Vinny Caravella's Top 10 Games of 2017

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Posted by vinny (6901 posts) -

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Vincent Caravella has lost the thread regarding what he does anymore. He likes to mess with video a whole lot but he also likes to complain about not understanding the internet too. If there's one thing he's sure about it's that it's the best time to be playing video games and he also knows that if you say that enough times it will be right at least once.

Well, here we are, and never be it on me to say I told you so but best times... video games. You do the math. If you locked the doors, ripped out all the incoming communications, and nailed plywood to your windows, 2017 was an amazing year... in video games. Seriously though, I couldn't help but notice that most of the games I was into this year were themed around the ruins of collapsed empires or being the pinpoint of light in a sea of oncoming darkness. Maybe that's just video game stories 101 and I never really paid much attention to the unifying elements before now. Whatever the backdrop for all these games, they were damn good. There were good big games, good little games, good polished games, and even good unfinished games. All sorts and all sizes.

There are even games that seem pretty great that I didn't get to finish or get far enough into and had to be sidelined for this year's list. Games like Divinity: Original Sin II, Night in the Woods, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Hopefully, by the time you are reading this I'm sitting playing at least some of them. There are also a bunch of other games that just didn't make the list. All the number 11s out there like Destiny 2, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and Hollow Knight to name a few. Specifically three, because lists look good in threes.

Anyway, if you're on this site and reading this you know these games are fantastic. For the most part, the ordering of this list is still fluid in my mind. At some point I had to hit submit and that's the order that stuck. So here are ten games that really stood out to me in a year just overflowing with exceptional releases. What a year.

10. Assassin’s Creed Origins

Previously, drafts of this part were about how different Assassin’s Creed games are for different people, and how the series has changed, and blah, blah, blah. Really though, I just didn’t like Origins when I started playing it. I still am not sure if I like it as an Assassin’s Creed game. I’m not into the loot drops, or the sterile way you get new moves through the upgrade tree. BUT… I am now having a lot of fun playing it. That stupid predator bow is so dumb, and I love it. I have upgraded my wrist blade enough to rarely give me problems assassinating targets, berserk and sleep darts are back, and I learned how to counter somewhere along the way. Also, I kind of enjoy being Bayek the Egyptian Super Cop. I do feel like I have murdered pretty indiscriminately for someone with a strong moral code of some sort, but I have also found pretty much all of the missing peoples of Egypt, so the balance probably works out.

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9. Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator

A lot of what can make a game impactful, or have it rise above the din, is time and place. While most of the games on this list build their narratives on some world-ending fiction, the collapse of society, or being the last point of light in a blanketing darkness of subjugation by a foreign foe, Dream Daddy takes a different tack. It focuses on community, generally being supportive and positive to other members of that community, and going beyond first impressions to build meaningful relationships. I was hesitant to get into Dream Daddy as I thought it was going to a bit of a one-trick pony Dad Dating Simulator, getting by on some cheap and easy jokes. Instead, I found it genuinely heartwarming. There is one particular moment where your Dad attempts to remain involved in their daughter’s life, while also trying to give her space. It still gets me a bit weepy when I think back on it. While the game definitely leans into the goofy, there’s real heart there. I found the near-idyllic judgment-free world of Dream Daddy to just as appealing a piece of escapism as any of the other dystopian hero fantasties on offer this year.

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8. SteamWorld Dig 2

This is another game which builds its premise on sifting through the remains of a collapsed society. While the setup might not be too cheerful, the game is a joy. This one scores direct hits on my most sensitive gaming pressure points. It has a meaningful and flexible upgrade mechanic tied to engaging collectibles. Ding. Backtracking, progress, and exploration rarely feel tedious as you move through because of the generous fast travel system and said upgrades. Ding. Ding. And… it’s all wrapped up in a decent little narrative. Dingdingding! You win.

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7. NieR:Automata

So much has been said about NieR. I’ll cut straight to it: I think it’s pretty good but it didn’t change my life or shake me to my core. I thought the story was engaging, if also drawn out. The personalized interactions around the themes presented are more novel than the actual themes themselves, in my opinion. The game definitely has its moments, though, and many of them are from the side and smaller interactions. It also has an incredible soundtrack, which works exceptionally well as the backdrop to the unfolding events. It also has a combat system--again with flaws--in which I got fairly invested. Even with its troubles, it’s a journey worth taking. It delivers on the investments it asks of the players in unique, troubling, yet also satisfying ways.

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6. Super Mario Odyssey

It’s a damn good Mario game, and I like those. The worlds are unique and fun to explore, the moons you collect range from butt-stompingly easy to how-in-the-world-am-I-going-to-get-up-there-ingly challenging. It’s fun, it’s tight, it has a level of polish that lets you know you’re in a well-designed and meticulously crafted space. And that’s a good thing, because you’re going to be exploring those areas quite a bit, hunting down those moons. I also think the modifications to gameplay that Assist Mode make are incredibly smart. It was a great way to play with my kids, with a big thank you from me for getting rid of things like drowning. I’m not sure how much longer I can shelter them from the universal truth that all underwater levels are out there to cause them immense suffering, but I will try my best.

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5. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Last year’s rollercoaster ride for me was DOOM, and this year it’s Wolfenstein II. It’s pulp, it’s absurd, it’s hyperbole, but it also aims its power fantasy at the right target for a lot of people that are feeling overwhelmed by the less cartoonish versions of encroaching bigotry and hate. Even divorced from the times, it’s a gory but action-packed romp with an incredible cast of characters that are given more room to breathe than you would expect from the genre. And while I had similar complaints as others about the combat sections, only a few of them actually started to drag down my overall enjoyment of the game. I’ll usually suffer weaker gameplay elements over weak or missing narrative, and I really did enjoy the ridiculous tale the game was spinning.

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4. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

What a weird and wonderful time it is to playing video games. Some might say it’s the best time. Here we are with a truly open-world, see-that-mountain-you-can-go-there Zelda game. It feels like it’s finally delivering on the real, hands and knees, pulling brambles out of your hair exploration that they’ve talked about building for ages. Then they put a loot system in with durability. FINE. WHATEVER. But why can’t the Master Sword just be above it all? Ugh. And the rain. The rain. Anyway, it’s a fantastic world that has you literally lifting up every rock and climbing every mountain. I also liked the story - even the photo hunt parts. There are flaws, but I loved what I played and it makes me very excited to see where they go from here.

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3. Pyre

I really fell for the world of Pyre hard. All of the characters, the backdrop, even the celestial basketball. I was all in. I was invested in all of the members of my wagon, and I felt like as I was progressing through the game, my relationship with each got more interesting as I got better with them during the gameplay bits. Obviously, not by coincidence. I’ve always enjoyed that sort of game, where you explore the stories of your team to uncover their unspoken histories, and Pyre is full of interesting backstories. I also really enjoy a game that delivers on laying out multiple paths for you and at the end giving you a satisfying and meaningful coda for your particular choices. It’s an amazing cast and collection of stories, set in a world that feels like it has actual history. Also, again, I even like the celestial basketball.

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2. Cuphead

It’s one of those games that seem like once you get your hands on it, everything is going to suck. Or a game where the trailers and demos are just setting the whole thing up for failure. Somehow, it does all work, and even better than I could have hoped. When I was a kid/teen I wanted to be an animator. Granted I wasn’t a kid in the 1930s, but you might see where this is headed. The entire time I played Cuphead I was constantly in awe of what I was seeing. It’s really something. Also, I think I’m not half-bad at it, which feels good. That probably comes from my kids constantly wanting to play with me, which adds its own in-game challenges. I love the art, I love the music, and I love the gameplay. Nicely done, Cuphead.

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1. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

I’m not very good at competitive games. I’ve always been more attracted to working on teams and playing support in games. I also like poking around in big worlds with just enough of a rule-set that leaves room for chaos. I found PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds to get that mix just right for me. I was able to play on a team in a role that varied from support to lead, surrounded by a tension that came not only from the skill of the other competitors but from experimenting within the world. I felt like there was always a new tactic we could employ or a new approach to a situation that might catch the other players off their guard. A lot of those went down in hilarious failures, but they were still some of my favorite gameplay stories to share. It was great to chat with friends during the looting phases, until someone inevitably would whisper “Shhhhh, hear that?” into their mic. Usually, there was a binary outcome to the events that followed: universal celebration at how amazing we are at this game, or reloading into a new match.

It’s an experience I’ve gone back to time and time again, mainly having to do with some really great people to play and chat with. I do think the single-player is also an amazing time, but for my money I was mostly looking for duos and squads. Probably because I knew I was going to be leaning on other people that were way above my skill level, but also because it simply allows for stretches of time where you can just talk and catch up with friends.

Battlegrounds is certainly iterative in terms of past games in the genre, but the choices it makes are important. It peels away some of the levels of complexity, especially the crafting, that some of the more survival-oriented entries included. Whether by chance or design, it happened to get the mix just right for me, and apparently many, many others. I think we’ll be feeling the ripples of its success for a decent chunk of time and I’m curious and excited to see how things evolve from here.

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#1 Edited by hassun (10028 posts) -

I had no idea you liked Pyre this much!

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#2 Edited by Dray2k (884 posts) -

Vinny keepin it real as always!

Old dumb meme aside, this is a super good list with some really well reasoned and good picks. Not suprising Cuphead is this far up, it seems to be one of the most favorised games this year.

EDIT: I really have to pick up Pyre soon, perhaps my first video game purchase in the next year! Seems like a really great video game and this list certainly made a hell of a pitch for it.

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#3 Posted by yodajones (40 posts) -

100% Solid List!

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#4 Posted by Baal_Sagoth (1602 posts) -

Fantastic to see some love for Pyre! I actually enjoyed the rites as well. Not as much as all the rest but the wildly different characters made it very fun.

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#5 Edited by Francium34 (329 posts) -

It's fun listening to the day 1 deliberations, and comparing that to what Vinny has said about AC:O over the past 2 beastcasts after recording GOTY stuff.

AC:O is kind of rough around the edges, and not really an AC game, or even that much of an open world game, but it's a good game everyone should try. Egypt is such a great setting: it's breathtaking, mysterious, and offers a lot of variety.

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#6 Posted by Hodor (146 posts) -

Even with missing so many games due to lack of free time this is one super solid list of great games.

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#7 Posted by Leonshade (73 posts) -

I'm glad Pyre is getting its due, one of my absolute favorites this year.

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#8 Posted by Efesell (4563 posts) -

I'm not sure I really understand the idea of Origins not being much of an Assassin's Creed game.

Or what that means at all anymore. It starts to sound a little like people grousing about Final Fantasy not being Final Fantasy.

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#9 Posted by Marino (7555 posts) -

@efesell said:

I'm not sure I really understand the idea of Origins not being much of an Assassin's Creed game.

Or what that means at all anymore. It starts to sound a little like people grousing about Final Fantasy not being Final Fantasy.

He explains his thoughts quite well on the podcast today. I don't necessarily agree with him, but I understand where he's coming from.

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#10 Posted by Efesell (4563 posts) -

@marino said:
@efesell said:

I'm not sure I really understand the idea of Origins not being much of an Assassin's Creed game.

Or what that means at all anymore. It starts to sound a little like people grousing about Final Fantasy not being Final Fantasy.

He explains his thoughts quite well on the podcast today. I don't necessarily agree with him, but I understand where he's coming from.

Well that's good, I'll look forward when I get some time to listen.

I feel like when the annual Assassin's Creed talk comes up on the podcasts it's always a little pining for a style of AC that I never thought existed at all. Like one where it was ever about stealth or subtly and not combo killing squads of troops.

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#11 Posted by BetaBand (400 posts) -

Thanks, Vinny!

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#12 Posted by Blumlein (26 posts) -

I have the same feeling about Battlegrounds. Aside from the (fun) game itself, it´s a great way to catch up with friends while looting and having a good time, +100 for that.

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#13 Posted by CyrusRaven (199 posts) -

Yay Pyre is great plus TiZo is probably one of the cutest characters in all of video games Screeeee! :)

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#14 Posted by chaser324 (8690 posts) -

Thank you Vinny for making sure that Divinity: Original Sin II is at least mentioned once during this whole GOTY thing.

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#15 Posted by gerrid (705 posts) -

I really wonder about AC:O and recency bias, if it was out in March would it get as much air time? perhaps, but that's the nature of GOTY I suppose.

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#16 Edited by JoeyRavn (5287 posts) -

Eh. Can't say I agree with #1, but, hey. Everyone has their own opinions.

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#17 Posted by Smeat (139 posts) -

Good list of games Vinny.

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#18 Posted by splice (32 posts) -

PUBG is #1 on Vinny’s list and not on Ben’s list at all. I would’ve predicted the exact opposite.

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#20 Posted by Dr_Insane (764 posts) -


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#21 Posted by HeelBill (159 posts) -

Great list. Don't let the haters bother about PUBG at number one.

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#22 Posted by MocBucket62 (2491 posts) -

Nice list Vinny! Now thinking about it, seeing Vinny obsess over the Killcam in the PUBG QL gave me a feeling he was going to name that as his favorite game of 2017.

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#23 Edited by GundamGuru (786 posts) -
@joey_ravn said:

Eh. Can't say I agree with #1, but, hey. Everyone has their own opinions.

PUBG is such a personal experience. It really is all about what you bring with you to the game, be that your friend group, teammates, or your streaming audience. It's just a blank canvas for you to make your own fun (or not). I feel like that's why so many people continue to be baffled by it getting such high praise. Very little of PUBG's success has to do with the game itself.

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#24 Posted by paulunga (3517 posts) -

This is a good list. Nay, a great list!

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#25 Posted by Teddie (2157 posts) -

Haven't watched much of the PUBG videos but I had no idea Vinny was so into it! Looking at the reasons why makes total sense though, I've got a few friends I've been meaning to play it with and it definitely seems like a good way to just catch up and enjoy their company, alongside actually playing the thing.

Pyre has gone completely under my radar, watched a few minutes of the Quick Look and wasn't grabbed, but I'm definitely picking it up in the Steam sale after this, and the Best Looking Game category discussion.

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#26 Posted by CrazyBagMan (1670 posts) -

When your most disappointing game is in your top 10, it's a good year. Also, Vinny's logic for finding AC Origins disappointing is bs to me.

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#27 Posted by Francium34 (329 posts) -

@crazybagman: He went from the shock of this not being a real AC game (mechanic-wise, and somewhat lacking in lore tie-in to other entries) at the beginning of December when the podcast was recorded, to having a lot more fun in the game in the following weeks (as seen from beastcasts). He even hinted that some parts of the recorded discussion now sounds silly, which I guess is about this game? We'll see if his initial negative opinions costs AC:O much in the GOTY rankings on day 5 though.

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#28 Posted by Stara (114 posts) -

Thanks, Vinny. Have a good one.

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#29 Posted by mitchuation (84 posts) -

Taking out the two dlc’s that I chose for my own list (Ds3 ringed city and xcom 2 war of the chosen), it lined up almost exactly with this one. Cool list vinny! Best year to be playing video games indeed!

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#30 Posted by JoeDangerous (607 posts) -

Thanks for contributing, Vin! Glad to see NieR and Cuphead made your list.

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#31 Posted by texus (83 posts) -

Great list Vinny, and very well written! Enjoy the holidays and all the best to you and your fam <3

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#32 Posted by Francium34 (329 posts) -

Steamworld dig 2 is really good! It also made Jeff's steam curation list.

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#33 Edited by hunterob (288 posts) -

I'm really shocked that Cuphead made it to #2. I think it's a good game, looks amazing, but never would I think to put it over Mario Odyssey or even AC Origins. Vinny still manages to shock with how different his logic and thinking is from what I think they are, I guess.

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#34 Posted by Buf (12 posts) -

This list already sounds suspiciously solid, although I'm surprised Pyre is this far up. I shall try it one day!

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#35 Posted by Jonny_Anonymous (3675 posts) -

@gerrid said:

I really wonder about AC:O and recency bias, if it was out in March would it get as much air time? perhaps, but that's the nature of GOTY I suppose.

AC:O is a fantastic game tho.

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#36 Edited by ToxicAntidote (1148 posts) -

A great list of great games.


NieR: Automata didn't change my life in any way, and I doubt that's the reason for why people like it. I just really like a good sci-fi story, that questions social structures and what a consciousness is. There are a ton of stories with the exact premise, that's already been told many, many times over and over. But what makes NieR: Automata so special to me is that it uses gameplay mechanics to tell some of the greater parts of that story, in a way that wouldn't be the same if told through any other kind of media.

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#37 Posted by amiga1200 (195 posts) -

Pyre! Yes! It’s so damn good but got lost in the gaming whirlwind.

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#38 Posted by StoutLager (556 posts) -

Fuck yeah Dream Daddy.

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#39 Posted by Darkrider_ (3 posts) -

Thanks Vinny, cool list. Wish I had a few more hours in my days to play the awesome games of 2017.

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#40 Posted by aradikus (47 posts) -

Reading staff Top 10s before listening to deliberations, and I am loving it! You're the best, Vinny! It's great reading your writing, I'm so used to hearing you host the Beastcast and assorted East Coast features that it's really special to read your written word(s). This list is 100% Caravella-approved, from the heart, and even flavored by his experiences as a father, which I can certainly appreciate as a father myself with kids who love games (Red Dead Redemption, Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8, Slime Rancher, The Sims 4, etc.)!

Thank you Vinny for the amazing entertainment, from my 8-year-old's belly-laughs to your "Fireboylt" bit to my 3-year-old's Assist Mode-enabled Moon hunting! Tell Brad not to curse so much so they can enjoy more!

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#41 Posted by MonkeyKing1969 (7649 posts) -

No Yakuza 0...shame, shame, shame, shame, shame.

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#42 Edited by chocolatebear (108 posts) -

Papa Vinny!

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#43 Posted by mezmero (3785 posts) -

Kind of surprised to see just how much Papa Vinny enjoyed PUBG this year but I can't complain considering how hard he champions Pyre on this list and in the podcasts. I prefer to think of The Rites as celestial rugby. Thanks again and keep up the great work.

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#44 Posted by UnsolvedParadox (2167 posts) -

Love the list, I really do need to get back to Pyre. Cheers, Vinny!

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#45 Posted by gbrading (3246 posts) -

Vice-Admiral Caravella, thank you for your service.

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#46 Posted by glots (4380 posts) -

The Origins comparison to olde AC games is giving me some flashbacks to when they talked about Dead Rising 4 being bad since it had ditched some of the series (awful) trademarks.

So I can kinda understand his point, while for me Origins was miles better than any other release in the series that I had previously played, thanks to the changes it made.

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#47 Posted by Sessh (3404 posts) -

Maybe I should try giving Pyre a shot, but the gameplay just looks so...monotonous to me.

Anyway, I'm kinda surprised PUBG won over Cuphead.

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#48 Posted by chango (1093 posts) -

Great list!