2017 has been a difficult year for everyone all over the world, and it seems like videogames picked up the pace and helped serve as an escape from all the insanity going on around us. So much so that it’s tough to point to only one game as my own personal favorite, but a few. There’s also a ton of stuff that came out this year that I still want to play, like Nier: Automata and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, which are sitting neatly at the top of my pile. Looks like next year will be even crazier in both, world insanity and the quality of game releases — here’s hope we get more of the latter than the former.
Here are my picks for 2017:
What started like a timid exploration of what seemed like an indie revival of Zork turned into one of my favorite gaming experiences of the year. Stories Untold takes the low budget feel of 1980s B movies and runs with it so freaking well. It proves that the best way of providing a tense atmosphere doesn’t exactly have to be violent, or even visual at all. Pro-tip: play this with headphones. You’ll thank me later.
What can I say about Nioh that I haven’t already said in my review? It’s a Team Ninja game that borrows from Dark Souls and feudal Japan and manages to be an incredible achievement. Sure, it stumbles a bit close to the end, but the journey up to that point is a hellish bout with some of the toughest bosses I’ve seen. It felt fantastic to build a character that truly suited my play style, which I carried all the way to the very end of the game. Yeah, Nioh is unapologetically influenced by Dark Souls, but to me it’s got Ninja Gaiden etched deep on its heart.
Assassins Creed Origins
Who knew that Assassins Creed would come out of nowhere and completely sweep me? I certainly didn’t. I had zero expectations for it going in, and came out positively enamored with the world the various teams at Ubisoft have built using a particularly fascinating time in Egypt’s history. It also helps that they’ve also turned the AC formula on its head and incorporated many elements that made Origins feel like a game in the series while at the same time play so differently. I can’t wait to see what’s next for the franchise.
I knew I would want to play Persona 5 the moment Atlus started teasing it for the first time a few years back, and hell, it took them a long time to get a new game out since 4 — a whole videogame generation, practically — but man, they really nailed it. It feels especially cool to play a game that takes place in Tokyo the same year I finally got to visit Japan for the very first time. Atlus has done such a fantastic job translating the real world sights that I can’t help but feel giddy every time I recognize a spot I’ve been to while there, down to even the most random of places. Eh, the gameplay is as expected and nothing out of this world, although I did appreciate having a deeper involvement of social links now that they work as buffs to the team’s combat abilities. The cast and story, man… Nothing beats Persona when it comes to character development, and 5 is no exception to the rule.
With all the hype surrounding PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds this year, it’s easy for everyone to forget there were other successful early access games released in 2017. One such example that managed to be one of my favorites this year was Dead Cells, a plucky, beautifully colorful roguelike Metroid/Symphony of the Night inspired platformer that really kicked my ass. From day one, it already played like a winner, and since then, it’s only been getting better with constant content updates and a feedback line between the devs and the community that the game has garnered over the months it’s been out.
The Evil Within 2
I sorta liked the original The Evil Within back in 2014 despite its many issues. The Evil Within 2 surprisingly fixed most of those problems and delivered one hell of a kind of open-world horror experience and pretty good action to boot. There’s a lot of moments I would rather keep unspoiled for the sake of having you enjoy them on your own, safe to say one of them in particular helped me feel much better about all the convolution present in the first game. What a blast of a game!
Any year that gets a Yakuza game is special, so what can we say about a year that got TWO new Yakuzas? Sure, Yakuza Kiwami might be considered old since it’s a remake, but think about it — we got so much of Japanese mafia drama in 2017 that it’s hard to imagine that in only a few months we’ll once again dive in when supposedly the last Yakuza game starring Kazuma Kiryu will come out in English through Yakuza 6. Although both of the entries that came out this year portrayed a young Kazuma, it was Yakuza 0 that really hit it home with me. Maybe it’s because of its positively insane mechanics or even its story that bears the series’ trademark convolution, or even its repetitive fights with waves of nameless thugs, but there’s something to Yakuza 0 that makes it really memorable, months after finishing it.
It was impressive to see SEGA finally break away from its stubbornness of releasing a streak of horrible polygonal Sonic games and instead shift their focus to the original side scrolling gameplay that was originally the thing that made SEGA a household name back in the 1990s. Sure, they had to go to the fans and have a particularly talented one design their dream Sonic game, and for Sonic Mania to come out from that insanely insightful bit of strategic thinking. They gave Christian Whitehead — known for both his Sonic fandom and technical ingenuity — the go-ahead for making a roots Sonic game, and boy, did it pay off. Sonic Mania is brilliantly nostalgic and at the same time incredibly innovative, showing off just how much a fresh take on much threaded ground can be a good bet.
Super Mario Odyssey
For as much as Sonic Mania proved that going back to the well is a sometimes a good approach when “new” isn’t doing it, Super Mario Odyssey is Nintendo’s answer to the question “what can we do that is both familiar and innovative for one of our most beloved franchises?”. Just as they did with Zelda: Breath of the Wild — which belongs in this list along with Odyssey, but I have not included because I haven’t any more of since March — Mario’s newest feels like a home run commemoration of everything that has made Super Mario so great all these years. While I’m more of a Super Mario Galaxy fan than the more Mario 64-ish gameplay found in Super Mario Odyssey, there’s no denying how much charm and fun there is in this game (plus the hours of play still waiting for me in the post-game).
Battle Chef Brigade
Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth
Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Project CARS 2
Resident Evil 7
And… the oldie that I enjoyed in 2017:
Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls
Like previous years, 2017 was also taken by a particular Blizzard game, and in the same way as 2015 and 2016 before it, it was an entirely different one. Diablo 3’s expansion went on sale around January, and since I had yet to play Reaper of Souls up to that point, I took the opportunity to enjoy all of what Diablo 3 had seen in form of updates and patches since its original release, the point where I stopped playing. I can’t think of a Blizzard game that has gone through as much change as Diablo 3 has over the years, and having now played three distinct seasonal adventures, I can safely say that it now sits among my favorites!