This category of the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2016 Awards delves into those games where I wasn't expecting to enjoy them as much I ended up doing so. It's always awesome to not have high expectations for a game, and then that same game ends up blowing you away. The five games on this top five countdown are those that did just that.
5) Dragon Quest Builders (PS4, Vita)
Minecraft is a massive beast of a game. It was so much one that Microsoft purchased the property for an extravagant chunk of change, and even that's underselling it. Many clones of Minecraft have since come out, but none have the pomp and circumstance of the Dragon Quest name. Combining the similar gameplay of Minecraft to the world of Dragon Quest with Dragon Quest Builders paid off enormously for Square Enix and for gamers in general, as Builders is a fantastic cross between Minecraft and Dragon Quest. Building a fortified town or castle, scrounging around the land for materials, and besting big bad enemies make for a supremely good time. Whether you play on a portable or sit down at home and play on the PS4, you're going to get a satisfying gaming experience with Dragon Quest Builders.
4) Aqua Moto Racing Utopia (PS4, PC)
The sole indie game on this list (though the amount of surprisingly good indie games could take up 10 lists!), Aqua Moto Racing Utopia feels like a fantastic unofficial successor to Nintendo's Wave Race series, sporting smooth and tight handling of the various watercraft, ten venues featuring multiple buoy-to-buoy courses, a wide variety of modes, and plenty of things to do, such as local or online multiplayer. It seems like sacrilege to say that a game from a lesser known indie developer could shine just as brightly as Nintendo's Wave Race, particularly Wave Race 64, but it, in fact, is very much true, making Aqua Moto Racing Utopia perfect for this list of biggest surprises of 2016.
3) Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Wii U)
While I've enjoyed previous Olympic outings by Mario and Sonic, two of the most revered icons in gaming, I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed the latest game on Wii U, Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. No longer did players have to waggle a Wii Remote (and I mean actual random shaking of the Wii Remote and not actual gesture controls) to race, run, or whatnot. Instead, the game was wholly controlled with analog and button inputs. The amount of content and enjoyable events made for some very pleasant solo and local multiplayer gaming sessions, and the presentation was superb as ever. The Summer Olympic might be over, but it's never too late to check out Mario and Sonic's Rio exploits on Wii U.
2) Titanfall 2 (PS4, XB1, PC)
I'm a fan of older first-person shooters due to many having expansive levels and maps with plenty of places to show off my shooting prowess (or lack thereof). Titanfall 2's single player campaign possesses such a campaign, plus it features a lot of awesome mobility measures like running along walls and sliding across the ground. Then, there's the ability to pilot a massive mech, bringing the pain to both infantry and fellow mechs alike. Couple the insanely exciting single player campaign with the craziness of combat online across a series of well designed maps, and you have SuperPhillip Central's runner-up pick for biggest surprise of 2016.
1) DOOM (PS4, XB1, PC)
As I mentioned, I'm not the biggest modern FPS fan out there, as many campaigns nowadays are extremely linear with very little exploration involved. DOOM's resurgence into the gaming this past year not only surprised with its insanely fun and fast paced combat, but its level design housed a plethora of interesting secrets that stood out for being fun to find and worthwhile too. I am amazed by how much I really enjoyed DOOM. It feels like a modernized version of old school FPS games, and that is a concept that really resonated with me as a player, making it my biggest surprise of 2016.