By now, it goes without saying that 2016 was a pretty chaotic year. We endured what was arguably the most insane election in United States history. Elsewhere in the world, Britain has officially become divided while atrocities in places like Aleppo are at an almost apocalyptic level. There were a lot of other events that made this past year one of the worst on a global scale. And yes, we even lost an unbelievably lengthy list of beloved celebrities. The year was so bad, in fact, that an upstart comedy studio translated the events of the year into a trailer for a horror film! If that doesn’t speak volumes, I don’t know what does!

Thankfully, a new year is upon us! And even though there are already people saying 2017 won’t be much better, we can’t help but be hopeful. It’s also the perfect time to look back on the actual good things 2016 brought us. Since a full year of content can get pretty lengthy (and also because my father @daddo has informed me that my blog posts are TOO LONG!), I’ve limited my list to five great items that turned my world around this year! You’re welcome, dad!

1. Stranger Things (Film/TV of the Year!) 

This eerie Netflix original Stranger Things definitely takes the cake for me this year. And that is in a year with a lot of excellent Netflix offerings! Stranger Things not only brought back a lot of ’80s nostalgia though, it also flawlessly filled a spooky sci-fi void that has been missing from our screens since the original X-Files went off the air. It has humor, it has heart, and it has horror. It even has Winona Ryder! I wrote a web feature about the series shortly after finishing the first season so check it out if you’d love to know more! And if you haven’t watched it yet, make sure you get yourself on Netflix in the New Year!

Honorable Mentions: Gilmore Girls: A Year in the LifeCaptain America: Civil WarThis Is UsStar Trek Beyond.

2. Amazon Echo Dot (Tech of the Year!) 

Amazon Echo Dot
Amazon Echo Dot

I’ve had my eye on the Amazon Echo for quite some time. It seemed amazing and like the perfect device to basically do everything short of turning your home into the bridge of the Starship Enterprise! Alexa can read you the news, tell you jokes, set alarms and reminders. She can even control your lights and thermostat if you invest enough money in other devices! But I had my reservations. My Android phone was already equipped with “OK Google” functionality, which Google has now also ported to a smart home device. What could Alexa do that my phone couldn’t? It wasn’t until my co-worker @texan2hoosier got one for Christmas and raved about how fun it was that I decided to dive in and get one of my own. And with Amazon’s incredible price point of $50, what do you really have to lose in testing it out? Go buy your own and ring in your New Year with Alexa!

Honorable Mentions: Xbox One, Windows 10, Samsung Gear VR.

3. Final Fantasy XV (Game of the Year!) 

Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV

This game has been a long time coming. For the uninitiated, game developer Square Enix has reportedly had this game in some stage of development for over ten years! And with its stunning graphics, modern gameplay, beautiful open-world exploration, and gorgeous music, you can easily see why it’s taken so long to nurture into life. Fans of the games can also expect to finally step away from linear point-to-point storytelling, number-crunching turn-based combat mechanics, and exhaustive tech and research trees, making for the first modern Final Fantasy in the series’ long-standing history. Add some excitement to your New Year and check out the game today!

Honorable Mentions: World of Warcraft: LegionNo Man’s SkyStellarisOverwatch.

4. “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars (Song of the Year!) 

There is always a lot of stiff competition in this category. In fact, “24K Magic” is nearly so played out for me now that it nearly didn’t even make the cut. But the return of new music from the now-iconic Bruno Mars this year was so exciting that my local radio station played it three times in a row the day it was released. Not to mention he probably deserves a little bit of credit for successfully integrating “#blessed” into a popular song without so much as batting an eye. But let’s get real: It’s absolutely the most fun song we’ve heard this year.

Honorable Mentions: “Starboy” by The Weeknd featuring Daft Punk, “Closer” by The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey, “Higher” by The Naked & Famous, “The Sound” by The 1975, “Heathens” by Twenty One Pilots, “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake, “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” by Adele, “Cleopatra” by The Lumineers, “Empty” by Garbage.

5. Facebook Messenger (App of the Year!) 

Facebook Messenger App
Facebook Messenger App

Okay, so Facebook Messenger isn’t exactly new and it wasn’t released this year. But this year, more than any other, this former AIM addicted teenager has been sucked into the craze of Messenger. Never before had I noticed how intuitive of an instant messenger/texting app it really is until I finally installed it on all of my devices. Though I desperately tried for years to get more people to invest in the Google ecosystem of products (I love me some Google!), the reality is that Google’s Hangouts still has a way to go in the New Year before it gets this awesome. And whether you love or hate Facebook for its social media, it’s undeniable that most people actually have it unlike nearly every other messaging app available. If you don’t have Messenger on your phone, tablet, or computer yet, what are you waiting for? And feel free to chat with me any time!

Honorable Mentions: Color Switch, Snapchat, Beat Stomper, Evernote, Medium, Waze, WhatsApp.

And there you have it — my picks for the best of 2016. While it certainly doesn’t take anything away from the tragedy of life this past year, these pieces of entertainment have provided most of us the opportunity to escape from it all for a little while. Maybe even helped us find our voice or a way to express ourselves in some cases!

What were your favorites of 2016? And what are you looking forward to in the New Year? Sound off in the comments below or in our new-and-improved discussion forums! 

Author: Joseph Black

According to Wikipedia, I discovered magnesium and carbon dioxide, so that's something.

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