2016 was awful in almost every way – but it was an excellent year in gaming. While some titles turned out to be sketchy and questionable (such as No Man’s Sky), others delivered the goods after many years in the making (think The Last Guardian). With that in mind, here are some of the games that we can look forward to occupying our attention as the world around us continues to crumble:
Gravity Rush 2
SIE Japan Studio – PS4
This sequel to Keiichiro Toyama’s wildly unique title follows the adventures of Kat, a girl who lost her memory but ends up bumping into a strange, black cat that gives her the power to defy gravity. This simple concept gave us a fresh take on what it means to create a modern platformer, letting us see the distinctive world in multiple ways through changing perspectives. Rush 2 promises a bigger world and deeper gameplay. Who could refuse this?
Mass Effect: Andromeda
BioWare – PC, PS4, Xbox One
Five years after the original trilogy concluded, BioWare is bringing its Star Wars-like space opera franchise into the new console era. Andromeda starts a new story in the same universe, promising a true open-world environment while still giving us choices of how we complete our missions and who we have relationships with. It’ll be interesting to see whether BioWare continues the clear shift made with the second Mass Effect game, where the series added greater action elements to this role-playing franchise.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Nintendo – Switch, Wii U
I’m not the biggest fan of the Zelda series by any means but I do find myself intrigued by the hybrid portable/home-based Switch console, and Breath of the Wild looks to refresh the series the same way Wind Waker managed. The protagonist Link has changed throughout the series, taking on new abilities, actions and animations, keeping the character fresh and being as influential as Mario and others big characters in the gaming world.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Guerrilla Games – PS4
The Amsterdam studio is best-known for its Killzone series, which haven’t always met expectations. Horizon changes things up by mixing action and role-playing elements, where we control the hunter Aloy in an open world that’s been overtaken by robots. The unique steampunk-like visuals give the game a unique edge, especially with competing titles also trying to mix things up, such as Call of Duty going into space with Infinite Warfare.
Sega – PC, PS4, Xbox
And here’s another flirtation with nostalgia. As much as we’ve tried to love the modern, 3D versions of Sonic, Sega’s beloved hedgehog is best in 2D, and Mania will reiterate this. Many titles in recent years prove not only that there is an appetite for 2D titles (Rayman Origins, Inside, Fez) but the critical acclaim than can follow. Mania is being led by Christian Whitehead, who was responsible for porting the first two Sonic titles to mobile devices. The smooth animations and crisp sound effects are being spruced up to match the kinetic gameplay that’s part of Sonic’s identity. Here’s hoping this classic gaming mascot continues to be a mainstay for the foreseeable future.
Playtonic Games – PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Famed studio Rare (now a Microsoft subsidiary) was responsible for some of the best titles of the 90s, such as Diddy Kong Racing, Perfect Dark and GoldenEye. They also made 3D platformer Banjo-Kazooie. Yooka-Laylee, started by former Rare employees, follows in the same spirit where we control colourful creatures in an open world, collecting objects and completing missions. One of the most interesting games I came across in 2016 was Poi, a Nineties-style 3D platformer with simple objectives, a bright colour palette and a brighter feeling of optimism. Yooka-Laylee might be the innocent, happy-go-lucky game we’ll need to remain sane this coming year.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar – PS4, Xbox One
The thing about redemption is that it’s best delivered…twice? Not much is known about the sequel to the only acceptable western game (which leads me to think it could slip into 2018), but we can expect yet another open world game with varying objectives and plenty of violence.
Tequila Works – PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Rime has clearly been inspired by the likes of Ico, an environment-based puzzle game disguised as a platformer, where we’re controlling yet another boy who is trying to escape from some sort of mysterious island. Part of the allure of that game along with titles such as The Witness was how little we knew before we started playing it. The same can be said of Rime, especially as the developer will try to impress as many fans as possible, changing its plans by making this a multi-platform title instead of a PS4-exclusive. Rime could end up being the biggest surprise of 2017.
Also to look out for…
Originally announced in 2013, Capybara’s Below was delayed once again last year and currently has no firm release date. Could 2017 be its year? And what surprises can we expect at Nintendo’s press event on 13 January, when further details of its Switch console will be revealed ahead of its March release? And let’s not forget Microsoft’s plans to add to the Xbox One console line-up with Project Scorpio, further pushing virtual reality and 4K-compatibility to the masses. The year ahead looks promising for us gamers.