My ten favorite games of 2017, as of December the 23rd 2017. My actual rankings on the many quality games released in 2017 will probably shift a whole lot over the subsequent years - there's so many I didn't get around to but wish I had - yet I'm reasonably satisfied that the following list of ten still represents some of the best gaming experiences to be found in 2017. Just not all of them. I mean, how could it? A bajillion games came out this year, and very few had the good grace to be terrible so I could miss them off my list. Ingrates.
Anyhoo! We should probably lead this thing with a few honorable mentions:
- StarCrawlers combines procedural generation (the core ingredient of roguelikes) with traditional first-person dungeoneering for a compelling enough premise for a RPG - one I've seen only once before with 1993's Dungeon Hack - and buoyed it further with a neat gritty sci-fi cyberpunk aesthetic, deep turn-based combat with a moderately customizable party of four, and a branching storyline with its own series of pre-generated dungeons as a sort of support pillar to keep you motivated as you grind through the randomized stuff between the next level-recommended objective. Buggy, but definitely one of the more pleasant surprises this year. Just not, uh, pleasant enough to make it onto the list I guess???
- Doki Doki Literature Club, another freebie, was something that really hit the zeitgeist hard over the past few months: a harem dating sim that seeks to brutally subvert its slightly icky genre, which has been gaining ground on Steam in recent years despite being omnipresent in Japan for at least three decades. There's a relatively long period of normalcy before it starts dropping its surprises on you, along with some pretty disturbing imagery that needs content warnings out the wazoo, and then you're off to the races with its glitched out meta lunacy. Worth seeing for yourself, given the price.
- Uurnog Uurnlimited is an open-world puzzle-platformer that's like Fez in that it appears to be one thing and then becomes something else the further you dig into it. Its focal point is a big central hub room which is the only location in the game that remembers what you placed into it after you die, and from there the game builds its puzzles around finding and hoarding a large assortment of blocks, each of which has their own distinct functionality, and using them to approach the game's puzzles from a number of different angles. It has this great learning curve to it, as you figure out new applications for your tools through exploration and experimentation, and I was hooked on solving its many mysteries for a good couple of days. It's a Nifflas joint too, so you know he's got that chilled ambience on lock.
- Gravity Rush 2 has a lot going for it - for as vertiginous and confusing as that anti-gravity movement could be, it's really something when you're in its groove, plus that evocative soundtrack is fantastic - but the fact is that it feels like they took a so-so game with various issues and simply made more of everything, rather than addressing those faults and improving on the core experience. It's a sequel every bit as good as its predecessor, and almost twice as big, but one that does nothing to realize the latent potential of its franchise; it just feels like the zero-G equivalent of treading water instead.
I also didn't consider the following for various technical reasons: Danganronpa 1.2 Reload, which is a remastered compilation of two Vita VN games that were first released in English back in 2014; Full Throttle Remastered, which is similarly a gussied up version of a 1995 game; and Caveblazers, Flinthook, Cryptark, TumbleSeed and Loot Rascals, all of which are devilishly difficult "roguelites" that I bailed on long before I got anywhere close to a decisive conclusion. (Though, I suspect if I really pushed myself to get to their end states after many hours and hundreds of failed runs, they wouldn't rank regardless. Not terrible, but "they don't hang", to use the common GOTY vernacular.)