2017 was a pretty great year for gaming, even with a few nasty blunders peppered about. So it’s kind of a pity I didn’t get to play quite a bit of the year’s offerings. Missing out on excellent games like Nier: Automata and Horizon Zero Dawn, as well as the phenomenal Nintendo Switch. Despite that, I’ve still had a pretty good year in gaming. I haven’t just played games this year, I’ve started on making my own. I’ve started talking about them and sharing my opinions on games with more than just my friends. And while I feel sad for missing out on so many good ones this year, I adore the few I’ve put into this list. Not all of them released in 2017, but they made my favorites among the ones I played this year.
I know I’ve got a lot to catch up on before 2018’s most anticipated stuff arrives, but here’s what I loved playing in 2017.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I wish I could experience Breath of the Wild all over again. Just somehow expunge everything about the game from my memory and dive back in. The moment when Link steps out of the Shrine of Resurrection and the camera pans over Hyrule laid out before you is burned into my very soul. Breath of the Wild is possibly the most magical, most uplifting experience I’ve ever had in a video game. I’ve walked along NPCs of my own volition and loved it, something I’d never even imagined I’d do. I’ve spent time admiring how the grass sways in the wind and how everyone runs when it rains. I wracked my brain trying to solve every puzzle in the least conventional way possible. In abandoning the traditionality of Zelda, Nintendo’s gifted us something truly great. There’s this encouragement of creativity and this sense of freedom that’s hard to find elsewhere. Something where it’s not the gameplay itself that matters, but the stories you gain from it. I have yet to truly finish Breath of the Wild, and I doubt I’ll do that any time soon. In this new Hyrule, it’s not the path you take, but the one you make on your own.
Cuphead’s going to grace a lot of lists this year, and rightfully so. The adorably brutal throwback to the classic rubber hose animation style has been one of the gaming highlights of the year. Bursting at the seams with charm and memorable moments and characters, Cuphead only falls slightly short of potentially being my favourite game this year. Losing sucks, and Cuphead really manages to make you feel that way. Yet with all the frustration and failures, I found myself grinning through the experience. Each victory felt like I’d earned it, and each new boss defeated pushed me onwards. What made the whole thing better was experiencing it with a friend. I love co-op games, particularly ones shared side-by-side. After all, where would Cuphead be without his Mugman?
I’ll come clean and say I haven’t really played a Tekken game since Tekken 3 way, way back. I’ve tried them all out a little, but it has been a long time since I’ve found myself so engaged in Bandai Namco’s flagship fighter. Okay, so the story’s not much to talk about this time. Honestly, the single player element is really lacking in Tekken 7, but everything else is just so great. I’ve had a blast taking on friends, and the intense battles at my local FGC meets have sparked new friendships.
Despite their controversy, I’ve liked the new Rage mechanics, and how it has embraced guest characters. With Akuma from Street Fighter and Geese from SNK’s The King of Fighters and more, Tekken 7’s doing a lot to attract all kinds to perhaps the most refined 3D fighting experience yet. If you haven’t tried it out yet, I highly recommend it. Meanwhile, there’s still some moves with Claudio I need to learn.
Here’s another game on my list that’s a visual throwback to the styles of yore. Sky Rogue is colorful mess of open skies and explosions. It’s basically the classic Ace Combat formula, you pick an airplane, load up, and deal with the day’s objectives. Sky Rogue drives home the desperation of an intense dogfight, the tension mounting as you dodge roll a missile before looping around blowing an enemy ace out of the skies. There were just so many “Aha!” moments as you managed to lock-on to an enemy and sent your missiles flying. I found this rogue-lite getting tougher as I progressed, but it never failed to make the trip exhilarating.
The Shrouded Isle
I first came across Kitfox Studios when I backed Moon Hunters in 2014. So when I discovered The Shrouded Isle, I was both a little excited and a little skeptical. I mean, who would ever think that managing a cult could be so much fun? Okay. So it’s not all that much fun. The Shrouded Isle is a simple but punishing little management sim. There was this feeling of dread that hung around the game, beat against your ears with ominous music, and reinforced by the sickly palette and monochrome art. I soon learned that there was no pleasing everyone, nor was there a right way to do things. Even balance wasn’t a possibility. No. In The Shrouded Isle, whether you drive a house to rebellion, or wake a Lovecraftian god, just be glad you surived this long.
Bamboo EP released back in December 2016, but I didn’t get to experience the game well into 2017. I first stumbled across this collection of minigames over on the Extra Play channel where Will Overgard played it. The best part about Bamboo EP is Bamboo Heart, a frantic little samurai brawler where you try to reclaim your heart. Beneath this game’s pretty little exterior lies a complexity sheathed within simplicity. I found myself exhilarated with each clash of my blade, trying to live as long as I could while enemy after enemy came for my blood. Bamboo Heart was a terrific experience, and one I’d eagerly go back to. I enjoyed the game so much, I even wrote a review that you can check out here.
Okay, so Rogue Galaxy’s actually over 10 years old. It was one of my favourite games back on the PS2, so when I picked it up late this year I couldn’t help but get sucked right back in. Jaster Rogue and the story of the Dorgenark triggered nostalgia, taking me back weekend mornings spent exploring the galaxy. I was with the characters I loved again, relieving the experiences that had stuck with me. For 2017, Rogue Galaxy feels clunky, and perhaps a little outdated, yet it has managed to age so very well. There was a bittersweet nostalgia in the escapism I found in Rogue Galaxy, trekking through the humid jungles of Juraika to the steamy, seedy alleys of Vedan, understanding once again why it’s so great to revisit old favourites. Rogue Galaxy may not have come out in 2017, but it made the year for me in gaming.
Monster Hunter: World beta
“But Monster Hunter: World isn’t out yet!” you say. “A beta doesn’t count!” you state. Well, maybe. But I just couldn’t bring myself to leave it off my list. Monster Hunter: World marks the return of Capcom’s behemoth slaying franchise to the Playstation, and what a triumphant return it already is. This is everything Monster Hunter has always been, and yet so much more. It’s easily the most accessible the series has ever been, removing a lot of the clunk that would otherwise drive away newcomers. I was already excited for the game, but everything in the beta surpassed my expectations. The weapons have never felt this good, making it immensely satisfying when you topple that monster over. The two maps we go to play in are absolutely gorgeous, rife with things to exploit during your hunt. I mean, how can you resist not blowing up a dam and watching it wash a Rathalos down a cliff?
Both the beta weekends made up the longest consecutive hours I’ve spent gaming this year and I can’t wait to dive into the game again with friends in just a month!
Games I really wish I’d played this year:
- Persona 5
- Nier: Automata
- Night in the Woods
- Everything on the Nintendo Switch