This last year was the mystical year of too many games. Narrowing the list down to just 10 games was always going to be impossible. So, I’ve divided my top ten into games that I need to play more of but what I’ve played is good, honorable mentions, and an Official Top Ten.
These are the games I wish I played more of:
The Sexy Brutale
Sniper Elite 4
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
The Evil Within 2
While these games were good, they weren’t quite up to my top ten for one reason or another. Here are my honorable mentions:
Man, Destiny 2 is a game that I loved and then the business of Destiny 2 got in the way. Combine some truly baffling decisions with the lack of meaningful post-game content, and you have a recipe for disaster. It’s still an incredibly fun game to play, no doubt. However if you intend to play beyond the campaign, there are some serious issues that still need to be addressed.
I never got too into the original Splatoon, due in no small part to the system it was on. The Wii U had some great games but playing on the thing was incredibly frustrating. Which is why Splatoon 2 on the Switch makes so much more sense. It’s a much better console and playing in handheld mode is a blast.
Tekken 7 might be my favorite fighting game of all time. As someone who has only really heavily invested time into the Mortal Kombat and Tekken series’, that might not mean much. However, Tekken 7 made some brilliant changes, including buffs for when you are lower on health and a slow-mo mode to highlight dueling hits. It’s really one of the most fun fighting games I’ve ever played and considering how many hours I’ve put into Tekken 3 and Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection, that’s saying a lot.
Using the PlayStation Move controllers in VR is not ideal a lot of the time. Which is why Statik works as well as it does. It’s a sit-down VR game where you only use the DualShock 4. Each button corresponds to a different part of a puzzle box and examining them in 3D works brilliantly. And speaking of games from Tarsier Studios…
Little Nightmares is not as good as Limbo or Inside, but it’s still got an incredibly dark atmosphere and the enemy designs are absolutely brilliant. The ending is absolutely bonkers, as well, and considering that Tarsier Studios has put out two absolutely brilliant games in one year, people really should be paying attention to what they do next.
Steamworld Dig 2
Steamworld Dig was a really fun Metroid-vania game that I had a blast playing on my PlayStation Vita. So, Steamworld Dig 2 just makes sense on the Switch. It’s still a Metroid-vania game, but it combines some new power-ups, and a whole insane survival horror section that is unlike anything I’ve seen in this style of games.
Cuphead is tough but honestly, that’s a credit to the design. Getting past the boss fights feels like a win for you as a player, which says a lot about the overall design. Add to that some fantastic artwork and Cuphead is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
Hitman: Patient Zero
So, a bit of a late contender and a thing I’m ashamed we didn’t talk about in our GOTY podcasts. Patient Zero is the new campaign put out late this year for Hitman and the final level changes how you think about Hitman as a whole. While there are some decent missions prior to this, each with their own interesting requirements, the final level actually forces you to change how you play the game as a whole in a way I never expected to see.
And now for my official top ten list of games of 2017.
10. What Remains of Edith Finch
What Remains of Edith Finch is probably the best “walking simulator” style game created. The concept of exploring the Finch family home and seeing an interpretation of how various members of the family died works incredibly well as a concept. However, the fact that the game oftentimes involves you in acting out what eventually leads to their deaths is what put What Remains of Edith Finch over the top.
It’s an issue that a lot of these style of games have had in the past. Games like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture have you explore this space without actually interacting with it. You are essentially stuck in a museum. What Remains of Edith Finch feels like you are involved with the fate of these characters. While you know exactly how it will end for everyone, that doesn’t take away from the interesting story beats that the game develops.
9. Assassin’s Creed Origins/ The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
So, I’m cheating here but it’s my list and if you want to make your own list, I won’t tell you what your rules are. Assassin’s Creed Origins took me 65+ hours to get a Platinum trophy and I’ve not even gone through all the side-quests. The setting is absolutely perfect, the game plays incredibly well and it’s filling my “podcast game” niche way better than any other games this year.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, however, is a sort of opposite to Assassin’s Creed. The map isn’t filled, you have to go out and discover the world. It’s a brilliant concept and makes for, maybe, the best Legend of Zelda game ever made. Both fill different niches for me but, aside from one other game (kinda), these are the two big open world games for me this year.
8. Doki Doki Literature Club
Doki Doki Literature Club is the sort of thing that you don’t want to hear too much about before you play. Honestly, it would be a crime for me to say much other than it’s a free-to-play visual novel on Steam and easily one of the most…interesting games I’ve played all year.
7. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Look, this was the year I needed Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. While Pete Hines may have claimed that Wolfenstein II was not explicitly political, it absolutely has important things to say about privilege and what people would be willing to do to their other man just to have some minor sense of comfort. It’s not a perfect game. The stealth mechanics are not ideal, combat doesn’t give you a great sense of what your health is, and there are definite difficulty gates that may force you to lower the difficulty.
However, in 2017, the things that Wolfenstein II was explicitly saying about race, economics, and fascism feel incredibly important. In any other year, this game might not even be that revolutionary but with the current political climate, any game that takes a strong stance against fascism and white supremacy has to make my top 10. Also, there are some insane twists that really keep that game going.
6. Resident Evil VII: biohazard
In last years Game of the Year list, I included the demo for Resident Evil VII and with good reason. It felt like a more fleshed out version of P.T. Capcom kept updating it, adding in new mysteries and made that thing worth checking out multiple times. Now that Resident Evil VII has come out proper, it’s incredible that while it may be drastically different from that demo, it’s actually probably the best Resident Evil game (in my opinion) since Resident Evil 2.
I was never a huge fan of “shooter” Resident Evil. RE4 I can appreciate as a good game while acknowledging that it’s not my thing. RE5 was, at least, inoffensive. RE6 was not a good game. While the Revelations series has kept things interesting, it was Resident Evil VII that took the series back to it’s survival horror roots.
On the outside, it looks like another Outlast, but it’s actually just Resident Evil 1 but in first person. There’s a lot of puzzles, some good jumpscares and a story that takes a really strange turn at the end. If that’s not what the original Resident Evil was, then I don’t know what is.
5. Night in the Woods
Personal note time. So, as you may know, I am a college dropout who left school due to student loans and it took a really long time for me to find the thing that I feel good at. Even now, I’m unsure about that and I suffer from some pretty severe depression.
Night in the Woods was always going to resonate with me on some level just for that. However, the cast of characters that fills the small town of Possum Springs are some of the most charming and depressing characters I’ve ever seen in a game. The sense of returning to a small town that doesn’t feel like it’s changed is exactly the sense I feel any time I end up in my hometown and honestly, it’s one of the few games that has tried to explore that space.
Night in the Woods is a masterpiece in world-building and all they’re really trying to do is get the feeling of a small town right. On a personal level, I relate to Night in the Woods far more than any game featuring animal protagonists and while that may be damning with feigned praise I honestly think that Night in the Woods is the kind of game that anyone from my high school could relate to on some level.
4. Super Mario Odyssey
A new Mario game being good isn’t a surprise. A new Mario game paying heavy homage to Super Mario 64 is not a huge surprise. However, a new Mario game doing all of that while being one of, if not the, best platformer since Super Mario 64 is something to talk about.
While it’s not as revolutionary to the form as Breath of the Wild is to Zelda, it’s such a refinement of the past 20 years of platforming that you can’t ignore it. Every jump feels perfect. The worlds feel filled with meaningful collectables (looking at you, Yooka-Laylee). There are a ton of secrets and challenges if that is what you are looking for. Plus, it does absolutely bonkers things in regards to how you actually traverse the worlds.
Super Mario Odyssey feels like it’s been in the works since Super Mario Galaxy and that level of polish shows. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s easily the best platformer in decades.
3. Yakuza 0
While we were all on our simple baby games, Yakuza was over here being incredible. Yakuza 0 seemed to be a smart starting place for introducing myself to the Yakuza series and BOY WAS THAT RIGHT.
Yakuza 0 isn’t revolutionary, even by the series standards. It’s an open-world brawler with a ton of side-quests and challenges scattered around. However, it’s a dense and breathing world. Characters have absolutely insane requests and Kiryu and Majima just kinda go with it. While the core story and gameplay loop are good, it’s the world of 1980’s Kamurocho that really drive Yakuza 0.
I’ve invested almost 100 hours into the game, between the side-stories and oddly compelling business management systems and, I got to be honest: There will probably not be any other Yakuza games I sleep on.
2. PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS
PUBG is not a perfect game. The cheating problem has plagued top-level play for a long time and due to how that’s all tied into the Steam marketplace, it’s likely going to be an on-going fight for the devs. There are some bad netcode issues and private games still aren’t an option for the general public.
That said, it’s the sort of game that I keep thinking about almost every day. While I don’t play it every day (I generally don’t have a “forever game”), I keep thinking about it. This was dug into me when I was in the 1.0 versions Replay mode. It’s a highly featured mode that includes some really cool options to see exactly what you did wrong and what your opponents did right. After every match I have now, I tend to spend some amount of time examining strategies and trying to learn the best ways to handle situations.
It’s incredibly stressful in solo and getting a chicken dinner was easily one of my proudest gaming accomplishments. It felt like I was directly responsible for it. Our team was able to beat 90 or so other players. That’s not a small deal. Even in the rare occasion I make it to the top 4, if I die, I didn’t win. Winning, much like beating a level in Cuphead, feels earned. Not enough games do that today in multiplayer.
I’m sure there’s going to be something that ruins this (I’ve completely dropped off of Overwatch due to their loot box system), but for 2017, it was easily my number two game.
1. Nier: Automata
Nier and Drakengard were never my thing. Hearing people talk about them, however, was always interesting. Even seeing the games played was at least interesting. So, when the Nier Automata demo dropped, I was at least interested.
While that demo says something about how Nier: Automata plays, it actually says nothing about the themes of Nier: Automata. Those are actually the thing that drives that game in some pretty heavy and, honestly, sometimes disturbing ways.
Side-quests help build out this deeply disturbed world that has moved on from humanity and is, in many ways, trying to emulate them. The main story, however, and the implications of that story are so deeply troubling to how you play most of that game that when the game twists, it twists hard. You suddenly don’t know who to trust or why you’ve done what you’ve done.
Ultimately, that’s the story being told by Yoko Taro and while it’s often nihilistic and sad, there’s always this little bit of hope. It might not be a hope that you are around to see, but it does exist. That’s the thing that Nier: Automata does so well. It balances this story with these themes of minor hope and small victories that make you feel that even if you didn’t get what you wanted, at some point, hundreds of years down the line, things will all be ok.