It was March 2017 when we realized that it was gonna be an incredible year for gaming. It being that early is a testament to how great last year’s games were. Our list of 2017’s top games is a diverse and intriguing list of both AAA titles and smaller indies.
Games I was unable to play: “NieR:Automata” (PS4 and Windows), “Divinity: Original Sin II”(Windows), “Endless Space 2” (Windows and MacOS), and “Resident Evil 7: Biohazard” (Windows, PS4 and Xbox One)
Honorable Mentions: “Destiny 2” (PS4 and Windows), “Rime” (Microsoft Windows, Switch, Xbox One and PS4), “Tumbleseed” (macOS, Switch, PS4 and Windows), “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” (Windows and Xbox One), “Tooth and Tail” (Windows, MacOS, Linux and PS4) and “Uncharted: The Lost Legacy” (Windows, macOS, PS4 and Linux)
Developer: David OReilly
Publisher: Double Fine Productions
Director: David OReilly
Programmers: Damien Di Fede
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4 and Linux
From the strangely beautiful but also delightfully odd mind of of David OReilly comes the game where you can literally be anything and “Everything.” OReilly’s sophomore event in the avant-garde sector of the video-game industry finds him boldly creating a massive sandbox for players to explore. The gameplay is relatively simple.
You start as a goat, or some other quadruped, and quickly find yourself cartwheeling across your grassy home when a tree encourages you that you may find truth by exploring the lives of other things around you. Soon you’re shrinking yourself down to embody beetles, flowers and even as molecular as bacteria and then you’re enlarging yourself till you’re embodying trees, mountains, continents, stars and eventually entire solar systems and galaxies. This is pretty much the arc of “Everything.” Travelling and exploring, shrinking and growing, dancing and singing.
The goal to be achieved is to find and inhabit every single object available to you in the game. There’s well over 1,000 things to possess and control so you’ll have plenty to do and find.
The draw of “Everything” is its charm though. The game has a delightfully simple animation style, but its scope and scale is so massively enjoyable that getting lost in the serenity of its peaceful world makes for a relaxing and enjoyable experience and one of the quirkiest and weirdest ones of the year.
9. “Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus”
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Director: Jens Matthies
Programmers: Jim Kjellin
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
“Wolfenstein II” has the same draw that everyone “Wolfenstein” game has ever had. Killin’ Nazis. “The New Colossus” is an exciting and competently made first-person-shooter, but its real draw is the story and characters.
Some of the most bonkers story moments I’ve seen in a piece of narrative media this year has come from “Wolfenstein II.” Riding a giant mechanical dog that spits fire, a trip to a hidden base on Venus and a 7 months pregnant Polish woman dispatching Nazis with surgical precision while her acid-addicted teammate has a mind-altering trip during their mission. “Wolfenstein II” is raut with absolute craziness, but its story is still an interesting piece of sci-fi alternate history that it simply cannot be ignored.
It’s shooting mechanics are pretty standard, but the gun designs and mechanics are so fun that they really make every combat sequence fast and frantically paced.
Not to mention there’s something eerily comforting and enjoyable about a game like “Wolfenstein II” coming out in a year marred by Nazi’s and white supremacists marching in the streets of American cities urging for a change in American politics to support their toxic, ignorant and contemptible points of view.
“Wolfenstein II” plants its feet firmly in the ground: there’s no such thing as “good people on both sides,” if one of those sides is filled with Nazi’s. There’s no sympathy to be had towards white-nationalism. Nazi’s don’t need to be dealt with, “The New Colossus,” sets the record straight, they need a hatchet to the head.
Developer: Supergiant Games
Publisher: Supergiant Games
Directors: Amir Rao and Greg Kasavin
Programmers: Gavin Simon and Andrew Wang
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Linux, macOS, PlayStation 4
“Pyre” is the incredible child of “NBA Jam” and “The Lord of the Rings.” Alright, it isn’t exactly that, but the newest game from the always fantastic studio behind “Bastion” and “Transistor” have a new game that gives depth and lore to a 3 on 3 virtual basketball game.
You play as The Reader, one of the few existing literate people in a world where reading and writing has become outlawed. After your exile a group of passing fellow exiles who are members of a triumvirate take you under their wing. They quickly inform you they are group who participate in an ancient ritual known as The Rites. A game designed by the gods that allows those who have been exiled to earn back their freedom.
The Rites are a fast-paced and brutal game in which you control three members who must carry an orb of pure starlight to the other of the field and use that orb to extinguish the enemy team’s raging pyre. Grabbing the orb removes the protective barrier around your character, allowing your enemies to jump and dive to eliminate you for a few short minutes.
Different characters have different abilities in The Rites based on their race. Wyrms, a one-eyed, snake-like race can quickly teleport back to where they were a few seconds ago which will create a blast of energy to eliminate those around the explosion. Demons are slow and not good for carrying the orb, but have a huge protective barrier around them and can rush the enemy to eliminate them, making them ideal goalies.
“Pyre” has a really great balance between the awesome sports-style combat encounters that make up most of the meat of the game and the RPG elements of balancing multiple different types of characters and their abilities. It also has a lot to say about the transformative power of words, the necessity of rebellion and the bonding power of friendship. “Pyre” is another fantastic addition to Supergiant’s already excellent lineup and it is without a doubt one of the most stylish, beautiful and entertaining games I played this past year.
7. “The Sexy Brutale”
Developers: Cavalier Game Studios and Tequila Works
Publishers: Cavalier Game Studios and Tequila Works
Directors: Charles Griffiths, Tom Lansdale and James Griffiths
Programmers: Tom Lansdale, James Bailey and Guy Simmons
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
What do you get when you cross the mansion murder-mystery delights of the board game Clue and the time-bending reality of “Groundhog Day?” The charming, unique and atmospheric delight that is “The Sexy Brutale.”
Everyday you wake up in a vast mansion filled with secrets, plots and the most dangerous servants you’ve ever met. Throughout the course of the day your friends are being killed because they are uncovering the secrets of the mansion that its owner would rather them not know. Solving how to save your friends presents you with different puzzles, while traversing the maze of a mansion is in itself a puzzle. As you save your friends you acquire their masks which gives you new powers that provides access to new parts of the mansion and the ability to solve puzzles that were inaccessible in early parts of the game.
“The Sexy Brutale” is a fantastic puzzle game, its color palette is beautiful, it’s puzzles are fun but tricky and its story is delightfully creepy and mysterious.
6. “What Remains of Edith Finch”
Developer: Giant Sparrow
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Director: Ian Dallas
Programmers: Joshua Sarfaty
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
“What Remains of Edith Finch” is the walking simulator to end all walking simulators. The game is mainly the story of a family drama while the player controls Edith who has returned to her old childhood home in Washington to remember and reconcile the tragedy that has befallen her family for generations.Edith is the only Finch remaining, death has plagued their family for ages and we discover the tragedies of their lives as Edith walks through the old house and reminds herself what happened to her grandparents, brothers, and aunts and uncles.
Many gamers cry foul at walking simulators, or their more apt name of interactive stories, being considered games, but “What Remains of Edith Finch” does not simply consist of you walking around a house learning about your relatives died. The stories of their deaths are told in interesting points of view from the relatives themselves through platforming, puzzles, sometimes sailing down vast rivers, or by capturing just the right shot in a photography section. These minigame-esque vignettes break the game up into a really touching but varied story that cuts the monotony that sometimes plagues these genres of games.
“What Remains” is all about the legacy our families thrust upon us for better or for worse. It’s about the tragedies that we force upon ourselves and the irony of curses. “What Remains of Edith Finch” is a touching and emotionally rich game filled with tragedy akin to some of the best high-scale dramas out there.
5. “Horizon Zero Dawn”
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Director: Mathijs de Jonge
Programmers: Michiel van der Leeuw
Platforms: PlayStation 4
“Horizon Zero Dawn” is one of the most viscerally exciting games of the year. It gets ranged bow and arrow combat right and makes it fast-paced and exciting while not devaluing precision and stealth approaches to eliminating enemies. It’s those enemies though that makes “Horizon Zero Dawn” such a blast to play.
Set in a post-apocalyptic future filled with nomadic tribes, the world of “Horizon” is populated with dangerous, giant robotic beasts resembling real-world creatures, but oil instead of blood and gears instead of bones. Hunting and destroying every enemy in the game, conquering zones overtaken by a rogue computer program and uncovering the mystery of these beasts are just some of the few things to do in the game. “Horizon Zero Dawn” is also fleshed out with role-playing elements like easy to understand crafting and skill points. The game never truly feels like a slog and its individual types of side missions are incredibly varied and exciting.
It has its issues like cluttered material menus, the occasional odd voice-acting and bugs here and there, but playing as Aloy, one of the year’s best protagonists and a refreshing take on this particular genre which often prefers male leads.
“Horizon Zero Dawn” is a great game with tons a do, a massive world and some really unique enemies. In any other year, a game as well created as “Horizon” would be number one, but 2017 was that good.
Directors: Chad Moldenhauer and Jared Moldenhauer
Programmers: Eric Billingsley, Kezia Adamo, Tony Coculuzzi and Thomas Pryde
Platforms: Microsoft Windows and Xbox One
Colorfully illustrated, devilishly hard and eccentric to boot, “Cuphead” is the biggest and best indie game of 2017.
Sometimes referred to as the “Dark Souls” of side-scrollers, “Cuphead” is a series of high-intensity boss fights ranging from simple to not-for-the-faint-of-heart challenging. Each boss fight is unique in its own right, not to mention each one of the bosses was meticulously crafted through hand-drawn animation making for an absolutely beautiful style reminiscent of the 1930s era of cartoons when Fleischer and Disney reigned supreme.
The bosses themselves are unique caricatures, making every battle not only burst with color and an irresistibly jazzy track to match, but with personality as well. A mischievous genie, a shell-shocked mouse, a vengeful mermaid and a terrifying haunted train are just a few of the colorful characters you’ll be tasked with taking down, and the challenge is no walk in the park.
“Cuphead” is made to upset you. Dodging and moving around a flurry of projectiles with only one health left is enough to make you sweat, and although you feel like throwing your controller when the progress screen after you die shows you almost beat them, it’s almost impossible to not jump right back in. “Cuphead” is the beautiful but punishing game that just keeps giving even when you’re tearing your hair out because of it.
3. “Persona 5”
Publisher: Atlus USA
Director: Katsura Hashino
Programmers: Yujiro Kosaka
Platforms: PlayStation 4
“Persona 5” and the next game on this list undoubtedly win the award this year for biggest variety. I haven’t finished “Persona 5” to be honest, and I still have many hours to go before I even get close, but the absolutely insane amount of content is what makes “Persona 5” such an incredible game.
The game finds you relocated to a new school after you committed the crime of assaulting a man, it doesn’t really seem to matter to the authorities that the reason was because you witnessed him trying to force himself onto his date. After you’re relocated, and everyone in school is whispering about your criminal activities, you discover that you have access to an alternate reality where the school is a castle under the control of the volleyball coach, who in the real world is suspected of abusing the students on his team and coercing female students into having sex with him.
In this alternate reality his twisted desires that cause him to do such awful things are manifested in the form of a treasure which when you and your teammates steal will force the person to reveal their crimes. This is the bulk and driving story of “Persona 5,” in the real world you manage your everyday life as a student and try and uncover criminals so you can go into the alternate reality and convince them to change.
In the real world you’re balancing part time jobs, studying to improve your intelligence, bonding with your friends and trying to lead a normal life during your probation, and then in the palace the game becomes a stealth, infiltration game with combat sequences using a turn-based JRPG style combat system.
All of these individual parts could be a great game on their own, but allowing for a multitude of pathways to take and improve your character and your bond to other characters makes “Persona 5” a game so chock full of content that you’ll never not have something to do.
“Persona 5” is the game that surprised me the most this past year. Turn-based combat and life simulators are some of my least favorite styles of gameplay in the industry, but “Persona 5” is so bursting with style and substance that it makes it fun, fast-paced, engaging and fluid. If you haven’t given it a shot and need something you can really dig your teeth into, I highly recommend “Persona 5.”
2. “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Director: Hidemaro Fujibayashi
Programmers: Takuhiro, Dohta, Kenji Matsutani and Hiroshi Umemiya
Platforms: Nintendo Switch and Wii U
As previously stated, “Breath of the Wild” is the other game in this list that has a seemingly never-ending amount of things to do. Hyrule is just as beautiful as ever, with varied environments, stunningly complex architecture and incredible amount of puzzles scattered throughout the land, “Breath of the Wild” is absolutely massive.
Add on top of that the lovely characters, the fantastic story and the really exciting new things to uncover and do, the game is packed full with fun adventures for you to do.
The thing about “Breath of the Wild” that really sets it apart, though, is the design itself. “Breath of the Wild” isn’t some big, bombastic world-ending story. It’s almost peaceful and minimalistic in a way. “Breath of the Wild” is less about the big rush to save the world and more about dropping you into a world and allowing you to explore and do as you wish. If you want to save the story till the very end and only run around and do side quests and unlock shrines, you can. If you only want to do the quest and nothing else? That’s fine too.
“Breath of the Wild” is the open-world game that all others should attempt to be. Every surface can be climbed, the weather is dynamic and actually effects combat and it has the best cooking mechanics in a game ever. Exploration is a personal journey and whatever way you want to do it is always the best way. If that’s the kind of adventure you’re looking for, then “Breath of the Wild” is the game for you. A plus is that it’s portable everywhere with the Switch!
1. “Super Mario Odyssey”
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Director: Kenta Motokura
Programmers: Norihiro Aoyagi and Wataru Tanaka
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
If you had told me a year ago that my two favorite games of 2017 would be Nintendo games I would have been skeptical, but it’s true. “Breath of the Wild” and “Super Mario Odyssey” are a testament to the power and genius design of the Switch.
“Odyssey” is another feather in the red-colored cap of everyone’s favorite plumber. The world of “Odyssey” is filled with some of the most diverse, colorful and beautiful environments I’ve seen in a game before. Snow-peaked mountains, skyscraper covered concrete jungles and a floating kingdom in the sky resembling feudal Japan are just some of the absolutely incredible locations you go to in “Super Mario Odyssey.”
That’s not even close to the bottom of the barrel this game has though. Mario can jump, backflip, dive and wall jump his way to the most dizzying of heights with the speed and precision of an Olympian. The platforming in a Mario game has never been better and your ability to turn any area of the game’s environments into a jungle gym makes this one of the most viscerally enjoyable “Mario” games ever made.
When you throw in the new ability of being able to capture enemies and use their abilities to traverse the environment, suddenly “Super Mario Odyssey” becomes a thousand games in one. It is an absolute triumph of game design where every level entices you to find all of the little hidden items around the level and each new challenge feels exciting and different whenever it appears.
“Super Mario Odyssey” is not only the best game of 2017, but it’s one of the best games ever.
There you have it! The top 10 games of 2017. What were your favorites of the past year? Any small time indies or big name titles that we left out? This list also concludes our top ten list series of 2017 art and entertainment. Did you miss the others? Head to washburnreview.org to find our Top Ten movies, TV shows and YA novels.