This has been a hell of a year for video games. The sheer amount of good to great releases feels unprecedented. I honestly believe there were fantastic games for every taste out there in the year 2017. My personal list has been pretty fluid with changing titles and orders every time I thought about it. I do think I finally nailed down the list though. At least for how I feel this week.
10. Life is Strange: Before The Storm
This is a weird one to have on the list because at the time of this writing I haven’t played episode 3. Normally I wouldn’t list a game I had not completed but this seems like a special circumstance. That is because even if I don’t like the finale, the sheer fun I had recording podcasts on this game make up for it. I have loved the discussions and in a way that has painted my enjoyment of this game. That is not to say the game itself is bad. Quite the contrary. The relationship between Chloe and Rachel has been surprisingly compelling and lead to one of the more heartfelt and well directed scenes of early teen romance this medium has produced.
9. Nier: Automata
Nier is the latest edition to this list. It was also the hardest to place. On one hand, the way it uses gameplay and player interaction to enhance it’s many memorable moments is awesome. On the other hand, the repetitive gameplay, bland environments, and esoteric design structure do much to hinder the experience. I have to think that there had to be a better solution to guiding the player to the five main endings. The reason it bugs me so much though is due to just how memorable those last three endings are, especially the surprising and uplifting “Ending E” that marries gameplay and storytelling perfectly. It is worth experiencing, I just wish it was more fun getting there.
8. Injustice 2
Injustice 2 made Superman an interesting character. That should be enough to sell you on this game. If not, maybe it is the fact that is packed to the gills with content to keep you coming back for dozens of hours. A killer story mode, the endless Multiverse, online play, and the loot system all beg for your attention. I said it before and I’ll say it again; this is the new gold standard for content in the fighting game genre.
7. Resident Evil VII: Biohazard
I am a lifelong Resident Evil fan. I have enjoyed every game in the series to varying degrees. Believe me when I tell you this is pound for pound the scariest game the series has ever produced. The anxiety of wondering when the next horrible thing is going to appear is just a part of it. It is also the quiet moments when nothing happens. When the house creaks or you unintentionally knock something over. When an old lady is just sitting in the corner doing nothing. She has to jump at you right? Right? But she doesn’t and that is all the more unsettling. It is because you know the game is messing with you and its working. The last third of the game sadly gets away from this, but I will never forget my first time wandering through the Baker household.
6. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
This game was one of the harder games to play through for me this year. Not for any gameplay reasons although the combat is incredibly repetitive. No, it is Senua’s mind fighting you every step of the way. Her mind doesn’t want you to succeed. It wants you to suffer and the incredible 3D audio allows the voices in her head to never let you forget it. But fight through it you do – together. You get to see Senua at her darkest and most vulnerable, but you also get to see her find some semblance of peace. Put in some headphones and take that journey with her.
5. Destiny 2
I have definitely cooled on this game as the year has gone on. There was a time when it was fighting for my number 2 spot. Unfortunately, the game loses steam in the endgame. Also having few options for a group larger than 3 people is frustrating for the friends group I run with. All those complaints aside, Destiny 2 is still my favorite loot shooter ever. Making my characters look good is honestly all I need, but to combine it with best in class shooting is only icing. I will happily continue to check in with the game with each new expansion and run that loot loop all over again. It is just so damn satisfying.
4. Super Mario Odyssey
Odyssey is joy distilled down into video game form. It is a celebration of all things Mario, and I had a smile on my face the whole time playing it. The “Capture” mechanic, while nightmarish, lead to multiple awesome little moments and puzzle solutions. Capturing a Goomba stack and jumping them to their doom never got old. I will say that not every world was super interesting but, luckily, most don’t overstay their welcome. The same can’t be said for the motion controls, which made my preferred way to play, handheld mode, the worse way. Those small complaints aside, Odyssey was a game I sunk 40 hours glorious hours into and plan on going back to over time to get the last the moons. 880, it turns out, is a whole lot, ladies and gentlemen.
3. Persona 5
If you know anything about my gaming tastes, it is that I am almost immediately turned off by turn-based combat and games with a slow burn. The Persona series is my exception and the fifth entry is the best one yet. The style of the game is always the first thing to grab a person’s eye and for good reason. Everything from the world design to the menus is stylized in a way to make everything pop and fun to interact with. The soundtrack is the best of the year. The cast of characters is varied and while a lot of them fall into anime stereotypes, they are written and designed well enough to stand out from one another. The combat is snappy while featuring a monster collecting mechanic making most encounters worthwhile. On the downside, the localization can be hit or miss, although I find it charming in a weird way. The dungeon designs were weaker towards the end and went on for far too long. A minimum eighty hour investment is insane. If you can stomach all of that, then you are in for a highly memorable experience. Oh, and Makoto is the only choice. Her persona is a freaking motorcycle. Case. Closed.
2. Night in the Woods
Mae Borowski sucks. She is one of the most frustrating protagonists I can think of, which is why she is also one of my favorites. Her anxieties and character faults add layers that so many other games fail at. It never feels like you are supposed to like her because you play as her. You like her because she feels like a real person and you want to help her, and that can be said for literally any other character in the game, big or small. The writing is just that good. Spending time with the townsfolk never felt like a chore. I couldn’t wait to see where all of their character arcs ended up, and I could write an entire article on all the scenes that stuck with me. The town of Possum Springs, complete with a beautiful storybook art style, is literally one street you run back and forth on for 10 hours and I couldn’t get enough. I just loved being in that world. Even if it doesn’t speak to you as directly as it does me, there is still something here for everyone to appreciate.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
If you have listened to our podcast at all since March, you already knew what number one was going to be. Yes, the Master Sword breaking sucks. Yes, the dungeons are largely forgettable. Yes, the voice acting is sub-par. Yes, rain is your mortal enemy. I don’t care. A game has never surprised me in the way BotW has. I had open world fatigue. I didn’t want to climb towers anymore. Yet I did it all in this game and was in awe every for every second of it. It encourages exploration and experimentation and rewards you for doing it. The staggering amount of systems at work here would crush a lesser game, but Zelda marches 0n like it’s nothing. Did I mention this was Nintendo’s first attempt at this? Their first time managed to surpass everything that came before it and it feels effortless. I could talk for hours about this game. Hell, I actually did. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a modern day masterpiece and not only the best game I played this year, but also a strong contender for the best open world game ever made.