The best PC games of 2016

The best games of 2016 ran the gamut from taut, well-told tales to wide-open possibility spaces. If there’s any justice, the year will be remembered as one in which triple-A exceeded itself with games that weren’t so much sequels as reinventions, and in which indie had no trouble at all keeping up.

Keep coming back for everything else you need to know about PC games.

To grapple with and get the most out of everything here you’ll need to bring tactical nous, a big heart, and your little grey cells. And don’t forget to wear your fun-garees. You know. For all the fun.

Forza Horizon 3

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Best PC games 2016 Forza Horizon 3

Forza Horizon 3 is the third in a series of attempts to humanise Turn 10’s excellent if cold driving simulators, and the first to successfully complete the windy and treacherous route from Xbox to personal computers.

Set in an alternate-world Australia in which everyone and their mums is obsessed with motorsports, Forza Horizon 3’s open world exists to satisfy you. As in Pokemon’s Kanto, every citizen in the country pours their energies into one shared passion, becoming either opponent or cheerleader of your efforts to become the leading racecar driver and part-time festival organiser down under.

It can be patronising, showering you with currency and swooning before your coolness and ability, but none of that matters. The party atmosphere is infectious, and the engine beneath is quite simply the finest available in the genre. Drift sideways through the outback. Drive to the beach and perform stunt jumps through an elephant’s graveyard of cargo ships. Build a festival site that takes up 25% of Byron Bay. Just pick a road and goooo.

Titanfall 2

Best PC games 2016 Titanfall 2

What a lovely twist in the tail end of a delightful year for games. Titanfall 2 is not only a good sequel to a multiplayer game deserted too soon by its community – it’s also a fantastic single-player shooter. The kind you used to tell people about in 2004 and 2007 – a Half-Life 2 or a BioShock.

As the campaign progresses, with hulking metal companion BT at your side, Respawn fire and forget: tossing away brilliant ideas as if they were empty clips, before reaching for another. All the while, Titanfall 2 offers a first-class showcase in visual and audio feedback – nothing underwhelms.

How could we have forgotten, in the year of Modern Warfare Remastered, that this team of former Infinity Ward staffers were capable of such great feats in single-player FPS design? Forgive us, Zampella and co., for our forgetfulness.

Civilization VI

Best PC games 2016 Civilization VI

In the year 2217, when your ‘mouse hand’ is a bionic replacement designed specifically for PC gaming, there will still be a new Civ – overseen by Sid Meier from his life-support throne, designed by a plucky new designer straight from MIT. It’ll be reassuringly familiar, but shrewdly different.

So it is with Civ VI. Although it can’t currently compete with the bundled editions of its predecessors for sheer wealth of content, it’s the perfect celebration of the defining 4X on its 25th anniversary. Music, palette, pacing: all conspire to make you fall for the series all over again, providing a warmth where Civ V was sometimes too stern.

This entry takes a new branch in the Civ series tech tree, too, planting bold new mechanics and laying strong foundations for diplomacy, religion, war and espionage which will surely be built up into proud cities in the inevitable expansions.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Best PC games 2016 Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

It was in between stacking the fourth and fifth dumpster in an impossible staircase up to a Prague apartment window that we realised – at no point have Eidos Montreal forgotten Deus Ex’s roots. For all its modern shooter trappings, the series has lost none of its essential magic in silly simulation and player problem-solving.

It perhaps hasn’t gained quite enough in Mankind Divided, Montreal’s second Deus Ex sequel to date – certainly not in overall length. But the studio maintained their focus on improvisational combat and avoidance while venerating player ownership above all else, allowing parts of their knotty plot of prejudice and class struggle to slip into the background if we so desired.

Speaking of which: although it might call itself a shooter, Mankind Divided does quests better than practically any mainstream RPG outside of The Witcher. And nowhere else in the games industry will you see the form of fake email writing carried so far. To top it off, Mankind Divided’s PC port isn’t too shabby either.

Want more? Read our Deus Ex: Mankind Divided review.

Inside

Best PC games 2016 Inside

Playdead’s long-awaited Limbo follow-up begins with a boy in the woods, minus a backstory and with no other option but to stumble towards the right-hand side of the screen. This overfamiliar fake-out soon gives way to a game with its own mysteries, however – a game so accomplished that these Danish indies couldn’t possibly have made it on their first time out.

Like its predecessor, Inside offers body horror, and the prospect of pulling and pushing boxes about so that you can clamber to out-of-reach areas. But it’s also about control, and brings uneasy new mechanics to match those new themes. There’s a more nuanced aesthetic, too – while Limbo is unmistakeable in its gloom, Inside’s gently stylised approach manages a remarkable and terrifying verisimilitude. When a masked man chases down your young charge and drowns him in a puddle, the fear hits you somewhere central. In the space between its impeccably choreographed animation and sound design, Inside starts to feel horribly, horribly real.

Doom

Best PC games 2016 Doom

With Quake Champions on the horizon and this exceptional shooter in the rear-view mirror, id are tearing down the highway at the front of the pack again after a decade in neutral. Where Doom 3 spun the horror of monster closets off into a realm of dark rooms and sudden scares, new Doom takes a different tack: embracing the forward aggression of the original and coating everything in gibs rather than shadows.

Brilliantly, the gore feeds into the game – ultraviolent glory kills are not only a visual and aural reward in Doom for getting up close and impersonal but serve a tactical purpose, offering health pickups and a valuable few seconds to decide on your next attack or weapon switch. That rhythmic flow soon becomes second nature thanks to level design that funnels you between murderous, vertiginous arenas. A masterclass in FPS design that never feels anything less than contemporary.

Want more? Read our Doom review.

Overwatch

Best PC games 2016 Overwatch

Blending elements from Team Fortress 2, MOBAs, and Blizzard’s own extended universe, Overwatch cemented itself as the multiplayer PC game of 2016 – not even the likes of Battlefield and COD could topple it.

It’s the sort of game that would once have been called ‘class-based’ but now goes under the ‘character shooter’ moniker, offering a focused selection of modes that riff on TF2’s payload maps and capture point objectives. Really though, it’s the interplay between Overwatch’s heroes that make it special. It really is a feat of balance on Blizzard’s part – you think Bastion’s OPed until you realise he takes 200% damage from behind when he’s in his turret configuration. You suspect Genji is too good until you watch someone’s Play of the Game and realise, nope, that player is just incredibly skilled. You think Zenyatta’s useless, then he spends an entire round killing you.

Zapya for Android4.4

Sharing content on the fly is a benefit of our over dependency on gadgets. Everybody having the means to carry a smart phone or tablet around means that sound, images, video and documents of all sorts can be exchanged between friends while they sip their morning drug. Yet the technology generally used for sharing files is quite anachronistic. While tethering and wireless hot spots are common means to connect to a network, file transfers are still being done via Bluetooth.

This protocol dates from the time when we were fascinated by phones taking photos. While Bluetooth is still useful for connecting wireless head sets and the sort, transferring files between devices is a totally different matter; mainly because it’s as slow as a sleepy Galapagos turtle. Fifteen years ago you wouldn’t have dared sending a YouTube video to your friend’s phone. The funny part is that you wouldn’t dare sending it today either.

Zapya for android

Transfer freeway

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Zapya is a local file sharing application that uses wireless networks to connect devices. Simply put, it uploads files from one device and downloads it to the other, as smoothly as the Facebook chat. Not only that, but you can also share Android applications!

Provided both devices have Zapya installed and are connected to the same wireless network, they can share whatever their masters desire. Zapya has three main screens. Play Game, Send File and View History.

Playing a game requires you to install the listed applications. The problem is that the source is not Google Play; so you better have some security software up and ready if you really want any of them.

The Send File feature is the meat of Zapya. In order to perform a transfer, one of the devices needs to create a group to which any other devices can connect (as long as they’re on the same network). While a connection exists, users can exchange messages along with files and apps. Zapya does a good job at sorting them up. Taping on any of them will bring up a pop-up list of options specific to the selection. It is good to note that Zapya supports iOS and Windows devices along with Android.

Beyond using Wi-Fi, a particular feature makes Zapya a bit special regarding apps. After having received an application package, Zapya will install it for you. Of course, your discretion applies. The second aspect is that you have the option to backup app data. This is mighty useful in theory but unfortunately it does not work 100% of the time and is invalidated if you clear the data manually.

Zapya – Send

Features

File sharing using the Wi-Fi network.
App data backup
App sharing
Running games over Wi-FI
Game downloads

Sharing an app is something we sometimes would like to do instead of searching the Play store for it. Zapya takes care of this easily. On the flip side though, the Windows app is a bit fishy. Chrome tags it as malware. Installing it creates a Zapya service that launches a process behind the curtain and displays nothing. I would personally rule out the support for Windows.

Pros

Large speed sharing of files – Reaching up to 10 Mb/ second
Sharing apps – A very convenient feature
Cons

Data backup is not guaranteed to work on all apps
Windows support translates into malware unfortunately
Conclusion

Zapya is quite a useful app but it has two requirements for it to be viable. Both of the devices need to have it installed and need to be around an accessible wireless network. Other than that, it’s just peachy! Oh, and avoid installing it on Windows.