So here we are at the end of 2017 and this has been undoubtedly an incredible (and occasionally dodgy) year for gaming. We have seen the indisputable return of Nintendo as a world power, the rise of the loot box with the fall of EA (again), and the spark of genius that was the first double-A game release. Needless to say, this has been a journey of a year. But, what would I consider to be my favourites out of the many releases we have seen?
A little clean up before I start this list off. Firstly, this will be a ranking of my Top Five in ascending order with the game at the bottom of the list being, essentially, my ultimate Game of 2017. Secondly, please remember that this is my personal list and therefore if you have your own thoughts please let me know in the comments or on Twitter, but as it is my list it cannot be (and is not) “wrong” by any definition of the word. Here we go …
#5 – Metroid Samus Returns (3DS)
Kicking off things with the Big N and their quite surprising throwaway announcements of E3 2017, the remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus for the Nintendo 3DS, retitled as Metroid: Samus Returns. Announced after their main broadcast, during their now annual Treehouse Live broadcasts, what Nintendo showed was a more fluid and action-focused affair than the original, with a vibrant but appropriate art style. Fast forward to me getting my greedy mitts on the game in September, and it did not cease to impress. The updated visuals and gameplay brought a forgotten gem into the modern era without negatively affecting the tone of the original game I know and love. The added bosses were somewhat unnecessary in my opinion, but the sheer fact that I could not stop playing this until I beat it more than warrants this game a place on this list. Also, that melee counter ability was a truly fantastic gameplay innovation for Metroid, one that I hope remains around for a little while at least.
#4 – Cuphead (XBO/PC)
The first of two indie titles on this list, showing that the indie game output this year has been phenomenally good. Cuphead was something of an out-of-left-field game for me in that I had no idea that it was coming before it was almost upon us and fell in love with its art style before I knew much else about it. After playing the game at EGX 2017 and getting it for myself once I purchased the X-Box One, I discovered that there was so much more to the game than a pretty art style. The Contra-style run and gun gameplay with its tight and simple controls perfectly compliments the unforgiving difficulty, to the point that I can safely say that it is (for once) never the fault of the controls if the player loses health. Albeit the game gets almost insufferably difficult in later levels in a fashion that is incredibly unfair to the player, but even that is counteracted by a progress bar and by visually trackable progress through each boss encounter. Add to the gameplay and visuals a tremendously well made soundtrack and you have a clear cut GotY contender.
#3 – The Sexy Brutale (NSW/PS4/XBO/PC)
The second of the two indie titles on my GotY list, and last minute surprise addition, I honestly don’t think that I have played a game that has enthralled me in quite the same way as The Sexy Brutale. From the initial mystery right through to the later, more complex conundrums I was utterly hooked on this charming and unique little game. The premise of The Sexy Brutale is that, as the only sane individual in the building, you have to uncover the methods in which the guests of the establishment are being murdered and then work backwards, using time travel, to alter the course of these events. The art style, a gaudy and exaggerated affair, is reigned in quite keenly by the use of a camera fixed to show an isometric view of the entire mansion and all of it’s rooms. The characters are both garish and wonderfully well-rounded through the use of dialogue and the Brochure menu in-game. The gameplay is initially perplexing but remarkably quick to pick up on, and the writing is absolutely superb. Finally, the music, much alike Cuphead earlier, is fantastically well-made and always situationally relevant from the jazzy Casino theme, to the dread-inducing sound of the player getting caught during investigation. An easy recommendation for any platform and for any one that wishes for a decent, puzzling challenge for a reasonable price.
#2 – Super Mario Odyssey (NSW)
I defy any Game of the Year list that doesn’t have this game somewhere on it; Mario’s first proper outing on the Switch is an absolute tour-de-force. Nintendo’s year, by the October release of Super Mario Odyssey, had already been an exemplary year of how to create quality games from almost every genre in existence, but we all needed to see how Nintendo would update their poster boy. The answer we received was that they would just do what they always have with Mario, focus on really tight controls and gameplay, then throw in a fundamentally game-altering mechanic for fun. The mechanic in question this time is the ability to throw Mario’s hat-shaped companion Cappy to “capture” essentially most of the game. It’s hard to overstate how much the ability to become most of the enemies and a lot of the stage obstacles changes how to play Mario; almost everything can be approached in a myriad of ways almost always only limited by the player’s imagination with the tools available. Furthermore, the sheer amount of Moons to find in the game, which run the gamut from the obvious to the absurd, really does make this a game for all ages as literally anyone could reach the end of this game with the Moon requirements (and then there’s people like me that jut obsessively have to find them all). Add to this already solid game a bright and art style, some of the most visually arresting levels in Mario’s history and a phenomenal soundtrack that both looks to the past and future, you have a near perfect game.
#1 (Ultimate Game of the Year) – Horizon: Zero Dawn (PS4)
Anyone who has interacted with me at any point this year will know that this was coming, the game that I genuinely consider to be the best even of the incredible bunch I’ve laid out in this article already; Horizon: Zero Dawn. This game convinced me on its genre; I had never enjoyed this open world sand-box style game before (with Assassin’s Creed genuinely grating on me), but here I was enthralled with this post-apocalyptic world and all of its goings-on. Aloy, is beyond any doubt in my mind, the gaming protagonist of the year (perhaps even one of the greatest of all time) with her phenomenal voice acting and writing making her a believable character and one that was very easy to empathise with. She had very clear motivations for her journey and her actions and, what’s more, felt undeniably human. The premise of fighting robotic dinosaurs in a future version of Earth, after technology takes over is a wonderfully apt and fantastic one, giving a grounding that’s often unseen in more fantastical narrative experiences like this.
The world itself is beautiful and terrifying in how realistically it is proportioned, and even the NPCs look well designed and animated, with barely any of the uncanny valley stuff you see in other games in this genre (looking at you Ubisoft). The gameplay is solid and very player-focused with a multitude of tools to use that can be used to tackle the various circumstances you come across in a large variety of ways. Do you stealth through, putting ability points into increasing stealth damage and use the stealth instant-kill; or go in all guns (or rather bows) blazing and use the various arrow types to decimate your foes? The choice is absolutely yours. Finally, the presentation, which is pretty close to flawless both in the sound and visuals. The world, characters, weapons and enemies are so high quality in design that it is often astounding and show a undeniable care over the level of attention paid to their minutiae; also the sound shows the same level of attention and time put into it – and I won’t lie that Aloy’s theme has been regularly listened to on Spotify as it is just incredible. Overall, there was never going to be another game that came out this year that would top this, but I’m glad I got to the end and there is was, still at the top.
So that is my Games of the Year for 2017. What did you think? Do you agree with my choices or disagree?
Let me know on Twitter, or in the comments and I will see you all very soon.