5. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst (PS4, Xbox One & PC)
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst hits like an adrenalin shot to the heart. It’s a first-person runner that sees you sprinting across the rooftops of an oppressed city at breakneck speeds as courier-turned-rebel Faith. Faith’s only weapon is momentum, which leads to brilliant, hyper-kinetic brawls where you bounce off walls and do anything in your power to reach the speed where a kick becomes a cannonball. She’s a character so strong you can’t help but cheer when someone turns to her late in the game and simply says, "Go on, girl. Save us all."
4. The Witness (PS4, Xbox One & PC)
The Witness starts off as a seemingly innocuous puzzle game — in which you solve a series of simple draw-a-line maze panels scattered around a desert island — then slowly reveals itself to be an insidiously clever and imaginative mystery-within-a-mystery-within-a-mystery adventure. Those shadows of trees cast along the ground you’ve walked past millions of times could suddenly turn out to be the shape you need to trace in a panel. It’s a design so precise and masterful, no pixel of sand is out of place.
3. No Man’s Sky (PS4 & PC)
It would be an understatement to say No Man’s Sky was met with controversy upon release — it was investigated and ultimately cleared of false advertisement by a U.K. ad authority after supposed fans complained — but perhaps the only issue worthy of controversy was the decision to market an idiosyncratic art-house game as a blockbuster. The quiet and contemplative No Man’s Sky casts players as castaways in an unfathomably vast universe made up of 18 quintillion randomly generated planets with no implicit goal other than a search for meaning within it.
2. Final Fantasy XV (PS4 & Xbox One)
The Final Fantasy series roared back to life with its 15th entry, an epic tale of swords and sorcery told through the surprisingly intimate backseat backdrop of a last-hurrah road trip. Three royal guards take their best-friend prince on one last scenic getaway through the vast countryside of their nation, as they equip themselves for a final push against the empire that has invaded the land. It’s a quirky take on fantasy storytelling that puts more focus on the campfire chats and tourist-trap group selfies that bookend the huge set pieces.
1. Hitman (PS4, Xbox One & PC)
No game was more perfectly realized in its themes and tone than the brutal and darkly funny Hitman. It envisions poetic societal justice through the eyes of near-mute Agent 47, who travels the globe eliminating moguls who are holding an arms auction at a gaudy fashion show, a rock star who got away with murder and is hunkered down in a recording studio and, yes, even a pair of burglars trying to ruin Christmas by stealing presents from a swanky mansion party. With a revolutionary model of release — the game was updated on a near-weekly basis with new content — and do-as-you-want design that rewards the craziest "I wonder if I could do that…" thinking, Hitman was the unabashedly fun, gallows-humoured tonic that was needed through the increasingly dismal 2016.
Mel Stefaniuk is a freelance writer whose loves of both video games and writing have been intertwined since growing up with the text adventures of the ‘80s. He can be found on Twitter as @DisgracedCop.