2016 was a bit of a banner year for gaming, with plenty of amazing new games coming out, from the latest iterations of blockbuster franchises like Battlefield and Call of Duty to new indie surprises like Superhot and Firewatch.
Almost all of the year’s best games made it onto the Xbox One, along with a few brilliant exclusives that you can’t play anywhere else, making the console’s game lineup better than ever.
2017 has brought along major new releases like Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and Mass Effect: Andromeda, and we’ve listed some of the most anticipated games of 2017 if you’re looking ahead – we’ll be adding some to this list as we get the chance to play them.
Still, now’s the perfect time to catch up on the best Xbox One games you missed the first time around – and remember to check for some of the best games deals around if you’re planning to pick anything up.
If you’re not too much of a platform loyalist, we’ve rounded up the best PS4 games and the year’s best PC games, and you should also check out our round up of the best games deals out there right now.
Battlefield 1 sees the iconic FPS series go back to basics. Worlds away from the modern, gadget-filled battles of recent franchise entries, or the cops-versus-robbers shootouts of Battlefield Hardline, BF1 instead takes the First World War for its setting.
The historical theme is no gimmick either, and developer DICE makes the most of the unique opportunities it offers for both storytelling and gameplay.
Battlefield 1’s single-player is split up into six separate War Stories’, each of which follows a different protagonist and explores a different element of WWI combat, from trench warfare to tanks and early airships. There’s an emphasis all the way through on the horrors of war, backed up by sobering statistics and facts about the real-life conflict.
The historical weapons also have their impact on the game’s multiplayer, encouraging close-quarters and melee combat, subtly shifting the tactics needed to win. There’s limited weapon customisation though, and the vehicles are as primitive and simple as the period requires.
Stunning graphics and expansive, detailed maps seal the deal, making Battlefield 1 one of 2016’s best games on any console.
Final Fantasy 15
The quality of a game should no doubt be measured by more than just how long it takes to complete it, but even so, there’s something to be said for a game that could give you hours of entertainment for each pound you spend on it.
On that basis alone, Final Fantasy XV alone is worth a purchase. The main story alone could take you 40-50 hours, but if you throw in all the side quests you’re looking at 200 hours in all, which should keep you busy for a good while.
The game shakes up the traditional Final Fantasy formula, not least in the real-time combat, which has proved divisive among long-term fans. It takes a little getting used to, but we found it to be extremely effective and intuitive once you do.
The open world is the franchise’s biggest yet, and the game lets you visit just about everything you can see from your car, making it feel more lived in and real than ever before. Throw in cooking, photography, and a host of other activities, and you can quickly see how the game could run up to 200 hours.
FFXV sees the franchise moving in a bold new direction, and between the engaging story, dynamic battles, and vast open world, we can’t wait to see where it goes next.
Gears of War 4
The first full Gears of War game since original developers Epic sold the rights to Microsoft, for the most part Gears of War 4 did not disappoint.
Set 25 years after the third game, it follows original protagonist Marcus Fenix’s son, JD, pitting him up against new enemies The Swarm, joined along the way by his friends Kait and Del, along with Marcus himself.
The story is smaller scale than Gears usually opts for, focusing on family dynamics and occasionally even skewing closer to horror than the original trilogy’s blockbuster action feel.
That’s not to say the action itself is stripped back though, and the core Gears gameplay is back in force. The new enemy types twist a few longstanding tactics around, along with new weapon types optimised for Gears 4’s cover-heavy combat, like a sniper rifle that deactivates if you aim down the sights for too long.
Multiplayer has had a few upgrades too. The ever-popular co-op Horde mode has had major tweaks, from varied player classes to a mobile ‘fabricator’ which bolsters your team, encouraging players to move round the map between waves rather than simply hunker down to survive.
There are some smart competitive modes too. Dodgeball gives each player just one life, but ‘tags’ them back in when a member of the opposing team dies, giving matches a great ebb and flow. Meanwhile Arms Race starts each team off with the game’s most powerful weapons and slowly downgrades them as the match goes on.
Gears of War 4 is a strong statement of intent from new developers The Coalition, and a reminder that the franchise is in safe hands on the Xbox One.
Watch Dogs 2
After months of hype, the first Watch Dogs was seen by some as a bit of an anticlimax – a fun GTA-alike with hacking thrown in, but not much more. That probably lowered expectations somewhat for the game’s sequel, which it turns out is actually a major improvement.
Gone is the first game’s moody, revenge-driven protagonist, replaced by a comparatively cheery young hacker named Marcus.
He joins the black hat hacking Group DedSec to take down the high-tech surveillance system in San Francisco and the wider Bay Area, though naturally there are plenty of other missions along the way, including breaking into a Google-esque campus, becoming an Uber driver, and even leaking a new game trailer from Ubisoft itself.
The tone is lighter than the first game, with plenty of hipster jokes and pop culture references – even their guns are 3D-printed.
The gameplay itself takes the original’s hacking-based stealth a step further, giving you a variety of ways through every encounter, and even multiple ways to hack most objects. You can take down cameras, overload electrical systems, and even take control of cars, turning missions into puzzles to solve.
Sometimes making it all the way through with stealth alone isn’t quite enough though, and the game’s gunplay is a bit of a letdown. The slightly generic cover-based shooting is unremarkable, and feels at odds with the rest of the game’s lighter tone.
Sniper Elite 4
The Sniper Elite franchise is famous for providing fans with a satisfying sniper-based shooter, and that’s not changing with Sniper Elite 4. While it’s much the same as previous games in the series, it comes with a handful of changes and improvements that take Sniper Elite from being a good sniper game, to one of the best.
Described as a “sniper’s paradise”, Sniper Elite 4 is focused more on gameplay than story – and it’s a smart choice too. In terms of sniper gameplay, Sniper Elite 4 is hands-down one of the best games we’ve ever played, with no game providing more satisfaction as you ping the helmets off the heads of your enemies from over 200m away. Those who want a Sniper sim aren’t interested in deep, brooding storylines and emotional protagonists, they just want to camp and headshot Nazis – what’s so bad about that?
The addition of climbing mechanics and environments that are three times larger than previous games provide a plethora of different ways to tackle your objectives, whether it be all-out chaos with exploding vehicles or a stealthy takedown from a far-away snipers nest. If you’re looking for a new, challenging shooter, look no further than Sniper Elite 4.
Read more in our Sniper Elite 4 review.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
The first-person perspective may be new to the series, but most of the rest of Resident Evil 7 is a return to its roots. Creepy mansion? Check. Sparse ammo? Check. Green herbs that magically heal even the gravest of wounds? Check, check, and check.
It’s not all old hat though. For one thing, there are no zombies. Instead you’re up against some fungal nasties called the Moulded and some rather homicidal hillbillies. Oh, and did we mention that they’re nigh-on invincible cannibals too?
It doesn’t always work (the boss battles fall a bit flat, but that’s really par for the course with Resident Evil games), but when it does it’s fantastic. Every sound, every movement, and even every door is a fresh source of horror, making this a shoo-in for ‘least relaxing game of 2017’.
Resident Evil 7 never feels quite as innovative as we thought it might be, and its influences are obvious (check out Amnesia and Alien: Isolation if you haven’t yet), but it’s hard to argue with the end result: unspeakable terror.
Read more in our Resident Evil 7 review.
Ever since it was released back in 2007, BioShock has basically become a genre in its own right, with countless games aping its environmental storytelling, copious audio logs, and mind-bending plot twists.
Prey is just the latest iteration in the formula, and it doesn’t do much to break out of it – you’ll explore and fight in first-person, use a mix of guns and superpowers equipped through some suspect sci-fi tech, and piece together how everything around you fell apart – in this case the Talos I space station, overrun by gloopy black aliens.
They’re the Typhon, and they’re probably Prey’s biggest innovations – not least the Mimics, small space spiders that disguise themselves as innocuous things like coffee cups and staplers right up until they transform and latch onto your face. Friendly little guys, really.
Still, even if Prey can’t quite break free from the formula, it’s a reminder that BioShock’s is still a tremendous formula, even ten years on. You can develop your abilities in myriad different ways, emphasizing stealthy sneak attacks, all-out firepower, or turn the Typhon’s own abilities against them with the later psionic powers.
None of it feels especially new or groundbreaking, but ultimately, Prey is following an old adage: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And this definitely ain’t broke.
Overwatch is Blizzard’s modern-day successor to Valve’s Team Fortress 2, a manic, team-based arena shooter where every character has different weapons, powers, and playstyles.
There’s no story to speak of, and no single-player beyond the training modes, so this one is all about heading online to battle it out in the competitive multiplayer.
In the main modes, two teams of six face off in a variety of colourful maps, usually with the aim of capturing or defending various control points.
While the main gameplay modes can be similar, Overwatch also has weekly brawls with special rules, like giving every player 50 percent health, or forcing everyone to use a random new hero every time they die, so there’s plenty of variety to enjoy.
There are more than 20 heroes to pick from, and each is totally different. Bastion can switch back and forth between a mobile robot and a static sentry gun, Tracer can teleport forwards and rewind time to recover health, and the monstrous Roadhog uses a giant chain hook to drag enemies towards himself.
Blizzard has already added a few new heroes since Overwatch launched, and has promised further free updates down the line, so the game should hopefully only get better — and it’s already pretty fantastic.
Agents of Mayhem
Set in the same universe as the Saints Row series, Volition’s Agents of Mayhem is an extremely fun game to play with a distinct super hero movie/comic book vibe.
It features a wide range of characters to choose from, all with unique abilities and weaponry. The ability to switch between three characters on the fly is unique, and provides a unique way to approach battles.
But while the gameplay is fun, the storyline isn’t the most entertaining we’ve ever come across. It’s enough to get you through the campaign, it’s not a memorable one – and that’s a shame, given the developer’s history with the Saints Row series.
So while the gameplay is enjoyable, it’s a little short-lived and it isn’t a game we imagine you’ll sink weeks or months into.
DOOM heads back to the 1993 original game and revamps it for a modern audience, pairing the rapid-fire, all-action gameplay with modern graphics and complex, detailed environments.
There’s not much story to distract you: demons are spilling out of a portal on Mars, and it’s your job to kill them.
The combat in DOOM is intense and fast-paced, with little cover or health regeneration, so the focus is on thinking and acting fast, dodging demons and using your varied, customisable weapons to take them out in impressively gory fashion.
The expansive environments are the biggest advance from the 1993 original, making the most of vertical space so that you have to keep track of multiple dimensions at once. You’ve got to keep jumping and moving constantly if you want to survive the chaos.
The DOOM online multiplayer is a different beast entirely, offering more closed-quarters environments perfect for online gameplay. Instead of arena-based battling, it feels more like Call of Duty, with game modes like Team Deathmatch and Domination, and custom weapon loadouts and experience-based levelling.
We probably wouldn’t have guessed that one of our favourite games of 2016 would be a remote control car version of football, but Rocket League took a lot of people by surprise.
The premise is simple: you control a rocket-powered car in an enormous football pitch surrounded by walls and a ceiling, and have to use any means necessary to get the giant ball into the opposing team’s goal.
Matches range from 1v1 up to 4v4, and last just five minutes each, with the potential for overtime to avoid a tie. That keeps each one short but sweet, and gives the game that irresistible ‘one more match’ feeling every time you finish one up.
The highly customisable cars can jump and double jump up into the air, and there’s a pretty steep learning curve before you get the hang of actually hitting the ball, let alone sending it in the right direction. But once you do, it’s immensely satisfying, and before long you’ll be learning how to save, pass, and score, and getting deep into Rocket League tactics.
As with any online game, the other players can be the weak point, and there’s a frustrating tendency for players on losing teams to quit midway through.
At under £15 Rocket League is pretty hard to turn down, and it’s an undeniable bargain. Throw in the customisation, points, and levelling system, and there’s plenty to keep you occupied for hours.
Halo Wars 2
The Halo franchise may be best known for first-person shooting, but back in 2009 Halo Wars made a brief foray in real-time strategy, with one of the only RTS games designed first and foremost for console players.
For a while it looked like it was destined to be a one-off, until Microsoft made the surprise announcement of a Halo Wars 2, created in collaboration between Halo franchise stewards 343 Industries and strategy masterminds Creative Assembly – best known for the Total War games.
The result is a game that continues the aim of marrying the RTS with a console controller, while doing its best to preserve the deep strategy the best of the genre can offer. In practice, there’s inevitably a bit of simplification, though the devs have done a remarkable job of making the gamepad controls feel natural and intuitive.
There’s the standard campaign mode and online multiplayer options, but the big draw for some will be the new Blitz mode. This aims to make the most of the gamepad by offering a simplified, faster version of the game for multiplayer, replacing base-building with card-based system for playing units – think Command & Conquer mashed up with Hearthstone.
Forza Horizon 3
Forza Horizon 3 takes the open world racing series to its largest setting yet: Australia. All of it, basically, or at least as close as they could get.
You’ll race across outback, rainforest, beaches, cities, and more, each intricately realised and impressively vast.
There’s enough variation in the setting to keep you occupied just driving around the world in any of the 350 vehicles on offer, even without factoring in the game’s missions and races.
They include the festival events dotted around the map, but you get to do a lot more than just race in them. This time around the player is the director of the Horizon Festival, meaning it’s up to you to hire and fire racers, as well as set rules, vehicles types, and other constraints for each of the race events.
Driving feels exciting and realistic, but is just relaxed enough to never feel like painstaking simulation. The emphasis here is squarely on keeping things fun and light, though without ever becoming entirely cartoonish.
The Xbox One occasionally gets criticism for having fewer exclusives than the PS4, but Forza Horizon 3 is a reminder that there are still some Xbox-only series can’t be beat.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
If Battlefield 1 was all about going back in time, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare heads in the opposite direction. The latest iteration of the blockbuster franchise turns to space for a sci-fi spectacle about a rebellious Martian colony.
The new setting offers a few new gameplay touches too. The single-player campaign introduces dogfighting courtesy of your spaceship the Jackal, while even the on-foot combat is spruced up by occasional zero-gravity segments.
The campaign is one of the franchise’s best yet, bolstered by the inclusion of Game of Thrones star Kit Harington in a major role. He adds a bit of depth and gravitas to a story that’s mostly driven by enormous explosions and Hollywood-style spectacle.
Sadly the online multiplayer can’t quite live up to the same standard. The powerful, rapid-firing weapons mean that death tends to come around slightly too often, which gets frustrating after a while.
Still, there’s plenty of room for progression and customising your loadout which will keep players engaged, and the campaign mode offers enough big, dumb fun to make the game well worth your while.
There’s been no shortage of jokes about gamers never venturing outside over the years, and Firewatch will only add fuel to the fire. After all, when virtual nature looks this good, why would you ever bother trekking out into the real thing?
You play a fire lookout named Henry, watching over a US national forest in the late ‘80s. You’re in radio contact with the next lookout over, Delilah, but are otherwise entirely isolated in the Wyoming wilderness.
The gameplay mostly boils down to talking to Delilah and exploring the ludicrously beautiful landscapes as you unpack a few strange events that may be tied to a years-old mystery.
The story is compelling, and the relationship between Henry and Delilah is moving and feels genuine, but they’re not what make Firewatch one of the best Xbox One games out at the moment: that’s all down to Wyoming.
Firewatch’s fictional take on the Shoshone National Forest is every bit as beautiful as the real thing, with lush landscapes, varied vistas, and stunning sunsets.
In fact, the game is so gorgeous that you’ll probably want to take a few photos to remember it by – which is why you can use the in-game camera to snap a few screens and have developer Campo Santo actually develop the photos for you, giving you a set of souvenir photos from a holiday you never really took.
The first Titanfall may have been multiplayer-only, but the second time around it’s taken that same intense, mobile action (and giant robots) and squeezed it into one of the year’s best single-player campaigns.
Across six or so hours you battle across an alien planet backed by your friendly Titan – a huge, sentient battle tank that can operate independently, or you can take direct control, giving you access to its array of cannons, rockets, railguns, and other destructive toys.
You’ve got a few tricks outside the Titan too, as you can double jump and wall-run, resulting in a game that’s a bit of a blend of Call of Duty and Mirror’s Edge.
The campaign throws plenty at you, from electrified walls and moving platforms to one level that is literally built around you as you play. Much like the best Mario games, each level introduces a new concept, plays around with it for a while, and then moves on at the end, ready to find something new to throw at you.
As for the multiplayer, it’s still Titanfall, but there have been a few tweaks. Titans are now a little less durable, but a new battery system encourages human players to steal health packs from enemy Titans and deliver them to teammates.
There are plenty of different combat modes, including a few boasting A.I. grunts alongside the human players. You can also level up specific weapons and gear, letting you customise both functionality and appearance. And yes, you can decorate your Titan too.
Reviving the long-dormant XCOM strategy series with 2012’s Enemy Unknown was no easy feat, so there were always high hopes for this year’s sequel, the more simply named XCOM 2, but it’s hard to imagine anyone was disappointed by it.
Set years after the first game, in a world in which humanity lost its initial war against the alien invaders, the XCOM team is no longer a massive interplanetary defence force, but instead a small band of renegades and outlaws.
That changes the scope of many missions, which are now built around a new stealth mechanic that allows you to move your team into an optimum position and launch an ambush on the first unsuspecting enemies you find.
Missions are also likely to boast secondary objectives, and some set strict time limits, forcing you to abandon the safety of cover and dash forward across the map in order to succeed in time.
Maps are generated procedurally, meaning there’s more variation than before, and they’re packed with new enemy types – including a few re-purposed from the original ‘90s series like the Viper.
XCOM 2 is the rare sequel that feels better than the original in just about every way – and the original was already fantastic, so that’s really saying something.
With its first game, Limbo, developer Playdead proved it was at the top of the puzzle-platformer genre. Somehow, against the odds, it’s done one better with the impeccable Inside.
Things kick off with you controlling a young boy trying to sneak into some sort of dystopian factory/facility/lab. As you sneak from left to right in an oppressive dark world you have to evade guards, dogs, and a particularly aggressive pig until you make your way inside and it all gets a lot weirder.
Saying too much would spoil a lot of the game’s best surprises, but the plot is gradually (and wordlessly) revealed as you best the game’s intricate physics puzzles and escape various threats, all building towards a final act that’s just, well, insane. Utterly insane.
The puzzles are smart and challenging, but rarely frustrating, holding you up for just long enough to satisfy when you figure them out, without ever becoming an irritation.
The game is also visually stunning, adding more detail than Limbo’s stark silhouettes. It still keeps things simple though, bolstered by impressive lighting effects and characterful animations.
Inside is intelligent and original, and at just £15 remains one of the most memorable gameplay experiences of the year.
Dark Souls 3
By now you probably know whether or not Dark Souls 3 is for you. The Souls games quickly acquired cult status for their intense difficulty and deep fantasy lore, but they’re pretty much the Marmite of modern gaming.
Some players find themselves obsessed by the challenge, playing and re-playing segments endlessly to perfect the sequence of moves to navigate past enemies to the next all-important campfire.
Others just see it as dying. And dying again. And again. Then a few more times. Then they throw their controller at the wall and storm off, never to play a Souls game again.
Dark Souls 3 is, like the best of the series, relentless and unforgiving, demanding precision and persistence from players, but it’s worth the work.
Combat has been tweaked slightly, learning a few lessons from developer FromSoftware’s Victorian gothic adventure Bloodborne to make fights faster paced. A new magic system is also inherited from Demon’s Souls, adding a new dimension to gameplay.
As the third (and potentially final) in the series, Dark Souls 3 could never be as groundbreaking as its predecessors. But it’s as polished, satisfying, and compulsive as Souls games get.
Pairing action gameplay with live-action storytelling – all wrapped up in a plot about manipulating time – Quantum Break was always an ambitious idea.
The core third-person shooter mechanics are enhanced by an array of time manipulation powers that allow you to speed up and slow down time for both yourself and your enemies – freezing opponents in place, or dashing to cover in an instant.
Quantum Break’s biggest innovation is in its use of live-action however, breaking up the game’s five acts with episodes of a TV series that expands on the story, offering different perspectives and widening the game’s world.
There are some pretty big stars involved too. Shawn Ashmore plays the game’s lead, with Aidan Gillen as the big bad, while the likes of Lance Reddick and Dominic Monaghan round out the cast.
Players can also influence the way that both the game and the TV series play out, their decisions impacting the progression of the plot – though it all comes back to about the same ending no matter what you do, so don’t expect things to diverge too wildly.
The first thing you notice about Superhot is its striking visual style, in which the world is reduced to shades of white, broken only by black guns and bright red baddies – and bullets. The visuals are brilliant, unforgettable, and somehow the least interesting part of the game.
Superhot is a first-person shooter, but not like any you’ve played before. Time in the game only moves when you do, slowing to a crawl whenever you stand still, making each level a series of tiny strategic encounters.
You pause, evaluate the room, and plan a move to avoid incoming attackers and hopefully take a couple out. Then you pause again, re-evaluate, and form a new plan, clearing the encounter by increments, surviving so long as you master the split-second timing.
There’s a surprisingly sinister campaign, which delves into some very meta storytelling, backed up by a number of challenge modes to further test your skills.
There’s a diverse array of guns, explosive, and melee weapons, including a fair few improvised weapons you can grab to throw at enemies. One of the game’s most fun maneuvers sees you stun enemies to disarm them, stealing their weapon in the process.
Superhot is one of those rare games that feels genuinely new, and unlike anything that’s come before it.