2017 was an amazing year for video games and I tried to play a bunch of the big games along with smaller indies and older gems. Here are my picks for the 10 best games (that I played) in 2017:
- Horizon Zero Dawn: Guerilla Games previously made the gorgeous looking but not exceptional Killzone games so it’s pretty shocking how incredible Horizon Zero Dawn is. Playing as the extremely charming and bad ass Aloy, you explore the post post-apocalypse battling giant robotic monsters and try to uncover the mystery of how the world got to the way it is. The game stands shoulder to shoulder with any open world adventure and the variety and world building for the various tribes of the world and the design of the creatures is incredible, not just visually but creatively. Battling the creatures is also fantastically realized with so many different weapons and traps at Aloy’s disposal and you really feel yourself getting better as the game progresses, with creatures that were tough enemies at the start being able to be taken down rapidly after leveling up and facing much harder foes and there’s a great rocks/papers/scissors style mechanic where Aloy has elemental weapons that can critically wound particular creatures. It’s a must play for PS4 owners, especially since the Complete Edition was just recently released.
- Super Mario Odyssey: So full disclosure, I literally just got a Switch last week but I’ve going all in on Super Mario Odyssey and, even though I haven’t beaten it yet, it’s still one of the greatest games of the year. The game features amazing looking, incredibly fun to explore worlds and it dumps pure dopamine into your brain at almost every turn, whether it’s an awesome new use for Cappy, Mario’s magical hat companion who can take over almost any enemy or object in the game, or finding one of the hundreds of Power Moons that are scattered everywhere and you get rewarded with for practically everything you do. Even when you think you’ve messed up, you’ve probably just stumbled into a hidden area with a Power Moon somewhere. Mario also controls like silk and it feels great in both handheld and docked mode on the Switch. Breath of the Wild is getting all the attention but for my money, Odyssey is the reason to get the Switch.
- Uncharted: The Lost Legacy: The Uncharted series is one of my absolute favorite modern gaming franchises and it’s a testament to Naughty Dog that, even though Nate “retired” at the end of Uncharted 4, there’s still plenty more juice from the series. For Lost Legacy, you take control of the fantastic Uncharted 2 and 3 supporting character Chloe Frazier, who teams up with Uncharted 4 antagonist Nadine Ross to find a lost treasure in India before a ruthless warlord does. All the things that make Uncharted incredible are here including great characters and banter, excellent cover and stealth based combat, challenging puzzles and jaw dropping exploration segments. The game is possibly on the shorter side for the Uncharted series but that’s actually feels like more of a plus than a negative, as the pacing never lets up and it never feels like a segment is wearing out it’s welcome.
- South Park: The Fractured But Whole: The Stick of Truth was a great, fun game but Fractured But Whole improves things on pretty much every level. The biggest change is the combat, which is an absolute blast now and so much more dynamic and allows for a lot more specialized encounters and specific objectives. The superhero “Coon and Friends” setting is also just, to me personally, much more in my wheelhouse than the Lord of the Rings spoofing fantasy of Stick of Truth and it’s jam packed with fan service for South Park fans, with tons of recent developments like PC Principal and the relationship of Tweek and Craig but I was also pleasantly surprised that there were a bunch of cameos from character we haven’t seen in years. If you’re a South Park fan and you haven’t played Fractured But Whole, you need to check it out immediately.
- Injustice 2: I really don’t play fighting games online or even against other people locally and, because of that, Injustice 2 is a godsend in that it’s filled with things to do solo, including easily the best story ever told in a fighting game. The campaign is meaty and takes place entirely in the alternate Injustice universe where Superman became a ruthless dictator but was defeated and locked up by Batman and the DC characters of Earth-1. Brainiac arrives and it’s clear that Injustice Batman and the new Justice League are going to have to decide if they have to let Superman free to defeat him. There’s tons of variety to the way each character plays and there has to be a character for every sort of player and the combat feels like it has a ton of weight, especially the brutal super moves and scene transitions and the game continues to evolve with weird and wacky new character additions like Mortal Kombat characters, Hellboy and, soon, the TMNT.
- Yakuza Kiwami: Yakuza had a great year with a brand new prequel, Yakuza 0, released and a remaster/reimagining of the original game, Yakuza Kiwami. Having never played any of the Yakuza games, including 0, Kiwami was my first foray into the melodramatic wackiness of the series and I was almost immediately hooked. The combination of overly dramatic, intense storytelling combined with old school beat em up combat and tons of side diversions is something completely unique to the Yakuza series and it’s the closest I’ll probably ever get to going to Japan with it’s hostess bars, ramen houses and convenience stores full of strange food and drinks. Kazuma Kiryu is a great stoic, bad ass character to play as and the supporting cast like the unhinged Majima (who bursts out unexpectedly now to attack you) are fun as well.
- Call of Duty: WW II: Much like Injustice 2, I’m really only here for CoD single player and WWII had a solid but at times ridiculous new take on video game World War II. Playing a soldier in the Big Red One infantry unit, you’ll go from Normandy into the heart of Germany, participating in some massive and brutal real life battles and the game looks and sound fantastic. There’s a bunch of stand out moments, with the best probably being the undercover espionage mission in Paris but some set pieces are kind of ridiculous and feel more like Michael Bay than Spielberg. I still think the strangely derided Infinite Warfare last year had one of the best campaigns since probably Black Ops 2 but WWII is an extremely solid entry in the series that, campaign wise, is back on the rise after the horrible nadir of Black Ops 3.
- A Hat in Time: An extremely charming throwback to Gamecube era platformers, A Hat in Time puts you in the shoes of Hat Girl, who must travel through weird and wacky lands to collect items that can control time, which Hat Girl’s rival Mustache Girl wants to get first. The writing and humor is great, with some fun meta video game jokes and the gameplay is fantastic as well and gets more varied as the game goes on, like a stealth mission inside an active movie studio or a murder mystery aboard a speeding train. The designs of the characters and music are just delightful and it’s just overall an excellent 3D platformer that, if you’re a fan of the genre, you should definitely seek out.
- Nex Machina: Eugene Jarvis is a gaming legend and Nex Machina was his latest masterpiece. Coming from Jarvis and the team behind Resogun and Super Stardust HD, Housemarque, Nex Machina is a fast paced twin stick shooter in the vein of Jarvis’ Robotron or Smash TV that has you saving humans and battling robotic enemies in a fantastic looking future world that is made entirely from gorgeous voxel graphics. The soundtrack is also incredible and it’s an intense arcade shooter that calls back to the classic while still feeling modern.
- 88 Heroes: 88 Heroes is probably, at it’s core, just a solid 2D platformer but what really sets it apart and makes it tons of fun to play is the creativity and variety for it’s titular superhero team. Basically meaning you have 88 lives to beat the, admittedly pretty damn hard, game, you take control of a random member of the 88 Heroes team, all of whom play wildly different from each other. Some are kind of standard controlling platforming characters but others have weird control schemes that you normally don’t see in a platformer or some sort of strange gimmick, like a character who can flip a coin and has a 50/50 chance of either warping directly to the end of a level or blowing up. It’s almost worth constantly dying just to see and play as each member of the team and you can collect coins in the levels to resurrect your favorites that have already died. It’s not going to revolutionize the platformer genre but it’s sense of humor and the gameplay variety that comes from the 88 (98 on the Switch version!) characters makes it worth checking out.
- Grave Chase
- Rise & Shine
- Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite