We’re starting to get into the range of years where they feel far more like “wait, isn’t it still such and such” or “wasn’t that just yesterday?” Honestly, for a lot of people, 2016 was a pretty tough year… there were some election and political changes worldwide that we are still dealing with the ramifications of today. I don’t want to turn every one of these intros into a downer, because in truth, no matter how bad the world feels, when you focus on the part around you, it’s likely better than you think. That’s been my coping mechanism, anyway… I can’t affect the world at large, but I can make sure my life is the best it can be.
For this series, we’re going to walk through the years and go through some of the touchpoints that we’ve been through in the big focuses of our site… movies, video game, and of course… LEGO.
Ace’s Pick: 2016 was the year that Nintendo was prepping for the Switch launch the following year. One of the launch titles for the Switch was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild that included amiibo support. If you scanned in a Wolf Link amiibo into the game, you could summon a Wolf Link as a companion. The Wolf Link only had three hearts worth of life but if you played through the Cave of Shadows in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD, you could get a Wolf Link with the maximum number of hearts to load into BotW. Which is exactly what I did!
I never played the GameCube version even though I have it. I think it’s still sealed too. But I heard/read great things about it. The amiibo functionality was a bit gimmicky, but it was all the convincing I needed to buy the bundle and try the game out. Sure there was a glitch where you could skip the Cave of Shadows and save a game file to the amiibo for the full 20 hearts, but I didn’t mind playing through the whole game. I saw what the fuss was all about and it lived up to my expectations. This was the very last game I played on the Wii U and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was a remarkable game to say farewell to the Wii U with.
I picked Hitman 2016 as my favorite game I played last year, and there’s not much more I can say about it, so I’ll just copy a piece of what I wrote last year:
Hitman gets better the more you do missions because you get better. And you want to. My first playthrough of that level took me about 2 hours. Now I can kill the two targets in about 3 minutes. You feel professional and like a proper assassin, which, as cliche as the “this game makes you feel like _____” saying is, it’s a completely earned feeling.
Unlike Metal Gear Solid V’s approach of “do the mission however you want”, Hitman plays more like a puzzle game of “how can you kill the targets in the quickest, stealthiest way, and get away with it”. The fun comes with the game not telling you how to do that at all, so you learn by trial and error.
Overwatch came out the same year, which I also talked about last year. Nowadays I’m not as much into it, but I still go back, despite my best wishes. Blizzard, to their credit (sorry Nick), added a Role Queue feature, which fixed up a lot of the multiplayer toxicity and annoyance that comes from having to play on a team with a bunch of random people. It’s still far from a perfect game, and we’ll see where it’s at next year.
Nick’s Pick: This might be the single hardest year to pick a single game as the best. 2016 gave us a gorgeous indie game in Firewatch, a sequel that had no business being good but was actually amazing in Uncharted 4, a game that has, for better or worse, been absolutely pivotal on how the AAA industry does money and how shooters are made in Overwatch, and the unbelievably fun (but sad to read about the development of) Stardew Valley. I have played so many of these games, and continue to play them still.
Doom, Dark Souls III, Civilization 6, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Hyper Light Drifter, World of Warcraft: Legion, The Witcher 3, Super Hot, Battlefield 1, Final Fantasy XV, Forza Horizon 3, and Dishonored 2 all came out this year. Even the disappointing games from that year, like No Man’s Sky and Pokemon Go, have been reinvented and continue to thrive. For the year, though, I’m going to call out the game that I mentioned in my review of JEDI: Fallen Order, and a studio that EA seems to just hate in how it launches its game in efforts to make them fail.
Titanfall 2 has one of the best single player shooter campaigns ever done. The original game was kind of a disappointment, since it showed so much promise, and ended up being a multiplayer only affair in a setting that demanded explanation and story. The first person platforming was, simply put, incredible… the mechanics never overstayed their welcome or felt forced, and it was just fluid and fun.
It’s only sin was the fact that EA simply buried it on the schedule. EA, in all of it’s idocry and arrogance, launched it a week after Battlefield 1, one of the most anticipated shooters at the time (which was okay, but overrated), and a week before Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (which was actually fun, but the start of CoD’s multiplayer imploding into gross imbalance). Even those of us that play a lot of games are going to balk at buying three similar titles, one week after the next, at full AAA prices. I ended up skipping Battlefield 1 until much later, and bought and enjoyed the crap out of Titanfall 2 (and did get Infinite Warfare, because my friend circle at the time played it a lot, but don’t think I put it in for a few weeks after purchase). I’ve never gone back to CoD:IW and only played about an hour of BF1 when I got around to getting it… but I’ll go back to Titanfall 2 every now and again and enjoying it all over again.
Ace’s Pick: This is a tough call. When writing these up, it’s usually pretty easy to come to a decision to picking my favorite for the year for whatever category. But my favorite movie from 2016 has had me going back and forth like no other year or category because this was the year that two of my favorite movies came out: La La Land and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I’m going to have to tip my hat to La La Land and pick that as that is a more complete story.
I maintain that Rogue One is the best Star Wars movie ever made, but it’s in context to the opening of A New Hope. The events of that movie would have repercussions through the rest of the original trilogy. Not many prequels can do that without contradicting events of the already-told future, *cough*prequel trilogy*cough*, but Rogue One did it masterfully. It’s not perfect, but I can live with most of the issues. I do find myself wishing time and time again that they would skip most of the beginning and start right where Jyn gets rescued. I find that to be the actual start of the movie.
La La Land on the other hand, is more of a complete package and needs less armchair editing from me. I wasn’t sure what kind of movie it was going to be on my first viewing. I surely wasn’t expecting a lot from a love story. I certainly wasn’t expecting to cry, but there I was wiping away tears.
Eric’s Pick: My pick for 2016, without a doubt is A Monster Calls.
Basically no one has seen this movie, which is a shame. It barely broke even of its $43 million budget. It’s directed by J.A. Bayona, who directed The LEGO Batman Movie and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (ehhh). And yet the cast is stacked: Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, and the ever-perfect Liam Neeson as basically a storytelling version of Groot.
The setup is this: a boy’s mother has cancer, and to help him deal with that trauma, a giant tree monster tells him stories during the night. Weird? Oh yeah. Wonderful? Yep yep.
I’ve never been emotionally destroyed by a movie quite like this one, and I just wish more people have seen it.
Nick’s Pick: At first glance, 2016 seems like a really off year for movies. There are certainly some good ones that I’ve watched several times, thanks to my kids, like Zootopia, Moana, and Finding Dory. There’s the “weakest” of the Captain America movies, Civil War, which is still a great movie, and Doctor Strange, which is good but still probably the weakest of the MCU movies after they finally hit their stride post Dark World / Age of Ultron / etc.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that 2016 gifted us with the big fat turd that is still among my most hated movies of all time, one that I’ve spent thousands of words writing about on this site: Batman v Superman. Even the title is dumb, using v instead of vs. or versus. Even a bunch of polish and extending an already excessive runtime in the ultimate edition couldn’t fix the movie. DC really stunk it up that year, and gave us the “better by default but still boring as sin” Suicide Squad that made everyone collectively distrust trailers ever since.
When I was first writing this, I was debating between two movies… Rogue One and Arrival, both of which are amazing for completely different reasons. Rogue One because it somehow filled in blanks no one realized we needed or wanted filled in and gave us the best Star Wars story of the Disney era (I stick by this after seeing Rise of Skywalker and rewatching the others). Arrival is one of the best Science Fiction movies ever made, with an amazing story that demands you pay attention to follow and comprehend… and Amy Adams deserved far more accolades and awards for her performance than she ultimately got. All of that being said, there was a comic movie that came out in 2016 that absolutely got everything right about a character I love…
Deadpool started his life in Comics back in the 90s as a Rob Liefeld creation that was a straight-up ripoff of Deathstroke over at DC. He wasn’t notable or interesting in his debut, and showed up in early X-Force a couple of times… but later was turned into a 4th wall-breaking comic goofball when he got his own ongoing in the late 90s and has turned in some of the best, and funniest, comic series ever since (seriously, Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe and the various Cable & Deadpool comics are so worth your time). Fun fact, way back in that first Cable & Deadpool series, he describes himself as “Ryan Reynolds crossed with a Shar-Pei” – though Reynolds name gets misspelled.
In live action, the journey to the movie was a bit more rough. Reynolds turn as a superhero in Green Lantern was… let’s say… bad. Technically, the character was introduced in anything but name back in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a movie that is considered a crime in some states, and the director decided the way you best do the “merc with a mouth” is to remove his mouth entirely.
In very Deadpool-ian fashion, this movie was never supposed to be made – it had been killed by Fox and shot down until someone (likely Reynolds or Tim Miller) leaked a screen test for the character that became the only thing on the internet for a few days and created enough buzz that it got made. Fox then meddled and screwed with it, slashing their budget and forcing cuts, which somehow made the movie even better, and when it was released, it smashed apart all of the records, and made $738 million… against its $58 million budget… and stands out as the best example of “film execs do not understand their customers” to date.
Oh, and the movie is fantastic too.
Ace’s Pick: This set gives me the heebie jeebies:
It’s just pure nightmare fuel. And one I never thought LEGO would ever release. It just seems so…. not LEGO to do. Venom always seemed creepy in the comics, and I likened it to a living mass of black tar. This rendition with the multiple heads though… just… ugh. Creepy as heck. I bought a couple but never got around to building it. Not sure I ever will.
Eric’s Pick: 95% of the Lego sets I received over my life have been licensed sets. I’ve never really cared about themes like Town, or Creator, and I think you can tell that this site, for the most part, reflects that. They’re fine-looking sets, but for adult collectors, I guess the appeal comes from licensed sets being recognizeable from other mediums. I mean, just look at our best of picks from the last years – there’s a trend. In 2016, though, I finally broke and grabbed a copy of 10251 Brick Bank.
I had such a blast putting it together and looking at it. It didn’t really pretend to be a playset, instead an intricate model. Until I finally tore it down in moving away, I always had a good time checking out the details, even if it was my 500th time seeing it. And, it’s gotten me interested in the other modular buildings, and wishing I had the funds to buy every release since they started in 2007.
Nick’s Pick: This was the year that first broke me on Star Wars LEGO. The supremely lackluster Hoth Rebel Base, the re-release of the Death Star Playset, and just the overall quality of the Force Awakens and Rogue One sets when compared to the price for them… I haven’t bought a Star Wars set since somewhere in the middle of that year. At the very end of the year, though, a ton of the LEGO Batman Movie sets came out, and I loved so many of them that I wish I had some shelf place to keep them displayed. True fact… when I had to tear down all my displays after my son was born, the LEGO Batman Movie was the last stuff to go.
I maintain that the LEGO Batman Movie is the best Batman movie ever made… at least in the sense of both loving and understanding the source material. If you are a fan of a wide variety of Batman stuff… from the comics to the 60s show to the Keaton movies and even to the shlock that feature Affleck, this movie hit so close to the spirit of the character, while also making fun of it in such a deserving way, that it was great. Sadly, the movie came out in 2017 so I couldn’t pick it above, but we started reviewing the sets in November of 2016 and 70905 The Batmobile was one of my absolute favorites.
The sets capture that same sort of over-the-top absurdity and love, and the insanely fun to build and even more fun to play with Batmobile just came out on top. While a bit pricey, it makes up for it on fun and style, and even as a display piece, I’d pick it up once a week to roll it around. It was a spectacular set that I need to build again, if no other reason than to let my kids play with it.