What a year for gaming 2017 turned out to be.
My personal experience can be best summed up with the idiom, "I bit off more than I could chew." So many games that I anticipated being on this list didn’t make it for no other reason than I never got around to playing or finishing them.
A year after its release, I discovered Overwatch and it took up so much of my 2017 gaming time. There were also those early months in the year when I experienced a bit of gaming funk that I blame on the game that sits at the top of my list. Everything I played after was a disappointment, and unfortunately, Mass Effect Andromeda, Prey, Nioh, and Nier Automata became casualties of my slump. Once I got my gaming legs back, I went on a rampage.
Something I also noticed in 2017: games were being sold with nice discounts almost immediately after they released. The frequent sales on PSN committed the biggest crimes against my wallet, and while I greatly appreciated them, I now find myself with more games than time.
Before I get into my games of the year, I’d like to mention a couple notable games that I had to leave off. Wolfenstein 2 would have made the list for sure but I barely had a chance to play any of it. I also excluded Victor Vran, because it was previously released on PC before making its way to console this year. If you are a fan of Diablo, I highly recommend Victor Vran.
Farpoint, which I think aside from a few wonky control issues I had (I did not buy the PSVR aim controller) and the temperamental camera settings is a killer app for PSVR and I loved the immersive feel that felt like being in a sci-fi movie. However, my 'cat of destruction' decided that chewing the PSVR wires was a good idea, thus shutting down my virtual reality life temporarily. By the way, cat-chewed wires are not covered by the warranty!
One game you won’t find on my list is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I tried to play this game on several occasions and based my Switch purchase almost solely on it. It just didn’t resonate with me. In fact, the game frustrates me more than anything. (Editor's note: Laddie wasn't the only one to feel that way about Breath of the Wild; there's a similar story about it in Jon's list as well.)
So here it is, my mostly predictable favorite games of 2017.
Lawbreakers is kind of a mix between Overwatch and a slower, less mobile Titanfall. I know it didn’t appeal to -- or even retain -- much of a player-base, but I enjoyed my time with it.
There was definitely a steep learning curve, especially using the zero gravity portions of the maps, but Lawbreakers was a great concept, and I admire Boss Key for their dedication to the game post-release. I’m sure a game that uses the pre-made hero model is probably easier to balance, but people like to customize their characters and -- unlike Overwatch -- there’s only a handful of characters to select from. The game offered me (at a discounted price) a month of pure shooter fun that felt fresh while still retaining the basics of an arena shooter.
At launch, the game lacked a team deathmatch mode, which was probably a bad move as it’s the favorite game mode in most shooters, especially for the less competitive players. As the population dwindled, it became more frustrating not only due to the long searches for games but the uneven team balance that matchmaking offers when so few are playing. I’d love to see the game have a resurgence, but that likely won’t happen unless a sequel happens, and I would definitely support that.
9. Assassins Creed: Origins
The only reason this game is so far down on my list is I am still playing it. I don’t usually include games I’ve not finished on lists like this but barring any drastic turn to being terrible, this game belongs here, and probably even much higher up. I’ve never been much of a fan of the Assassins Creed series, but I love the ancient Egyptian setting and I bought it while it was on sale during Black Friday week. Granted, its been awhile since I played an AC game, but I don’t recall the experience being this awesome.
Origins moves away from the stealth action-adventure genre and charges straight into RPG territory with an excellent progression system, very expansive world, and side quests galore, which includes raiding tombs for loot that would make Lara Croft envious.
Sure, there is a skill tree, but I love how protagonist Bayak automatically transcends into a badass the more you level up. I’m not one for stealth combat, and provided you do not take on missions that are way out of your pay grade, you can go loud and take down entire armies with a mixture of various melee weapons and bow and arrow. Combat is smooth, intuitive, and fun. If that’s not enough, you can climb pyramids and pet cats.
8. Knack 2
Knack holds a special place in my gaming history as the first game I completed on PS4. Knack 2 improves on the action-adventure/ platformer by giving Knack what he desperately needed, more moves and abilities. There’s even an in-game joke that mocks the old Knack’s lack of cool abilities that I found incredibly endearing considering the game was a bit of an internet joke, so it’s nice to see Sony can poke fun at itself with the rest of them.
As a series, Knack has a bit of an identity crisis as to what it wants to be, but at least the sequel has a bit more direction. Through the use of relics, Knack has the ability to change sizes from very tiny to a twenty-foot giant. It doesn’t take a lot of strategy to figure out how to use this ability to your advantage and much of the platforming elements feel familiar but why not just embrace it for what it is: a flawed but entertaining and fun experience.
I take a lot of flak for defending this series, but if loving Knack is wrong, I don’t want to be right!
7. The Evil Within 2
I didn’t ever get around to playing the first game, but I was wrapped up in the moment of Halloween and wanted something scary to play at the time this released. The Evil Within 2 gives you a brief history lesson at the beginning, but if you are worried about skipping the first game like I did, IGN has a great video that sums up the Evil Within in 5 minutes.
At times, The Evil Within 2 feels a lot like The Last of Us in its combat and crafting, especially the stealthier combat aspects. My biggest issue with the game was the bad dialog and underwhelming characters, but the story overall is intriguing kind of Silent Hill meets the Matrix with a super creepy main villain. The semi-open world and the side quests gave the game a nice change of pace for the horror genre. I found myself going back to replay sections of the game looking for things I missed, something I don’t usually do with horror games.
I bought Evil Within 2 on a whim and didn’t expect much from it, let alone it being one of my favorite games of the year.
6. Call of Duty: WWII
I think I was one of the few people that did not want Call of Duty (or COD) to go back to World War II, let alone return to boots-on-the-ground combat. The beta further confirmed my feelings as I couldn’t get a feel for it in the few matches I tried out. Yet, I was still intrigued and had actually thought COD Advanced Warfare was the best COD MP in awhile so I wanted to give Sledgehammer another shot.
A funny thing happened: the more I played, I started to adjust to the slower pace and lack of wall-running and super-jumps or -slides, and I began to get it. Graphically, it’s gorgeous; I’m playing on the PS4 Pro but I’m sure it is just as stunning on a standard console. Most of my playtime has been spent in PvP multiplayer, but I did complete the campaign and it was heartfelt and at times very poignant.
However, everyone knows the heart of COD is multiplayer, and while I would have like a few more maps, it’s the best most balanced MP Call of Duty has been in years.
Hopefully, it stays that way and they won’t introduce overpowered weapons that are found only in loot boxes. As it is now, the epic guns are the same as the standard weapons but offer an XP boost and a different look. True to its word, COD WWII brings the series back to form, I guess you can go home again.
5. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Being that the video game industry is still mostly a boys club, I have to give kudos to Naughty Dog for featuring two kick-ass women to star in its first post-Drake Uncharted content. We were introduced to Chloe and Nadine in other Uncharted games and I think they were a good choice to star in their own story (even if it is technically considered Uncharted 4 DLC despite it being a stand-alone story that doesn’t require Uncharted 4).
I might actually prefer Lost Legacy over Uncharted 4, as it seems to fit in better with the pace and tone of the series, whereas I found UC4 moved incredibly slow at times.
Chloe’s combat style is different than Drake’s but Lost Legacy still has the cinematic feel of Uncharted, complete with lush locations, intrigue, mythology, and of course, puzzles. I’d say the game took about 7-8 hours to complete, and if for whatever reason you did not buy Uncharted 4, Lost Legacy contains full access to multiplayer and survival mode.
I don’t blame Naughty Dog for wrapping up Drake’s storyline, but I hope we get more Uncharted games in the future. And as Lost Legacy has successfully showcased, I’m hopeful and confident the series can survive without Nathan Drake.
4. Destiny 2
My love/hate relationship with Destiny continues with the sequel that gets most of what was wrong with the first right. Destiny 2 starts with an attack on the Last City that destroys the tower and drains all light from the guardians. This sense of loss is driven home by the realization that after grinding the first Destiny game for three years, you must start the process all over again.
The old addiction returns, and once you are back in the fray you think it won’t be that bad this time until you hit about level 280, and then the grind is real. I will say that through the use of the newly added challenges and milestones and the guided raids or nightfall, even the loneliest of wolves has a chance to level up and get in on the events that grant the best loot.
The way Bungie tells the story and lore in Destiny 2 is also a big improvement over the first game as most of the story unfolds naturally through gameplay or cutscenes and not on Bungie.net. That’s not to say the Destiny 2 plot is going to be remembered for its depth, but it has charm and our favorite fire-team, Ikora, Zavala, and if course Cayde 6 all make a return. Destiny 2 builds on the vague backstory of the first game but is much more simplistic. Your job is to stop the bad man Ghaul who is responsible for capturing the Traveler. I still don’t fully understand what the Traveler is, but I know I must save it.
Destiny 2’s strength lies in its gameplay, shooting aliens is rarely this much fun, and the locations are absolutely stunning.
Even if you never touch the PvP, Strikes, or Raids, there’s plenty to do and explore in the story portion. As I was in the first game I’m disappointed in the PvP Portion, its as if Bungie who created one of the greatest multiplayer experiences with Halo simply forgot how to balance a multiplayer game. Admittedly, I have been suffering from a little bit of Destiny 2 burnout, but with the first expansion just released I imagine I will be back on that Destiny grind soon enough.
3. HellBlade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Where should I start? This game is not only a technical masterpiece, its an emotional rollercoaster ride into mental illness and drives home the point that there is hope.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is inspired by Norse and Celtic mythology and is part hack-and-slash, action adventure, puzzler, and survival horror. If you haven’t played this game, I highly recommend you do so. I will tread lightly here so I won’t spoil anything for those who have not played it.
Its genre-bending gameplay is surprisingly intuitive and smooth. Senua has an ability called 'focus' that is triggered by effectively blocking attacks or dodging them. The game doesn’t feature a HUD, but the voices in Senua’s head (or 'Furies' as they are referred to often) help guide you or inform you where your next attack is coming from. Her attacks are basic and there is very little weapon upgrading but Senua naturally gets better, or maybe you do.
Ninja Theory consulted neuroscientists, mental health specialists, and nonprofit organizations to help them properly portray and represent the horrors of mental illness. The use of 3D sound drives the voices/Furies so much so that it becomes an integral part of the experience. The level designers also did a great job of illustrating the nightmare world Senua’s mind has become. It’s often a tough game to play but it’s worth it. In the end, Senua defeats the darkness and her past, stops blaming herself, and embraces it. It’s ok to not be ok.
This game only came to my attention shortly before it released but it easily became one of my favorite games of the year. It was developed by Runic games, known for the excellent Torchlight series.
My first impression of the game was one of intrigue, but also frustration. There is no tutorial to hold your hand, and no dialogue to give you direction, you are simply thwarted into a world that looks as if technology and nature are at war. You play as a tiny non-gender specific character that I’ve assumed to be called, Hob.
Early on, Hob loses an arm which is then replaced with a robot arm that is upgraded with things you find along the way. After first acquiring the robot arm I didn’t know what to do or where to go, it was looking like the game over for me almost as soon as it began. Then I started exploring my very beautiful surroundings (seriously the art and level designers at Runic are amazing) and learned I could chop down trees that were obscuring passages to where I needed to be.
From then on, I explored everything, and then even the map started to make sense. There are things to find, puzzles to solve, and even light hack-and-slash battles. Often, you must revisit areas due to new tech upgrades to the robot arm. Despite its lack of dialogue, Hob is an emotional experience, even if the story is often mysterious, or more likely subjective. I was incredibly saddened to hear Runic Games was shut down shortly after Hob released dashing my dreams of a sequel or even DLC.
In many ways, Hob is the game I hoped Breath of the Wild would be. RIP Runic Games.
1. Horizon Zero Dawn
2017 might well be remembered as the year of the “nasty woman,” so it’s fitting that the game that captured my heart the most featured a female protagonist. I still remember the first time this game was shown off, Guerrilla, you had me at 'robot dinosaur'. I was super hyped for this game, which often results in the actual product being a letdown; however, Horizon Zero Dawn exceeded my expectations.
Gameplay is so smooth and the post-apocalyptic universe it is set in is stunning; by the way, if you aren’t playing HZD on PS4 Pro, you’re doing it wrong!
When the game released, I started playing it right at midnight and didn’t stop until about 8 AM the next morning. When I wasn’t playing it I was working or sleeping but still thinking about it. A game hadn’t got under my skin like that for quite some time.
I recently went back to HZD to play the very expansive DLC, The Frozen Wilds. I actually thought about including the DLC as a separate entry but decided to just combine it as the overall experience that is Horizon Zero Dawn.
Our ginger hero Aloy (voiced by Ashley Burch) is strong, independent, caring, and intelligent. We are very aware of her femininity, but it’s never objectified. Aloy is a great character who happens to be female, not because of it. The thing I admire most about Aloy is her ability to forgive and not be angry or bitter about the cruelties that were inflicted upon her as a child.
Aloy is an instant icon of video games and one that I hope is around for generations to come.
As for gameplay, it’s damn near perfect! Battling the robot wildlife is intuitive, and each type has their own weaknesses and strengths. I had a blast trying to figure which weapons and ammo type paired best with each type, and for once I even enjoyed stealth takedowns. The story at times had me worried it was going to end somewhat convoluted but it all makes sense at the end of the game.
I’ve played Horizon Zero Dawn for 125 hours (including the Frozen Wilds), and I’m looking forward to 125 more.
Edited by Jason Clement