Best of 2017

If the past few years indicate a growing trend, then I’m running out of ways to say, “the video games were great, the world was not.” This year, once again, is no exception to this rule. The expanse of new and exciting entries in the medium never seems to let me down, always with the occasional surprise or two. Never in a post-Gamecube world, would I thought I’d purchase a Nintendo console. But we don’t live on a stable plane of reality anymore, and here I am with three Switch titles. There are many games not on this list that I did play, but it was hard finding time to finish some of those titles. Trying to keep up with these games is a stark reminder that time is limited, and to make the best of it, even in troubling times.

List items

  • When Guerrilla Games announced an action-adventure game, my attention was not fully caught. Although I’ve owned the past Sony consoles, I never caught interest in the Killzone franchise. After picking up Horizon as the first game this year, I knew I found something special and was a sign of things to come. Zero Dawn’s “post-post-apocalyptic” landscape of Denver and Utah have been lovingly hand-crafted, managing to perfectly twist the archaic, hunter-gatherer themes with the neon-driven technological civilization of the past. Aloy’s portrayal as a strong heroine fighter with a large dash of sarcasm keeps her in welcome company, and her adventures to discover the truth about the world’s past. The expansive in-depth world, along with the amazingly terrifying robot creatures that inhabit it, create for a memorable journey.

  • A year ago, I would have told you that without even playing it, Persona 5 would be my Game of the Year. What hinders this game from topping my list are the lack of slice-of-life moments that created unique narrative pieces, broke the tiring grind, and contrasted the darker themes of the game. Without this, the game lacks the same comradery between the main cast as it did in Persona 4. Despite this shortcoming, Persona 5 is an astoundingly beautiful game with a more believable and likeable cast of characters. The style and fluidity are breathtaking, the gameplay has been streamlined yet still complex, and the fantastic rendition of Tokyo had me caught immediately. Persona 5 is an essential for any JRPG fan.

  • When one of my friends suggested picking up this early-access, janky battle-royal game on Steam, I laughed at the thought of even spending a dime right out the door. But almost 300 hours later, I’ve acquired the taste of many a wholesome chicken dinner. PUBG has become a household name within the past year, and even with its many glaring performance issues, its core gameplay keeps my friends and I coming back for more. It’s tactical influences from ArmA, it’s open-ended sandbox world, along with the intense pace of the play zone (or what is universally known as, “the circle”) combine to make an exciting experience every round. PUBG’s flash following is well deserved, and I’m excited for what’s next to come from Bluepoint.

  • Come for the exquisite character design, stay for the existential crisis. NieR: Automata has become quite the point of contention for this year’s top pick amongst the riff raff of the internet, and it’s not hard to see why. On the outside, it looks like another standard (yet fantastic) Platinum Games hack-n-slash with a seductive femme fatale on the cover. But after a few hours, the game starts to bare more of its creative flesh. Automata uses the full range of the interactive medium with multiple routes that change perspective of time, brilliant use of alternative orchestral soundtracks, and spectacular moments. While the second act’s hacking gameplay became a bit repetitive, and the PC port is a hot mess without a fan-made patch, NieR: Automata is an incredible journey you must see to the end.

  • Originally, I was cynical to the launch of the Switch. But when Nintendo called my bluff with a video of Mario hanging out in a real-world city with people, taxi cabs, and dogs, I knew my purchase was inevitable. Like most Mario titles, Odyssey is superbly polished with a colorful palette, fun soundtrack, and playfully detailed worlds. Movement and possession gameplay for Cappy feels tight, responsive, and combined with Mario’s flexibility and ability to scale pretty much anything you can see, makes for awesome sandbox play. This also makes for great use of the Switch’s portability, with the occasional free moment spent hopping into one of the worlds, and searching for creatively and cleverly placed moons. It might not be Mario 64 levels of perfection, but Odyssey goes out of it’s way to get that nostalgic feeling again.

  • Look, you are on natedagr811’s "Best Of" list. I’m going to put whatever Need for Speed comes out that year. It’s my guilty pleasure. Yes, this year’s entry in the 23-year-old franchise absolutely had its slew of issues. Payback suffers from a disappointing roulette-style reward system connected to microtransactions that the other EA games this year suffered from. But you can really tell Ghost Games put some love into this game, and this was the game they’ve wanted to make from the start, when they were put in charge of the series. It’s an astoundingly large, gorgeous, open-world arcade racer with a ton of customizable supercars, corny cutscenes and voice-overs, and lots of action. At the end of the day, it’s inexplicably the Need for Speed I know and love.

  • RUINER is a love letter to cyberpunk, combos, and criminally good style. A top-down action shooter, with a simple story of a LED-helmet wearing protagonist being mentally controlled and influenced by a hacker for you to complete one objective: KILL THE BOSS. With flowing movement style like Transistor, and a combo-killing system with upgrade paths, taking on hordes of enemies is addicting and blood pumping. Difficulty isn’t perfectly scaled, as you are able to obliterate large swarms of enemies from the get-go, but this only adds to the power-hungry intensity of the game. Combined with a killer soundtrack, stunning UI and art, RUINER is a blast to handle.

  • A major disclaimer: I have not finished Breath of the Wild, and nor do I think will I ever. I am nowhere near ready to take on Ganon, despite putting a great chunk of time into it. In a way, the extremely open-ended gameplay, along with the vast world of Hyrule, are both its greatest feats and its downfall. There has never been another Legend of Zelda game with this amount of freedom and complexity, and to see Nintendo’s polished rendition on the open-world action-adventure genre is astounding and impressive to say the least. However, without a true lack of focus in terms of questline and structure, I’m consistently side-tracked from finishing the game by the numerous quests, shrines, mountains, giant rock monsters, or lifetime worth of rupees to work on my house in Hateno Village that doesn’t do anything.

  • I’m not very good at shooting squids (or are they kids?) Maybe it’s because my sausage-fingered hands grasp onto the Switch joy-cons like Cthulhu hanging onto a tiny shrimp. But even if you aren’t a Nintendo World Champion at shooting squid-kids in the arena, you can’t help but crack a smile every time you boot up Splatoon 2. Matches are short but sweet, and covered to the brim in colorful art, fantastic audio and music, as well as ink. The central hub, while plastered with drawings not suitable for work and memes, adds to the atmosphere of a giant party that everyone in squid city is invited to. Splatoon might make you unsure about whether you’re a fish or mammal, but you can always guarantee a fun time.

  • For a while, I debated placing Wildlands at all on my list. There are so many games I haven’t truly started that have so much potential: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Wolfenstein II, and Mario + Rabbids just to name a few. Though I must face the music, I spent an abnormally extensive time with Ghost Recon earlier this year. Wildlands is the kind of game where you and some friends can jump in, co-operatively engage in one of the thousand Far Cry-style loot outposts in either bombastic fashion or through means of stealth. Then hop in a car/helicopter/boat/plane, shoot the shit, look at the beautiful Bolivian countryside, and listen to Latin music as you travel to your next location for another weapon, gun part, or experience point. Ghost Recon: Wildlands might not win a BAFTA anytime soon, but it has the barebones and meat for a fun time with amigos.