2017 for gaming has proven to be one of its best years in terms of the games themselves, as well as most controversial with the rise of the lootbox and micro-transaction debacle. The year saw the release of many beloved first-party games from the big industry heads in Sony, Nintendo and a little bit of Microsoft, as well as the debut of the hybrid console the Nintendo Switch, which I love very much and clearly resonated well with the gaming crowd based on its strong first year sales. A competitive gaming scene is good for all, and with Nintendo’s quick return to form, I’m hopeful for Microsoft in terms of their own first-party support in 2018. While they lacked the games, Microsoft did make big strides in terms of bringing different platforms together with Nintendo and PC on games like “Rocket League” and soon to be “Minecraft,” as well as launching the most powerful home console to date.
There were a great many fantastic games this year, many that I desperately wanted to play but quite simply did not have the time to play, such as “Nier Automata,” “Persona 5,” “Wolfenstein 2” and “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” otherwise they would likely all have spots on this list. With such a wealth of quality titles, there has simply never been a better time to be a gamer, and with that, I present to you the top ten games of 2017.
I have never considered myself a fan of the fighting game genre, though with Nintendo’s unique take on it with the spring arm boxing match, I was very intrigued. The wide roster of characters with their own unique abilities presents a lot to get a handle on, though the gameplay itself is easy to pick-up but hard to master. I found myself climbing the ranks in the competitive mode with my main Min-Min, the Ramen Bomber herself, and continually getting my butt kicked but getting better all the same. The fights always play out differently based on your opponent, and adapting your strategy and arms loadout on the fly is a must. This is a great franchise to get started on the Switch, and one that has a great deal of potential moving forward.
While the PC version technically released last year, the Switch edition came out in 2017 and was my first time playing it, which is why it has been relegated to the honorable mentions category. I had always heard comparisons made to “Animal Crossing” with this game, which is why it grabbed my interest initially. The game puts you in control of your grandfather’s rundown farm, pushing you to make a life for yourself in this new place. Building relationships with your fellow townspeople is a must, and the game presents a number of ways to do this. I think it is the game’s relaxing nature that is the best part, and it presents a great amount of depth in furthering your skills in farming, fishing and mining among others, all working towards a bigger profit. What surprised me the most is it was all done by one guy; music, code, art and everything else. The game is refreshing take versus the constant action in most games today, and is a charming standout among other indie titles.
“Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice”
I only recently started “Hellblade,” but from what I have played thus far and heard from others, this is a game I think many should give a chance. Dealing with Norse mythology, you play as Senua who is attempting to rescue her dead loved one, while dealing with her psychosis at the same time. The developers consulted many experts on the subject, and so they make great use of the 3D audio to immerse the player into Senua’s mind, which is why I recommend playing with headphones. The game’s puzzles are good as is the combat, which is simple but satisfying and fun all the same. It is not the gameplay that pushes this game to the top though, it is the overall narrative and the awareness it raises to the issue of mental illness. Just from the little I have played, it has opened my eyes more to this issue, and the developer diaries with the game go into this even further. If there is any game that has had a real positive impact on society, or piece of media in general, “Hellblade” certainly takes home the prize in my eyes.
10. “Star Wars: Battlefront 2”
Despite a rocky release, DICE has delivered a great “Battlefront” game, one that pulls from every corner of the “Star Wars” galaxy. It is probably the game I have put the most time into besides number one on this list, with about 90 hours put in since it released mid-November. The main modes in Galactic Assault and Starfighter Assault do a stellar job at bringing you into these incredible environments, allowing you to feel like you’re in those big moments from the films and shows. It is a shame that EA’s initial greed got in the way of the fantastic game that DICE has created, one that fans have been wanting for a long time, though thankfully they are making some strong steps forward based on their most recent update. With more content updates coming down the pipeline, “Battlefront 2” is a game I plan on coming back to again and again in 2018.
9. “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe”
While this game did release for Wii U a couple years ago, the completely overhauled battle mode and added characters and vehicles make this one worthy of inclusion on the list. You do not see many kart racers on the market now, and for good reason: Nintendo has simply nailed the formula for the genre, and this is easily the best iteration yet. Thanks to the mobility of the Switch, playing with friends is made even easier and while the 3DS did this with “Mario Kart 7,” it just isn’t the same as the console quality experience you get with this. The handling on the karts is great, and the items actually mostly feel balanced for the most part (looking at you blue shell). The number of car parts and different weight classes for characters make it so finding that perfect combination for you is going to be completely different from someone else. “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” is one of the best games to play with friends or family, and only makes me hope we see “Smash Bros.” come soon to complete the duo on Switch.
8. “Splatoon 2”
The original “Splatoon” released to high praise but was stuck on the poorly-sold Wii U, but thanks to the Switch, it is now perfectly at home on a console that has already outsold the Wii U in its first year. “Splatoon 2” brings a fresh take on the online shooter, one that makes it easy for anyone to jump in and understand, but leaving room for the competitive scene to grow. The constant cycle of maps in and out of the rotation means you always feel like you’re coming back to something new, especially with new weapons and maps being added outright as well. My favorite part of the game are the splatfests, a community weekend event that has you pick a side and compete for a valuable currency used on upgrading gear. The events can range from cake versus ice cream, Sci-Fi versus Fantasy, or even ketchup versus mayo, which leads to fun back-and-forth between others online. Nintendo has yet another hit franchise on their hands now with “Splatoon,” one that I think stands out among the other popular shooters thanks to its unique play-style.
7. “Uncharted: The Lost Legacy”
Originally planned as a DLC, “Uncharted: The Lost Legacy” is a fun exploration into the character of Chloe Frazier, a stand-alone from the rest of Nathan Drake’s main games. While it does not bring much in terms of changes to gameplay, it does deliver an excellent story between Chloe and Nadine Ross and simply more of the “Uncharted” signature gameplay, complete with big action set-pieces and beautiful scenery along the way. While it never quite reaches the level of some of the other main games, it still reaches the standard of quality you would expect from Naughty Dog and would probably be in my top five if it came out last year. Chloe is a great fill-in for Drake as the protagonist, and the story adds much more emotional weight to her character and Nadine’s than they received when serving as supporting characters in prior games. If you are a fan of the “Uncharted” series or even looking to jump in, “The Lost Legacy” serves as a strong standalone place to start from the core games.
6. “Golf Story”
When I first saw “Golf Story” in one of the Nindies showcases from Nintendo, my interest was immediately piqued. The cute artstyle paired with the mechanics of a Golf RPG was exciting, and being from a new studio made me curious how it would turn out. What I got was one of the most charming games I had ever played, and one that was way funnier than it had any right to be. The actual golf mechanics are fun and how you get to them through exploring multiple courses is just as good. The story takes you on your rise to the pro tour, where you will come across a number of odd moments along the way, like solving a murder mystery in a locked-down clubhouse, or even helping to recruit an army of moles for the course groundskeeper. The game does a good job at poking fun at some of the odder points of the sport, while still being respectful to the game itself. If you are a Switch owner with $15 dollars to spare, this is a sleeper hit that I cannot recommend enough.
5. “Horizon Zero Dawn”
When Guerrilla Games was said to be developing an Open-World RPG, breaking off from their traditional FPS “Killzone” series, many were curious on how well the transition to go. From the moment the first trailer hit at E3 2015, I was fully on the hype train for the game’s release, yet only to eventually find out that “Breath of the Wild” and the Switch had a release date set three days after “Horizon.” Playing two giant open-world games in such close proximity to each other was not on my to-do list, and while I wish I could say it was a tough choice, I am glad I chose to wait for the game in the long run. “Horizon” presents an open-world with stunning vistas around every bend and corner, along with giant mechanical beasts to inhabit them. Set years after nature overcomes technology, the world and its people are in a primitive state but still have interesting ways of incorporating left-over technology. Aloy is a fantastic new protagonist to games, and Ahsly Burch brings her to life in a very special manner. She is a very determined character who has a mysterious past that keeps you wanting to know more throughout the main story, a story that I think is one of the best of the year. The games combat is a lot of fun, and taking down hulking beasts feels satisfying each time, and the variety to keep you occupied is certainly there. In most of the previous years, this game likely would be my game of the year, which just goes to show just how tough the competition is among these final five.
4. “Resident Evil 7: Biohazard”
I never really got into the “Resident Evil” series until the first game’s remaster was free last year, which I played with my roommate, watching often and having blast exploring the manor. When I got my hands on a PSVR, my immediate pickup was “Resident Evil 7,” which I had been saving to play just for the occasion. Simply put, this was one of the best gaming experiences I have ever had in my life, and I can safely say headsets like PSVR are no gimmicks unlike the Kinect or Wii. “Resident Evil 7” displays the survival horror genre at its finest, and you don’t need a VR headset to realize that. The game delivers a horrifying tale of a man trying to rescue his wife from a seemingly crazed family of hillbillies in the bayou of Louisiana, but it contains a much more tragic story at its heart. There is a moment in the game that is one of the most profound from any game this generation, one that changes how you look at certain aspects of the game from then on. What I appreciate from the game is their use of cheap jump-scares is sparingly, relying simply on sound design and musical cues to build terror. The moment I realized how right it was to wait and play in VR was once I thought I had successfully evaded the Jack Baker, only to have him come crashing through the wall in front of me. If you have even the slightest inkling to plan on buying a VR headset at any point in the future, do yourself a favor and wait to play this game then.
3. “Super Mario Odyssey”
If I was ever given the question to define the words “joy” and “fun” with a piece of media, “Super Mario Odyssey” is what I would reply with. Mario’s platforming is as tight and entertaining as ever, and the added Cappy mechanic in both movement and capturing enemies is a worthy addition. The game’s difficulty is really what you make of it; want to simply grab only the required moons for the next world? Go on ahead. Want to challenge yourself and collect every single moon in the game? Be happy there is no longer a counter on lives. The game’s multiple worlds serve as vastly different and densely packed playgrounds for which you can explore, which should preoccupy you for quite sometime given there are over 800 moons. Not only is gameplay great, but the music and smartly used nostalgic moments only tip the game even higher. “Odyssey” has a surprise for you seemingly around every corner, and if the game isn’t leaving you constantly with a wide grin on your face, there honestly maybe something wrong with your soul.
A game seemingly brought out of time machine from the 1920’s, “Cuphead” has probably one of the best, if not the best, artstyles compared to any other game. Pair this with a stellar jazz soundtrack, rewarding boss rush and platforming levels and overall attention to every minor detail to remain true to the era, you get a fantastic game. Each boss is unique and hard in their own way, with a fitting piece of music to go along with them, which features a different solo each time you play to keep you interested. The fact that everything was handrawn is what always amazes me the most, making the development process much longer than it needed to be but I thank Microsoft for helping to make sure it got released. The game certainly has a strong difficulty, but is made doable by the subtle audio and visual clues bosses give before their attacks. I commend Studio MDHR for making such a special game, and sticking with the tough development process all the way through, as it ended up paying off in a big way.
1. “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”
I remember beating my first video game in the form of “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” on the Nintendo 64, and I’m sure if I showed myself what “Breath of the Wild” accomplishes now in the series, I would probably be just as flabbergasted as I am now. The game is perfect by no means, as no games truly are, but it brings such a breath of fresh air to the open-world genre that I think sets it up as I always wanted it to be. No invisible barriers, no mountain that you can’t climb over, everything that makes it open in the truest sense of the word. The game is designed in a way that where you go and what you need to do to accomplish the task of defeating Ganon is entirely up to you. Every part of the world serves some purpose, whether it be an empty grass plain hiding a shrine, the next bandit camp with a cool weapon, or even a lone rock hiding a korok seed. The developers fully intend for you to break gaming convention you have come to know, especially “Zelda,” and explore every nook and cranny there is if you so wish, and give you the tools you’ll need to do this right from the start. The eccentric characters you’ll find on your journey all leaving a lasting impression, and the story told through memories of the past works in a interesting way, but suffers slightly from it. Gadgets are replaced with runes, which can lead to some creative uses of travel an combat, as well as solving puzzles in shrines. Shrines themselves remind me of Portals test chambers, though the puzzles can be solved in completely than different ways than what was intended, much like the story.
When you think of a game of the year, it should be one that stands the test of time and can be played at any point with the same appreciation, and I think “Breath of the Wilds” focus on artstyle rather than graphical fidelity partly makes it the perfect candidate for this. Musically, the game uses it sparingly, but when it is there, it is well worth the moment, and makes the final climb in Hyrule Castle with the theme slowly building all the more sweeter. “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” is a game that brings exploration to games in the fullest intent it has every been, making your journey completely different than what someone else’s may have be. 2017 has been a tough year of competition for game of the year, with so many fantastic games, it made this list all the more harder to even narrow down, especially the above four. A game like “Breath of the Wild” does not come often though, and it hits all the right notes for me personally, making it not only my personal game of the year, but maybe even game of the generation.