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GOTY 2016: Digital

"Indie" is such an outdated term, so instead here we're focusing solely on games that enjoyed a digital-only release in 2016.

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Honourable Mentions

GOTY 2016: Digital
After a long, long wait, we loved taking to the clouds in D-pad Studios' beautiful platformer Owlboy.
GOTY 2016: Digital
The nostalgia was heavy when we managed our theme parks in Planet Coaster, as Frontier returned to the genre for this stellar outing.
GOTY 2016: Digital
Firewatch's captivating story and great visual style set it apart from other 'walking simulators'. An experience fans of the genre won't want to miss.
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GOTY 2016: Digital
We got tested to our limits by RPG roguelike-like Darkest Dungeon, but that's why we loved it as much as we did.
GOTY 2016: Digital
Final Station's zombie-horror train journey was one that intrigued us deeply, and it's an experience that stayed with us for some time.
GOTY 2016: Digital
Abzu had us exploring the ocean and enjoying the beautiful world it offered proving once and far all there's no need to go to space for amazing sights and otherworldly experiences.
GOTY 2016: Digital
Providing a lot of food for thought, Virginia also had a very interesting art style, while providing us with further evidence that video game narratives have room to evolve.
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Stardew Valley

Fans of Harvest Moon will understand what we mean when we say that we loved the cute farming game that is Stardew Valley, using tools and limited funds to turn something small into something huge and thriving, and this is made all the more impressive by the fact that it's ConcernedApe's debut game (and it's largely the work of just one person). However, Stardew Valley is more than just a pixelated farm simulator.

From the start you realise how deep Stardew Valley is, as even when customising your character you get a lot of choice. This continues when selecting how to run your farm, what tools to use, and how to decorate your abode, not to mention the types of animals can feature in your farm. Did we mention there are dinosaurs too?

There's a lot to do aside from just farming, though. There is also fishing to be done, mining, foraging, and combat, and levels are gained and valuables are there to be found, keeping you coming back for more. On top of that, the extensive game map hides a lot of secrets as well, so there's every reason to explore and see what you can find, especially since there are also lots of characters to talk to.

In short, Stardew Valley takes what's great from games before it and merges these features together to make a captivating digital experience. We got engrossed in running our farms, and the simplicity of it all was just the cherry on the top. Because we spent hours seeing what Stardew Valley had to offer, we think it deserves number three on this list.

GOTY 2016: Digital


A digital game that can't go unmentioned this year is IOI's Hitman, which comes in at number two. We really enjoyed every episode of Hitman since the first launched in March, up until Season One concluded in October. IOI had brought life to a Hitman series that hadn't been at its best with Absolution, and there were many reasons for this.

The sandbox structure of each episode was a big reason Hitman proved so popular. Each objective in each episode could be approached in different ways, and players could let their creativity run free. There are so many avenues to explore, methods to try, and options to take, whether that be in terms of disguises, how you killed your target, or even how you disposed of the body. Hitman is really an assassin's playground in this regard.

What's more is that IOI constantly added extra content for those players who were thirsty for more. As well as the six scheduled episodes, IOI re-purposed maps in the Summer Bonus Episode, released elusive targets and escalation contracts, giving you extra characters to kill in various ways. Not only this, but there's even a Christmas event called Holiday Hoarders, which includes, among other things, a santa suit to make your murdering more festive.

This year Hitman made tongue-in-cheek murder fun again with their episodic game, and made us think outside the box many times as we tried and perfect our silent killer approach, and the endless things to do, see, and interact with have us convinced that Hitman thoroughly deserves the second spot on this list.

GOTY 2016: Digital


Inside is the next game from Playdead, their latest following the monochromatic, puzzle-platformer Limbo, and Inside is in every way an improvement on an already successful formula. You take control of a nameless red-shirted boy thrust into a dark, dystopian world where you have to solve puzzles to progress, and what follows is incredibly captivating.

The surreal environment is presented primarily in monochromatic 2.5D using colour only to highlight parts of the environment. The player must escape masked guards utilising a mind-control helmet at times to solve puzzles in a similar fashion to the use of Limbo's mind slugs. While the puzzles are never too testing, we enjoyed them all the same.

In this minimalist world dialogue is exchanged for musical cues that change the mood and inform the player of the characters' emotions. Composer Martin Stig Andersen, after being inspired by 1980s horror films, created the music by routing sound through a human skull and recording the result, a "bone-conducting sound" that created a "sombre, chill quality" that often complements Inside's visuals.

What really made Inside stand out though was the combination of all these qualities, the use of lighting, graphical effects and minimal ambient sounds; they worked together to create an eerie atmosphere where the story is relayed to the player through body language and gesture. Inside is a brilliant and affecting title, and without doubt the best digital-only game of 2016.

GOTY 2016: Digital

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