Game of the Year 2016

Best Characters

This is all about a game’s cast. It isn’t limited to the main character, but also includes party members, enemies, and NPCs that have an influence on the story. Having just one great character won’t land a game on this list, but in the same vein, having a lackluster lead isn’t necessarily disqualifying — assuming the other cast members are awesome. Dialogue, writing, vocal performance, and motion capture obviously have a large impact on the success of a character, but I also want to highlight unique characters, ones with a good backstory, and well-developed character relationships.

Honorable Mentions

Skyrim Special Edition

5. Oxenfree

The story in Oxenfree doesn’t work without its characters. In fact, the entire game doesn’t work without its characters. While they often border on that hipster line of people I wouldn’t actually want to hang out with in real life, they all have unique personalities that help sell their unique perspectives on what’s happening in the game. Some of the best moments are just starting up optional conversations among the group.

4. The Banner Saga 2

The reason The Banner Saga 2’s story and world are so engrossing and captivating is because you really care about the characters and what happens to them. In a game that often feels so depressing and hopeless, it would be easy for the characters to come across as defeated sad sacks. But the fact that so many of them maintain hope is the reason you as a player want to keep going. All of the characters have such a unique place in your party that losing one hurts for many reasons. And you lose a lot of them…

3. Ratchet & Clank

Captain Quark is one of my favorite video game characters of all time and Dr. Nefarious is the best villain in the Ratchet & Clank series — which is known for its excellent and hilarious villains. Add on top of that a main character with tons of charm and his adorable, dryly sarcastic robot companion and you have one of the best collections of characters in a video game this year. It’s actually crazy that Ratchet & Clank didn’t end up higher on the list, but that’s just how strong 2016 was.

2. Firewatch

The relationship between Henry and Delilah is so real-to-life that it’s actually kind of painful to experience. And Henry’s backstory of his marriage falling apart is truly gut-wrenching. The way these characters get to know each other slowly over time feels like it’s drawn from a movie, it’s so well handled. Firewatch has some deficiencies in how its plot is developed and the ending definitely left me wanting more, but it’s hard to find fault in the two leads. And all of this is done over an in-game radio.

1. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

People’s feelings on Nathan Drake are a bit complicated. On the one hand, he’s a fun Indiana Jones type with charm to spare. But on the other side, he’s a mass murderer that’s constantly getting in his own way in his relationships. I think Uncharted 4 really rounds out Nathan Drake and brings his love story with Elena to a better close than Uncharted 3. And while Sam’s inclusion comes out of nowhere, he’s a great addition to the Uncharted side character roster. I’m also a big fan of Nadine and even Rafe is a more compelling villain than we’ve seen in the past. Few dudes this year were more punchable.

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