I thought this was the year that new technologies like virtual reality would shock me with new kinds of games, but that didn’t really happen. Sure, I found a handful of VR games delightful, but it was the familiar franchises and publishers that truly surprised me.

Video games were great in 2016. I shifted a lot of my time to the PC even as I found reasons to boot up both my Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The only real disappointment is that for the first time in a long time (maybe ever), I don’t have a single Nintendo release in my top 10. Hopefully Switch will rectify that in 2017.

But let’s get to my list. The GamesBeat team will publish our collective Game of the Year and the 10 best games of 2016 on Friday. In the meantime, here are my 10 favorite games in 2016.

10. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Keep Talking plays on the greatest strength of VR, which is that everyone wants to try it at parties.

Above: Keep Talking plays on the greatest strength of VR, which is that everyone wants to try it at parties.

Image Credit: Steel Crate Games

Developer: Steel Crate Games
Publisher: Steel Crate Games
Platform: PlayStation 4, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR

One of the major problems with virtual reality is that it’s expensive, so you probably don’t have a lot of friends who also have one. That’s a bummer for some of the coolest online multiplayer VR games (Rec Room almost made this list), but it also means that VR is ideal for parties. When you have everyone over for a gettogether, taking turns with the headset is a great use of the hardware. And I had the best time doing that with Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. This multiplayer game has one person in the headset trying to defuse a bomb and the rest of their time looking at a guide for disarming the device. It’s up to the team to communicate effectively enough to keep the bomb from exploding, and that can get wild in a crowded room.

9. Forza Horizon 3

Off-roading is huge in Horizon 3.

Above: Off-roading is an important part of Horizon 3.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Developer: Playground Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform: Xbox One, PC

Forza is the best racing franchise right now, and Horizon 3 only solidifies its position in the market. This is a jampacked open-world filled with amazing events, dozens of incredible cars, and a variety of race types. Developer Playground Games structured it so you can keep doing more of what you like whenever you want. It is also beautiful with realistic visuals and a blistering sense of speed.

8. Firewatch

Developer: Campo Santo Games
Publisher: Campo Santo Games
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Casting voices for an audio-only relationship presented challenges - and one key benefit - for Firewatch writer Sean Vanaman.

Above: Firewatch is mysterious and truthful.

Image Credit: Campo Santo

I typically don’t like stories in games. Bowser kidnapped Peach? Cool. Point me to the goombas I need to stomp on. But Firewatch is the rare game that tells a story that only works because it is a game. It puts you in the role of a park ranger looking out for wildfires, but you quickly stumble across what scientists call “some weird shit in the woods.” But everything isn’t as you believe it is, and that’s the whole point of the game. Going through that arch with your expectations and wrestling with why you jumped to your conclusions makes Firewatch different from anything else I played this year.

7. Audioshield

Developer: Dylan Fitterer
Publisher: Dylan Fitterer
Platform: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive

VR is experiencing growing pains, but it is too promising to ignore. Audioshield is an example of that promise. It puts you inside of songs, which you can play from YouTube, and then attacks you with the notes of that music. You hold two shields, a blue one and an orange one, and you must block blue and orange notes with their corresponding shield. It probably sounds simple, but it feels transformational when you’re standing on a stage and you look up into the sky and see waves of notes falling down on top of you. It makes me want to go play it right now.

6. Overcooked

Developer: Ghost Town Games
Publisher: Ghost Town Games
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Overcooked is infuriating and exhilarating.

Above: Overcooked is infuriating and exhilarating.

Image Credit: U&I Entertainment

Overcooked is the best party game of the year. It is a one-to-four-player kitchen-management game where you and your companions must divide up a number of jobs in an environment that is always changing. Like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes this game comes down to communication, and even when levels end in failure and screaming, everyone will want to get right back in to try again to get a three-star rating.

5. The Witness

Developer: Thekla
Publisher: Thekla
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC

A mysterious island.

Above: A mysterious island.

Image Credit: Thekla

The Witness is a calm and quiet puzzle game that has a lot to say, but it doesn’t do it in a way a traditional way. Instead, it gives you the tools to figure out its meaning on your own. You may start out figuring out simple puzzles, but — if you stick with it — you may unlock some more powerful ideas that supercede the game itself.

4. Hitman

Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Agent 47 is back.

Above: Agent 47 is back.

Image Credit: Square Enix

This Hitman reboot is a playground of murder. Developer IO Interactive rolled out several amazing stages to explore and learn, and it regularly introduces new missions and objectives to give you reasons to use these environments in new ways. All of this feels like a new way for a developer to dish out content to its audience in a single-player game, and going back to the world to complete various challenges helps you learn the stage better so you can get more and more creative.

Once you have that understanding of a stage, you start to come away with incredible stories like this one:

I had five minutes to kill a cook, a guard, and a palace worker. I had to kill them with an explosion, a shotgun, and an assault rifle (while dressed as a cook), respectively. I discovered that I could hit one of the non-target chefs with a wrench while he was taking inventory to draw the attention of the other chefs. That would make the target chef go get help from the target guard. While that was happening, I could go into the kitchen, turn on a faucet to overflow a sink, which would distract the one remaining chef, and then I could use a wrench (the one that I used on the first chef) to create a gas leak on the stove. I also turned off the burner that the target chef was using.

At this point, I had enough time to run back to where I knocked out the first chef (who I already hid in a box), to subdue and knock out the target guard who came to check out what was happening. The shotgun I needed to kill the guard was in the security office, so I stowed him in a dark corner near one of the exits until I could retrieve it. I ran back to the original, hidden chef and put on his uniform. The other chefs would be suspicious of me if they saw me, but that wouldn’t be a problem soon.

I started running to the security office, and right as I arrived, the target chef had returned to the kitchen, turned on his burner which created a spark that set off the leaking gas in an explosion. I had eliminated him, and the explosion drew the attention of two of the three people in the security office. Once they were far enough away, I stepped into the office, and threw a crowbar I had picked up at the one remaining guard. With him knocked out, I retrieved the crowbar, used it to get a tool to deactivate laser tripwires out of a safe, and then grabbed the necessary shotgun.

With the shotgun in hand, I ran around the corner to the locker room where my palace-staff target was getting dressed and consoling a coworker. I moved past them and back into the hallway that would lead to the exit and the passed-out guard who was still breathing. Hiding the shotgun in a corner outside the door of the lockerroom, I went back past the palace staffer and up some stairs to grab an assault rifle I had smuggled into an event as part of the planning stage.

Now, dressed as a chef and with the assault rifle, I had about a minute left to finish up and get out of the event. I set up behind some lockers, aimed at the worker’s head, pulled the trigger and started running. As soon as I got to the shotgun, I picked it up and dropped the assault rifle and barely remembered to equip the bypass tool for the lasers as I sprinted for the unconscious guard. I took the shotgun, aimed it at the crumpled body, and pulled the trigger in cold blood, and then I walked right out the door.

Yeah. Hitman rules.  

3. Overwatch

Developer: Blizzard
Publisher: Blizzard
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Overwatch is celebrating Christmas.

Above: Merry Overwatch!

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Whenever I got a few free moments in 2016, I played Overwatch. Blizzard’s team shooter has so many cool characters that you can’t help but want to learn how to play them, and — before you know it — you’re playing three hours every night. And I’m betting I’m going to play for several hours a night well into 2017.

2. Doom

Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Doom E3 2015 - Cyberdemon 2

Above: He looks fun.

Image Credit: Bethesda

I didn’t expect to like Doom, but this game is so different and confident that I ended up falling in love with it. The fast-paced combat encourages you to get into the faces of the enemy helldemons in a way that most other shooters never would. And then the heavy-metal, satan-worshipping style that I assumed would come across as lame is actually irreverent in a way that is refreshing and original.

1. Titanfall 2

Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Titanfall 2 E3 2016 official 02

Above: Don’t look back.

Image Credit: EA

Respawn is just better than everyone else. Given a few years, the studio was able to put together an incredible first-person shooter campaign and multiplayer game. Multiplayer is better than even the first Titanfall. The Bounty Hunt mode is so smart in the way it forces players to get into conflicts around the map through the various rounds of combat. And then the single-player is a revelation. It is like the smartest people in gaming coming up with smart mechanics and then building genius levels around those concepts. When we look back on this generation, I expect to view Titanfall 2 as a defining achievement.

The PC Gaming channel is presented by Intel®'s Game Dev program.