Guide to the games of 2016

Platformer and puzzle games

Hollow Knight

Developer: Team Cherry
Publisher: Team Cherry
Release date: 2016
Link: Official site

Hollow Knight

If the Ori from Ori and the Blind Forest had a nightmare, Hollow Knight would be it. As an 2D action platformer, Hollow Knight is all about exploring vast, interconnected environments, upgrading your skills, and battling spooky creatures. It’s all done in a style that says ‘Tim Burton’s trapper keeper,’ but without swaying too far into cliched territory. Everything else aside, with a starting village called Dirtmouth, Hollow Knight is already someone’s game of the year.

Obduction

Developer: Cyan
Publisher: Cyan
Release date: Spring 2016
Link: Obduction

Obduction

You may remember a little PC game called Myst, which made a small splash on the PC many years ago. Creator Rand Miller came back to the first person exploration puzzler with a Kickstarter for Obduction, the spiritual successor to Myst and Riven. We expect to do a lot of walking around and scratching our heads at the puzzles—or trying to, if we’re playing with a VR headset on. Cyan plans to support VR for the Unreal Engine 4-powered game. This definitely won’t make its likely obscure puzzles all the more maddening to solve.

Quadrilateral Cowboy

Developer: Blendo Games
Publisher: Blendo Games
Release date: TBD
Link: Official site

Quadrilateral Cowboy

Quadrilateral Cowboy is set in the same universe as the short, experimental gems Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights of Loving, but developer Brendon Chung has plans for something even more BASIC this time around. BASIC as in programming, that is. In Quadrilateral Cowboy, your character is equipped with a “top-of-the-line hacking deck” that allows you to jack into security systems and robotic agents. From there, you need to write simplified code that allows for safe infiltration of an area without raising any alarms.

Ultimate Chicken Horse

Developer: Clever Endeavour Games
Publisher: Clever Endeavour Games
Release date: February 2016
Link: Official site

Ultimate Chicken

It’s the marriage of Super Meat Boy’s precision platforming and the classic basketball spinoff, H.O.R.S.E. Ultimate Chicken Horse has players trading gos at short platforming segments, taking turns adding traps and obstacles until one fails. As the developers put it in their trailer, it’s a fine balance between working together to make a level possible, and being a huge jerk.

Rain World

Developer: Videocult
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Release date: 2016
Link: Official site

Rain World concept

Rainworld is a 2D survival platformer by Joar Jakobsson, with music from James Primate (aka Bright Primate). Physics-based animation combined with Rain World’s adorable ‘slugcat’ protagonist has made for some great gifs, but it’s as treacherous as it is cute. Lots of things want to eat slugcat, and they roam the world, reacting to the way you play, and probably eating you a lot.

Cuphead

Developer: Studio MDHR
Publisher: Studio MDHR
Release date: 2016
Link: Official site

Cuphead

Take a trip in a time machine with a game that has nothing to do with time travel. Cuphead is a 2D sidescrolling platformer that seeks to emulate the art style of classic cartoons from the 30’s—and from what we’ve seen so far, Studio MDHR has done a tremendous job. You can play singleplayer or co-op, battling large, screen-filling bosses in each level. How fun the game will be is still to be seen, but the game’s art is more than enough to take notice.

Manifold Garden

Developer: William Chyr
Publisher: William Chyr
Release date: 2016
Link: Official site

Manifold Garden

With its call to reimagine physics, we can already see how our time with Manifold Garden will play out. “Suck it, physics! You’ve got nothing!” we’ll shout, after we imagine physics totally sucking and not being as smart or handsome as we are. More seriously: Manifold Garden looks like the game MC Escher would’ve made if he had ever heard of video games. You’ll be navigating its dauntingly layered architecture and manipulating gravity to turn floors to walls and vice versa. Our senses of reality are already aching in anticipation.

Yooka-Laylee

Developer: Playtonic Games
Publisher: Team17
Release date: October, 2016
Link: Official site

Yooka Laylee

Making over £2,000,000 on Kickstarter, Yooka-Laylee is being developed by a small team of former developers at Rare. Having previously worked on Donkey Kong Country and Banjo-Kazooie, Yooka-Laylee is a sort of spiritual successor to the latter. Like Banjo-Kazooie, it’s a 3D platformer that puts you in control of a pair of anthropomorphic animals; this time a Chameleon (Yooka) and a Bat (Laylee). Playtonic Games was very cautious of feature creep during the crowdfunding portion of the project and say they are trying to find the same creative spark that helped their previous games be so successful.

Unravel

Developer: Coldwood Interactive
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release date: February 2016
Link: Official Site / Amazon

Unravel

Physics-based platformer Unravel stars Yarny, a tiny red sprite made of yarn who must undertake a perilous adventure while using his own string to solve puzzles. Yarny can climb his yarn-testinal tract like rope, tie it to objects, pull things with it, swing from it, and find other ways to use his own body to survive the dangerous environment along his journey. The world itself looks beautifully photoreal, and Yarny himself is quite the adorable and sympathetic golem.

Update: It's out now! Here's our Unravel review.

The Witness

Developer: Thekla, Inc.
Publisher: Thekla, Inc.
Release date: January 26, 2016
Link: Official site

The Witness

The next game from the creator of Braid, The Witness is a first person puzzle game where you explore a large, uninhabited island. In order to progress, you must solve puzzles on small panels scattered around the world. Although it looks like Myst in its presentation, the puzzles themselves are more similar to what you would expect from a traditional puzzle game. Designer Jonathan Blow’s puzzle design has already proven to be impressive in Braid, and The Witness’ world is shaping up to be one of the prettiest we may see in 2016.

Update: It's out now! Here's our review of The Witness.

Xing: The Land Beyond

Developer: White Lotus Interactive
Publisher: White Lotus Interactive
Release date: 2016
Link: Official site

Xing

Another page out of the book of Myst, Xing is a puzzle adventure through the afterlife. Poetry and puzzles live alongside mysticism in a world that looks pretty darn beautiful. We’re most curious about the ability to alter the weather, and how making it rain or snow will affect the environment and factor into puzzle solving. Xing is, naturally, also going to be playable in VR on the Oculus Rift.

Pony Island

Developer: Daniel Mullins Games
Publisher: Daniel Mullins Games
Release date: Out now
Link: Steam store

Pony Island 2

Pony Island is one of our favorite games of the year so far (read our review). It's a mix of simple platforming and puzzles, and there's nothing really exceptional about that, but it's one of those games that gets prefaced with "Oh, you'll see." It's a fourth-wall-breaking tale of the Devil in a machine, with some cunning ways of messing with its player. Cheap, short, and memorable, Pony Island has the feeling of a delirious late night Adult Swim production.