Whether you’re into sci-fi shooters, role-playing games, and sports sims, 2016 served up a ton of selection and quality for the discerning gamer. In fact, therein lies the problem: With so many games released each year — for consoles, computers and handheld devices – it can be tricky to know what to buy. If you need some suggestions, the following are my top games of the year, divided into kids, teens, and adults.
Remember, if you’re buying a gaming gift for someone, be sure to check the recommended age rating in the corner of the box (such as “T” for Teen).
The following games cost $59.99 apiece unless otherwise specified.
As with its popular predecessors, Activision’s Skylanders Imaginators fuses action figures with a video game: simply place the character on the Portal of Power, connected to a game console, and the character comes alive on the TV screen. But this time you can create your very own in-game Skylanders by selecting their in-game appearance, abilities, catchphrases, and more. Available for all major platforms, the Starter Pack (found for as low as $49.99) includes a couple of characters, magical crystal, sticker sheet, Portal of Power, and the game.
One of the highest rated sports games of the year, Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 (XOne, X360, PS4, PS3, PC), is as real as it gets. From near photorealistic graphics and fluid animation to accurate ball physics and smart artificial intelligence (A.I.), “footy” fans may not want to pry themselves away from the screen. Along with many leagues and teams, the authenticity extends to the stadiums, jerseys, and chants, as you kick into various solo and multiplayer modes.
Climb into the shoes of Pokémon Trainer to catch, battle and trade all new creatures in Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, a pair of new games for Nintendo 3DS ($39.99). Venture out on the fictitious tropical islands of the Alola Region to engage in intense combat between Pokémon, master new moves, and choose from one of three new Partner Pokémon.
Other great games for kids: D-Pad Studio’s Owlboy (PC), EA Sports’ NHL 17 (PS4, XOne), and Sold Out’s Worms W.M.D. All Stars (PS4, XOne).
Who said all first-person shooters need to be uber violent? Rated “Teen,” Blizzard’s colorful and cartoon-like Overwatch (PS4, XOne, PC) pits two teams against one another in fast-paced, objective-based matches in the future. Featuring a roster of diverse characters – including soldiers, scientists, adventurers, and others – your team will unleash powers, span the globe, and even speed up and slow down time.
A PlayStation 4 exclusive, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s The Last Guardian is one of the most memorable and emotional adventures of the year, about a young boy who frees (and then befriends) a giant feathered creature named Trico. The two form a deep bond and rely on each other while traversing dangerous lands and unraveling secrets of a far-gone civilization.
If car racing is more your thing, Microsoft Studios’ Forza Horizon 3 is an open-world racing video game that supports cross-platform play between Xbox One and Windows 10 players. Based in Australia, the game is roughly twice as big as Forza Horizon 2, and lets you climb into more than 350 cars, trucks, buggies, and more. Come for the vehicle selection, stay for the intense multiplayer.