GOTY 2017 (Adjusted)

Same deal as the other "GOTY (Adjusted)" lists, found here (2013), here (2014), here (2015), here (2016) and here (2018). The idea is to build GOTY lists that are constantly in flux, ever adapting themselves to a new year's worth of catch-up gaming. Like the Borg, but for video game lists. With enough time I should be able to play through every 2017 game that piqued my interest and construct a list that ideally represents what that year meant to me in terms of games, but that wasn't going to happen on the year in question: too many full-price new releases, too little time.

I'm still reeling from just how exceptional a year for games 2017 was. Though this list has more than doubled in size since the end of 2017, I've still got a not inconsiderable number of bangers left from that year that I can't wait to tuck into. I can't tell if it was the stars aligning or what, but it felt like a year strong in both franchise iterations - I can think of a dozen long-running series that (debatably) saw one of their strongest entries that year, including Ys, Super Mario, Zelda, Divinity, Nier, Tales, Assassin's Creed, Yakuza, and others - and new intellectual properties, and likewise it was a banner year for the Indie circuit and the big-budget AAA industry alike. It's rare that a year can end and I can compose a list of over fifty games of a "must play" calibre. If it wasn't for all the catastrophic shit that was also happening in 2017, I'd almost wish it was three months longer.

For reference's sake, my original 2017 GOTY list is here.

(2017 Games Yet to Play: Heat Signature, The Surge, Tokyo Xanadu eX+, Vaporum, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Xenoblade Chronicles 2.)

(2017 Games Yet to Buy: Cuphead, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, ELEX, Ever Oasis, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, Hob, LEGO Worlds, Night in the Woods, Picross S, Trails in the Sky Third Chapter.)

(Extra note: This list is gigantic, so I'm only including appraisals for the first twenty. I've written about every game on here somewhere else on the site, though.)

[Up to date as of January 2020.]

List items

  • 2017 Rank: 1

    2018 Rank: 1

    2019 Rank: 1

    Even though my 2017 GOTY has undergone and will undergo a lot of reshuffling, I can't imagine anything toppling NieR: Automata and the sheer gratitude I have for it. It not only reaffirms my belief that the original Nier was a fine game that just needed a little polish here and there, but also that humanity is worth saving and worth fighting for in spite of its occasional stupidity and cruelty. Also that soundtrack is amazing, and incredible enough that it somehow beat a Ys game and a Yakuza game released the same year.

    Best Moment: Ending E. Just... Ending E.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 2

    2019 Rank: 2

    The quintessential 3D platforming game. Another case of overwhelming gratitude: that someone high up in Nintendo decided, in 2018, to create an open collectathon platformer in the same style as Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, i.e. my favorite type of 3D platformer. It's the game that convinced me I needed a Switch right this moment, even if it took another year to buy a second retail game for the system.

    Best Moment: A Traditional Festival (New Donk City). The whole game is a paean to fun and good times, but that particular sequence makes it literal.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 3

    2019 Rank: 3

    Ys is one of the more consistently entertaining RPG franchises out there, but every time I think they risk biting off more than they chew they prove me blissfully wrong. Lacrimosa of Dana is approximately three times longer than either Ys Origin or Ys: The Oath in Felghana due to its restructuring as a more open and expansive RPG. It's able to stretch that runtime in a way that feels natural however, augmenting the strong real-time combat core with various side-modes like the tower-defense-ish (but not in a bad way) monster raids or the mild amount of settlement developing. It also has the best soundtrack of any Ys, which also puts it up in the top five of best VGM soundtracks of all time, perhaps only pipped in 2017 by NieR: Automata's deeply passionate trilingual masterpiece.

    Best Moment: The tutorial fight with a kraken, Deadly Temptation roaring over the speakers. Ys VIII doesn't take too long to get going but there's a lot of text to read before that first fight comes along and you realize you're home.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 4

    A superior sequel that addressed all my shortcomings with the first and is about as close to CRPG nirvana as it's possible to be, with a huge amount of customization and strategic options for battles that are not just limited to character builds but also to the environment, with each battle seemingly handcrafted to offer its own distinct challenge. I long to watch Giant Bomb try their hand at a multiplayer campaign, but I'm not sure they have the stones for it.

    Best Moment: After a rough opening chapter, figuring out my team synergy after one quick visit to the respec mirror.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 5

    Real tough call between Yakuza 0 and everything above it, as they're all the acme of their particular franchises. Yakzua is an iterative process - you can see where 90% of this game comes from if you've already played Yakuza 1-5 - but it never stops delivering on its combat engine (with new alternative styles), its perfect blend of drama and comedy, and a long-awaited look into the backstory of the franchise's most compelling recurring sorta-villain Majima. Even steeped as it is with Yakuza history, its prequel status also makes it a perfect onboarding game for newcomers.

    Best Moment: I mean, it's probably Nugget, but all the sub-stories are stellar and worth checking out.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 4

    2019 Rank: 6

    It's remarkable what Nintendo and Aonuma accomplished with Breath of the Wild, adapting the tried-and-tested formula of the Legend of Zelda franchise for an open-world format that switches up the linear progression of the more recent games for something approaching the blank canvas that was the NES original. No real direction, no concrete goals beyond defeating Ganon, and the game is at its best when you're exploring everything it has to offer at your own pace. It'll be hard for any open-world game, let alone the next Zelda, to top Breath of the Wild and the particular brand of wanderlust it inspires.

    Best Moment: Pulling out the Master Sword, if only because it meant having a weapon that wouldn't break after three swings.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 5

    2019 Rank: 7

    It felt like all my favorite franchises were on top form in 2017 (including a few I've yet to revisit, but sure am looking forward to), not least of which was Bandai Namco's prolific action-RPG Tales franchise. Berseria grabs the reins of the franchise and corrects its course after Zestiria threatened to derail the whole enterprise; not that Zestiria was too bad, but when you have a fifteen-game long franchise a so-so entry can raise questions about running out of steam. Berseria represents everything I love about Tales: an active and hectic combat system that is just short of hopelessly convoluted in the way anime fighters usually get; a cast of characters I can happily spend over 70 hours getting to know; and a smart assortment of features both old and new.

    Best Moment: It might be the physically and emotionally brutal "Berserk: The Golden Age Arc"-esque way the prologue concludes. What a way to establish that this particular Tales is going to be just a smidge darker than usual.

  • 2017 Rank: 2

    2018 Rank: 6

    2019 Rank: 8

    It's dipped quite a bit since the original GOTY list, but Specter of Torment still stands tall as a 2D platformer that gets its platforming as close to perfection as possible. It retains all the best features of Shovel Knight - the humor, the level design variation, that music - but adds on top of that a more emotional story (well, maybe on an even level) and a form of traversal that 2018's The Messenger smartly borrowed for its "cloudstepping" technique: hitting enemies or projectiles in mid-air and being afforded an extra jump, which is a loop that can be executed an infinite number of times. This game just flows, man, and there's few games of its type that can match it.

    Best Moment: Completing the challenging tower climbing mini-game for the first time, proving your full mastery of the spin-off's controls. No special reward besides a lot of gold but the satisfaction alone is enough.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 7

    2019 Rank: 9

    I've played a number of games like Hollow Knight - it straddles the void between Dark Souls and spacewhippers, and deliberately so - but very few with its mastery of atmosphere and tone. Dark Souls is a complete package that internet scholars are still dissecting. Most focus too much on its punishing - if fair - difficulty and the level of deliberate care put into its encounters, whether that's fighting an enormous boss or simply walking down an innocuous cliff path where a giant skeleton is winding up to punt you into oblivion. However, a lot of its appeal is in its "show, don't tell" narrative approach and finding quiet moments of beauty in the otherwise desolate and corrupt remains of a broken world. Hollow Knight hits those same beats like a practiced session musician, and it's hard to overstate how beneficial to the overall game experience that becomes.

    Best Moment: Sitting on a bench with the amicable Quirrel, listening to the rain hit the glass somewhere high up in the City of Tears.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 8

    2019 Rank: 10

    In retrospect, Persona 5 had an absurdly difficult act to follow, and the only way it was going to surpass its forebears was by taking some big risks. Some of those risks paid off: the game took the contemporary style and attitude and amped them up even further, indicating that while this was the nine-hundreth JRPG to be about teenagers saving the world, it was one of the few to do right by that particular age group when devising its personality. However, other risks - like the hit and miss nature of having each dungeon contain their own unique puzzles and mechanics - didn't fare so well, and the game overall suffers from what was probably always on the tarot cards: a weaker cast of characters and diminishing returns on its specific format. Hey, though, few RPGs make me feel as emotional as Persona does when it finally ends. Hard to say goodbye, even to a slightly less memorable group of highschoolers.

    Best Moment: The second stage of the penultimate boss fight, when the song's lyrics kick in.

  • 2017 Rank: 3

    2018 Rank: 9

    2019 Rank: 11

    When I originally ranked Horizon, I thought it was kind of obscene that it dropped off everyone's radars during the site's GOTY season. Now that it's dropped to 9th place (currently), I sort of see what everyone was getting at. It's a superlative open-world game, both beautiful to look at and a joy to explore, but so many other games had more going on this year and many other franchises were at the peak of their respective craft. I don't doubt that we'll be seeing amazing things from the Horizon franchise, if any more are made, and hopefully it drops on a year less packed with instant classics so it has room to shine.

    Best Moment: Finding out exactly how everything went wrong, and the heartbreak that ensues. Either that, or climbing on top of one of those Tallnecks.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 12

    It's a tough call between this and Hollow Knight as my favorite non-From Soulslike, as they both take the core concept in very different directions (though both are just as spooky and grim). Nioh is more like a loot game, where success is much more contingent on lucky enemy drops and building your own William Adams to suit your weapon preferences. A lot of recycling of assets to unnaturally expand its playtime though, as is maybe to be expected with the company behind the Musou series.

    Best Moment: Beating the first real boss, the monstrous Onryoki, and finally having access to character development. No other boss, not even the Hiro-enma, gave me nearly as much trouble.

  • 2017 Rank: 4

    2018 Rank: 10

    2019 Rank: 13

    The Sexy Brutale is still a rad game that takes an idea I've only seen a few times - follow characters around, recording their schedule, and then rewinding time to take advantage of that information - and then layers a massive dose of style and wit on top of it, presenting the final product in a isometric-ish style that makes it easier to strategize around a lot of NPCs meandering through doors at the most inopportune times. I wish it was a little longer, but then wanting more of something is the height of compliments.

    Best Moment: The way it all ends is not only wonderfully handled, but puts the whole game in a different light.

  • 2017 Rank: 5

    2018 Rank: 11

    2019 Rank: 14

    Prey, I feel, pre-empted Return of the Obra Dinn to the extent that - if I didn't know that Lucas Pope spent over five years on his macabre insurance agent game - I'd guess he got the idea from playing this. While you're there to solve a space station's problems and chase away the Vermicious Knids that have taken it over (try telling me that's not what the Typhon are), you can spend the time learning all the fates of the luckless scientists and corporate suits onboard, chasing down their black boxes via computers and piecing together a lot of environmental storytelling in the process. The game itself is adaptable and versatile in the same manner as BioShock and System Shock, which gives you multiple methods to complete encounters or reach destinations, but it's the corpse-hunting that really appealed to my morbid curiosity most.

    Best Moment: Too many little stories of tragic demises to count. A particularly memorable one was Mariana Arias, who was stuck in a small space outside the station due to a nearby "technopath" alien and suffocated to death waiting for it to leave.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 12

    2019 Rank: 15

    SteamWorld's been going from strength to strength as a franchise, starting with the palatable if slight SteamWorld Dig which took a certain sub-genre of digging resourcement management game and augmented it with 2D platforming challenges, and then raised the bar with SteamWorld Heist as a turn-based strategy game that emphasized bullet trajectories and tactical positioning. SteamWorld Dig 2 is an evolution of the former; one that didn't so much mitigate the digging and mining aspects but bolstered everything else, creating platforming scenarios that required deft reflexes as well as a quick mind. It also nailed the atmosphere, between the gentle hub music and the eeriness of the alien worlds far deep below the earth. I can't wait to see the streak continue with whatever comes next.

    Best Moment: With any spacewhipper, my favorite moment usually comes after a new upgrade that greatly expands my traversal ability. For SteamWorld Dig 2, that's probably the hookshot.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 16

    A Mario and Rabbids combination game that uses mechanics more commonly found in the XCOM series has no right being this much fun, or offering this level of complex strategizing. Though upgrades and customization are mostly iterative, the number of options and team synergy available - e.g. flushing an enemy out of cover with a fire grenade so your teammate's pre-set overwatch can finish them off - made the game engrossing to the end.

    Best Moment: Realizing the unholy power of Rabbid Luigi. Somehow combining an idiot and a coward lead to the most destructive force the Mushroom Kingdom's ever seen.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 17

    An endlessly inventive puzzle game where you deconstruct and reconstruct scenes down to their constituent layers (in Photoshop terms) to create paths through. Somehow endlessly clever and accessibly intuitive, which results in the best type of puzzle game: one that regularly makes you feel like a genius.

    Best Moment: Probably being stuck on a colored fruit McGuffin for a while before realizing that I could pull *that* window frame from *this* picture...

  • 2017 Rank: 6

    2018 Rank: 13

    2019 Rank: 18

    I realize not everyone was pleased with InXile's take on the Avellone/Black Isle metaphysical classic Planescape: Torment, but the two qualities I appreciated most from that game - a bizarre world with a lot of backstory behind it that you're dumped into quite unceremoniously and left to figure out, and a deeper emphasis on dialogue and exploration as the means for character-building instead of frequent combat encounters - are still present and accounted for in Tides of Numenera. This is a dense game that's unlikely to go easy on you, but as someone who prizes story and lore in RPGs it was exactly what I asked for.

    Best Moment: Either exploring the nightmarish setting of The Bloom or the terrifying first real encounter with The Sorrow at the castoff sanctuary.

  • 2017 Rank: 7

    2018 Rank: 14

    2019 Rank: 19

    Uncharted 4 was Naughty Dog's adventurer franchise taking a protracted swansong for Nathan Drake, introducing a new stealthy approach to combat that was similar to what the newer Tomb Raider games are doing and just having more of everything else that made the franchise tick: perilous traversal, tense action sequences, and lots of quips and bullets alike flying every which way. The Lost Legacy took those advancements and created a much leaner story that didn't feel quite as wearying, focusing on two of the more mercurial side-characters and fleshing out their backgrounds and a burgeoning working relationship. I certainly wouldn't be opposed to Naughty Dog putting together more of these truncated expeditions with the current engine.

    Best Moment: The fight choreography of Nadine and Chloe taking on Asav simultaneously, and the dynamic camera work involved. The whole part with the elephants was cute too.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 20

    Though What Remains of Edith Finch isn't as clever as Gorogoa (at least in terms of puzzles), its focused storytelling is unmatched for 2017. Each doomed member of the titular character's extended family has a tale of woe that is presented in a manner both thematically and mechanically apropos for their ultimate fate, from the distant great-aunt who found herself in a slasher fic to the brother who suicides after his mind is lost to a fantasy world. A walking simulator nonpareil.

    Best Moment: Not to spoil anything (more than I already have) but my favorite story might be little Gregory's, as sad as it was.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 21

  • 2017 Rank: 8

    2018 Rank: 15

    2019 Rank: 22

    Zeboyd Games, like so many other developers in 2017, were firing on all cylinders with Cosmic Star Heroine which takes their all-killer, no-filler approach to 16-bit JRPGs (which, love 'em as I do, tended to be grindy) and puts it in a vaguely Phantasy Star context that's less eager to parody itself and more engaged in telling its story with a surprisingly high quality presentation: the music and pixel graphics are both top-notch, and it takes stylistic risks far beyond the capabilities of most RPGMaker creations. Another developer in 2017 that's given themselves a much higher bar to pass next time.

    Best Moment: The musical interlude with Lauren's band at the Araneu nightclub as stormtroopers prepare to breach the doors, which not only served as a cool moment but also demonstrated how much more ambitious Zeboyd was with this game. Bilingual Japanese/English locals supplied by Laura Shigihara, who will also appear again a few entries down on this list.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 16

    2019 Rank: 23

    I had my issues with A Hat in Time, but the reason I place it above almost all the other Indie 3D platformers (which I'm so happy has become a thing now) on this list is because it has no shortage of imagination when it comes to designing its small batch of levels and missions. Each of its destinations is not only stylistically distinct - A movie studio that makes westerns and musicals! A casino full of mafia goons! A haunted mansion where you have to hide from the occupant! - but also switched up the gameplay on a regular basis, giving you more than just platforming to do. It had the same sort of energy and ambition and Saturday morning cartoon aspirations as Psychonauts, and I respect the moxie involved.

    Best Moment: For all the action going down planetside, I really liked the protagonist's spaceship home and how cosy it felt, from teasing the Roomba scooting around to swimming through the giant pile of cushions.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 24

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 17

    2019 Rank: 25

    I've had my spills with hard-as-balls physics simulators where it often feels like the game is working against you, but even with Snake Pass's harsh curve when it comes to mastering its controls, it didn't feel anywhere near as hostile as some other games like it. For one, it has this chill cartoon vibe that wouldn't be out of place in a Rare platformer (I certainly liked Snake Pass more than that other big 2017 pretender for the Banjo-Kazooie throne, Yooka-Laylee) and plenty of opportunities to checkpoint your progress before attempting some risky maneuver to snag an errant collectible. A perfect example of a tricky game that does all it can to alleviate the frustration.

    Best Moment: There's one collectible early on that perhaps required mid- to late-game expertize with the snake-grappling controls - essentially, learning to grip onto a wooden stake, dangle far enough down to snag the item, and then pull yourself back up - that I eventually managed to figure out. When you have those mechanics down, the whole game becomes a lot more satisfying.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 18

    2019 Rank: 26

    Laura Shigihara set out to make a strong successor to the 16-bit Indie weepie that was To The Moon (which she worked on) and hit the mark with Rakuen, which sees a mother and her hospitalized son visit an alternative storybook universe in a journey full of adventure, emotions and empathy. While it can be a little precious, there's a significant amount of craft put into Rakuen from the puzzle design to the occasionally abstract way it tells its multiple melancholy stories. I feel like people unfairly slept on this one.

    Best Moment: I should've seen that ending coming but I didn't. Just brutal.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 27

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 28

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 29

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 30

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 19

    2019 Rank: 31

    Hidden Folks is just adorable. It's the type of game, of the sort Amanita frequently makes, where it just makes you feel warm and fuzzy as you complete some low-stakes challenges with a simple point-and-click interface that makes it perfect for those who don't play a lot of games, and those that might still be a little young to do so. It's also the first time I think I've seen a "Where's Waldo" type premise that takes full advantage of the interactive medium, hiding so many target items behind openable doors and other barriers that can be clicked away, with the whole scene constantly animating as you explore it.

    Best Moment: Probably the first plus-sized tableau I encountered, and spending a few moments scrolling around a zoomed-out screen just taking it all in.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 32

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 33

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 20

    2019 Rank: 34

    Mike Bithell has always had a penchant for game mechanics and mordant writing alike, and his Circular "shorts" series is a lot more focused on the latter while still offering some clever dialogue puzzles for those who long for the days when adventure games put them more frequently at the forefront. Solving other robots' problems without ever leaving your seat on the titular public transportation, there's an overarching plot that you piece together gradually but the meat is in the smaller moments of learning about each new travel companion and figuring out how to solve what's bothering them, usually by bouncing between conversations. It's a succinct but well-crafted adventure.

    Best Moment: Trying to get through to each of those reticent "Listener" robots.

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 35

  • 2017 Rank: 9

    2018 Rank: 21

    2019 Rank: 36

  • 2017 Rank: 10

    2018 Rank: 22

    2019 Rank: 37

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 23

    2019 Rank: 38

  • 2017 Rank: 11

    2018 Rank: 24

    2019 Rank: 39

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 40

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 25

    2019 Rank: 41

  • 2017 Rank: 12

    2018 Rank: 26

    2019 Rank: 42

  • 2017 Rank: 13

    2018 Rank: 27

    2019 Rank: 43

  • 2017 Rank: 14

    2018 Rank: 28

    2019 Rank: 44

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 29

    2019 Rank: 45

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 30

    2019 Rank: 46

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: N/A

    2019 Rank: 47

  • 2017 Rank: N/A

    2018 Rank: 31

    2019 Rank: 48