Here we go. My personal list (in no particular order) of best gaming experiences in the year 2017. Now, it is NOT the best game of 2017 list. There are games old and new on here and I find it interesting to put them side by side. As it turns out some older games totally hold up today and are absolutely worth playing even in a year as packed with great releases as 2017 was. Let's go!
I've played Limbo back in the day and I really liked it so I knew Inside would be just as good at the very least. Still it managed to blow me away with it's atmosphere, storytelling and art-style. It's a small masterpiece, a game with a clear vision of what it is and what it isn't, a game that to me has no flaws. The length is perfect for one lazy afternoon, the story is cryptic and dark without trying to be edgy. Nothing is out of place in this - it's a very cohesive piece of work. Seriously, my jaw dropped onto the floor a couple of times and I'm still planning to do a 100% run to get the 2nd ending. One of my all-time favourites.
NEX MACHINA (PC)
This game reviewed very well, but apparently didn't sell all that much. It's a real shame cause it is another flawless gem. In it's niche there's nothing that comes close to the level of polish, fluid yet frantic gameplay and unique graphics style (vortex). It's a game equivalent of ecstasy (minus the hangover). Yes, it is a short burst of first class arcade goodness, but should short automatically translate to bad? I'd hope not. The stages are full of secrets and challenges, the enemies coming relentlessly at you at a pace that's difficult to keep up with. The joy you'll get from a good run is like nothing else. Get it, play it and then play it some more, it is well worth your time.
HOLLOW KNIGHT (PC)
If you haven't heard of Hollow Knight at this point you must have slept under a rock or something. This game got a lot of attention and deservedly so. It's a metroidvania where combat plays bigger role than usual. It's huge and beautiful and plays like a dream too. Maybe the platforming part is a bit too twitchy for my taste, but it still is a fantastic experience full of mystery, hand-drawn graphics and charming audio design. The boss fights are a highlight - varied, big, intimidating yet with none of the "You can't harm me for 5 minutes now because I'm in my invincibility phase now" bullshit. Dexterity, impeccable timing and perseverance are required to enjoy this game - you have been warned!
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD (SWITCH)
Breath of the Wild will stay in my memory as one of my gaming fondest moments - new system, fantastic game and a supportive loved one who understood the significance of the situation ;-) It is by no means a perfect game, in fact there are many things wrong with it, but... it still managed to steal my heart for 160 hours without any signs of fatigue. I was totally consumed by it's world and never did I feel like spinning my wheels. The sense of discovery I got from Breath of the Wild is something I often miss in games nowadays (not that old games were better or something, it's just that I've seen much more and I'm not as easily impressed as back in the day). And it turns out the recipe for a near perfect open world is simple - make it dense and varied, challenge the player by not giving him too many waypoints thus creating a sense of agency over progression and, last but not least, let the player climb the fucking mountain if he wishes to! I mean why wouldn't you do that!? Being able to climb almost any surface is no doubt a game changer for the open world formula and I personally don't want any open world without this mechanic from now on. BotW is a master class in game design - it's huge, it's polished and it trusts the player. I just wish the only story DLC it got wouldn't suck so much balls... But I digress. Would I have to decide on one game this year - this would be it. But I don't, so let's leave it at that.
SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY (SWITCH)
It was my end of the year game and what an end it was. I think it might actually be the game that fits the Switch format the best - it is equally enjoyable in short handheld bursts as it is in hours long TV sessions. It feels modern and off the leash (for a Mario game that is), Odyssey is probably the most anarchistic Mario game ever. It's an amalgamation of hundreds of great ideas, novel game mechanics and general weirdness casually put together into a game. And it still feels like a cohesive 3D Mario game! But it feels like "the best of" too, without feeling like a Frankenstein of a game! And that is something uncommon. Due to Mario's excellent mobility playing this game I feel free, I feel like I can do whatever I want (even though that's obviously not the case) and go wherever I wish to. The addition of costumes and introduction of economy adds even more fun to the package and at last makes collecting the coins actually worthwhile. Dressing Mario up is definitely the cutest thing I've done this past year. Additionally the game has good soundtrack and looks very good as well. The retro 2D levels on top of 3D environments are a struck of genius and there are nods to other games all over the place! It truly is a must-have for any Switch owner.
MARIO KART 8 DELUXE (SWITCH)
I loved Double Dash back in the day and I love Mario Kart 8 Deluxe! It's one of those timeless thrills - push the acceleration button at exactly the right moment and leave everybody else in the dust. Love it! There isn't really much to say about it - if there is a perfect game in this world, it must be this one. It is filled to the brim with tracks and characters and cars and wheels and whatever and none of it feels like filler. It's top notch in every single way. Gameplay is buttery smooth, the game never drops a frame, the engine is very flexible (try playing with the sticks during replays), the tracks are just pure twisted crazyness and it never gets old. It's one of those games that I'll forget about for a couple of months and then my friend drops by and we have a blast with it for hours on end. Best enjoyed in couch tournaments.
SPLATOON 2 (SWITCH)
This game deserves more credit than it gets. Yeah, it is just a iterative sequel and doesn't bring much new to the table, but it manages to be a unique online experience especially for those that skipped the Wii U. Fact of the matter is, even with its little gripes it still is one of the best online co-op shooters out there and one you can play with your kids too! There's lots more to it than you might think at first glance - it is a deep game and one with high skill ceiling, but it doesn't stop you from enjoying it casually once in a while. It's inviting, it's fun, it's competitive and it's polished like a Nintendo game should be. I love it and it is and will be my go to online game for quite a while.
THE LAST OF US (PS3)
Well, I've heard a lot of praise before I got to this one so I was a bit apprehensive. Turns out it truly is a masterpiece of a blockbuster game. The story is mature in a way not many games manage to do without preaching. It is consistent in it's vision making the world presented a believable one and the gameplay is surprisingly thorough (which I cannot say about Uncharted 2, but that's a story for another time). It also unexpectedly doesn't play itself, which I kind of expected from this type of game. Sure, there are moments of stupidity, like when you're sneaking without making the slightest noise, meanwhile your companions are casually running around in plain sight and none of the enemies notices them, and yes, it took me out of it a couple times, but in general these moments don't come often enough to sour my opinion. All in all I was very impressed by this one, especially the ending was something I didn't see coming. Even though I'm not a fan of blockbusters, The Last of Us in my eyes stands head and shoulders above the rest and is well worth playing, even today.
PERSONA 5 (PS3)
While I'm still going thru this game I already see its appeal. It is a special-special thing and it just screams style and coolness. The characters are memorable, the music makes your feet tap, the graphics are like no other game, the topics that the story takes on are uncommon in the gaming world. Above all else this game has an identity of it's own, it's not like some other game in a different skin, it is distinctly Japanese and it doesn't try and hide it. It is a slow burn though and that's the only reason I haven't spent too much time with it. It requires patience, not because you need to learn it's mechanics, but because the mechanics of the game are introduced at a veeeeeeery slow pace. On the other hand any time a new mechanic is introduced it changes the game significantly and it gives the impression of growth and development. I just wish it would all move at a bit faster pace.
METAL GEAR SOLID 2: SONS OF LIBERTY (PS3)
Controversial opinion incoming: Metal Gear Solid 2 is a better game than Metal Gear Solid 1. There I've said it, now start throwing stones at me. MGS 1 is a great game, it changed games forever and is the most influential in the series for sure. Still MGS 2 takes the cake for me as the most inspired of the Metal Gear games. It is crazy, it is enjoyable, it plays with players expectations and it never tries too hard (remember MGS 4?). It just feels like a game that a genius conceived with new technical possibilities in sight, a beginning of a new era if you will. The mysteries, the meta, the graphics (although I've played the PS3 remaster), the gameplay, the surprises and attention to detail. It all creates a special mix - a game crazy enough to put it's main protagonist in a supporting role, yet a game that had some actual commentary on the influence of technology on our lives in coming times before it actually became a reality. And the gameplay mirrors the message! There are plenty of 4th wall breaking moments, yet they don't feel forced or fanservicey. It is a true post-modern masterpiece.
METROID: SAMUS RETURNS (3DS)
This was a highlight for the 3DS in 2017. A great classic 2D Metroid albeit in new clothes. It's a remake of the 2nd Metroid game and, surprisingly, it turned out really good. It still carries the questionable design choices of the original game, but at the same time it manages to cover them up with new interesting game mechanics. Mercury Steam with a little help from Nintendo managed to go beyond the mediocrity of it's Castlevania efforts and did Metroid justice making the whole experience more approachable to casual gamers yet keeping the challenge intact. Although AM2R is more revered amongst fans, Samus Returns still manages to scratch that 2D Metroid itch and does so in style - it is a marvel to look at in stereoscopic 3D. Ultimately not only is it a great farewell to the 3DS family of systems, but also by being the first 2D Metroid in more than a decade, just a great return to the Metroid series roots.
DONKEY KONG COUNTRY RETURNS 3D (3DS)
God damn this game! I've been pulling my hair out, I wanted to smash my 3DS into a wall countless times, I've been swearing a lot, I bit my nails off... You get the picture - it was a difficult relationship, but when it clicked... It was like a vehement romance that lasts to this day. This is probably my favourite platformer of all time (no, I haven't played Tropical Freeze yet, but that's about to change soon enough - May 4th everybody!) and it is challenging as fuck! The thing is it never feels unfair - you grasp very quickly what needs to be done and you fight your heart out executing a cavalcade of perfect jumps, stumps and roll-dodges. And when you manage to pull it all off... man, satisfaction thru the roof! I love the physics of this game - the sense of momentum and weight one gets from playing as a huge ape and everything that comes with it (like the devastating dodge roll for example). The level design and pacing is impeccable - stages are "flow" oriented, but you still can fumble your way thru thanks to the generous heart system. There are secrets and additional stages a plenty and everything is of such high quality that it boggles my mind this game is kinda forgotten and nobody mentions it along the likes of Super Mario World. In my mind it absolutely belongs in the company of those classic Mario games and it is in my opinion a better Donkey Kong game than the SNES ones. If only it could run at 60fps without any waggling...
So, that's all folks! These are the games that stood out for me in 2017. It was a fantastic year for gaming and my backlog got even bigger due to that, but I still got my fill of great games old and new. What were the games you enjoyed the most in 2017?