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My GOTY 2017

2017 will either go down in history as "2016: Part II" or else "The Year Videogames Freed Us From Our Collective Political Anxieties". It was the year that I, along with many others, realized that – yes – we actually would like everything ported to the Switch, thanks. As a person with a public transit commute, this list is Switch-heavy, so there's that. Enjoy.

My criteria for this list:

  • Games that released in 2017 (even if they existed on another platform).
  • Games I played a lot of* in 2017...
  • (Or games I played enough of to get an overall impression, where applicable.)

* Relative to my available time. Some of you monsters need Yeezus. Looking at you, 900-moons-in-one-week folk in #marioodyssey-hype UGBD channel. Drink water.

List items

  • In my opinion, the most inexplicably unsung title this year. A fascinating Mœbius/Jean Giraud aesthetic homage that is fun at every scale: moment-to-moment traversal, progression, open world gem collection, and the wonkiest, zonkiest anime plot. It is utterly delightful, and nary a peep was to be heard about it this year.

  • The open-world Zelda game that made "grinding puzzles" fun. BotW excels at rabbit holes; instead of quests beginning with a big exclamation mark over a head, they begin with subtle curiosity. ("Did that flower just move...?") I wish it had conveyed more than ten minutes of plot over the course of 120+ hours.

  • I don't know what else to say that hasn't or won't be said, except this: Odyssey is the top shelf example of how to conclude a story and begin a compelling post-game. It inculcates the urge to collect moons and sets you free to do so, where other games say "Don't leave yet! Please! Uh, we have challenges! Yeah, uh... start over with more abilities! No, wait... leaderboards! Where are you going?!"

  • (Switch)

    I had never touched this game, and as someone who gets more allergic to challenging games as time goes by, Shovel Knight does it so, so right. It speaks its only language, introducing you to its platforming vocabulary, giving you a checkpoint, then ratcheting up the difficulty. Damn near the perfect Switch game.

  • Maybe ARMS would have caught on a little better if it had a hover-boarding snake kid with his own skate park... actually, wait, it did. Or an American Idol-type aerial disabler... err, that too. Huh. OK, well, call me when it's got a sorta wavy tube man made of DNA goo--really? Then I have no idea. I like ARMS a lot. *Puts on ARMS theme song.*

  • A surprisingly competent 1 v 1 fighter and fun quasi-moba (?!) with zero sense of humor. (I am actively ignoring the single player story and the grueling technical problems from the first couple months.) It gives me lots of welcome Bushido Blade and Soul Calibur feels.

  • A politically tone-deaf, ethnically insensitive story of American exceptionalism with great big caricature villains and lots of what I am going to call "I dunno, Spanish lol!" which has no right to be as fun as it is. Whether coordinating in multiplayer or grinding alone with OP AI-bros in a gigantic Faux-livia, it's *easily* the top cocaine game this year.

    Side effects include: Presing up on the D-pad in other games and getting really sad that there's no drone.

  • Welcome to a world in which the word "Wolfenstein" connotes "excellence in storytelling." It's no longer enough for a plot to "Go Places." Wolf II: TNC does so, then promptly delivers heaps of confidence and swagger while openly criticizing a broad spectrum of topical political views. It seemed much, much more difficult than the previous game at times.

  • (Switch)

    It's handheld Skyrim. Shut up.

  • Splatoon 2 made me realize I'm too old to get good at games like Splatoon 2 anymore. It's fun, funny, colorful, gooey, and and I will always suck at it. The ongoing mini-Miiverse meme fights are just as memorable as the gameplay. Please paint spawn, Team Whatever-Marina-Currently-Is, and so on. Woomy.