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No Goblin's Top 10 Games of 2017

Dan and Panzer are back to recap the year's best games, best goofs, and best chickens.

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Dan and Panzer are the gruesome twosome that make up No Goblin, an absurdist developer responsible for games like Roundabout and 100ft Robot Golf. In the spare moments they're not making games or filming their friends playing weird dress-up, they also mastermind the Sarge Club portion of Giant Bomb's annual Extra Life shenanigans, and head up the Men of Game Dev calendar. You'll find them on Twitter at @deliciousbees and @panzerskank, respectively.

Dan: Did you know there was an earlier spin-off from Cheers called The Tortellis? I know we’re supposed to talk about “great year for games” or “2017 is trash” here, but finding out that Carla’s ex-husband had a dedicated show before Frasier did is something that hasn’t left my mind in months.

Panzer: Dan, what happened to our Cheers rule? If we’re writing a document together, you aren’t allowed to name drop sitcoms until at least the halfway point. I don’t know how to make this rule any clearer than the cross stitch I hung on the wall that says “No Mentioning Frasier Before Noon.”

Dan: Our company owns the domain You knew what you were getting into.

10. Best Game We’re Still Unsure We Like

Panzer: Oh boy, okay. My #10 game is Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Probably. I really don’t know how I feel about this, and I probably won’t until at least a few weeks after the final episode is released. I’ve really only got enough confidence to say I’m not hating it.

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The writing in this game is like a complete inversion of the first Life is Strange: while the original was overall pretty great with fleeting moments of real bad, Before the Storm is overall kind of shitty with sparks of complete brilliance that blindside me. The conversations don’t flow naturally at all, and a lot of the characters that I’d grown familiar with now sound like a goofy caricature of what they used to be. However! However. Rachel Amber is here, and seeing her living and in motion is like some kind of hazy magic spell.

Check in with me in a year and see if I am still charmed by this weird thing they’re making.

Dan: My #10 pick goes for the first half of Prey. The demo and first hour twist sold me instantly, I loved exploring and reading and doing all the good Shock-style things on my climb up to the top of the tower. If the game had stopped there and not progressed into GUTS for days and weak endings, it would probably have been in my top five.

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If you’re picking up Prey in the winter sales, enact the “West Wing Season 5” rule and stop progressing the main story once you get to the office at the top of the space station. Instead, dive into the great side mission content (especially the side quest with Danielle Sho). Once you’re done with that, come up with your own cool ending! Think of something awesome! That’s now the new canon ending for Prey, the game about climbing a space station and then just fixing everything and everything turning out okay for your space buddies and also you befriend a space mug.

9. Best Game We’d Rather Not Play: PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

Dan: My first introduction to PUBG was watching my brother play on Twitch. That sounds harmless, but my brother was also the #1 ranked PUBG player in Oceanic for a while, has eSports PUBG experience, and was a huge ARMA person even before Mr. Unknown’s Mean Shoot Machine hit the scene.

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So, I went in expecting to casually roll in and kill guys, maybe get a chicken dinner a night instead of “all dinners 24/7” like he does. That was A Mistake on all fronts.

Whenever I go to play PUBG, I get a super anxious dense feeling in my stomach. I walk around and shoot badly at things, get killed around the 40s, then slam that quit button to unknot my stomach. I hate playing this and yet I come back every few days for another round. Goddammit, Mr. Unknown.

Panzer: Yeah, I never even went into this with the illusion that I’d get a chicken dinner ever and it was still a mess. My gameplay style in everything I play is the opposite of the precise tactical work that needs to be done to succeed in PUBG. I think the last time I tried playing this game I touched a motorcycle and immediately did a backflip into my own grave. I can definitely watch other people play this on streams forever, though.

8. Most Nintendo Thing

Dan: Snipperclips should have been the pack-in for the Nintendo Switch. It’s a fun game where you get to chomp chunks out of your square shaped friends and then step on them to solve puzzles. I assure you this isn’t a vore thing.

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Panzer: It’s not explicitly a “game” but the launch of the SNES Classic was one of my favorite things this year. Dan and I both have huge nostalgia for this console in particular and ended up spending a good bunch of nights reliving Super Mario World together. It turns out we both really suck at the original Star Fox, and I’m just as bad at Yoshi’s Island as I was when I was 6, but man we had a really good time.

Dan was even able to order a Euro-colored console (you know, with the rainbow buttons) to satisfy his own personal nostalgia, but it’s still in the box since we both know and accept the purple buttons as the better design. Also, no one is allowed to edit what I wrote here because it’s a statement of fact.

Dan: Firstly, they’re the correct buttons, because the rest of the world is not afraid or emasculated by the idea of holding something with primary colors on it. Secondly, the NA SNES Classic alerted me that Americans apparently also needed to scoop out their face buttons because otherwise their hot dog fingers would slip off the controller.

7. Coolest Animals

Panzer: My #7 is Night in the Woods! I originally picked this up because of the super standout art style without really knowing anything else. Not only is this game completely gorgeous, the writing absolutely bowled me over with its kind of too real take on being listless in your early 20s. All of the characters, even extremely minor side characters, have very well voiced and distinct personalities while still feeling vaguely like someone you used to know years ago.

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If I’m narrowing down a favorite part, it has to be the dream sequences. Going into this game without knowing what to expect, it kind of read like a nice quiet exploration and talking to friends thing, just the kind of game you’d play for an hour in the evenings to chill out before bed. Then I hit the first dream (nightmare?) where Mae’s garish and surreal neon brain takes over. Holy shit those setpieces sure are a doozy.

Dan: You know what animal kids love and adults want to be? That’s right, those lovable Rabbids! Ever since Yves Guillemot single handedly created these wacky hares, the world has been head over heels with these white furry Minions and their madcap adventures.

While a lot of people were skeptical about the crossover, bringing Rabbids into the world of Waluigi’s tennis partner’s cousin ended up being a match made in heaven. Finally, a turn-based strategy title with humor from tip to toe! Thank you, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle!

6. Most Adventure

Panzer: Oh YEAH, this is where I get to write about how much I love World of Warcraft!!! Patch 7.3 for the current expansion came out in August and I have been loving every stupid second of it.

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Here’s the current WoW story, if you’re not up to date: a big purple guy got mad enough to rip open a hole through space, making a big portal that goes directly to Hell Planet. In patch 7.3 you hop your little Warcraft champion onto an actual spaceship and go right on up there, to the Hell Planet, where you pilot giant robot mechs and punch demons in the face. It’s the sickest thing I’ve ever seen.

In trying to explain and describe this to my friends, I’ve managed to loop some of them back into playing with me, and we’ve been going on wild spaceship laser adventures together. What a great video game.

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Dan: My most adventure was Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. It’s a game with so much adventure that there’s two protagonists. I thought I was very neatly done after Uncharted 4, but Lost Legacy is such a perfect coda to ten years of Most Adventure. It does it by dumping Nathan Drake out and having everyone in the game roast him and his family from afar for a few hours. No spoilers, but the end sequence is a great combination of the peak Uncharted setpieces from all the other Uncharted games that feels reverent rather than tired.

5. Best Games That Fit In Our Number Five Slots And Are Nothing Like Each Other

Panzer: I’m still extremely surprised to see myself putting Assassin’s Creed Origins on this list, but here we are. It feels like someone at Ubisoft looked at the AC franchise as a whole and went “Hey, you know all that dumb bullshit we always put in these games? Let’s just cut all that crap out.” The game they ended up shipping is a clean, streamlined experience with exploring and adventure placed at the forefront.

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I’m also just a really gross nerd for everything about Egypt so being able to really explore is mind blowing. I think I’ve spent most of my time just slowly walking around and looking at the scenery. The cities feel expansive and incredibly advanced, the deserts feel infinite and overwhelming. I love taking photos of pretty views and selfies with the fun characters who are growing on me. I love riding into the desert and feeling alone and lost as I watch my character hallucinate mirages of people who have died. This game rules.

Dan: I sunk a lot of time into iOS puzzler Typeshift, but only in the Clue puzzle section. Unlike the main game where you can just mash letters around to solve puzzles, the clue puzzles are essentially crosswords that you have to solve with a combination lock of letters.

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With that small addition of having to actively think before succeeding, I became hooked and purchased every clue pack. Thanks to the author credits at the top of each puzzle, I learned to mutter and curse Jess Worby’s name whenever I’d get stuck, continuing my streak of swearing personally at puzzle creators when one of their puzzle plans goes right.

Panzer: Hey good job naming the category, we’re really good at writing lists together.

4. Best Not-Shooting Shooter Sequel

Dan: Destiny 2 is a great game about shooting and guns, provided that you don’t shoot the guns.

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How you’re meant to play the game: pick the Punch Class (In classic Bungie “let’s do history technobabble” storytelling, they call it a "Titan"). You then punch everybody--they die in one-to-two punches. This unlocks the Punch Talent Tree, which gives you abilities like “Every death punch heals you” and “Punching the ground kills everyone”. The punchfeel in Destiny 2 is fantastic and makes it worth playing.

The only way this would be better would be if they bring back Sparrow Racing League. While I hard bounced off the “shooting” game of Destiny 1, I was incredibly charmed by SRL, the fun record books you’d collect and stamp on your journey, and all the gimmicky extras that made it feel like a world and not a set of encounters.

The only thing that’s even remotely “world gimmick”-like in Destiny 2 is that there’s a soccer ball on the farm. That’s kind of disappointing. I hope Bungie brings back their gimmick team for Destiny 2 before the fun of punching everything runs out.

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Panzer: Splatoon 2 is everything I want from a sequel in video games. It completely captures everything that I found fun and exciting about the first Splatoon and builds on it. The music is fresh and incredible! The colors are so bright! The squid kids are adorable and I love their new clothes and hairstyles. The single player mode is still very fun and challenging with lots of secrets to find, and they managed to knock the boss battles out of the park again.

I think my favorite change in Splatoon 2 is the way they were willing to revisit and rework the maps they’ve brought forward from the original game. Maps like Moray Towers were really lacking in side routes and escape methods, and it blew my mind to play it for the first time in the new game to find a fun series of ziplines and new surfaces to paint to enable sneaky escapes. Nearly every old map has been revisited in some way, and it honestly makes a HUGE difference in how they play.

3. Best Switch Game That Isn’t Zelda: Super Mario Odyssey

Panzer: Look. I love Mario. We all love Mario. He’s our great plumber friend. I was always willing to give his most recent games the benefit of the doubt, and I did have some silly fun drunk times with Super Mario 3D World, but if I’m being honest I haven’t really liked a Mario game since Galaxy.

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Mario Odyssey blew my fucking socks off. This game is INCREDIBLE. Every moment feels silly and new and fun, there is just so much to do and explore. Highlight moments for me were: the first hour in the tutorial world where we tried to do and see everything (we didn’t), the festival sequence (incredible), the ending sequence (extremely anime), and the first hour after the credits (I teared up).

Dan: Super Mario Odyssey is the warmest, most inviting hug in video games. It invokes nostalgia not through “Hey! Remember This!” regurgitation, but by recreating the root feelings of exploration, discovery, and unironic joy that have been core to nearly every Mario game, but in a completely original way.

Also I love the “Jump up! Super Star!” sequence and I don’t care how cheesy any of it is because it’s great and I want a Pauline amiibo.

Panzer: Yeah, Dan said it way more eloquently than me but the way this game handles nostalgia is astounding. It’s like the most genuine and deep celebration of Nintendo’s history they could have ever created.

2. Goofs of the Year: Yakuza 0

Dan: I don’t understand how it took this long for me to get involved with the Yakuza series. It’s an open world-ish game where you can hire a chicken to run part of a real estate business while you sing karaoke with your best bud. It’s Shenmue if it didn’t take itself so dourly serious, had great writing, made sense, and was fun. If Mario was the warm hug you really needed, Yakuza was the drunk friend who told you they “loved you, man”, then drove a small bicycle into a hedge just to make you laugh. That’s my entire brand!

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Panzer: We honestly bought this game because of the images going around about the chicken real estate agent. I mean, I had heard great things about this series from my friends for years, but the chicken was what really sold me. I went in expecting nothing and ended up stumbling into one of the best narrative experiences I’ve ever played in a game.

Dan: In a way, Yakuza 0 became our binge watching television event for February. We’d stop work, eat, then crash on the couch and dive into Kiryu and Majima’s Wild ‘80s Adventure. It committed us to playing through the “next”/previous six games on personality alone. It simultaneously delivered Styyyyyyyyyyle and substance in one beautiful crazy package.

Panzer: If we had a favorite character category I honestly might put Majima right at the top. Holy hell that dude rules.

1. Game of the Year: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Dan: My Breath of the Wild experience was so impactful in terms of open world design and world building that it retroactively made similar games in my backlog that I enjoyed suddenly not enjoyable when I came back to them. The last time I experienced that was playing the first level of SiN, then playing Half-Life: Day One.

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An example through story: I shamelessly abused my E3 Exhibitor pass last year to join the front of the Zelda demo line before the doors opened, and played half an hour of their year-out build. One moment stuck out in my mind: I dove into the lake next to the Temple of Time to pick up something, then had to spend a minute slowly trudging and swimming out. It sticks in my head because I remember later that day chatting with Austin Walker about it in the context of Nintendo world design meeting the realities of sandbox design--my takeaway was that it was weird to play a Nintendo game where every movement and interaction wasn’t perfectly paced, but it was pretty much inevitable given the size of the world they’re building.

Fast forward a year later, and I’m playing the final version of the game. I jump into that same lake… and there’s now a set of smaller resting spots and altered terrain to make traversal out of the lake super easy. Sure, it’s a minor iteration tweak at best, but as I put in my 100-odd hours, I realised that Nintendo proved me wrong and managed to do that minor level of polished traversal across everything. They found a way to make Nintendo-grade tight level pacing and traversal work on a huge map in a way that boggles my mind and legitimately shames me as a designer.

Breath of the Wild is a joy that’s on the same level as classics like A Link to the Past and Super Mario World. Like Half-Life, it’s going to meaningfully impact the direction of that genre design going forwards, while simultaneously never really being usurped in terms of the highs it reaches.

Panzer: I’m trying to figure out where to begin with this game and how much it means to me. It is such an incredible revelation, a clear realization of every feeling a Zelda game has ever made me feel.

Okay, I’ve genuinely been stuck at this spot for a while now. I’m not sure what angle I want to approach this game from. I could probably just fill the rest of this article with a list of things I loved individually in this game. I love the simple things, the little things, like the cooking system or the way you can just climb anything. I love the way the redone mechanics feels more like they’ve rearranged the furniture to dust out an old room rather than burning the whole house down.

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I could maybe go philosophical and pretentious about the design decisions they made here. The way they split off the puzzles from the dungeons and put them into the shrines, while putting the traditional dark and looming danger into the four large dungeons of the game. The way the discovery of new dungeon items was placed into the weapon system, figuring out what each type of boomerang or bow or pike or sword or shield does and deciding which ones are your preferred method for combat.

Another approach would be to talk about the narrative, how deeply it affected me to see Zelda have a voice, a real and distinct personality. Maybe I could just talk about small personal experiences that still live in my heart, the quiet moments cooking in Kakariko village under the small shelter as rain quietly ticks against the roof. The first time I saw a lynel and thought, maybe that’s a weird horse? My first approach to Hyrule castle, and then my last.

My feelings on this game are extremely wide and complex but it is without a question my favorite game of the year, and one of the favorites of my life. I’m just getting started on the second DLC set but just hearing the audio on the load screen made my heart beat faster. I know for certain I’ll be coming back to this game again in 5 or 10 years time and I’ll still find it exactly as magical as the first time, it’s just that incredible.