Top 10: Eric Sandroni’s Top Games of 2016

2016 was a fantastic year for new video games, but while most people enjoyed their Xbox Ones and PlayStation 4s, I spend most of my time playing on the Xbox 360 and catching up on some older titles. Take into account that this isn’t a typical “Game of the Year” list. Instead, I wrote about ten older games I played in 2016 and loved for different reasons.


10. X-COM: Enemy Unknown

“X-COM: Enemy Unknown is a refreshing turn-based tactical game and a fantastic re-imagining of the classic title.”

X-COM: Enemy Unknown can be severe, but this is also one of those games that’s extremely gratifying. You have to think long and hard about all the upgrades you unlock before going to battle and you need to carefully plan every move if you want to be successful and when victory finally arrives, the feeling of reward you get is something that few games offer. Enemy Unknown might not be fore everyone, but I’m glad I played it.


9. Mortal Kombat

“Mortal Kombat is an improvement over its predecessor and a return to form for the series thanks to a slew of entertaining modes and a fantastic story that sets a new standard for the genre.”

Before playing the Mortal Kombat reboot, the last game in the series I put some time into was probably Mortal Kombat 3 for the Sega Genesis. After that game, I could never get excited about a new entry in the violent fighting game series, but that changed when NetherRealm Studios released Mortal Kombat in 2011. There are several reasons why I enjoyed Mortal Kombat so much, but it all comes down to the story mode that explains every character’s motivation in ways that make sense.


8. Sleeping Dogs

“Sleeping Dogs is a terrific crime open-world with an electrifying combat, a compelling story and fresh ideas that make the genre feel entertaining once again.”

It would be simple (not to mention extremely reductive) to think about Sleeping Dogs like a Grand Theft Auto set in Hong Kong, but there’s so much more about this open-world game to talk about. The story’s actually worth experiencing and while the idea of an undercover cop doing jobs for the mafia has been done several times in cinema, Sleeping Dogs is simply fun to play. On top of that, the combat is elegant, the neon-soaked city of Hong Kong looks outstanding and driving around is entertaining. And what more could you ask from an open-world game?


7. DMC: Devil May Cry

“This reboot is a loud and electrifying hack-and-slash game that exudes personality and is always fun to play.”

I have no idea who was expecting to love the Devil May Cry reboot, but that wasn’t me. I played and enjoyed Devil May Cry games in the past, but I always ended frustrated with the high difficulty, the deep yet convoluted combo system and the plain characters. But that’s definitely not the case with DMC. The latest Devil May Cry added a combo system that clicked with me and allowed me to be creative in ways that I didn’t see possible in other character-action games.


6. Rock Band 3

“Thanks to the inclusion of new instruments, pro mode and a solid soundtrack, Harmonix crafted one of the best rhythm games ever made, as well as one of the best titles of its generation.”

Rock Band 3

Rock Band 3 represents the pinnacle for the rhythm game genre. The people at Harmonix Games used everything they learned since they released the original Rock Band in 2007 and crafted one of the best rhythm games ever made. Rock Band 3 allows you to select any track you wanted and just play it (so long unlockable tracks, you won’t be missed,) you have access to new instruments, the soundtrack is fantastic and playing online works well enough. Of course, the best way to experience Rock Band is to play on a living room with a few friends and that still works, but Rock Band 3 adds so many smart changes to the formula that I don’t see how a rhythm game where you play plastic instruments could be better than this game.


5. Resident Evil: Revelations HD

“Resident Evil: Revelations has what previous games in the main series lacked: direction and confidence.”

There have been some disappointing Resident Evil games, but Revelations isn’t one of them. In fact, I still believe that this survival horror game was the shot in the arm the franchise needed and while I didn’t enjoy its sequel as much as I thought I was going to be, the first Revelations was great. The episodic structure works well enough, playing as returning characters we haven’t seen in a while is intriguing, the setting can be terrifying and the combination of action moments and survival horror reminded of classic Resident Evil.


4. Saints Row IV

“Saints Row IV is such a fresh open-world game that I don’t think I can go back to the traditional formula established by its predecessors.”

Saints Row IV Gliding

In a way, Saints Row IV ruined open-world games for me. You have access to so many superpowers in Volition’s action game and moving around Steelport is so entertaining that going back to a traditional open-world is inconceivable to me. Jumping incredible heights, running extremely fast hitting everything (and everyone) in my path and throwing fireballs at aliens is so fun, that driving everywhere and shooting guns sounds boring in comparison. I have no idea what Volition is planning for Saints Row V, but I hope they consider expanding upon some of the ideas of IV because that was one of the best open-world and one of the best superhero games ever made.


3. Resident Evil 5

“Despite steering the series in a new direction and being overshadowed by its fantastic predecessor, Resident Evil 5 is a terrific action horror game.”

Resident Evil 5 Chris and Sheva

Resident Evil 5 tries to expand upon some of the ideas of its predecessor, thanks to cooperative play, better graphics, a new setting, a redesigned Mercenaries mode, returning characters and more. The survival horror game might not be as influential as Resident Evil 4 and there are some missteps in terms of direction (having a partner by your side at all times, for instance, removes the sense of helplessness so proper of Resident Evil), but it’s still a remarkable action game that’s fun to play either on your own or with a friend.


2. The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

“If you missed the original Secret of Monkey Island and want to relive the classic adventure, this version of the game will remind you how fun pointing and clicking can be.”

 

Lucas Arts games have always had a special place in my heart, but I still find most of those games hard to go back to because of their antiquated menu systems and frustrating puzzles. The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition gets rid of those things while adding a visual upgrade, voice acting, a hint system and more. Then again, that works because the original game is so funny and the world Lucas Arts created is so amusing.


1. Forza Horizon

“Forza Horizon bridges the gap between simulation and arcade in an immaculate and entertaining way.”

Forza Horizon Gameplay Sunset

I wasn’t expecting to like Forza Horizon as much as I did. I knew the racing game was an arcade take on a simulation formula, so at least I was expecting less realistic physics and a lighthearted storyline. But in Forza Horizon, I found an incredibly relaxing experience with great music, terrific sense of speed, solid gameplay and soothing visuals. I don’t know if I’m going to enjoy Forza Horizon 2 and 3 as much as the first entry in the series, but I have every intention to play those games as soon as I can.