Now that the year is out, and many are calling it one of the defining years of gaming, with multiple excellent games being released next to each other, I am now realizing how out of step my list is.
Simply put, I have not played any of the great games of 2017. In fact, I have played only one game that was released in 2017 and that game probably did not make it any top of the year list; except mine that is.
As usual, I have spent the majority of the year playing games in my backlog as well as games that I am reviewing for the Wii, Genesis, and DS. This list is the top 10 games that I played in 2017, and they span about 20 years between them, from excellent games on the Genesis to a niche of a niche game released just this year.
Here is the list in alphabetical order:
Code Name S.T.E.A.M: (3DS, 2015)
This is one of those game that were released with some expectation, although that expectation had more skepticism than hype behind it. Unfortunately, it also released with a fatal error—slow enemy turns—that was only patched after launch. As such, it was largely ignored and forgotten, even with Nintendo’s and Intelligent Systems pedigree behind it.
In many ways, Code Name S.T.E.A.M is an excellent and unique strategy game. Similar to both Valkyrie Chronicles and XCOM, it’s a 3rd person grid based tactical strategy game, but with a Golden Age comic books style. On that description alone, you realize how niche the game actually is.
Still, I greatly enjoyed the game, especially when at its most challenging. Each character brought a variety with them, and there were genuinely different ways to beat a level. Unfortunately, due to is extremely weak commercial performance, this series will probably scare IS from doing something other than Fire Emblem for a while.
Culdcept: Revolt: (3DS, 2017)
When my New 3DS was stolen, I didn’t know if I would ever have the drive to go back to the 3DS ever again. That is until I heard that a new Culdcept game was being released. At that point, I knew that only this game would bring me back to one of my favorite ever consoles, and bring me back it did.
I first played the Culdcept series on the PS2, when I picked up a random game as a freebie when I bought a number of pirated games. I don’t remember any of those games now, because Culdcept took all of my time and attention.
This series is an RPG, Strategy, Card Game, and Monopoly board game hybrid. Basically, everything and the kitchen sink. It’s a very niche game, but its surprisingly easy to learn and pick up. While the luck of the dice may not be in your side, your strategy greatly depends on how you build your card deck. With over 50 hours of single player content to go through, you have a lot of time to try out a variety of strategies.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask: (3DS, 2015)
This is a game that was probably in an end of the year list, but way back in 2001 when it was originally released. Still, its excellent 3DS remake, which improves the original in many ways, is a game worthy of being on the list—when it was released in 2015.
Semantics aside, I started “playing” Majora’s Mask in 2016, but only really begin playing it this year. Now, its one of my favorite Zeldas, and a game that I will probably dream about in the future.
With its unique three-day cycle, as well as its interesting location and micro-stories, this is a game filled to the brim with personality and memories. Of course, that is all presented within the excellent Legend of Zelda action adventure formula which carries over from the Ocarina of Time 3DS remake.
Okamiden: (DS, 2011)
When it was released on the last years of the PS2, Okami was critically praised but performed under expectations for Capcom. The same can probably be said about its sequel on the DS, Okamiden. Here is a charming game that looks to be impossible to make on the DS, and yet manages to pull that off without a hitch.
Okamiden is basically a miniature version of Okami, and if you are OK with that, then you should really enjoy this game. In fact, in some areas, like in the companion characters that accompany the main, character this game manages to be even more charming than the original.
Just note that playing it on the 3DS is probably the best experience. Because of the circle-pad, the game is much smoother to navigate than with just the D-pad.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengance: (PS3, 2013)
If you are fan of the Metal Gear Solid series or of action games, then MGRR is a game for you. Made by the action masters of Platinum, but directed by the crazy mind of Hideo Kojima, this game is basically a full game treatment of the really cool Raiden scenes in MGS4.
Remember how Raiden basically fought off two small Metal Gears by break dancing. This is basically a full game of that.
In both style and substance, Platinum hits it out of the park here. While the action gameplay never reaches the heights of Bayonetta or DMC3, it nevertheless is a fully unique spin due to its brutal free-blade mode, whose brutality is only exceeded by its style.
Shining Force II: (Genesis, 2014)
In my review of Shining Force II for the Genesis reviews series, I noted that this game is probably the only game in the Genesis library that the SNES had nothing to compare to. Sure, Nintendo had the Fire Emblem series, but those were never localized before.
Regardless, Shining Force II was one of the best examples of the SRPG genre before, and still holds up as a great game to play today.
Games like this one are the reason I still go back and review older games; because some of them are genuinely fun games that deserve to be played today.
Starfox Zero: (Wii U, 2016)
If Culdcept: Revolt was the weirdest pick in this list, then Starfox Zero is surely the most controversial. Didn’t most people hate the game and its forced motion control method?
Well, that’ mostly true, and the motion controls can feel a bit off. In fact, for the first hour, it feels like you are battling against two competing control schemes trying to force themselves exclusively into the game’s code.
However, once I forced myself to learn the controls, I realized that they offer a lot of complexity, depth, and a higher degree of control than seemed apparent at first. With that in mind, Starfox Zero becomes a very good arcade shooter that invites you to get better at over and over again.
If you just try and get by the game without mastering the controls, it can be a pretty average (and short game). Yet, if you go into it with the intention of mastering its unconventional controls, you will find something worthwhile to challenge.
Uncharted 4: (PS4, 2016)
I haven’t been a big fan of the Uncharted series. I found the first one to be great, and I really liked the second one. However, with the third game’s increasing attempt at serious storytelling, the game’s gameplay and narrative consistently jarred against each other in what I see as a jumbled mess.
Seriously though, I think Naughty Dog are probably the best studio at making these movie-style videogames. Uncharted is once again a technical marvel.
With that in mind, Uncharted 4 is a great game. It has excellent graphics, great locations, exciting set-pieces, some funny one-liners. Overall, I think the separate parts are greater than the whole.
Xenoblade Chronicles: (Wii, 2012)
I first played Xenoblade Chronicles when it was originally released in the US. I was anticipating what Operation Rainfall would lead to and was very excited when its release was announced. Still, I waited for nearly 4 months after its release for it to come over to Saudi Arabia; going to the videogame store once a week. I greatly enjoyed the game then. However, 20 hours in, someone turned off the Wii for some reason and I lost about 7 hours of progress. I stopped and never looked back.
Coming back to the game last year as part of my Wii review series, I started from the beginning. After 140 hours, I loved every part of the game. In fact, one of the reason I started reviewing Wii games was to have something to push me towards playing the game again.
Quite simply, the unique world of XC is phenomenal, its gameplay is great, and the story and characters are actually pretty good. Rarely do I spend 140+ hours on a game without feeling that I was wasting my time.
Xenoblade Chronicles X: (Wii U, 2015)
It was simply a coincidence that I played Xenoblade Chronicles X right after playing the first Xenoblade. The play queue for both the Wii and the Wii U converged in such way. As such, I immediately had a fresh frame of reference to compare XCX to, and it didn’t disappoint.
XCX is a more complicated game than the original; almost an MMO fused with a single player game. That probably confused a lot of people, but it only added to the excellent gameplay. At 180 hours, I am still sinking in some time for this behemoth.
While the story is definitely a weak point, XCX excels in nearly everything else. It has a massive world, that in both character and scope is probably only comparable to the original XC. The gameplay loop is rewarding, and there is more challenge here than the first one.
Overall, 2017 seems to be a great year for games, and I a looking forward to playing some of these games in 2018 and 2019. For someone like me, who no longer has enough free-time to playthrough a lot of games, but still has a divergent interest in many genres and consoles, it is very challenging to be in step with everyone else.
Yet, I am not going to abandon my play queue for the newest game to come out. I enjoy chipping at the ol’ backlog, and I don’t mind being out of the loop. Hell, at least I avoid getting affected by the hype and anti-hype that makes the experience more annoying than fun.
Really wish I played Super Mario Odyssey though…..