A year has come and gone, meaning it is time for another list of my personal favorite games of the year. Like I stated last year: I have not played every game that has come out, so this is simply a way to share with you some of my favorites. Although even that is going to be hard, as this year had many fantastic titles that I wish I could give as much recognition as possible. Nevertheless, I finally decided on which titles I had the most fun with this year.
However, before I get on with the list, I just want a quick glance over some rules for this top 12:
1: This is only MY PERSONAL top 12 games of 2017. I am really interested in hearing what other gems I might have missed this year, so think of this list as more of a conversation-starter than anything else.
2: While some remakes are impressive, unless they have something that makes the game totally different in general, it won’t be on this list. So you won’t see Wonder Boy, The Dragon’s Trap or Dragon Quest 8 here, despite both being gorgeous remakes of personal favourites of mine.
3: These are games I have at least finished. If I have not fully invested my time in a game, despite how much I enjoyed it, I don’t feel compelled to put it on the list or even really talk about it.
We good? If you read on, I suppose we are.
#12 Horizon Zero Dawn
As a huge Zelda-fan, I actually did not enjoy Breath of the Wild much. While it was a game with a lot of qualities and can be seen as a good reimagining of the original The Legend of Zelda for the NES, it had so many problems that made it a mixed bag and outright forgettable to me. However, Horizon: Zero Dawn came out around the same time and in my eyes was the much better choice. You are put in the shoes of Aloy, an outcast in a world where both natural and technological animals roam around. In this open world game, you are basically a hunter scavenging for parts to improve your weapons and stay hidden from dangerous creatures. I really love how focused it is on the stealth mechanics and that it makes it work so wonderfully with a wide range of options. What I found most surprising, was how much I cared for every sidequest since they had unique stories with believable characters that made me care about their outcomes and not just what loot I would get. Horizon has some issues with the platforming and some restrictions in its open world-mechanics due to invisible walls, but thanks to the lovely stealth gameplay and the grand, emotional story, I will always remember this entry. I actually remember every environmental location, and that is an impressive feat in itself.
Team Ninja’s take on a Dark Souls type of game, Nioh brings enough originality to be both a worthwhile investment and a clear inspiration. While Dark Souls can demand a more defensive approach to fighting, Nioh has a more aggressive take on the combat with not even a shield at disposal. You can block, but the focus on different weapons and attacks is much heavier, showcasing where Nioh differs from similar titles. From the start, you will be able to use a lot of different weapons with two melee and two ranged weapons being available through quick-select, three different stances, see the enemy’s stamina bar, and every attack is fast. What is also a creative take, is the cultural setting. Set in Japan in the 1600s, it takes not just plenty of weapons from the land of the rising sun, but also locations, historical events, and of course: mythical monsters. In the end, while it is easy to describe Nioh as Dark Souls set in old Asia, it is much more than that and comes easily recommended for newcomers and veterans alike.
#10 Night in the Woods
Being an outcast, different, struggling mentally, or being a college dropout, is quite hard to portray respectfully as a means for telling a story. These days however, it surprises me more often than not how indie-titles can do this beautifully in a relatable, interesting, and respectful matter. Night in the Woods achieves this and then some. Following the struggling young adult Mae, she simply tries to reconnect with her hometown and friends, and find her place in life. Giving a small, free-roaming aspect, the game does a good job with making the world feel alive with optional interactions and multiple paths to take. There is even a pretty cool rhythm-game and a game on Mae’s PC to have some breaks from the story. I might have wished for more interactivity at times since some parts can be too linear, but it offers such a great story with nice gameplay, that I started a new game right after I finished it just to see what I missed.
#9 A Normal Lost phone
A unique way of narrating a story. In A Normal Lost Phone, you simply explore through a phone to find out who Sam is. This is a great example of how much more immersive a game can be compared to a movie, as you must subtly search through the phone to find out how you can get further inside to find out who Sam is, while using an actual phone-device. By reading messages and forums for example, you will get small clues that can be used to find more information, and to find out not just more info about the person, but also about his world and daily life. This authenticity is definitely a highlight, but also by how you will eventually piece each and every part of the narrative together to get the full picture. To not give too much away, the tale is an excellent take on problems of identity and how hard it can be when everyone seems to be against you, despite them loving Sam and Sam loving them. This is something incredibly hard to do honestly, as I find many stories similar to this one, only uses shock value to create a clear message about identity or perspective, instead of actually showcasing and telling a mature and believable story. It is a short game and the puzzles could have been expanded upon, but A Normal Lost Phone is definitely an important experience. Quite wonderful as well for only three euros and for more, the sequel Another Lost Phone is also worth your time.
A game that makes rubbing your belly while patting your head seem like child’s-play, Slime-san is a game that is definitely inspired by Super Meat Boy, but strong enough to be unique and stand on its own with a different form of difficulty. Slime-san focuses on testing the players ability to multitask. You see, while he can wall-jump like Meat Boy, by also including the ability to pass through green surfaces, it makes for creative level-design as some platforms you have to get through, but later you must switch up to be able to wall-jump on and pass through these green layers. It is not hard just because it tests your reaction time, but also your capabilities to know what to do in any given situation. It has fantastic diversity in its level-design and with colors showing clearly what is safe and what is death, it is easy to pick up and understand, but it will demand every bit of your skills and that you improve them as well. Though don’t worry, the cute character and his pet-bird helps lighten the mood, and the soundtrack as well as the uplifting style with a town of interesting creatures, conveys a form of peace despite the high difficulty. Interestingly what you can do with a world that is inside a beast that swallowed you.
#7 Golf Story
Here is a pleasant surprise I was not even aware of until a month before its release, especially since there were some more noticeable golf-games this year. Golf Story is a fantastic love letter for those of us who remembers the Mario Sports-games for the handheld-systems, where RPG-elements were a huge and important part. It might sound strange, but think about it: both golf and traditional RPGs are turn based games, so why not give it a shot at combining them? Golf Story is very humorous with clever writing and amusing locations used for diversity in its courses. Sure, we have seen prehistoric areas with dinosaurs before, but have you ever digged up treasures with a club, swung balls at turtles to hit the fairway, and used golf for puzzle-solving in the same game? It is amazing how much you can do with what sounds like a really restricted setup, but Golf Story shows that creativity doesn’t have to stop with a simple concept. The RPG setup is also greatly implemented, giving you XP for doing missions and having a very balanced approach to your stat-building, similarly to Mario Golf on Game Boy Color. There are even some disc- and mini golf parts to give you more variation, while still giving focus to the game’s title and each location brings a new gimmick to the courses. Even if you are not a fan of golf, there is a lot to enjoy here and should RPG not be your thing, there is even a fancy arcade-mode. It is so far, the best reason for getting a Switch.
#6 Thimbleweed Park
It is not always easy to recreate the past while still reflecting critically on its shortcomings, but Thimbleweed Park is a perfect example on how to do it right. Being made by the people who worked on The Secret of Monkey Island, they keep the verbs and item management known from the 90s Lucasart-games, but also adds many smart moves to make it more modern. It has shortcuts for choosing certain verbs, puzzles that can be bizarre, but never too hard to figure out, and even a hint-phone should you get completely stuck. The story is also fantastically told, with many minor references and clear inspirations to the team’s previous work, creating a clever story that pokes fun at oldschool traits they fixed. With great humour and some smart modernising, multiple entertaining characters, and even being able to choose to turn off certain humour or go completely old school, it is a great showcase on how to get old classic genres back to the modern days. Also, the humor this game provides is fantastic!
#5 Cosmic Star Heroine
As a huge fan of Chrono Trigger, I was very surprised to find how much this game both pays homage, but also differs from this gem. Being set in the distant future, you get to go on a journey focusing more on the overarching plot with simple, but entertaining characters. The story moves forward very quickly and clearly wants you to have fun with it, and because of plenty of minor details that are already shown in the beginning, I don’t want to spoil anything more. The similarity with Chrono Trigger comes from enemies being in the overworld, the artstyle, and having a grand composition, which is fantastic. However, if it hadn’t been for the sci-fi setting, it would have fooled me completely in thinking it was a carbon copy. The battles have a turn-based system where you can see who attacks first, but what is the most interesting part, is that you power up your character in battles by varying up attacks. Each attack can be used once unless you use a defensive-move to refill them and it is a great and interesting mechanic which the enemy also uses. This makes it a great risk vs reward on how long you can prolong a battle and even if you should. Similarly to Chrono Trigger as well, all characters are useful and have unique movesets, making it hard to choose who to bring into battle and experimenting fun! It is very impressive how someone would both take inspirations from and go in a completely different direction, but Cosmic Star Heroine makes this possible and it is wonderful for it. It doesn’t even require any grinding similar to Chrono Trigger, thank God for that!
#4 Yakuza 0
Here is the reason why I finally invested in a PS4: Yakuza 0. I am a huge fan of this series and having a prequel set in 1988, is both an interesting setup for fans and makes it easier for newcomers to enter. What is new here compared to previous numbered titles, is the two characters you will control individually throughout the story, which comes with their own three different fighting styles to use, each handy for different situations. The combat flows incredibly smoothly, with easy attacks against multiple of dangerous foes, and with the heat gauge, you can perform some nasty finishers that are always satisfying. Even the PS4 controller changes its light depending on what style you use, how cool of a detail is that? However, what was always an interesting part about the Yakuza-series, was that the sidequests and minigames were just as engaging as the main-story and combat, and it holds true here. You will get both emotionally attached to these events and deal with moral choices with the oddest circumstances, and even the rhythm-games are well done. It is also huge with entertaining content, so you won’t be done with it anytime soon and thankfully: you don’t want to. Yakuza Kiwami also came out this year and while a great remake, 0 is simply an example of how far we have come, as Kiwami borrows heavily from this game in many aspects, except for the excellent story, which Kiwami stumbles a bit with thanks to being based on the first game.
I rarely follow the development of games, and almost never play a game in early access. The reason for this, is simply that I don’t want to pay for anything that is not finished or be more focused on what “the game was, compared to what we have”. However, I wanted at the very least to give Block’Hood a donation, as it seemed very intriguing, so I simply bought the game before it was released. When I got around to actually play it however, I began to see more potential and I am so happy to see that the game has reached them. The concept of the game, is managing small areas and creating a decent place to live in, but with heavy focus on resource-management. By having very small areas to deal with, you can only create so much and will have to create literal towers of supportive management. However, what is the most intriguing, is the theme of balance and the environmental message. Every element will need something for producing something else, such as a windmill will need money to produce electricity, making it so nothing comes for free and a balance must be made. It is one of the finest simulators ever, with a good story-campaign and an amazing sandbox-mode. Due to being both beginner friendly and something for the more in-depth crowd, it provides something that everyone should check out. Perfectly balanced and beautiful.
This is my perfect example on why I disliked Cuphead. I am not going to go into detail out of fear of upsetting those who take this statement personally and also because we have already touched upon this, but Splasher is such a fantastic adrenaline-rush with a cool concept of painting/spreading chemical waste. Being a fast-paced platformer, you will acquire a gun to shoot surfaces with water to clean them, red-goo for making them sticky, and yellow-slugs to bounce off of, which you must vary in use for plenty occasions. This makes the platforming incredibly entertaining, quick, and difficult, which made the stages hit all the right marks and provide a rush whenever I played Splasher. Complementing this challenge, are also rebels you can save, enemies that are only being used as minor obstacles, and a time-attack mode that will test you to your limits. It is amazing and I am so happy Splasher is doing very well already, as I honestly hope the team will make even more titles.
#1 Sonic Mania
Another platformer with a fantastic focus on speed. I was a bit unsure on what we would see from the blue blur when it came to 2D-Sonic titles, as I did enjoy Sonic Rush and Colors for DS, and the 3D-versions of Colors and Generations showed Sonic’s fantastic potential in 3D. Then Freedom Planet came and showed what fans could do, and I hoped Sega would take notice. Lo and behold: they did with Sonic Mania, created by Sonic fans! This is a fantastic celebration of the Genesis titles, with plenty of stages from the old days remade and plenty of new ones as well, providing speed and minor exploration. The speed is at max with plenty of diverse paths to take, the original three comrades are all playable, and even the bosses vary with some being races or even a Puyo Puyo-fight. It is more than just a remake, it is a clever celebration with new elements added, such as the favorable drop-dash, which is a spin-dash charged in the air. In any case, I hope this is just a start of something wonderful at Sega, as they have shown clear love for this project. Despite the occasional Sonic Boom or Sonic Forces.
I know this year had plenty of wonderful games as mentioned at the intro, so I want to quickly give some honorable mentions to Bye-Bye BoxBoy, Serious Sam: Bogus Detour, Finding Paradise, Divinity: Original Sin 2, Blossom Tales, and A Hat in Time as they were some favourites as well. Though enough about my favorites, I also want to hear your favorite games of this year. Chances are your favorites didn’t make the cut here, but don’t take that as an offense if I didn’t get to play it or like it as much as you did. Simply share the love with me and hopefully next year, will have more fantastic games again. Happy New year ❤