The year of twenty seventeen (or 2017 for you number folk) has been an interesting one. Amazon finally invaded Poland and prompted a swift retaliation from Tencent, initiating the first ever Corporate World War. Also it’s time for my best games of 2017 and my pick for game of the year….I’m sorry?
Ah! My apologies. That’s 2027. So we’ve still got a decade left before Lightning Deals become a torture device as opposed to the reasonably-priced consumer goods they are today.
As for this year in video games, it’s been fantastic. Nintendo have released a console I actually care about, Japanese developers took the Kenobi high-ground and Enter the Gungeon is still tied for Eternal Game of the Year(s) with Xenoblade Chronicles X.
That said, the year itself saw some rather incredible games that deserve a lot of recognition.
The following 10 games are the very best games of 2017. That’s scientific fact* (*personal opinion).
10: Splatoon 2
It was an immense pleasure to review Splatoon 2. After the underwhelming release of Arms, this colourful, finely-crafted paint-the-base sequel to a cult hit on the Wii U lifted my spirits. Nintendo did indeed create an amazing, fresh experience in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but it’s when Nintendo gets experimental that I appreciate them most. Splatoon is a prime example of that.
It’s easy to argue that Splatoon 2 is largely the same as its predecessor, but when said predecessor is on the console equivalent to a desert island (Wii U), it’s safe to say the Nintendo Switch opened the floodgates for many new potential fans of their interesting take on a multiplayer shooter. Myself included.
It’s not without its problems, but taking out my hard-earned Aerospray MG and mowing down any filthy squids in my way remained satisfying throughout my time with it, and the variety of weapons at your disposal make it so that any play style, from snipers to brawlers, will likely find themselves at home. But always remember: PAINT YOUR BASE! It’s all about that coverage.
Honestly, Aloy barely made the cut here. The fierce, young warrior and her tech-wild adventure found themselves lost amidst the launch of Nintendo’s best console and a brand new Legend of Zelda game to go with it. But for me, Horizon was where I wanted to be at that time.
Horizon is a beautiful game. It’s easy to forget, given the unfortunate launch window and a year jam-packed with incredible releases, but this was the first of them all to make me explore Photo Mode. I spent literal hours framing Aloy mid-fight against a flying, metal bird at just the right angle as she notched three arrows to be plunged in to the flap-happy bastard’s chest cavity.
Speaking of which, the bow combat in this game is the absolute best in show.
Of the various weapons Aloy eventually has at her disposal, the trusty hunter’s bow is by far the most useful and enjoyable. Couple that with Horizon’s graceful, fluid controls and it’s a worthy addition to any top ten list.
My only regret is that I couldn’t experience Horizon in all of its intended glory. Though I do have a Playstation 4 Pro, my TV is neither 4K nor HDR enabled. I’m told that’s where the fidelity really shines, so if you do have the aforementioned tech, more power to you.
A captivating tragedy. Ambition meets disappointment. Despite still being very conflicted on Xenoblade Chronicles 2, it deserved a place on my top ten list.
The lows are low. With localisation and technical issues plaguing the pre-release and early days of launch, my time with Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was soiled by the uneven voice acting performances and hard crashes costing me hours of progression.
Still, the highs are even higher.
The late-in-year release likely means that many critical voices in the industry won’t have experienced the incredible scope, varied and riveting world design, top-notch art direction and a soundtrack to rival even Nier: Automata.
Nevertheless, I hope many find the time for this diamond in the rough come 2018. Rex and Pyra’s adventure to Elysium features deceptively deep combat in what often feels like a living fantasy world. The action-RPG is perfectly at home on Nintendo Switch, but be prepared to invest a lot of time to get anything worthwhile out of the experience. My final tally was around 180 hours, but I can’t wait to tackle the additional content to come throughout next year.
7: Tekken 7
This could have gone poorly. Tekken could have easily fallen victim to the same issues as Street Fighter V, but the delayed release (seemingly informed by the poor reception to Capcom’s heavy hitter) worked to its benefit.
Despite the terrible framing device, Tekken 7’s story mode is a satisfying combination of over-the-top action and Mishima lore. Heihachi deflects rockets with his fucking BARE HANDS! It revels in its absurdity whilst still addressing the deeper elements of the narrative. The rivalry between Heihachi and his son; Kazuya. Bearer of the Devil Gene. Which they also managed to link in to their inclusion of Akuma (Street Fighter). They believably tied in a god-damn guest character to their lore. Damn it Tekken; you’re too good!
All of that wouldn’t mean a damn thing if the fighting wasn’t great though. Thankfully, it is. It’s the Tekken you know and love, now with “Rage Arts”, akin to super attacks, and in a much higher fidelity. Customising the fighters and taking to the arena has never felt this bad-ass.
6: Yakuza 0
The Yakuza series is as niche as it gets. SEGA owned, unashamedly embraces its Japanese roots and usually comes off as a solid B movie. I love them, but there’s no denying the barrier to entry after five instalments.
Then comes Yakuza 0. The unexpected prequel to the entire thing, featuring a much younger Kazuma Kiryu and a series favourite as a second playable character: Goro Majima. Rather than force players through two separate narratives, the entire story has you take control of Kiryu or Majima as it progresses, with connected plot threads but entirely different goings-on.
It’s a prequel that doesn’t demand knowledge of the first game. Or any other game in the series. In fact, I think you’d be better off not knowing, because that’d spoil some of the tension within Yakuza 0 itself, and boy does it get tense.
The cut-scenes are of a much higher quality than usual
1980’s Japan is like a neon-lit time capsule and the voice acting drives home the crime drama plot with a whole host of fascinating characters. Truly, it puts the remake of the first Yakuza – Yakuza Kiwami – to shame with its story-telling, proving just how far SEGA’s Yakuza team have come, and just how much SEGA seems to believe in the product now.
I have some misgivings about the upgrade system, but beating up thugs in the streets of Kamurocho and Osaka has never been as captivating as this. Though Kiwami came out later in the year, Yakuza 0 tells a story that dwarfs that of its previous iterations by virtue of being entirely new rather than a faithful remake. And that gives it a rightful place on this list. Oh; and it’s hilarious too. Please do yourselves a favour and pick up Yakuza 0.
In the moment, Wolfenstein II was my game of the year. No question. It’s a masterpiece of story-telling and character development. I felt for the entire cast and B.J’s arc is unbelievable to say the least. Machine Games takes a delicate topic and handles it with the utmost care without ever seeming too precious. In an alternate history story of a world under Nazi rule, they really know how to make you want to start a revolution. Against Nazis. That now have ridiculously advanced technology. The carefully crafted levity amongst the horror is what makes this game such a powerhouse in 2017.
Sadly, Wolfenstein II is let down by its actual gameplay. Many of the levels are lifeless and the environments outside of the submarine (your home base) fall flat for the most part. It’s incredibly difficult to tell when you’re being shot and death will come swiftly for even the most hardened Nazi killer. (Set it to the easiest difficulty…. just do it)
So why not just watch it online?
Because putting yourself in the shoes of William Joseph Blazkowicz is as important to experiencing the story as watching it is. Going through B.J’s journey is necessary in my eyes. The struggle of the gameplay makes that next incredible scene all the more rewarding.
Do I wish it played more like DOOM? Sure. Is the story alone good enough to make it to fifth on my personal top 10 list out of the many games I’ve played this year? You’re damn right it is.
There’s no other way to describe it: Super Mario Odyssey is a delight. The addition of Cappy and the open world filled with Moons to collect make for the best Mario game since 64. I’d even go as far as to say it’s the first true successor to that formula.
Mario’s gameplay is so simple to engage with, along with hidden depth, and there are so many Moons to gather that it’s a constant drip feed of joy.
Above all else, Cappy allows Mario to possess people now! Years of hanging around Boo Houses have finally turned Mario in to the vengeful spirit we’ve always suspected. Let’s not ignore the fact that a Goomba with a mustache is one of the hundreds of funny things this game allows you to see. In fact, just imagine anything in Mario with a cap and mustache on – you’re already with me.
Whether you’re an expert platform gamer or newcomer, Odyssey does a fine job with its simple mechanics of inducting players in to its gameplay. There’s a broad difficulty range of Moons from easy to notoriously hard to collect in each world, meaning that it’s unlikely that less skilled players will be left out of the fun. And there’s also Assist Mode that adds a variety of benefits for players seeking a more casual time.
If I were being “objective”, Mario Odyssey might be the best game of the year. But this isn’t the time for objectivity. We’ve only ten years before the Amazon / Tencent clash!
Calm the fuck down. Immediately. Tales of Berseria is criminally overlooked as not only a fantastic release, but also a redemption story. After the previous entry, Tales of Zestiria, I thought I’d never love again. My enchanting action JRPG series with compelling characters, that explored their individuality via skits like no other in the genre, had become sick. Sick with awful plot. Plagued by bland comrades. Knifed in the gut and left for dead amidst its shallow narrative that never went beyond skin-deep aside from its very end. Don’t even get me started on the combat system. Ugh.
Enter Tales of Berseria. A prequel to the events of Zestiria. You cannot possibly imagine how low my expectations were. I was already at the brink of sheer despair that they were revisiting that terrible world. But Velvet Crowe, Laphicet and Artorius blessed that world with depth beyond my wildest dreams.
The English dub is fantastic.
Cristina Vee nails Velvet’s broad spectrum of emotion. The agony, rage, empathy, love – this incredible character the Tales team had crafted had been brought to life by Cristina’s stellar performance.
And she’s just one of an incredible ensemble that help bring the light back to this world that Zestiria had plunged in to darkness. Which is ironic because, in actuality, the two games’ themes are the opposite of the aforementioned.
Tales of Berseria tells a story of loss and revenge alongside a revamped action combat system that allows for ridiculously engaging combo moves as Velvet herself, along with the many party members she recruits along the way in her justifiable – if ill-conceived – pursuit of vengeance. Each party member has a truly engaging reason for being there with Velvet and the antagonists are well fleshed out this time too.
The words “Why do birds fly?” still ring as clear to me as they did back in January of this year because this story, gameplay and overall world stuck with me all this time. If it weren’t for the game’s reluctance to lean in to its violent themes (when somebody gets stabbed, they should bleed. Simple) and the ever-disappointing run of the mill ports your pirate ship sails to (DID I MENTION YOU’RE PIRATES!? IT’S LIKE ONE PIECE! ….kind of), this very well could have made my number 1. But in 2017, two other major Japanese releases are very difficult to compete with.
Ultimately, Tales of Berseria has revived a dead franchise for me. Just as some may rejoice when they eventually make a good Mass Effect again, my soul was soothed by the existence of a great Tales game once more.
Putting Nier Automata at number 2 is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. I don’t get out much.
Seriously though, you’ve probably heard more than you’re willing to suffer about this masterwork. The game filled with flaws that’d kill a lesser android. Instead, the droids of YoRHa rise above their low fidelity environments and obvious budgetary constraints, often using those concerns to its advantage, to tell the most engaging, impactful story of 2017.
Platinum Games, known for their action adventure pedigree, delivers a game that isn’t as impressive in the gameplay department as their other high-profile releases, but manages to make you question what life actually is through its narrative. At least, it did for me.
Nier’s initial play-through has struck many as a run-of-the-mill hack and slash game with an interesting shoot ’em up element using your special Pod companion. Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll find the true treasures that Nier Automata has to offer. As much as I’d love to bark on about my love for Nier and why it exists, it simply needs to be experienced. And don’t stop. Take the game’s advice at the end of your first play-through. I assure you that you won’t regret it.
Oh, and it has the best soundtrack of all time. I’m not being hyperbolic, and not just in video games. Nier Automata’s soundtrack is the Best. Soundtrack. Of. All. Time.
1: Persona 5
My Game of the Year for 2017 is Persona 5.
I cannot stress the following enough: I hate turn-based RPG games. Loathsome, slow moving hunks of junk that they are. For every person that tells me “Final Fantasy needs to return to its roots”, I have a trained assassin tracking their location. But Persona? Persona is different.
Atlus looked at the turn-based RPG and, unlike me, saw something deeper in it. Something traditional that could do with modernising without changing it altogether. Without running with its Square Enix-like tail between its legs. And so, they made Persona.
Persona 5 is the full realisation of the concepts Atlus has put in their previous Personas. I’ve always loved that attacking an enemy’s weakness grants you an extra turn, but now you can pass that turn on to a team-mate rather than just using it yourself. The Baton Pass, they call it. And it’s sealed with a high five to your buddy right before they deliver what’ll likely be a finishing blow.
Not only is the jazz / funk soundtrack one of the catchiest, most addictive components, but every single element of Persona 5 is dripping with its red and black theme with white accents. It’s the embodiment of style. The way the menus animate, the way Joker – the protagonist, runs past the battle victory screen and back in to the dungeon rather than hitting a loading screen after each fight is astounding. It’s so good, you can’t help but overlook the flaws in the main story because even its mistakes are overshadowed by how utterly cool it is. From beginning to end. Anime opening to closing credits. It’s simply cool.
I have three hundred hours spent stealing people’s hearts, bonding with my confidants, having my school teacher make me SP-restoring coffee and curry right before I plan my next run in to Mementos. I’ve given my wavy-haired self to Ann. I have suffered under the bed-time tyranny of Morgana. I’ve grown to love Sojiro and Futaba. All except Yusuke are welcome in my Persona temple.
Time consuming brilliance
Persona 5, realistically, demands a great deal of a person’s time. The level of investment required goes above and beyond what is reasonable to ask, but I think every second of my time in that world – flawed or not – has been special to me. Even as I type this, I just want to go back to Sojiro’s Coffee Place on a rainy day to listen to the chilled version of the music “Beneath the Mask” despite having the full soundtrack at my fingertips. Because it means so much more in that world than it does just pumping out of my headphones.
I love Persona 5 and it is, without a shadow of a doubt, my Game of the Year 2017. Over to you… what’s yours?