The Game Awards 2016

It’s that time of the year for the leaves to change colors, sweaters to come out of the closets, and to invest in stretchy pants for holiday dinners galore! As gamers, however, we get one extra little pleasure, in that our lone televised award show airs on December 1st. This year, I thought I would break down the categories and nominees and highlight my picks (and predictions) for the show.


Best Action Game

* Battlefield 1


* Gears of War 4

* Overwatch

* Titanfall 2


Let’s start with Best Action Game. Here, we find a realistic war-time shooter in Battlefield 1, a sci-fi adrenaline and gore rush in DOOM, a smart revitalization of a franchise in Gears of War 4, the colorful and unique team chemistry in Overwatch, and the Robo-Buddy system of Titanfall 2. First, every one of these games are great picks, and this could truly go in any direction. However, I’m willing to bet the intense single-player of DOOM or the superb overall package of Gears of War 4 will come out on top. 


Dark Horse: Titanfall 2


Best Action/Adventure Game

* Dishonored 2

* Hitman

* Hyper Light Drifter

* Ratchet & Clank

* Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End


In the Action/Adventure category, you have the play-it-your-way dazzler of Dishonored 2, the episodic masterpiece in Hitman, the unique throwback indie title Hyper Light Drifter, the zany gunplay of Ratchet & Clank, and the shoot ‘n’ quip game ending Nathan Drake’s story, Uncharted 4. It’s another category filled with fantastic titles, but I believe that Dishonored 2 will end up the winner; its focus on playing in your own way is only shared with Hitman


Dark Horse: Hyper Light Drifter


Best RPG

* Dark Souls 3

* Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

* The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine

* World of Warcraft: Legion

* Xenoblade Chronicles X


The battle for best RPG is a strange one this year. The gothic brutality of Dark Souls 3 is certainly the favorite among a few of my followers on Twitter. That being said, I have a soft spot for the sci-fi near future setting and timely social commentary of Deus Ex. The Witcher surprises me in that its DLC is nominated against these other full titles, and, win or lose, that speaks volumes to me. World of Warcraft’s latest expansion doesn’t re-invent the wheel so I am not sure if the refinements are enough to pull in a win, and Xenoblade Chronicles X is a game I’ve heard more than a few say they loved and enjoyed. Will the Wii U’s limited audience prove a hindrance? My money is on Xenoblade Chronicles X or Deus Ex.


Dark Horse: Witcher 3’s Blood and Wine


Best Fighting Game

* Killer Instinct Season 3

* King of Fighters XIV

* Pokken Tournament

* Street Fighter V


Of all the genres to pull punches, who would’ve thought it’d be the fighting games? I truly only see a fight between two titles here: Killer Instinct and King of Fighters XIV. Street Fighter didn’t have the features or character roster people expect in a modern fighting title, and will have to try next year when Capcom inevitably re-releases it. While Pokken Tournament had some unique gameplay, it didn’t stick with me and I see it as the underdog in this category. Killer Instinct is my expectation for winning with the refinements made and the crowd-pleasing guest characters.


Dark Horse: Pokken Tournament


Best Family Game

* Dragon Quest Builders

* Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens

* Pokemon Go

* Ratchet & Clank

* Skylanders: Imaginators


What a motley crew we have assembled here. By and large, Dragon Quest Builders is the JRPG fan’s Minecraft and has captured a lot of attention. Lego Star Wars, is a favorite to win by near default. Pokemon Go is unexpected in this category; although having lackluster in-game multiplayer, the crowd effect it had on people over the summer makes Pokemon Go a strong contender. Ratchet & Clank is also a solid choice, but I had almost forgotten it was out this year, and I believe others have done the same. Skylanders is the one title I can’t see winning in the slightest. 


Dark Horse: Dragon Quest Builders


Best Strategy Game

* Civilization VI

* Fire Emblem Fates

* The Banner Saga 2

* Total War: Warhammer

* XCOM 2


Only one can win in this category full of titles where every decision changes the outcome drastically. Each of these games could easily win the title, and I feel no other category is as close as this one. It’s so close in fact, I can’t pick a favored game to win. However, with Civilization VI winning Best PC Game and Best Strategy Game at the Game Critics Awards, it is certainly the favored title among critics. 


Dark Horse: Fire Emblem Fates


Best Sports/Racing Game

* FIFA 17

* Forza Horizon 3

* MLB The Show 16

* NBA 2K17

* Pro Evolution Soccer 2017


You might be thinking poor Forza, but I’m thinking the other sports titles are the ones who should be feeling sorry. Forza Horizon 3 is the best reviewed title of these, and I’m betting it’s going to drive away with a win. Why is Forza the only racing game listed? Turns out only three have been released this year for consoles or PC.


Dark Horse: NBA 2K17


Best Multiplayer Game

* Battlefield 1

* Gears of War 4

* Overcooked

* Overwatch

* Rainbow Six Siege

* Titanfall 2


At first glance, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I say Overwatch should win. And why shouldn’t it? It’s one of the few shooters I’ve played where I feel like I can actively contribute to my team’s victory. However, any of the other shooters could be worthy of the award, but none would have the surprise of Overcooked winning. Overcooked is also the only game on here with no gunplay at all.


Dark Horse: Overcooked


Best Game Direction

* Blizzard


* id Software

* Naughty Dog

* Respawn Entertainment


A games direction needs to feel cohesive and whole in order to be successful and, once more, I think Blizzard will end up pulling away with this award on the backs of World of Warcraft and Overwatch. It wouldn’t surprise me though to see id Software find it instead based on the work done with DOOM


Dark Horse: id Software


Best Music & Sound Design

* Battlefield 1


* Inside

* Rez Infinite

* Thumper


If this was just about sound design, I would say it’s a fight between DOOM and Battlefield 1. However, with the inclusion of music in this category, I feel that Rez Infinite will take the prize. It has a very catchy soundtrack, and immersive effects, but if beats aren’t quite enough, Battlefield 1 is next likely to take it. 


Dark Horse: Inside


Best Performance

* Alex Hernandez for Mafia 3

* Emily Rose for Uncharted 4

* Nolan North for Uncharted 4

* Troy Baker for Uncharted 4

* Cissy Jones for Firewatch

* Rich Sommer for Firewatch


For Best performance, I believe Nolan North will end up winning for his portrayal of Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4; however, I would love for one of the two Firewatch nominations to win as well. Last year’s win from Her Story shows us an indie upset is entirely possible. 


Dark Horse: Alex Hernandez


Best Independent Game

* Firewatch 

* Hyper Light Drifter

* Inside 

* Stardew Valley 

* The Witness


Best Independent Game is a challenge between three strong contenders this year, Stardew Valley, Inside, and Firewatch. I saw plenty of people playing Stardew Valley on YouTube over the summer, and saw firsthand the addictive gameplay it offers. Inside is a very different beast and plays similarly like its predecessor, LIMBO. Inside also has an ending to be believed. But Firewatch is the interesting title, in that it has a story that isn’t as tightly controlled as Inside, but doesn’t offer the freedom that Stardew Valley does. Still, its story of a lone Ranger against trespassers in a woodland setting is unique. Any three of these have a solid chance at winning, but I’ll be favoring Firewatch


Dark Horse: The Witness


Best VR Game

* Batman: Arkham VR

* Eve Valkyrie

* Job Simulator

* Rez Infinite

* Thumper


Now I’m not in a situation where I’ve been able to play these, but I do feel that the most likely to win are Batman and Job Simulator. Both offer very different experiences, but they do them very well. I can’t wait though to see if this becomes a permanent fixture of future award shows. 


Dark Horse: Rez Infinite


Games For Impact

* 1979 Revolution

* Block’Hood

* Orwell

* Sea Hero Quest

* That Dragon, Cancer


After reading up on each of these games, they all are unique and make me want to give them a spin. The three that stand out to me the most are Orwell, Sea Hero Quest, and That Dragon, Cancer. Orwell puts you in the shoes of a surveillance expert in a foreign city that employs advanced techniques to keep tabs on its citizens. Sea Hero Quest is a game that has led to the compilation of years of all-new data about dementia research. That Dragon, Cancer is a game born from the experiences of the couple that made the game after they learned their son had a terminal form of cancer. My personal pick will be Sea Hero Quest given its possible real-world purpose, but the story of That Dragon, Cancer may be the emotional favorite.


Dark Horse: That Dragon, Cancer


Best Story

* Firewatch

* Inside

* Mafia 3

* Oxenfree

* Uncharted 4


Stories have grown more complex in gaming as these titles can attest to, but I think it will be a showdown between Mafia 3 and Oxenfree. Oxenfree’s gameplay relies very heavily on its story and the choices of the player, and is my personal pick to win. Mafia 3 deserves it too though, for having such a racially charged storyline and for not being afraid to take risks with their story in a medium where such acts aren’t always appreciated. 


Dark Horse: Uncharted 4


Best Mobile Game

* Clash Royale

* Fire Emblem Fates

* Monster Hunter Generations

* Pokemon Go

* Severed


Pokemon Go may be the most successful game in the category, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best, and I feel it’s going to fall short of winning the award. Instead, I think Severed or Fire Emblem Fates will end up winning the day. Severed is the newest game from the makers of Guacamelee – another game I really enjoyed – while Fire Emblem Fates is the newest release of the venerable strategy series.


Dark Horse: Monster Hunter Generations


Best Art Direction

* Abzu

* Firewatch

* Inside

* Overwatch

* Uncharted 4


Each of these games is beautiful to look at, but for very different reasons. I think the more minimalist directions of Inside and Abzu will make them the favored titles. However, the vibrancy of the characters and environment of Overwatch comes in a tight third to me. Watch for Uncharted 4’s realism to be the unexpected winner.


Dark Horse: Uncharted 4


Game of the Year


* Inside

* Overwatch

* Titanfall 2

* Uncharted 4


Here we are, the big aware of the night. The coveted Game of the Year award will end up going to one of these 5. Four of them are shooters, but Inside is the lone, purely single-player game. Will its short campaign mean it is snuffed out, or will the quality of its story outshine the others? DOOM was a very successful reboot of a classic series that delivered on every hallmark people expected in its single-player campaign, but its multiplayer is its biggest crutch. Overwatch, for as much as I enjoy it, is a multiplayer title only, but it does it so well and no other single game has been played as much by myself or the people I follow on Twitter this year. Titanfall 2 has been reviewed consistently well and is said to have grown itself in every conceivable way over its predecessor. That being said, I think it’s Uncharted 4 that may walk away with the award with a mostly solid campaign and competent multiplayer. It doesn’t hurt that it is arguably the most gorgeous of the nominated titles, but it’s still anyone’s award. My money will be on Overwatch, primarily as no other game has felt so wonderful to play and it never stops being fun. It’s clear this race is extremely close. 


There you have it, my picks for The Game Awards 2016. What are your picks? You can catch The Game Awards for yourself live on all sorts of services, including Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook Live, Xbox Live, Playstation Network, Steam, IGN, Gamespot, Snapchat, and NextVR. I’ll be watching and live-tweeting the show myself when it starts Thursday at 8:30pm Eastern. 


Five of the Best Games for Xbox One Under $20

Here it is, the last in a series of three posts on cheap games for your console of choice. Remember, these will be $20 or less and must have been developed with the Xbox One in mind. That means, in this case, none of the backwards compatible titles will be featured. Also, if a title has been mentioned for another system, you won’t see it here (Rocket League, anyone?)


Titanfall is from the creators of Call of Duty, and is an online multiplayer only title that casts you on one of two sides gifting for dominance. The story isn’t important, but the gameplay is what shines in this Xbox title. You play a human soldier equipped with a jetpack that enables you to run amok in every direction on the map and truly strike in inventive ways. There’s also an ability to call a Titan, large humanoid mechs that are heavily armed and armored. It’s now a $20 download on the Xbox Store with all the DLC, or Gamestop offers a new disc for $12. The three DLC packs are now free.


Yes, that one building game you’ve heard so much about also happens to be one of the best games out there for $20 for any system. Not only can you build to your heart’s content, but you can also make it more of a challenge by playing through a survival mode that forces you to seek or build shelter or else face what comes out at night. It’s also a fantastic title to play with kids with split-screen and online multiplayer, and it encourages an enormous amount of creativity. It’s on the Xbox Store as a download or at Gamestop as a disc. If you have a different system, it’s also available for the PS3 (download/disc), PS4 (download/disc), PS Vita (download), and in Beta form for Windows 10.


On the Xbox One, Guacamelee becomes the Super Turbo Championship Edition. Regardless of the fancy title, at it’s heart Guacamelee is a Metroidvania style game with deep Mexican roots. You play as Juan Aguacate, an agave farmer who must save El Presidente’s daughter from Carlos Calaca, before he can use her to merge the worlds of the living and the dead. Aside from the bright visual nature, Guacamelee offers challenging combat for even the most seasoned of gamer, and co-op play so you don’t battle alone. Guacamelee is $15 as a download for the Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Playstation 3, PS Vita, the Wii U, and is on Steam for Windows PC.

maxresdefaultOri and the Blind Forest

You cannot talk about must have titles on the Xbox One at any price point without talking about this gem. Ori and the Blind Forest is about an orphan that is about to discover how heroic they really are. Seriously, saying anything else about the plot will spoil it. The game’s environments are completely hand-crafted, and earned it the best Art Direction award at this year’s Game Awards. At those same awards it was also nominated for best action/adventure title, indie game, and for it’s soundtrack which is available for purchase or stream. Seriously, go play it, it’s a truly remarkable game. It sells as a download for $20 on the Xbox One and Windows PCs via Steam. An Xbox 360 version is currently under development.

image-3Trials Fusion

Trials Fusion is one of the strangest puzzle games you will ever see. On the surface it’s anything but. You control a motocross rider who must use his skills to best each dizzying, height-defying track that comes his way. The levels only get zanier as you try to go on. But aside form the built-in levels you can also create your own, share them, and race against your friends to find the best time. Trials Fusion is a $20 download for Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, and Windows PCs via Steam.

And there you go: five titles for the Xbox One that are fantastic at under $20. That closes out my series on some of the best cheap games out there for the Playstation 4, Wii U, and Xbox One. Have an idea for a post or series of posts! Let me know with a comment, tweet, email, message, or just let me know!