To say 2017 was a landmark year for video games would be an understatement. So many incredible games released this year, including some that are likely going to be games I come back to for years to come. What follows are the games I chose as my favorites of the year, though there was an abundance that were close, but didn’t quite make the cut. I hope ya’ll are ready because I’ve waited all year to write this.
I know, I know. Starting off a list with a game released in 2016 seems a little weird, right? My game of the year for 2016 kept me coming back for the majority of 2017 as well and was definitely the game I played the most this year. Overwatch’s polish is undeniable, and that stands true a year and a half later. With constant updates, hero balances, and new characters released, Overwatch had a very strong 2017 that kept me playing matches long after I would have been bored by an average multiplayer shooter. Overwatch is a very special game that I’ll be playing well into 2018 and has also been solidified as one of my favorites of all time.
9. Sonic Mania
Oh, Sonic Mania. This may have been the game I was most unsure of including on my list, which is why it technically sits at the bottom. On one hand, the game is exactly what I wanted from a new Sonic, The Hedgehog game — wonderful pixel art, an absolutely killer soundtrack, but most importantly, the look and feel of the original three Sonic games that I love so much. On the other hand, it’s a Sonic game, and looking back on the core design of the Sonic series, there are gaping flaws that are hard to overlook in 2017. Fortunately, the nostalgic overload Sonic Mania brings to the table was enough for me to have a great time with it, and for fans of the original Sonic series, it’s a must play.
8. Fortnite: Battle Royale
Fortnite is such a weird game. Having been in development for a long ass time, I first caught wind of it on a Game Informer cover back in early 2014. It finally released this year to early access, and I never touched that core mode. It wasn’t until PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds exploded in popularity did Fortnite land on my radar. Fortnite introduced their own 1 vs. 100 mode, completely free to play, and it’s kickass. I’ve never played PUBG as I’m a Mac guy and Fortnite has at least somewhat filled the hole I felt hearing all the buzz about PUBG.
In Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode, players are sprung from a flying bus onto an enormous island where they are forced to fight to the death. It’s you vs. 99 other players, and survival is key. By combing through abandoned townhomes, fast food restaurants, and forests, you find weapons, traps, and healing items to aid you in your quest to be the last one standing. It’s tense and fun as hell, and something I never expected to spend so much time with this year.
Pyre is a game I knew I would be playing as soon as it was announced. Supergiant Games are one of my favorite indie developers, and Pyre doesn’t disappoint. Half interactive visual novel, half 3 vs. 3 arcade basketball, the game is bizarre in what it attempts to accomplish but finds success in its overflowing character and style. The game is polished and incredibly well balanced, with multiple unit types controllable in the sports sections, allowing for an abundance of team styles to be created and experimented with. If NBA Jam was your jam back in the day, you would be remiss not to give Pyre a shot.
6. Night in the Woods
I’m not an overly emotional dude, but boy did Night in the Woods leaves me feeling some type of way. Dripping with style, Night in the Woods is a beautiful game to look at. The art is all done by Scott Benson, whose work is both unique and minimal with a flavor all its own. Mae, a cat who recently dropped out of college and returned home is forced to face everyday issues that my depressed ass found all too relatable. Crumbling relationships with parents, a town that isn’t at the same as you remember it growing up and even awkward exchanges with a crush at a shitty party.
Mae’s pain resonated with me in a way that most video game characters could never, assisted by the wonderfully witty and charming writing. Night in the Woods is a sad game, for sad people, but its ability to find a light in the darkness, something I needed to be reminded to find, makes for a worthwhile payoff.
5. Destiny 2
I can’t stand the first Destiny. Any game that expects me to grind my ass off to make meager progress isn’t for me — I just don’t have the commitment, or better yet, the time. Destiny 2 appears to have done a 180 degree turn to the detriment of its rabid fanbase, but to my gushing pleasure. Destiny 2 is like Destiny, but the drop rates are on steroids. I was finding loads of exotic weapons and gear, something I literally never did in my many hours with Destiny. T
he way the game doles out rewards for completing tasks made it feel like an actual game and not some weird hobby I had to dedicate my life to. The gunplay is still as crisp as its ever been, and the entire games’ design is a sci-fi nerd’s wet dream. I found satisfaction in being able to play a lot of Destiny 2, and then just move on. I didn’t have to grind some dumb cave or do a raid six times — I could just play through the content and be done with it. And that’s just fine with me.
4. Resident Evil VII: Biohazard
This is the first Resident Evil game I have ever beaten, and it completely turned me on to the series in a way the previous entries didn’t. I’m not huge on horror games, but holy shit is Resident Evil VII: Biohazard a good horror game. From start to finish, it never loses the tension it establishes in its opening moments. The transition to first person couldn’t have been completed more smoothly either, as the environments are horrid are disgusting, but beautifully realized.
Taking place mostly in a single house in the Louisiana swamp, a place I find to be inherently creepy and fascinating, only helped to boost my enjoyment. RE VII reclaims its throne as the survival horror series to top, making combat deliberate and weighty again. A shotgun blast feels as powerful as it should when the ammo is so damn scarce — one missed buckshot could mean death when you only have three shells. I can’t wait to see what Capcom does with RE VIII because if they follow this level of polish and care, I’ll be snagging it on day one.
3. NieR: Automata
If I had to select one game from 2017 that was the most surprising, it’s undoubtedly Nier: Automata. When I picked up the game, I knew so little about it that I thought I would bounce right off and move onto something else. Little did I know the I would be playing Nier obsessively for the following two weeks until I saw its multiple endings through, one of the weird things Nier does so well. I fell so far in love with the cast of Nier that I began thinking of these fictitious beings as my friends and enemies — they are fleshed out unbelievably well.
The social messages in Nier: Automata are also impossible to miss, with deeply philosophical subjects being treated with respect and intelligence. Nier also manages to subvert expectations and toy with the player in a way that few games I’ve beaten have, adding to the magic of the experience. It constantly breaks its own rules to show you how far the game can bend if given the opportunity and it makes me wish more games took similar risks. All of this is in service to the incredible story sprung from the mind of game director Yoko Taro. Hours after playing I was still pondering my actions and the time I spent with it. Nier: Automata is truly magical, in every damn way.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Since it was announced, this has been my most anticipated game in years. The Legend of Zelda is my favorite series, no doubt, and hype be damned, Breath of the Wild reinvented it with such precision and grace that it’s hard to see the series ever going back to its old formula.
Breath of the Wild is the pinnacle of open world video game design, capitalizing on everything that makes Zelda great and cracking it wide open to reveal so much more. Hyrule has never been so rich and deadly at the same time — the map is sprawling and filled to the brim with stuff to find and do. Perhaps the greatest achievement the game accomplishes is its utilization of basic logic when designing puzzles. Things that should work because that’s just how they work, do. Have a metal weapon out in a thunderstorm? You’re gonna get lit up and it’s gonna hurt like hell. However, throw that same weapon at an enemy, they’ll pick it up and shocked themselves.
Emergent gameplay moments are countless in Breath of the Wild’s overwhelming world. With no guidance, the game encourages experimentation and exploration more than any other game I’ve ever played. It’s a masterpiece, and my second favorite game of the year, by literally a hair.
1. Super Mario Odyssey
If you told me two years ago that a 3D Mario and Zelda game would actually release in the same year on a new Nintendo console, I would have slapped the shit out of you, because that’s ridiculous. If you would have told me after I dumped hours into Breath of the Wild earlier this year that Super Mario Odyssey would be my favorite game of 2017, I would also have slapped the shit out of you. Yet, here we are. This may have been the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make about who deserves my number one spot, but Super Mario Odyssey absolutely earned it, even if it had to edge out my favorite series of all time to do so.
My love of 3D platformers runs deep; all the way back to Super Mario 64. Since that game, there hasn’t really been anything else like it. Super Mario Sunshine is great, but it’s its own weird thing, and not the sequel to Super Mario 64’s sandbox levels I wanted. The same goes for both Galaxy 1 and 2, which were the best 3D platformers released until this year; they’re great but again, not of the sandbox design I sought. Super Mario Odyssey manages to scratch an itch I’ve had for 21 years by being the true sequel to Super Mario 64, and it feels surreal to have.
Every level in Super Mario Odyssey is of the most polished design — secrets are hidden literally everywhere and the tools by which you find them are always with you. Mario moves with pinpoint accuracy and smoothness making running around in a level as fun as it was when you were first exploring Peach’s castle back in ’96. Cappy adds an additional layer to the formula, allowing Mario to take countless forms and showcases with undeniable certainty the creativity Nintendo’s team possesses. The game is like a fucking religious experience — I even teared up in the ending sequence. Super Mario Odyssey encapsulates everything I love about the series while throwing nod after nod to my favorite entry in it. 3D platformers are a rare breed these days, and great ones are rarer still. I fell in love with gaming in the heyday of the genre, and because of this, I will always have a deep connection with them and if anyone needed to be reminded, Nintendo is still king.
Super Mario Odyssey transported me back to the time when I first fell in love with gaming and reminds me why I’m sitting here typing this right now. For that, in one of the best years of gaming, it stands as my favorite game of 2017.