Best of 2017
Twenty seventeen. In the immortal words of Eric Pope, "oofa doofa." Luckily, this nightmare of a year also had a slew of amazing games for us to temporarily escape from everything else. I played twenty four games this year, but it was relatively easy to whittle it down to ten. Putting them in order was the hard part. Anyway, I had a lot of thoughts, so let's get to spoiling some stuff.
- Mass Effect Andromeda (PS4) - My heart hurts. I liked it more than most people did, but I simply can't continue to apologize for it. It's a broken mess and even if it worked properly, it would still be an immensely disappointing entry in this franchise. Fuck.
- Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age (PS4) - FFXII has always been divisive, but I liked it at the time. So, I enjoyed playing through it again with some enhancements and a whole new job system. But, in a year this stacked with new stuff, I can't justify putting it in my top ten.
- Picross S (NSW) - Look. I love Picross. And this is definitely more Picross. But it's not top ten.
- Middle-earth: Shadow of War (PS4) - Not since Bravely Default has the last Act of a game ruined the entire game for me. Up until Act 4, Shadow of War is all the stuff I loved about the first game but...more. Then, they ask you to do 21 straight castle defenses to get the real ending sequence of the game. Fuck that noise.
10. Tekken 7 (PS4)
I love me some Tekken. It's my second favorite fighting series behind Mortal Kombat. Both of these series have mechanics that are deep and technical while simultaneously being easy for anyone to jump in and play. They both also have rich, decades long lore that is treated with care and respect while simultaneously recognizing how goddamn silly the whole thing is. Tekken 7 perfectly carries on these traditions while also adding a couple new twists to the matches. Much like MK's X-Rays, Tekken's Rage Art super moves are mostly useless in real, competitive play, but they're a blast in casual matches with friends. And, possibly the best "why haven't we done this before?" addition is the slow motion effect on attacks that might end the match. It's just...GREAT!
9. Golf Story (NSW)
Golf Story is the one game on my list that came out of nowhere. If you know anything about me, you know I love golf games. And in a world where Nintendo is seemingly never going to make another proper Mario Golf RPG, we have these ruffians from Australia to come in and save the day. This game is like a love letter to old golf games mixed with wacky humor that had me grinning like an idiot through every course. The beauty is that I don't think you even have to like golf to enjoy the writing, old game references (RC Pro Am, Pac-Man, Game Boy, etc.), and weird quests that are scattered around the various courses. Sidebar Games truly scored a sausage roll here with their first game.
8. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PS4)
Did I really need more Uncharted? No, probably not. The ending of Uncharted 4 was perfect for the series. But, if you're gonna give me more, I'm gonna play it. In a way, much of Lost Legacy feels like a "greatest hits" album. There's a helicopter boss. There's a train level. There's a heartwarming sequence with a wild animal. We've seen some of this before, but Naughty Dog really did a great job mixing the nostalgic stuff with all the improved mechanics from Uncharted 4. Hell, they even made Sam likable by the end of this one. Speaking of the end, that last hour is some of the best stuff in the entire series. If Uncharted has a weakness, it's boss fights, but that final encounter with Asav was some satisfying, Death Proof, tag team beatdown fun. And, I wasn't sure how well it would work, but Chloe and Nadine are excellent together. Similarly, Claudia Black and Laura Bailey are great together, too. Let's go get some pizza.
7. Super Mario Odyssey (NSW)
I'm not sure what else there is to say about Super Mario Odyssey. The same thing I said about Super Mario Galaxy still applies here. Odyssey is pure joy. Is there a story? Not really, no. Is there a weird, inexplicable art design dissonance between the kingdoms? Yeah, definitely. Is it maddening that they decided to implement mandatory motion controls? Hell yeah it is. Despite all of this, I blazed my way to 880 moons and would've done more if they were there.
6. Persona 5 (PS4)
I didn't fall in love with Persona until Golden on Vita, but I went back and played P3P almost immediately after that. So, Persona 5 was easily one of my most anticipated games of 2017. When I look back at the game as a whole, I had a great time playing it. If I didn't, I don't think I would've spent 180 hours on it to get the platinum trophy. But, when I pick it apart piece by piece, I find many disappointing things about it. For example, I appreciate that they decided to go for crafted dungeons rather than the procedurally generated ones of the past, but...they're mostly not good, especially the later ones. The space station and the cruise ship range from maddening to just plain boring. And, while I enjoyed almost all of the confidant characters throughout the game, some of those social link story missions were lackluster compared to the previous games.
On the bright side, the game plays amazingly well, the mechanics are vastly improved, the music is excellent, and the visual style is stunning throughout the dozens and dozens of hours. As for the story, they throw every narrative trick in the book at it (in medias res, framed narrative, temporary amnesia, dramatic irony, tomato surprise, etc.) and somehow it all comes together in the end albeit with a lengthy explanation in the cafe and an even lengthier optional explanation from Futaba later. I could sit here and nitpick stuff for a long time, but even though the game didn't completely live up to the hype, I still loved it. That Igor revelation was just so perfect and had me laughing to myself for several minutes. Also, you beat the game by summoning Satan and firing a bullet consisting of the seven deadly sins through the face of a god. And that's fucking cool.
5. Assassin's Creed Origins (PS4)
Through all the highs and lows, I've loved Assassin's Creed since the beginning. But, even I was happy when they decided to take a year off. Well, it seems to have been the right choice because this is the best one they've made in years. The world they've built here might be the best they've ever done. In some of the more recent entries, finding all of the waypoints and collectibles on the map felt like a chore, but whether I was delving deep into the pyramids or hallucinating in the desert, something about exploring Egypt never got old. The complete overhaul of the combat is jarring, but I grew to like it.
What binds the whole thing together is that Bayek is a great character. He's basically a half cop, half Witcher on a revenge mission with his badass wife, Aya. They are madly in love with each other and, despite their own individual allegiances, their top priority is to each other and their quest for vengeance. The story weaves in and out of historical events as you'd expect an AC game to do at this point, but the subtle build to the beginning of what we know as "the Assassins" is done very well. The final moments of the game are equally heartbreaking and exciting. Bayek and Aya coming to terms with the end of their relationship is immediately followed by the brotherhood's first official assassination; Julius Caesar. She even says the thing! Then there's the reveal that Aya is Amunet, who fans of the series will remember as one of the legendary assassins who had a shrine in AC2. Honestly, there's a bunch of callbacks to the old games that had me smiling throughout my eighty hours. Also, there are zero tailing missions. And, lastly, you can pet cats.
4. Everybody's Golf (PS4)
I've played every Hot Shots Golf there is. I even have the Japanese versions of the first two so that I could play the PocketStation content. At one point, I was in the top 100 online players on Vita (insert joke about there being 87 Vita owners). This year's edition is simply the best one they've ever made. They completely redesigned the progression of the game after following the same general formula for the last twenty years, and it works great. Rather than plowing through a list of unlockable characters to build affinity bonuses and buy new equipment, the goal now is...just play golf. Everything you do in the game, whether it's online or offline, is earning experience on each individual club in your bag, thus making your character better. If this new sense of freedom wasn't enough, they double down on it with the semi-open-world layout of courses that allow you to run (or drive) around doing whatever you want. And like previous games, the game is very easy to pick up and play, but the depth of control is there for more serious players. I ended up getting the platinum trophy here, which involved my personal "Best Moment or Sequence" of 2017; landing a condor. After several hours attempting it, I genuinely stood up and shouted "YES!" then set my controller down in disbelief. Oh, did I mention you can go fishing?
3. Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4)
I'm a sucker for open-world games. I'm a sucker for being a sneaky archer in games. I'm a sucker for...robot dinosaurs? Turns out...apparently also true. Nothing about Killzone ever resonated with me, but Guerrilla has built an incredibly deep, dense, post-post-apocalyptic world here. Unraveling the mysteries of the far-flung future Colorado kept me engaged in the story all the way through the extensive campaign. And, while graphics typically don't mean much to me, Horizon is gorgeous and easily one of the best looking games of this generation. It's no wonder that Kojima chose to work with Guerrilla on Death Stranding. Ashly Burch unsurprisingly does a great job conveying Aloy's frustration with being alone, not just as an outcast from birth, but as one of the only people with advanced knowledge in a world zealots and savages. After finishing the game, I went back and wrapped up the platinum trophy just to wring every possible morsel out of the game.
2. NieR:Automata (PS4)
NieR was easily the biggest surprise of the year for me. I played the demo that came out late last year and it hooked me even though I had no idea what I was getting into. But, then Horizon and Zelda came out right before it. By the time I was done with those behemoths and Persona 5, I finally got around to NieR and man...I'm sure glad I did. To say the least, that story goes places. It continuously plays with your expectations and often wrecks your emotions in the process. On multiple occasions, I just set the controller down and thought for several minutes about what I was about to do or what I'd done. It's a relentlessly sad game, y'all. While the world itself is somewhat dull, which I think is at least partially by design, every moment of the story (and most of the side missions) drove me to find out what the hell was going on in it. And, having seen it through to the very, very end, they completely make good on everything that came before it with a beautiful, meaningful, thought provoking resolution. NieR is probably the game that I thought about most this year even long after I finished it. I think it's a shame that the game is saddled with the notion that you have to "play it several times," because that's largely false and I think it turns many people off before they even try it. Lastly, the soundtrack cannot go unmentioned. It's excellent and I bought it, which I hardly ever do these days.
A Link to the Past is the best console game ever made. For the last twenty-five years, that was the measuring stick any time a new Zelda game came out. Some have come close (Wind Waker, A Link Between Worlds), but none have ever matched it...until now. Going into it, I was both curious and leery due to how much of a departure from the Zelda formula it was said to be. The equipment degradation was easily the most jarring thing, but I found it relatively easy to accept the fact that I would always be picking up anything I could find and using it. In a way, forcing me to use stuff I normally wouldn't enhanced the exploration aspect of the game. I must've wandered around for about forty hours before doing any of the main dungeons and I loved every minute of it. The sense of discovery is unmatched. Having all of the tools within the first couple hours felt strange, but I soon discovered the sense of freedom this allowed. Anything I found out in the world was doable; I just had to figure out how to make it happen. This created countless moments of "oh, shit...I don't think I'm supposed to be here yet, but I'm gonna make this work." The first and most memorable for me was finding the Naydra when I only had five hearts. It was terrifying and amazing at the same time. Seemingly every inch of the world is so packed with things to discover, I was still finding new stuff throughout all of the DLC.