2016 will be forever remembered as one of the best years in video game history. In the consoles department, Microsoft released the Xbox One S to boost its presence in the market, which it has done so for the last few months. Sony dropped not one, but two new consoles: the PS4 Slim and the more powerful PS4 Pro, to go along with the first ever console-powered virtually reality headset, the PlayStation VR.
Lastly, Nintendo finally unveiled the innovative Nintendo Switch, set for release in March next year. Meanwhile, mobile devices also continue to show dominance over handheld consoles. In the games department, several noteworthy titles were released in 2016, which include Overwatch (PC), Pokemon Sun and Moon (Nintendo 3DS) and Street Fighter V (PS4). The mobile games industry also has its share of must-play games. Here are some of the best ones that you need to check out before 2016 closes.
Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition
Release Date: October 20, 2016 (Android)
First released more than a year ago for the iOS, Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition finally arrived on Android last October 20. The game, developed by Klei Entertainment and was first released for the PC, Mac and Linux platforms, is a sandbox adventure game with survival and roguelike gameplay elements.
In case you’re not familiar with the latter, roguelike is one of the most difficult genres. It features random-generated dungeons, SNES-era graphics and rapidly scaling difficulty. But perhaps most prominent is its inclusion of permanent death (or “permadeath), a feature which restarts your current play-through if your character dies. Anyway, Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition has a very simple goal for players: survive as long as possible. Your character will be thrown into the wilderness where you must find ways to stave off death. These include keeping the character’s stomach full with food (hence, the game title) and staying away from enemies.
For the former, you can search the sandbox world for edible plants, as well as hunt animals for meat. And as for the latter, you can craft items that can aid you against enemies, like weapons and shelters. Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition, like the original version, has two modes: Sandbox and Adventure. Sandbox Mode is virtually endless, with death as your only way to “end” the game, while Adventure Mode serves as the game’s campaign consisting of several levels to go through.
Release Date: September 23, 2016 (iOS, Android)
The 2016-2017 NBA Regular Season is still in its infancy, with more than four months to go before the 2017 NBA Playoffs start. However, if you want to start fantasizing about thrilling Playoff matchups like the Golden State Warriors locking horns with the Oklahoma City Thunder, then NBA 2K17 is your go-to place. This latest installment in the long-running series once again ups the ante on how sports simulation games should be handled.
First and foremost, the graphics are now more realistic than ever (you should check out the game being played on the PC with the settings cranked up to maximum). Of course, the mobile version makes it hard to fully appreciate the visuals, even if you’re using a device with the largest of screens. The gameplay mechanics are easier and simpler in this version, mostly because of the touchscreen control limits, allowing you to play a game or two while commuting.
If you really want to go in-depth, there’s the MyCareer mode which allows you to create your own player and forge a path in the NBA. More EuroLeague teams have been added in the game too so you can pit the best of the NBA against the best of, well, everywhere else. Be sure to plug in your earphone while playing to really “feel” the game.
The Bug Butcher
Release Date: October 20, 2016 (Android)
The Bug Butcher is a fast-paced 2D side-scrolling game which puts you in the shoes of Harry, a daring bug exterminator sent on a mission to a planet called “Zoit.” There, Harry must take out every little critter inside an infested research facility. Unlike most side-scrolling games, the gameplay of The Bug Butcher is played out vertically. Instead of advancing sideways or horizontally and taking out enemies that pop up either from the left or right side of the screen, The Bug Butcher has you firing above or at the ceiling. It’s similar to the classic arcade game Galaga, but more frantic.
Although the controls simply involve moving left and right and firing weapons, the game requires you to be constantly on the move, no thanks to enemies swarming all over the screen. You can collect weapon upgrades and other items to boost your survivability – like limited-timed shields and an item that freezes everything on-screen. The game is not without humor, too, mostly shown whenever the character dies. The Bug Butcher may seem simple at first glance, but the gameplay can take some time getting used to, especially if you don’t have much experience in the genre.
Dan The Man
Release Date: October 6, 2016 (Android)
Dan The Man is a 2D action platformer in the same vein as the classic Mario games where you advance forward on a horizontal plane, avoid obstacles like moving platforms, and beat up enemies along the way. But unlike the infinitely more popular mustached plumber, the main character in the game, Dan (obviously), can more than just jump on enemies’ heads or fire off fireballs. Dan can actually beat the crap out of enemies using martial arts. If you prefer to engage enemies from afar, you can collect throwing stars (or “shurikens”) and even guns in the game, which is something Mario can only dream about while he endlessly pursuits Princess Peach.
The game has three modes to keep you entertained for a long stretch: Story Mode, Endless Survival Mode and Battle Mode. Of the three, Endless Survival Mode is arguably the most fun as it allows you to just mindlessly plow through enemies and see how long you can keep it up. Dan The Man also features bosses that require you to more than just mash buttons (or the screen, to be more specific). For most bosses, you need to employ “hit and run” tactics where you punch in a few hits and then back away to avoid attacks, which usually hits you hard. If you’re a big fan of classic side-scrolling “beat ‘em ups” in the arcades, you’re going to love Dan The Man. And speaking of Mario…
Super Mario Run
Release Date: December 15, 2016 (iOS)
For the first time ever, Nintendo has brought its most famous intellectual property to the small screen. Showcased last September at the Apple Event which introduced the iPhone 7 and questionable wireless earphones, Super Mario Run is a side-scrolling platformer similar to most games in the Mario franchise. The goal is still the same: to get to the end of the level as quickly as possible while collecting coins and avoiding enemies and other obstacles along the way.
However, the biggest change is in the controls, which isn’t really surprising considering the differences between touchscreen controls and traditional gamepads. Instead of being able to manually control Mario to navigate levels, the game already has him automatically running from the left side of the screen to the right – an “auto-runner” game, in short. You can tap on the screen to make Mario jump over obstacles, although in some cases Mario will perform other maneuvers like running along walls, depending on the level.
Super Mario Run has a sort of multiplayer feature where you can beat other players’ record in specific levels. The coins you collect in the game can be used to customize your own “Mushroom Kingdom,” available in another game mode. As pointed out by Shigeru Miyamoto, Super Mario Run was designed to be played using one hand only. It doesn’t get any casual than that.
Release Date: November 9, 2016 (iOS)
SteamWorld Heist, developed by Image & Form, is a turn-based strategy game with steam-powered robots as playable characters. However, it’s different from other games in the genre. Most notably, the game is not played nor viewed from above, and neither does it make use of grids – both of which are staples in turn-based strategy games. Instead, SteamWorld Heist is played out on a 2D plane, similar to a platformer or a side-scrolling game.
During your turn, you and your enemies take turns either moving around the level to advance forward or take cover behind nearby objects, or firing guns at each other. It’s quite similar to the critically acclaimed game Valkyria Chronicles, but not as open in terms of movement options. Levels are typically separated into sections, with doors and ladders to bridge two sections. Levels are also populated with sentries, like a ceiling-mounted gun, which you must further take into account before making a move.
Firing guns in SteamWorld Heist isn’t the same as most shooter games. Bullets in the game can ricochet or bounce off of walls or whatever is serving as the level’s “border.” Meaning, you can hit enemies that are hiding behind objects. But they can similarly do the same to you, so you have to take that into account when positioning your characters. The game has a lot of replay value, thanks to over 100 different collectible weapons available, along with a New Game Plus option. You can also switch to harder difficulties if you want to challenge yourself.
Release Date: October 27, 2016 (iOS, Android)
Racing games are well-suited to mobile devices due to gyro sensors which allow you to “drive” a vehicle by tilting your device. Using a keyboard or directional buttons on a gamepad is simply not meant for racing games. And no other game at the moment arguably best represents the genre than Asphalt 8: Airborne. However, not everyone is fond of flashy cars and urban race tracks. If you’re looking for a more rugged approach to racing, there’s the recently released spinoff Asphalt Xtreme.
The game takes you away from the city lights, so to speak, and brings you to off-road tracks filled with snow and dirt. Instead of featuring rally cars only, which are staples in off-road racing games, Asphalt Xtreme also has monster trucks to offer if you want a bigger experience. There are also jeeps and other off-road vehicles like sand buggies. With more than 30 vehicles at your disposal, the game takes you to locations such as Egypt, Mongolia and Thailand, with several more on the way via updates. Although the rough terrains signal a more bumpy experience, the controls of the game are similar to other games in the Asphalt series: smooth and easy-to-learn.
Release Date: July 6, 2016 (iOS, Android)
Yep, the game that took the world by storm last July is still one of the must-play games this year and beyond. But not because it has the best gameplay mechanics around or has tons of content readily available. No, Pokemon Go is a must-play simply because of the experience of hunting down and catching Pokemon in the real world. Admit it; location-based gameplay and augmented reality technology are a tailor-fit for Pokemon, and Niantic has done a fine job implementing that.
Although the game has seen a steady decline in the following months after its unprecedented rise to the top, Pokemon Go continues to reel in players from all over the world. This is due to the recent timely updates that Niantic deployed – most notably, the first ever special event and the release of the elusive Ditto. According to rumors, the Google-backed developer will release a major update this month, which could include the much-awaited second-gen Pokemon (from the Pokemon Gold and Silver Pokedex) and the overdue player-vs-player battling and trading features.
An all-new Pokemon tracking system (called the “Nearby” feature) is also slowly being deployed in different locations, which addresses the game’s major weakness. If you have been skeptical of the whole “gotta catch ‘em all” mantra from the beginning, now would be a really good time to get into the game.
2017 will undoubtedly bring in a new batch of mobile games to tinker with. So make sure that you complete your 2016 experience by playing at least one the eight listed games above.