When you're up against a year that spawned The Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid V and Fallout 4, you'd be completely right in thinking 2016 would be taking a long, hard look itself before taking the stage. 2015 may have been the finest year for gaming since the GTA V and Bioshock Infinite-filled delights on 2013, but if what's been released in the past two months is any indication, we're in for one hell of a year going forward. From innovative indie puzzlers to landmark releases in 30 year-old franchises, whereas this time last year the biggest talking point was just how much of a letdown The Order: 1886 was, now we've got a healthy roster of titles you can hear the Game of the Year nominations rolling in for already. Seriously, although Uncharted 4, Quantum Break and plenty more are set to come rumbling over the horizon in the coming months, it's worth taking stock of just how incredibly well the industry has kickstarted everything so far.
8. The Witness
After eight years in the oven, you better believe Jonathan Blow needed his latest creation to be something special. Luckily, thanks to Blow's own genius tendencies as a master of all things cerebrally-perplexing (a trait he proved in 2008's mind-meltingly hard, Braid), The Witness is a fairly open-world puzzle-solving extravaganza, tying your progression to the exploration of a mysterious island. Now, whilst there are certain explanations for why you're on the island and who you may be, that's not necessarily the point. Instead, it's the setup and interaction of a whole host of intricately designed puzzles and areas where The Witness will dig its claws in deep. See, every puzzle involves connecting a line from one place to another, but from that initial starting point you'll start to see different symbols, different icons and different sets of them appearing together. You realise each symbol has a given rule, and its in discovering these that you'll eventually learn to essentially 'speak' another language without words. It's like looking at that scrawling code from The Matrix and seeing through to the message on the other side. The Witness exists as an exploration of how we gain knowledge, how we form things that become to be known as art or science, interpretation and fact. It's about certain truths both philosophical and personal, and the ideologies that surround them. Sound pretentious enough yet? It can be, but if you're up for getting lost in a truly exemplarily-designed game world (a team of architects even ensured the island made physical sense on paper) where every inch has been carefully crafted and modelled, what Jonathan Blow has crafted here is extraordinary.