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Simon Parkin: best video games of 2016

From the lush medieval world of The Witcher 3 to the touching narrative of The Last Guardian, let’s give thanks for rich escapes from a tough year

Death, disorder, confusion and upheaval: 2016 has surpassed even the most outlandish video game in its disquieting depictions. Fiction may be unable to compete with reality when it comes to whiplash-inflicting narrative twists, but it can provide a sanctuary into which the embattled and anxious may retreat. Video games in particular provide a comforting framework for the human mind. Even on the virtual battlefield, or post-apocalyptic city, few games ever betray their fundamental rules, something that can no longer, it seems, be said for politics and all the rest.

These days most video games take years to build. Such is the cost and scale of the technological and artistic undertaking of interactive blockbusters that it’s unlikely we’ll see 2016’s major themes surfacing in games for another year or so. Some developers, however, successfully anticipated the events of the moment. The recently released Watch Dogs 2 casts you as a member of a San Francisco-based hacktivist group vying to take down a privacy-violating corporation. The hackers co-opt the power of millions of web-connected household devices – CCTV cameras, printers, kettles and so on – to overwhelm their target’s servers. It’s a storyline that pre-empted the recent botnet attack, when great swaths of the internet, including Netflix, Twitter, Reddit, Spotify and even the UK government’s website, were successfully brought down for a few hours by as yet unidentified hackers, using the combined power of millions of online devices.

Few video games ever betray their rules, something that can no longer be said for politics and the rest

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