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Navster's 2017 Game of the Year List

List items

  • As a dyed-in-the-wool Nintendo kid, I could not wipe the stupid grin off my face as I took my favorite plumber through his latest adventure. Super Mario Odyssey is pure joy, putting on a master class in game design and breathing new life into the greatest franchise the industry has ever produced. The game’s possession mechanic opens up vast design space to Mario’s existing platforming repertoire which, combined with some truly imaginative world design, had me in a constant state of wonder. And don’t get me started on the immense amount of nostalgia peeking out of every corner. Bring on the DLC/Super Mario Odyssey 2, I can’t wait to jump back in.

  • The operative word in Breath of the Wild is “yes”. As in, yes you can climb this mountain. And yes, you can chop down a tree to make a bridge. Or even, yes you can march up to Ganon’s castle with nothing but a stick and your underwear. Just as I was about to write off open-world games as neverending errand simulators, Zelda provides freedom and truly means it. My Link’s journey felt truly like my own as I zig-zagged across the map, dying to ever harsher environments and tougher enemies, all the while internalizing the systems of the game world and ultimately achieving mastery. This is one adventure I will not soon forget.

  • I genuinely don’t think there is anything about Hollow Knight that I would change. The game stands as such a confident, polished work that I spent my entire time playing it in awe of Team Cherry’s game design chops. As I descended further into the Hollownest, slowly uncovering its secrets and becoming more attuned to its stiff challenge, I dreaded more and more the fact that it would soon end. The game cast a spell on me, one that has me craving for more pathfinders and soulslikes in my gaming diet. It may not be my game of the year, but this is definitely the one game on my list everyone should play.

  • For all the controversies, think pieces, critical acclaim, and critical backlash that MachineGames’s latest inspired, one fundamental truth remains: Nazis are bad and deserve to die painfully. Wolfenstein II is a cathartic response to a year filled with day-after-day of depressing news. While in real life the #resistance continues to bicker and get little done, the motley crew of the Eva’s Hammer shows us that sometimes you gotta smash white supremacy the old-fashioned way. In 2017, this was the game I needed.

  • I’ve long been a proponent of the theory that video games evoke empathy better than all other forms of media, and Hellblade makes a compelling case for why that is. Using binaural audio, a close, claustrophobic camera, and the incredible performance of Melina Juergens, I was transported into the fractured mind of Senua and got a glimpse of the world through non-neurotypical eyes. However authentic it was to real world experience, my hope is for more studios to be inspired by Ninja Theory’s example going forward.

  • One of my favorite gaming memories ever was finally getting my usually game-averse wife to play through Gone Home with me. Finally, here was a game that finally let me share with her why I adore this medium. So when we heard that Fullbright was following up their influential hit with a journey through a space station, you better believe we were ready to play it on day one. While Tacoma lacks the novelty of its predecessor, it makes up for it with a more confident tone. I can’t fully separate my experience with the game from passing the controller back and forth with the woman I love, but frankly, I don’t particularly care.

  • Look, we can discuss the shortcomings of Persona 5 all damn day. The last few dungeons are just bad, the treatment of women and LGBT folks is disturbingly awful, and the combat remains the same repetitive slog as previous games in the series. But it’s still Persona and I still love it. From grabbing ramen with Ryuji to acing my midterms, the game gives me the Japanese high school experience that I crave. Plus, Persona 5 lets me carry a little kitty cat around in my bag! I simply cannot ask for more.

  • Note: This entry is for Fortnite: Battle Royale

    Yes, Epic did a crappy thing by straight up jacking Battlegrounds’ take on the battle royale formula. Nevertheless, Fortnite Battle Royale ended up being my introduction to 100 player deathmatch simply due to accessibility. With it being free and on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, it was much easier to get friends to play with me and actually enjoy the experience. And you know what? I prefer Epic’s goofier and Minecraft-inspired take on the nascent genre. Also, the new 50 vs. 50 mode is rad as hell.

  • At the start of the year I was all but certain that Mass Effect: Andromeda would be my game of the year. A follow up to one of my favorite series of all time on next generation hardware, it seemed like such a slam dunk. But alas, the game that shipped is but a shadow of its forebears. Nevertheless, it retains the trademark Mass Effect charm, and I found myself exploring every nook of these strange new worlds with the same fascination that I did in 2007 (or 2010, or 2012). I’d love to say that I’m looking forward to further adventures in the Andromeda galaxy, but it’s 2017 and we can’t have nice things anymore.

  • Note: This entry is for XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

    It feels a bit like cheating to include an expansion pack to a 2016 game onto my list, but War of the Chosen is just too damn good to exclude. With new factions, environments, and a fantastic implementation of the nemesis system, this is the game that XCOM 2 should have been. As I get older I don’t tend to revisit games like I used to, but I will certainly be making an exception for this. Switch version please, Firaxis!