This is part of Kill Screen’s list of the best videogames of 2016. To see the rest of the list, check out all the other parts.
20. Darkest Dungeon
Darkest Dungeon will punish you. The “dungeon,” a dusty and generic RPG fixture, is twisted into a locus of psychological torment and trauma. Relentlessly grim voiceover and inky Mike Mignola-esque art drive home the game’s hammer-blunt central message: violence takes its toll. There is no happy ending, no glory as you sentence yet another band of recruits to the serpentine catacombs coiling beneath your ancestral estate. They return—if they return at all—with their minds and bodies broken, their blood indelible and thick on your hands. Happy adventuring.
By Zach Budgor
Watch this. Now imagine the music as a gigantic iron skull floating in a lysergic soup of bleeding neon, assaulting you with noise, forcing you to bend to its rhythmic will. That’s Thumper. Thumper is not a rhythm game, not in the way we expect them to provide a venue for the player to play a song and feel accomplished. Mastery is close to impossible in Thumper. It fights you at every turn, the screen clogged with noise, the spare brassy thud of the music elusive and unsatisfying. When you lock into a hard, violent motif, when you clear a section, there is no respite. The next assault is seconds away. It’s a never-ending anxiety attack.
By Zach Budgor
I don’t remember the last time a game tested relationships—be they romantic, platonic, or familial—like Overcooked. Overcooked doesn’t occupy the comfortable space of competitive play, like the Nidhoggs and Towerfalls of yesteryear. Oh no. Overcooked dares you to do something more: to work together. To bark commands at one another bitterly; to coordinate to ensure rats don’t steal any of those precious, already sliced ingredients. A round of Overcooked singlehandedly wields the potential to destroy relationships, or cement them forever. But in the end, it’s your choice. Now, pass me three onions stat for this goddamn soup, or you’re dead to me.
By Caty McCarthy
17. Triennale Game Collection
Few other games have experimented with duration, input, and form as confidently as the five entries in the Triennale Game Collection this year. In their short play times, each game manages to speak to our natural curiosity or the complexities of the human experience. You explore a maze of memories, find magic in mundane objects, and form a friendship over several sessions. It’s a convincing showcase of what videogames can be and what more of them should aim to achieve.
By Chris Priestman