Ranking of Games, 2017

2017 has been a tumultuous year to say the least, but it has been one of the best years in video games that I can remember. While my top 10 is almost entirely composed of sequels, or in the single outlying instance a game based on a offshoot based on a mod, this year has been great for newfound developers and series.

With that said here are my top games of 2017 with thoughts on each:

List items

  • I feared getting to the end of my first play through because the words "play through" were used to describe it so much. I really didn't want to have to play through the game five times to see it all, and because of the ending/play-through misnomer I almost didn't.

    However, at the beginning of the second play-through I could see that this game really was doing something special and it immediately quelled my worries with how it was handled. NieR: Automata is a story that tells itself in a way only a video game can. You really get a sense of what Yoko Taro wants to express in NieR not just through the narrative, but also the way systems work within the game.

    The game is also chock full of incredible moments that can be bombastic or very toned down and sincere. The music and atmosphere in this game are also incredible. The visuals of the world can at times look like a ps2 game, or what I remember a ps2 game looking like, but I feel like that goes hand in hand with the loneliness the game wants to get across. The music is quite possibly one of the best soundtracks ever composed for a game.

    The combat can feel a bit basic, but with the upgrading of weapons and matching of strong and light attack weapons I quickly found the loose combo mechanics within NieR unfold. You can easily get into a very good rhythm with NieR's combat, and while it may not be very robust it gets the job done.

    Of all the games I've played this year, I've spent most of my time thinking about NieR. The game as a whole was one of the most affecting experiences I've had in a game period let alone this year. I had a similar experience with Zelda, which gave me a sense of wonder, but NieR brings out a more complex array of responses from the irreverent to the macabre.

    If you haven't, play NieR.

  • If I was to define my favorite thing in video games I would say exploration. But that feels a bit to broad. Lately I've been using the phrase "video game archaeology". What does that mean though? What I mean is this:

    Imagine your in a game and you find a location or a place or item. This is exploration, if done incorrectly it's just the feeling of, "hey, thats a thing i've got/found now". With "video game archaeology" its more than that. You find this new area and it feels forgotten, like there is more than just the surface level interaction. I came up with this concept when thinking about why I like dark souls so much. For me its less the combat, which is fun, and more that there is a deep sense of mystery and loneliness in these locations you discover.

    (I should note that I played this game with the pro hud, so no map and I turned off the little beeping indicator for shrines)

    Zelda has this in droves. The music, the art, the environmental sounds. Everything in breath of the wild feels so organic and mysterious. Travelling from one point to the other on the map is the game here. On a journey from the starting location to a large tower on the map I found numerous things that caught my attention. These would then splinter into small journeys off the beaten path or in some instances huge diversions that led to something incredible. Walking down a road and seeing something off in the distance, such as a destroyed building or a cave and then exploring this point of interest was always, always fun to do. I cannot think of an instance where I saw something, said "that looks interesting" and didn't find something to do there.

    It is a crazy accomplishment that the world feels so incredibly vast, things feel so far apart, but at the same time the world is dense with detail, little secrets around every corner. And when I say vast, I mean huge distances. It feels like the desert is in a different world than the snowy portions of the map.

    The shrines in the game are also incredible. For some, the act of finding the shrine is the challenge, but others have puzzles which are solved with your core ability set. These are often short but some are on the longer side of things. None felt too long and almost all of them have a unique challenge to overcome.

    The major dungeons are, completely optional, but more importantly offer the same unique puzzles on a larger scale. My only issue here would be that most of the bosses feel very similar in aesthetic and gameplay design.

    The cooking is fun and dumb, watching these foods jump around to yield a seafood paella is entertaining. The importance of this and potion making is essential to survival in this game. After a while it does get a bit tedious especially because it seems that certain status effects have way more ingredients in the world in others. The amount of stuff that increases the effectiveness of sneak seemed way to high.

    The combat is fairly basic on its face but the combination of abilities, weapons, and environmental effects provides a crazy amount of options to dispatch enemies. And if that doesn't float your boat, you can just beat them to death with a sword. These environmental interactions can be used in a number of interesting ways. I remember brute forcing through a puzzle section of a shrine by laying out all my metal weapons to connect a circuit because I couldn't figure out the "actual" solution.

    I've probably put around 200 hours in to this game now, on a O.G. game and a master mode, and I am still enthralled with it. The mystery of the world combined with your traversal capabilities are amazing.

  • I don't really have much of a connection to the immersive sim genre. I've tried on numerous occasions to play system shock 2, deus ex and the like but have never really been able to get into them. I have enjoyed dishonored, but its not quite the same as this.

    Prey is really good. Like, really good. From a gameplay standpoint, I found myself very lukewarm at first but over time I really enjoyed the breadth of options available to tackle situations. It feels at times like the game doesn't want you to tackle enemies head on in combat but find ways around or interesting ways to take down your enemies. The scavenging and crafting mechanic in this game are also an integral reason why I enjoyed it so much. At times it felt like I was breaking the game by crafting certain things, but there was still a clear balance in place.

    Beyond this the world building is phenomenal. Recently games have had the issue where they just don't draw me into the story or the world. Prey does a great job at establishing this recently defunct space station which feels lonely and abandoned. The world starts out quiet and derelict but the sense of commotion ramps up steadily through the game. In addition to this, exploring the station is incredibly fun. Finding litle alcoves or ways into locked rooms is rewarding as is traversing the external area of the station.

  • The new divinity is something to behold. The first original sin game was a hybridization of old school crpg's like baldurs gate with some interesting environmental mechanics. The idea of carrying around a barrel of oil into a fight, throwing it at an enemy and then setting them on fire was incredibly satisfying.

    Original Sin II takes these concepts and pushes them further. It always feels like your breaking the desired path through the world, but at the same time the areas are so vast it really is up to you to decide where to go. The quest log is fairly ambiguous at telling you where to go in some cases which in some instances makes figuring out the next step fun, but in others it can be a bit frustrating. The things that really make this game standout from the other RPGs out there are the simple things; like smashing down a door rather than lockpick it, or Turning invisible to skip a series of enemies to then have the rest of the group teleport to you. Or eating somethign to discover a new quest that you would not expect.

    The major issue I have with DOS II is that combat hasn't changed much and while its novel at first, it quickly becomes tedious and rote. I found that after I found a rotation of abilities I used it combat worked really well, I could use the same order in most battles with some very slight variation.

    I haven't yet finished DOS II but my experience thus far earns it this spot on my list.

    Also, cursed surfaces are a good idea in concept but are really, really, terrible in practice. I'm looking at you blackpit fight.

  • Yakuza is something else. I remember playing yakuza 4 in 2015 and absolutely not getting it. It seemed so scatterbrained. You had these incredibly done cutscenes with these external interactions handled with no dialogue and ugly looking textboxes. The combat also felt really bad at the time

    I was wrong. Yakuza 0 is great and I feel the urge to play all of the others in the series now. The presentation, the wierd gameplay, the humor combined with this super serious story. It all meshes so well, and the main characters are pretty well defined. Kiryu at times can feel a bit bland but hes fleshed out pretty well in the end and Majima is the real star of the show in this game hands down.

    From racing slot cars, to helping micha... i mean miracle johnson with his music video, to beating the hell out of dudes with a fish; Yakuza 0 is wonderful.

  • The great precision platforming that mario typically brings is here again. Taking after mario 64 and sunshine, odyssey has mario going between various hubworlds to take on various tasks with a platforming tinge. A distinct difference here is that most of these are not brought to your attention, Levels can have anywhere between 1 and 100 moons, a small number of which are directly story related while the others are hidden behind secrets or platforming challenges. The discovery of hidden moons or the use of one of mario's newfound abilities is always satisfying and the worlds are dense with these discoveries.

    Marios new capture ability is also incredibly entertaining and interesting. It feels like, and seems to be the case based on several interviews with the dev team, that this game is a homogenization of different ideas that they had for Mario's new direction. This causes every stage, sublevel, and moon to feel like a new challenge. There are occasional repeats, such as ground pounding out moons, but the amount of different types of gameplay in odyssey is really impressive.

    While greatly improved over the previous mario games, Super Mario Odyssey still suffers from some camera issues. While these are often not a problem, when they crop up they can be frustrating. The camera deciding that it would be a good idea to autotrack towards an enemy when your trying to position it a certain way augments the path that mario takes and has led to me dying multiple times.

  • After spending 104 hours in persona 5 and beating it, the first thing I did was start it again, but there are a handful of problems with Persona 5 that I couldn't get over, such as the design of some of the dungeons puzzles or challenges, not the dungeons themselves, and the lackluster main cast of characters. Also the stat gating for Social Links felt poorly planned as some social links require quite high stats and there is no real incentive to work on them beforehand.

    That said, persona 5 is still really good.The social links are still the star of the show but the combat is fairly good for a JRPG. That said, if the persona games had the demon and combat mechanics of SMTIV these would be incredible, incredible games.

  • Wolfenstein had a lot going for it after The New Order and indications pointed towards a direction that The New Colossus would add a very strong stylistic sensibility to the formula established in its predecessor.

    Lets start with the negative, Wolfenstein II doesn't know if it wants to be a stealth game or a run and gun shooter like DOOM. The game plays with the vulnerability of BJ in interesting ways but even with this I find that it is way too easy to be taken down in some sections of the game. Some parts make you feel like you are untouchable as your dispatching Nazis but other portions you feel like a glass doll. And this would be fine if it made sense for those moments but it seems to be somewhat random. Parts of the game where it is clear your supposed to see BJ as weak are often very easy whereas portions that are obviously supposed to be these shooter sections with heavy weapons everywhere to lay waste to Nazis get you killed in mere seconds of approaching the turrets etc. Aside from that, when the stealth and shooting don't feel frustrating it is pretty competent. If the game was balanced better it would be greatly improved.

    My second gripe is something I've never had a problem with in a game. The sound mixing is bad. And not just in the game, but the cut-scenes. Even when trying to adjust the volumes in the settings I could never get it to be okay. The music was often way to loud and would often drown out the dialogue, something that is extremely problematic in the scene with the preacher and BJ.

    Lastly, and this seems like a pretty big oversight, there is no good way to replay levels. You can go back to the stages, but you cannot replay key story sections easily, something that was included in the first game.

    That said there are some spectacular highs in the wolfenstein, the issue is that most of them are not in the gameplay itself and towards the end I was just running past enemies to get to the objective marker because I was so done with the game portion.

    The tone is all over the place and in some good ways, camera work in the cut-scenes is very well done. The game felt fairly short and the ending was a bit anticlimactic but the comedic over the top nature of some portions of the game make up for it. One specific section of gameplay was also very impactful once the reality behind it was revealed.

  • Tekken 7 is the fighting game that brought me back into fighting games. Before this the last real fighting game that i had gotten into was soul calibur 2 and I never had any real connection to the older Tekken titles.

    The fighting in this game feels great. The freezes during heavy attacks, the supers, and the ease of comboing make tekken 7 easy to get into and understand whats going on.

    The story in tekken 7 is also pretty good sans the narrator portions.

    Tekken has a good balance of serious fighting game with dumb fun. Tekken is pretty good.

  • I've never loved a multiplayer experience like I did Battlegrounds. Games like H1Z1, dayz etc. have had similar concepts, (I would say H1Z1 is essentially the same thing with a few added elements) but this one really gets it right.

    Rounds are long enough to get you invested in staying alive but aren't so long that it's frustrating when you die. The breadth of weapons and attachments available makes gameplay dynamic and fresh with each round. The sound design is very well done and is an integral part of staying alive on murder island. I've never had a more stressful experience playing a game.

    However while I did enjoy my time with PUBG I've had trouble returning to it after being away for around half a month. The deaths at this point just feel frustrating and the highs from getting a chicken dinner or a top 10 don't make up for it.

  • You already know that the art in Cuphead is amazing. You know that the animation of said art is amazing. You know that its really hard. You also know that Cuphead is very hard. Additionally, this game is really quite punishing at points. But, its also fun. Also the characters in this game are great. Also, this game is pretty hard if you haven't heard.

    On a more serious note, Cuphead is an excellent platforming shooter that has you going up against these fantastically hand drawn bosses while a ripping jazz soundtrack scores your fight. It is challenging, and at times feels a bit unfair but you can get right back into the thick of things after a loss which gets you in a good rhythm.

    The problems with cuphead are thus: The platforming, non-boss levels aren't to good and should have probably been left out. And second, Cuphead makes the key mistake of restarting the music everytime you die, which with the amount of times I would restart, started to drive me mad. They should have taken a supermeat boy approach with the restarting of levels.

  • There was never a moment that I didn't enjoy playing Horizon. This is the first game I've ever went out of my way to platinum because I didn't want to stop playing it. The concept behind the world is very well handled and the end is satisfactory, except for that very last bit. The robots are extremely detailed and the world is great to look at.

    That being said, as time has passed I don't recall much of what i did in Horizon zero dawn. While the story and setting are interesting, in the long run it didn't do very much to keep me thinking about it.

  • Resident Evil 7 reinvigorates the franchise by creating a genuinely tense survival horror game. The game is in first person which ends up working very well with the tight spaces they've constructed. Ammo is scarce and the game can be difficult in some sections if you haven't prepared enough for the fights to come.

  • Night in the woods is a good concept with fairly good delivery. My only gripes are that I don't particularly like mae, which is a minor issue, and I could have done without the platforming.

  • I've only played a bit of hollow night and have enjoyed what I've played so far, however I've found that its easy to not know where the hell I'm going and after a while exploring the environments gets a little dull.

  • Xcom with Mario + Rabbids but with a much faster pace. The movement options are what really make this shine as a tactics game. The portions between combat are sometimes very tedious and unrewarding.

  • Splatoon 2 was my first switch game and, despite having a wii u, was my first splatoon. Its good, and the motion control aiming is surprisingly good. But it just didn't have a really lasting impact for me.

  • Man...... This is a weird thing. But a good weird thing............ ONION TIME!

  • I really need to get back to Nioh. Initially I bounced off this game, but I feel, after giving it some time and seeing others play, it could climb very high on my list.

  • Gunpoint is a special game. It provides the sandbox but in a very constrained form. Heat signature expands on this mechanics first sandbox but in a way that feels hollow. My issue is that with gunpoint I often used different strategies to get trough different areas, but in heat signature I never felt the need to expand on my methods. Once I got the gear I wanted, a teleporter, a melee weapon, and a subverter I was set. And the retiring mechanic which resets your character never felt rewarding, starting over wasn't exciting.

    But the game does play pretty well and most of the items are very cleverly designed, the issue is that the scenarios themselves as well as the levels felt bland and unrewarding.

  • I haven't yet played enough xenoblade 2 to say anything about exactly how i feel but it's definitely another xenoblade.

  • Kingsway is a unique roguelike that makes desktop emulation integral to the way it plays in a way other than a nostalgia play. I recommend trying it out.

  • Cat quest is a pretty simple game. The gameplay consists of a basic attack, a roll, and use of magical spells. Typically you attack an enemy, roll away and repeat but this monotony is often broken up by the directional based magics enemies may used which gives the game a sort of bullet hell feeling at times.

    Also you play as a cat in a world filled with cats and all the locations are named with cat based puns. Its a fairly entertaining game that while not deep still managed to pull me back in from time to time.

  • Golf story gripped me for the first hour, and then quickly pushed me away when it became more of a golf game.

  • Passpartout is an incredible thing. It starts as a sort of gimmicky thing where I was drawing terribly and over time I legit developed a style of painting and could actually see improvement from the screenshots I was taking of my work.

  • West of Loathing has a lot going for it: a unique art style, dry humor, great animation. But, if the game is too be pegged for one thing it's the combat. It never felt like I was actually making any decisions in combat, rather, I simply selected the option that had the highest attack until my opponent died, other methods never worked out. Enemies were either so strong they killed me in one or two turns or so weak there was no need to use any sort of healing.

  • I understand whats to be enjoyed here, but it's just not for me.

  • While I didn't play this release of XII this year, why its last on my list, I did play the OG and it's pretty good. It has the feeling of an mmo, which has drawbacks in these empty large spaces between hubs, but still has an interesting skill upgrade system and story.