2017 will be remembered as one of the golden years of video gaming alongside 1998 and 2005. Both the resurgence of the Nintendo and a strong showing by Sony brought us some of the best first party titles we have seen in years. Coupled with surprise showings by Triple A developers and the strongest indie titles gaming have ever seen 2017 was a behemoth.
This is coming two years late. And personally I struggled to play everything I wanted. When I was finished with one game another had arrived. With what limited time I had was spent on the massive 100+ hour games that had come out this year (and there were a slew of them). It was extremely hard for me to rank the games on a numbered list because they were all amazing in their own right. But without further ado my list of the greatest games of 2017.
10. Resident Evil 7
I’m not a fan of the horror genre. In fact horror games usually scare me to the point where I have to take frequent breaks and play with the blinds open and the lights on. The bathroom may or may not also play a huge part in my time with horror games. Resident Evil 7 was no exception. Taking the Resident Evil formula and turning it on its head, RE7 takes the resident evil name and spins it in a new direction with a first person camera angle and a methodical approach to puzzle and environment exploration.
But the reason it lands so high on the list is because I hate horror games.
I considered not giving PUBG a spot based on the nature of the release at the time it was released. It was not a refined game. It was buggy. It crashed frequently. And hackers ran rampant. But in terms of innovation and what PUBG did for the industry as a whole I felt PUBG deserved a spot. I personally enjoyed my little time with PUBG but felt that the buggy nature of the game really detracted from my overall enjoyment of it. Yet being apart of the final two and watching that circle shrink is one of the most exhilarating experiences anybody will have in gaming.
Cuphead is a strange game that shouldn’t appeal to me as a gamer. A run and gun action game with some of the most impressive graphics of the year Cuphead stands above many of the indie gems of the year with a difficulty level that could rival Dark Souls and a musical track that is one to be remembered. Personally I found some of the later bosses to be grueling in nature and one particular fight with a train boss had me tearing out my hair. But overall Cuphead is the whole package. Yet for me it was not the indie game of the year nor did it do anything inventive save for the graphics. It played like my other run and gun action games that I’ve played in the past.
7. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
This is a more personal choice if anything else; objectively it isn’t doing anything new or interesting to the Mario Kart formula. It isn’t even a new game, rather a port of the WiiU version of Mario Kart 8 with DLC added. But I haven’t played a Mario Kart game since Double Dash. And this game got its hook in my quickly. It was also a great game to spend time with the nephews during parties.
6. Horizon Zero Dawn
Were this a normal year in gaming Horizon Zero Dawn would be number one on my list. And who would’ve thunk the guys behind Killzone would pivot to this masterpiece? Go play this game, I can’t use words to describe this game justice.
5. Nier: Automata
How do I explain Nier Automata? It is an experience. Visually I was not blown away and that is the only bad thing I think I can say about the game. The gameplay is some of the best in the stylish action genre that Platinum games has to offer. The story is downright depressing yet keeps you engaged from start to finish. And the conclusion of the game is one of the most cathartic things I ever did in gaming. The difficulty is frustrating yet fair for veterans and newbies of the action RPG. The locales, enemies, and environments may not be visually stunning but are stylish as hell. And the soundtrack is the best soundtrack in the history of video games (no hyperbole). It truly transcends anything video gaming has produced ever.
4. Hollow Knight
I feel Hollow Knight fell under many people’s radar as a result of Cup head being so well received. Hollow Knight takes the formula of the Metroidvania and makes it all its own. Satisfying combat, difficult levels that once again rival that of Dark Souls, and a surprisingly interesting story arc Hollow Knight shows once again that the indie scene is booming and even exceeding that of the AAA space. Personally it is the indie game I sunk the most time into and it is stunning at how polished this 60 hour game turned out to be. By the conclusion I found myself contemplating my time as the little bug and how glorious the journey was.
3. Mario Odyssey
Mario Odyssey was an interesting game because it has all of the trappings of platforming games that I do not like. I hate difficult platforming sections. I don’t enjoy collecting for story advancement. And I’m terrible at nausea when it comes to platforming titles that require movements of the camera rapidly. Yet Mario Odyssey is a crowning achievement of the platforming genre. It takes the graphically fidelity of the Nintendo Switch and pushes it to the limit. The various vistas and locales you visit are a sight to behold and New Donk City in particular will have you jazzed and dancing. While I had issue with the collection of moons they are so frequent it never became more than a nuisance. And the cap-ture mechanic is a clever advancement of the Mario power fantasy. You can become a tree and it is glorious.
2. Persona 5
The demise of the turn based RPG is greatly exaggerated. I’d go so far to say as Persona 5 is the best turn based RPG in a decade. To say Persona 5 is a masterpiece is understating the game and what it does. The soundtrack rivals that of Nier: Automata. The story takes the typical trope of high school students fighting corrupt adults for a spin yet delivers in most aspects while also delving into the darker nature that the Persona series is known for. It tackles mature themes that other games dare never to tread and accomplishes them in stellar fashion. The RPG elements of this game have been polished into a diamond as you struggle to balance socializing with friends and confidants, upgrading your characters stats and attributes, and strengthening your entire party under the constant pressure of a calendar system that asks you to manage everything in time. The core success of this game is that of the main party members who help breathe life onto an otherwise silent protagonist. Whether it is the rough Ryuji, the beautiful Ann, the quirky Yusuke, or the mischievous Morgana each party member brings a wonderful addition to the table that helps round out the plucky ragtag crew.
I had a very difficult time rating Persona 5 because I feel it deserves GOTY in practically all other years this decade. Had this been 2013 I would even rate it over the highly Acclaimed Last of Us. Yet while Persona 5 may be a game the could be the game of the generation it ultimately fell a bit short.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I have been playing video games since 1998 when Pokemon Blue was released. And since that fateful day I booted up the Gameboy for the first time many timeless video game classics have come and gone. Half-Life 2, Red Dead Redemption, Halo: Combat Evolved, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Minecraft, Mario Sunshine; the list goes on and on. And many have contested the title of greatest game ever made.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the greatest games ever made, and in this humble writer’s opinion the greatest. The amount of exploration and discovery Breath of the Wild allows for and encourages is nothing I have ever seen before. No plot of land is unused in this expanse of an open world. Whether one of the many Korok seeds, a hill leading to a shrine, or a rare weapon to grab the creators of Breath of the Wild use every plot of land to craft an open world that feels mysterious and inviting without feeling bloated. No area overstays its welcome and discoveries string you along at just the right pace to find the next great landmark.
What makes Breath of the Wild stand out amongst its competitors is the shrines. Physics based puzzles are nothing new in video gaming but Breath of the Wild actively encourages creative thinking and use of the physics engine in ways I never expected. Take the Myahm Agana shrine for instance in which the goal is to rotate a ball through a maze with the Nintendo Switch motion controllers. Now we can all agree that motion controls can be infuriating.
But the magic comes when you start to think outside the box. It took me many tries to actually get the ball through the maze. And then I flipped my controller. The sudden revelation that the underside of the maze was flat was something beyond the scope Breath of the Wild that I had thought possible. And that is just one example. The way Breath of the Wild subverts traditional puzzle elements and allows for creativity is where this game is at its best.