By PerfidiousSinn 4 Comments
released March 18, 2017
Developer & Publisher: Zach Gage
Throughout 2017, Typeshift was my anchor. When I had no motivation to do anything else, or felt like my thoughts were racing too fast for me to catch up, I loaded up Typeshift. Solving a few word puzzles helped me calm down, reset my brain, and most importantly, kill a few minutes waiting at the doctor's office. The game can be challenging, but it's the exact level of challenge I needed to help myself focus.
9. Horizon Zero Dawn
released February 28, 2017
Developer: Guerilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Horizon Zero Dawn is a visually stunning game with a challenging, unique combat system. But what keeps this game in my thoughts is the world and the characters who inhabit it. Each quest is accompanied by a voiced, named character and its own small piece of lore. Each story mission lets you learn more about the main cast. Aloy, who is stubborn to a fault but empathetic to complete strangers. Erend, who is outwardly confident but inwardly crumbling under the weight of his responsibility. Sylens, who is a jerk and only out for himself, but has sound reasons to be this way.
The story of this game is superb. I remember tearing through story missions in the last part of the game, hungry to learn the origin of this bizarre world. The game builds a great mystery and doles out reveals in masterful fashion, and is a great example of how an open-world game actually can have good story pacing.
8. A Hat In Time
released October 5, 2017
Developer: Gears for Breakfast
Publisher: Humble Bundle
The game rolls together all the best parts of Super Mario 64, Donkey Kong 64, and the Banjo-Kazooie series into one adorable package. The writing is consistently funny, the platforming is pitch perfect (the wall-jump and homing attack feel so good to use), and the objectives in each world are vastly different but mostly fun. A Hat In Time kept bringing new stuff to the table as it progressed, and I'm glad that someone is keeping this sub-genre alive.
7. Sonic Mania
released August 15, 2017
Developer: PagodaWest Games & Headcannon
It's so nice to have a great Sonic game that I can recommend freely without having to make excuses. The last time I could do that was Sonic Generations back in 2011.
Sonic Mania understands exactly what made Sonic 3 & Knuckles so good. The level design is immaculate, rewarding you with special stages and powerups if you like to explore. It rewards you with satisfying speed if you practice and have good reflexes. The music is perfect, the boss battles are better than the classic games, and even the older stages are remixed enough to feel totally fresh. Can we go back in time to erase Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and slot this game in its place?
6. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone
released January 10, 2017
Publishers: SEGA & Dwango Music Entertainment
Before playing this game, I knew nearly nothing about Vocaloid. I vaguely remembered some Hatsune Miku songs from anime club in high school, but I hardly considered myself a fan.
After playing hours of Project DIVA in early 2017, I know three things for sure.
1. I love this specific sub-genre of J-pop music with Japanese singers.
2. Kagamine Rin is the best Vocaloid.
3. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone is one of the best rhythm games on the market.
This might be the best value I've gotten out of a game this year, as I paid $60 for a massive tracklist of 200+ songs. I'm not even close to completing it, but I always have a blast burning through a few songs. It can be absurdly difficult at times, but has enough settings to cover “slightly drunken houseparty” to “chasing #1 on the leaderboard”. The song choice is excellent, and I discovered a lot of new favourites despite being mostly unfamiliar with the genre. And every song is accompanied by wildly inventive and colourful music videos that are just as fun to watch when you're not playing the game.
If you like rhythm games, pop music, or Vocaloid to any degree this game is necessary. Just like Rock Band, I'll be coming back to this game for years to come.
5. Doki Doki Literature Club
released September 22, 2017
Developer: Team Salvato
Publisher: Dan Salvato
There's no way I'm giving a full overview of this game. You need to just play it.
You know that it's a horror game wearing the clothing of a cute visual novel, but do you know why it's scary?
Do you know the feeling of confessing to someone, or apologizing, or admitting you're wrong
And they don't accept it?
Do you ever fear waking up and forgetting something important? Maybe losing your keys, or forgetting the password to your bank account
Or not remembering the faces of anyone you've met?
Do you ever lie awake at night remembering all the times you've hurt someone's feelings?
Do you try to make amends, or do you just hope those thoughts will eventually disappear?
Do you like my poem?
I wrote it for you! :)
4. NieR: Automata
released March 7, 2017
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Platinum Games frequently make my Game of the Year list, but this time I have little praise for the gameplay. I actually found much of NieR: Automata's combat disappointing and not challenging. Especially compared to Bayonetta or Metal Gear Rising, NieR falls short.
The reason why it makes the list is everything else. The soundtrack is fantastic and is a perfect complement to the melancholy tone of the game. I'll always remember walking into the Amusement Park and hearing that track playing as I saw the first pack of machines who were more interested in having fun than attacking my party. The lonely tune playing in City Ruins still sticks with me today, as it feels like an ode to a key theme of the game: holding on to those few moments of hope in a broken world.
The game's odd structure can be seen as a negative, but it's actually what made it hard for me to put it down. You essentially must finish the game three times, and the first two times are only slightly different. But you also get to see the contrast in how the player characters interact with the world and solve problems. 2B is stoic and professional, 9S is empathetic but naive. The context of the world changes so much based on who you're playing, and then everything you know is shattered by the third playthrough.
I have rarely seen a game improve so dramatically as it progressed. Route A is good, Route B is similar, Routes C-E are full of mind-blowing reveals, heartbreaking choices and a complete disruption of the world you've come to know. The game builds up a small open world enough that you become familiar with it. Enough so that you know where everything is like the back of your hand. And then it plays that familiarity against you, as your allies disappear and formerly safe zones become horror shows.
I cannot even imagine how Yoko Taro can follow up such an audacious game, but NieR: Automata guaranteed that I will be there day one to see what he creates next.
3. Persona 5
released April 4, 2017
Developer: P Studio
Publisher: Atlus USA
You may have guessed this by now, but I assemble Game of the Year lists mostly based on soundtracks. And Persona 5's OST is full of bangers. Last Surprise has already surpassed Reach Out To the Truth and Mass Destruction on my “most played” lists on iTunes. The lead guitar in Blooming Villain will never not give me goosebumps. Even the regular dungeon themes are impossibly catchy.
Aside from jamming to the soundtrack, the gameplay is what kept me glued to Persona 5. I've always enjoyed the simple rock-paper-scissors strategy in the Persona games, but 5 added just enough to make combat deeper and more enjoyable. Status effects lead to devastating combo attacks, the Baton Pass system allows you to do absurd damage if you're skillful enough in hitting weaknesses, and the demon negotiation system becomes another sort of Social Link system, as you learn the demon's personalities and try to exploit them to gain power or cash for yourself.
I played Persona 5 for 100 hours and was excited to battle nearly every time.
The system refinements don't just stop at combat though. The Confidant system in P5 is much better than the Social Link systems of 4 and 3, providing noticeable, tangible benefits for hanging out with your friends. Some of them significantly change the combat and make it even more enjoyable. Hifumi Togo is the best girl for multiple reasons, and there are very few arguments against this fact that I will entertain.
I appreciated the sense of place in Persona 5. For the first time in the series, I really felt like I was completely transported to a busy Japanese city and I soaked it in, rarely using fast travel to go anywhere.
From the bustling shopping center to the back alleys of home, this game really goes out of its way to make you feel like you're in Japan. I might not be able to visit there in real life, but I loved the feeling of taking a mini vacation to Japan in the hours I spent in Akira Kusuru's shoes.
2. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd
released May 3, 2017
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publishers: XSEED Games, Marvelous USA, Inc.
It's about time one of these games made my list.
In 2014 and 2015, I played through Trails in the Sky and its sequel and loved them. However, I played them too late to get them on the Game of the Year list. Consider this both an endorsement of the third chapter of the series and my make-good for not recognizing those games properly in the past.
Second Chapter tied up so many loose ends with the story that I was worried that The 3rd would feel inconsequential. I was quite happy to be wrong about that.
The third chapter in the Trails series changes up the setting, swaps in new playable characters, and raises the difficulty just enough that combat is consistently challenging. I could blaze through a lot of encounters in the mid-to-late game of FC and SC, but The 3rd starts off tricky and gets downright devious.
I loved seeing the origin stories of characters from past games and getting more background on the half-magic half-tech world of Liberl. I wouldn't recommend this game as a standalone, but it's a deeply satisfying payoff for those of us who have been with the series since 2014.
The Trails in the Sky series is not new, as this is a localized version of a 10 year old game. However, despite its simple 3D models and 2D character art, this game's cast was the most memorable of any game I played in 2017. Learning the history of Kevin Graham and Ries Argent was an emotional journey, and this being the culmination of a series I started playing 3 years ago made all those emotional payoffs hit harder.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is easily my favorite role-playing game series and I'm gonna keep bugging you all until you play them.
1. Tekken 7
released June 2, 2017
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
I suck at fighting games, but Tekken 7 makes me want to get better.
I have always admired the Tekken games from a distance but never dove in. Tekken 6 was released before I was in the scene and I actively disliked what I played of Tag 2. From the moment I started playing Tekken 7, it just clicked. The game fit my hands.
Like any good fighting game, I kept coming back to Tekken 7 for the community. I joined Discord servers to trade strategy with fellow players, consumed hours of video tutorials, and played in offline tournaments nearly every week since the game dropped in June.
Coming into the Tekken series as a new player, seeing a list of 50+ moves for even the simplest character was daunting. I've only played 2D fighting games before, and those movelists only have 20 moves at the absolute maximum!
But with the game's great difficulty comes a great sense of accomplishment when figuring things out. I remember winning my first match in an offline tournament. Hitting blue ranks and then green ranks online for the first time in a Tekken game. Actually sitting down to take notes on my replays for the first time.
Getting better at Tekken is time-consuming and difficult, but I feel like this game has helped me in a journey of self-improvement outside of the game as well. I don't drink as much because I can't play Tekken well while buzzed. I eat less junk food because that means bad mood, and bad mood = bad times playing Tekken . I work out more because more stamina = better focus and longer Tekken sessions. I didn't expect this game to affect me the way it has, but it has actually made a positive impact on my life.
I'm still not good at fighting games, but with Tekken 7, I feel like I'm finally on the path of Getting Good in my favourite game genre.