It’s that time of the year again when we get to sit back, relax and reflect on the great games we got to play in 2017. We got to explore the far reaches of Hyrule, stomped Goombas, killed some robot dinosaurs, ventured deep into the deserts of Egypt, went treasure hunting and shot some alien scum with buddies. It was a year in which Nintendo proved to us that they still have that something special by releasing the Switch. Not wanting to miss out on all the 4K hype, Microsoft got a chance to flex their 4K muscles when they released the Xbox One X. As always, PlayStation stole the hearts of fans with their amazing exclusives.
As was the case last year, there are a few things to take note of. Although we rated the games from one to ten, these placements are mostly due to personal taste and preference. We did not consider re-makes or remasters of older titles. As with the previous year, I decided to include some honourable mentions.
Cuphead – Good old 1930’s butt-kicking
After what seemed like years of waiting for Cuphead to finally grace our the Xbox One, our patience was finally rewarded in 2017. A mixture of 1930’s cartoons aesthetics and tough as nails yet addictive gameplay, sprinkled with a liberal dose of throwing your controller out the window, Cuphead quickly became one of the most unique (and sometimes frustrating) gaming experiences in recent memory.
The game sees players taking on the role of the adorable Cuphead (and Mugman in co-op) as they try and repay their debt to the devil by partaking in a bunch of boss fights. While I did die a lot (so many death screens), I always found myself sucking it up and trying again and again… and again (you get the picture)… until I could finally raise my controller victoriously. Cuphead is equal parts punishing and rewarding, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins – Fight like an Egyptian
With many losing faith in the the brand, Assassin’s Creed: Origins was just what the franchise needed to help it back on its feet.
Origins follows Bayek on a quest for revenge. Although it’s a tale we’ve all heard before, what differentiates it from its predecessors, besides the gorgeous Egyptian setting, is the fact that Bayek is actually a protagonist many found themselves drawn to. Where previous protagonists in this series of games tended to alienate the player with their cardboard-like personalities, Bayek feels more layered and, to be honest, better written than previous protagonists.
Not only did Assassin’s Creed: Origins introduce a brand new (and interesting) protagonist, but the game also streamlined many mechanics, introduced RPG systems and even overhauled the combat. Gone are the days of enemies patiently waiting for their turn to attack you. Instead, it features a more Dark Souls-like combat system where players need to lock on to their opponents and wait for the right opportunity to strike (or face a quick death).
It’s amazing how a few tweaks, a beautiful new setting and a great protagonist has helped make Assassin’s Creed: Origins become one of the best games of the year.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War – You have my sword, and my bow, and my Orc
What can be more fun than getting a group of overly excited and bloodthirsty Orcs together and then storming an enemy fortress? Turns out not much. While Shadow of War might be seen as more of the same, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, you will still be playing as the ranger, Talion. Yes, you are still out on a quest for revenge. However, thanks to some new improvements, you’ll soon realise that there is so much more to the game than first meets the eye.
With the more nuanced and improved Nemesis system, coupled with a new siege mechanic, I found myself making enemies as rapidly as I made (converted) friends. I quickly discovered that unlike other games out there, Shadow of War shines when you find yourself on the pointy end of an Orc spear (which might sound weird). Being killed doesn’t mean the end. Instead, you’ll develop new and exciting relationships with your murderer as they become your nemesis.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is a game I continually found myself returning to. It’s a game that successfully built on what came before and improved it in every way.
Destiny 2 – Grab a buddy (or two) and kick some alien butt
While I never found myself being sucked in by the original Destiny game, like so many other gamers I know, I did find myself being drawn to its sequel. Destiny 2 not only adds some much-needed new features but also included a surprisingly interesting single-player campaign. For someone who wasn’t too enamoured with the original, I was quickly sucked into the universe and lore as I continually hunted down more of the game’s sweet, sweet loot. Of course, nothing beats teaming up with two friends and taking on some of the game’s Raids or showing your buddies who is the better guardian in the Crucible.
Few things are as rewarding as that moment when your Fireteam is working (and fighting) together in perfect unison. There have been very little co-op experiences as fun and exhilarating as Destiny 2 this year.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus – Bigger, Better and Bloodier
When Wolfenstein: The New Order released a few years back many were surprised by the game’s excellent campaign, smooth-as-butter gameplay and the ability to mow down the Nazi hordes with dual wielding machine guns. Fast forward a few years later and the sequel Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus sets out to improve on what many felt was already a great game.
Taking place in a Nazi-occupied America, players once again don the Nazi blood-stained shoes of B.J Blazkowicz as they and liberate the U.S. of A from the evil Nazi’s. Of course, knowing B.J this can only be achieved by huge explosions, really big guns and some face punching, luckily The New Colossus includes all of these and more. With it’s cast of zany characters, surprisingly deep narrative moments and Nazi butt-kicking Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus once again proved that when it comes to fighting the Reich there is no one better than B.J.
NieR: Automata – NieRly perfect game
One of the biggest surprises of 2017, NieR: Automata, came out of nowhere quickly becoming one of the years best games.
With humanity on the brink of extinction and man living on the moon after an alien threat from the stars came to earth and started a war, it’s up to the android 2B to take back earth for humanity. NieR has a truly odd narrative, but one which remains interesting enough to keep the player’s attention as they venture further down the rabbit hole.
The game’s combat has an easy to learn but difficult to master feel, meaning that anyone can pick it up and kick some mechanical butt. With a beautiful soundtrack and visuals to match, this odd gem is one that everyone should give a try. Don’t let its weird story fool you, underneath all that exposition lies a fun, frantic and beautifully crafted game.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – A breath of fresh air
In a world where everything needs to be grittier and darker, it’s truly refreshing to play a game that revels in not being that. With the successful launch of the Switch, Nintendo released Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a Zelda game bigger in scope and gameplay that any Zelda game that came before.
Offering a truly challenging and wonderful open world experience, Breath of the Wild proved that Nintendo still knew how to please fans and also create worlds that felt engaging and begged to be explored. There were many times where I just found myself aimlessly wandering around the games beautiful environments exploring every nook and cranny and being surprised by just how much the world had to see and do.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is just as much about honouring the past as it is about breaking the mould and doing something new. Swinging swords and exploring Hyrule has never been so much fun.
Horizon: Zero Dawn – Giant robot dinosaurs. Nuff said!
When Horizon: Zero Dawn was first revealed, it blew everyone away with its detailed visuals and intriguing setting. But let’s be honest, for a moment the real star was the giant robot dinosaurs that roamed the game’s world. Seeing protagonist Alloy fight for her survival against these oversized mechanical creatures was more than enough to get us hyped for the game.
Horizon: Zero Dawn was just as gorgeous as we had hoped. The visuals, coupled with the game’s truly intriguing story, kept me forging ahead though waves of dangerous robotic creatures. Following protagonist Alloy as she sets out to discover who she is and where she came from Horizon: Zero Dawn’s narrative slowly and methodically revealed its secrets to players. I’ll be honest, there was more than one occasion where I shed a tear.
Who knew that a developer mostly known for first-person shooters would be so good at developing a third-person open world game. While the mechanical dinosaurs were the main draw, it was the fascinating lore behind the richly detailed world and its inhabitants that kept us playing.
Super Mario Odyssey – It’s-a me, Mario!
Super Mario Odyssey, a game many couldn’t wait for, showed just how masterful Nintendo was at reinventing their franchises without alienating fans. Who would have thought that a game featuring a red-and-blue-clad plumber set on gate crashing a wedding would turn out to be so good? Did I also mention that Mario now wears a sentient hat that can ‘possess’ other characters? I know this might all sound confusing, but it is a premise that makes for one of the best games of 2017.
Each inventive level in Super Mario Odyssey is expertly crafted, giving players the freedom to explore them as they see fit. There are few games out there that allow you to possess a T-Rex and basically destroy everything in your path like a classic Godzilla movie. This has got to be one of the finest Mario games to date. Jumping, stomping and collecting has never been so exhilarating.
Persona 5 – A JRPG that will steal your heart
In Persona 5, players take on the role of a teenager forced to live in Tokyo after an unfortunate event. While the game starts off simple enough, you soon find out that nothing is as it seems. You’ll soon be facing off against all manner of creatures as you and your friends try to reform society.
Basically, an amalgamation of a life simulator and a JRPG dungeon crawler, this odd mix of genres works surprisingly well as you try and balance your everyday life in-between all the monster slaying in Persona 5. Much like fries and ice-cream, it’s an unholy combination that just should not work but somehow does.
While I did enjoy slaying monster after monster using my different personas (think Pokémon), it was when I found myself learning more about my friends and building my relationships with them that I truly became immersed in the game. It’s a game that has set a new benchmark for what modern day RPG’s and games, in general, should be.
A few honourable mentions:
Call of Duty: World War II – Back to the trenches once again
When it was announced that the Call of Duty franchise would be returning to its World War II roots, many couldn’t wait to return to the trenches once more. This was a welcome move as the game was lauded by both critics and fans, who made it no secret that they did not like the futuristic direction the game was moving in previously.
The heavy focus on the cast of characters and the bond they form throughout the campaign proved that even a cold-blooded first-person shooter can have loads of heart. Who would have thought that so many would get so excited by old-timey weapons? The creators of Call of Duty: World War II did. Of course, no Call of Duty game would be complete without Zombies and great multiplayer action. Luckily, this game has both. This means you’ll be digging through the trenches long after the end credits roll.
Little Nightmares – A little weird, a little creepy yet very beautiful
Little Nightmares is a game that immerses players in a dank, dark and beautiful world where strange creatures hunt you and danger lies around every corner. Players are tasked with helping a yellow raincoat-clad girl, called six, escape a horrible place called the Maw (yes, it’s just as creepy as it sounds).
This is a game that excels at creating unsettling, yet gorgeous visuals dotted with hints of colour. Little Nightmares can be horrifying the one second yet beautiful the next. Sneaking around dimly light environments while a blindfolded long-armed creature stalks you every move made for some of the most nerve-wracking gaming moments I’ve had in recent memory.
Little Nightmares is one of the most atmospheric games to be released this year and horror fans should give it a try.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy – Who needs Nathan Drake?
I never ever thought an Uncharted game without the titular Nathan Drake would ever be any good. I mean the whole franchise was built around the game’s smug protagonist. Yet somehow Naughty Dog pulled it off and created a game that felt fresh and new. While protagonists Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross are more than capable of kicking butt and chewing bubble gum, it’s their interactions with each other that makes Uncharted: The Lost Legacy such a memorable game.
As I looked back at my time playing the game I realised (to my surprise) that I didn’t really miss Nathan Drake and that I was looking forward to continuing my adventures in the Uncharted universe alongside Chloe and Nadine.