Welcome to the DDNet Awards, our annual celebration of the best and brightest games that we’ve been playing throughout the year.
It has been a really good year for games in 2016, with great examples of every genre popping up through the year. Across 15 categories over the next three weeks, we look at the winner, runner up and three bronze medalists for each category.
In order to qualify for selection, a game needed to have been released for the first time on a new platform, between the first of December 2015 and the end of November 2016.
Let us know what you think of the award winners in the comments!
As big fans of RPGs and JRPGs at DDNet, narratives are a big deal to us. A good narrative takes us into worlds that we can then care about, filled with characters that we come to love. A good narrative gives a game context, and purpose, and while there are plenty of good games that don’t put much of a effort into the narrative, for us, we’ll keep coming back to the games that have literary merit over and over again.
David Cage’s noir masterpiece got a remake in 2016, which allowed us to look back and see how the narrative holds up. As it turns out, in the tradition of authors like Raymond Chandler, or films like Se7en, it holds up very well indeed. The noir genre is one that has fallen out of favour to an extent across all media, but with games like Heavy Rain keeping it alive, we’re happy campers indeed.
One of the finest anti-war wargames ever made, Valkyria Chronicles is a mix of turn-based strategy and action shooting. It’s really well made, too, but the real strength of Valkyria Chronicles is not its gameplay; rather, it’s the incredible characterisation on display through the narrative, as well as the relationships that develop between them. We’re encouraged to really, really empathise with what our ragtag band is struggling against, and through that, we get a sense of the real impact that war has on people.
We’ve already noted how utterly beautiful I Am Setsuna is, by rewarding it the Best Art Direction award, but it also tells a beautifully melancholic story. With shades of Final Fantasy X to it, your task is to escort a young woman to a special site, where she’ll be sacrificed in order to quieten the monsters for a while, and keep the people of the world safe. However, we’re meant to fall in love with this young maiden, and that makes every step on the journey one tinged with both hope and sadness.
Mafia III is a game that has a very important story to tell. Focusing on racism during a period of American history where the topic saw major attention and made major strides forwards, the game manages to be historically authentic, while making some points that remain remarkably poignant today. Equally brilliant is the way that Mafia III so effectively sets a scene; it’s rare that open world games feel this authentic or this effective. It’s that much easier to be engaged in a world when it creates a sense of historical accuracy so authentic that you’ll almost believe that these events really happened.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a brilliant Persona game (and let’s face it, in all but name it is a Persona game). As is typical for that series, the game gives us an detailed look at elements of Japanese culture; in this case idol and pop culture. With distinctive and likable characters, as well as a range of scenarios that mix humour and satire with excitement and drama, Tokyo Mirage Sessions tells a vibrant, entertaining, and poignant story. While it might have been one of the very few Nintendo Wii U games of note released this year, the narrative alone made the Wii U worthwhile in 2016.