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.
If Kitty Horrorshow is the new mistress of videogame horror, then right now Anatomy is her masterpiece. It’s as unsettling as it is smart. You’re tasked with collecting cassette tapes around a dark, silent house. As you listen to them, a monologue suggests the house is alive. One line that sticks: “There is even a fair number of comparisons to be drawn between those organs of the house and those of the human body.” The architectural space becomes a site of implied body horror.
Horrorshow knows she needn’t do much more to escalate the terror—your devilish imagination does that for her. But where Anatomy excels is its adaptation of the VHS aesthetic. It’s not that the game begins with a blue screen as if a recorded home video, distorted by tape chew and scanlines. Anatomy moves VHS horror beyond corrupted image data to make it structural. You’re required to play the game four times to reach its haunting end. The house appears to awaken, growing in power with each replay, throwing the experience into disarray. You can’t help but question the trust you place in your own house afterwards.
By Chris Priestman
3. Kentucky Route Zero Act IV
We are spoiled by Kentucky Route Zero. Every couple of years, another installment appears, simply plopped on the collective stoop of videogame culture without so much as a knock at the door. Act 4 begins to bend in on itself, swapping the immediate appeal of Act 3’s celestial musical number and self-referential adventure game-within-a-game for obscure experiments in poetry, cinematography, and the (deep breath) very act of seeing itself.
Onetime protagonist Conway recedes into the background; he is a smeared blot of paint on an ever-growing canvas. We descend further into the underground. The final shot pulls up, up, up through a long rickety staircase, our ragtag band of misfits and drifters pinned to the ground as we leave them. We have one more reunion to look forward to.
By Zach Budgor
There is nothing especially revolutionary in the grand strokes of Overwatch’s design, but in the execution of that design it is unmatched. Team Fortress 2 gave us the class-based shooter while ultimates—Overwatch‘s game-changing abilities—were borrowed from the MOBA genre, thank you very much. But like a cocktail by a master mixologist, Overwatch somehow manages to become more than the sum of its parts.
The power of the game isn’t just in its remarkable polish, though, no matter how much I fancy the way Junkrat’s grenade launcher jostles with explosive 8-balls as he hobbles across the map. Look at the colossal stores of fanart the game has accumulated so far, or the esport scene, which has rocketed to popularity at a higher rate than any competitive game ever. This year, the whole world fell in love with Overwatch—Kill Screen included.
By Roy Graham
What does Inside mean? The question has been reverberating around skulls since it came out. Perhaps the answer can be found in the rotten carcass of a pig? Or it lies with the fish in the flooded halls of the facility? That you can pry into Inside until your eyes are bloodshot and still dig up tiny details is testament to its brilliance. Did you know that, if you wait long enough, the photographs in the dark room will develop? The clues never stop.
But the answer still doesn’t come. It’s likely that there isn’t one. Inside makes a canvas out of its ambiguity. What you see in it is a reflection of your own worldview. Some might see it as an essay on the modern Orwellian circumstance. Others will remember it as a videogame about videogames. Perhaps the only certain statement that can be said is that it’s an exercise on control. And an exquisite one at that. Try to find a tighter game this year. You won’t. Inside draws together the multiple disciplines that videogames demand and nails every single one. It’s a game that will be studied and appreciated for years to come.
By Chris Priestman