Time to kill over the holidays? Here are the best games of 2016

Steve Hogarty
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A first-person shooter in which time only moves when you move, Superhot strips down gunfights to the fundamentals. Each level is a short Jon Woo-style action film vignette – a bar brawl, a heist – in which you plan your moves precisely, dodging gunfire and grabbing weapons in mid-air as they fly from the hands of dead enemies. Tactical and highly innovative.

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Feeling like the conclusion of decades of work by Naughty Dog, the final entry in the Uncharted series appealed even to those who didn’t harbour much nostalgia or fondness for the blockbuster, on-rails adventure games. Bringing together the best bits of all that’s come before, it’s an emotive, spectacular and ultra-refined third-person shooter. Truly state of the art.

Oxenfree is a a brilliantly unusual narrative-based game in which you control the sassy conversations of a recently bereaved young girl as she joins her pals on a spooky, haunted island. Part ghost story, part sci-fi adventure and part teen drama, Oxenfree packs an unexpected emotional punch. In a year dominated by great indie titles, this is one of the best.

Blizzard’s multiplayer online shooter became a sensation this year, owing to the kind of pitch-perfect class-based gameplay that rewards skills beyond simply shooting other players in the face. Healing and defence roles are expertly woven into matches, meaning the most vital players aren’t always the ones loudly cavorting around on the front lines.

Inside is a side-scrolling puzzle adventure with an oppressively bleak art style haunted by harrowing mechanical figures and shadowy spectres. While the puzzles themselves are all fairly straightforward, they’re satisfying to solve, and progress a muted and subtly told story whose ending will stick with you for months after you’ve finished playing.

The episodic format of this cheery assassination simulator allowed it to slip beneath many people’s radars, but developer IO Interactive has been slowly piecing together one of the most interesting games in recent history. Released monthly, each level is a self-contained playground with characters acting out their pre-scripted routines. You can use dozens of inventive methods to reach and kill your target, using the environment to your advantage and repeatedly replaying the same sequences to discover increasingly bizarre ways to accomplish your mission. A masterclass in dynamic and open-ended gameplay, the entire season is now available to purchase in a single box set.

A first-person walking-around simulator in which you’re cast in the hiking shoes of a newly recruited fire lookout, Firewatch is part self-exploration, part strange mystery-solving. Your only company is the voice of a distant colleague on the end of a walkie-talkie, a curious relationship that develops as you play and leads you to some truly unexpected places.

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