2016 was a pretty fucking awful year on a global scale – but we had some pretty great videogames come our way, so there’s that at least.
Dark Souls 3, Ratchet and Clank, Uncharted 4, No Man’s Sky, Gears of War 4 – there have been some absolutely massive releases this year, and you’re certainly not to blame if you lost track of some of the other, smaller titles in all the excitement.
Not to worry though, as I’ve rounded up some of the best games that came out in 2016 that you might have missed. Maybe you’ve played some of ’em, or maybe even all of them. If that’s the case, then good for you. Seriously, I’ll print you something out to say well done.
Oxenfree is essentially an interactive short Stephen King story, and if that pitch doesn’t pull you in then I’m afraid you’re dead inside.
A bunch of teens head to an abandoned island to play spin the bottle (as they so often do), leading you to have to explore said island for untold horrors and terrifying truths.
The whole thing is only about four hours long, but if you can pick it up on the cheap, you’ve just got yourself a great night’s worth of entertainment.
A spiritual successor to developer Playdead’s excellent Limbo (which I’m sure you’ve heard of) Inside is a moody, atmospheric adventure, with a wonderfully macabre artstyle and a neat possession mechanic.
Inside builds on the kind of emergent, environmental storytelling that games like Super Metroid, Fallout, Half-Life, and Limbo were so good at, and combines it with tricky platforming and some genius puzzle design.
Oh, and a lot of the music was recorded through an actual human skull. So… there’s that, too.
Hyper Light Drifter
Another masterclass in emergent storytelling and wordless narrative, Hyper Light Drifter is one of the hardest (and most interesting) games of 2016.
Inspired by both The Legend of Zelda and the films of Studio Ghibli, Hyper Light Drifter takes place across a beautiful pixelated landscape that the titular drifter must explore, facing massive enemies, and engaging in intense action RPG based combat.
If this were released during the days of the SNES and Megadrive, there’s no doubt in my mind that it would be a revered classic today.
Okay, we’re gonna take a quick departure from the ‘normal’ videogames and take a look at Tangora Deep, a creepy short story wrapped up in an interactive browser text game.
Through nothing more than words on different coloured backgrounds, Tangora Deep manages to tell a deeply engrossing story (just like what them book things used to do).
It takes about twenty minutes to read through, and is well worth your attention on your next lunch break. Check it out for free over here.
Unravel was one of the most warm, inventive, and all around delightful games of 2016, so it’s a real shame that EA’s cuddly platformer didn’t get anywhere near the attention it deserved.
Taking control of an adorable little chap made of yarn as he made his through all manner of real world obstacles was an absolute joy – especially since everything from the backgrounds to the animations of our yarny friend were absolutely gorgeous.
Unravel felt like the kind of game Nintendo can make when it’s firing on all cylinders – imaginative, well designed, and kind-hearted. I can’t recommend this one enough.
Okay, so the chances of acclaimed indie hit Firewatch having somehow passed you by are slim, but there’s still the possibility it went over your head.
If it did you need to track it down right away, because it’s a masterclass in interactive storytelling. A deep and involving plot framed within a gorgeous, richly detailed world made this one of the best games of 2016.
It’s no surprise it recently picked up a Golden Joystick award for best indie, and dominated the nominations at the Game Awards 2016.
This War of Mine: The Little Ones
Way back at the start of the year, I actually wrote a piece on the incredible effort that is This War of Mine, and why it’s important to have a game that deals with the real consequences of war.
Obviously, my opinion on the title didn’t change with the release of The Little Ones, which adds children into the wartime strategy/survival horror.
It’s something we try to forget because it’s too horrific, but we never should – there are innocent kids dying in wars every day – and This War of Mine doesn’t flinch away from reminding us of that – that’s why it’s one game worthy of your time.
If you missed The Witness, you missed one of the most thoughtful, intelligently designed puzzle games, not just of 2016, but of all time.
Set on a beautiful island packed with secrets to find and puzzles to solve, The Witness is an indie hit that encourages you to explore at your own pace, and unravel its many mysteries in your own way.
Don’t be fooled by the game’s relaxing soundtrack and calming locations however – The Witness is one tough motherfucker, and you’ll be looking at upwards of 100 hours before you’ve seen and conquered everything it has to offer.
Downwell is fucking mental. If R-Type and Spelunky had a baby, and then you injected that baby with an exotic alien steroid that caused it to move like a greased up cheetah on wheels, you still wouldn’t be close to the insanity Downwell offers.
A perfect gift for anyone craving some proper hardcore NES style gameplay, this Japanese indie smash combines tight controls with challenging and constantly varied gameplay that’ll keep even the most seasoned gamer on their toes.
Plus, the soundtrack is pure 8-bit bliss. Always a win in my book.
I Am Setsuna
RPG fans need to play I Am Setsuma, a delightful Japanese adventure developed by Tokyo RPG Factory and published by Square Enix that only saw a Western release back in July.
A beautiful soundtrack combines with a genuinely interesting and rewarding story to create an RPG that feels like a timeless classic from the very beginning.
It’s a shame it took so long for I Am Setsuma to reach our shores, but now it’s here you owe it to yourself to dive in.
Paper Mario Colour Splash
Obviously I had to include a Wii U game on here, what with the fact that the Wii U is a console nobody seems to want, and there are some genuinely great titles on it.
Probably the last major release for the Wii U, Paper Mario Colour Splash was a bright, inventive, entertaining action RPG that seems doomed to go unloved thanks to a combo of ‘kiddy’ visuals and its existence on a console that people have either sold or forgotten about.
If you managed to spend some quality time with even a small portion of the games on this list, then you’ve clearly had a rich year of gaming.
Of course, while it’s great that there have been so many incredible titles to play through in 2016, we have to do our best to stop the lesser known adventures from slipping through the cracks – it’s a hard job, but somebody has to do it.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.