Mary Kish is a producer at Twitch who you may also know from her years working at GameSpot, or her appearances on Giant Bomb, like this one, where she yells about PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (her number 10 game of the year) being a "weiner game". She's @MerryKish on Twitter.
I want to look 2017 straight in the eye and I want to tell it what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit it is.
Hallelujah. Holy shit. Here’s my top 10 games of the year.
Social gaming is where it’s at. If everyone’s playing Overwatch, that’s what I’m playing. 3 years ago it was Rocket League, and that was one of the best years ever. I’m not ashamed to say if all my cool friends are playing it, I gotta play. This year, the cool kids were playing PubG.
We worked together to scour guns and ammo, bandages and cars that fit 4. We looked out for each other, taking bullets to try and help a downed buddy. We bowed our heads when someone died way too early, we cheered when they emerged from the water to rejoin us. I saved a friend by driving a boat into a field of people, I was saved when a friend took a bullet that allowed me to find the killer and earn a Chicken Dinner. Good times were had.
I did my best to cheat the system (which is easily cheated). I bunker down in bathtubs and spam bullets at anyone to touches the doorknob, with ridiculous success. I crawl up mountains to stay in the blue circle and hide in bushes to stay alive. My self-named "Weiner Methods" shouldn’t work. I don’t deserve to live, and yet, here I am in the final 10 again. PubG is a broken muddled mess and I won’t get bogged down in my endless problems with it. It’s uncovered a new way to deliver pure fun directly into a players veins. The secret, it turns out, is giving humans a playground to kill each other in endless ways quickly and randomly. You can’t argue with it; everyone is playing PubG, and I wanna be in those memories.
I’m rooting for Senua. The way she looks and reacts to the world, she has so much to say with her face alone. Her expressions capture her pain, her fears and exhaustion perfectly. She’s been through some shit, and I want to help her on this journey.
The world is stressful, covered in diseased skulls and decaying bodies everywhere. I’m always on edge. I never really feel safe, unless Senua’s sheathing her blade so I know the combat is done for just a little while. Even then, that typically results in a cut scene where someone is yelling at her (usually herself) and I feel bad. She seems like a decent person, why is everyone so mad at her all the time?
I don’t have a lot of experience with mental health issues, but I do know what it feels like to doubt yourself. To feel, not good enough. We all do, but we don’t typically talk about it. Hellblade really dives into these feelings head first. Senua’s biggest problem is herself, her own mind yelling at her and constantly reminding her she can’t do it. Greater than any man she cuts down, or the giant beasts she kills, she’s still always fighting her mind. I don’t know if she ever really wins that fight, or if any of us can. But I do know it’s worth fighting for. It’s worth taking the big risks and telling yourself you can do it. It’s worth telling your mind to shut up once and awhile, and just believe. We all fight, every day we get out of bed. Senua really embodies that fight, and I feel like when I root for her, I’m rooting for myself too.
I’m a good lookin’ daddy with a delightful sense of humor and I want to meet other good lookin’ daddies that are funny and passionate about their kids.
This is a sentence I never expected to write.
But here we are, 2017. This game was not made as a joke (although the writing is filled with puns and sarcastic humor) but as an earnest attempt to reveal what life is like for a single gay dad. I never really thought about it before honestly. But the more I played the more I learned, and laughed, and loved this little family.
First up, let me just say the best character is the daughter. She’s funny, thoughtful, and sarcastic as hell. She’s a fantastic counter to your character, who’s fairly shy and introverted. She helps break up silences and add humor in every scene she's in. She’s kind and endearing and I want to hug her when she doesn’t get into her college of choice. I got mad at her for staying out too late, and I apologized when I yelled at her. I’m…a parent, I guess. And although in my real life I never know if I’ll actually have kids, this game gave me a ability to peer into that world. About caring (sometimes too much) about a person that needs you, and as you might expect, you need as well.
But now to the juicy stuff, I hit on lots of dads and hooked up on my first day in the game. Score. I tried to get everyone to fall in love with me and be the bell of the cul-de-sac. I’ve never really played a dating sim before, but I think I’m not too shabby. I went on lots of dates and found my ideal partner, which apparently is a coffee shop owner with a knack for baking puns. I found the whole experience enlightening and endearing. It was a worthwhile journey to go on, and I recommend everyone give it a try. Come for the dad puns, stay for the dad buns. I really enjoyed writing this.
I love Kat. This cute and passionate and not-to-be-taken-for-granted protagonist. She kicks ass and gets shit done, and typically in that order. When she’s not using her gravity changing abilities to stomp on some weird beasts head, she’s typically doing fetch quests or escorting some lame dude or stealthily spying on a guy hoarding weapons. I love it. I like the constant change of pace. Sometimes I fight, sometimes I do a silly quest, so I’m never too anxious or frustrated. If I really want to just fly around, the game lets me do that, and motivates me with lots of hidden floating gems all throughout the city. This game suits my fickle attention span just perfectly.
Her new gravity powers are cool to unlock and test out, and I find the combat always keep my interest. But at the end of the day I really just play it for the way Kat deals with the world. She’s got a strong personality and interacts with the other characters in an honest and interesting way. And if I ever get bored with that, she can control gravity.
If you didn’t know, I don’t like walking sims. They never feel like they utilize the medium of games to their full potential. I don’t want to just walk around and read a story, I want to be involved in it. What Remains of Edith Finch is my one and only example of a story-focused walking game that did it right.
There are so many questions throughout the world. You’ll always be asking yourself what's going to happen next, and what happened to each of these poor, poor souls. You’ll be wondering what happened to a family member, and suddenly be transported into the body of a cat, climbing the precarious branches of a tree. Then you’re a shark falling helplessly down a large mountain. You’ll take on the perspective of a hunter, an actress, and my personal favorite, an assembly line worker who cuts off the heads of fish. Each new body you inhabit offers new gameplay mechanics, so you’re actively participating in the story this game is telling. It’s actually in between those strange moments however, where Edith Finch really shines.
Edith Finch tackles a pretty difficult subject, and does so with grace and dignity. We all die certainly, but none of us are immune to that sinking feeling when someone close to us no longer walks this earth. This game takes you on a deep journey of loss and death, the mourning and anger and fear we all harbor on the subject, but rarely discuss. It’s difficult to describe really, but this game really spoke to me, and I’m very thankful that I played it.
5. Rain World
I’m just a little slug cat thing, but I have big plans for this scary world. It sure is dangerous out there, with large-jawed lizards and murderous plants and bitey fish and whatever the hell that flying thing was. But like the beloved American Postman, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from doing their job. Well, except rain, I guess.
This game is dark, unfriendly, and daunting at times. I died. A lot. And sometimes I felt there was no other way for it all to go down. I had to die to learn. But over time I did get to new safe spaces. And with enough food in my belly, I evolved and went further into the dark trenches of the world. If nothing else, your curiosity will motivate you. The creatures are otherworldly, and although mean and gross, they’re oddly beautiful. With a physics sim and IK these creatures wobbly walk all over the world in a lifelike way I’ve never seen before. They feel organic, both from their movements but also their AI which makes them unpredictable and wily. They are unlike anything I have ever seen, and it motivates me to keep going.
I love the anxiety that comes with me investigating the world, finding secrets and oddly serene environments and oh so many strange critters. It’s intimidating, but I keep playing. I eagerly await to find the next otherworldly creature, even though it’s likely to gut me. I guess that’s what they call love.
Wait a damn minute here Mary, are you even allowed to put a game on here you haven’t played all the way through?
Yes. I have the authority to hold games I haven’t finished to that high of a degree, as well as speak for you.
Over the past year I’ve visited all the residences of evils, every single one in the numbered series at least. I’ve been on incredible highs experiencing dogs jump out of windows and roundhouse kicks to the dome for the very first time. I’ve also experienced incredible lows, from punching boulders to screaming that “I just want to stop!” during a shootout against a mutated Derek Simmons that just wouldn’t fucking die. Resident Evil 7 is not just one of the best in the series, it's just one of the best.
The terror you feel from not knowing when and where Jack will attack is very real. I haven’t been this scared since my battles with the Nemesis in RE3. But unlike RE3, Jack’s events aren’t always scripted into various points in the story. Jack tore through a wall and smashed a table at completely different times in my playthrough than other players. In fact, some never got the moments that happened to me at all.
Never truly knowing what could happen to you is certainly one of the scariest things about Resident Evil 7, but the overall atmosphere is thick with tension. I never feel safe, except those brief fleeting moments in a safe room, and times when I’m sliding through a crack in a wall (which I’ve since deemed a safety hole). It’s not just the constant fear though. This game has a gorgeous yes frightening world, fascinatingly insane characters, and an interesting plot that keeps me wanting to learn more. It’s the full package, and I’m glad I haven’t finished it yet, because in all honesty, I don’t want it to end.
I like to play Divinity like a massive seal on a beach, I never move unless forced to for survival. I prepare snacks in advance and lay all my pillows on the ground under my fort of gluttony. I delete my schedule and turn off my notifications, I’m off to Divinity town. Go away.
Divinity deserves to be played with your full attention. The pre-made characters are interesting and unique, with intersecting storylines based on which ones you play together. I know because I made several due to an unfortunate bug which caused me a lose my save (it’s since been fixed). They get their own dialog options which are truly up to you whether or not you want to utilize. I was a pretty aggressive previous slave, so my options typically resulted in me killing the guy. It seems cool at first, to kill everyone I mean. But then you learn if you stab them to death they don’t they give you stuff, like information or a spell you need. I just really like stabbing people, so I walked a more difficult path. The point is, if you wanna be a cheeky magician that makes people laugh, you can do it, if you want to be a sassy undead guy, go for it, if you want to stab people, be the slave-elf, but you have lots of options.
I have a few minor issues with the game. I’m not in love with the new magic defense system, which really hurts my ability to use elemental arrows because you have to take away their magic resistance before doing any core damage. I’m all physical damage, baby. But by and large I’ve really loved the changes they made to the sequel to my beloved Divinity game. The writing is by far better and more interesting, and the battles make you feel all-powerful. I don’t just kick ass, I run this Goddamn town. And that’s why I play this game. To kill em all, to be the best, and to eat lots of snacks in my living room while muttering to myself, “I’m totally gonna stab that guy”.
There’s probably not too much more to say about this game that hasn’t already been said. It’s…incredible. Not since Wind Waker have I woken up thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in that gorgeous open world. I would get excited to turn the system on, knowing what I planned to do next. But every time I played, stuff would get in the way of those plans. I would stumble across some stones that weren’t symmetrical and fix them. I would shoot a fire arrow into a wall and unearth a shrine out of nowhere. I would be hang-gliding off a mountain and OH MY GOD IS THAT AN ISLAND WITH A GIGANTIC STONE LABYRINTH?! You never just do what you set out to do in Breath of the Wild, because there’s too many secrets, too many surprises to discover.
The world is littered with moments that take my breath away. It’s a brilliant, awe inspiring game that gives me that child like sense of wonder. Climbing a tower really showcases how good the game looks, and with day and night cycles you can experience spectacular sunsets and sun HOLY SHIT THERE’S A HUGE DRAGON FLYING UP HERE YOU GUYS GOTTA SEE THIS.
I've always enjoyed a good Metroidvania game, and modern takes on the genre always catch my eye. I love the duel focus on character development and atmosphere. You're nothing at the beginning, and everything at the end. With quality level design, you see things you wished you could investigate but can't reach, and later get a skill that allows you right onto the hallowed ground. Recent takes on this old style range from the pixelated classic look in Axiom Verge to a highly artful and modern Ori and the Blind Forest. I love both of these you should play them. They're incredibly well crafted experiences, utilising skills to show your characters growth through the world. But I've never been a better example of character growth in a Metroidvania game than Hollow Knight.
In Hollow Knight you are quite literally just a bug. You are nothing but a small insect in an unsightly world, with nothing but a nail to protect yourself. From early on you'll realize this game is unforgiving, with an all too similar "Souls style" currency that is gained with each kill, and lost when you die. Only once can you go and try to retrieve it, dying again forgoes all money back to the dirt.
The difficulty will sting you quickly, and you'll realize you can't take on everything. The first major boss I encountered took hours to beat, and with each death I had to fight my way back to the same boss to attempt her again. But what I want to instill here is that each time I went back into the tunnels I was a bit stronger, more agile, more aware of enemy steps. Not because I had unlocked a new skill, but because I as a player had progressed. Certainly the pins you collect throughout the game will have lots of benefits (God Bless the invulnerable frames during a dash pin), but you will NOT get far in that game without putting in the hours to get better. And oh the hours you'll put in.
The game is massive, with a plethora of incredibly different areas to investigate (and more being added), all within a single expansive map that only reveals itself as you investigate the area. I found myself unable to put it down, traveling further and further into the tunnels looking for the next bench to rest and save my progress. And each of these areas is unique with its own atmosphere and vibe. The marshes with their acid pools and hidden secrets in the walls looks like a different world compared to the ancient bug city where you'll encounter zombified beetles and an old bug civilisation that has since been abandoned.
Each are fascinating and intriguing. There was no area I rushed through. In fact, every time I found myself in a new location I ended up verbally exclaiming how damn cool it was. Ashes and bugs falling into an endless crevasse? Crazy. Skin crawling tunnels of webs and spiders? Creepy as hell. A solemn open world of bones and ancient statues? Reflective. It's quite a marvel how painstakingly stressful, yet awe inspiringly beautiful this game is.
Each area comes tightly packed with it's own deadly set of enemy types. I really must reiterate. There's a shit ton of of areas and enemy types in this game. You will come across potato bugs, praying mantis, flies, spiders, murderous plants, mosquitoes, millipedes, bugs versed in the art of fencing, worms, gnats, I COULD GO ON. They are all different in demeanor and methods of attack and you have to practice if you plan on taking them all down.
I have never been so pushed on boss fights as I have in this game; to clear my head and try attempt after attempt after attempt, only to be defeated and try again. Later on there are fighting chambers where you can duel countless enemies in a giant death pit to the cheers of bugs in the stadium above, hoping for glimpse of your death. New deadly areas are still being released by the developers, a bug's life is a lot more trying than those movies made it out to be.
There are few games that sink their nails in me as deep as this game has. Past getting to one of the several endings to this game, I can't stop. I want to learn about this strange place, the bits of world building that characters give me when I pass them is intriguing. The world feels alive. I like to think about how long its been there, much longer than humanity’s certainly. Hollow Knight is packed to the brim with details. Every area has countless stories to tell, and you bet you haven’t found even a fraction of them.
I love Hollow Knight and the world it gave me. I'm better for having played it. I want to keep learning, keep investigating, I want to collect all its secrets. Hollow Knight just fucking nails it.