Overlooked games of 2016

The best games too few played.

A lot of games released last year. To keep up with the downpour, Tom has been collecting the most interesting, under-the-radar Steam releases every week for a few months now, which we’ll continue to do in 2017. But whether we shone a light on them or missed them altogether during the busy seasons, a lot of great games went underappreciated last year. 

Before we move on to a big new year of games, we’re holding up some of our favorites from 2016 that we think deserve more eyes. Check them out and let us know in the comments what games you think deserved more attention. Together we will help right the balance of the PC gaming universe.

Brigador

Developer: Stellar Jockeys | Buy it: Humble Store, Steam

One of the most challenging games of 2016 fills a niche for those who value mastery. Being good at Brigador’s isometric tank and mech combat requires patience and practice, and the difficulty doesn’t ramp up gently. As with Devil Daggers and Darkest Dungeon this year, the difficulty is the game. Without it you’d just be rolling around beautiful neon-lit pixel cities (not so bad, really), but with it you’re forced to master complex locomotion and precision weaponry to navigate its destructable urban mazes. I tapped out after a few hours, but there’s a lot to unpack for the dedicated, and the soundtrack is fantastic. —Tyler Wilde

The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human

Developer: YCJY | Buy it: Humble Store, Steam, GOG

Aquatic Adventure takes the form of a Metroidvania, but strips out the bloat. As the last human on a submerged earth, you move a tiny submarine through colorful underwater environments, looking for weapon upgrades and fighting huge bosses. Since the movement is quick and the world design is so interconnected, Aquatic Adventure removes the tedium of backtracking and leaves more room for curiosity and wonder. Accompanied by a bubbly, reverberating soundtrack, it’s a fascinating dose of exploration adventure as challenging and disorienting and intriguing as the best of the genre, but only requires a fraction of the busywork to get through. —James Davenport 

Inversus

Developer: Hypersect | Buy it: Humble Store, Steam

Inversus makes me think of Treasure's incredible SHMUP Ikaruga, which revolves around switching between light and dark. Inversus is a competitive multiplayer game that uses that mechanic just as brilliantly. If you're a white puck, you can only move on black squares and your bullets carve a black path you can travel down, while your black puck opponent can only move on white squares and fires bullets that flip tiles back to white, blocking you in the process. Linking attacking and movement to a single button is brilliantly simple and surprisingly difficult to wrap your head around. Crazy stage shapes make things even more mind-bending. A worthy addition to the local multiplayer rotation with games like Overcooked and Towerfall. —Wes Fenlon

Ratz Instagib

Developer: Lino Slahuschek | Buy it: Humble Store, Steam

Ratz was in Early Access prior to 2016, but quietly left over the summer—and as a big proponent of the game, I’m sorry to say I missed the news of its full release. I love Ratz Instagib: it’s a purified dose of Unreal Tournament Instagib, focused entirely on aiming and movement. The left mouse button fires a one-hit-kill laser beam, and the right mouse button rocket jumps (without the rocket). The more you hop around, the faster you go. It’s simple and clean, with tons of customization options, a map making tool, and a friendly community of players. Just prepare to be thoroughly crushed for a while if your Quake skills are rusty. —Tyler Wilde

Death Road To Canada

Developer: Rocketcat Games| Buy it: Humble Store, Steam, GOG

This is one of Evan’s favorites from 2016, and now that I’ve given it a whirl—dying pathetically at the side of the road—I’m on board with Death Road. As your car rumbles toward supposedly zombie-free Canada, Oregon Trail-style events pop up. Plow through a bandit checkpoint? Pick up a hitchhiker who is clearly Garfield, America’s Favorite Cat? When you make stops to scavenge for supplies, it’s a risky run through a maze of zombies, with simple one button combat to fend them off. It isn’t the most satisfying zombie whacking, but like other Rogue-adjacent games out there, Death Road is really about the friends you make along the way and the stories their horrible deaths tell. It's great in co-op, too. —Tyler Wilde 

Meadow

Developer: Might and Delight | Buy it: Humble Store, Steam

Of all the MMOs I’ve played this year, Meadow is the one I can’t stop thinking about because it’s so insistent on not really being an MMO. There’s no grinding, no dungeons, and no quests enticing you forward with their carrot-on-a-stick gear upgrades. Instead, Meadow is about frolicking around with the furry friends you meet and not much else. And it works. As I wrote back in November, Meadow’s barebones approach to online roleplaying creates ample space for tender moments with the strangers you meet. It might lack all the grandeur of its peers like World of Warcraft, but it doesn’t lose anything in the process. Instead, Meadow quietly rekindles what makes MMOs so exciting—that players can have a social experience they would never otherwise have. —Steven Messner