5. Final Fantasy XV
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Final Fantasy XV shouldn’t work at all. Square Enix announced it a decade ago, and then it fell into development hell. But the end result is a reinvigorating entry in the series. Square gives players an awesome open world and lovable characters, and that’s a combination that works well for this kind of role-playing adventure.
Mike Minotti: “How can a game that’s been in development for so long come out so good? The game formerly known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII is unlike any other in the series, focusing on real-time combat and an open world. But it works because it’s so different, with its large, gorgeous world filled with treasures and magical moments.”
Image Credit: Bethesda
Developer: id Software
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Doom is all attitude and action. It shouldn’t work in 2016, but its love of Satan and the over-the-top reverence it has for the Doomslayer marine is so welcome in a world where most games take themselves too seriously. It also helps that the gameplay doesn’t ape Gears of War or Call of Duty. Doom wants you to take on the demons of Mars head on, and it rewards you for constantly moving, and that is so different and welcomed.
Jeffrey Grubb: “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.”
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Titanfall was an impressive shooter in 2014, but it failed to keep the attention of a large portion of the gaming community. Titanfall 2 rectifies that with an improved multiplayer that is more interesting to play and progress in. Simultaneously, Respawn introduced an mesmerizing and creative single-player campaign that sometimes feels more like what would happen if Nintendo made a shooter.
2. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platform: PlayStation 4
No one makes games like Naughty Dog anymore. Well, OK — that’s not true. Others try (hello, Quantum Break), but no one comes close to doing it as well as the Uncharted team. This treasure-chasing adventure is unbelievably gorgeous. It has lovable characters. Its action has even evolved to include stealth, platforming, and shooting that all bleed into one and affect one another. It’s the best example of this kind of game, and it kinda makes you wonder why any other studio even bothers to try.
Dean Takahashi: “It’s a beautiful game, with scenes where you can see for miles above dense jungles or cities. The story is also enthralling, as Nathan’s lost brother Sam shows up, and he keeps getting them into situations where one brother could be killed. The contrast between the more mature Nathan, who has already gone on enough adventures, and Sam, who thirsts for more, sets up some difficult choices for Nathan. Much of this story is told through the gameplay, as the characters converse with each other in the middle of gameplay scenes.”
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Overwatch is a phenomenon. It’s the biggest shooter since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, but its warm, welcoming art and easy-to-grasp gameplay has brought in so many more different kinds of people than Call of Duty ever did. It is at once predictably amazing as the latest Blizzard game and also a stunning surprise in that it is bringing so many players into the competitive-shooter genre.
Mike Minotti: “Overwatch is my favorite competitive experience in gaming. The team-based shooter has so many heroes, each with distinct abilities and strengths, that I’m never bored. It’s also filled with personality. Overwatch can make me care more about a character with a simple animation or voice line than most other games can with hours of cutscenes. I haven’t stopped playing Overwatch since it came out in May, and I don’t see myself stopping any time soon.”