5. Injustice 2 – Injustice 2 sounds like a nightmare on paper: a Destiny styled loot system in a fighting game with a heavy focus on single player? However the whole gear system seems designed around the single player multiverse matches, which almost feels like dungeon crawling boiled down to just the fighting, with ladders of varying difficulties and modifiers. All of the gear you would earn would become just a cosmetic touch if you took to the game’s competitive ranked fights, there NetherRealm‘s great fighting system shines. Besides the the multiverses to hook you in there is the most well realized story mode I have seen in a fighting game.
4. Night in the Woods – This game trades in ideas such as ennui, depression, and entropy. It then further takes things up to Lovecraftian levels, with an uncaring universe and beings beyond imagining. However it does this all with an incredibly lovable cast of characters and contextualizes those themes in a way where you can still be idealistic without being sappy. A 2D side scrolling adventure where you play as Mae a 20 year old college dropout cat, Night in the Woods is one of the most relatable and well written games I have ever played. The universe might not have any meaning, but if you find your own meaning then what does it matter?
3. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice has set a new benchmark when it comes to empathy in games. Using binaural recording for the audio and the lack of any non diegetic hud elements Hellblade puts you in the troubled mind of Senua, a Celtic warrior who is on a journey to save her lover’s soul. During her quest to Helheim she is tormented by voices and doubts in a genuinely earnest depiction of psychosis. Ninja Theory worked closely with experts and it pays off, helping you feel Senua’s struggle rather than just be a witness.
2. Yakuza 0 – Telling my favorite story this year, regardless of medium, Yakuza 0 would earn a spot in my top five just based on the cutscenes alone. But by contrasting this great crime thriller with the wackiest, most absurd side moments and an almost tonally clashing, over-the-top combat system Yakuza 0 rises to greatness in a year full of greats.
1. NieR: Automata – If Yakuza almost made it here on the strength of its story alone, then NieR: Automata would make its case with its music. With my favorite soundtrack of the year backing all of Taro Yoko’s insane ideas, NieR is already a top tier contender for me. But then you add to that the skillset of Platinum Games, the studio responsible for the brilliant Bayonetta, to create this game and you have something remarkable. NieR: Automata takes a brilliant director whose vision is never fully realized due to production limits and pairs him with one of my most talented developers to turn out an absolute masterpiece.