I’m not much for holidays or resolutions, so the New Year’s celebration is always a weird thing for me. Fortunately, what it does offer me is the opportunity to look back at the past year and revel in the greatness that the gaming world offered all of us in 2017.
Like last year, I’m going to go through my 15 favorite games that I played in 2017. These aren’t necessarily 2017 releases or even the consensus “best” games that were released last year. This is merely my favorite gaming experiences from the past 12 months.
And now, in no particular order, My Favorite Games of 2017:
I had never played a title from the Persona/Shin Megami Tensei series of games prior to snagging Persona 5 back in April. You could say I took a risk, but after having sunk well over 100 hours into the fantastically stylish world of a cabal of justice-seeking high schoolers, I can unequivocally say this is my favorite new release of 2017. I mean, this game makes more provocative political statements than most presidential hopefuls can during an election year. There is no way to give Persona 5 the justice it deserves within a short paragraph, but any game that can make browsing the menus more dynamic than most full games that were released this past year warrants the accolades it has received. Also, that soundtrack – so good.
Horizon Zero Dawn
I’ll start by saying that, as a gamer, I have open-world fatigue. The things that developers are doing these days with engrossing environments spanning miles upon miles of virtual space is undeniably impressive, but I usually have a hard time slipping into world after world without worrying about the million or so collectible items I’ll be tasked with hunting. The fact that I still loved my time with Horizon, despite the genre-disadvantage, is a testament to how incredible Aloy’s adventure was. If you played this game and didn’t audibly shout for joy the first time you downed a Thunderjaw, you aren’t human.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
I have always loved the Final Fantasy series. The entries haven’t always hit the mark, but I love the worlds they create and the characters whose stories I get to be a part of. It’s a pretty bold statement to claim that Final Fantasy XII was the best RPG on the PlayStation 2, given the insane amount of amazing options you have to choose from, but for me, Square Enix knocked it out of the park with this one. Naturally, when I heard it was getting new visuals and features, I couldn’t help but pre-order it and wait impatiently. I still hate Marlboros.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMix
Speaking of PS2 gems that were brought to the PS4, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMix is much too long of a name for a game that is straight butter. The ongoing adventures of Sora, Donald and Goofy brought our heroes to new worlds, let us fight Sephiroth for a second time, and introduced layer upon layer of new story content that, frankly, can’t be explained without encyclopedias, tracking charts and pie graphs. So what if things get confusing; you get to ride a Light Cycle and pal around with Jack Skellington. Unfortunately, the rhythm games with Ariel are just as cringe-inducing as ever.
Mega Man Legacy Collection
Mega Man 2 is the best game of all time. Full stop. It should come as no surprise then that MM Legacy Collection is on this list. Featuring the first six mainline Mega Man titles, the Legacy Collection adds in challenge modes, art galleries and trophies, offering more than enough reasons for me to keep playing the best game of all time on an annual basis. And just to clear up any lingering confusion, Mega Man 2 is the best. Ever.
Team Ninja clearly knows my weaknesses. They basically took 2004’s Ninja Gaiden and married it to 2011’s Dark Souls to produce a samurai offspring that oozes with gritty, unbridled badassery. Nioh is tough, and it doesn’t care that most games these days give you more hands to hold than a Hootie and the Blowfish chorus. As with its parental counterparts, Nioh wrecks the dreams of button mashers but does a commendable job of molding your skills until you are an unstoppable force of combo-driven mayhem.
Enter the Gungeon
Enter the Gungeon is one of those games that I had heard so much about how great it was that I just had to give it a shot. What I found was a maniacal rogue-like, top-down shooter that doles out punishment with the best of ‘em. Filled to the brim with barrels of goofy guns, Enter the Gungeon at times made me feel like John Wick, dodging volleys of gunfire while felling my foes with pinpoint accuracy. Of course, once I hit the third floor, I ended up behaving more like a Stormtrooper than a possessed Keanu Reeves.
Super Mario Odyssey
You’re never going to guess the catalyst for Mario’s latest adventure. Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach and plans to marry her, thus necessitating our favorite plumber (sorry Luigi) to jump into action and save the day. I know, this is groundbreaking stuff from one of the most iconic characters in gaming, but sarcasm aside, the game is really great. The inclusion of some necessary motion controls was a tad annoying to me, but most of the new mechanics involving the mustachioed-one’s new hat sidekick (sorry Luigi) are excellent. As with most of Mario’s entries, it is goofy, mostly easy and a whole lot of fun.
Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Honestly, I have very mixed feelings when it comes to Breath of the Wild. Dubbed the 2017 Game of the Year by most websites and critics, I was left not really knowing how to feel. I’ve been #TeamLink for life, but this may have been a case where the game was built up so much for me that when I actually played it I was left feeling a bit underwhelmed. How did it make the list then? Well, it’s gorgeous, the music is amazing (as usual), and the gameplay feels so different from any other previous Zelda game that I gave it high marks for originality. I know I’ll probably get hate mail for this opinion, but I have to be true to my feelings people.
Shantae: Half Genie Hero
There wasn’t anything groundbreaking done in Half Genie Hero, but the game was light and fun, a great break from weighty games like Horizon and Nioh. There is a semblance of Metroidvania here, enough to make you want to go back and revisit old locales, which isn’t a bad thing given how attractive the various levels are. Shantae’s half-genie abilities allow her to throw fireballs, defend herself with bubble shields and transform into various animals, which in turn assist in solving various puzzles she stumbles across. Half Genie Hero isn’t out to ask a multitude of philosophical questions; it just wants you to have a good time – and I did.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
The preeminent version of maybe the best Mario Kart out there, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe brings just about everything you could want in a kart racer to the Switch. There are dozens of zany characters to choose from with even more race tracks to speed through, some of which are pulled from various titles throughout the history of the series. Perhaps the main appeal for me is the fact that I can actually play this game with my 5-year-old and not have to worry about what’s going to pop up on the screen or it being overly complex for her. Unfortunately for the young one, dad offers no quarter.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
My experiences with virtual reality prior to the end of 2017 were few and far between. Fortunately, that all changed over the holiday break as I got my hands on Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes for the first time. The premise is simple enough – defuse a bomb with help from your friends. Trying to work your way through the puzzles while the clock ticks down is equal parts exciting and unnerving. And people, if you are having communication issues in your relationships, this game will most certainly help resolve all of that*.
*May not actually help resolve communication issues.
This long-gestating indie darling had me intrigued from the moment I laid eyes on it. Basically a super-sized Boss Rush mode, Cuphead does a great job of keeping things difficult while negating too many “unfair” deaths. Most of the time when I died it was either because I made a stupid mistake or hadn’t learned a specific boss mechanic. The 1940s art style and soundtrack are a personality unto themselves, injecting a uniqueness into the game that cannot be found many other places. In a year full to the brim with amazing game music, Cuphead is near the top.
This is the only game that was on both last year’s list and this one. Not necessarily because it’s the best thing ever, but the folks at Blizzard keep pumping out new content that has me hooked. Most notably, a recently released single player mode called Dungeon Run helps bridge the “accessibility gap” by providing hours of free fun, no matter if you have been playing the game for two weeks or two years. That gap is usually the biggest obstacle that Hearthstone faces when trying to attract new players, so I was glad to see them address that issue specifically.
Early Access games are a weird thing for me. My only experiences, prior to Dead Cells, were H1Z1: King of the Kill and PUBG. In both of those cases, it was very clear to me that the games were incomplete, so perhaps the greatest praise I can heap upon Dead Cells is that it already feels like a finished game. A beautifully pixelated Metroidvania affair, Dead Cells incorporates interesting time mechanics, a rogue-like death system and some brutal combat to help set it apart from others. For those craving a challenge, I’d recommend giving this one a chance.
There you have it – my favorite games I played throughout the past year.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to share some of your favorite gaming memories from the past year as well.