Game of the Year 2017

2017 was a great year for gaming but I did find a lot of games I played and were recommended to me lacking in a lot of ways. The top 5 of this list is just so damn strong though and any other year, they would have easily topped the list, particularly when I look back at some other the other games I've given game of the year in the past. First, lets get a bit of business done though:

Old Lists: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

Honourable Mentions:

What Remains of Edith Finch - I played this yesterday and really dug it, it might be the third game on my Observer/Tacoma tie, but doesn't really fit there and I just liked those two games a bit more.

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap - This was one of my favourite games when I was younger and this is a great remaster.

Injustice 2/Tekken 7 - I've been getting into fighting games a little more lately and these are both great ones.

Doki Doki Literature Club - It does take some time to get going, but the pay off is excellent.

Disappointments:

Mass Effect: Andromeda - They ruined one of my favourite franchises, it's not just a mess, it's a fucking tragedy. Not only the worst game I played through this year, even worse, the most boring.

Snake Pass - I picked this up with a lot of glee ready to fall in love. I dropped it after a couple of levels and haven't thought about going back to it.

Non 2017 Release:

Final Fantasy - I played through 9 single player numbered Final Fantasy games this year. I got stalled with 8 but plan to pick it up and finish those I didn't get to some time next year. My ranking is: 15, 7, 13, 9, 10, 5, 3, 4, 2. Unplayed are 1, 6, 8 and 12.

Street Fighter V - I actually got super into this at the end of the year while reading a history of Street Fighter book. There is a bit here if you put the time in but there is still a lack of content that I don't really like. Bring on Arcade mode.

Dishonored 2 - Would have made my top 10 last year so it was a shame I didn't get to it...speaking of.

Didn't get to them:

Horizon: Zero Dawn - Got this as a gift recently, just need to find time to play it.

Prey - Same deal with Horizon, can't want to dig into it when I have the time.

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider - I feel like history could be repeating and I'll regret not having this in my list.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 - The biggest apology. I got it early December but couldn't play it as my Mum was visiting and I can't really give my full attention to games at that point.

Persona 5 - Hopefully next year, this was the one that was the biggest hit by my Final Fantasy decision.

List items

  • In January I decided that this year I was going to play through one Final Fantasy game a month every month. I damn near got there too finishing 9 games in the series before being side tracked by a number of new games and the slow pace of 8 in October. Playing through Nier while also having those Final Fantasy games lingering in the back of my mind really just brought this all together and locked my decision to make this my favourite game this year. I could go on for a lot of essays worth of writing on the thematic elements at play in this game but at the end of the day, it was nothing more than the feeling that I was playing something unique that genuinely offered insight into the Japanese psyche. This is a challenging game to really engage with and it asks a lot of the player, but through it all, as I came to the end and give it the thought it needs, I was left feeling there was no other game this year I got more from on nearly every level.

  • “You see that mountain, you can go there,” is a little bit of a cliché line for open world games. When Nintendo pulled it out, it was hard not to roll your eyes. What they should have just come out and said was that you could climb it, not in that bullshit Bethesda way of walking up slight inclines and bugging your way to short cuts, actually climb. When I got to the top of the highest peak in BOTW, not only did I feel the accomplishment of making it, I was rewarded with something new to discover. That’s the strength of this game, these moments of great discovery when you put some genuine work in. There is so much here to explore and discover that the thought of going back to it months after finishing it is both exciting and anxiety inducing. This is the game that could forever change the way open world games are made and we’re only going to be better off for it.

  • From a gameplay and joy perspective, I can’t think of a single reason for this game to not be number one. If we’re talking complete and damn near flawless experiences, this is the best game of the year without a doubt it’s just the two above this gave me a little bit more to chew on despite their flaws. Cuphead is a game that very easily could have traded on its look. Both nailing the look and sound of the early age of animations is a really incredible achievement. What’s more impressive than that though is that they have backed it up with a genuinely fantastic game. There was some fear that this would be nothing more than a boss rush, but the variation and difficulty of said bosses is really something to marvel at. When I finished Cuphead, I felt like I’d really accomplished something pretty special and that feeling of accomplishment goes a long way to it placing this highly on the list. It’s pure, tight gameplay with a beautiful veneer, this is an all timer.

  • Note to self, always buy Ninja Theory games on release. There’s really no excuse for me leaving buying this one till the sale after the Game Awards. I love both DmC and Enslaved but I don’t know what it was that was keeping me back from getting Hellblade. Thankfully I corrected that and within ten minutes of playing, I felt ashamed. It drew me in almost immediately to the point where my “unshakeable” top 4 was suddenly shaken. Crafted is the word I’d use for this game, you feel the hands of an auteur, but I know it isn’t that, instead, there is such an incredible pinpointed focus of vision from the entire team that only leaves me feeling the loving craft. If the success of this game means Ninja Theory have the freedom to become a more serious Double Fine, then I’ll be right there with them. Like I said, I’ll never doubt them again.

  • I gotta be crazy putting this at five. To note, the first five games not only changed order a number of times thinking about this list, they changed while writing it and they may even change after I write and publish. I don’t want to trot out the old, “any other year…” line, but it’s true for the top five games. While I was playing Odyssey, I constantly had the feeling, “this is the best game of the year.” As I was constructing my list, I felt like this was a number one game but that was almost as a compromise because the rest of the games on this list were largely great games with some flaws. Odyssey doesn’t really have the flaws of some of the other games above it and it has some of the biggest highs of them, but when I really look back on it as a whole, I just didn’t end up taking as much from it as the other games here. The thought of a compromise choice for number one just didn’t sit well with me from a perspective of critical analysis. For pure joy of experience though, this is hard to topple and I’d take 10 more worlds of this in a heartbeat, It’s genuinely fantastic and Nintendo firing on all cylinders.

  • This one lingered. While I really enjoyed my experience with the game, after finishing it, I turned it off, nodded my head and said, “That was really good.” Weeks later when I was constructing a list I just kept going back to memories of this game and my genuine bond with Bea. There’s something here that just feels honest, the type of honest you get in a genuinely strong bildungsroman. I don’t know if I’ll ever revisit Mae and explore some boundaries of the game that I didn’t get to the first time, but like some of my favourite novels, I don’t think that’s necessary, it’s more important that those moments just stay with me.

  • It’s difficult for me to put this game so high on the list because it is a genuine achievement in storytelling, world building and subverting expectations. While it’s a masterclass in those aspects, of the missions you’re sent on are largely boring and forgettable by contrast. This is particularly disappointing because for the most part, I remember really enjoying the actual gameplay of the previous game but here, something felt slightly off. But really, let’s focus on the game’s strength which is creating a genuinely engaging and fucking ballsy piece of story that I don’t know I’ve ever experienced anything close to in fiction. You’ll likely never see a big film like this, maybe a book, more likely a comic, but seeing this play out in motion and also being a big part of it with some cool interactions just completes this as an experience. I just really hope they’re able to create some cooler levels next time.

  • Around October, this game was factoring into my top 4 or 5 games until a sudden onslaught pushed it up quite a few spots. That’s unfortunate because they really nailed this game. Metroid 2 was the first and only Metroid game I had finished before dipping into this one so I came into the remake pretty excited by the prospect of replaying the story. I got a lot more than that though with some really solid gameplay additions and just clever world design that nails the Metroid feel. Let’s hope Nintendo allows MercurySteam an original entry next.

  • I love seeing experimentation really pay off and I feel like the really unique puzzle mechanic of this game could have been used for something bigger and more ongoing. Instead, we are given a nice relaxing and tight experience that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. I was never completely vexed enough to need a guide as I just found that poking around a little always yielded results, even if they were introducing, but not making clear a new mechanic. That’s just smart game design. I’ll probably go through this again at some point and really let the whole story wash over me, but for now, I’ll just fondly remember the experience of playing.

  • /Tacoma – At the end of the day, I just couldn’t separate these two which is weird because they’re vastly different. I wanted these two mashed together in a way. Observer is the type of game that I wish Full Bright would make and seeing all the things that are great in Tacoma only solidified this along with its tight story telling. The flaws in both games are fixed by the other which is such an odd thing to think about in games that are vastly different experiences but thinking about a mash up of the way these games approach story and environment really makes me hope they both pay attention to the strengths of the other. If I had to pick one overall, I’d lean towards Observer just for how it improves on and brings something genuinely unique to the walking simulator formula, but that is the finest of lines.