2017: The Greatest Year in Gaming History
This was a year packed with phenomenal games of all scopes and sizes. From January to December, gamers were showered with breathtaking AAA games, incredible indie titles, and even the return of AA projects. It also showcased some of the most beautiful graphics to date and showed what the next step of open world video games could be. Making this list wasn’t easy, but here are my Top 10 Games of 2017.
10. Snake Pass
Typically video games don’t do a great job of getting me up off of my couch and moving around, but Snake Pass was filled with so many equally frustrating and triumphant moments that it was hard not to run around while playing it. Snake Pass feels like a game made for Nintendo Switch, with its pleasant cartoon visuals, unique physics and clever puzzle mechanics. It certainly has some point that make me want to spike my Switch like Rob Gronkowski, but overall it’s an enjoyable puzzle game that has the charm of an N64 game and is perfect for puzzles on-the-go. It gave me many headaches, but Snake Pass is still one of my favorite games of the year.
9. Injustice 2
I’ve always been a Mortal Kombat fan, and though I indulge in Tekken, Street Fighter and Marvel Vs. Capcom from time to time, they usually tend to pale in comparison for me. That’s why I was so surprised by how much Injustice 2 grabbed me and how quickly I had racked up dozens of hours of playtime. This game builds off of the original Injustice: Gods Among Us so well, with stunning visuals and an enticing story that originally drew me in. The tightening of the controls, physics and combat system kept me around for far longer than I had anticipated, as it often felt too good to put down. The addition of the Multiverse Mode was warmly welcome and contributed greatly to the value of the game. I’m anxious to see what the next installment of the series ends up like, and I’m sure to play more Injustice 2 in 2018 as well.
8. Subsurface Circular
On August 17th, 2017, Bithell Games, creator of Thomas Was Alone, stealth released Subsurface Circular, a modern take on the classic text-based adventure genre. It wouldn’t have even been a blip on my radar if I hadn’t known the creator, but I trusted Mike Bithell enough to check it out. Despite being labeled “A Bithell Short”, this game is polished, visually striking, and glows with charm. The soundtrack from level to level is fantastic and very reminiscent of Thomas Was Alone in the best ways. The story is intriguing and kept me locked in for hours. Subsurface Circular was a very pleasant surprise, I’m very grateful that I decided to try it, and it hasn’t left the back of my mind since.
7. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
Hellblade is one of the most interesting and intriguing titles of this current console generation. With its stunning visuals, fascinating subject matter, phenomenal lead performance (and acting debut from Ninja Theory’s video editor Melina Juergens), and the best sound design I’ve ever experienced from a video game, it boasts the same quality as many of the year’s top budget games. I loved following Senua’s journey, even as the voices in her head kept me in a perpetual state of unease. The puzzles and combat were merely vehicles to tell this moving story about I culture that I had no prior familiarity, and the game made me care. Hellblade is an unforgettable game and I hope to see its level of storytelling in Ninja Theory’s next title.
6. Sonic Mania
Growing up with a SEGA Genesis, I have always had a soft spot for the original Sonic the Hedgehog games and find myself buying most digital re-releases that I come across. Some ports are passable, others are disgraceful. Through all my years of gaming, I’ve never experienced something like Sonic Mania. The pure joy that I felt the first time the Start Menu booted up is hard to describe. With its dazzling retro visuals and heartwarming soundtrack, Sonic Mania is the best way to play 2D Sonic. It’s full of surprises and love letters to fans, as well as the same hectic, lightning quick gameplay that the series is known for. Sonic Mania was a better game than I could’ve hoped for and feels right at home on the Nintendo Switch.
After a long winding road to its release, Cuphead exceeded all expectations and captured the attention of the gaming industry. With its simple mechanics and punishing boss battles, its retro influences are usually the opposite of what I look for in a game, but I bought it solely because of its incredible, unique hand-drawn visuals and incredible soundtrack. I’m not the best at retro-style games, so this game kicked my ass over and over, but I kept coming back because of the charm and the love put into this game. It takes a special game to make me want to keep getting my teeth kicked in just to hear the announcer say “Here’s a real high-class bout!” From the art style alone, Cuphead is one of the most special games of 2017, and its mastery of gameplay earn it a spot among the top games of the year.
4. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
I had the same snarky, frustrated reaction as everyone else when the information about this game leaked. A Mario and Rabbids team up seemed so unnecessary and unfortunate. In the lead up to the release of the game, however, I found myself more intrigued by this game and ended up purchasing it on day one. I absolutely fell in love with this game. It has Pixar-level graphics, a charming and dynamic soundtrack, and a juvenile sense of humor that I couldn’t resist. Even with such impressive presentation, my favorite aspect of the game was the turn-based combat. The variety of characters, abilities and weapons that the player can unlock allows for different play styles and tactics with countless possibilities. The AI is smart, the bosses are creative and enticing, and the gameplay is addicting. This was a game that I couldn’t put down, one of my favorite games, and my biggest surprise of the year.
3. Horizon: Zero Dawn
Since I purchased my Xbox One and PS4, I’ve been wondering what exactly the leap to the next generation of video games would look like. My answer was simple: Horizon: Zero Dawn. Guerrilla Games created an gorgeous, living world filled with breathtaking landscapes and fascinating creatures that behave unlike any AI that I’ve seen in video games. The graphics are astounding and I have a feeling that the soundtrack will become one of the most iconic in Sony’s roster. Aloy is one of my favorite protagonists of the generation and her story in this game is captivating. The combat system feels so natural after a short amount of playtime and it’s easy to become addicted to hunting down these robot creatures for crafting parts, or even just to test out a new ability. This is a very deep game filled with gameplay experiences outside of the main story and sets a new standard for what AAA games should be. Horizon: Zero Dawn is a remarkable game that is not only one of the top games of the year, but of this generation.
2. Super Mario Odyssey
While lifelike graphics, deep customization, and online connectivity have become the main pillars of AAA games in the current landscape, Super Mario Odyssey reminds us of one of the most important aspects of gaming: fun factor. With dazzling stylized visuals and a simple, tight control scheme, Odyssey brought me back to that childlike sense of wonder, bewilderment, and the desire to explore. This game rewards thorough searching for moons as well as a more casual play style all the same. Each world is created in a distinct art style, yet all share the warmth and care that a first-party Nintendo game has at its core. I enjoyed the boss battles, loved the different capture experiences and opportunities, and sat with my jaw dropped during the final sequence of the campaign. This game also had one of my favorite, most special moments of the year with the New Donk City festival, truly warming my heart and reminding me why I love video games so much. There is so much to do in this game but never a sense of being lost or misdirected. And the post-campaign gameplay is practically a second game all its own. Super Mario Odyssey is a must-own, one of my games of the past few generations, and one of my favorite Mario games of all time.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
In this historic year of video games, only one title rises above the rest as the gold standard. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is truly a special game that revolutionized what Zelda games can be, as well as what we should expect of the immensely popular open-world genre. The simple mechanic of climbing completely changes the way that I traveled and explored. It was not just about running from objective to objective and fulfilling the story beats, but finding new ways to travel to different locations, finding treasures and enemies along the way. The art style of this game is beautiful, taking influence from generations of Zelda games like Wind Waker and Skyward Sword. The divine beasts are a fresh take on dungeons, and the enemies are fresh, stylized takes on familiar designs. The shrines present some of the most interesting and intricate puzzles in recent games. All of these elements combine into an incredible, unforgettable gaming experience that makes Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild one of my favorite games of all time.