I barely touched a “daily login bonus” in 2014, I got sucked into a few of them in 2015 but in 2016 I became a connoisseur of the one-day-at-a-time slow-grind to completion. I’ve been juggling at least 2 of them at a time for most of the year, some returning favorites from 2015 and some brand new.
Nintendo Badge Arcade (Nintendo 3DS)
By the end of 2015 I was bragging about collecting a measly 100 badges in Nintendo’s free-to-play claw catcher “game” but by springtime 2016 I was at nearly 400 of the frivolous stamps. My devotion trailed off pretty hard after that but good ol’ Badge Arcade and its patron saint, Arcade Bunny, still deserve a nod for 2016.
Spelunker World (PlayStation 4)
Also worthy of note is Spelunker World. While I ditched the Japanese version entirely in 2016 I was still going pretty hard on it every day through May once they opened up 25 new stages, the game’s finale and a new character.
Guitar Hero Live (PlayStation 4)
Another 2015 title that I was hot and heavy on early in 2016 was Guitar Hero Live. For those jumping from last year’s recap you can rest assured that my daily login bonuses did start tracking and by May I’d maxed out all of my stats. I continued to load it up almost every day for a few more bonus coins and to see what new songs would pop up in the always-on GHTV mode. And honestly, I was expecting Activision to announce the end of the service at any moment but it kept up through the year.
Ace Combat Infinity (PlayStation 3)
In July I spotted a 500gb slim PS3 on Craigslist that I transitioned my Delisted games to. I also wanted to check out Ace Combat Infinity because it’s been kicking around since 2014 and I thought, for sure, it would be going away soon. Just like Spelunker, Infinity is full of esoteric upgrade systems, consumable currencies and endless grinding up the numerous tiers of the aircraft tree. Naturally, daily logins dole out bonuses and if you manage to make it to the 10-days-in-a-row mark you end up with a few nice rewards. They even throw you some hefty currency packs if you meet the 10 days before they reset the counter which makes it feel like you’re getting one over on them. It’s also a fantastic Ace Combat experience that only feels better and better as you improve your stable of aircraft.
Big City Stories (PlayStation 4)
Finally, a real 2016 release! I’d been checking in daily since the game’s rocky launch in late August but not for the typical bonuses. Big City Stories is like “SimCity lite” and it’s all about timers and renewing resources. I wasn’t about to get up in the middle of the night when I had a fresh batch of workers to start a new building but it did keep me checking in every day for months. It’s also the only free-to-play game that I spent money on in 2016. I eventually bought their $10 pack of gold coins to generate workers at double the speed. Otherwise I’d still be grinding towards Level 50 and while the game is fun and satisfying, it’s not that fun.
Let it Die (PlayStation 4)
Lastly, right at the end of the year, was Let it Die. It turns out the only way I can finally engage with a Suda 51 joint is when it’s a free download. With no monetary investment (and practically no knowledge of it ahead of time) I dove into its mysterious and terrifying world described as “Dark Souls meets Free-to-Play”. Sure enough, the game is chock full of convoluted systems, upgrade paths, consumable resources and currencies you can buy with real money.
Every day offers up a sparkling box to rip open for a free reward (sometimes invaluable, frequently junk) and a chance to see who raided your inventory. At first it was frightening to think players could rob me blind and it motivated me — as I’m sure it was designed to — to level up my roster of defenders as quickly as I could. Turns out, the losses aren’t extreme and now I keep coming back to push my way a little farther up the Tower of Barbs’ 40 floors. Unless something major absorbs me in 2017 I’ll probably still be working on this one well into the year.