The Banner Saga 2 is less of a game and more of a small chapter in a larger narrative; but it's a satisfying chapter. The story hits some interesting beats and although the ending left a little to be desired, it didn't sour the overall experience for me. The series' trademark beauty is in full effect, and the scale it creates is awesome. Seeing your troupe stretch for miles across the fantastical terrain is breathtaking. I'm not generally a fan of strategy RPGs, but the art, music and story of Banner Saga are more than enough to hold my attention. I'll definitely be seeing this saga through to the end.
Aiming for someone's nostalgia may be a cheap shot, but in the case of I am Setsuna, it was a welcome one. The game relied almost exclusively on its retro charms, and I was okay with that. I knew exactly how to play Setsuna. I love ATB and playing Setsuna felt like reuniting with an old friend. We had both done some growing, and maybe that old friend wasn't quite as cool as I had remembered, but that sense of familiarity was all I needed. The story was bog standard and a lot of the game had the stench of "budget title," but I'd rather have a few mediocre throwback RPGs than have none at all. I hope we see more from Tokyo RPG Factory in the future.
Odin Sphere may be way too long for its own good, but I still enjoyed my time with it. It's the first game I beat from VanillaWare, and the smooth mechanics and killer animations really make you feel like you are kicking some serious ass when you get a combo going. The boss battles are big and beautiful, but they start to lose their charm when you are fighting the same ones over and over again. The whole food system takes some getting used, to but it is never too much of a hassle. If you are looking for a stylish action RPG ripped literally from the PS2 generation, check out Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir.
I love The Witcher 3. It may be cheating to bring up a piece of DLC in game of the year talks, but I don't care. Blood and Wine offers a complete experience, and it was easily one of my favorites of 2016. Most of the Blood and Wine's best bits are better left as surprises, so I won't go into detail, but if you enjoyed The Witcher 3 at all, you owe it to yourself to check out CD Projekt Red's amazing expansion. It has all of the monster hunting, horse racing and delightful storytelling of the base game while adding new features like the Mutagen system. I've likely put over 150 hours into The Witcher 3 by this point, and the 30 hours spent with Blood and Wine are some of the best.
Dark Souls III is not an experience I'm looking to replicate anytime soon, but my time with the game was mesmerizing and I'd go to sleep after playing all day with shadows of enemies imprinted on my eyelids. I spent five days deep in the game and emerged a victor. I had shortcuts memorized. I had grinding spots memorized. I had boss patterns memorized. I used this knowledge to walk several friends and relatives through the game in a way I've never done before, and it was because of Dark Souls' tough but intuitive design that all of this information stuck with me. I'll always know how to beat Yhorm the Giant. I'll always know how to get to Archdragon Peak. Whether I like it or not. Dark Souls III stuck with me unlike any game has ever done before, and I'm sure others who braved its many terrors would express a similar sentiment.