What a crazy year 2017 turned out to be! Despite the many feelings about the state of the world around us, video games showed up and delivered on all cylinders. Nintendo launched the Switch. Many popular series returned to our households and several newcomers entered our minds and hearts. I can’t forget all the feels either. So. Many. Feels. Damn, were there some good video games last year.
Due to having played dozens of games in 2017, I’ve upped my allowance on this Top 10 list yet again and will give proper kudos to my personal Top 15 games. It’s been a wild and bumpy ride in crafting this list (pouring one out for the great games that didn’t make it), but I guarantee the following games defined my year as a gamer, a critic, and a first-time daddy.
First, the five games that I wish could have made into the top 10 any other year:
15. Splatoon 2
I’m forever a loyal squid-kid thanks to Splatoon 2 bringing the experience to the Nintendo Switch. While my inky stint didn’t last as long as I imagined, I take my Salmon Runs seriously and just thinking about that new mode makes me want to grab a paint roller and jump back to the job. Marina for life!
14. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
The key to my enjoyment with Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is best compared to many a summer blockbuster: over-the-top story and action. This new Wolf is full of moments and commentary about Nazis that couldn’t be more timely, even if the overall package didn’t hit a home run with me like I would have hoped. Vive la Résistance!
Prey knows how to make a great first impression. Successfully divorced from the 2006 game of the same name (but still about aliens), I’ve never been more willing to smash every single inanimate object with a wrench before in my entire life.
12. Hollow Knight
One of many beautiful games I played last year, Hollow Knight takes the “Metroidvania” flavor and adds a charm to it that I found hard to resist. Whenever I entered a new area and heard the mapmaker’s humming, I experienced an uncontrollable hunger for finding him and parting ways with my riches. Now that’s good map marketing.
I couldn’t get away with a GOTY list without at least one roguelike and Unexplored is truly deserving of the honor. The way it procedurally generates a dungeon to craft a storied experience each time left me in awe and made me excited to see what laid in wait on every run. Maybe I’ll think twice before drinking the potions.
Now, after weeks of intense rumination, I reveal my top 10 games of 2017.
Cuphead is a masterpiece for the eyes and ears. When I played it for the first time, I was so captivated that I almost forgot that this is also one of the most challenging games released last year. The animation is silky smooth, the music is phenomenal, and finger-gunning my way through the parade of unique bosses was like Christmas on repeat. Cuphead was so worth the wait.
9. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
I’m a latecomer to Danganronpa, having played the first two main entries in 2016 and instantly becoming hooked to the narrative of high school students being forced to off each other to survive a killing game. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony continues this tale with a new cast of characters and interesting mysteries to solve, but it’s the implications that this game puts on the series that have stuck with me and left me clutching my head in my hands. There’s also a little part of me that simply likes making people have to read the title “Danganronpa” over and over in their heads, never fully coming to terms with its pronunciation. Dan’s gonna run, pa!
8. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
It’s been a while since the Internet popularized “taking teams”, but I’m totally #TeamChloeNadine now. Nathan Drake may be a lovable rascal, but I rooted for these leading ladies from start to finish. I want to vacation with them, go on more adventures, and eat so much pizza! It mostly plays like Uncharted 4, my 2016 Game of the Year. I already know that I enjoy that formula, but it’s the details that earned The Lost Legacy a spot in 2017. Chloe takes sightseeing pictures on her cell phone. Nadine’s tough exterior makes for satisfying banter. Chloe’s quips have a layer of vulnerability to them that I rarely felt in previous titles. Give me women kicking major ass any day of the week.
7. Night in the Woods
Returning home can sometimes be bittersweet, and Night in the Woods combines a small-town mystery with the realization that the home you grew up in is ready to move on even when you’re not. While I personally graduated college, got married, and now started raising my first child, seeing adulthood from the eyes of Mae Borowski gave me a glimpse of how not everyone lives the life they’ve always hoped for. Getting to know and connect with her friends gave me a joy that was real, even when I became aware of the issues that haunted them or the tough life decisions that they were making. I personally grew attached to Gregg, her old best friend. We did crimes and played a mean match of “Knife Fight”, a game that unsurprisingly is about stabbing each other with knives. I’ll never forget my time in the woods.
6. Assassin’s Creed: Origins
Assassin’s Creed: Origins gives me that Black Flag feeling. It may not have pirate shanties, but it embraces its setting and practically teleports me to the sands and oases of Egypt every time I plug into the Animus. Open world games, in recent years, practically drown players in collectibles and map markers, yet I’m rarely disappointed with where I end up when I hop into Bayek’s shoes. And Bayek is an assassin worth caring about too! He’s full of conviction, his wife Aya is badass (give me more Aya missions pleeeease), and now I have him cruising around on a legendary camel. If these are the new origins, I’m excited for the future of Assassin’s Creed.
5. Persona 5
Persona 5 embodies much of what I enjoy about the series: the school-work-shadow-slaying life balance, building my relationships with people around town, and a style that oozes into every nook and cranny of the experience. It becomes larger than the game itself. It becomes my thoughts. It becomes my dreams. It becomes… memes. I never saw it coming.
A big game with heavy themes, I still have a ways to go in Persona 5. It released shortly before I began attending parenting classes and preparing for my child’s arrival. Nevertheless, I’ve put hours into it and plan to see it through to the end. The idea of high schoolers tearing down corrupted adults as their shadow world alter-egos is a great reminder that we need to be good to each other.
4. Super Mario Odyssey
Not much is more iconic to video gaming than Mario, a mustachioed man in denim overalls that never actually did any active plumbing. He’s not even a plumber anymore either, cause Nintendo said so. It’s no surprise to me that, with all that free time on his hands not-plumbing, Super Mario Galaxy turned out to be one of the best concentrated celebrations of the never-ending battle between Mario and the king of Koopas, Bowser.
While the actual typographical makeup of the Mario universe has always made little to zero sense, the kingdom-jumping journey aboard the Odyssey took me on a sort of “greatest hits” tour of what makes Mario a great and inventive platformer. Even if most of the new denizens turn out to be one-off characters, the trip to New Donk City will forever be a highlight of how far Mario has come since his premiere.
If it seems that I’m glossing over the rampant hat-based possession, uhh… I kinda was. Mario is a war criminal and he will, one day, answer for his crimes. See ya soon in the Courtroom Kingdom!
3. Horizon Zero Dawn
It took about 3 hours for me to realize just how huge of a game Horizon Zero Dawn would be. My mouth agape, I knew I was in for something amazingly fresh. Something robot dino murdery fresh.
The entire world was a mystery begging to be uncovered. What happened to this place? Why are there robot dinosaurs everywhere? Can I climb the giraffe-necked dinosaur?! The answer to that last one is an enthusiastic yes. Over the course of dozens of hours, I would climb, run from, and blow up so many dinos. It still hasn’t gotten old.
While the combat could carry my feelings for this game alone, the story and characters are also of high caliber. Aloy is like a warrior queen with her spear and bow and the moments where I was able to influence her personality allowed her to more closely align my feelings with hers. I hope this isn’t her first and final robo rodeo.
2. Nier: Automata
No other game in 2017 has messed me up as badly as Nier: Automata. Perhaps no other game ever. When the story begins, players are thrust into a battle of androids against machines. Having played many a game, this is a struggle easily understood. Until it isn’t. Suddenly, I’m questioning where the story ends and the game begins.
It’s not uncommon that the more a game is played, the more you learn about it. Nier: Automata lives for this concept and bases its entire structure around that growing complexity. By the time I got to know the androids 2B and 9S, the credits rolled. Then, I’m back into it and my perspective has changed. Then, the credits rolled again. But wait, there’s more! Before I knew it, my feelings all those hours ago about anything are nothing compared to how I felt by the time the game concluded. Nier: Automata changed me, everyone.
At its core, it’s a solid Platinum-developed fighting game with some RPG elements, which is likely what tempted me in the first place. If we’re taught not to judge a book by its cover, Nier: Automata has a VERY attractive cover. It’s what lies beyond that cover that will ultimately stick with me. Glory to mankind.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I’m going to start with a disclaimer: I wanted to fight The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as my 2017 Game of the Year. It felt way too obvious. A Nintendo game on a new Nintendo system and I’m a major Legend of Zelda fan. I was set to mix it all up and buck any predictability. That would have been a mistake.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild doesn’t have to be the perfect game or even the perfect Zelda game for me to justify its placement on this list. I spent weeks playing this game, weeks filled with wondrous hours. I remember so much of it like it was just days ago. Link waking up on the plateau. Gliding into Hyrule Field. Taming a horse. Scaling towers. Watching memories. Finding koroks. Exploring shrines. Running from Guardians. Conquering Divine Beasts. Destroying Guardians. Climbing EVERYTHING. I loved it. It was pure magic distilled in video game form. I want to do it again. I will do it again.
This is the type of game I want to share with my daughter, an experience brimming with possibilities and no decision being wrong. This is why I make time for video games. The games I played in 2017 were great to me and I can’t wait for the coming years to be great to her.