2017 was a great year for games in the midst of a rather unfortunate year for quite literally anything else. There were a lot of new titles that made a splash, the Nintendo Switch had an amazing launch, and there were a large number of classics revisited that also had a big impression. Here’s my rundown of the top ten of 2017.
10) Graceful Explosion Machine – Switch, PS4, PC
In this quirky arcade shooter, players fly around shooting geometric aliens in a kaleidoscope of colorful explosions. The fast pace kept players on their toes, requiring a quick trigger finger to attack and evade. Energy management is key for using all weapons the ship has while efficiently taking down enemies. It’s easy to lose a few hours sitting with this one while at home, but the short levels benefit from the portability of the Switch.
This title is a short narrative puzzle about a man trying to find his daughter. The game has a fantastically unique art style that sucked me in, right from the start. The game can be easily finished in one sitting, even if players take their time to search for extras. However, no achievements unlock on the first playthrough, emphasizing the story and encouraging players to enjoy the experience. The tale is touching and has a lot of heart, giving players a lot of hope once it’s all said and done.
8) Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy – PS4
This year offered many classics that were remade or revisited, most notably Sonic returning quite successfully. As for me, Crash Bandicoot was one of my favorites growing up, and playing the remaster felt like returning to my gaming roots. Some people may complain about revamped collision which made the game harder, but it was a great experience even with the increased difficulty. Having all three of the original titles gave it great value as well. For fans of this classic, it’s definitely worth revisiting.
7) Hand of Fate 2 – Steam, PS4, XBO
The dealer is back with a brand new card game! This roguelike stuck out by giving the players a choice of what obstacles and events they would like to encounter in each run, but not the order in which they occur. Hand of Fate 2 also offered a wide variety of content, with challenges that could be things like a dexterity test, memory challenges, narrative choice, or realtime battle using Batman: Arkham style combat. The story this sequel told was also a significant improvement the original.
6) The Sexy Brutale – PS4, PC, XBO
Offering a night of mayhem, murder, and masks, The Sexy Brutale is a fascinating take on the puzzle genre. Players assume the role of a silent voyeur, watching the guests of a casino mill about and talk to each other. As the night goes on, each of the guests are murdered one by one, and it’s up to the player to stop each killing. Players will see how each guest meets their fate, and will be able able to interact with the environment in an attempt to save them. The engaging story is condensed in a fascinating way through vignettes, listening through doors, and peering through keyholes.
5) Golf Story – Switch
The Switch has had a number of big games that made the console’s launch year one of the best I’ve seen for gaming, but it also has a number of smaller indies that may slip through the cracks — don’t let Golf Story pass you by. The player takes the role of an amateur golfer who wants one last shot at his dream after being away from golf for 20 years. It’s a new take on the RPG genre, as there aren’t a lot of role-playing games based around Sports. Sure, Madden and NBA titles do have the “make a player” mode, but Golf Story focuses more on the story being told and the interactions with NPCs. In a year full of unfortunate real-world events, it’s great to laugh with a game like Golf Story.
4) Cuphead – XBO, Steam
Golly gee, what a game this one is! Cuphead is a labor of love featuring run-and-gun mechanics done up in the style of 1930s era cartoons, and the audiovisual presentation is unlike anything that I’ve seen before. Yes, the game is notoriously challenging, but it never feels difficult for the sake of being difficult. Every time I failed a boss fight, I knew what I messed up. Being able to get right back into it for another try keeps the pace up, and all of the power-ups feel like they have a unique use case. It can be rough for solo play, so my advice is grab a friend and struggle through it together.
3) Persona 5 – PS4
Persona 4 left a lot of JRPG players wanting more thanks to its fantastic battle system, fun characters, and (while a bit off the beaten path) great story about accepting your own inner demons. Persona 5 had a lot to live up to, but it nailed it. Persona blends life simulation with dungeon crawling. During the day, players will work on increasing their personal stats like charm and intellect while managing time with friends and other NPCs Why? Because these social connections grant power. The dungeon crawling is turn-based combat, exploiting weaknesses of enemies and trying to combine skills of the other players. The story exposes evil intentions of adults taking advantage of those around them — while it fell off in the final act, the strength of the sidestories held it together. The dungeons are also unique to each boss and represent their evil desires, so they had tons of character.
2) Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – PS4, Steam
There is so much to say about this game, but also so much that needs to be kept secret. What I can say is Hellblade’s story about mental anguish and pain is wrapped a quest to save Senua’s lost love. There’s a beautifully bleak world to explore as players descend into the underworld, and Senua is one of the most believable characters that I’ve had the pleasure to spend time with. Hellblade also has the greatest tension system that I’ve ever encountered, showing the progressive failures as darkness that starts to crawl its way over Senua. It’s one of the few titles that work hard to show how steep the price of failure is, and it does a fantastic job.
1) Super Mario Odyssey – Switch
I’m sure I’m not the only one who will have the latest edition of Mario high on their list, and for good reason. As a series, Mario has consistently offered some of the best platforming that videogames have to offer, and that holds true here as well. Each kingdom in Odyssey is an adventure waiting for the player to explore and master. For those who put the time into it, the reward is a seemingly infinite supply of new things to find. The graphics are also the best this series has ever seen, blending 3D with some throwback 2D sections. Personally, Mario is one of the few games that just puts me in a great mood – it’s hard to not enjoy the time spent, and playing this game with a friend is just as good (if not better.) Mario has had a couple of decades to perfect its formula of exploration, platforming, and atmosphere, and this gem is deserving of all of the praise that it’s been getting this year, from me and everyone else.
— Eugene Sax