It’s here! Let’s wrap 2017 up and never think about it again. We can still remember the games… just maybe nothing else.
Slime Rancher was a game I played nonstop once I got home from the hospital following my car wreck. It was exactly the nice, calming experience I needed after weeks of stress. I rarely wake up early just to play a new game, so when I did that for Slime Rancher after staying up until 3 am to unlock a new area, I knew it was something special. It turns into kind of a grind once you near the endgame, but that first dozen or so hours goes down as smooth as butter. If you’ve ever wanted to get into a farming sim but felt that they weren’t gamey enough, maybe this one with the first-person exploration and bouncy, colorful monsters will be the one to grab you.
You’d be forgiven for assuming this was a followup to Limbo and Inside. Though it isn’t a Playdead joint, it sure plays and feels like one from start to finish. It’s hard to rank it among those games, but the fact that it isn’t an obvious bottom choice says a lot about how well it does what it wants to do. Little Nightmares is moody, dark, has good platforming, and has the best setpieces in a 2D platformer all year. It also feels a bit too familiar. And last year, more than ever, I was ready for new ideas rather than tiny refinements of the old. Though even with my reservations, it would be hard not to recommend Little Nightmares to anyone with a passing interest in horror, platformers, or both.
Before you ask, yeah it’s weird that I don’t have a number 10 but have two honorable mentions. I don’t think I loved either of them enough to be included on these lists that feel very personal and special to me. I missed out on more games that I wanted to play last year than maybe any other year. Between a lot of unpredictable stuff happening in my life and being burnt out a bit, and other things, there are a metric ton of games that I will eventually play that came out in 2017. So for now maybe #10 is The Evil Within 2. Or Danganronpa 3. Or Dujanah. Or Fidel’s Dungeon Rescue. Or… uhh… maybe Night in the Woods gets real good after the second chapter. Or maybe there’s some 2017 game that ruuuulllled that I just never found out about. Who knows! The world is a mystery! Okay!
#9. Getting Over It
This one snuck up on me at the tail end of the year and I would have kicked myself if I hadn’t played it in time for this list. As easy as it might seem to describe: “Climb a mountain using weird controls” it’s difficult to actually parse what makes this game so interesting to me.
It’s definitely not Bennett Foddy’s a-little-bit-too-pretentious narration. It isn’t the fact that sometimes I get further by randomly flailing my hammer around rather than meticulously planning out careful movements. It certainly isn’t that one mistake can sometimes set me back to the very beginning of the game after an hour of progress. Or is it? The moment that I knew Getting Over It would make 2017’s top 10 was when that exact thing happened. I had gotten further than I’d ever been, and tried to plan out a difficult hop over some cardboard boxes to a new area. I slipped, and my dude went soaring backwards. I landed at the literal beginning of the climb as if I had never even played the game at all. And all I could do was laugh, because I knew I was going to try it all over again.
Cuphead would be higher up this list if I didn’t feel like it cheated so often. Hand this game to anyone who hasn’t played it before, but has a moderate level of experience with platformers. See if they make mistakes because of their own fault, or because the game didn’t communicate a threat as clearly as it needed to. Spoilers: it’ll be the latter more often than not. Even though Cuphead can be too much for its own good sometimes, that doesn’t make me regret the time I spent with it last year. Imagine playing the best Mega Man boss-rush game ever made, but every 30 minutes you were legally required to have a developer punch you in the gut. I mean, I’d probably give it a shot but… hey they sold 2 million copies, so here’s lookin’ at you Cuphead 2!
#7. Nier: Automata
Nier: Automata wasn’t the emotionally driven masterpiece for me in the same way it seemed to be for everyone else. What it was though, was an intensely odd story told by industry auteur, Yoko Taro. Imagine if Metal Gear went off the rails in a different direction and was actually (mostly) fun to play. As much as I disliked roaming the lifeless areas of Automata’s world, there are scenes from that game that I know I’ll never, ever forget. They’re instances of sheer awe that something so audacious made it to store shelves and actual, normal, human people apparently bought it. I just wish it had taken me about half the time to see it all.
#6. Hollow Knight
When someone finishes Symphony of the Night, I can now confidently direct them to more than just Aria of Sorrow. Whereas Dark Souls is a split from Zelda and Castlevania into 3D, Hollow Knight is a worthy successor to Konami’s 2D throne. Hollow Knight is a triumph of 2D exploration and platforming. Nothing more and nothing less. I can only hope that 2018’s Bloodstained can raise the bar once again.
#5. Yakuza 0
Yakuza 0 is maybe the best written video game I’ve ever played. Effortlessly switching gears from self-serious crime drama to goofball comedy within minutes seems impossible, but apparently Yakuza’s been honing its craft for years. I should have played this series much sooner. If you’ve ever wanted to play through a (surprisingly progressive!) sitcom with a couple of murders here and there… I mean… I’m not sure where else to point you. Yakuza rules, okay?!
#4. The End is Nigh
I finally got my pseudo-sequel to Super Meat Boy!!!!! And it’s great!!!!!
I’ve written at length why this game meant so much to me this year, and I don’t have a ton more to say about it other than it’s maybe the most fun I’ve had with a traditional 2D platformer since Super Mario World. Just go play it.
#3. Super Mario Odyssey
Suuper Mario… Odysseeeeeyyyy!! I love when Charles Martinet yells during a Mario title screen. I always will.
This is a Mario game that’s just as playful and silly as it’s title shout. Though it isn’t my favorite Mario game, and I think I have more gripes about it than most, it’s still a couple dozen hours extremely well spent. The pure fun-per-minute ratio is off the charts with Odyssey; it’s hard to go a minute without stumbling across a new area, a new transformation, a new moon. It throws fun at you faster and more often than anything else on this list… which kind of made me think less of it when I tried to dive in for anything under the surface. If you’re looking for anything that requires much platforming skill or extra effort you’re nearly out of luck. Even Odyssey’s strongest challenges (barring the final, excellent one) feel like they go by faster than they should. was a bit dissapointed when I headed back into old kingdoms for a tougher challenge to not find much to see. It’s not a game I recommend trying to 100%, because finding everything exposes how shallow a lot of the game is. Compare that to Super Mario 3D World (… maybe the greatest video game ever made?), where every single challenge feels handcrafted and deliberate, several of Odyssey’s feel scattershot and empty. None of this is to say Odyssey is a bad game by any stretch, it still is my third favorite game of the year, but I feel that it had more potential for its endgame. As it stands, Mario Odyssey is a blast to run through and see through to its conclusion, and then do a quick sweep back once more to see what you missed. Don’t look too hard though, or you might realize that the pool is more wide than it is deep.
I would kill for a handful of DLC kingdoms though. Exploring a kingdom in Odyssey for the first time is one of my favorite gaming memories of the year.
#2. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
This will not come as a surprise to you if you spoke to me in person at any point during 2017, but PUBG is the best multiplayer driven game I’ve ever played. It’s such a simple idea in concept, 100 players fight to the death, but in practice it still seems like a futuristic idea that shouldn’t be possible. It’s tough to shake the feeling while playing PUBG that this is some sort of modern miracle of game design. I love the feeling of sneaking around a map filled with dozens and dozens of other people as I slowly gather enough loot to be a slightly less easy target (who will still die to the sniper perched in the grass). I love cooperating with friends to barely eke our way out of a bad situation, but it’s somehow just as fun when you flip a truck and all go out in a fiery blaze of glory at rank 70. I love the feelings PUBG can give you that no other game has ever come close to.
PUBG is 2017’s VR for me. It proved a concept that had previously been so utterly foreign that I couldn’t possibly see how it could work as well as it needed to. Not only does PUBG prove that Battle Royale games can be accessible and viable, its able to provide a singular gaming experience that I’ll never forget. One that I hope gets expanded upon for many years to come.
#1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I had several issues with plenty of the games I liked this year. Zelda is no different. But despite its obvious faults… Breath of the Wild is one of the best video games I’ve ever played.
I put roughly 100 hours into Breath of the Wild in the few weeks after its launch. I loved it, talked about it to everyone I knew, wrote a lot about it, and went on to play other things. But I could never get it out of my head. What exactly was it about Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule made it so appealing to return to? Last month I made that return for the first time since Summer and I’m about 50 hours deep into a game I spent twice that amount of time into just six months ago. Breath of the Wild is alluring like no other game I’ve ever played. It constantly teases you with one more mountain to climb, one more treasure chest to hunt down, one more shrine to descend down into. It seemingly never stops. This game does something that very, very few other open world games have ever done for me… it holds my attention. In worlds like Horizon: Zero Dawn or Red Dead Redemption, I never feel that draw to explore around another corner because I feel like I can guess what’s there. Another story beat, another collectible thrown on the ground, another uninteresting NPC. Maybe I’ll find a combat encounter, and in the case of Horizon, maybe it’s a good one.
What is it that makes Breath of the Wild unique? Well, a bunch of stuff. Unpredictability (weird stuff EVERYWHERE) , actual freedom (no goals, climb anything), hidden challenges literally anywhere to look (Korok seeds), game changing physics and environmental systems (cut a branch off a tree, light it, use the flaming branch to cook an apple and cause it to fall off the tree). It’s tough to go through all of this stuff without repeating previous posts or just things that have been reiterated on sites a million times over the last year.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the most impressive feats of video game design ever. Just… ever. And it’s my favorite game of 2017.
2018 has a lot of work to do to catch up. Good luck!