Hi everybody. I’m Bakoon and this is the fourth time they’ve asked me to do this. It has been a hell of a year for games and gaming. We all doff our gamer’s helmet and salute the calendar, which roars in delight. Before I begin, lets take a minute to think about who we have lost this year. RIP the guy from Amagon; autoerotic asphyxiation has claimed another “blue angel”. May you become weirdly beefed up and strong in Hell with David Carradine, that guy from INXS, and the original Dr. Pepper.
CAVEAT: I haven’t picked up one of the new Nintendos yet, so I haven’t played the new Zelda or any of that yet. It looks great and I want to play it. I feel like I preemptively need to say this so that I might prevent people from stomping all over my dick about it. I need that to pee out of, folks. Also I am foregoing a numbered ranking system. These games are equal in my heart. I am not a Gamepro, I have no real grasp of “fun factor”. Who am I to say what is the “game of the year”. Just roll with it.
The Yakuza games are good as shit and this one of the best of them, easily. I have not had time to get into Kiwami yet, and I still haven’t gotten into 5, but it has a fair chance of being my favorite series of games on a console. The first one blew my mind, even with how bunk and stripped down it was (really shit-ass dub, removed a good proportion of the side activities, which are the meat of the experience). Mechanically, they have honed it down so tightly. The combat is monstrous, varied and engaging. You truly feel like a violent, dangerous person.
There is a psychogeographical aspect to my appreciation of the series as well I think.. The layout of the little section of Tokyo that the series takes place in through the games has been burned into my brain in a great way, like a callus on a hand from doing an enjoyable activity such as fishing or cranking it. I close my eyes and I see the route to the Champion District. I know where Theater Square is. The only thing personally comparable to that kind of sensation is my personal relationship to the castle maps in Symphony of the Night. That beautiful blue shape.
A wonderful game. You play an idiot boy with pink hair that manages to save a sparsely populated town from a pig man and a wizard. Not sure it came out this year, sorry.
Another great and bleak Polish post-cyber-apocalypse game (SUPERHOT, last year). This one with Rutger Hauer playing the part of “cyber detective with a very old man’s voice that is meant to remind you of the film Blade Runner”. The game is a nice preview of the hell we are in for a decade or so into ubiquitous augmented reality, as well as the genuinely disturbing prospect of walking around inside a dead person’s brain. I liked this team’s previous game Layers of Fear quite a bit, Observer was a definite step forward. A good scary game about computer brains.
Two big, expensive, and fun horror pastiche games. RE7 taking (finally, gladly) from found footage horror and grindhouse movies, instead of the depressing Paul WS Anderson/Zach Snyder vibe that 5 and 6 degraded into. Visceral, mean, and legitimately funny at moments.
The Evil Within 2 was an excellent surprise. It is like finding out somebody made a sequel to Alec Baldwin’s The Shadow movie, and that it is actually fucking cool. I am one of the few people that played through that first game in the series and even I couldn’t remember a fucking thing about it. This one though, very memorable. Any game that directly references Twin Peaks (and by proxy, Deadly Premonition. Seriously, there are some direct references to that shit that are potentially intentional) needs a look. Also extremely reminiscent of Larry Cohen’s amazing and underseen anti-consumerist/Reagan Paranoia film The Stuff. Seriously, track it down and watch it. The game controls like the 4th Resident Evil game, with mostly milk lump bodied screamers instead of surly Spaniards. They made a second Evil Within game!
This game became my meditational mantra this year. A koan to think and reflect on. You can beat it in twenty minutes. I did daily for a while. I recommend it, it really set my life back on track. Kill that fucking shark.
Clap Hanz, the Japanese game developer that sounds like the name of an excitable German, went the Resident Evil 7 (Biohazard) route this year and finally gave us its more pleasant global title, Everybody’s Golf. No longer is golf relegated to the elite one percent Hot Shot. This is an especially good video golf game. As we look forward to a future where the sport golf is banned and golf courses have been nationalized and built over with low income housing, the idea of a “realistic” golf game is going to become a non-thing. The cartoonish-while-still-precise vibe of Everybody’s Golf is the way forward.
A mobile game from the Kairosoft people. I could have chosen any of their titles, I will play anything they put out. They are most known for their first big hit, Game Dev Story, but have been iterating out on that same formula for years now. Shiny Ski is one of their “resort simulation” titles (others include one where you run a hot spring, another a cruise ship, and so on). You make rooms for guests, clear the mountain for new courses and etc. It is cute as shit, we should be thankful they are still at it.
The fourth title in the Drakengard series. A game about what it means to be a person, what it means to be alive, and what it means to die. It is a game about video games as well, but that is just because it is a video game. Drilling down into the structural mechanics of a stories delivery method is something that is uniquely potent in games and this one does it with more conceptual weight than anything that readily comes to mind. The combat wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad, who cares. There are so many mechanically excellent games that are dumb as hell. Time for opposite.
The Joe and Mac Series
Caveman action. They should really bring these boys back, still a great co-op experience. I hate dinosaurs so much, love to kill them in games. So glad they are all dead! Don’t want to even talk about birds.
This game was 20 or so hours of really solid Swedish folks trying to slap some well-needed sense into a third or so of America. BJ ripped up serious shit in this crazy game. I hacked up thousands Nazi shitheels and bootlicking fuckface KKK assholes with a hatchet. I flew to the planet Venus and curb-stomped Hitler. One of those games where once you finish it you just immediately start it up again from the top. God bless America.
A minimal, existential superhero game. You are a Superman. You can fly faster than light, make nukes come out of your face, and are impervious to damage. Every universe is out there waiting for you, an endlessly vast and completely dead ocean. Only one planet has life, Earth. Invaders are trying to kill them. What if Superman only saves the Earth because he knows how boring it will be if he is the only living creature? Sparse but fascinating while it has got you.
I decided not to rank the games on the list this year but this is probably my favorite thing I played in 2017. The Dead or Alive people took the mechanical framework of From’s popular Souls games and put it in a game with a character that is actually fun to control. I love the concept of the Souls games, the interlocking Metroid-esque scenery and the vaguely evil storyline, but they still feel like a From game. I played so fucking much Armored Core. Hell, I played my fair share of King's Field and Shadow Tower even. I love what they do but hey don’t really do “fun to control” over there.
Blonde samurai feels good to move. It reminds me of so many excellent PS2 Samurai B-games. Especially Blood Will Tell, the game based on the amazing Tezuka manga Dororo. I think I like it better than Dark Souls.
Hell of a year folks. Until next time: Game with honor.