SMU Guildhall students choose 2016’s top 10 video games

Final Fantasy XV screen cap
Vivid characters and deeply detailed worlds are longstanding elements of the Final Fantasy game series. The latest installment, Final Fantasy XV, has been voted one of 2016’s top 10 games by students in the SMU Guildhall digital game development program.

SMU Guildhall students in art, programming, level design and production have named 10 outstanding titles – from the augmented-reality mobile adventure Pokémon GO to a reboot of the genre-defining first-person shooter Doom – as the Top Video Games of 2016.

The students – all Master of Interactive Technology or Professional Certificate candidates in digital game development – each chose their five favorites from a list of 50 of the year’s most talked-about games of every type and for any platform, says Marc Mixon of the Guildhall Student Activities Committee. Results were tabulated with an instant-runoff scoring system, in which descending numerical values were assigned for each place from first to fifth.

Overwatch screen cap
In Overwatch, a motley six-person crew fights missions together in colorful locations ranging from the Temple of Anubis to the Rock of Gibraltar to a Hollywood backlot.

Winning first place easily was the critical and commercial hit Overwatch, a shooter in which players form six-person teams online and complete missions together in a colorful, diverse and lived-in world. The reimagined edition of the classic Doom, once again created by Dallas-based iD Software, was not far behind. The remaining titles were closely grouped, with each receiving several votes.

There are many different measures for what makes a game great, Mixon says, whether a well-balanced experience for multiplayer titles or a compelling story for a single-player game. The students’ game choices reflect the best of their respective genres, he adds.

Video games continue to rake in consumers’ entertainment dollars, according to the industry’s largest lobbying group, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Total U.S. revenues for the industry hit $23.5 billion in 2015, which represented 5% growth over the previous year. ESA data show that more than 150 million Americans play video games and 63 percent of households are home to at least one person who plays video games regularly (at least three hours per week).

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Following is the complete list, in descending order, of the SMU Guildhall’s Top 10 for 2016. Descriptions include the developer/publisher, genre or genres, play mode, ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) rating and the game platform or platforms on which it runs. (Note that the ESRB does not rate online interactions for multiplayer online games.)

1. Overwatch
Blizzard Entertainment
Genre: First-person shooter
Mode: Team-based multiplayer
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Platforms: MS Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

2. Doom (2016)
iD Software/Bethesda Softworks
Genre: First-person shooter
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Platforms: MS Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

3. Pokémon Sun and Moon
Game Freak/The Pokémon Company
Genre: Role-playing
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Dark Souls 3 screen cap
The “withered beauty” aesthetic and heart-pounding combat of Dark Souls III earned it a place among the SMU Guildhall’s top games of 2016.

4. World of Warcraft: Legion
Blizzard Entertainment
Genre: Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG)
Mode: Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Platforms: MS Windows, OS X

5. Dark Souls III
FromSoftware/Bandai Namco Entertainment
Genre: Action role-playing
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Platforms: MS Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

6. Pokémon GO
Niantic Labs/The Pokémon Company
Genres: Augmented reality, location-based
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Platforms: iOS, Android, Apple Watch

SMU Pokestops
The SMU campus is a map of Pokéstops – with Dallas Hall as a Pokémon gym – in a screen from the augmented-reality game Pokémon GO, which makes real-world landmarks a part of the gameplaying action.

7. Stardew Valley
ConcernedApe/Chucklefish Games
Genres: Simulation, role-playing
Mode: Single-player
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Platforms: Linux, MS Windows, Nintendo Switch, OS X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

8. Final Fantasy XV
Square Enix
Genre: Action role-playing
Mode: Single-player
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

9. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: Action-adventure
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Platforms: PlayStation 4

10. Battlefield 1
EA DICE/Electronic Arts
Genre: First-person shooter
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Platforms: MS Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One