Ignore The Blockbusters, These Are The Greatest Videogames Of 2016

Unless you've played them, in which case move along

If ever there was a year to boot up your console, staple gun the curtains shut and block out the world, it's 2016.

But there have been so many big blockbuster titles released this year, it's easy to forget about the under-the-radar gems that breath new ideas into an industry that often crutches on realistic graphics and cinematic bombast.

To that end, here are five games released this year that definitely deserve your attention...

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FIREWATCH

Platform(s): Linux, Windows, OS X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One


Providing your system can handle the full spectrum of its sun-baked graphics, Firewatch is one of the most eyeball-bathingly beautiful collection of pixels to ever grace a screen.


Firewatch tells the story of a man, recently widowed after his childhood sweetheart died of early-onset dementia, who chooses to spend his summer living a life of grieving solitude as a fire lookout officer at the enormous Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming.


Bet you thought video games were supposed to be fun, didn't you? Nope. Welcome to Big School, bozo (fair warning: the game's intro rivals Pixar's Up! in the before-you've-even-sat-down depression stakes).


While settling into his rickety tower, our main man is taken by surprise when another lookout contacts him over walkie-talkie. This soon sets in motion a paranoid tale of brain-stretching mystery, with the kind of unending plot twists that will give you a very-worth-it case of emotional whiplash.


Short, but sincerely, humanly sweet.


THAT DRAGON, CANCER

Platform(s): Windows, iOS



Less a game, more an experience. That Dragon, Cancer was born out of the real life struggle and grief of parents Ryan and Amy Green, who lost their five-year-old son Joel to the disease. Ryan, a game developer, decided to relay and celebrate his child's life in the form of a bravely biographical video game, with the aid of his writer wife.


It's a voyeuristic and often metaphorical insight into the long, harrowing process of realisation and acceptance, where you alternately play a fly on the wall to the family's painful daily lives and an ear to their innermost thoughts.


Super Mario it is not.


But if you can handle it, That Dragon, Cancer is quite possibly the most powerfully affecting video game ever released, and gets closer to the concept of 'real life' than any suped-up graphics card ever could.


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GONE HOME

Platform(s): Linux, Windows, OS X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One


While Gone Home was first released on PC & OS X back in 2013, console users haven't been able to delve into the deeply unsettling thriller until the start of this year. So yeah, we are going to include it, actually, mate - that alright with you, is it? Is itNerdlinger?


A first-person exploration game set in the mid-nineties, you play Kaitlin, a 21-year-old girl returning from travels abroad to find her family home deserted. Slowly but surely, your job is to navigate the house and work out what the hell's happened to your rebellious little sister and parents.


Smart, touching and often pertinent in the societal issues it addresses, Gone Home is a perfect example of how video games are quickly proving themselves to be a uniquely effective story-telling device.


NOT A HERO

Platform(s): Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One


You've played Hotline Miami, right? Devolver Digital's critically-acclaimed ode to the bullet-ridden, neon-drenched 80s underworld? The one where you strap on a rubber horse's head and just go to town on some much-deserving 8-bit baddie skulls?


You haven't? Your loss. But we'll be far less forgiving if you shun the cult developer's new side scrolling shoot-em-up Not A Hero - for our money, one of the standout titles of the year.


You play an anthropomorphic purple rabbit called BunnyLord, who has travelled back in time from 2048 in order to campaign for mayor and save the world from an impending alien invasion and... look, we promise it's good, okay? 


In an age where video games are looking to Hollywood dramas for inspiration, it's good to see a game so nostalgically indebted to the videogame industry's nineties heyday, alongside many a gory nod to classic kung-fu movies.



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INSIDE

Platform(s): Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One


The spiritual sequel to 2010's wildly popular emo-fest Limbo, INSIDE is puzzle-platformer that'll leave you feeling embarrassingly stupid and deeply unsettled – but you know, in a good way.


The story is simple and vague: you play a nameless boy running away from some mysterious, torch wielding villains through creepy-as-hell environments in the dead of night, utilising whatever you find to overcome rivers, gorges, traps and wild hazards.


And monsters, too. We should probably mention the horrifying mutant monsters. Inside is an example of how you can make classic gaming models and make them feel effortlessly fresh and innovative. Who needs virtual reality when you have two buttons, a D-pad and some good ideas?