2016 Biggest Surprise, 2017's Biggest Hope
I definitely did not expect this to be my personal game of 2016.
Dragon Quest Builders is a game that while flawed, wears those blemishes on its sleeve. It upends the lore of the first game in the series and runs with it to deliver one of the more endearing times I've had with a game this year.
It makes itself a unique crafting game in this post-Minecraft world where there's a sea of them to choose from, focusing instead on its story and more casual approach to building your own fun.
I thought The Tomorrow Children would be the game that Dragon Quest Builders eventually became for me. Though the former ultimately failed on that in terms of how it used its Souls-like multiplayer, DQB ultimately succeeded by very vaguely resembling a Souls-like narrative, particularly the final chapter. I also found myself very much enjoying the callbacks to the previous game(s) in the series despite having no strong affinity for those games nostalgia-wise (the same thing occurred for me this year with Doom as well).
I really hope the game does do well because I'd love to see a sequel with multiplayer someday.
Assuming North America gets Dragon Quest XI, I'm more than willing to make a run at that this coming year as well.
No more Souls or Metal Gears means I'm finally free of being bound to a particular series as a de facto interest for the immediate future. Outside of Summer's Stormblood release, I only have one series I'm very fond of that's getting a release in its series this year and that's the sequel to NieR, Automata. The recently released demo inspires hope that this will be a Taro game that's actually bolstered by a well-polished and nuanced combat system (via Platinum Games), which is something the series has deeply struggled with in the past (though I'm willing to go to bat for the original NieR as an above average combat system). It's an oddly fitting pairing for the two, which has fans of both sides excited.
It's always been something I've been able to look past given the delivery of tales in prior entries. I have no deep love for the original Drakengard beyond being a uniquely subverted JRPG in which all the protagonists are vicious psychopaths (and an almost troll-level final boss), but its spin-off (NieR Replicant/Gestalt) and prequel (Drakengard 3) are some of my favorite games (the original NieR probably being tied with Dark Souls 2 as my favorite game from the last generation). This being a direct sequel to NieR immediately puts it on my radar.