TFP's Top 17 Games of 2017

Look. In so many ways this year, much like last year, was a dumpster fire. The seconds clawed their way into minutes, which dragged themselves into hours, which painstakingly spread into days, which agonizingly made their way into this interminable year.

Yet, somehow, video games have been there as an escape, and arguably have been better than ever. So I can think of no better way to flip double birds and Slim Pickens-esque-ly ride this bomb into the ground with some of my favorite games of the year, but first, let's get some assorted things out of the way.

  • One of these years I'll go back to just putting 10 games on a list. This year is not that year.
  • I really wanted to play more Divinity: Original Sin II than I did.
  • Superhot VR is the best VR game I've ever played.
  • While I've definitely played the most Fire Emblem Heroes as far as mobile games go, Framed 2 is probably the best mobile game I've ever played.
  • Nioh is probably the best Dark Souls-esque game out there.
  • And finally, never rub the Doom.

With all that out of the way, let's get this show on the road!

List items

  • Number 17

    Our modern FMV game renaissance shows little signs of stopping. For this, I am very grateful. Doctor Dekker's blend of mystery and Lovecraftian horror creates a very oppressive atmosphere, and the cast's performances do an outstanding job of showing a group of people on the cusp of madness. While I've only played it through once, a quick glance through some of the FMV clips and files show a wide variety in outcomes rarely seen in adventure games, and for that I can't help but recognize it.

  • Number 16

    Christian Whitehead et al.'s throwback platformer feels like a true love letter to the heyday of Sonic the Hedgehog. Where some of this style of game lean too heavily on nostalgia to the point of detriment, while other games banking on nostalgia try to modernize too much, alienating the very audience they try to target, Sonic Mania's finely tuned blend of heady, 16-bit graphics, amazing music, and tight platforming gameplay is the perfect defibrillator to a dying franchise.

  • Number 15

    Splatoon 2 is a better game than Splatoon 1. I also played significantly less of it, which is unfortunate. However, what I did played exuded as much, if not more style as the Wii U original, felt as tight as ever, and the additional modes, particularly the Horde Mode-esque Salmon Run are incredibly fun. The new weapons and supers provide added depth, yet still feel as balanced and provide new strategies for the excellent new maps. But I still played it significantly less. Weird, right?

  • Number 14

    Read my review here: https://www.giantbomb.com/uncharted-the-lost-legacy/3030-57210/user-reviews/2200-30213/

    After Uncharted 4, I thought my brief love affair with Naughty Dog was over. The Last of Us doesn't appeal to me, and Uncharted 4's tonal shift into trying to angle itself as The Last of Us-Lite just seemed to fall flat. Luckily, with a new perspective, both narratively and developmentally, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy's treasure hunting adventure is just as fun and exciting as the series' heights. Which is a relief, since I don't think I'm quite ready to say goodbye to the extended rogueish family of Uncharted characters quite yet.

  • Number 13

    Yeah yeah, I know this technically came out in 2014 in Japan. But I love Tetris. I like Puyo Puyo, but I'm kind of terrible at it. This game combines the best of both worlds, from the nearly-perfect puzzle gameplay of Tetris to the charming characters and humor of the Puyo Puyo universe. The unique modes blending both styles of gameplay feels natural and fun, and putting it on the Switch feels like a match made in heaven.

    Also: This game has the best use of HD rumble. The entire concept was justified simply with this game.

  • Number 12

    While I could talk about how I think Tekken's simple fighting system lends itself to incredible depth, the character designs are some personal favorites in the entire genre, and the guest character spots they've put in are completely insane in the best ways, that's not what I think Tekken 7 does best. Tekken 7's biggest strength is making even very simple things seem INSANELY cool, with its intense slowdowns, closeups, and effects. They're very simple, like adding the dust to people's clothes in action movies that make every swing seem infinitely more powerful, but it doesn't get in the way of the actual fighting. It's fantastic, and makes me, person who is generally bad at fighting games, still feel cool enough to keep playing every now and then since launch.

  • Number 11

    I'm not sure what it is about Breath of the Wild. Its stark, yet somehow gentle-feeling beauty provides the perfect backdrop for a vast open world. Each mechanic is carefully expounded on in ways that cause a near-infinite amount of combinations and incentivizes a never-before-seen level of experimentation. It's also just damn fun, which is a rarity in the Legend of Zelda series. There's a real sense of wonder in every corner of this game's version of Hyrule, and the freedom given to explore it is incredibly refreshing. Easily the best launch title for a system in recent memory, it's no wonder the Switch took off as quickly as it did.

  • Number 10

    Mario games? Extremely up my alley. Strategy games? Also a thing I am a fan of. The Rabbids? Ehhhhhhhh.

    However, it turns out that blending all three of those things results in a surprisingly charming, genuinely funny strategy game. The X-Com like strategy layer is surprisingly tense and enjoyable, with each character's unique power adding in unique strategies and combinations per team. The askew presentation of the Mushroom Kingdom as infested by the raving Rabbids is surprisingly interesting to meander through, and, as stated above, the writing is genuinely funny. I'm as surprised as you are that I've said those words twice now in relation to something involving the Rabbids.

  • Number 9

    I don't think Assassin's Creed Origins makes a good first impression. Its second impression is also rather shaky. New main character Bayek comes off as incredibly one-note, the rather rote revenge plot underlying the early hours doesn't do the game any favors, and it just seemed like a giant step back from the stellar Assassin's Creed Syndicate two years ago. However, once the game actually picks up, it allows Bayek to begin to develop as a character, and the rote revenge plot subtly morphs into a fantastic origin story for this millenia-long tug of war between Assassins and Templars. By the end, I still think Syndicate is a better game. But if Origins is a branching off point for the future of the series, Assassin's Creed still hasn't lost me as an avid fan yet.

  • Number 8

    To be honest, I could just copy Jack Gallagher's explanation for why he likes Persona 5 and just put it here, because I think he and I basically have the same thoughts on it. Persona 5 is not Persona 4, for all the goods and bads that entails. And as someone who feels a bizarre, intensely personal connection to the world of Persona 4, for me at least, there are definitely more bads than goods. Maybe going into it knowing it was "Persona 5" did this game a disservice. Perhaps if it was "Anime Brain Heist Simulator Winter 2014" it may have slid in higher on the list, even if nothing else about the game's content had changed. Don't get me wrong, Persona 5 is still fantastic. Shoji Meguro's soundtrack alone would at least deserve some sort of praise. Shigenori Soejima's incredible design work breathes style, confidence, and excitement into Persona 5's representation of Tokyo. And while wishing for Hashino to capture lightning in a bottle twice is simply unrealistic, he does at least provide an exciting roller coaster ride from start to finish, bringing modern sensibilities to the romantic picaresque genre.

    It's just not Persona 4.

  • Number 7

    For my money, the original Life is Strange is the strongest example of the episodic, choice-based adventure game series. Sure, it's got problems, but, much like real life and its relative strangeness, what doesn't? Life is Strange: Before the storm, in concept at least, feels like what a follow-up should be. It expands the universe without intruding too far on what made the first game so great, the interaction between its characters and the conflicts that arise from there. By jumping a few years back and really focusing in on the origins of the relationship between Chloe and Rachel, on Chloe's struggle to cope with the loss of her father, and Rachel's assistance, or perhaps her hindrance, Before the Storm's examination of grief, rebellion, and relationships is top notch.

    Oh, and the music is absolutely incredible. Whoever went "I know, let's get Daughter to compose our soundtrack." deserves a raise.

  • Number 6

    If you had told me at the beginning of the year one of the most compelling video game protagonists of the year was going to be Sebastian Castellanos, stereotypical grizzled detective with very little in the way of character from The Evil Within, I would have called you insane. And yet here we are with The Evil Within 2, easily the most improved follow-up to a video game in any recent memory. The sheer leaps and bounds The Evil Within 2 makes over its uninspired predecessor, from doing interesting things with the concept of STEM to providing the characters from the first game with actual characterization, cannot be overstated. The mental world of Union is delightfully twisted, and the various villains Sebastian faces over the course of the game manage to unnerve and unsettle in ways I didn't think were quite possible in video games. A lot of it does revolve around the vast improvement given to Sebastian, providing him with motivation and history that were completely missing from the first game. By the end of the game, it's hard not to root for the guy, which is something I don't think anyone ever said about any aspect of the original game.

  • Number 5

    Supergiant's particular brand of whimsical melancholy has always struck a chord with me, and I think perhaps Pyre has struck it the best out of all. Supergiant's knack for building these incredibly intricate, beautifully desolate worlds is on full display with the Commonwealth and Downside, and the characters that inhabit them feel as alive and as human as anyone else. Beyond their incredible skill at world-building, they also are masters of taking incredibly simple concepts and refining them to mirror-like sheens with their gameplay, and Pyre is no exception. The rites themselves are incredibly tense affairs, combining quick-thinking and the various characters' abilities is necessary for victory, and it always feels exciting when you eke out a victory over a particularly tough opponent.

  • Number 4

    Somewhere, in some future dictionary, a screenshot from Cuphead is going to be included next to the definition of "labor of love." Studio MDHR's downright incredible debut game had to jump through so many hoops to reach the point at which people could go on the internet and exchange currency for it that it's almost surprising it turned out as well as it did, given other games that had to jump through the same hoops. Yet playing the game, you'd never pick up on that. The hand-drawn animation style is beautiful, the live big-band performances are outstanding, and the game's myriad bosses and stages are each so well crafted and fun that, pardon the trite expression, it's seriously like playing a vintage cartoon. The game's challenge never felt drastically unfair, and the sense of accomplishment from beating the game's various bosses is truly second to none.

  • Number 3

    Look. To a certain degree I could just put "Platinum + Yoko Taro" here and be done with it. It's basically the ultimate "You got your chocolate in my peanut butter" combination of the video game world. You got your world-class action gameplay experts in my melancholy existentialism. But NieR: Automata is so much more than that. Any amount of pithy one-liners I could put here just do the entire production a disservice.

    These are probably words you're tired of reading by now, but there's a desolate beauty in the world of NieR: Automata. Two years ago I mentioned wanted more games that displayed a sense of melancholy, and I definitely got what I wished for. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, it's the slight brightening of the world after the tragedies that lead up to the endings, I think, that truly exemplifies that. The short-term loss in exchange for a gain so far in the future that you probably won't be around to see it. The search for meaning in a brutal, devastating world.

    That search lies at the core of NieR: Automata's beating android heart, and that search defines us as humans. It's a common story, from Ghost in the Shell to Blade Runner, The Vision to Ex Machina, the question of what it actually means to be human, and if synthetic life can ever attain it. And yet it never stops being interesting. Maybe it's a weird voyeuristic thing. We like these types of stories because we want to act as observers, pretending we've figured it all out, and watching other species try and figure it out lets us feel better about our own journeys. Maybe we take solace in the idea that things we create go through our same problems, and we try to vicariously figure it out through our creations, like a parent pushing their child towards new experiences.

    I admit, I'm rambling here, and this is a long, roundabout way to say "I liked the existential robots and the part where you fight the bad guys is also really fun because Platinum Games is incapable of doing that poorly as I sweep that Korra game and that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game under this rug over here." but trying to sum up why this game is so appealing in a single sentence just doesn't work. There's too much to say, too much to think about. So I guess that one sentence summation will have to do for now, or else I'll be here for another 20 paragraphs.

  • Number 2

    Taking a hard left from the previous entry on this list, I don't think a game brought as much joy to me this year as Super Mario Odyssey. No game provided the same sense of wonder and discovery around every nook and cranny as much as Super Mario Odyssey.

    I love the idea of travel, despite not having done that much of it myself. The idea of taking a moment to escape from the everyday you live and immerse yourself in a different location, seeing the sights, enjoying the hospitality, navigating the local hotspots, and picking up a few local specialties before leaving with a set of memories that can't be replaced. Super Mario Odyssey feels like someone else has the same thoughts as me about travelling and decided to make one of the best games of the year about it. The collectible Power Moons are strewn about in so many different places of interest and activities that it really feels like seeking out the best places to eat or things to do while on vacation. Sure, there are the big, obvious areas to pick them up, but sometimes taking a detour off the beaten path can result in finding even more cool things, too.

    Each locale Mario visits is simply bursting with exuberance and life that it's hard not to enjoy your time in each of the game's various Kingdoms. There's no shortage of variety in things to do, and Mario's ship, the Odyssey is the perfect vessel to do it in. My Odyssey was plastered with so many stickers and contained so many souvenirs by the end of the main storyline journey, and I feel like that's just about the perfect metaphor. I wanted to take so much of this game with me everywhere I continued to go, searching high and low for the rest of the game's many Power Moons.

    I could keep going, but the main point I want to make is this: Super Mario Odyssey perfectly understands the appeal of world travel to me, and combines it with flawless platforming gameplay and exciting challenges around every corner. It's legitimately one of the best Nintendo-made games I've ever played.

  • Number 1

    To take yet another hard left, my game of the year.

    I love the Yakuza series. I'm not sure how many ways I can possibly say it. It's probably my favorite video game series of all time. The fact that these games are coming out in localized English again fills me with so much glee I don't know how to contain it, besides talking about the series. So let's talk about this particular entry.

    Yakuza 0 is perhaps the greatest prequel in video games. It fills in just about every possible detail you would ever want to know about the series's history and origins, while still maintaining the depth, intricacies, and most importantly the mysteries the series is known for. From the big picture stuff, such as the origins of the series's iconic Millennium Tower, to the tiny details, like Kiryu's iconic outfit, compelling explanations are given for any and every possible question you might want to have an answer for.

    Of course, even without the incredible way it ties into future installments, Yakuza 0 is one of the strongest stand-alone entries in the series. Its setting, glitzy, glamourous, economically booming Japan in the 80s sparkles and shines. The money flows like water, and life couldn't be better.

    Well, except for the fact that Kazuma Kiryu got kicked out of the Tojo clan and Goro Majima is stuck managing a cabaret in exile because of the botched fake assassination mentioned in Yakuza 4. Oopsies?

    What follows is an incredibly dense, intricate crime drama through the seedy underbelly of the roaring 1980's. There's betrayal on top of betrayal, partnership after partnership, and some of the best action in video games. Of course, this being a Yakuza game, there's also missions where you teach a would-be dominatrix... how to do /that/ better, pick up an actual, literal chicken, I mean like an actual bird here, to manage real-estate properties, and help totally-not-Michael Jackson and totally-not-Stephen Spielberg expand their entertainment empires.

    The world of Kamurocho and Sotenbori are so detailed and full of life that even with 30 years of development undone, I still knew my way around each area like I had actually lived in those areas my whole life. And people who know me know I have no sense of direction, in real life or in video games.

    If NieR: Automata was the most melancholy game I've played all year, and Super Mario Odyssey was the most joyous, Yakuza 0 is the most compelling. I hung on every word of the plot, propelled along like a kayak in a raging river. It truly is the strength of the Yakuza series as a whole, blending some of the best crime fiction writing in video games with an incredibly fun combat system, and sprinkling in some insanely bizarre side missions as the finishing touches. It's these aspects that cement Yakuza 0 as my game of the year.

    Thanks for reading!