Xanadu's Top 10-GOTY Edition!

Hey! Guess what? We made it through 2017, congratz! It's no secret 2017 was an intense year for a lot of issues outside of our video game world. Even within the game industry, many did not come out unscathed. Personally, it was a very rough year for me. Losing my job at the start of the year and ultimately coming to the decision to leave an industry I was working in for years was difficult. While still in limbo in terms of what type of career I next want to peruse, I'm glad to have found work, stability, and peace of mind about what is truly important to me this past year. 2018 is going to be good for me! In 2017 I started writing down my feelings about games and it's been therapeutic. This year, I hope to expand on that even further and I can't think of a better way to kick that off then focusing on last years games! With that in mind here are the top 10 games I played in 2017:

10. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

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Typing this list out it became apparent to me that Google Chrome considered 'Bandicoot' to be an incorrectly spelled word. This should speak loudly to the injustices and prejudices that Crash and his fellow bandicoot's have endured. For every kid who grew up with the N64 and Mario 64, there was another who had a PlayStation and Crash Bandicoot. While Crash's legacy is nowhere near what Mario's has become, there is no doubting the nostalgia factor with the original Crash trilogy. Thankfully, the collection put out not by Naughtydog but instead Vicarious Visions is excellent! The visuals are extremely clean and polished yet still feel extremely reminiscent of the low poly models from the PS1 era. Crash 1 is still rough to get through, Cortex Strikes Back is where they really figured out the Crash formula, and Warped may very well be my favorite game on the original PlayStation. I was never expecting this trilogy to be announced but I'm so happy it was. I know revisionist history does not look kindly at the past Crash games but I truly believe Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped is criminally underrated. I would recommend buying the collection just to play through Warped, it's that good.

9. Madden NFL 18

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Why is this game so good? Seriously, though. Why? Can anybody explain this to me? In a year where EA has become the most uber-fallen to the dark side down a path I can't fallow-version the public usually seems them as...WHY IS MADDEN 18 SO GOOD?! When you take into consideration how EA has 0 competition with NFL games, and what they've down with a certain exclusive Star Wars licence, Madden 18's accomplishments are extremely surprising. What if I told you Madden 18 had a story mode and it was the best story mode in a sports game I have ever played? The idea of a Madden story mode initially is baffling. The first 28 years of this series release has seen nothing of the sort. The fact that the first attempt was so successful at what it tries to accomplish further adds to my disbelief about this game. The story mode, titled: Long Shot features a young NFL prospect, Devin Wade (a literal perfect Football name) returning home from the military and attempting to make in this years NFL draft. A long the way you'll find out about his past, what originally lead him astray from football, and experience the relationships he has with friends and family. It's obvious the scenes were acted out in real time, they feel very natural. Also there is a surprisingly decent performance from NFL legends such as Dan Marino! When combining this one little feature with the rest of Madden, this year has made it such a compelling entry. Not to mention, the game looks and runs incredible. Performance wise, Madden 18 rarely hiccups and silly AI scripts that saw hilarious tripping over other AI players are practically non existent (take that as a positive or negative). On a PS4 pro, the game is up-scaled to 4k, employs HDR, and runs at an almost constant 60fps. That is damn impressive and the results are stunning. I ask again...Why is Madden so good this year?

8. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

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(Hums the opening theme to Uncharted) I love this series! I suspect naughty dog does as well given their inability to let go of this series. Who can blame them though? They have created such a rich world that is ripe for so many different spin-offs and sequels. Originally announced as a small single player DLC for Uncharted 4, the games development must have quickly expanded way beyond that as it came out this year as its own original title. The Lost legacy adds some great new ideas such as open world game play. Chloee and Nadine headline this game wonderfully and their relationship becomes fascinating as the game progresses. While I did not miss Nathan Drake while playing, I did miss everything he brings with it. The Lost Legacy is better for being a tighter experience without all the fat as in Uncharted 4. But it still ranks just a notch below for me as I found the gravity and finality within the characters lives that we grew to love in Uncharted 4 to have more impact and weight. Still, The Lost Legacy is an excellent experience weather you are a new or old Uncharted fan.

7. Persona 5

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The fact that Persona 5 is so low on my list this year speaks to 1. how excellent this year has been for games and 2. just how little I felt Persona did to justify a new sequel. Persona 3 and 4 are without a doubt my two favorite JRPG's. Which one tops the other is a debate for another day but it's safe to say how much I enjoy the Persona series. Persona 5 takes everything 3 and 4 did and gives them an extra dose of polish and of course; styyyyyyyyyyyyyyyle. If there is one thing Persona 5 does absolutely better than anything this year it is its sense of style. Every minor detail from a text box to the all out attack scenarios feel like they were painted over and over again with a style brush. Nothing seems out of place interns of UI. While Persona 5 still has a worth wile story to sit through and fun new cast of characters, it does pain me to admit they rank last between Persona 3-5. Ultimately, in a year where so many sequels were pushing the boundaries further then ever for their respective games, Persona 5 feels safe. There is really nothing wrong with a Persona game that plays it safe. And honestly during this year, I really needed some JRPG comfort food. Persona 5 was more than enough of that comfort food and I am very glad to have played all 100+ hours of it.

6. Assassin's Creed: Origins

Assassin's Creed has been through some rough times this past few years. To me it feels like ever since AC 3, the series has barely kept its head a float and has just barley kept itself inches away from drowning. It must be so relieving for Ubisoft to see the amount of critical praise for Origins and deservingly so. Byaak is the Creeds best character since Ezio and I personally find Byaak to be more interesting. At the start of the game, Byaak's world gets ripped away from him and he is forced to pick up the pieces and move on with his life. The way Byaak handles this pressure and hardship is conclusive to why he is so charming and easy to root for. Outside of the characters, the world in Origins is beautiful and alluring to explore. If you have an HDR TV, this a must to pick up. The sun rays casting down on the golden grains of sand, Sunsets gleam purple and orange through out the sky, temples are pitch black until illuminated with your torch...this world feels truly alive. What I enjoyed most about AC: Origins is all the little side stories populated through out this lush world. A lot of them have unique and interesting stories outside the main narrative. And there is sooooooooooo many of them. Ubisoft took a year off before putting out this game and it really shows. It's also easy to see which games influenced Origins in major way. Exploring the world and completing dozens of side quests felt so similar to Geralt and his journeys through Witcher 3. Infiltrating deep within enemy fortresses to rescue prisoners while carrying them out on your back felt EXTREMELY Metal Gear Solid V. If you're going to take inspiration from other open world games, these are the two to do it from. However I think because Origins reminded me so much of past games is what kept me from ranking this higher on my list. Ultimately, if this is what Ubisoft can do with a year off; just imagine what they could do if they took the "when it's ready" release approach.

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5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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Alright! Top 5, lets go! A year where we get a great new Nintendo Console and a great new Zelda game on the same day is a pretty good year! BOTW was the first game I played through on my switch and I couldn't have asked for a better experience. Admittedly, I am not the biggest Zelda fan. Before BOTW the only Zelda title I had finished was A Link Between Worlds on 3DS. Other then that, I got 90% of the way through Wind Waker and only barely touched Ocarina. Even with my limited experience, it's easy to see how BOTW changes up everything about the Zelda formula. The world has rules very similar to the real world which allows for puzzles to be solved logically in a way video games almost never achieve. The last time I felt this immersed with a games mechanics and puzzle solving within the world was Half Life 2. And while HL2 only applied this level of logic to physics, BOTW applies this to weather and other elements like water and electricity. The game also feels no need to hold your hand throughout the experience. After the initial tutorial plains, you are on your own for the rest of the game. It is truly and 100% up to you what to do next. Wanna beat Gannon and see credits immediately? You can do that. Want to fill out your own map while endlessly exploring the world and totally ignore Gannon? You can do that too. BOTW does something incredible which I hope more open world games will look into: Breath of the Wild provides you with a land mass in which you decide what 'missions' to play through. Weather that 'mission' is an actual story dungeon or a long walk through a cold nights desert where you barely survive just to find a shrine you never seen before, BOTW allows you to decide what that means.

4. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

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Well this sure was a game, huh? When The New Order came out a few years ago, it was a double shot of nostalgia that was surely missing from the first person shooter genre. Long single player story campaigns, dual wielding huge machine guys, and murdering an endless amount of Nazis...It was something surely missing at the time. With The New Colossus, MachineGames could have put out a similar experience and it would have been pretty okay. Just a simple excuse to blow up a bunch of Nazi's would have been more than enough this year. Thankfully, MachineGames did not take the easy route and delivered one of the most over the the top thrill rides of 2017! As a collection, Thew Colossus has easily the best ensemble this year. All the old characters like BJ and Anya returning and mixing with new characters like Super Spesh and Grace brought some interesting new dynamics. Super Spesh and the "fucking aliens" is probably my favorite performance of the entire year. Not to mention, there are so many moments in this game that made me audibly yell "WHAT THE FUCK?!" The only negative comments I have for The New Colossus is that the game play did not click with me as well this time around. I'm not sure what it was but I felt like something got lost in transition between The New Order and The New Colossus. I felt like I had much more control over stealth and shooting in the first game where as in The New Colosuss I eventually turned the difficult down to easy and ran past almost every boss...Colossus's gameplay weakness only speak volumes to how good everything else around that game is.

3. Yakuza 0

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Do you remember how empty life was before those beautiful boys Kiryu and Majima entered your life? I do, and I never want to go back. Yakuza 0 provides a new starting point for fans like me who would otherwise have no idea where to start in this series. I remember playing the original Yakuza PS2 port with that horrible English dubbing. It was bad enough for me to only play through a few hours before quitting. I must have not been the only one because the Yakuza series had a troubled relationship in the US after that. The decision to bring Yakuza 0 to the states with the original Japanese cast is definitely what the series should have always been doing. It's the same reason why I played through Persona 5 and Neir Automata with the original Japanese V.O. It just feels much more authentic and closer to the source material than an English dub ever will. Besides all of the localization business, Yakuza 0 is just a fantastic game. I love its stark contrast between deadly serious and over top goofiness. Only in a Yakuza game can you have a plot about an ugly war between Yakuza clans over a legitimately useless yet illegitimately lucrative empty lot while causing the complete destruction of a rather innocent family mixed with a side character that only wears briefs and to which no amount of masturbation will cure his endless hornyness. Not only does Yakuza 0 mix these contrasting elements believably, it also does so in the most endearing way possible. Yakuza 0 may be the only game this year that left me a complete emotional mess with tears/snot raining down my face (they really dragged Makato through the mud towards the end and it almost killed me). I am so happy to have finally jumped into this series and I cant wait to start playing Kiwami very soon!

2. Super Mario Odyssey

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I don't have too much to say about this game which may seem surprising how high up it is on my list. Odyssey didn't re-event the wheel in the way Breath of the Wild did. Odyssey doesn't invite new players to finally join in on the Mario train like Yakuza did. It sure as shit doesn't have moment after moment in the way Wolfenstein II did. What Odyssey does do is that it delivered the purest and most joyful platforming experience possible in 2017. Playing Super Mario Odyssey is maybe the most safe I felt in all of 2017. No matter how crazy or fucked up the world/my life was, Super Mario Odyssey wrapped itself around me like a warm blanket and made me forget about all my woes while playing. For that reason alone, it doesn't need to do anything else. Thank you so much for that, Super Mario Odyssey.

1. Nier: Automata

What is life? What am I? What are words? What is??? Never has a game stuck with me after its final, final, final, but actually the real FINAL credits in the way Nier: Automata has. I have heard these sentiments from other people about Automata and couldn't agree more: the further away you get from playing the game and its true nature, the more it really hooks into you. Also like other people, I have never played a Yoko Taro game before this one. The only thing that has kept me from immediately diving into his past catalog is the general consensus that the quality just ins't the same as Automatas'...Perhaps what I respect most about Nier: Automata is how confident the game is in waiting to present everyone's true nature. In route A, you'll play through some interesting moments, like at the amusement park and a few other cool set piece moments. I enjoyed the combat enough to get the first ending and felt it was a pretty okay action combat game, nothing to terrible but nothing particularly meaningful. The beginning of the second play through or Route B was initially confusing. "So I just play through the whole game has the sidekick instead? Huh ok..." However, it quickly becomes apparent that is not exactly the case and the truths you believed in the first play through become twisted in unique ways. Route C and onward towards the ending of route E was an intense experience that I had to chew my way through as fast as possible once I realized what was really going on. The concept of androids and machines, what humanity means, and what beings have the right to humanity is nothing new whatsoever. It's also not the only idea Nier Automata tries to present. Amongst the many philosophies and introspective introduced throughout near, probably the idea that stuck with me the most is one every human shares: coming to terms with your place in a world that you never asked to be born into. Nier: Automata delivers these philosophies in a vehicle that only a video game could pilot. You'll jump from traditional hack and slash combat, to dual joystick-like shooter combat, from traversing a 3D open world, to reading a Visual Novel all within the span of minutes. It's not just the way Nier mixes up its game play but how that mixed up game play factors back into the story. The combination of game play, compelling narrative, and enduring characters (oh my sweet, sweet Pascal...) sums up to create an experience that is not for everyone. However for those it does speaks to, no other game or any other form of media will deliver an experience quite like Nier: Automata.

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If you've taken the time out of your day to read my list, thanks! Lastly, I feel like I have to make a blanket apology to all indie games this year. None of them are on my list. I feel badly about that but I really did not play very many indie titles this year. In the never ending dumptruck of good games that was 2017, these are my favorite games that Ive spent time with. But there are still so, so many more both indie and AAA titles from 2017 that are waiting for me press start...

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