What? WAIT A MINUTE! That’s Danreb Victorio’s music! BAH GAWD!
Man, oh man. You’ve undoubtedly heard it and read it at all the places you get your gaming news, but 2017 has been a hell of a year and to me, it might’ve been the greatest year in gaming yet. Yes, 2002 had its own share of its in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Metroid Prime, and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker upon plenty of others, but make no mistake about it–2017 was certainly no slouch either.
We saw the steady revival and rise of Nintendo with the Switch absolutely killing it in sales thanks to two bookend titles in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey that both rank very highly on my list. We also saw PlayStation continue their dominance with sprinkled hit PS4 exclusives in Nioh, Persona 5, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Then there’s Microsoft continuing to appease to the masses and give themselves the restart they needed with the Xbox One X in addition to what’s probably the most popular mess of the year, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
Every instance I mentioned feature a game or two on my list, and as one of SmashPad’s heads, I find myself continuing to expand my gaming horizons playing as many of these AAA titles as I can while also acknowledging the existence of AA, indie, and even more niche games, such as a game I’ll mention in a little bit that actually didn’t make my list. They all are well deserving of their spots on the list and pretty much any of these can be Game of the Year any other year.
Now before I begin, because I’m fucking allowed to throw my weight around, in addition to the game I hinted at earlier, there are other games that I really want to briefly give some props to that aren’t on my Top 10, so let’s start with those.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle – Switch
First up, we have a game that all of us made fun of and talked shit about as soon as it was announced, a little team-up by Ubisoft and Nintendo. This game had no business being as good as it was. It was fantastic. The game takes aspects of what makes XCOM and Code Name S.T.E.A.M. (screw the haters; Nintendo had something here and nobody fucking bit) the solid experiences they are, but it also does a fantastic job slowly letting players get it. This is one of those games that really made me wish the Switch had an achievements/trophy system, because I’d definitely play the hell out of it even more.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Multiplatform
Like Mario + Rabbids, this prequel to Life is Strange is also better than it had any business being. Those who know me know that I absolutely hate the original Life is Strange–not because it was a bad game, but because the ending just tore me apart. This prequel doesn’t have Max (at least not the Deluxe Edition), there are no time powers, it’s about two characters fans already know the fate of, and to make matters worse, it doesn’t even have the original voice cast due to the strike they had this year… which means no Ashly Burch as Chloe Price, but you know what? The game ended up being excellent in just about every way possible because of how much heart it has.
Doki Doki Literature Club – PC
At first glance, you’ll probably think I’m crazy for putting a free otaku visual novel in here, but anybody who’s played through this roughly two-hour freak train knows that this game is far from that. Doki Doki Literature Club is a horror game that’ll fuck with your mind and feelings in ways that you didn’t know was possible. Think Gone Girl. Don’t watch movies or read books? If Eternal Darkness, Metal Gear Solid, Undertale, and NieR somehow had a child with a focal point on writing and decision-making, it’s Doki Doki Literature Club. This game even makes you delete files from the game source itself in order to accomplish certain things. It’s literally insane and I really wanna put this on my Top 10 now, but I played it after I completed the list and counted the votes…
All right. Enough of this. Here’s my actual Top 10 Games of 2017.
10. Pyre – PlayStation 4, PC
The bulk of our staff is made up of GameSpot Forum moderators and regulars that were a known part of the community from 2001 to around 2008, so I’ll openly admit that we have a lot of respect for Greg Kasavin and Supergiant Games. Bastion and Transistor were both very fine games, but Pyre is the one that spoke most to me out of the three. What makes Pyre so interesting is the fact that it’s so simple yet complex, and there’s honestly no way to explain what this game is to other people in less than two minutes. It’s story-driven, it’s a sports game, it’s a strategy game… it’s everything, and that’s what makes it so great.
9. Cuphead – Xbox One, PC
Cuphead was in development for a very long time, and I actually first got my hands on it in 2015 at my very first San Diego Comic-Con. From that point on, I knew it was going to be hard, but when I was there it was mainly a boss rush game. Fast forward to now, and the game is a whole lot more than that. It’s insanely difficult (I have yet to complete it), but both the combat and platforming are engaging enough to get me to keep trying. That and it gives me a reason to keep my Xbox One from collecting dust, which it’s been doing since Rise of the Tomb Raider.
8. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – PlayStation 4, PC
I didn’t want to start compiling my GOTY list until I played this game, and it seemed like I waited forever until it went on sale a few weeks ago, but I’m tremendously glad I waited. Hellblade is this year’s Until Dawn for me, a walking simulator with actual gameplay in it with some intense moments packed in that were only made possible by its gripping narrative and focal point on the main character’s psychosis. We need more developers like Ninja Theory to go rogue, because we need more AA titles along the lines of Hellblade. This is impactful storytelling at its best.
7. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana – PlayStation 4, Vita
Translation issues by NIS America notwithstanding, Ys VIII‘s surprisingly engaging story and extremely satisfying real-time action-based combat system kept me invested and further prove that Nihon Falcom might just be the king of the JRPG landscape. My only gripe with Ys VIII was the fact that Dogi wasn’t playable. And isn’t Dana just adorable?
6. NieR: Automata – PlayStation 4, PC
I’m a very mixed bag when it comes to action-based JRPGs. I don’t have much of a liking for Kingdom Hearts, but I do enjoy the combat in Tales games. NieR: Automata combines the action of good Platinum Games (Vanquish, Bayonetta), the weirdness of Dmc‘s platforming, and some surprising bullet hell to make this game one hell of a package. I didn’t even mention the game’s ingenius soundtrack and the absolute insanity that is Yoko Taro’s directing style either. NieR: Automata is another one of those games that tries to do all sorts of things and somehow does all those things right.
5. Sonic Mania – Multiplatform
Being born in the late 80’s, I was one of the kids that went from an NES to the Sega Genesis, primarily because it was black and “Sega did what Nintendon’t.” Not to mention all the games were harder, and that’s what I was all about. But after Sonic & Knuckles, I never had anything close to that same experience again… until Sonic Mania. To think that it took what was essentially a bunch of fans doing their own shit to bring Sonic back to where he’s supposed to be? That’s pretty damn impressive, and I’m REALLY hoping these guys end up being the new Sonic Team. The fact that they took one of the Sonic 2 levels I hate the most in Oil Ocean Zone and literally burned that shit to the ground? Fucking genius!
4. Persona 5 – PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3
I’m very familiar and have a lot of respect for the Persona series, but Persona 5 is the first and only one to this day that I’ve had the pleasure of actually finishing. Atlus’ decision to turn to structured level design for the game’s palaces rather than the randomly generated main dungeons found in Persona 3 and 4 (though Persona 5 has its own version in the Mementos) was the main thing that did it for me. The acid jazz soundtrack also did its fair share keeping me in as well, as I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. every night playing my review copy until it was finished. Literally everything about this game looks and feels awesome, even if it is about going to school and getting a part-time job.
3. Horizon: Zero Dawn – PlayStation 4
I wasn’t “into” Horizon as much as others were prior to its release, and though I got it on the first day, I wasn’t invested enough to continue, especially considering the fact that the Switch and Zelda came out a few days later. But the effort of going back and finishing it was totally worth it. The world to explore, the robot dinosaurs to kill… it was just a hell of a game that I had to Platinum (and the only other game with that distinction on this list is Hellblade). And to think that this game was made by the dudes who made Killzone, a game I don’t really care for? Yep, they got some talented people, and I’m definitely looking forward to jump back into it thanks to the Frozen Wilds DLC. I also look forward to this inevitably becoming a staple Sony series.
2. Super Mario Odyssey – Switch
I’m a Mario guy. He’s what got me into gaming. Super Mario 3D World was my Game of the Year four years ago, and I already knew Odyssey was going to be something even more special. Little did I know that the end sequence of New Donk City would end up being my most favorite moment in any game I’ve ever played (surpassing sinking down to the bottom of the Hyrule ocean to see what became of Hyrule Castle in The Wind Waker). This combined with the fact that there’s Moons literally everywhere make this a joy to play on your couch and on the go. It’s also a joy to watch!
Super Mario Odyssey is just amazing and it just might be the best 3D Mario to date, and it sucks that it’s not my Game of the Year.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Switch, Wii U
It had to be, and it was so damn close too. If Mario Odyssey did so much as change its look, it would probably end up here, but nope, it’s Zelda. As anybody on SmashPad would tell you, the game isn’t without its issues. It’s probably the most imperfect and flawed game out of every other game on my list, but when a game is this damn engaging and it makes you not even realize its flaws, you have something.
Breath of the Wild takes everything you know about The Legend of Zelda and throws it in the garbage for the purpose of self-betterment. It feels just like the original did–you feel as if you could do anything in its open world, but if you did anything stupid, you’d probably die, but it’s a risk worth taking because if you climb to the top of that mountain… if you decide to explore that little bit of Ganon’s Castle… if you glitch your way through that shrine, there’ll only be something else for you waiting to uncover through some other means. Zelda truly was an escape and a breath of fresh air truly deserving of the title Game of the Year, maybe even the Game of the Generation, and it’s on the fucking Wii U.
Isn’t that insane? Think about it. I’m not the only person giving GOTY to Zelda, but it’s absolutely hilarious realizing that it was developed primarily for the Wii U in mind. Aonuma has already confirmed he’s working on the next chapter in this now 30-year old legend, and I can’t wait to see what he and the talented staff at the Nintendo Treehouse have in mind for what hopefully should be another breathtaking Switch exclusive, especially considering all the ways we can improve a GOTY like Breath of the Wild just by looking at the rest of series’ groundbreaking entries.
2017 was monumental. I played a lot of games, and more so than any other year, even though I was playing games to mostly stay current with what’s going on in our industry landscape, never once did it feel like it was a job or something I had to put in my portfolio to get a job. We represent the most awesome industry our world has to offer, and this year was indicative of that fact… well, except for the loot boxes.
I can only wonder what 2018 has in store. With confirmed games like Spider-Man, Red Dead Redemption 2, Lost Sphear, and both the Switch and Xbox One X continuing to garner more and more support, it should be a good one. Maybe not 2017… but I don’t expect this kind of year for a while. My wallet can’t handle another year like 2017 this soon.
Honestly though, there is no better mental health condition.