games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Game Stories of 2016

January 10, 2017 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Pokemon Go

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! With last week I talked some of the worst news stories of 2016 and this week I’m here to talk about some of the best. By “best”, I generally mean the biggest, positive stories of the year, either most impactful, most enthusiastic, or a combination of both, to merit inclusion on this list. With that said, let’s begin:

#8: Red Dead/Last of Us/Marvel vs. Capcom Sequels

Honestly, any of the games list getting sequels is kind of a big deal. Red Dead has a huge following and people are rabid for more. Last of Us told a great story and it’ll be interesting to see how they expand upon it. Frankly, the biggest surprise to me was the Marvel vs. Capcom stuff getting announced, especially with how closed off Marvel has been about exploiting their franchises. Whether or not any of the games will actually live up to their lofty legacies is up for debate, especially in MvC’s case, but the fact they all got OK’d and are being worked on is good. And hey, it got us Marvel vs. Capcom 3 on PS4, and that’s solid.

#7: Xbox One Games on PC

This would be a bigger deal if Microsoft didn’t continually bungle it. Microsoft has toyed with having their franchises on the PC before, notably Halo 1 and 2 came to PC, but they never fully committed to it. Honestly, they aren’t wholly committed now either, but we have games like Forza Horizon, Gears of War 4, and Quantum Break on PC and that is cool. The issue is that they are locked to Windows 10, specifically the Universal Windows Platform (and store front), and that is awful. If the games had just been on Steam it would be one of the greatest things ever. Instead, it’s confined to Windows 10, on a store front no one uses, and is merely a curiosity instead of a revolutionary feature.

#6: FFXV/Last Guardian Actually Came Out

They came in barely under the wire but both Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian managed to actually be released in 2016. Both games came in pretty hot and have small issues, but considering each took near a damned decade to be made, both are accomplishments in and of themselves. Also, while I haven’t played The Last Guardian, FFXV is a masterful game and is an impressive feat. I applaud the developers for finally getting these games to come out.

#5: New? Consoles

Technically there were two new consoles released this year, the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One S. The Pro offered slight graphical/technical updates to games, an upgraded hard drive, and some additional streaming modes. The Xbox One S offered a 4K Blu-ray drive, very slight (more than the Pro) upgrades to CPU/GPU stuff, and made it a whole lot smaller and more compact. Sadly, with the S, they didn’t offer a new Kinect, which would have been hysterical if they did. Neither console got a revolutionary upgrade, it’s more incremental stuff, but at least the option is out there for people.

#4: Doom

Hey, Doom was great this year, who would have thought it? Let’s be honest, the last universally acclaimed iD Software did was Quake 3: Arena back in 1999. Doom 3, and to a far lesser extent Rage, might have had their fans, but neither game was loved by all. Conversely, Doom has both critical and commercial legs on it with practically everyone who played it has loved it, at least on the single player front. Sure the multiplayer might be bunk and SnapMap is only cool to say, but the single player campaign of Doom was arguably the strongest shooter campaign of the year. It’s a great accomplishment for a studio that hasn’t done anything meaningful in the past 18 years, and “No” the mobile games they’ve made (which are fine enough) don’t count.

#3: VR

This was the year that VR actually got quasi-mainstream, or at least was released by mainstream companies. The Rift, Vive nor PSVR have had the mass-market penetration that the companies have wanted, but they have started to plan the VR seed for the next few years. It’s all a matter of the software catching up to the headsets and offering unique/interesting experiences for people to play. The headsets are all still too expensive for most people, with the cheapest one, from start to finish, being the PSVR at $900, that’s a pretty big ask. Still, VR does offer new ways to play games and to immerse yourself in a whimsical setting. Hopefully the technology from all the companies can mature, grow cheaper, and have Virtual Boy emulators on all platforms.

#2: Nintendo Switch

A new Nintendo console is always going to be big news but the Switch does have people’s imaginations going. Having a console that you can take on the road with you, or play at your house on an actual TV is appealing for a lot of people. Though the slide controllers look goofy and there are some serious questions on the technical aspect of the thing, but if it works, it will likely be a big seller for Nintendo. After months, if not years of waiting for the successor to the Wii U, it’s nice to finally be able to see what it is.

#1: Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go was basically the biggest game of the year. It wasn’t the best game of the year, not by any stretch, but it was the most culturally important game. It also was very important from a business perspective, driving up the price of Nintendo stock to some of its highest points, before it came down when investors realized that Nintendo didn’t actually make the damn thing. Pokemon Go got gamers outside though which is something no real game has been able to do before. Sure those people might occasionally walk into traffic as they hunt down a Meowth or Koffing but that’s alright. The game become a social phenomenon, so much so, that when I would to my local sub shop the girl taking my money asked if I played. For a mobile game, that is an impressive reach into the mass market of society.

For comments, list which news stories you found were impactful or positive in 2016.

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The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison