As 2017 mercifully comes to a close, I thought I'd take a few minutes to reflect on some of my favorite gaming experiences I've had this year. Note this is best games I PLAYED this year - not necessarily games that released in 2017.
This was actually a gift from my brother-in-law last Christmas, but I pumped it up ahead of several other worthy games in my backlog, and I'm glad I did - this is a fantastic game. I enjoyed the first few games in the Hitman series, when they were more about maintaining a low profile and using disguises to take out targets in unique ways. Not so much as they skewed more toward becoming full on 3rd person shooters/action games. To me, this game went back to the series' roots. The missions take place in huge, mostly interesting locales (fuck you, Denver) and there are always multiple ways to complete your contracts. And the best thing about being a late adopter was that I didn't have to wait multiple months to play the entire game.
To be honest, my 3DS hasn't seen a lot of love this year. Part of that is because I primarily play it when traveling for work, and I didn't do as much of that in 2017. But the other big factor is the Switch. While I don't take it with me on business trips yet - because my wife and kids would mutiny - the other main time I play the 3DS is when my wife has the TV tied up. Yes, it's all about the games, but playing Yoshi's Wooly World or Super Mario Maker again on a small sub-SD screen when I can play Breat of the Wild on a 720P screen is a no-brainer. That said, when I saw Metroid 2 was getting a 3DS remake at E3, I knew it was going to be a day 1 purchase. And after what seems like an eternity, it feels great to finally play a side-scrolling Metroid game again. Are there some things that I don't like about it? Sure - that overpowered counter move needs to go - but overall this is exactly what I wanted out of a modern take on a side scrolling Metroid game, and I sincerly hope Nintendo gives us more of this in glorious HD on the Switch, despite the fact that the (presumably) first person Metrroid Prime 4 has been announced.
I have been waiting, hoping, and praying for this game to show up on GOG in the nearly 10 years since it opened. I lost my physical copy for the game in a move years ago, and really wanted a DRM free version that ran on modern operating systems without jumping through hoops.
When a remastered version was announced, I was thrilled - this would be yet another day one purchase. No waiting for a big sale for me. No, Full Throttle represents one of my favorite eras in PC gaming, in which adventure games were epic experiences. LucasArts and Sierra both released countless masterpieces between them - King's Quest, Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max, Space Quest, and more. And then they just stopped. First person shooters became all the rage as graphics capabilities advanced, and interest in point and click adventure games waned. Ken and Roberta Williams sold Sierra to Vivendi, who let go of most of the staff behind the adventure games who made the company what it was, and LucasArts started focusing exclusively on Star Wars games. With the two leaders in the genre bowing out, it went into steady decline for over a decade.
There's been a resurgence of adventure games in recent years, and we've seen a lot of remasters of some of LucasArts' powerhouses. I was glad to see Monkey Island, Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle get touched up, but Full Throttle was the one I've been waiting for all these years. Everything about it - the story, the art, the voice acting, and the cinematic presentation - make this the pinacle of what an adventure game should strive to be. It is fitting that it was like a swan song for the genre before it went into hibernation. And now that it's back, all is right with my world.
I had been waiting to play this game for an eternity, it felt like. Against my better judgment, the E3 2014 video of "Zelda for the Wii U" made me decide to take a gamble on the system that was already looking like a colossal failure a year and a half after release. But my god, did it look amazing. And after all these years, finally getting a new Zelda game in HD! Sure, Wind Waker HD looked amazing, but how much better would it be for a game built from the ground up to take advantage of modern TV resolutions?
Of course, the game would be delayed. Repeatedly. Finally, we were told it would come in early 2017, and be released simultaneously on the Wii U and the new Nintendo Switch. Having bought and and played this game on both systems, I can say that the Switch version is the definitive experience. Let's all takea minute to feel one last twinge of sympathy for the Wii U, which will go down as the only Nintendo system to never get a Zelda game that it could truly call it's own.
There's a lot I love about Breat of the Wild - I'm glad the team had the guts to say "Let's just forget about all the normal Zelda conventions and do something different". I like the fact that there's no more "go beat three dungeons then get the Master Sword", and that I'm not restricted from exploring parts of the world until I have a particular item. But at the same time, I miss some of the stuff I've come to associate with Zelda over the years - huge, epic dungeons, a larger variety of enemies (ReDeads, Gibdos and Darknuts please), and where the hell is my hookshot? Plus, I'm not a fan of how easily weapons break, but plenty of people have bitched about that ad nauseum, so I'll let it go.
BOTW is a fantastic game, and I really have enjoyed my time with it. I am a bit confused about how it won multiple GOTYs, as I feel like it wasn't even the best game Nintendo released this year, but whatever - I'm glad others enjoyed it as well.
See, I told you these weren't going to all be games released this year. I got the Ultimate Alliance pack on Steam's holiday sale last year, and started playing through the first Ultimate Alliance with every intention of finishing it and completing MUA2 immediately afterward, but then BOTW happened and I never got around to it.
Still, MUA is one of my favorite licensed Marvel games, and it has been fun revisiting it a decade later. I look forward to finishing it and playing the sequel. Maybe now that Disney owns Fox and is going to start acknowleding the X-Men are a thing again, we'll get a re-release of the two X-Men Legends games one day.
Oh, Alan Wake, why didn't I play you sooner? This was a game I was excited to play when it was announced a looong time ago. But I wanted to play it on PC, not the Xbox 360. The Windows version didn't have a firm release date, it kept getting delayed, I lost interest, and so I never really paid much attention to it when it finally arrived. But when it was announced that it was going to no longer be sold earlier this year, I finally bought it and played it, and I'm sorry I didn't experience the game sooner.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not a fan of the combat. But my god, the atmospher and presentation is breath-taking. I'm glad I finally got around to playing this in 2017.
This is my true GOTY winner. I've said before, Zelda is my favorite Nintendo IP - I've ended up owning pretty much every Nintendo system because of it. Hell, I even put Donkey Kong and Metroid ahead of Mario as far as my personal favorite Nintendo IPs. But when Nintendo really puts effort into making a rock solid Mario game, they end up delivering not just a GOTY, but one of the best games of all time. I felt the same way about Galaxy, and Odyssey has delivered the experience I've been waiting for since Galaxy 2.
A well designed Mario game is about more than just completing levels, or collecting stars or moons or what have you. Mario games are about appreciating innovative level designs, and exploring interesting platforming mechanics. They're about taking advantage of power-ups and taking in unique locales. They're about having fun, plain and simple. This is something Nintendo seems to remember more than any other publisher/developer, but the Mario games in particular always seem to key in on this - video games are supposed to be FUN. And I haven't played a game with the same childlike joy in a long time that I experience with Super Mario Odyssey.
It's also been the first Mario game I've got to experience for the first time alongside my own children, and it's amazing to share it with them. Sure, they ask for my help with some of the trickier platforming sequences, but they've done and discovered things I haven't thought to do as well. Who would've thought that falling off the Iron Road in the Wooded Kingdom would lead to a secret underground area with a T-Rex?