The Best Video Games of 2016, Ranked

As Conan O'Brien knows all too well, a modern video game can consume days of your life. That's why we're updating our Best Games of the Year list all year round, so you can spend your free time and money only on the most crucial titles. And to help you even more, we've ranked them for you. Ready? Here we go:

Firewatch video game

17. Firewatch

Release date: February 9th
Publisher: Panic
Why it's great: The story-driven adventure game is making a comeback, despite a landscape loaded with first-person shooter and fantasy roleplaying titles. Firewatch is among the best, focusing on a single park ranger patrolling Yellowstone National Park in 1989. The ranger's only companion is his supervisor Delilah, a voice over a walkie-talkie. As players explore the colorful, stylized world of Yellowstone, a deeper story unravels and a complex friendship grows. The hat trick of balancing compelling gameplay and character development between two people who never actually meet is no easy task. Indie game developer Campo Santo manages this brilliantly as both the Ranger and Delilah independently observe and report on the goings-on across Yellowstone. Their walkie-talkie conversations, and separate views of the landscape, make these characters feel like two halves of a whole, adding up to a haunting trek through nature.
How to play: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux (watch the trailer)

ratchet and clank remake - best games of 2016
Sony Interactive Entertainment

16. Ratchet & Clank

Release date: April 12th
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Why it’s great: As far as throwbacks go, Ratchet & Clank’s next-gen remake is a thrilling return to gaming's old-school roots. In the same year in which Doom put a level of gory polish on the classic mid-'90s shooter, Ratchet & Clank gets a colorful, whimsical, visually stunning remake for the PS4. Retaining the series' platforming charm and zany wit, this technically impressive reboot surprised many by going above and beyond, not simply slapping an HD up-res on an aging game, but revamping the visuals, gameplay, levels, and weapons -- the works. The classic, cartoonish arsenal is enhanced for maximum amusement and the characters are as lovable as ever.
Where to play: PlayStation 4 (watch the trailer)

Quantum Break video game
Microsoft Studios

15. Quantum Break

Release date: April 5th
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Why it’s great: From Max Payne to Alan Wake, developer Remedy's obsession with high-concept gameplay and pulp storytelling has bridged every genre. With Quantum Break, the company moves on to time-travel sci-fi. The game's time-bending mechanics, which allow players to stop time and riddle their frozen enemies with bullets, or rewind events to search previously destroyed environments, make for a visceral experience; its inclusion of story-changing junction points -- where each choice affects the curving narrative -- are an exciting (if somewhat borrowed) idea. But Quantum Break is more than just a video game -- it's also a TV show. At key points throughout the story, the digital cast -- including Shawn Ashmore (X-Men), Lance Reddick (The Wire), and Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones) -- rolls seamlessly from virtual action into fully produced 22-minute episodes of television. In itself, the combat, exploration, and item-hunting isn't all that revolutionary, but it’s this gripping blend of mediums that makes the game such a narratively compelling affair.
How to play: Xbox One, Microsoft Windows (watch the trailer)

watch dogs 2 best games 2016

14. Watch Dogs 2

Release date: November 16th
Publisher: Ubisoft
Why it's great: Every single issue that one could find with Ubisoft's original Watch Dogs -- a game that demoed deceptively well prior to its release -- has been addressed in this year's ambitious sequel. More innovative hacking opportunities, a better approach to combat, and a lighter, more stylized protagonist and story make for the fully realized title that fans had hoped for the first time around. The colorful re-creation of San Francisco is an incredibly impressive playground for some truly entertaining hacker-mayhem.
How to play: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (watch the trailer)

The Witness video game
Thekla, Inc.

13. The Witness

Release date: January 24th
Publisher: Thekla, Inc.
Why it's great: When indie developer (read: one-man band) Jonathan Blow released the time-winding Braid back in 2008, the instant classic begged an instant follow-up. Fans weren't so lucky. Eight years later, Blow and an expanded team are back with The Witness, a uniquely crafted, visually stunning take on the puzzle game. In the vein of mainstays like Myst, The Witness finds players unraveling the mystery of a lone island by solving a series of seemingly simple yet wickedly challenging line puzzles. As they grow in complexity, the game utilizes the environment itself -- from landscapes to audio cues -- to teach players how to best each new twist. Brimming with secrets, The Witness expertly combines brain-teasers, world design, and honest emotion into a work of art without ever firing a bullet.
How to play: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows (watch the trailer)

The Division - best video game of the year

12. The Division

Release date: March 8th
Publisher: Ubisoft
Why it's great: The first few months of 2016 offered a fair amount of standard action fare (the Stone Age riff Far Cry Primal, the head-smashing Dying Light expansion), but it was The Division that managed that first gun-toting gold star. Combining elements of single-player, mission-driven, loot-filled action with a gripping player-versus-player arena, The Division piggybacked off Destiny and the like and got off to a damn strong start. While the game will evolve over time, its smart design, fantastic combat, and realistic depiction of a post-virus New York combine to make it a first-rate shooter for teams and one-off players alike. Team up with friends, betray strangers, or go it alone, and The Division keeps the content coming well after the endgame with the anything-goes "Dark Zone" arena.
Where to play: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows (watch the trailer)

inside best games 2016

11. Inside

Release date: June 29th
Publisher: Playdead
Why it's great: We're going to try not to spoil the surprises loaded inside Inside, but if you loved Limbo, also from Playdead, this game's even trippier. Set against a sparse, dystopian future, Inside finds the player side-scrolling their way through a bleak, puzzle-solving adventure, often controlling multiple characters at a single time. With its dark, surrealist tone and dream-like imagery, the game walks a fine line between simplicity and complexity. And with an ending as bizarre and Cronenberg-ian as anything we've seen this year, Inside has already generated endless debate among gamers about its true meaning. 
Where to play: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC (watch the trailer)

himan chapters best games 2016
Square Enix

10. Hitman (Episodes 1-6)

Release date: Monthly episodic
Publisher: Square Enix
Why it's great: The episodic structure of this year's Hitman experiment kept the title off this list for much of the year; i.e., it didn't do the franchise any favors. But while the story never quite comes together, Hitman’s six ambitious episodes provide a jaw-dropping sandbox for any would-be assassin. With massive, complex, visually stunning levels and an unending set of unique challenges, gamers were presented a half-dozen environments and a few hundred ways to creatively off their targets. Don't jump in for a compelling story, but if you're looking for a never-ending series of clever kills, absolutely add Hitman to your must-play list.
How to play: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (watch the trailer)

far cry primal best games 2016

9. Far Cry Primal

Release date: February 23rd
Publisher: Ubisoft
Why it's great: The Far Cry franchise has long been known for its rich and distinctive worlds, from the African Congo to the frosty Himalayas to the clear blue waters of more tropical climes. With Far Cry Primal, the series drifts back far beyond its roots -- to the dawn of mankind and the rise of the Neanderthal. In ditching the modern arsenal for tribal spears and well-made arrows -- hell, in ditching English for the subtitled proto-language of Early Man -- Ubisoft took a gigantic risk that paid tremendous dividends. The characters remain every bit as colorful, the combat every bit as pulse-pounding. The elements of hunting and crafting -- especially against the backdrop of primordial saber-tooths and woolly mammoths -- make Far Cry Primal not only an engrossing experience but an epically enjoyable one.
Where to play: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC (watch the trailer)

final fantasy 15 best games 2016
Square Enix

8. Final Fantasy XV

Release Date: November 29th
Publisher: Square Enix
Why it's great: It's hard to say whether anything can truly live up to 10 years of hype, but Final Fantasy XV emerged from a decade-long series of starts, stops, and quasi-reveals to become one of 2016's finest role-playing games. Sporting a massive, sprawling open world and a fresh, fast take on the series' typically turn-based combat, FFXV pays off in striking visuals and compelling characters. The main story can often feel sidelined or segmented, but the core quintet of adventurous friends are charming enough to carry players through a long, painterly series of battles and side quests.
How to play: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (watch the trailer)

deus ex mankind divided best games 2016
Square Enix

7. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Release date: August 23rd
Publisher: Square Enix
Why it's great: Eons ago, the original Deus Ex set a standard for impactful decision-making; want to sneak, shoot, hack, and/or talk your way through a level? Bribe your way straight through to the endgame? You could. While later iterations departed from the core idea, Eidos Montreal learned its lesson with Mankind Divided, returning to the gameplay roots in a near-future narrative drawn from today’s political landscape. Mankind Divided offers sprawling, challenging acts of espionage set against a world of mechanized, augmented humans. 
Where to play: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC (watch the trailer)

doom 2016 - best games of 2016
Bethesda Softworks

6. Doom

Release date: May 13th
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Why it’s great: These days, nostalgia -- like zombies -- has become a virus. Everybody’s looking to slap a fresh coat of paint on an old brand and call it new. With Bethesda's latest swing at the Doom franchise, however, nostalgia isn't just a marketing gimmick. It's a mantra. With grotesque, blood-soaked visuals, Doom transports players back to the '90s with speed, level design, and an unapologetic focus on shooting shit. It throws out the story tropes and pacing of modern shooters and instead takes players on a fast, frenetic ride through hell. Classic Doom monsters get a next-gen makeover so you chainsaw them into a thousand fleshy bits. Levels are clever mazes brimming with secrets. The old-school boss fights shine. Combine that 10-hour campaign with some high-speed multiplayer and easy-to-use level creation tools and you've got a genuinely thrilling, pure-fun FPS.
Where to play: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC (watch the trailer)

titanfall 2 best games 2016
Electronic Arts

5. Titanfall 2

Release date: October 28th
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Why it's great: Coming off one hell of a multiplayer debut, the Titanfall franchise reemerged this year with a surprisingly deep single-player campaign. The original established a set of remarkably fluid mechanics in its first chapter. The game-makers cast a wider, more ambitious net for the follow-up, telling the story of a pilot and his Titan escaping across a vast sci-fi landscape. Utilizing all the fantastic weaponry and move-sets that made the multiplayer experience so first-rate, the campaign mode adds flourishes of geography-shifting time travel and an engrossing pilot/Titan relationship. This is the full, fantastic Titanfall package that the first release failed to fulfill.  
How to play: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (watch the trailer)

uncharted 4 - best games of 2016
Sony Interactive Entertainment

4. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Release date: May 10th
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Why it’s great: The latest – and supposedly last – chapter in the epic Uncharted series aims to send off Nathan Drake in style. The story finds Drake teaming with his reckless, believed-to-be-dead brother on a deeply personal quest for pirate gold. But where the narrative is rooted firmly in Drake family history, Uncharted 4 is undoubtedly the most visually glorious, technically impressive game ever crafted. Fluid gameplay, lush environments, and epic set pieces are nothing new to the Uncharted franchise, but this level of polish and proficiency sets a high bar for games to follow. While Nathan's familial quest is an emotional one, a handful of classic Uncharted characters -- including Elena and Sully -- are unfortunately side-lined to make room for the Brothers Drake. That small quibble aside, the story and gameplay combine to make this a fitting end for an iconic thief.
Where to play: PlayStation 4 (watch the trailer)

overwatch best games 2016
Blizzard Entertainment

3. Overwatch

Release date: May 24th
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Why it's great: Since Team Fortress ushered in the modern MOBA,  battle arena copycats have tried (with varying degrees of success) to capture the speed and intensity of the genre. Developer Blizzard struck the bullseye with Overwatch, which not only provides sharp, fluid mechanics, but also colorful sci-fi designs that make the most of a graphics card. The game boasts a fantastically drawn game-world full of personable characters. Add to that an impressive move-set and impeccable level design, and Overwatch offers gamers the best-made and most fun MOBA currently available on consoles. 
Where to play: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC (watch the trailer)

Dishonored 2 best games 2016
Bethesda Softworks

2. Dishonored 2

Release date: November 11th
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Why it's great: The first Dishonored came more or less out of nowhere, shocking gamers with a well-crafted world, rewarding mechanics, and an unending series of player choices. Taking up the mantle of the much-loved Thief franchise, Dishonored constructed an impressively designed series of levels and allowed players to navigate them with as much violence or subterfuge as they pleased. The sequel ups the ante considerably -- with two playable characters, an entirely new series of supernatural abilities, and a series of standout environments that push the boundaries of level design in gaming.
How to play: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (watch the trailer)

dark souls 3 - best game of 2016
FromSoftware/Bandai Namco Entertainment

1. Dark Souls III

Release date: March 24th
Publisher: FromSoftware/Bandai Namco Entertainment
Why it’s great: Dark Souls gets a bad wrap as a franchise for hardcore gamers who want to punish themselves. Which, absolutely, it is that. But the franchise is a marvel of gameplay and visual design, with challenges that are more about ignoring the way that other, easier games have trained you to play than frustration for frustration’s sake. This grimly gorgeous action-RPG presents a beautifully immersive world, filled with creatures and discoveries more rewarding than almost any other game. If you enjoy exploration, intricate world design, and thrilling, edge-of-your-seat combat, Dark Souls III is a must-play.
Where to play: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC (watch the trailer)

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Christopher Monfette is a longtime entertainment journalist who likes to look forward. Best of 2016, here we come. Follow him on Twitter: @cwmonfette.