It’s the most wonderful time of the year. When we go back and celebrate all the best games released this year. And what an insane year it has been. This will be my 6th year writing a best of games list and in that brief time this has absolutely been the strongest year for games so far. So without wasting too much time in the intro; let’s get to the games!
A few caveats before I start (which are all weirdly linked to my 2014 list). I loved Destiny (No.3 in 2014) and its expansions; having put in over 800 hours into that game. It’s a great experience and I’m sure Destiny 2 would make this list had I played it but I just didn’t want to fall into that hole again and so made the conscious decision to not play it.
The Evil Within was my No.2 game in 2014 and I haven’t felt compelled to play the sequel yet. I want to be in the mood and it just hasn’t lined up yet but when I get to it hopefully it will be great. Even though everything I’ve seen looks like a major step down but we shall see.
And finally my GOTY 2014, South Park: The Stick of Truth, had a sequel released this year as well and I can’t believe I’m saying this but right now it doesn’t make my list. I’ve only played 6 hours but was so bored during it that I had to put it down and focus on the games at that time that grabbed me more. I’m definitely gonna give it another chance now that the releases are slowing down (October was CRAZY) but I’m so bummed out that it just didn’t tick any of the boxes the previous game did for me.
Also episodic games such as Life is Strange: Before the Storm and Batman: The Enemy Within are ongoing so I want both seasons to finish before judging them overall. But enough rambling! The list starts now…
10. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
A fun one to kick off the list. Here is a game that arrived at the perfect time for what type of game it is. The original trilogy remade for the PS4 at a discounted price at a time where no new releases come out? It’s no surprise this game sold so well and really filled a nice gap in the year for myself and many others. Can you imagine if this had come out in October? Lots of publishers need to look at the success of this one and stop putting their games out to die in the busy periods of the year.
This was certainly a fun collection that tickled the nostalgia nicely but also unfortunately reminded you of the game’s original problems on the PS1. The first game in particular does have massive difficulty problems for what is supposed to be a fun platformer and even though they are far from being fantastic games; Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy was an enjoyable experience earlier this year.
9. Horizon Zero Dawn
This will be surprisingly low compared to many people’s lists and whilst of course I enjoyed this game enough for it to be featured here; I did have many more concerns and problems than anyone else’s experience I’ve heard with this game. Let’s start with those concerns. I really didn’t like the intro to this game at all. Young Aloy wasn’t fun to play as and went on way too long. When the game did open up I still felt like it wasn’t the experience that I was so excited to play when the game was first announced. It wasn’t until I focused on the side content and started to unlock all the abilities that the game started to click for me.
At around 15 hours in was when I was having the most fun with this game. I loved the Cauldron Dungeons and fighting all the crazy variety of enemies and creatures. This was when the game excelled for me. Just open world fun and crazy combat situations with amazing enemy design. The story itself wasn’t that intriguing to me. I felt everything that happened before the game was way more interesting than what was happening whilst I was playing it. The side mission formula of; talk to this person, go to this location, grab this item and bring it back reminded me of so many boring fetch quests that have become so repetitive in this genre.
For me, Horizon was a very good take on an open world formula that we’ve seen countless times in recent years. No new take or reinvention at all but a great version of what we’ve already seen. I still enjoyed my time enough to get the platinum trophy and will eventually play the DLC in due course. But it also pales in comparison to another open world game that I’ll get to later...
8. Splatoon 2
Another game that I don’t want to sound too negative on but if Splatoon 2 nailed the landing it would be a contender for the top spot. However it doesn’t and much like its predecessor it languishes towards the bottom of this list. At it’s core I love playing Splatoon 2. It’s an incredibly fun shooter, beautiful to look at and has some of the most unique takes I’ve seen on this genre. I love their focus on fashion over player upgrades so ultimately you aren’t taking an unfair advantage over other players onto the battlefield. Just clearly better style.
Splatoon 2’s problems are almost identical to the original game. It’s on a better system so that’s a plus. The single player campaign is worst however so that’s a bummer. But ultimately this is a multiplayer driven game and once again Nintendo have completely bungled the online infrastructure for this game. It shouldn’t be almost impossible to play an online game with a friend and Splatoon 2 pretty much is. Any game where there’s a chance a group will be split up and put onto different teams at the start of a match is incredibly disappointing straight away. You can’t play your fav mode at any time; you have to wait till that mode is in rotation. Have a spare 30 minutes but the mode that’s available sucks? Unlucky. This goes completely against the jump in and out mentality that a game like Splatoon should have. Then there’s little things like the leaving games early penalty that just encourages people to idle which creates even worse games than if you just let people leave.
I love the heart and soul of Splatoon 2. Any time I hear it’s amazing soundtrack or see the wonderful art it makes me happy. The thought of just occasionally jumping in and playing a few rounds every week is very appealing. But when you start to remember all the issues that I’ve described; I really get annoyed once again at what could have been. Maybe Splatoon 3 will be the GOTY contender I want it to be.
7. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Probably the game that would win best surprise of 2017 for me. I have never really cared for the Rabbids. Don’t hate them like many seem to do but also never felt compelled to play any of their games. When this got announced like many I wondered how on earth this could work and they pretty much pulled it off perfectly. The main gameplay (90% X-COM) is really fantastic. I love turn based strategy and think most of this game they nailed. All the characters have different, usable abilities so you don’t just use the same characters all the time. The enemies, except for a few, feel well designed and fair to beat. And the actual story was really well done.
They mash two random things like Mario and Rabbids and really make it feel like they go together well. Some of the moments and reveals in the campaign were really fantastic and the whole experience was super enjoyable. However, it is too long. The final world is the worst of them all and the challenges you unlock post-game are stupid difficult to the point that they take all the fun away from playing it. But my main bulk of time spent with this game was a joy and it was the perfect summer Switch game before the heavy hitters of fall arrived.
6. Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus
The last addition to this list and boy am I glad I played it. I have a fairly good grasp of what games interest me and what I’m going to play. This game was not on that list and it wasn’t until I heard such overwhelmingly positive word of mouth that I decided to give it a go. Everyone was absolutely right. It’s one of the most fun FPS campaigns I’ve ever played and truly a breath of fresh air in a crowded genre.
The fundamental gameplay is so damn fun to play it’s hard to describe to someone who is yet to try it. Similar to DOOM, the feeling of when you’re low on health running around an area, killing nazi’s and looting their bodies for ammo and health is such an exhilarating experience. Playing with headphones on; when the music starts to ramp up during crazy sequences I was genuinely worried about how quickly my heart started beating.
Outside of the incredible gunplay is the moments. I won’t possibly go into spoiling anything but the places this game goes and how it pulls off such mental ideas is truly a special sight to behold. Not since BioShock Infinite has a FPS floored me with it’s insane set pieces, fantastic setting and fascinating characters. I feel ashamed for not being excited for this game prior to release and am so glad I believed the hype.
5. What Remains of Edith Finch
However you want to describe this genre: walking simulator, narrative driven experience, whatever; I’m a fan of them. I enjoyed the likes of Firewatch, Virginia, Tacoma, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture etc but none of them truly resonated with me. Edith Finch completely grabbed me from the moment it started and didn’t let go until it’s dramatic conclusion.
It’s hard to explain why something resonates with you more than others but something about this game is special. It has that special something. The concept of reliving the final moments on someone’s life multiple times as you learn about this cursed family is such a bizarre concept that shouldn’t be so great as it is. The switching up the gameplay is probably what kept me more intrigued than a lot of similar titles as each segment felt so different to the last. There are so many standout moments but the part where the story is told through an old horror comic is maybe the standout gaming moment of the year for me. It builds beautifully and ticks every box I have as a huge horror nerd.
The game also isn’t afraid to tackle super serious issues and topics you don’t see portrayed very often and it never feels tacky or unnecessary. Multiple times I feel awful having to play some really dark moments but the outcome was always justified and was never for shock value. Edith Finch is an amazing achievement; one that shouldn’t be overlooked in such a stacked year for games. Play it, feel it and prepare to think about it for a long time afterwards.
We are now at the point where any of these next 4 games could easily win my game of the year were it not such a strong year. From the moment Cupheadwas first announced: I, like many people, fell in love with the look of this game. The waiting, delays and change to the structure of the game meant that I got quite worried about this game and when it did finally arrive if it could live up to the high expectations when it was first shown. The game completely did and achieved everything I wanted this game to be.
Sure, the run and gun levels aren’t as good as the boss battles but they're so infrequent that it’s totally not an issue. The variety and creativity on display in these boss battles is truly a sight to behold and it’s really an unbelievable achievement from all who made it. The flying levels (which before playing I thought would be the worst) are some of the most fun I had in the entire game.
The game is insanely hard. At least for me it was. I don’t have a huge amount of experience with the genre but loved the look of this game enough to stick with it and really get into the mechanics of how this thing works and how to get good at it. The final bosses feel impossible when your first start but as you slowly get further on the line each try, you know the victory is within your grasp.The feeling when you do finally beat that pesky boss that’s been kicking your ass for 30 minutes straight is totally gratifying and worthwhile. Also the best soundtrack of 2017 for me. Just seeing a screenshot of Cuphead it’s easy to see why this game resonated with so many people but actually playing it was way better than I ever imagined it would be. Now the long wait for Cuphead 2…
3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
It’s crazy to think that in my opinion maybe the greatest open world game ever made was released this year and it’s not my No.1 but here we are. Maybe that shows the amount of fatigue I personally feel with this genre; that it has to be a complete game changer to grab my attention and that’s exactly what this game is. To have a game that’s not riddled with icons and side quests from the get go and just lets you go out and explore seems like such a basic idea and yet we haven’t seen anyone pull it off this well before. From the first moment you are let out and see that beautiful landscape; your mind gets filled with all the potential of where and what to do/go.
I loved how every time I saw something of interest I’d add a marker to my map and by the time I got to the thing I was trying to get to; I’d already have another 3-5 places waiting for me to explore when I was ready. Just genius open world design and something I’ve craved for so long after the formula of this genre has become so tried and tested at this point.
One small criticism is that in a lot of ways I would consider this the Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain of Zelda games. From a true gameplay perspective this completely destroys all of its predecessors. But it does lack some of the things I enjoy in a Zelda game. The story is quite non existent and didn’t make me compelled to find out what happens at all. To the point that I’d done all the Shrines and countless other non story objectives before finally taking the final fight to Ganon. The bosses are good but not as memorable as the past. And the lack of really in depth dungeons is certainly a shame but they do make up for their absence with the shrines.
Shrines certainly work better in a game that’s designed to be played in shorter bursts. Something to consider when many will play the game on the go. But a mix of some shorter shrines with the more traditional, deeper dungeons would be preferable to me. Still an amazing experience and the game I spent the most time playing in 2017 (150 hours and counting). If I take away my personal preference about the next two franchises on this list; Zelda is technically the best game I played in 2017.
2. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
My review of Resident Evil 7 does a better job of explaining how amazing this game is than I ever could briefly here. This was my game of the year for over 8 months so it kinda feels like it was robbed here but I have to go with my head on this one. This shouldn't have been remotely as good as it was. A first person, fully VR playable Resident Evil game that barely focuses on the main mythology and characters of the series. But this was exactly what the franchise needed after Resident Evil 6.
Making Resident Evil an actual scary horror game again was the most important thing for me and they absolutely nailed that. Playing in VR made the scares are almost too much but playing the traditional way was still a dread filled ride through a crazy story that had me hooked for its entire duration. I adore how much it takes from 70’s US horror films and wouldn’t have expected that element to be so greatly translated by a Japanese developer. The structure and story was such a huge leap from what we’ve had since Resident Evil 4 and the overall package was just exactly what I wanted from Resident Evil as a lifelong fan.
The DLC so far has felt incredibly tacked on and pretty pointless but I don’t want that to detract from the amazing game they made. Any fans of either horror games or past Resident Evil titles needs to play this game because in my opinion they made easily the best horror game since Resident Evil 4. Who knows what the future holds for this franchise as it has had one of the craziest and biggest highs and lows for any in gaming history. (Seriously, is there another franchise that has bonafide classics as well as unplayable pieces of trash?) But for now; let’s just enjoy a modern horror masterpiece.
1. Super Mario Odyssey
It had to be Mario. The Nintendo Switch has had arguably the greatest first year of games that any console has ever had. However the big game lurking at the end of the year was always Mario and whether it could live up to the high expectations set by other Switch games. Super Mario Odyssey is potentially the greatest game I’ve ever played. If a game was judged solely on how much joy and happiness it brought me then it would win that discussion hands down.
That’s the thing about this game. Around every corner is some little treat that is purely designed to make you happy. Whether it’s a platforming challenge, a clever use of Cappy, a retro 2D section or some of the other countless secrets I won’t go into; this game is brimming with creativity and fun to be had by the player. During my first playthrough I was having a great time with this game and liked the pacing of not spending too long in each area and overstaying your welcome before moving on. I was looking forward to revisiting each area and really diving into them and luckily the post-game makes this super satisfying and enjoyable.
The final moments of the story (and that’s a crazy thing to say about a Mario game; I cared about the story) and the way it builds to it’s finale is just breathtaking. Playing through the final moments I didn’t know whether to cry to just keep smiling like I had done through the other 99% of my time with this game. If you’ve played Mario games your whole life too; you will feel the nostalgia to the point that it feels like Nintendo is speaking directly to you and your love of these games. Especially if you have love for Super Mario 64which I think was my favorite Mario before this one. The final moments and what happens after the credits has to be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding sections of any game I’ve played to date.
Super Mario Odyssey truly is that good. I’ve took a short break after getting to the 500 moons mark as I was genuinely worried about running out of things to do in this game. I want to play it forever and damn it you can’t stop me. 2017 has been a special year for games and Super Mario Odyssey was the perfect way to cap it off. Here’s to 2018; good luck topping this year!