By the Last Token Gaming Staff
Look, we’re going to avoid the cliche: We know how awful 2016 was. It’s been repeated ad nauseum on your Facebook feed on a daily basis, so don’t expect us to walk you through it again here! Rather than lament what transpired throughout the calendar year, we’re sticking to what we do best here: talking about gaming. And why not? It’s not going to start any heated political arguments or remind you of a departed celebrity we lost. At least….we hope not?
With that in mind, the LTG staff decided to revisit one of our favorite pieces from 2014, when we each selected the top five games we played all throughout that year. The criteria for this list remains the same, as it’s not limited to games released within the calendar year. Instead, it’s the five games that we played and loved the most, the ones that sucked us in and happily consumed hours of our lives. As celebrity after celebrity was flung from this mortal coil and the presidential election reached new levels of absurdity with each passing day, these games gave us escapism that was sorely needed.
As always, we thank you dearly for your support in our third year of operation. What were YOUR top five games that got you through this year? Let us know in the comments!
- Bloodborne (PS4)
It was really hard to decide between putting this game or Undertale on the top of this list. After some thought, I feel that I’ve had the most enjoyment for the longest enjoyment that I’ve played this game this year. With the premise of battling difficult foes set in Gothic Victorian times, I have learned to stay on my toes constantly, even if I had to go through a barn. The boss fights were fun, even though they were too challenging at times. However, the more challenging aspects of the game were the paths to traverse to the bosses. As it is my first experience to the Dark Souls franchise (and one of the reasons why I got myself a PS4), I’ll be debating on picking up the future games.
- Undertale (PC)
Undertale is about as charming to play as much as Bloodborne is fun to play. And Bloodborne was almost too fun to play! The dialog and interactions with other creatures were entertaining many times, and way more often than not, the interactive creature With the dynamics of remembering your past choices in your previous playthroughs, Undertale was able to bring the experience that not a lot of games could deliver. The combination of a RPG elements that put this game on par with Earthbound, with bullet-hell mechanics for combat, and with the pacifist/genocide walkthroughs along with the relationship that would make me want to go back to the game for the genocide playthrough, when I’m ready to kill all of the innocent creatures that I’ve grown to enjoy.
- Pokemon Sun (3DS)
One of the last games that I’ve played to completion for this year, and it’s definitely one of the more refreshing Pokémon games I’ve played in recent memory. I’ve been looking forward to playing this game since i first saw the Alolan region and the starters. They certainly did a lot to shake up their tried and true formula in the right way and i never had so much playing the game with the fire starter in tow!
- Jackbox Party Pack 3
Yes, this game requires multiple people to play, but the games that are in this pack are pretty fantastic to play with multiple people. The best party game to come out of Jackbox Party Pack games returns to Party Pack 3, Quiplash! The questions are different, and the final round is changed. This game certainly dared to try something different. There are other games in the pack that are just as delightful. Murder Party, Guesspoinage, and other games help make this game a must play for parties!
- Contra (NES)
I’ve been through a good amount of trips to flea market and video game stores, and I have picked up many retro games. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to play a lot of retro games this year.. However, I can say with confidence the most enjoyable retro game that I have played. It was a quick experience, and I did make the game easy with the konami code, but the experience with preserving lives was the best time that I have had.
2016 was a strange one for me as a gamer. Even as Last Token Gaming sailed from one proud milestone to another, and my passion and commitment to the site ran deeper than ever, I seemed to put a lot less time into actual gaming. Chalk it up to a busy year, which saw me go from a part-time job at Dimple Records to a full-time gig at California Department of Food and Agriculture, buy a new car, travel around Europe, and jaunt down to L.A. for Ninja Sex Party and Harry Dean Stanton, among other things. But I still took great comfort in gaming whenever I could, and now that I finally…finally…FINALLY have my PS4, I think I’ll be back in the swing of things. Here’s what rocked my nerdy little world throughout the year.
- TellTale Walking Dead: Season One (Mac)
This game entered my radar last year when I got on a major Walking Dead kick, but my progress was stalled when I inexplicably lost all my save files. Finally, I committed myself to finishing it this year, an endeavor which quickly went from an “I should check this off my list” task to a full-blown immersion. It’s hard to convey just how emotionally involved I became as the story unfolded. Eschewing the standard combat-driven formula of zombie games, TWD season one is arguably the franchise’s best effort at capturing its essence: how a zombie apocalypse reveals a person’s true moral compass when tasked with the increasingly difficult mission of merely surviving. And I loved every second of it.
Given the gameplay is limited to mere point-and-click options, the weight is shifted to the story and characters. While there are the usual limitations as far as TellTale Games’ “every choice matters” guarantee goes, this game is a true masterpiece of storytelling and character development. The characters are dimensional, compelling, and likeable, anchored by the indelible leading duo of Lee and Clementine. Each chapter unfolds in a way that grips you more and more with each twist, pivoting on impossible moral decisions that will make you question your own integrity as a person. In true Walking Dead fashion, it’s unrelentingly macabre, with most characters meeting grisly ends. And there are few moments in gaming history as genuinely unnerving as telling Clementine not to eat that meat. To say the least, this one’s going to the LTG Hall of Fame someday, and should I be the one to induct it I’ll save the lion’s share of my praise for that review. But for now, I offer TellTale Games a sincere, heartfelt thanks for creating such a heart-wrenching experience of a game. In a year that felt borderline apocalyptic at times, it was all the more resonant.
- WarioWare: Smooth Moves (Wii)
A fun blast from the past. One of the perks of working at Dimple Records was getting a 40% discount on all used items, which I naturally applied almost 95% of to moldy oldie CD’s no one cares about anymore. But in one of my payday bundles, I decided to add this to my stack of esoteric classic albums, and I’m glad I did. This game was a friend hangout favorite back in 2009 when my friend Shane Canton brought it over, and seven years later it’s just as much of a dizzying sensory explosion as ever. Describing it seems kind of pointless. I mean, it’s basically just Wario and his weird friends advancing through their individual tasks via a relentless barrage of surreal minigames. But that doesn’t do it justice. If you somehow didn’t play this back in the day, you’ve just got to pick it up now and invite your friends over. It’s *still* a riot.
- Fight Night: Champion (Xbox 360)
Another employee discount gem. While Fight Night Round 3 has been an ol’ reliable for me since 2008, I soon realized it was time for an upgrade. Champion, still the franchise’s most recent installment after release in 2011, might be its best. In addition to fine-tuning the core gameplay elements, it sets itself apart from its predecessors with an immersive story mode that puts you in the shoes of a fictional fighter who navigates his way from prison brawls to the world title. Champion was all the more near and dear to me in a year where my commitment to boxing itself reached new heights. Not only did I officially reach two whole years of training in the sport itself, but I even had the pleasure of visiting the Straight Blast Gym in Dublin, Ireland, where UFC superstar Conor McGregor trains. (On top of the poignancy of saying goodbye to boxing legends Muhammad Ali and Aaron Pryor.)
- Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)
Late to the party much? Then again, it’s better late than never. In the year that saw the Nintendo 64 turn 20, I finally got the game that immediately ushered it in as an all-time great console. While it’s still bizarre I never had it as a kid, I’m glad to say playing it at age 27 doesn’t diminish its impact at all. I’d go into more detail, but luckily our very own Jake Rushing already did a marvelous job with that.
- TellTale Walking Dead: Season Two (Mac)
I originally wasn’t going to include this one for several reasons. First, I felt having the first season would suffice. Second, while the first season was about perfect in the areas of story and character development, season two was anything but. As I said before in WWPTW, the game has the strange distinction of being both overwritten and underwritten at the same time. For one, there are a ton of interesting characters, yet I feel like most of them weren’t fully developed. When some died, I felt as if I barely had any time to appreciate the gravity of it, (Whereas when someone died in season one, their arc had been sufficiently realized to the point where it was justified.) Additionally, the story has some gaping holes. (How about Christa’s pregnancy that just magically disappears in episode one?)
All the same, the game was a riveting enough experience to keep me playing nonstop. Clementine’s evolution from adorable escort mission to self-reliant protagonist is seamless. The progression from one dangerous scenario to the next is satisfactory, even with the occasionally clunky character and story development. Part of the story is anchored by a villain (William Carver) who’s every bit as riveting and terrifying as the Governor and Negan. Perhaps most important, the game’s ending lives up to TellTale’s promise of multiple choices, giving you a variety of permanent choices that actually lead to different outcomes. TellTale, my body is ready for season three! (That is, after I’m done with Fallout 4. Which should be soon, right?)
Can I just say that compared to 2014, this year’s list felt harder to build? While I knew what my Game of the Year was going to be from the onset, each of these games make a strong case for being game of the year. Each have their strongest pros…and strongest cons. Here’s my shot at trying to make a list.
- Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Playstation 4) – I feel like this game was not only the proper swan song for the franchise I think saved the Playstation 3, but epitomizes what a Game of the Year ought to be. Truthfully, the series provides an interesting look into ludonarrative dissonance because Nathan Drake embodies. In cutscenes, this is a guy that seems like someone you could grab a drink with and spend countless hours regaling stories. Inversely, in gameplay he’s a cold hearted, calculated, bullet firing machine murdering hundreds of enemies in his way. Luckily, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was allowed to be self-aware to provide a refreshing experience. More importantly, it was a fulfilling series finale, providing enough closure to the story that was also a satisfying experience. This is where Uncharted should end — and hopefully it stays that way.
- Undertale (PC) – Undertale, in my opinion, was a very close second for Game of the Year. Even while writing this, I’m still debating if I’m making the right choice between this and Uncharted. That said, Undertale was one of the most refreshing experiences I’ve had in a game. It’s masterful blend of wacky humor with it’s love and respect for older JRPG mechanics like Mother create a genuine rewarding experience. Not only that, but the various routes that can be taken to complete the game, but the game plus playthroughs will make remarks about your last playthrough. It’s a game I can’t wait to induct into the Hall of Fame!
- Deus Ex – Human Revolution (Xbox One) – I’m a sucker for a few things: 1) JRPGs, 2) Cyberpunk/Transhumanism, and 3) Examining current political and social climate. While I think Deus Ex: Human Revolution failed to pack the punches it wanted trying to examine the world’s current social scripts, the game perfectly nailed a transhumanistic, cyberpunk aesthetic. Not to mention, the game’s ability to subtlety alter the story based on player’s choices to explore the world made Deus Ex: Human Revolution an immersive experience. What detracts from the game’s bid to be my Game of the Year is that the risks didn’t pay off.
- Inside (Xbox One) – Limbo was weird, and Inside is even weirder. However, Playdead is a studio that knows how to build successful atmosphere in a game. Inside is a stellar game that allows the minimalistic philosophy in the game’s build to soar. Sure, the puzzles in Inside feels easier than Limbo, but that doesn’t take away how much more fun they are. I can’t say much about the story, because it’s something you have to experience.
- Doom (Xbox One) – Like Shadow of Mordor was my biggest surprise for 2014, Doom was also my surprise for 2016. Who knew that a game embracing it’s old school, hardcore shooter origin would translate so well for a reboot? Doom provided an experience for players to focus less on the story and more on the satisfactory gameplay. The constant introduction of new weapons (unless you found them in secret areas of earlier levels), barrage of awesome easter eggs (playable Doom I & II levels anyone?), and complementary metal soundtrack provide a gut punching, in your face experience that was far different from any game released this year.
I did not accomplish all the glorious gaming I hoped for myself because…well, mostly because I made bad decisions, and also because I sold my gaming computer last December (necessitated, naturally, by the bad decisions of 2015). That said, I still managed to play some awesome games this year, several of which I intended to write about for LTG and failed to do. Ah, well. Here’s to 2017!
- Contradiction: Spot the Liar! (PC)
I’m kind of surprised myself that I placed Contradiction at the top of this list, but it really was an exceptional experience. This is the rare I would even go out on a limb to call it the greatest full-motion video game ever made. Contradiction got damn near everything right, including a talented cast of mostly unknown actors. English actor Paul Darrow’s role as antagonist Paul Rand is downright chilling, and Rupert Booth is infectiously zealous as Detective Inspector Frederick Jenks. But the best part of the game is the act of interrogation, which involves looking over notes to spot inconsistencies from the interviewees. This is clever, original and satisfying. I rarely buy games at full price, but this one was worth every penny.
- Pillars of Eternity (PC)
I have a special place in my heart for Icewind Dale that is matched only by the special place in my heart for Icewind Dale II, and surpassed only for that super-special place in my heart for Planescape: Torment. But this game is a lot of fun. Excitement, meaningful choices, a ridiculous amount of (sometimes very frustrating) combat, characters we come to know and enjoy. Pillars has a lot of good things going for it, and while I would definitely refine parts of the experience (the ending…), it was really my kind of RPG, where I feel like the decisions I made had an impact on the lives of others.
- Her Story (PC)
If you read the review I wrote this summer, then you know that I’m a big fan of this indie FMV. I loved the deep, interesting and convoluted story. It was twisted and bizarre, and deep enough that the minimal gameplay felt like a strength rather than a weakness. There’s something very honest about full-motion video when it is done intelligently that no amount of brilliant animating can capture.
- Cook! Serve! Delicious! (PC)
I’ve mentioned this game a couple of times too over the last few months. Unlike the other games on my list, this one doesn’t stand out because of solid acting or an interesting story (There is basically none of the above). This game stands out because it is addicting, fun and intense. I don’t always want to play a game that is emotionally engrossing. Sometimes I just want to play a lighthearted distraction. Unfortunately, this game gets so intense that sometimes its frenetic pace actually stresses me out! But I can’t exactly fault the game for that. All said, this is an awesome cooking simulator that, while in no way resembling the actual process of cooking (no one seasons their steaks that much!!!!!) is a lot of fun anyway.
- Civilization III (PC)
I bought Civilization III during a Steam sale on Thanksgiving and very quickly sunk over a day into it. At first, it was just frustrating, but once I learned the differences between it and its predecessor, I began to conquer the world, one empire at a time. It was a lot of fun, and a great way to waste several days (that I should have used to make money). But I feel like, in a way, there’s a fundamental weakness with the way the game progresses in difficulty. At easier difficulty settings, it feels a bit too easy. And at harder difficulty settings, the computer is very obviously cheating. So after a while I got bored of it. But for the sixty-or-so hours I put into it, it provided me with a lot of fun, especially when Rome finally ruled the world.