2017 featured another fantastic lineup of games from all across the spectrum. The question of how ‘good’ the year was for videogames is fairly absurd from my vantage point. Newsflash: EVERY YEAR is a good year for videogames. Some years may have some lower moments or unfortunate news stories (2017 certainly fits this description) but with the wide variety of companies and people making every kind of game you could possibly imagine, there’s always more than enough to keep one busy with the latest releases.
With that said, hot DAMN did 2017 have some kick-ass stuff. From the AAA sphere to the smallest of indie developers, 2017 was an embarrassment of riches for any fan of any genre. Cutting the list to ten and arbitrarily using numbers to designate my feelings towards each game was more difficult than usual this year. But, below are ten games I’m fairly certain anyone reading this will find well worth their time.
However, before that, there’s some other, potentially dubious awards that need to be given out.
2017 Game I Wont Forget To Play In 2018: Thimbleweed Park
I still can’t believe that Ron Gilbert made essentially made a new SCUMM game in 2017 that spoofs The X-Files and I haven’t touched it. It’s like someone scanned my brain and said ‘yeah, he’d dig this’. That speaks to how great of a year it was, but this is one I definitely will etch out time for in the coming lull. By all accounts, it’s a well written and funny send-up to the Lucasarts days of yore while also modernizing the design a bit and generally being a very pleasant experience. It’s purchased, ready to go, now all I need is a little bit of time…
December 2017 Game That May Have Made The List If It Wasn’t For The Impatience Of The Author: Xenoblade Chronicles 2
It happens every year. The fact is this: most publications start their GOTY deliberations in late November so everyone can skedaddle away for Christmas vacation. As such, if a game releases in December, it really doesn’t have a shot given the time constraints, which is too bad for the upcoming sequel to the very best JRPG of the last generation. I’m very hopeful that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 will be a stellar game and will fill many hours of time on my Switch, but with so many games to catch up on after justifying their purchase because of those Black Friday sales prices, there’s just no way I could possibly carve out enough time to give this game its properly give this title its due. Lucky for us, nothing comes out in January or February, so there’s plenty of time…Right?!?
2018’s Biggest Gaming Question: Will VR Still Be A Thing?
Okay let’s get two big things out there up front: VR is really cool, and VR is definitely a part of the future. The problem is that its role in the present is on shaky ground. As a PSVR owner, I certainly like mine. It’s great to bring out at parties, and it’s certainly been a big hit in the social circle. I’ve had a good time with games like Headmaster and Job Simulator. Farpoint showed that, yes, it’s possible to play a ‘real’ game fully designed for VR. However, since launch Sony really hasn’t announced much, and developers are backing out left and right as the nice contracts given out by headset makers dry up. As a first adopter of hardware like this, I knew this was a possibility, but as a believer in the tech, 2018 is shaping up to be a very dusty year for my headset unless Sony and other companies are withholding some big guns. Here’s hoping.
Turd Of The Year: Need For Speed: Payback – Full Review
This one still pisses me off. For the record, turd of the year doesn’t necessarily mean worst game of the year, as I’m sure there have been worse, but with 2017 so loaded with simulation racers, I was very amped for a more lighthearted racing affair. The E3 trailer made it look so promising, and the end product was anything but. Funky controls, a truly abysmal story, a lack of any pizzazz, and more loot box hell made Payback easily my biggest bummer of 2017. Frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the final nail in the legendary franchise’s coffin. EA made many (many, many, many…) gaffes this year including the highly disappointing Mass Effect Andromeda and some really seedy business tactics, but this one is the cherry on top of the poop pudding. Thanks, Tyler Morgan. You killed Need For Speed. You’re the worst.
Now, for my End-All, Be-All Absolutely 100% Defacto Completely
Faultless List Of The Top Ten Games Of 2017
10. Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Is it wrong to put a remaster on a best games of the year list, particularly a year this great? Well when it’s possibly the best HD Remaster ever created, that answer is a resounding ‘no’. Final Fantasy XII was misunderstood and underappreciated upon its original release back in 2006, but it’s aged like a fine wine with this stellar port that brings it gloriously into the HD era with a beautifully re-composed soundtrack and visuals that hold up surprisingly nicely. But the real star of the show has to be the ability to speed up the game to make its notorious grinding fly by. I now require this feature in every JRPG I play. A truly exceptional remaster all around.
9. South Park: The Fractured But Whole – Full Review by Steven Brown
I absolutely adored South Park: The Stick Of Truth when it came out in 2014. For my money, it’s the best game based on a TV show ever made. A fun Paper Mario clone set in a flawless rendition of South Park with writing on par with the show due to the close involvement of Matt Stone and Trey Parker — I can’t imagine a videogame ever coming closer to capturing the essence of it’s source material than this one. However, since it’s release, South Park’s brand of offensive-yet-not-because-everyone’s-a-target humor has waned on me as I watched the show less and less. Because of that, I wasn’t as excited for The Fractured But Whole as I thought I was going to be. Maybe all that was necessary was a break, because this game had me in stitches while Morgan Freeman taught me time-bending fart powers at his Mexican restaurant, among a litany of other completely preposterous, messed up situations. This game is essentially a bigger, longer version of The Stick Of Truth, but the grid-based combat mixed things up nicely, and I was surprised at how many times I would mix up my squad with other characters depending on the combat scenarios.
8. Cuphead – Full Review by Mike Suskie
I. Just. Can’t. Stop. LOOKING. At. Cuphead. The freaking title screen still blows my mind every time I turn it on. A friend at work came to my house one night to watch me play it just so he could see it. Cuphead is obviously an artistic marvel with it’s ode to the lunacy of 1930’s cartoons (while conveniently ignoring the rampant racism) but it would only be looked at as a neat aside if it wasn’t for the complete package that it is. The music is just as much of a joyous homage to the source material as the art is, and it doesn’t hurt that Cuphead is actually a pretty fun little game. It’s a tad basic, but the controls are tight, and the bosses are inventive enough that I didn’t mind dying 15 times while learning the patterns. Is it hard? Damn right it is, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Cuphead will prove to be a timeless game remembered long after most games this year are forgotten.
7. Persona 5 – Full Review by Darren Forman
On the back of the box, Persona 5 announces its intention to take your heart, and this game certainly did. Rarely if ever have I played a game oozing this much style out of every aspect from the menus, music, character design, setting, and everything in between. As a former Tokyo resident, no game has ever captured what makes that city as lit as it is like Persona 5. Also, it happens to be a phenomenal JRPG that modernizes the genre in countless ways while also maintaining a dedication to the particular quirks that made Shin Megami Tensei the franchise it is today. And with easily over 100 hours of content, the bang for the buck here is unmatched on this list. Maybe it’s not the best game of 2017, but it’s easily the coolest at the party.
6. Super Mario Odyssey – Full Review by Mike Suskie
Surprise! Nintendo made a new 3D Mario game, and it’s absolutely magical. It’s almost become routine, to the point where I wasn’t as jazzed about it as I should have been while playing through it. “Ho-hum, everything is wonderful and amazing. This is one of the best platformers I’ve ever played…hmm, what should I eat for dinner?”, I was thinking to myself. Nintendo’s technical mastery of the modern 3D platformer didn’t truly become special until finishing the game, as after the (amazing) ending of the main quest, Odyssey gives the players tons and tons of reasons to go back and collect hundreds more moons. When it ends, it’s truly only beginning, and some of the most imaginative, memorable parts of Mario Odyssey are in hidden post credits. I don’t know if I’ll get all 800 moons, but I’m going to have a damn good time trying.
5. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony – Full Review by Michael Cunningham
Given that the Danganronpa series is essentially comprised of books with occasional bits of interactivity thrown in, it’s really difficult to talk about anything in them without spoiling it. The first two games released in quick succession a couple of years back, and the wait for a new round of class trials has been agonizing for fans of the series like myself. While the changes to the core game are minimal, anyone playing Danganronpa at this point is here for the story, and the third entry does not disappoint with another captivating tale of both hope and despair. The trademark lunacy that a series featuring a homicidal talking bear is in full force here, believe me. The game has the strongest cast of characters to date in the series, and the ending is absolutely mind boggling for anyone who has been playing the franchise since its inception. Seriously, the ending is madness. I cannot stress this enough. Sheer, unrelenting madness.
4. Nier: Automata – Second Opinion by Sparky Clarkson
Very rarely does a game warrant me playing through it a second time, and one of the things that kept me from playing Nier: Automata upon its original release back in February was the knowledge I had to beat it multiple times to truly get the whole scope of what’s actually going on in this completely insane, supremely depressing-in-a-good-way game from Yoko Taro. Also, don’t let that mislead you. The path to the ‘true’ ending actually has surprisingly little replayed content. While not the best hack-and-slash title from developer Platinum Games, it’s easily the most fascinating, and the combat was juuuuuuuust good enough to keep me engaged while I unraveled what the hell was going on in this truly surreal experience. There is so much I want to say about this game, but the less said, the better, so go check it out. Lastly, if I gave an award for best soundtrack, Nier would take it by twenty lengths.
3. Sonic Mania – Full Review
For the record, if eight-year-old Jarrod was making this list, Sonic Mania would be #1. Christian Whitehead and his team finally accomplished what Sega has been attempting to do for over twenty years now — recapture the magic of the original Sega Genesis classics. On top of that, they were able to make a truly HD title that would have been completely impossible in the 16-bit era while also maintaining a classic feel as sonic screams through levels at dizzying speed. Add to that a fantastic soundtrack, and Sonic Mania is right up there with the very best of the franchise. Unfortunately, as seen in the release of Sonic Forces, Sega seems to have learned nothing. Oh well, we finally got one good one, right?
2. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus – Full Review
While 2017 was a great year for videogames, it was a pretty crappy year for just about every other aspect of life, especially when I had to watch actual Nazis marching on American streets chanting ‘blood and soil’ while holding goddamn Wal-Mart tiki torches. Thankfully Wolfenstein: The New Colossus showed up at the right time to show us that, actually, Nazi rule would be a profoundly shitty thing. Thankfully it wasn’t all doom-and-gloom, as the game presented this truly dark alternate history with a surprising amount of heart and humor. Add to that some fantastic mechanics that give the player multiple ways to play, and The New Colossus has become one of my favorite shooters ever. I used stealth just as much as I did excessive force. Don’t want to do that? That’s okay, pull out a couple of triple-barrel shotguns and turn every Nazi in the area into hamburger. Given everything going on in the world right now, it’s more satisfying than I could’ve possibly imagined.
1. The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild – Full Review by Mike Suskie
It couldn’t have been anything else. No game has ever let the player make their own adventure quite like The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. For people that want to spend 150 hours going through every shrine, getting every heart, completing every side quest, they can. If somebody wants to bumrush Hyryle Castle to fight Calamity Ganon with three hearts and a stick? Sure man, go for it. See that wall over there? Go climb it, something cool is probably on top of it. There is no wrong way to play this game, and no title in 2017 kept me absolutely glued to it like this one did. Zelda and my Switch showed up in the mail after an excruciating extra week in Chinese customs to confirm it wasn’t capitalist propaganda, and it was the only game I played for an entire month while I climbed towers and slayed beasts. Selling this game on the series nostalgia I felt would be doing it an extreme disservice — Breath Of The Wild is a foundation-shifting achievement that takes a beloved franchise in crazy new directions, and in a year of extremely fierce competition, was far-and-away my clear choice for the 2017 game of the year. However, moreso than its achievements as a game, Breath Of The Wild’s signature trick was serving as an amazing sales pitch and introduction to the Nintendo Switch. As it always is, the reports of Nintendo’s death were greatly exaggerated after the questionable Wii U, and the Switch started the show with a bang to kick off a truly stellar first nine months on the market. If 2017 taught me anything, it’s that Nintendo’s future is bright. Very bright, indeed.
Honorable mentions: Yakuza 0, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Resident Evil VII, Destiny 2, Farpoint.
In search of a dramatic change of pace, he sold everything he had (including 950 videogames) and shipped off to Asia where he's taught English and lived in Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan, Thailand, and now China.
He still loves his games, priding himself in his varied taste and playing everything from Disgaea to Madden. After getting a taste of the glitz of Beijing last year working at a Chinese mobile game developer, Jarrod went back to teaching and currently works in Qitaihe, Heilongjiang provide where the weather is cold and the noodles are poppin'.
Jarrod used to write for sites like GamesRadar where he had the esteemed pleasure of reviewing Wii ports and PS Move launch games for peanuts. After a multi-year hiatus, he is happy to get back into reviews with GameCritics.
...He read the site as a kid, which should make Brad, Mike, and Daniel feel old as hell, considering he's almost 30.