Best of 2016!

Published 23 February 2017, updated 15 March 2017

Another year!

And 2016 has been one hell of a year. Got married. Stood on lava. New car (second ever).

You're here for the prestigious awards though. Remember, these awards are for things I first encountered in 2016. For the most part, this list is made up of 2016 releases or deep enough cuts that I don't think any of you will mind.


Music ~ Games ~ Movies


Music

We seriously have to get something out of the way before we move onto the other awards, because there is a work of art that is just beyond compare. This top award is some serious business. If this is somehow your first time hearing about this, go no further.

Best Hamilton: Hamilton

Official Hamilton star

Lin Manuel Miranda. Thank you, Dwight, for the intro. Thank you, Brett, for the tickets omg.

Now that we've dealt with that, here is the best of everything that basks in the glory that is Hamilton. I know praising Hamilton is not unique, but the show is seriously that good.

Best Find: Kaleo

Cover of Kaleo's Album "A / B"

This Icelandic band (with the Hawaiian name that plays Louisiana blues) knocked my socks off. Heard an interview with the lead singer on The Gist and they've been a solid member of my usual rotation. Their debut album, A / B, is incredible.

Chicken Soup: Just This EP - Birdtalker

Cover of Birdtalker's EP "Just This"

This band floated into my Twitter feed. Their debut release is a collection of what have become hymns to me. Great harmonies, positive vibes and words, acoustic softness. Was a fast and trust-worthy crutch on the darker days of the year.

Conversation Salt: The Unfolding - Chequerboard

Cover of Chequerboard's album "The Unfolding"

I discovered this just in the past week. This acoustic album is just the perfect extra layer of noise some gatherings need. Just put it on and relax. So soothing. Feels like wind-chimes and a cup of tea.

Best New Podcast - More Perfect. This podcast doesn't seem to be updating any more. 😞

Honorable Mentions: Youngr, Endless (Frank Ocean), Long Way Home: Live (Jukebox the Ghost, Best Live Album)

Games

Best 2016 Release: Stephen's Sausage Roll by increpare

Gameplay still from "Stephen's Sausage Roll"

This game is painfully good. You play as... actually I don't know, but your job is to push sausages around tiny islands and make sure they are all evenly cooked. It is the sokoban style game made nearly impossible by trimming away every block of fat, having a mechanic that is slowly revealed to be mind-bogglingly deep, and a wieldy turning fork that makes movement itself a puzzle.

This game falls into the same narrow puzzle genre as last year's A Good Snowman and Snakebird. In this yet-to-be-named genre, you explore every bitter inch of what a game mechanic has to offer. In SSR, your abilities never change, but differences and features in the level around you reveal new opportunities. The decision to focus on how your decisions are affected by the level is one of many factors that result in some of the most brilliantly designed levels and hardest puzzles I've ever seen in a game. It consumed me with insanely good puzzles, devastated me with a thoroughly-distilled difficulty, and delighted me with wave after wave of beautiful realization. This game is perfect.

Game of the Year: Her Story by Sam Barlow

Banner image for "Her Story"

Stephen's Sausage Roll made this decision very difficult, but this game also just blew me away. It was so insanely compelling. While I didn't pour as much time into it as SSR, I had more people sit down and try it than SSR. I needed to get friends through enough of it to talk about it. The story in this game still tickles my brain. I still write down words to search.

Best Puzzle Game: The Witness by Jonathan Blow

This is the purest puzzle experience out there. It's also the prettiest game that I played this year. It's not for everyone though. At the end of the day of you like puzzle games and you wouldn't mind flipping through a book of them, The Witness will knock your socks off.

It's a credit to how good the previous two awards were that I almost forgot I played this game this year. There are a few flaws in it; I had a sour final experience trying to 100% it; but you should absolutely get lost in this world at least once.

Best Board Game: Flash Point: Fire Rescue by Kevin Lanzing

I bought this game with the mission of finding a co-op game Nicole and I could play. It would have to be interesting to both of us, have high replay value, and have a high player limit for when friends join us. After reading some reviews I found this gem by Indie Board Games.

The game has been incredible from day one and has never let us down. It may truly be the best board game I'll every play. All of our friends ask about it. I bring it to every game party. We haven't even touched the advanced rules yet. The immersion is real and the co-operation is very natural and true to scenario.

Next Game You Should Buy: Tharsis by Choice Provisions

This game is so intense and so good. It plays like a beautiful and elegant board game with physically-simulated dice and deep choices you normally get out of the cardboard medium. This game is very difficult and very compelling. I haven't beaten it yet, but I have done many unspeakable things.

Best Story - Inside. This game is amazing. It deserves it's own category for immersion and inventiveness.

Best Hidden Role Game - Secret Hitler by Goat, Wolf, & Cabbage. The perfect bluffing game.

Best Party Game - Jackbox Party Pack 3 by Jackbox Games. Fakin' It being my favorite.

Best Competitive Game - Speedrunners by Tiny Build Games

Most Anticipated - Night In The Woods by Infinite Fall

Movies

Best 2016 Release: Arrival

The main character of "Arrival" wonders at alien writing

This movie is hard science fiction at its best. A very clever story paired with keen direction lay the foundation for the acting and the soundtrack to blow you away. Very few movies use the medium itself in such an inventive way. To say more would be to say too much, go see it.

Best Movie: The Big Short

Angry, shouting brokers capture my reaction to "The Big Short". I was angry in a good way.

The Big Short

I can't recall a time when a movie left me with such a strong final emotion, particularly anger. This movie is extremely well-done, funny, harsh, insightful, informative. The snappy pacing keep it very entertaining and makes it a very good background movie after your first watch. I think this broke the mold a bit and I hope to see many more movies like it in the future.

Best TV Show: Stranger Things

Many, many people are saying Stranger Things is amazing but I want to bring attention to my favorite part of it: the use of horror tropes. I really, really appreciate the creators and writers of the show using horror tropes to make this show less scary for the viewers. Every time they build up to a scare, you can predict exactly what's going to happen because they've followed the horror formula for jump-scares so closely. Putting a wounded deer out of its misery? Definitely going to get dragged off at the last second. Character distracted by a noise behind them? Definitely going to be attacked from behind. By using cliché moments, these moments can still be terrifying for the characters, without scaring off squeamish viewers (like myself). It's bloody brilliant.

Best Film: The Revenant

This is the first movie I saw this year. It wasn't the action/suspense/survival movie I expected, but it is a serious piece of craft. Almost everything on screen is completely real, from the cold to the meat to the natural lighting. This movie is a love letter to the blisteringly beautiful north and to dedication itself.

Best Animated - Zootopia. Very clever story with a genius ending. The message was good and I don't think it went too far. Warning: this movie scares the shit out of kids. I couldn't tell you why, Pinocchio is a horror movie compared to thi-- actually, anything. Compared to anything. Like seriously.

Best Action Movie - Deadpool. Such a good adaptation. Very funny.

Most Missed - Tickled (Still tracking this down), Swiss Army Man (Man this looked good).