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Matt Conn's Top 10 Games of 2017

2064: Read Only Memories creator and leader of the Digivolution Matt Conn sings the praises of some of the year's best.

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Hey y’all! My name is Matt Conn, CEO of MidBoss. Some of you may know me as the creator of the cyberpunk game series Read Only Memories, and some know me as the founder of the gaming convention GaymerX. You may even know me as the leader of the treacherous League of Heels wrestling stable “The Digivolution” with Suda-51, Swery65, and Mega Ran (and our super boss Kenny Omega!). Or maybe you haven’t ever heard of me. But whatever the case may be, you're here now, so let's get started! Mwahaha!

While 2017 was a rough year for a lot of us, myself included, on the gaming front it was one of the best! Some series saw miraculous rebirths, brand new genres were created and, better yet, there was a brand new Bubsy the Bobcat! Yes! Finally!

Now, before I get into my personal Top 10 of 2017, I’d like to explore a few games that have made the (Dis)honorable Mentions, and the reasons that kept them out of the top 10.

Honorable Mentions

Persona 5 (PS4)

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

Yes, I know. But, let’s be honest here: Persona 5 is no Persona 4 Golden.

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The graphics, the art style, the battle and menu UI, the music, and even the gameplay are outstanding, but… the localization is a deal breaker. For me, it becomes nearly unplayable as you reach the mid-game. I had to re-read entire sections of the phone conversations over and over again to try to make sense of the context. At many points, sentences resemble that of a machine translation -- not even coming close to an English sentence. It’s so bad, someone made an entire website of the major infractions -- “Persona Problems

Persona 5 is a game that I plugged over 100 hours into, and it’s the first game that I have spent so much time on, only to regret it afterwards. I skipped out on playing NieR:Automata for this!

While Persona 5 has some really bright points, the lack of a cohesive narrative and extremely lackluster writing (most likely due to the localization) really made the game a chore. Also, not a big fan of games with A Giant Cup™ as the big bad.

That being said, when the inevitable Persona 5: Diamond Edition launches with a hopefully revised script, I’ll be first in line to play through it again.

Star Wars™Battlefront™ II (Xbox One X)

Wow. The graphics on Star Wars™ Battlefront™ II are outstanding, especially playing on an Xbox One X at 4K. The music, the sound, the feel; the presentation is amazing. They really killed it.

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I don’t even care that the gameplay is a little silly and unbalanced. One time a teammate Darth Vader force-gripped a Yoda while I unloaded a barrage of bullets into the little green gremlin, and it made me jump up and down excitedly like a little kid.

20 on 20 battles with ships, heroes and different classes, as well as top level sound and presentation, how could they lose? Well, by making it “pay-to-win”. It sucks to play a game where the amount of money put in creates an objective advantage. Whenever I get killed, and the kill screen shows me who was my harbinger of doom, it’s nearly always someone with all top-level rare cards! It always makes me think: would I have won that one-on-one firefight if everything was fair? Even if they got the drop on me, the fact that I know my character is objectively worse because I haven’t paid/grinded for that one ultra rare card… It totally ruins the competitive experience and keeps the game from being something that actually could have been the greatest Star Wars game since N64’s Shadow of The Empire.

Golf Story (Switch)

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EH?! Golf Story? I thought it was so good and I actually originally had it on my top 10, but there was one thing that kept it off the top 10 for me: Crashes.

Within the first 10 hours of gameplay, the game hard crashed 8 times. Either a Frisbee would be thrown and hit a character, and never land, a ball would land out of bounds but the game still thought it was legal, leaving me in limbo, or “??? HARD CRASH?!!?!”. Each time I had to reset the game, losing a little bit of progress, the game pulled me out just as I started to get invested.

Additionally, consider me a traditionalist, but the lack of any kind of green read and overly simplified control system kept me from really investing fully into the game. Golf Story is great, and with a little more complexity and a few less crashes, I think it would have made my top 10.

Yakuza Kiwami (PS4)

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Another game that just barely landed off my top 10. Despite all the improvements over the original, the game is held back by a plot straight out of a Grand Theft Auto clone of the early 2000’s.

The new dialogue and Majima Everywhere stuff is amazing, and I do love me some Koi Koi, but the story just doesn’t live up to the standard the later games established.Yakuza Kiwami 2 looks like it adds a lot of things that Yakuza Kiwami missed, and don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they remade the game so new fans from Yakuza 0 could join the party, but the story is just... too much, too overly melodramatic, and the side stories are so plain compared to Yakuza 0, that it just lacked the magic spark that other entries in the series had. Still an amazing effort, but feels like it could have used a few more months in the cooker.

Games I Missed

Art by @Kuzuket
Art by @Kuzuket

Additionally, I know a few of you out there will read this list and ask: “What about ___”? Good question, you. I wanted to quickly note a few major games that I missed in 2017 and, from what I heard, could have made my list, but oops: NieR:Automata, Thimbleweed Park, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Cuphead, Prey, Detention, Gorogoa, Battle Chef Brigade, and Hand of Fate 2.

Absolutely want to try to get back to these games in 2018, and hopefully I’ll come to regret having missed them! But if you ask yourself, why aren’t they on the list, well, there you go!

And now, the top 10!

10. The Evil Within 2 (PS4)

Despite having one of the most plain, average and forgettable protagonists since Watch DogsAiden Pearce, (bad The Dark Knight impression and all) and an uninspired plot, the premise in general… just works!

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Being inside the twisted world of STEM shouldn’t work, it's such a basic, yet still somehow contrived concept, but... the execution, presentation and gameplay are spot-on. Traveling through the city of Union is scary, intense, heart pounding, and the boss battles and regular battles just work so well. Even the whole “open-world” horror game works relatively well.

I’m a big fan of the time-bending camera traps, the extremely limited ammo, the semi-RPG leveling up system.. And the fair but intense interactions--this game feels like it should have been like those unfortunate late-stage Silent Hill games, but instead it feels like what Resident Evil would have been if we hadn’t headed down the bombastic, Hollywood style action path post-Resident Evil: Code: Veronica.

It’s really fun, and the jump scares are limited. The pulse-pounding action, combined with ammo conservation, strategic crafting, and interactive environments just pulls together a really fluid, intense experience.

My one complaint is that I've been trying to scan my radio for some hot tunes while running around STEM, and all I'm getting is static and crying little girls, and it's really getting old!

9. Sonic Mania (PS4)

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It’s good. Real Good. I’m not sure what else to say about it! Such a relief to play a good, original style new Sonic game. It’s just below Sonic 2 for me in terms of quality.

Maybe a little heavy on the fanservice but the execution is just amazing. Vroom! So fast! So speed! Challenge level high, but still just fun, mindless speed. It’s got a good, long amount of length, and it was a welcome distraction from the pain of Sonic Boom and Sonic Forces.

That’s about all I can say: its simplicity is its strength.

8. Everybody’s Golf (PS4)

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Sorry Sony, but I refuse to change my Hot Shots Golf tattoo. I love this series so much, and although I was initially very wary of the changes to the series, it all still works.

So much fun to play with friends locally, and just as much fun to play with friends around the world, and now with the creative suite for characters, I can create monsters?!

So fun. So so so so fun. I love it!

7. My Brother Ate My Pudding/Hidden My Game By Mom 2 (Mobile)

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These games are so weird and awesome and funny… trying to describe them would do them a disservice. A bizarre set of simple mini puzzles in which you need to either hide from your sister or find your hidden game console, with... very interesting results as you click around.

If you haven’t tried them out, please give them a look – coming to Switch soon! Very odd and surreal but also heartwarming. They’re short, sweet, and just the right level of bonkers for me.

6. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

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Only #6?! I know, I know, but personally, I’ve...actually... never been a Zelda fan. In fact, the only Zelda game that really called out to me was Zelda II: The Adventure of Link growing up!

But that’s besides the point--the gameplay mechanics in Breath of the Wild are OUTSTANDING. You can do anything--it’s like they managed to take the elements of Minecraft that are creative and unique, and managed to put them into a fun game.

The fact that you can take on the game from any angle, or go straight to the final boss right away, and the seemingly unlimited ways you can approach things, it all feels so fluid and amazing. One of the biggest issues I had with Twilight Princess was the feeling of being trapped along specific pre-made paths, and Breath of the Wild takes “open world gaming” to a whole new level.

Very fun. Innovative. Good challenge. Hot fish and bird men.

5. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PC)

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You already know about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds: That 100 person battle royale game that somehow got to TWENTY MILLION users before it even made it to V1.

The original early access version was extremely buggy, with only one level, an extremely… “colorful” lobby, and filled with tens of minutes where literally nothing happens, and yet... it was still the most interesting and exciting gameplay experience of the year.

Playing as a squad with 3 other friends, surviving, getting down to the final 10, heart pounding, sweat literally dripping, as you get down to 9, 8... final 5….. I’ve never felt so engaged in a game before.

“Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds”, or… “Plunk Bat” … “Pub Guh”… Whatever it’s called, it’s competitive, it’s cooperative, it’s intense, and it’s my #5.

4. Resident Evil 7 (PS4)

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What a turnaround! From Resident Evil 5 & 6 to this?! Terrifying, intense, and the exact opposite of the past few games. Small area, tense, claustrophobic. When the father first breaks through that wall, or you’re sitting at the dinner table with the family, and you need to escape, or the intense garage scene, the game just works so so well, is so scary, and somehow still manages to work within the canon universe of the series. Really amazing stuff. Sound design, outstanding graphics and UI are really on point.

We may not have gotten Silent Hills, and while I still look forward to the day we get a Kojima horror game, Resident Evil 7 shows that Capcom was willing to listen to their fans, and had the courage to make the changes necessary to right the ship.

An amazing, enthralling experience, and the first few hours are especially masterful.

3. Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

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In many ways, Mario Odyssey felt perfect! Too perfect…

Everything worked so well, each challenge just tough enough, the discovery as you advanced through the game was so much fun… I think in terms of pure gameplay, between this and Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo clearly had the top 2 gameplay driven experiences.

However, for me, the story of Odyssey, and the general feel of the worlds, left a little to be desired. I feel like I already forgot most of what I played. Maybe it’s just me, but some of the character design and world design felt like it lacked a little heart? For example, the Broodals were fine in terms of gameplay, but was that really the best mini boss they could come up with? This is the game series that brought us Boom Booms ya’ll. Boom Booms.

Still, it may have the tightest, best gameplay of the series, and definitely of the 3D era, and that’s why it’s #3 on my list.

2. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony (PSVita)

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Fearless ending. After the less-than-stellar experience of Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, I was ready to give up on the series. How many times can you have 16-18 children kill each other? What kind of twist could they possibly do after Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair to top the first two games wild series of turnabouts?

Well, they did it. An extremely polarizing, brave ending that changes everything--in a game industry that rewards of year-after-year formulaic sameness in its sequels, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony managed to create EXTREMELY interesting and lovable characters like K1-B0 and Kokichi, a fascinating crescendo, and innovative endings and twists, like the end of Chapter 1? Kept me on the seat of my chair as much as for when that one guy decided to break off on his own and went for that $2,200,000 question on Greed.

Great writing and characters manage to take what should be overkill and keeps it fresh and leaves you with more questions than ever.

1. Yakuza 0 (PS4)

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Kiryu-Chan!!! My favorite game of 2017 was the pleasant surprise of Yakuza 0, an extremely deep, intricately detailed dive into the ritzy economic boom of '80s Tokyo and Osaka, Japan. The writing is outstanding, the amount of activities that you can do is breathtaking, and the characters and story are a trip through time.

Everytime I play the game, I want to go back to Japan. Navigating small, narrow streets, perusing magazines at the combini, eating local delicacies... I went to Japan for the first time a year and a half ago, and ever since I’m always looking for a way to get back, and Yakuza 0 gives me the closest thing to that.

Despite being a “mobster” game, you mostly end up helping out the different townsfolk, playing silly minigames, and basically learning and exploring 80s Tokyo and Osaka. Even the more serious main line story is pretty interesting and intriguing, and unlike Yakuza Kiwami, is paced nicely and only gets melodramatic when needed. Even after beating the final boss, putting over 100 hours in, I still am discovering new minigames, substories, and ways to play the game.

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The best part is how it all connects, and there’s SO much to do. Real estate management, cabaret training, mahjong, batting, darts, pocket racing, catfighting, real fighting, dancing, singing, phone hookups, watching sexy videos, equipment searches and fishing to get new fish for a bored sushi owner. All these things would be fun on their own, but they all connect in mysterious, awesome ways. That girl at the arcade who is so impressed by your out run skills? Now she wants to help you do some real estate! Sure, why not.

However, the best parts of the game are the simple, subtle things: Eating some ramen and looking around at the highly detailed set, or drinking some whisky while the bartender tells you about it, or running around and stabbing giant men. Yakuza 0 truly has it all.

I’ve never played a game like Yakuza 0 before. It’s a truly charming masterpiece, and I had no other gaming experience like it in 2017, and that’s why it’s my Matt Conn #1 Game of 2017! Wow!

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Well anyways, I really appreciate you reading this! Despite some really not so cool things going on around the world, video games continue to push new boundaries, creating new experiences and expanding our wonderful shared digital world. Really looking forward to getting to the games I missed and I’m looking forward to what’s to come in 2018. Again, thanks for reading -- feel free to let me know what you think at @MattConn, and hope you have a wonderful rest of 2017 and here’s to 2018! :)