18 quintillion planets, massive fighting robots, cargo ships frozen mid-crash and flicking virtual balls around Primark; it's been a mind-blowing 12 months in gaming. But in a year when developers caught up with the potential of the next gen consoles and mobile gaming entered entirely new dimensions, which were the best games of 2016? Here's NME's pick...
10. No Man’s Sky
Over-hyped to the max and inevitably failing to match expectation, No Man’s Sky was nonetheless a triumph of scope and ambition over (frankly repetitive) gameplay. It kicked down the sandbox walls and created an entire living universe of 18 quintillion planets teeming with all manner of surreal beasts and fabulous fauna. Not a game to forget where you left your keys.
9. Titanfall 2
Pacific Rim meets Chappie in this second instalment of the BRF (big robots fighting) game franchise. It’s a blast riot – pilots parkour and zip-wire around battle arenas building up enough points to summon a Titan exoskeleton, basically a glorified, customisable Transformer. Cue BRF chaos.
8. Pokémon Go
In terms of grabbing the global gaming zeitgeist by the Pokéballs, no other game of 2016 came close to Pokémon Go, the mobile augmented reality phenomenon that put fluffy monsters in your local Lidl and had you racing into traffic to catch a pesky Weedle.
7. Quantum Break
Merging gameplay with 20-minute episodes of live-action footage more seamlessly than ever before, Quantum Break’s physics-defying third-person action-adventure, in which hero Jack Joyce fights and puzzles his way through entire disaster scenes frozen in time, was arguably the most cinematic game ever made. The closest we’ve got so far to actually playing an episode of 24.
6. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Among the best of a string of stealth-or-shoot releases in 2016, the fourth Deus Ex title had augmented Interpol agent Adam Jensen – imagine Neo with swords for arms and black crystal armour skin – creeping or blasting around a seedy, chaos-riven cyberpunk Prague of 2029 on a mission to bring down the shadowy Illuminati.
5. Dishonored 2
Whether stalking enemies as Empress Emily Kaldwin or kicking mechanised ass aplenty as the first game’s hero Corvo Attano, Dishonored 2 was a hyper-paced return to the steampunk world of Dunwall and the crumbling city of Karnaca. Essentially Thief with massive clockwork soldiers all over the place, stovepipes off to anyone who completed it without killing a single bad guy.
An all-too-brief but ultra-immersive first-person adventure ranking as easily the best indie game of the year, Firewatch found Shoshone National Forest fire lookout Henry roaming stunning sunset vistas akin to living paintings, gathering clues about missing teenagers while being spied on by a malignant observer…
Something of a revelation in first-person shooters, the multi-player hit of the year Overwatch featured a huge and diverse cast of playable characters from guerrillas to gorillas, in finely defined roles – offence, defence, tank and support – and proved so colourful and playable that it’s being cued up as the next big eSport for 2017.
2. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Adventure hero Nathan Drake went out with a bang in his most cinematic and adrenalin-pumped outing yet. Chasing the mother of all pirate treasures around the globe from the Italian coast to the wilds of Scotland and Madagascan volcanoes, A Thief’s End shifted Drake’s focus from long-distance sniping to stealth take-downs and close-up brawls, plus some mighty ingenious swing-and-climb segments and a tank chase that even Tom Cruise wouldn’t do the stunts for. A fond, frantic farewell.
Sign up for the newsletter
1. Dark Souls 3
Harder than talking sense into a Trump voter, the third and final Dark Souls game had even the hardiest slashers and sorcerers farming souls by the truckload in order to level up enough to survive sprawling medieval castles, undead villages, fire dungeons and fetid swamps full of fiends and lore, where everything with a pulse, and most things without one, can end you in a heartbeat. Add in some of the most unforgiving bosses you’ve ever hacked away at the arse of – believe us, the gigantic acid-pissing tree with testicles is the least of your worries – and you have one of the most engaging, and endlessly frustrating, challenges in gaming histo… oh, we’ve died again.