My five most favourite games of the year 2017, and five that are not

Best game I did not finish yet: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

I just finished the first World as of writing this and I think I'm falling in love with this game. To think Rabbids and Mario universes collide in order to make XCOM-like, and it being this good, would be absolutely nuts. But they make it work...so far. It looks great and all the Rabbid fusions have been funny and creative. You can tell from all the little animations and backgrounds how much work has been put into it. Combat system presents interesting challenges, mainly due to the addition of DASH damage. It makes the battles feel more like puzzles, but it still maintains a certain amount of strategy. Hopefully new abilities will keep coming and enemies won't get too repetitive and I might slide it into the my next year's list.

#5 - PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

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Coming from thousands of hours sunk into CS:GO, it is actually not that surprising i would enjoy another tense high stakes high reward multiplayer shooter. PUBG delivers the terror of distant sniper shooting at you better than most horror games. Every engagement feels as tense as a cooking pot about to explode under the pressure, culminating in a dopamine shot in a form of chicken dinner. Reason it’s not higher on the list is probably the technical side still not being up to snuff. PC 1.0 launch feels more like a marketing push rather than it actually being in a „finished“ state. Once these rough patches are smoothed out, we could have a game whose lasting power counts in the span of years.

Best part of a game: FIFA 18 – The Journey

Singleplayer story mode from this year’s entry to the soccer simulation series should serve as a primary example of how sports games can evolve . Despite the multitude of issues that plague FIFA18’s gameplay in general, story of Alex Hunter was a shining beacon that made me way more positive about the whole package. Your dialogue choices could definitely have a little more impact than just an arbitrary number of fans, but that is a small dent in an otherwise compeling story with interesting characters and great cinematic aproach. And big props to EA for willingness to go with a main character of colour with a game that is mainly selling to european market, where especially among certain football fans, racism is still scarily prevalent.

#4 - A Normal Lost Phone

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It is kind of incredible that such a simple game can immerse someone as hard as Normal Lost Phone. There became a point I totally forgot I am playing a videogame on my PC and just treated it as if I actually found someone’s phone. Few puzzles that make you feel like a detective are just a clever side dish to a game that is primarily about its story. You get a voyeuristic glimpse into a both chilling and heartwarming story of a previous owner of this phone. This creepy feeling like you are rummaging through someone’s private stuff just out of your own morbid curiosity works great in contrast with its themes and message. Don’t sleep on this game, try it, it’s very short and really good.

Game whose flaws made me angry because of how good the rest of the game is: Night in the Woods

Night in the Woods achieved one weird thing with me. It made me appreciate Oxenfree on a whole another level. It would be so easy to imagine Oxenfree with the same core gameplay loop of Night in the Woods. You would have to go silently from place to place and click away each sentence while being rooted in place (instead of the dynamic voice-acted system currently in place). And the end of the story would reveal that the kids only got poisoned in that cave and fainted, and it was all just a dream.

I hate when games disrespect my time and Night in the Woods is a serious offender in this category. Game made you run across the city way too many times for not making it an effective world building tool. It felt like a chore. Maybe that is what they were going for, but i feel like there are better ways to accomplish that. And to top it off the amount and loading screens and their length were in huge disparity compared to amount of „content“ behind them. I mean you even have to go through the loading screen just to look at the bulletin board... The ending fell extremely flat and the game did not earn it in any way, especially compared to the themes it sets up all throughout.

That said, Night in the Woods has some of the best writing and most endearing moments of the videogames i have ever played. Characters are both interesting and believable and it makes you excited to just talk to any one of them (#momforthebestcharacter). Writing is what kept me going. It is a shame that the art and (for the most part) story are being let down by design and technical elements of the game.

#3 - Solitairica

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Technically, Solitairica came out in 2016, but on Android (platform i played it on first) it was released in late December and I only found out about it when Drew brought it to UPF earlier this year. It became by far my most played phone game and then I even bought it on PC just because of how good and addictive it is.

Look, Solitaire is a good game, I think we can all agree on that. When you make it competitive and throw in some meaningful and well thought out RPG mechanics, it should only improve. And that's exactly what developers of Solitairica did.

Most innovative game: What Remains of Edith Finch

I really wanted to put Edith Finch in my top five, but the story did not grab me personally that much. However, the game accomplished maybe something far better? The game, I think, sets the new benchmark for what adventure games in this century can do. From now on, every time I’m going to be playing a „walking simulator“ or listening to an audio log in Ken Levine’s game, all I’m gonna be thinking of is how they could have made it as interactive as Edith Finch is. Whoever came up with all those little gameplay intermissions and natural feeling control schemes for them, deserves some major praise.

#2 - Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

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Not a single game occupied my mind as much as Wolfenstein sequel. I think about it on a near daily basis still to this day. I did the fortunate thing and put it on the lowest difficulty the very first mission. I breezed my way through the shooting sequences in a similar fashion like one would in DOOM. Though I am still a bit disappointed that unlike the previous game, stealth and shooting from cover are not a valid option anymore. Luckily, the story more than makes up for what the game lacks in gameplay department or level design. It felt like almost every subsequent moment one-uped the previous one and it kept building and building... Not only that, but the environmental worldbuilding through newspaper clippings and recording is top-class. So much so, that i wished they would just automatically unlocked all of them after finishing the game so I could go through them all without having to search for them in the environments being afraid I might have missed some. MachineGames somehow managed to turn such an overused trope of shooting nazis into the most progressive AAA game ever; without the need of tacked-on multiplayer or microtransactions. It is possibly the most and the least 2017 game released in the calendar year 2017.

Best game that left me wanting more: High Hell

Surprise, surprise! I loved Heavy Bullets. With High Hell, developer Terri Vellmann has quickly became one of my favourites. These high stakes shooters where every bullet counts are totally my jam! I only wish that there was more. I blasted through High Hell in one sitting in less than 90 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, it was fantastic 90 minutes. But it left me desperately wanting more. It wouldn‘t even have to be more than the current 20 levels. Just giving people tools to make their own levels supported by Workshop would be nice. However, some people are going to come to this game just for leaderboards and will have no issues running these levels over and over again, and these people will be served well.

#1 - Picross S

When i got the Switch this fall i bought Picross on a whim to test how eshop works rather than actually thinking i will love it, despite the fact that I occasionally enjoy some crosswords or sudoku. Three months later and Picross S is by far my most played game on the system. The fact that it is a great portable game and does not require sound certainly helps, but nights where i don’t solve at least one puzzle before going to sleep are few and far between. After trying some knock-offs on Switch itself and Android it became clear how hard it actually is to make boards that are challenging yet rewarding, and don’t resort to forcing you to guess your way to the solution. I have to give it some time, but I might start ranking Picross S on the similar levels as such a classic as Tetris.

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