric mystery ultimately took the top slot. Rez Infinite, Rigs, and VR Worlds each saw lots of support in the polls, though not quite enough to place.
Carnival Games. Perhaps a bold choice, but put an hour into it and you’ll understand why. I loved Battlezone, Rez, Robinson, and Job Simulator to death, but in the end, this was the one I picked up again and again. The shooting gallery, ring toss, and climbing wall are not to be missed!
Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes. Dashing any concerns that PlayStation VR would be an isolating experience, the most enjoyable couch multiplayer experience I had all year was with this fiendishly fun asynchronous cooperative puzzler.
SuperHyperCube. While many games go to great lengths to prove how convincing an escape VR can be, Kokoromi’s psychedelic puzzler is an admirably subtle use of a brand-new technology. SuperHyperCube is an exercise in creative restraint, and it’s all the better for it.
Batman: Arkham VR. While my heart will always beat faster at the thought of returning to Rez in 3D, there’s no better example of the immersive nature of PlayStation VR than Rocksteady’s debut on the hardware. Giving everyone the chance to don the Dark Knight’s iconic cowl and become the world’s greatest detective? Amazing.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
In perhaps the biggest blowout category this year, Naughty Dog’s PS4 epic managed to score nearly half of all vote submissions. Honorable mentions included Batman: The Telltale Series, Mafia 3, and Firewatch.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Yet again, Naughty Dog has raised the bar on interactive storytelling with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. The masterful script and stunning performance capture made for a game that grabbed me from the very beginning and didn’t let go until the beautiful epilogue.
The Last Guardian. There were plenty of unknowns when it came to the long-anticipated release of The Last Guardian. One thing was never in doubt though: the storytelling was always going to be out-of-this-world. Sure enough, Fumito Ueda and his team did not disappoint.
Firewatch. Firewatch captivates with simple, candid character writing that chokes you up right from the opening sequence and keeps you hooked all the way to the end, seeding tension and intrigue with dialogue so impressively effortless that it almost seems throwaway at times. An understated and cunningly haunting tour de force.
The Last Guardian. Okay, so it’s relatively light on straight-up storytelling, but for me, this is “less is more” in action. The progression of the boy’s relationship with Trico, reading your feathered friend’s emotions and figuring out the mysterious setting together fully drew me into the world and made me desperate to see what would happen next.
Nolan North (Uncharted 4)
Unsurprisingly, Uncharted 4’s cast fared nicely here. Outside of the winners circle, Troy Baker (Bruce Wayne in Batman: The Telltale Series) and Alex Hernandez (Mafia III’s Lincoln Clay) mustered impressive support.
Wayne June as “The Ancestor” in Darkest Dungeon. An uber-strong year for game performances, but Darkest Dungeon’s gravel-throated narration took me by surprise in the best possible way. Executed with impunity!
Emily Rose as “Elena Fisher” in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Uncharted 4 is (deservedly) walking away with a huge number of awards this year, and I’m going to toss in another one: Emily Rose’s performance as series mainstay Elena Fisher gives the story of A Thief’s End an emotional anchor, lending a sense of believability to this soaring, swashbuckling adventure… and more importantly, its stars.
Mark Noble as “Emiel Regis” in The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine. Giving voice to such a well-loved character from Andrei Sapkowski’s long-running series of novels was never likely to be an easy task. That Noble was able to bring Geralt’s old friend Emiel Regis to life with such a perfect balance of charm, eloquence, and self-deprecation is an achievement worthy of note.
Cissy Jones as “Delilah” in Firewatch. Along with great work from Rich Sommer as Henry, Cissy Jones’ Delilah in Firewatch was my standout performance this year. Creating a genuine relationship just by walkie-talkie communications, without the characters ever seeing each other, can’t have been easy — but it’s this interplay that’s at the heart of the game, and what makes the whole thing so compelling.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Another win for Naughty Dog, though Final Fantasy XV nearly squeaked into the Platinum slot in late voting. Watch Dogs 2, The Last Guardian, and Mafia III all saw plenty of votes, too.
Doom. Id Software’s demonic shooter was one of my favorite games this year, and Mick Gordon’s ultra-heavy industrial soundtrack is one of the key reasons why. A superior example of how audio can fuel and amplify the gameplay experience.
Firewatch. Chris Remo’s warm ambient noodling provided the perfect backdrop to Campo Santo’s refreshing backwoods adventure.
Final Fantasy XV. An incredibly tough category this year! Uncharted 4, Watch Dogs 2, No Man’s Sky, Firewatch, Doom… but considering the sheer breadth of Yoko Shimomura’s Final Fantasy XV score (and the goosebumps I still get when I hear Apocalypsis Noctis), it gets my vote.
Firewatch. Chris Remo’s minimalist Firewatch score beautifully elevated the game’s shifting and nuanced tones of melancholy, mystery, and adventure.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Technical powerhouses rule this roost, but The Last Guardian hangs tough thanks to its phenomenal art direction. Fans also showed support for other gorgeous titles, including Dark Souls III, Watch Dogs 2, and Ratchet & Clank.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Naughty Dog boasts some of the best rendering tech in the business, but it’s the studio’s sublime art direction that makes Uncharted 4 one of the best-looking games ever released on any platform.
Dishonored 2. No other AAA blockbuster in recent memory boasts such a singular, bold, and unusual aesthetic as Arkane Studios’ highly stylized stealth series, and the art team really went to town with this year’s sequel. Someone put it in a gallery already.
The Witness. When somebody asks you why art direction is important, show them The Witness. The island’s bright colors and clean edges have produced a number of the desktop wallpapers I currently have in rotation.
Dishonored 2. In a year filled with brilliant visuals, Dishonored 2 stands out for its incredible art direction and style. From the character models to the world design, the visuals throughout bolster the tone of the narrative and create an incredible sense of place. Simply nothing else feels like Dishonored.
Though Overwatch mustered impressive support, Battlefield 1 ultimately secured nearly 30% of the total vote for the top slot. Outside of the winner’s bracket, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Tom Clancy’s The Division, and Street Fighter V all performed well.
Overwatch. No surprises here. One year ago, I would never have guessed that the creators of Warcraft and Diablo could conquer the competitive shooter category with such grace and confidence. It’s a genre milestone and a brilliant game.
Overwatch. First-person shooters are a tough nut to crack, but Blizzard has swept in — as they always seem to — and effortlessly shifted the industry’s idea of what the genre is and can be. Perhaps most importantly, they’ve hit the sweet spot of depth and accessibility, making Overwatch approachable and enticing, truly, for gamers of all skill levels.
Overwatch. I think Overwatch, I think escalation. It feels like every session I spot a strategy — by team or lone wolf — I hadn’t considered before, continually making me reevaluate my understanding of what my favorites can do, or how to take better advantage of a map’s layout. Mid-match Hero changes halt any frustration at being stuck with the wrong character and grants continually changing, but always intriguing team combinations.
Titanfall 2. Titanfall 2’s masterful campaign has been deservedly well praised, but the multiplayer hooked me like few shooters in recent years. The multi-leveled combat between humans and mechs, lightning fast locomotion, and smart lobby system resulted in one of the best multiplayer games this year.
The Witcher III
This category now includes any and all post-release game updates. The Blood and Wine expansion catapulted last year’s winner The Witcher 3 back to the top. Fans voted in droves for Fallout 4, Black Ops 3, and Final Fantasy XIV as well.
Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth. Afterbirth manages to pull off a neat trick: making an expansion pack so robust that it could almost be mistaken for a sequel. The wealth of new items, environments, enemies, and gameplay refinements propel an already spectacular roguelike to addictive, disturbing new depths.
Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel. Not for the faint-hearted (the climactic multi-stage boss battle is as difficult as anything FromSoftware has ever inflicted on its audience) but this was a beautifully crafted postscript to a brilliant sequel.
Destiny. Bungie has been leading the charge in a new generation of shooters, and they continue to not only tweak the game’s foundational mechanics, but add new content by way of paid expansions (Rise of Iron) and free in-game events (The Dawning). Destiny’s community is a vocal one, and Bungie’s willingness to embrace their feedback ultimately leads to a better game.
No Man’s Sky, Foundation Update. As game-changing updates go, it’s hard to beat. I liked No Man’s Sky a lot from day one, but this update saw it begin to fulfil its potential with base building, deeper crafting and trading, and more ways to really forge your own path in the vast galaxy (for the record, I’m currently trying to make my name as a hot-shot pirate hunter, keeping freighters safe from attack).
Don’t Starve: Shipwrecked. My Don’t Starve addiction is well documented, but it’s the soul-stealing crafting game which just keeps on giving. Shipwrecked is almost a whole new game unto itself, as your old tactics won’t work here — and I’ll happily take more glorious nightmares wrapped in brilliant gameplay from Klei.
Hitman. The brilliant Elusive Targets add new difficult-to-find targets to familiar maps, and give you only a few days in real-time to execute the hit. But unlike the rest of the game, there are no saved games — once you find and assassinate the target, you must complete the mission. Fail, and that’s it — there are no second chances. These small twists brought heightened tension and mayhem, and were one of the many elements that kept me glued to Hitman throughout the year.
The Last Guardian
PlayStation fans honored genDESIGN and SIE Japan Studio’s emotional epic The Last Guardian in the polls, though competition was stiff throughout the category. PS VR title Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, Hitman, and The Witness also saw strong voter support.
Overwatch. Blizzard has managed a seemingly impossible task: broaden the appeal of the competitive shooter by catering to a wide array of play styles and even skill levels. Then they pumped in a steady stream of maps, characters, and modes, all for free. Devs — this is how you build a long-term multiplayer classic.
PlayStation VR Worlds. Few would disagree that VR was the most exciting innovation of 2016 and, while I put more time into other launch titles, PlayStation VR Worlds felt like the perfect encapsulation of the platform’s promise.
Hitman. Hitman’s key innovation is not any of the game’s individual elements — it’s the way they seamlessly come together to create a game that is so much more than the sum of its parts. The steady drip of new missions not only kept fans returning to the game month after month, but it also allowed players the time to explore the massive (and rewarding) possibility space hidden within each level.
Hitman. Innovation awards are normally reserved for the tech side of gaming, but with development cycles becoming ever longer, and consumers keener than ever to get the most out of their favourite games, Hitman’s episodic approach of releasing miniature sandboxes each month and adding fresh targets and contracts from week to week made for a winning and rewarding formula.
The Last of Us Part II
This category has expanded to include any announced game, irrespective of release date. Though PSX 2016 surprise announcement The Last of Us Part II claimed the coveted Platinum award, competition was fierce. Horizon Zero Dawn, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, and Death Stranding also saw plenty of love.
Resident Evil 7 biohazard. Luckily, we don’t have long to wait! RE7 leapt to the top of my list after my hands-on experiences earlier this month. In short, the shift towards FPS (complete with full PS VR mode) was a brilliant, daring move that pays off big time. Don’t sleep on this one.
Red Dead Redemption 2. One of those rare games you book time off work to get lost in. I can’t wait to get back in the saddle.
Horizon Zero Dawn. It captured my attention from the first moment I saw it at E3 years ago, and now we’re only a couple months away. Every time I see the game I become more excited to meet Aloy and explore the mysteries of the world. I’m going to be sinking a lot of time into this one.
Final Fantasy VII Remake. In a show full of surprises, two in particular stand out for me at E3 2015. The reveal of Final Fantasy VII Remake was one, my reaction to it another. Even as long term fan of the PSone original I was taken aback by the sudden lump in my throat — and a twist in my stomach — when that familiar music, unknowingly embedded deep in my psyche, kicked in.
Despite stiff competition from an array of highly accomplished game developers, Naughty Dog ultimately secured the Platinum award for its genre-defining work on Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
Who are these guys? The creators of what is likely the first bonafide hit VR game, the hilarious and endlessly replayable Job Simulator
. Let’s hope their next game pushes the nascent VR medium further still.
Naughty Dog. Few studios lavish their projects with such staggering levels of care and attention as Naughty Dog. This year’s Uncharted 4 continued that tradition, setting new visual benchmarks with stellar environmental design, best-in-class animation, and industry-leading technical virtuosity. They define the standard of excellence, pressing hard against technological boundaries to demonstrate the true potential of videogames as a medium.
Naughty Dog. What more can possibly be said about Naughty Dog? There is simply no other group of creatives in the biz that consistently raises the bar on visuals, narrative, and polish. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End yet again showcased the sublime talents of the kennel, and surpassed even my greatest expectations. The extra mile they go, especially in regards to accessibility, is simply unparalleled.
id Software. id’s reboot of the pivotal first-person shooter tuned the series’ core elements to perfection, injecting a bit of jet fuel into its veins for good measure. I hope to see more from id soon, because they have clearly and definitively proven with Doom that yes, they’ve still got it.
That’s it for this year! Thanks again to everyone who voted. And if you missed out on any of the great games you saw here, check them out on PlayStation Store. See you next year!