These games and awards were decided during the Ward Podcast’s Best Games Played 2016 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Ward Podcast in 2016, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.

Life is Strange captures the feeling of being in high school again, of the start of a new school year with crisp fall days, imbued with the Lynchian tones of the Pacific Northwest, contrasted with overly sterile hallways and sanitized relationships with the high school staff.

Life is Strange is one of the most exquisite experiences out there, and it’s not because of its time rewinding mechanic. The supernatural elements are mostly a backdrop for the main character, Maxine, trying to rekindle a lost friendship after returning from an unceremonious move to another city.

The game captures what makes it so stressful and difficult and scary to be a teenager, and then the game adds real, physical threats to the existing pile of existential ones, from town-destroying storms and kidnappings to addressing issues of child abuse, mental illness, suicide, bullying, and personal growth. It’s a stunning blend of Twin Peaks, Juno, Superbad, with a touch of Donnie Darko.

There are some cracks in the veneer of the game, such as the somewhat stilted dialog caused by a French team trying to write about an American town in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a flawed, beautiful thing, much like the life of its characters that it’s trying to portray.