The 2016 Steam Awards Finalists: The Best Games in Strange Categories [Opinion]

This past Monday, Steam announced the 2016 Steam Awards finalists, and here are some of the best games you will find in these strange categories.

There are some great games on the lists this year, and while some of them won’t be a surprise, others have been nominated for categories you might not expect.

I am going to skip the official order and jump straight to a couple of my favorite nominations for the Steam awards. All the award quotes and titles are straight from the official Steam post because they’re hard to beat description-wise.

According to Polygon, “Valve did not restrict the field of potential nominees to games that debuted in 2016. As such, the majority of nominated titles were released prior to this year”.

The “Boom Boom” Award:Let’s face it: explosions are pretty great. In a blockbuster movie they’re thrilling. In a celebration with fireworks they’re beautiful. And when they’re behind a cop putting on sunglasses they’re nothing short of glorious. These games understand the fine art of detonation.

For nominees, we have BroForce, DOOM, Just Cause 3, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, and Kerbal Space Program. My personal favorite nomination on Steam for this category has to be Kerbal Space Program.

Kerbal Space Program Vehicle's Fiery Descent
[Image by Grant|Flickr| Cropped and Resized | CC BY-SA 2.0 ]

It is one of the most challenging games I have played, featuring a fairly complicated physics system with everything from structural integrity to gravity fields to atmospheric drag. I have made ships launch so fast they burned up in the atmosphere before every leaving Kerbal. And it’s horrifying to watch your precious, super expensive, hours-put-in design slam into that one satellite you forgot was in the middle of millions of cubic kilometers of space. Yes, it happens.

The “Love/Hate Relationship” Award: ‘Games are just supposed to be fun!’… oh sweet summer child, your naivety is adorable. Games can be more than fun. They can be challenges that demand perfection. These games are punishing gauntlets that make you question your very skill… a crucible that will push you either to greatness or a breaking point. You will wake up family members as you scream. Words will come out of your mouth that would make your mom blush. Your chill friends will ask you, ‘Why do you play something that stresses you out?’… and you will stare at them with steely eyes and reply, ‘Because I love it.’

This Steam Awards category features Dark Souls 3, Darkest Dungeon, Geometry Dash, Super Meat Boy, and Dota 2. Of all these games, while Dark Souls 3 may have the most love/hate simply from the challenge of the game itself, Dota 2 is the most deserving of this award.

Steam Awards Nominee Dota 2
[Image by Sergey Galyonkin |Flickr| Cropped and Resized | CC BY-SA 2.0 ]

Dota 2 is hard. Really hard. I played for a very, very short while. The Steam game itself is mostly fun, and the mechanics differ enough from League of Legends to make this moba a worthy play and not to complicated. But the community is about as toxic as nuclear waste. Miss killing a minion? Rage. Die? Rage, rage. Lose? You will drown in the spittle and salty tears inevitably spewing from one or more of your teammates.

The “Villain Most in Need of a Hug” Award: Some people just need a hug.

This Steam Awards category has no surprises. Borderlands 2, Far Cry 3, Far Cry 4, Portal 2, and Dead By Daylight are the nominees for this Steam Award category. All of them have great villains, albeit I’m personally a fan of GLaDOS, the insane experimenting AI of Portal 2.

The “I Thought This Game Was Cool Before It Won An Award” Award: AKA, the hipster award.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t played any of the games in this category, but I’ve heard some great things about a couple of them. We have Euro Truck Simulator 2, Paladins, Starbound, Stardew Valley, and Unturned. Definitely games the majority of us (with perhaps the exception of Starbound) probably have not played.

The “Test of Time” Award: These Steam games are literally what the Steam Award’s description says they are.

This Steam Awards category features Age of Empires II HD, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Sid Meier’s Civilization V, Team Fortress 2, and Terraria. I have friends who are still playing their first go through in Skyrim despite the game being out for years. What’s missing from this category is Civilization IV, which I could argue had a lot better mechanics than Civ 5.

A Landscape in Steam Award Nomination Elderscrolls Skyrim
Image by Joshua Livingston|Flickr| Cropped and Resized | CC BY-SA 2.0]

The “Just 5 More Minutes” Award: You have an early day tomorrow. You need to get some sleep, so you’re just going finish one more thing before you decide to tuck in for the night. Just one more. Wait, one more. What’s that you say? It’s 2:30 AM? This award is for the game that keeps you playing late.

And here we have games I wholeheartedly agree deserve this award. We have Counterstrike: Global Offensive, Fallout 4, Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, Terraria, and Rocket League. My own personal Steam account has several hundred hours in CS:GO, and Fallout 4 is quickly catching up to that number. I’m also constantly inundated with Steam notifications saying my friends are playing Rocket League, even late at night when I’m busy building a settlement in Fallout 4.

Red Rocket Diner from Steam Award Nomination Fallout 4
Image by Videogame Photography|Flickr| Cropped and Resized | CC BY-SA 2.0 ]

The “Whoooaaaaaaa, dude!” Award: This category features all the crazy, mind-bending/breaking games with great plot twists and surprises that just make you go, well, whoooaaaa.

My favorite in the category is Bioshock: Infinite, my first foray into the series, and I did not expect it to end as it did. Or the story to take those turns. Or do that thing. Or the other.

We’ve also got Grand Theft Auto V, Doom(again), The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain up for nomination.

The “Game Within A Game Award” Award: This one is pretty self-described.

Garry’s Mod is unique in this Steam Awards category as it was originally just a mod for the game Half-Life 2. Since then, it has become a standalone, and the creator, Garry, has since gone on to work with Facepunch on the hit survival game Rust.

We have two repeats in this category from the last one; Grand Theft Auto V and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt both return as nominees for this Steam Award. Tabletop Simulator and The Stanley Parable round out the contestants.

The “I’m Not Crying, There’s Something In My Eye” Award: Games are fun. But sometimes games become more than that, and touch you in a way you weren’t expecting. This award celebrates the game that blindsided you emotionally. You weren’t expecting to cry. It wasn’t in the plan. But it happened nonetheless.

This Steam Awards category features one of my favorite games of all time. The full list is Life is Strange, To the Moon, This War of Mine, Undertale, and The Walking Dead.

This War of Mine is a horrifying look at war from the side of the civilians caught in the crossfire. While based loosely on the various conflicts in the Balkans, the more recent Aleppo crisis feels highly relevant. This is one game I can’t play for too long in a single sitting.

The “Best Use Of A Farm Animal” Award: This category gets stretched just a tiny bit, perhaps, considering the nominations.

Steam Award Nominee Stardew Valley
Image by Liz M|Flickr| Cropped and Resized | CC BY 2.0 ]

ARK: Survival Evolved, Blood and Bacon, Farming Simulator 17, Goat Simulator, and Stardew Valley are the nominees for the Steam Award. I suppose dinosaurs could be considered the farm animals of the Neolithic era or some such time. Albeit, I keep imagining a T-Rex crouched in a horse stall in a bright red barn while Old MacDonald tosses hay to the brontosaurus.

The “Sit Back and Relax” Award:Did you read the description for the “Love/Hate Relationship” Award? This is the opposite.”

ABZU, Cities: Skylines, Euro Truck Simulator 2, Mini Metro, and Viridi are this Steam category’s nominees. Skylines fits the bill if you can figure out a way to ignore all the Tweets your thrice-accursed citizens keep spewing. That, and keep the lake tamed behind the damn instead of loose and devouring your city. Nothing quite like a Katrina-sized flood flowing over your skyscrapers.

The “Better With Friends” Award: Last but not least, this Steam Awards category has some superb games.

This Steam Awards category features Don’t Starve Together, Gang Beasts, Golf With Your Friends, Left 4 Dead 2, and Magicka.

Left 4 Dead 2 could also fit well in the Love/Hate category. I have quite a few hours in both this one and Left 4 Dead, but eventually, it gets tiring playing with people who have 2,000 plus hours in the game and know all the tricks of the trade. It loses that element of horror and terror and almost becomes a reflex game as whoever shoots first laughs loudest.

Voting starts December 22 with new categories for the Steam Awards coming and going every 24 hours. Be sure to vote for your favorite games on Steam!

Did a favorite game not make the Steam Awards finals? Tell us why it should be there in the comments section below!

[Featured Image by Wavebreakmedia/Thinkstock by Getty Images]