The 10 best games of 2017
By Bryan McDowall -
Yet again, I've been completely spoiled for choice. I list my 10 best games of 2017, and what I'm looking forward to this year.
It’s been 2018 for almost a month now, but as is my yearly tradition, I’ll take a look back at my favourite games of the last year.
10. Yakuza 0
My first encounter with Sega’s Yakuza franchise happens to be a prequel, telling the origins of Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima.
Yakuza is a spiritual successor to Shenmue in so many ways. The small environments contain a depth of activities and inhabitants which managed to entertain and distract me from the darker plotline.
Though the gameplay is a little repetitive at points, Yakuza 0 tells a compelling story in a beautiful setting.
9. Universal Paperclips
More an experiment, not a lot can be said about Universal Paperclips without experiencing it for yourself.
It has an addictive reveal mechanic, which compulsively encourages clicking. I managed to get lost in this game, mindlessly achieving targets set before me and eagerly awaiting the next gameplay element.
Incidentally, the entire game is available to play for free online.
8. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
A team-up from Nintendo and Ubisoft seemed like an exciting prospect. The inclusion of Rabbids to the Mario franchise allowed for so many rules to be broken. It was a great opportunity to create something a little different. Something a little… silly.
The turn-based strategy features dozens of challenging levels over multiple environments and includes the popular characters you would expect (and their Rabbid counterparts). Composer Grant Kirkhope (@grantkirkhope) (Banjo Kazooie, GoldenEye, Yooka Laylee) nails the score, and adds to that feeling of a fantasy kingdom gone awry.
I had a lot of fun playing this. So much in fact, that it beat Mario Odyssey to this list!
7. Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum Session!
Having introduced my partner to Taiko no Tatsujin in Japanese arcades, she imported this PS4 release for us as a means to practice before our next trip.
Despite being a much smaller drum controller than the arcade, it’s still a lot of fun! There’s a great song list also, including many catchy Japanese pop and anime songs.
Best of all, the Japanese release has English language support, so no more guessing what each menu option is. Quite possibly my favourite rhythm game since Gitaroo Man.
6. Horizon Zero Dawn
Guerrilla Games took a new approach with their latest title, swapping merciless Helghast for wild robotic dinosaurs and dystopian cityscapes for sprawling post-societal scrubland.
I picked this up as a chance to experience the Decima engine ahead of Death Stranding’s release, but was really impressed with how well HZD was produced. Visually this game is a real winner, and its graphics are complimented by the protagonist’s personal struggle for acceptance and beautiful accompanying soundtrack.
Ashly Burch (@ashly_burch) adds real character to Aloy, and helps create a believably human experience in a fantasy environment.
Whilst I never finished Horizon Zero Dawn, it was memorable, and I’ll no doubt return to finish The Frozen Wilds DLC this year.
5. Dark Souls 3: The Ringed City
Those who know me wont be surprised to see something Dark Souls related sneak its way on to my list. The Ringed City, released in March, is the final piece of DLC for Dark Souls 3, and supposedly the last new Dark Souls content by developer FromSoftware.
This was a magnificent farewell to a series I have complicated feelings for. After another substantial investment of time playing through on PC, I was able to take some form of closure.
Even before a conclusive final battle, the progression through the last few environments and quests is very satisfying. It’s evident that a lot of work has gone into this section to ensure it offers a memorable end to the series.
4. NieR: Automata
From beginning to end, NieR: Automata is a beautiful experience. I found its character animation and environment design in particular to have an incredible polish, which helped towards creating an immersive experience.
The game features mixed gameplay elements, from semi-open-world action role playing, to top-down bullet hell shooter, which I felt was helpful to pace repetitive action later in the game.
Another attractive element was a fully customisable character build, which included the interface elements on the screen. You can use a fixed (but upgradable) number of slots to manage plugins for user interface, player abilities and stat buffs. Very fitting for an android protagonist.
The soundtrack by Keiichi Okabe is incredible, and includes several vocal themes and variations on tracks from the Nier soundtrack. I picked it up in Japan and often listen when I’m driving. Even outside the context of the game itself, it’s very powerful.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
This was a tough choice. For months, I was certain Breath of the Wild would be my game of the year. Even when I started writing this, I had to think hard about what I’d taken away from each experience this year.
This game came out of nowhere for me. I hadn’t paid much attention to the hype prior to its release. Thankfully my partner preordered this for the WiiU, and playing it was a revelation.
This game is a huge departure from typical releases in the Legend of Zelda franchise, and has a lot to offer even when compared to other open world games.
I became engrossed. I climbed mountains, sought out ancient ruins, and battled frightening beasts. I took great pleasure in the smallest details, and explored this beautifully created world for hours at a time, quite content even when not progressing the main quest.
I enjoyed this game so much, I picked it up a second time later in the year, with my new Nintendo Switch. I’m playing through the DLC right now!
2. Persona 5
This game stole my heart and is currently monopolising my time.
A stunning release in this long running franchise. I tried playing Persona 3 and 4, but couldn’t really get into either of them. This time something clicked, and after almost 80 hours of gameplay, I’m still deeply engaged with the main story and its valiant cast of rogues. I’ve been told I still have 30 hours or so before I’ll complete the main story, so playing this game is a major investment of time.
This title has a gentle introduction, followed by a lot of establishing sequences and tutorials, and a slow reveal of a well designed modern day Tokyo as seen through the eyes of an adolescent. It doesn’t overwhelm with information, and in fact, I found that even after returning from a several month break, I was able to grasp the gameplay and the story again quickly enough.
The art direction is simply incredible, mixing anime cut-sequences with in-game animation and text-based dialogue, and fully animated interfaces and menus. It often feels like I’m playing through an anime.
It’s a very stylish game and ticks so many boxes.
1. What Remains of Edith Finch
Considering which games had the greatest impact this year was tough, but there’s no doubt in my mind that What Remains of Edith Finch claimed the longest impression following my first completion of the game several months ago. I still often think about it.
This walking simulator plays with the genre, introducing different experiences in several self-contained stories. These stories are personal, almost a little voyeuristic, as we catch a glimpse of the Finch family history at its bleakest moments. The Finches you see, are no strangers to tragedy.
These stories are all part of a larger narrative, and narration is important in this game. Edith (@ValerieLohman) guides us through the Finch family estate, which is a truly unique piece of architecture. She shares her memories and stories of her eccentric ancestry which have been passed down to her by her grandmother.
Developed by Giant Sparrow, What Remains of Edith Finch is a love letter to the medium. The team have done an incredible job at building a unique experience, which I’m certain will stand the test of time.
Death Stranding by Kojima Productions
Following a bizarre trailer at The Game Awards, Death Stranding is starting to feel a little more imminent. Having teased us since 2016 with digital representations of Kojima’s pals: Mads Mikkelsen, Norman Reedus and Guillermo del Toro, this latest trailer left me desperately clawing my brain for any coherent signs of a plot.
I really hope that the release of Kojima’s latest title can lay to rest any doubts I may have, following my disappointment playing through Metal Gear Solid 5’s somewhat incomplete story.
I could do with a breather to catch up on games from the last year, but I’m also looking forward to Ooblets, Shadow of the Colossus remastered on PS4, God of War and perhaps even The Last of Us Part II.
I’m still holding out hope for some gorgeous looking projects I backed on Kickstarter a while back. Time will tell if Praey for the Gods, Little Devil Inside and Starr Mazer will ever see the light of day.
Splatoon 2, ARMS, and Mario Odyssey are worth mentioning, though they didn’t quite make my top 10. Nintendo had a strong console launch this year, with so many great titles available already.
Sadly Mass Effect: Andromeda wasn’t as engaging as I had hoped it would be, and I didn’t make it very far into the story. Despite an interesting cast of characters and beautiful alien worlds, the introduction felt a little weak and wasn’t enough to keep me playing. The Mass Effect trilogy is undoubtedly a tough act to follow, but I congratulate the bold attempt to create a fresh adventure in the franchise.
I also played through A Normal Lost Phone and Sonic Mania - which were both great in their own way. Nidhogg 2 made an appearance at a few events in 2017, and I had a blast playing with friends.
As is always the case, I haven’t had nearly enough time to play everything I had hoped. These are just a few of the games which I’m adding to my backlog: Prey, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, Dujanah, Nioh, RiME, Night in the Woods, Tacoma, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Absolver, The Signal From Tölva.
I wish I could play every game, but there just isn’t enough time.
What made your list? What didn’t you get around to playing? I’d love to know what you’re looking forward to in the year ahead!