Way back in 2007, the Quarter to Three community voted on the best games of the previous year. The numbers were tallied, the winners declared, and the awards weren’t handed out in an extravagant ceremony hosted by Geoff Keighley. It was our own Peoples Choice Awards, decided by the folks who hang out in the virtual spaces of our forum. We’ve been doing these annual Quarterlies ever since.
So what game is the big winner after ten years of Annual Quarterlies?
Last year we had an absolute blowout. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt blew past every other game by the widest margin we’ve had so far. By contrast, 2016 gives us the closest vote margins we’ve seen. We’ve got two games tied at the top of the list, and another four games within a few votes of first place.
The mechanics of voting are simple. Two weeks ago in a forum thread, we asked our community to rank their five favorite games that came out in 2016. We weighted the lists, so that a first place vote is worth five points, a second place vote is worth four points, and so on down to one point for a fifth place vote. The one hard-and-fast rule was that the game had a 2016 release date. We lightly discouraged Early Access games, mostly because we think they should be eligible for the year they’re released rather than the potentially multiple years they’re in early access. As for the games themselves, we’re 100% platform agnostic. Even mobile games are welcome. If that’s what people want to do with their votes.
This year, there were 1,165 points in play according to our weighted votes. We’ll call them vote shares. To illustrate how close the voting was, consider 2015. With a total of 1,300 vote shares, The Witcher 3 got 213. The next closest game was at 66. This year, two games tied for the win at 70 vote shares apiece, with four other games within 14 vote shares of the top spot. It was incredibly close, coming down to the final day. This just goes to show that 2016 was a very strong year for videogames.
So let’s see how the vote shares played out.
#5 Stardew Valley
Coming in at 56 votes overall was Stardew Valley. Designed and developed by Eric Barone as a way to hone his own programming skills while looking for an industry job, Stardew is a loving homage to the very best features of the Harvest Moon series of games. Barone knows these farming life games inside out as a fan and does a double service by creating the best iteration of that genre in years, and bringing it to the PC as a primary platform.
#4 Dark Souls 3
Dark Souls 3 finished two votes higher than Stardew, with 58 vote shares cast. Our voters found that the latest title in FromSoftware’s flagship franchise improved on the world and setting of DS2, while maintaining and even improving the almost tactile, satisfying feel of combat. That it managed to keep all the good stuff intact as it moved the franchise fully into the current generation while keeping both console and PC gamers happy is just icing on the cake.
#3 XCOM 2
Finishing with 62 votes overall, XCOM 2 was perhaps hurt just a bit by a somewhat punishing difficulty curve within the game, as well as having been released back in February of last year. Still, those who voted for it mentioned how it took the good stuff that the XCOM reboot did back in 2012 and added more to the formula to make things better and more challenging. If there was one quibble we noted, it’s something that lies within the game’s very DNA. XCOM was a game about defending a planet from alien invaders, and feels satisfying in that regard. XCOM 2 is all about taking the planet back from alien overlords, which maybe lacked the exciting, visceral urgency of its predecessor.
#2 Offworld Trading Company
Speaking of February releases, at 64 votes we have Offworld Trading Company. The brainchild of Civ 4 designer Soren Johnson’s Mohawk Games, OTC is a game that introduces some exciting new ideas for real time strategy with challenging AI and engaging multiplayer. While those are fine elements of gameplay, they’re not exclusively the reason that Offworld nearly won game of the year from the forum community. Perhaps an even greater achievement in design is that OTC takes on economic games and sci-fi strategy games — two genres that are often dry as Martian sand — and creates a game with bright personality, one that’s engaging and very challenging from the start.
Which brings us to the top two games, the winners of the 2016 Unofficial Official Quarter To Three Quarterlies or Whatever You Want To Call This Award. Both games finished with 70 votes overall and we thought about kicking in some sort of after-the-fact tiebreaking system here, but couldn’t decide which made more sense. One game got more votes from more different members of the forum than any other game on the list. Maybe that makes it number one? But wait. The other game got more first place votes than any other game on the list. Maybe that makes it number one? In the end, they’re both fantastic; let them share the top spot.
If we’d have told you this time last year that Doom would sit atop a list of games of the year, I’d guess that would surprise some folks. This was a game that looked like big trouble all around: it had a tortured development cycle going back seven years, and gamers were still expressing skepticism as recently as the late public beta a month prior to release. So what happened? The decision to go with a more over-the-top, less serious tone certainly helps the game. Doom also succeeds by giving players the stuff that they’ve always loved in first-person shooters, and then gives them more and more and more of that. It boasts a surprisingly robust and enjoyable single player experience, as well as the multiplayer goodness you’d expect from a Doom game.
#1 The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine
The other game sharing the award for the Qt3 community’s game of the year is a unique achievement in its own right. Released back in May, The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine is supposed to be just an expansion to 2015 game of the year, The Witcher 3. It starts off with a couple of strikes against it: you can’t play it if you don’t own the base game, for instance. Blood and Wine isn’t an expand-alone. And while the expansion allows you to create a pre-made Geralt at high level with good gear if you just want to play that, you’ll be missing out on a lot of context, story, and a great payoff at the end if you skip ahead.
Setting those things aside, Blood and Wine continues CD Projekt Red’s run of being the game developer that over-delivers and puts much of the industry to shame. Although it promises 20 hours gameplay, it’s easily possible to lose 30-50 hours traipsing around Beauclair, the expansion’s setting. It’s an entirely bright and vivid new world, with a different feel from the darker, grimmer setting of the main game. If at times it feels as if it’s just more Witcher 3, for many of us who are fans, that’s pretty much exactly what we want.
Overall, we had 89 games that received at least one vote in the 2016 poll, and 86 people cast a valid ballot for at least one 2016 game. It was also a year when more different games captured a #1 vote spot over any other recent year. We had games from all genres, from MMOs to first person shooters to platformers to action games garner significant support. In the end, Doom and The Witcher: Blood and Wine stand atop everything from 2016 as the choice of the Quarter to Three community as the best of the best games last year had to offer.