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The 25 Best Video Games of 2016
The 25 Best Video Games of 2016

10

Inside

While the cult of the indie puzzle-platformer has waned in recent years, Playdead's follow-up to the critically beloved Limbo lit a pale, shimmering fire right in the heart of the genre. Deft configurations of the familiar crates, levers, and ladders that make up the expected trappings of Inside's puzzles produce some of the most memorable conundrums of the past few years in gaming. Rather than trying to ignore the long shadow cast by its predecessor, the game maintains an active, fruitful conversation with Limbo but never to the point of sheer repetition. Immaculately authored and coiffured by six long years of development, Inside has some of the most memorable moments that the genre has yet seen. The game may only have a few tricks in its repertoire, but its success at those is difficult to overstate. Wright

The 25 Best Video Games of 2016

9

Superhot

While 2016 was a great year for the big-budget first-person genre, Superhot proves that the restraint of the indie scene is still a creative force to be reckoned with. It's a simple five-word concept that opens the door to brilliance on par with the best action films and games of recent years: Time moves when you do. It's bullet time in its loosest, freewheeling form. Every stage is the kind of bullet carnival that would make John Wick applaud. Because time grinds to a snail's pace until you make your move, the tension of every split-second decision stretches out forever. Every hit, then, is given time to simmer, and every new target opens up a world of possibilities no longer reliant on the player's twitch reflexes, but rather on your creativity and deviousness. All the while, the game's framework takes a paranoid, cyberpunk, Existenz-style tack that somehow fits in with the minimalist aesthetic of the core game perfectly. Superhot takes the blissfully familiar and completely twists the whole first-person shooter genre to fit its own ends. Clark

The 25 Best Video Games of 2016

8

Dark Souls III

One of the suppositions of the Dark Souls series has always been that true beauty cannot be earned without suffering, and Dark Souls III remains as relentless as its predecessors. It's also far more accessible, thanks to a wider variety of options in combat, smoother controls, and a more navigable labyrinth of horrors. Players who wish to earn their stunning glimpses of the kingdom still have to survive a gauntlet of reanimated knights and a giant, icy, armored dog, but they'll spend far less time in loading screens and will almost always be aware of why they're dying. It helps, too, that even the monsters take on a grim sort of glamor, whether it's an extra appendage abruptly erupting from a creature's back like a flock of ravens or the way Lord Wolnir's fashionable gold jewelry glistens against the spectral onyx of his long-dead skin: Beauty in death, indeed. Riccio

The 25 Best Video Games of 2016

7

Hyper Light Drifter

It's tempting to call Hyper Light Drifter a clone, as its world design—a town surrounded by four monster- and puzzle-saturated areas—heavily recalls that of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. But creator Alex Preston, rather than tell a concrete legend, imbues his adventure with impressions about the impermanence and unfairness of life. The anthropomorphic characters speak in images, with many of them depicting violent ethnic discrimination in a nod to Art Spiegelman's comic-book masterpiece Maus. These pictures stick in the back of your mind as you traverse brightly colored environments full of nonlinear and hidden paths, the pixelations of the graphics encouraging a conflicted perception of beauty and fragility. As in any good action game, learning how to utilize techniques to survive the advances of antagonists comes with pleasure, but this satisfaction is counterbalanced by the blood your protagonist coughs up and drips as you take damage. Even if you conquer everything and discover all of its secrets, Hyper Light Drifter is ultimately a tough reminder of the fleeting and surreal nature of existence. Pressgrove

The 25 Best Video Games of 2016

6

The Witness

Jonathan Blow's long-awaited sequel to his 2008 indie megahit Braid is a puzzle game powered by ideology, a series of conundrums designed to inspire real-life note-taking and challenge your geometric savvy. The Witness can be as difficult as any game released this year, all-consuming in its mystery, eating up hours and hours of your time with its demanding and exacting logic. And while this love letter to the power of knowledge and science might come off a tad smug in its hyper-rationalist worldview, the cumulative effect of its swaths of mind-melting riddles ultimately serves as a complete portrait of its creator himself: beguiling and enigmatic but thoroughly appealing nonetheless. Wright

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