The Best of What I Played in 2017

I played some games in 2017. Let's rank the best of them.

List items

  • Life is Strange: Before the Storm somehow manages to tell an even more endearing story than Life is Strange, thanks largely to eschewing the "magic" elements of that game. This is very much a straight-laced story of friendship or love, depending on how you play it, and if like me, you choose to play it as a love story, it's a fantastic one made just a bit sinister and sad by knowing the events and secrets kept by one of the players in Life is Strange.

    I love the interplay between Rachel and Chloe. I love the development of some of the side characters. I love the cute moments of play between Chloe and her friends. I love the heart of this game, especially knowing what comes next.

    It's such an earnest game that it ekes out everything else on my list.

  • What Remains of Edith Finch is a great example of what can possibly make interactive storytelling a more unique and personal experience. By utilizing the imagination of its characters in individual gameplay vignettes, the narrow path through the Finch house is made wildly entertaining, chilling, and ultimately endearing. Some of its characters are a little forgettable, and almost all of them could have been fleshed out through more backstory and objects within the game's relatively narrow confines, but overall, this is a remarkable experience, one I think is actually strengthened by being a game and not a novel, which might be a first for its genre.

  • Rise of the Tomb Raider is a smart, polished sequel that managed to suck up way more of my free time than just about any other AAA game I played this year. Apart from a bland story, I loved the way the game mixed tight, action-centric corridor like shooting and sneaking along larger, more exploratory sections and tombs. With a narrative that actually focuses in on Lara Croft herself instead of her dead dad, a future Tomb Raider could make it much higher on my personal favorites list.

  • Bear with Me's relatively confined first episode shouldn't scare you off from what's one of the more novel settings for a game since the days of Grim Fandango and Full Throttle. The tease of what the game is really about kept me glued to it, and I loved the complex conclusion. If you're looking for a good adventure game and a slow, delightful burn of a story that isn't afraid to go to some dark places, give this one a shot. It's a shame it didn't get more attention.

  • Dead Cells is a better Rogue Legacy. I love carrying over my investments into my skills and the weapons I've found. I wish I was better at it so I could explore the game further, but what I've managed to conquer has been a joy. This will likely be the game from this year I look back at and say, "That deserved to be much higher!"

  • Steamworld Heist is a fun little turn-based strategy RPG with a bit of Worms aiming to it, and I love that combination. I wish more of the characters were useful outside of very specific situations, but overall, I feel like this is a highly polished squad based SRPG, something we don't get a lot of these days.

  • I wrote a piece on my personal blog earlier this year about loving the Forza series for allowing me the sensation of driving again, even if it's just a taste. I played both Horizon 3 and Forza 7 this year, but I haven't dipped my toes into enough of the latter to rate it as better than Horizon 3. I don't think I would, either. Aside from my annoyance with the lack of a simple race list (why make it so convoluted?), this is a fun, accessible racer with a great setting. Not a whole lot here to complain about.

  • By now, it's crazy to recommend Rogue to you except if you're in my shoes - you're hungry for a good AC game, but you're limited on bucks. This is pretty much Black Flag all over again, but the main protagonist Shay is morally complex and gets my vote for second-best AC lead, aside from Ezio. The hard look the game takes at the Assassins and Templar relationship and who really is good or evil is a nice change from the blind servitude of most of the other games. It's also well-polished, though I did feel overpowered less than a quarter of the way through.

    It's a solid entry, and it's a shame that Unity bore the brunt of Ubi's attention in place of this one. It's far superior to that bit of dreck.

  • Tekken 7 suffers from a weak story that just regurgitates most of the bullshit Heihachi stuff from the series. But it's one of the best fighting games I've ever played, so... that's a weird combination, right? The new characters are sharp and fun, the new modes are pretty great, and the online competition, when the game was more active, was pretty decent. It could have used a traditional arcade mode with the old style of CG endings to appease fans, but what's here is a great deal of fun.

  • Shadow Warrior 2 takes a great feeling shooter and adds loot to it, along with quests and other little elments I love to see in my shooters. It's a rock-solid game that tries a lot of fun things. With more variations to the environments and a less confusing side-quest/quest system, this could have placed higher on this list. As it stands, I loved my time with it and fully intend to go back for more someday.

  • Honorable Mention:

    Yonder gives an amazing first impression for what is essentially an exploratory crafting game, but falls off hard when it comes to tracking down materials you need thanks to a head-scratching system that required players at launch to spend stupid amounts of time revisiting vendors. It doesn't help that farming becomes infathomable if you're not paying attention when it's explained. I know, "git gud," but also it felt like that should have been a more intuitive part of a game that was otherwise all about being player-friendly.

    Major kudos for having the single best quest tracking guide in games. It's just a straight up beam of light like a laser extending from the character to the quest objective. It's brilliant and simple and brooks no confusion.