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


Layers of Fear

Evoking and surpassing the tension of the Hideo Kojima playable teaser P.T., Layers of Fear throws nonstop environmental curve balls at you that play into its unambiguous themes of madness and family destruction: doors that only open to brick walls with words like “DRUNK” and “SELFISH” painted on them; generic lit-up toy houses adorning shelves in an otherwise bleak hall; and, of course, an unfinished painting that transforms the ordinary into the horrific, such as bloody flamingo demons, as you, an artist in despair, add new touches to the canvas to discover insight about the state of your soul. You never know how or when a room or object might change, but Layers of Fear’s tale of misguided male frustration is what truly makes the game resonate. Many fathers may recognize the insane anger of the painter when he, for example, recalls a memory of berating his wife for buying baby shoes before the unborn child’s sex is identified. Developer Bloober Team’s portrait of the man of the house is unflinching, unsettling, and, most disturbingly, believable. Pressgrove

The 25 Best Video Games of 2016


Battlefield 1

Many play Battlefield 1 for its frenetic and massive multiplayer, in which up to 64 players simultaneously use everything from desperate bayonet charges and horseback maneuvers to all-in tank sieges and zeppelin bombardments in order to seize objectives. It’s a grand-scale reminder of how horrible and chaotic war can be. For all that, it’s the specificity of the single-player’s vignettes that pays a fitting tribute to those who fought in World War I, and of those, the moments that linger are the slowest and least chaotic, the ones in which not even a single shot is fired: a young scout creeping through the occupied countryside, scavenging parts for his mired tank; a cavalier American pilot finally putting his own neck on the line to carry his comrade through the labyrinthine trenches in the no man’s land; and an unarmed messenger pigeon flying home through the tracer-teared sky. Riccio

The 25 Best Video Games of 2016


Pony Island

For certain forms of subversive entertainments, like Twinbeard’s 2012 game Frog Fractions and Adult Swim’s 2014 television show Too Many Cooks, the less you know, the better, and that’s certainly the case with Pony Island. The game consistently plays with expectations: The “Play” button doesn’t work until a puzzle has been solved in the glitching Options, and the loading screen is more than it appears. Pony Island is a deconstruction of just about every game that’s sucked away your time (and soul), a clever and unique experience that somehow gamifies its critiques of gamification. The game does all this while savagely satirizing the history of games, from minimalist text adventures to laughably rendered first-person 3D. Under the auspices of its cute and thoughtless mascot, Pony Island dives deep into the question of what a game actually is, what it should be, and why we play them, finding meaning in every level and each keystroke. Riccio

The 25 Best Video Games of 2016



The original Doom and its sequel are perhaps unmatchable in their vigor: high-octane destruction of labyrinthine locales, darting through fireballs and slimy orbs, brazenly stolen heavy-metal riffs punctuated with the ever-present cocking of a super shotgun. The Doom reboot represents perhaps the closest we’ll ever come to that high-water mark, transforming the classic two-plane gunplay with vertically vast spaces that require not just a quick trigger finger, but also a pair of deft dancing feet. The pedants among us might note that the glut of insta-hit enemies and the addition of jumping render this Doom more akin to 1996’s Quake than was perhaps intended, but such complaints miss the point entirely. The incipient dominance of the militarized mega shooter made it seem like we were never going to get another classic single-player arena blaster, so, please, just enjoy the carnage. Wright

The 25 Best Video Games of 2016


That Dragon, Cancer

Although the 14 vignettes in That Dragon, Cancer are uneven in quality, everything is undeniably personal in Ryan and Amy Green’s game, which details the struggle with their young boy Joel’s fatal fight with cancer. That Dragon, Cancer could have easily been a one-dimensional expression of sadness and grief or a simple call for pity. Instead, among sentiments of frustration, despair, doubt, resignation, and even hatred, the couple holds true to their Christian belief that God’s grace should shape one’s perception of circumstances, not the other way around. The sequence where you can light candles to hear different people asking God to have mercy on Joel is the most moving spiritual moment in games since the worldwide prayer in the final battle of Earthbound. Unlike that classic RPG, That Dragon, Cancer doesn’t seem to end in victory, yet a paradox in the final vignette cements the Greens’ unwavering message and place in video-game history: “And the air is emptier without his laugh, and yet our hearts are still full.” Pressgrove