2015 was an amazing year for AAA games. It was the year of a Taken King and a Bloody Baron, the year of the Big Boss and the Master Chief. A year where we crafted levels for Mario and Settlements in the Commonwealth.
With all of the huge game releases in 2015, you might be safe in assuming 2016 will see a bit of a slump, with fewer major titles to look forward to. You would be wrong. 2016 is shaping up to be an amazing year as this generation of consoles hits their stride, and we see the return of some of our favorite franchises as well as a few newcomers seeking to make their mark on the gaming world.
The list of games was so extensive, I really had trouble getting it down to just ten. Therefore, you may notice some notable exclusions. Games like DOOM, Far Cry Primal, Quantum Break, Fire Emblem Fates, Hitman, and Gears of War 4 could easily make this list in any other year. There are also games we just don’t know enough about yet to include here, such as Horizon: Zero Dawn or Destiny Year 3. Then there are the games that we haven’t heard from in a while, and seem like they may slip to 2017, such as the new Legend of Zelda, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, and Crackdown 3.
By the way, this is all in year that could see the emergence of VR, and all the possibilities opened up by that new platform, as well as a year we may finally get to learn what Nintendo has up their sleeve with the NX. No matter how you slice it, 2016 is going to be pretty exciting, so strap in and get ready.
Here, in alphabetical order, is our list of most anticipated AAA games for 2016:
Dark Souls III
Hidetaka Miyazaki returns to the Souls series after a brief detour with Bloodborne, and it looks like he is applying a few of the lessons he learned with that game to Dark Souls III. The new game looks to streamline and increase the speed of combat, and introduces a new Weapon Arts system which adds new special attacks triggered from the new Ready Stance. For those of you lamenting the lack of shields in Bloodborne, worry not: they make a return here, and even play into the new Weapon Arts system. All of this should come together to create the best Souls game yet.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Adam Jensen is back, and he is bringing an all-new arsenal of high-tech weaponry and cybernetic augmentations with him to – you guessed it – unravel a global conspiracy and save the world. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided continues the series’ legacy of giving players choice of how they want to approach the game. Will you use stealth or go in guns blazing? Will you hack a security panel or talk your way in? Regardless of how you choose to play, the game looks like it is going to be a blast.
Final Fantasy XV
If this list was in order of the time people have been waiting for the game, Final Fantasy XV would be near the top. The latest major installment in the Final Fantasy series was originally announced all the way back in in 2006 as Final Fantasy XIII Versus, and was going to be a PS3-exclusive. A lot has changed about the game since then, including its title. FFXV features an open world that can be explored on foot, in a car, or via chocobo. It also features a new real-time combat engine, dubbed the Active Cross Combat System, that looks to be inspired by Final Fantasy Type-O and Kingdom Hearts.
Mass Effect Andromeda
Not much is known about Bioware’s new Mass Effect game, slated for release in time for the holidays this year. We know it takes place in the Andromeda Galaxy, hence the name. We know the main character is a human and isn’t Shepard. We know it takes place a long time after the events of the original trilogy. Finally, we know it features an updated version of the M35 Mako vehicle, which – depending on your feelings about the Mako in the original game – is either a good or a bad thing. That leaves a whole lot of unanswered questions that need to be addressed very soon. Consider my curiosity piqued.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
The original Mirror’s Edge was an extremely promising experiment in first-person platforming with a unique premise, setting, look, and feel. Unfortunately, it failed to live up to all of its promises, and had some issues with the way it handled combat, the linear nature of the level design, the length of the game, and the plot. This resulted in generally positive reviews, but the game failed to meet sales expectations. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst seeks to address the issues from the previous game with an overhauled combat system, a new open-world level design, and side activities to flesh out the length of the game. The game landscape has changed a great deal since the first game’s release in 2008, yet there still isn’t a game that has managed to nail the feel of first-person platforming and exploration. Let’s hope Mirror’s Edge Catalyst lives up to its potential and takes the platforming genre in an all-new direction and perspective.
Team-based shooters featuring a variety of character classes are nothing new. Games like Team Fortress 2 seek to get players to work together and utilize character combinations and powers to get a leg up on the other team. What makes Overwatch special is Blizzard’s ability to make each of its twenty-one different characters feel unique, with distinct personalities and powers. With a series of betas leading up to launch this summer, the game should be in excellent shape come this summer.
Street Fighter V
The fifth numbered installment in the beloved Street Fighter series arrives early this year exclusively for the PlayStation 4 and PC. Street Fighter V doesn’t appear to stray too far from the Street Fighter formula, with the return of systems like the EX special moves and Guard Break meter from previous games. It does include some refinements, such as swapping out the Focus Attacks from SFIV with the new V-Gauge system. Series regulars such as Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, and Zangief make a return alongside new additions F.A.N.G., Laura, Necalli. and Rashid. Time to start saving up for a new fight stick.
The Last Guardian
Here is another title that shares the honors with Final Fantasy XV for longest wait. In fact, several times since development began in 2007, the title might have been written off as vaporware. Flash back to E3 last year, and Sony’s surprise press conference announcement that not only was The Last Guardian very much alive, but it was coming in 2016. The game comes from the creators of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, so you can understand why expectations are high.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
This is supposedly the last installment in the Uncharted series starring hero Nathan Drake, and the last developed by Naughty Dog. This time Nathan’s long-lost older brother Sam is along for the ride as they seek the fabled pirate utopia, Libertalia, in search of Captain Henry Avery’s treasure. I certainly hope it isn’t the last we see of the character, as I always enjoy tagging along with Drake and his partner Sully on their escapades. If Uncharted 4 is the last adventure of Nathan Drake, you can bet it will be a good one.
The king of turn-based tactical games is back in the sequel to 2012’s excellent series reboot. I got some time with XCOM 2 late last year, and am happy to say that fans of the last game won’t be disappointed. It carries over many of the systems from the last game, including a deep tactical combat system and an extremely deep customization and progression system for your squad members. As is standard in XCOM games, your squad members can die during missions, so you need to plan carefully and utilize the strengths of the five different soldier classes in order to make it through each mission with minimal losses. The game introduces a new concealment phase during missions where you try to maneuver your troops in order to get the drop on the enemy. XCOM 2 is one of the first big releases of 2016, arriving Feb. 5. Hopefully that will tide us over until some of the other games hit later this year.
The announcement of the follow-up to the 2012 stealth-action hit Dishonored was a bit of a surprise at last year’s E3. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard much about the game since then. Here’s hoping we do get our hands on the game in 2016 for more teleporting, time-stopping, possessions and other unique ways to carry out assassinations.
If last year’s Persona 4: Dancing All Night didn’t exactly scratch your itch for more Persona, then this year’s fifth main entry in the series, Persona 5. should do the trick. The signature high school setting, unique cast of characters, Social Link system, and Persona-based combat system all return, and look just as stylish and charming as ever.
Tom Clancy’s The Division
Ubisoft’s newest entry into the Tom Clancy franchise is an open-world, third-person online multiplayer shooter that integrates RPG leveling and skill systems as well as survival elements. The Division features both co-op and competitive multiplayer, and – as seen in one of the trailers shown at E3 – the ability to turn rogue and betray your co-op teammates during missions. Sound ambitious? It is. Later this year, we will get to see firsthand if they are able to pull all of these systems together to create a cohesive, compelling experience.
There you have it, our 2016 list of most anticipated AAA games. For more great games to look forward to, make sure to check out our list of most anticipated indie releases this year.