1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I don't know what to say about this game that hasn't been said, but I'm gonna say it anyway because, damn. Absolutely incredible.
The systems are so perfectly thought out and considered that it feels like anything you could possibly think of will probably work, and I can't think of another game that rivals the sense of discovery and awe this game delivers. The fact that it can feel simultaneously polished and, well, wild and open for you to discover is so impressive.
Most open world games either nail the feeling of discovery and possibility a huge world can deliver, but are poorly controlling, buggy messes that feel like they might fall apart if you look at them wrong (see: Bethesda), or have very polished controls and mechanics but feel more like a new amusement park than a new frontier. There's nothing out there to discover that the games' designers won't lead you to by the hand, because games are expensive to make. If every player doesn't see all the content, then why did they even make it, right?
Not to mention, Nintendo releasing such a gigantic game that I can take anywhere is the absolute perfect sell for the Switch, and maybe the best sell for an open world game too.
Hook it up to a big TV, climb to the top of a huge tower, take in the size of the world. Then disconnect the Switch from the dock & take that huge world with you. The coolest feeling.
2. Super Mario Odyssey
It's really incredible to see the attention to detail and polish of a huge open world game like my number one crammed into half the space, and that's exactly what Mario pulls off. I genuinely think this game is impossible not to love.
I'll probably never get all the moons, but that's because I don't feel the need to wring all the joy out of an experience this pure and good.
That 500 moon challenge is an absolute fucker, I will say. I was so psyched to see them put it all together at the end, but I just didn't really enjoy the type of challenge it presents. I suppose, considering there aren't lives in this Mario game for the first time, it was just about the only way to differentiate it from the rest of the smaller, one-off challenges throughout the game, but I just don't find that kind of trial and error challenge to be very fun. I was ready to take on some seriously difficult platforming challenges, but instead I was asked to do a bunch of somewhat hard, but also a little unclear challenges back to back, without making any mistakes. Kind of a disappointing end to an otherwise incredible experience.
3. NieR: Automata
Fascinating, bleak, anime as hell. One of the few games out there that feels like its story was improved by being presented as a game without being all about branching story paths a'la Mass Effect/Fallout.
I think a big part of what I enjoyed about this game is that, while there are big reveals, they go full anime on the drama. As opposed to having Metal Gear-style info dumps, the revelations are peppered throughout each playthrough, with each consecutive run through the game delivering more of the cyberpunk concepts necessary to understand and appreciate the crazy ending. My main critique would have to be, as a lover of cyberpunk, some of those early revelations were a little slow to roll out, and it took me a bit to become fully invested in the story.
So yeah, it took me most of the year to get through it game, but I'm super glad I stuck it out to the end.
4. Resident Evil 7 biohazard
The first two thirds of this game, I was absolutely in love. Incredibly tense, successfully refreshes the concept, everything. All the hype was absolutely true.
... But man, the last third just completely falls apart. I can't think of another example of a game so clearly communicating the exact moment that the developers ran out of good ideas than seeing Daddy transform into an extremely generic (extremely Resident Evil) eyeball monster.
At that point I thought, well, this is bad, but it's probably almost over, so whatever. Naw son. How about you spend 3 more hours fighting the boring mold monster enemies, which were inarguably the worst part of the game up until this point? And then fight even MORE giant dumb zombie monsters at the end?
By the time Chris Redfield shows up and throws you some absurd nuclear hand cannon or whatever, they might as well have had him punching boulders in a volcano again.
So yeah. The fact that this game falls apart so hard, but it's still at this point in my list should be a testament to how impressive the majority is. I can only hope the next game has the confidence to stick with the small story the whole way.
6. Sonic Mania
If this game was only the first, like, 8 stages, I would absolutely be in love. Great iterations/expansions on old levels and interesting new ones. But some of the later stages just get difficult in frustrating, old-Sonic-game ways that I would have hoped the developers would have addressed with 20+ years of thought.
Flying stage that's not only actually difficult, but doesn't fix the weird issues like how sometimes Sonic just falls off the plane at the edge for no reason? Check.
Boss fights with unclear mechanics, like how the oil stage boss sometimes kills you by pulling the platform into the oil even though you jumped off before it went under? Check.
Levels that are as long or longer than any previous Sonic level, are confusingly structured and still include the possibility of time overs if you can't figure out where to go? Check.
Also, why the hell did they choose to make all of the checkpoint bonus stages the least fun one from the old games? Where's the running down the tubes stage from Sonic 2? If you're gonna put in as many bonus stages as they have, give us a couple different types, maybe? Or just more Sega CD style 3D stages? Anything but, like, 30 incredibly difficult checkerboard stages, please?
7. Horizon Zero Dawn
Great concept, great execution, interesting world and story, fun combat, and an incredibly impressive first game of its type for the developer.
That being said, it definitely falls into a lot of genre tropes of the new school of kind-of open world games. Yeah it's open, yeah there are side quests, yeah there are dialog trees. But you can always feel the corners of the box. You immediately know the limits of the systems they built, because they're systems you've seen before in the dozens of similarly structured open world games from the last few years. I never felt a genuine sense of wonder or discovery playing this game, outside of the incredibly beautiful and technically impressive world.
All that being said, I absolutely can't wait to see what Guerrilla does next. This is absolutely their Uncharted 2 moment. Please God, Sony, don't make them waste their time on another Killzone after this.
8. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Struggling to place this game, because I honestly don't think the game part of this game is very good. The default difficulty is unreasonably hard, and it does a terrible job of communicating how it wants you to play the game, which, it turns out, is completely differently from other modern shooters. Also the stealth mechanics are incredibly unclear and just not much fun.
This game's plot makes me feel like Terror-Billy should be an unstoppable badass, murdering Nazis with his ridiculous dual-wielded automatic shotguns, but instead I was in a constant state of fear that I was about to die suddenly for no discernible reason. It's been said elsewhere, but give me DOOM's gameplay with this story and this would probably be in my top 3.
The story really is something special, though. Almost certainly the best and most fun of the year. There's an hour in there that rates with the best hours of any game.
Jeff wasn't kidding about that end credits song, though. Yeesh.
9. Splatoon 2
Just look at the cats. Look at them. Them by themselves are reason enough for this game to be on my list.
10. Destiny 2
Destiny continues to be exactly good enough for me to keep playing it, and exactly boring enough for me to feel dumb for doing so.
Every feeling I have about this game is conflicted. I'm excited to do the endgame missions because they sound super interesting, but also fuck this game for locking all the challenging, unique content behind 20+ hours of meaningless shooting, most of which are fighting enemies that aren't even new for this game! Ugh.
And that's the other thing. How are so many things in this game repurposed from Destiny 1, but they also failed to integrate the content from the first game LIKE THEY PROMISED TO DO IN THE FIRST PLACE? I get they only had 2 years to make this, but still. Either make something wholly new, or work to make your promises hold true. How am I supposed to care about my character returning when literally nothing I did in the first game matters?
11. Tekken 7: Fated Retribution
12. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
This game would be so much stronger if it was half as long. I actually enjoyed the combat a fair amount, but the puzzles are just not fun or interesting past the first couple times you see each variation. The shape matching ones in particular just feel like blatant padding for the most part.
Still, very unique visual style, the FMV characters actually work super well with the 3D to create a strange feel that doesn't look like anything else. I was actually kind of upset by some of the visuals towards the end, which never happens to me.
SPOILERS: Specifically seeing Senua's FMV mom with half her face melting off was just... gross. Kinda pulled me out of the story a bit because it felt kind of edgy for the sake of being edgy? I don't know.
13. Nidhogg II
14. Persona 5
15. Snipperclips: Cut It Out, Together!
16. Gravity Rush 2