2017 has been one hell of a year, in both video games and otherwise. When I was thinking about the list of games I had not only completed this year, but also really enjoyed it got lengthy. I honestly can’t remember a year so full of quality releases, certainly not in recent memory. That said, I had to choose 10 to put on this list. And as usual, there is no order here with the exception of the very first game. So without further adieu, here is my list of the 10 best games of 2017, at least the 10 I enjoyed playing the most.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I never thought a game could make me feel the way Breath of the Wild did, especially this far into my life. I could write pages about why Breath of the Wild is not only my favorite game of 2017, but also one of my favorite games of all time, but that’s a post for another day. For now, I just want to say how excited I am for the future of open-world game design and the inevitable impact Breath of the Wild will have on it. In one fell swoop, Nintendo not only changed the face of one of gaming’s biggest franchises, but also paved the way for a new generation of freedom in video games. While Breath of the Wild is immensely enjoyable today, it’s true legacy has yet to be fully realized. That, in my opinion, is what truly sets a game apart.
I’m a sucker for a good immersive sim. BioShock is one of my favorite games of all time and I had been craving a new world to explore for some time, so I was ready for this homage to System Shock 2. I was a little concerned as I’ve never enjoyed an Arkane game before, the Dishonored series not really doing it for me. However, I was very happy when the game opened with a stylish intro and great original theme from Mick Gordon.
As I got farther in I began to realize the the world was the real star here. Talos I is one of the most detailed, well constructed virtual worlds ever made. Each inhabitant is accounted for in the data banks of the computer terminals you come across. You learn the back stories of almost every person in the game, and no body, dead or alive, is unnamed. While the overall story left me wanting (as is the case with most immersive sims), the presentation of the world is what makes Prey special. While I would have loved to see the Prey 2 we were shown so many years ago, I am completely content with the direction Arkane took with the franchise and hope to see a follow up in the future.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a one of the most unique games I’ve ever played. Half action adventure, half metal-health study, it is where these two sides merge that makes Hellblade so special. On it’s surface, the combat is fairly standard and maybe even rote. However, the inclusion of the voices echoing inside of Senua’s head make the combat anything but ordinary. Constantly whispering and instructing you to dodge, block, and execute, the voices provide you with information that is otherwise off screen. As the combat encounters ramp up, enemies will surround you and the voices will warn you of an incoming attacks from behind, and cue you into the best time to parry.
This is a masterful merger of gameplay and story telling. The narrative revolves around Senua’s struggle to overcome her psychosis and face traumatic events from her past. Through a bizarre, unnerving journey you unravel the truth of her trauma and guide her salvation. While I was not totally satisfied with the conclusion, the road to the end was dotted with some trualy unique revelations. Combine that with amazing performances by the entire cast, most notable Melina Juergens’ portrayal of Senua, and this is a landmark achievement in both story telling and independent game development.
2017 saw Breath of the Wild redefine what a Legend of Zelda game is, while Hob showed us the old formula still has some life left in it. By zeroing in on the mystery and intrigue that has captivated gamers for generations, Hob was able to pull some genuinely original tricks. The world of Hob is the star of the show, a land built on the foundation of machines and corrupted by sins of the past. You must first discover how everything works in order to understand how you can fix it.
Every time a lever was pulled I was left in awe as entire sections of forest rose up from the misty depths below giving me a whole new region to explore. The game’s refusal to hold your hand made solving even the smallest puzzle more satisfying than most games in this genre. The true heart of exploration and wonder beats at the core of Hob and I am glad the game was brought into this world before the doors of Runic Games closed for good.
Super Mario Odyssey
I don’t have a whole lot to say about Super Mario Odyssey, other than that it’s an unabashed rebuttal to the idea that 3D platformers are dead. The fact that we got both a Legend of Zelda game and a 3D Mario title in the same year is truly a miracle. And the fact that they are both two of the finest entries in their respective franchises is even more amazing. If nothing else, Super Mario Odyssey proves the Nintendo isn’t messing around and is here to stay. It’s a feel-good, wacky adventure that goes to places I never thought a Mario game would go.
The Evil Within 2
This is an oddball, for sure. I disliked the original The Evil Within for a number a reasons, so I was very surprised to see myself picking up the sequel. Truth be told, The Evil Within 2 delivers more on the promise of a Resident Evil 4 followup than the first one ever did. Not because it tries to copy the formula of Resident Evil 4, but because it tries to redefine the survival horror genre similarly to how RE4 did in 2005. It doesn’t pull it off quite as well as RE4 did, but what it did accomplish is worth nothing for sure.
Instead of another corridor crawl full of weird creepies and jump scares, The Evil Within 2 gives you the opportunity to explore and play the game at your own pace. It provides a fairly large open-world to explore gives you reasons to revisit previous locations. As the story progresses, the game gets more linear, but you will find yourself going back and forth between hub areas several times before committing to the game’s finale. Side quests, upgrades, and secrets are yours to discover. The story feels just campy enough to keep a little smirk on your face, and the game has fare more highs than lows
SteamWorld Dig 2
Another sequel I enjoyed far more than the original. SteamWorld Dig 2 delivers one of the finest Metroid-like experiences of the last few years. It’s free-form nature is what really grabbed me. By giving you the freedom to explore the depths of the world at your own pace and constantly providing you with little side challenges and secrets made the world feel alive. Combine that with a robust and customizable upgrade system and really satisfying, unique traversal mechanics and you have one fine Metroid-like platformer. The game launched day-and-date on the Switch and looked fantastic on the 720p screen, which made it all that more enjoyable.
SteamWorld Dig 2 didn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s execution was so great that I’ll be remembering it fondly for many years to come.
Yeah, it’s on here. Still one of the most enjoyable co-op experiences around, Destiny 2 tweaked the first game’s mechanics to make for an even more accessible experience. This, unfortunately, lead to a much shorter life span as well. I fell off Destiny 2 faster than Destiny, but enjoyed my time with it non-the-less. Definitely the best game to chat with friends while shooting aliens. Psions.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
The Switch had one hell of a year and the fact that two great Mario games launched this year is a testament to that. Of course, the elephant is the room is actually a Rabbid and the room is X-COM. It’s such a weird thing, Mario + Rabbids. A combination that shouldn’t work, but does so well that I can’t wait to see what this team does next.
To call this an X-COM game for kids is being disingenuous. While the pillars are there, the execution is what makes it special. Mario + Rabbids removes some of the random nature of X-COM, but replaces it with a style and flow that keeps it moving from start to finish. This is a complex, deep strategy game hidden by a gorgeous, silly coat of paint. They knew the concept was absurd, but that wasn’t going to stop them from delivering a truly solid gameplay experience.
2016’s Game of 2017
Stardew Valley’s arrival on the Switch was a great opportunity for me to remember how much I loved this game last year. There are few games that give me the calming sense of accomplishment that Stardew Valley offers, and I can see myself continuing to play it for many years to come. It’s a perfect way to kill a few minutes here and there, and addicting enough to fill an afternoon.
2017’s Game of 2018
Assassin’s Creed: Origins
There’s always the inevitable “big game that gets released near the end of the year that you can’t finish.” I’m 100% okay with that because Assassin’s Creed: Origins is not a game I want to rush through. I honestly want to spend as much time as possible in this amazing recreation of ancient Egypt. The game is as beautiful to look at as it is to play, and the inclusion RPG progression is a great addition to the series. I will be coming back to Origins in 2018 and look forward to it being my 2017 Game of 2018.