Cristiano Ronaldo is joined by Real team-mate Bale on the shortlist - with the 26-year-old also shining on the club and international stage.
The usual suspects are there, too, with Barcelona's MSN - Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
Cristiano Ronaldo excelled for club and country in 2016 - scoring the winning penalty as Real Madrid won the Champions League in May before captaining Portugal to their first European Championship two months later.
Real's No 7 is joined by his perennial rival Messi - with the pair having held a duopoly on the coveted gong since 2008.
While Messi didn't enjoy the success that Ronaldo had last season, he did win La Liga and the Copa Del Rey with Barcelona. He also led Argentina to the Copa America final.
Messi's striking partners at the Camp Nou, Luis Suarez and Neymar, are unsurprisingly included after enjoying stellar seasons.
The Uruguayan outscored Messi and Ronaldo in La Liga to claim the Pichichi while the Brazilian scored and provided a hatful of wondrous efforts as Luis Enrique's men won four trophies.
Mesut Ozil was amongst some high-profile omissions, alongside Chelsea's N'Golo Kante, PSG's Angel Di Maria and Juventus' Leonardo Bonucci.
The names were revealed by France Football magazine throughout the course of Monday; all but Manchester United duo Zlatan Ibrahimović and Paul Pogba, as well as West Ham's Dimitri Payet, are plying their trade in this season's UEFA Champions League. The winner will be named on Monday 9 January.
France Football has given the award every year since 1956; the past six editions – four won by Lionel Messi, two by Cristiano Ronaldo – have been known as the FIFA Ballon d'Or but football's world governing body are no longer associated with it. The last player other than Messi or Ronaldo to win the award in either guise was Kaká in 2007.
2016 Ballon d'Or shortlist
Sergio Agüero (Manchester City & Argentina)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund & Gabon)
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid & Wales)
Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus & Italy)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City & Belgium)
Paulo Dybala (Juventus & Argentina)
Diego Godín (Atlético Madrid & Uruguay)
Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid & France)
Gonzalo Higuaín (Napoli/Juventus & Argentina)
Zlatan Ibrahimović (Paris Saint-Germain/Manchester United & Sweden)
Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona & Spain)
Koke (Atlético Madrid & Spain)
Toni Kroos (Real Madrid & Germany)
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern München & Poland)
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur & France)
Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City & Algeria)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina)
Luka Modrić (Real Madrid & Croatia)
Thomas Müller (Bayern München & Germany)
Manuel Neuer (Bayern München & Germany)
Neymar (Barcelona & Brazil)
Dimitri Payet (West Ham & France)
Pepe (Real Madrid & Portugal)
Paul Pogba (Juventus/Manchester United & France)
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid & Spain)
Rui Patrício (Sporting CP & Portugal)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid & Portugal)
Luis Suárez (Barcelona & Uruguay)
Jamie Vardy (Leicester City & England)
Arturo Vidal (Bayern München & Chile)
Nominees by current club
Manchester City: 2
Manchester United: 2
Real Madrid: 6
West Ham: 1
Cristiano Ronaldo: My Portugal story
Nominees by nationality