2017 has been a year of change for me in many, many aspects. In a nutshell, I’ve moved internationally and started new and exciting projects that unfortunately didn’t leave me a lot of time for playing games. Which really sucks, because 2017 has been a brilliant year for gaming!
The Nintendo Switch came out, which left me in a state of a continuous itch to buy one, followed by me then remembering that I am supposed to be a responsible adult, and that food and furniture are more important for now. One day, I swear I will get one. It’s a truly fantastic piece of hardware, and the games that came out so far have really impressed me, but not quite enough to justify getting one yet. If Zelda had been an exclusive and hadn’t been released on the Wii U, I’m quite sure I would have caved in. But hey, this is me not complaining! Nintendo, do you want me to get one? Then hurry up and announce Super Smash Brothers or Monster Hunter on it, and I’m all yours.
Xbox One X: Having never owned an Xbox One it got my attention, but for the same reason as the PlayStation 4 Pro (I don't have a 4K TV), I decided to let that slide for a while. My list of hardware to buy keeps growing and growing so I decided to make that my 2018 resolution (Ha! Get it?).
Much to my shame, since I didn’t have a lot of time for gaming, I know that I missed huge gems that I didn’t get my hands on. Here are the Honourable Mentions that I DID NOT play:
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Horizon: Zero Dawn comes to mind. When it came out, I was recently out of Final Fantasy XV, and starting up with Zelda, so I thought that another “huge, open-world game” may be a bit too much for my brain. It has made itself a spot on a lot of GOTY lists, including several of ours, and I’m keeping an eye on it, to try it out in the future.
Resident Evil VII: Biohazard
I know Resident Evil VII is a fantastic, immersive game. I am truly amazed at how Capcom have reinvented the franchise, and I think for the better. There’s no better way to feel terror than to feel completely involved with the context. And you say it’s VR compatible? Man, if I wasn’t such a scaredy cat I would have totally gotten into this, and I’m very aware that it would have made the list for sure. I’m leaving this on the “never say never” list.
I did play Nioh when the beta came out, and I was amazed by it. Being the fan that I am of the 'SoulsBorne' games, I knew that I couldn't let this one slide. And yet I did! The big change in my life happened pretty much about this time. I am quite sure that if Stu found out that I hadn’t played it yet he would murder me, so don’t tell him.
And speaking of Stu murdering me, another one that I wanted to play is Nier: Automata. I have to say though, that I did have a reason not to play this. Although I know that they are not quite related, I’ve wanted to play the original Nier before diving into this. However, the first instalment is so hard to find lately that I haven’t had the chance yet. I keep hearing a lot of praise for its narrative, theme and game design, so this one is also very high on my list.
EVERY SINGLE NINTENDO SWITCH GAME
This is eating me inside.
The reason why I want to play RiME is because I am always interested in what my home country develops. RiME has been in development for years over at Tequila Works, which you may know as the Deadlight developer. It has been considered vaporware several times, threatened with cancellations, but has ultimately made it to the streets. I know that the team has suffered to bring their passion project out, and I want to see what they want to show me.
But that’s enough for the games that I missed. You must be here for the ones I did NOT miss, so let’s start with my top 10 games from 2017.
10 - Rise & Shine
Just as I said about Rime, Rise & Shine is another Spanish-developed indie title that I’ve been following ever since they announced development and showed the first video. When it finally came out, I went to a friend’s house and we purchased it together so we could play it right away. He HATED it, and I absolutely adored it. When he asked me “how can you possibly like it?” I could not really point out why, but after some other sessions I understood that the combination between action and puzzle stages is perfectly paced, the boss fights are clever, the game is super challenging and the sense of accomplishment really does rise and shine (sorry). It’s a huge feat that the game was made by just two former Team17 developers across several countries, with Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team deciding to take on a nomad lifestyle. How impressive is that?
You will like this if you: Enjoy challenging games. Like short, condensed experiences. Dig comic-book art style.
You won’t like this if you: Have a low tolerance for frustration. Need a deep narrative.
9 - Ghost Recon: Wildlands
The thing about GR:W is that I’m a bit torn about it. It’s a fantastic game, but it just doesn’t feel like a Ghost Recon game. The way it’s meant to be played is with a party of friends, exploring the wildlands completing missions like a super special ops force that (as the name implies) come and go without being ever seen or noticed. True ghosts. However, the layout, the bright environments, and the way the game favours aggressive gameplay over tactical display is what throws me off-balance. I still have a great time playing it with friends, but I believe that this game would have been much better if it just wasn’t called “Ghost Recon.”
You will like this if you: Enjoyed the latest Far Cry instalments. Like co-op gameplay. Enjoy shooting things.
You won’t like this if you: Need franchise identities to stay pure. Like to play on your own without random people jumping into your sessions.
8 - Yakuza 0
If there was a Yakuza game coming out in any given year, you can be pretty sure that I’m going to put it on the list. What’s new in this instalment? Virtually nothing. It’s more Yakuza. And that’s what makes it great for me.
Since the game focuses on the early stages of Kiryu as a yakuza, money has a big role in the game, and this brings the biggest design change in the game - which kinda bothered me. You use money to upgrade your skills and levels, and you need (and get) a LOT of it. This, in turn, devalued the in-game shops a lot. Of course, having Yakuza set in a real-world “Tokyo in the '80s”, you can’t just compensate by jacking the price of a cup of ramen up to a million yen just for the sake of gameplay balance. Therefore, when in previous instalments you may have had a bit of trouble getting yourself some healing items, in this game all of that seems trivial. You punch someone on the street and get over 200 thousand yen anyway.
That aside, Yakuza 0 brings more of what I love: Meaningful stories and characters, exploring Tokyo in a different time setting, karaoke, and OutRun. Yes, you can play OutRun inside Yakuza 0. That should have already sold you on the game by now.
You will like this if you: Want to explore Tokyo in the '80s. Enjoyed previous Yakuza games. Like games to be serious with a bit of silly.
You won’t like this if you: Are more focused on the action of a game. If you just focus on the game’s main story. If you need deep fighting mechanics.
7 - Fortnite
I was dragged into this by the rest of the team in a moment of my life where I didn’t want to buy any games, so I came in sceptical but willing to be surprised. Well, here’s the controversial bit: I don’t particularly enjoy Battle Royale games. I don’t play PUBG, and I have very limited experience with FNBR. I get why people like it, it’s just not my cup of tea. The reason why Fortnite is on this list is because of the “Save the World” mode. Despite most people believing it’s pretty mediocre, I had a blast playing it. Having played tons of Orcs Must Die, I found Fortnite to be pretty similar, except you can create your own maze and customise its defence. Plus, it’s four-player co-op. Genius!
You will like this if you: Enjoy Battle Royale games (it’s really good, too). Enjoy building staircases to the moon. Like tower-defence games, except you’re the tower.
You won’t like this if you: Like games to be “finished”. Expect a lot of your friends to play the co-op with you.
6 - For Honor
This game has managed to develop upon a topic where many could only scratch the surface of. Chivalry wanted to make one-on-one sword combat meaningful and immersive. Mount and Blade wanted you to feel a part of great battles, while not forgetting the role of the individual. For Honor has taken all that, and translated it into a simple control scheme that is easy to learn and hard to master.
The online modes are a delight, and the one-on-one duels are tense and exciting. That is, until someone else from the opposing team comes and stabs you and you have to run away to stay alive. True, this is how it would go in a real battle, but it really throws me off the mood when it happens. That’s why I focus mainly on the 1 vs. 1 fight mode, which keeps all of the tension intact. It works great competitively too! Having witnessed a tournament first-hand, I was on the edge of my seat at all times.
You will like this if you: Like medieval combat. Feel powerful with a sword. Like duelling at dawn.
You won’t like this if you: Ironically, have a sense of samurai honour in the fights.
5 - Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue
While this is technically another compilation where you can play Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance on a platform that is not the 3DS, the kicker of this title is that it contains a brand-new playable chapter that serves as a prelude to Kingdom Hearts III, in all its HD, Unreal Engine 4 glory. It shows that it hasn’t quite been polished, as I've been having performance problems on a vanilla PS4 on occasion. Nevertheless, if this is how Kingdom Hearts III is going to look and play, sign me up.
You will like this if you: Enjoy Kingdom Hearts, or action RPGs. Like cross-over games.
You won’t like this if you: Expect a long experience with the new chapter, and the other inclusions are not enough.
4 - Crash Bandicoot N’Sane Trilogy
Crash Bandicoot is back! Woohoo! And boy, does it look good! What a masterful remake this is. Or is it a remaster? It’s a bit of a touchy subject here, but I’m going to go with remake. Three games that I absolutely adored as a child, playing exactly the same but with today’s standards, visually speaking. The goofiness is still there, the charm is still there, so all in all, this is an N’Sane improvement (Sorry again. I promise I’ll stop now.)
You’ll like this if you: Enjoy retro gameplay. Ever owned a PlayStation 1. Want a lot of game at a low cost.
You won’t like this if you: Expect a deep story. Want to just shoot things. Are more into serious games.
3 - Cuphead
I’ve been looking into Cuphead for a long time, and once it came out it was another one of those games that I could just not afford to play at the time. It wasn’t until our 24-hour marathon that I finally managed to get my hands on it properly, and I loved every minute. Once the marathon was over, I kept playing it on my own. Man, the art is something else. So polished! So well animated! And the gameplay? Hard, but fair. It just takes skill to beat it, and the game is perfectly balanced to that end.
You’ll like this if you: Like old-school cartoon art. Are up for a challenge. Enjoy ”bullet hell” schmups.
You won’t like this if you: Have low tolerance for frustration. Need a more mellow experience.
2 - Persona 5
I absolutely adored Persona 4, and when 5 came out I instantly went to grab my copy. It improves on the previous one in nearly every aspect. The UI is hypnotising. Super-sleek design. How such a visually aggressive style fits so well in a game while making it accessible baffles me. It keeps the same vibes as the previous titles when it comes to combat, but everyone who has played Persona games knows that this is not where the game really shines. What really matters is the time management part between action stages, where you choose to bond with your classmates or peers, work a part-time job to earn money, watch a movie to get inspired, or whatever! That part is, ironically, what I enjoy the most, even though as a turn-based RPG it is also super solid. Persona, for me, is possibly the best RPG franchise in the world.
You’ll like this if you: Enjoy socialising with meaningful NPCs. Enjoy deep, absorbing stories. Like to be surprised.
You won’t like this if you: Enjoy more traditional RPG cycles. If you are a natural procrastinator. If you’re not a social person.
1 - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Aside from being a magnificent game, there is also a personal side to the story of why I loved it so much. It came out at a time where I was having a bit of a rough time, and having such a big, colorful world to explore and soak in was somehow liberating. I found myself getting lost in Hyrule for hours and hours at a time, and never getting tired of… doing absolutely nothing. This is but one of the things that made it so fantastic.
At first, it didn't really click with me that it was a bit less of a “traditional” Zelda. If you have played more of them, you can definitely establish a pattern, or a leitmotif to all of them: You know the main character is called Link, but the game lets you name it however you want. Although the games have an overworld to explore, the main course is in the dungeons and in its fantastic level design. The main character wears green clothes and a characteristic hat. Most games have a main musical component, with characteristic tunes and sounds… and I could go on forever. Breath of the Wild, however, takes all of these standards and tells you to shove them up your ass. And I hated that. To begin with, at least.
It doesn’t take very long to feel immersed in the world. The game starts with you wearing nothing but your underwear, and that’s exactly how you feel when you begin playing it. It does a masterful job to teach you how to survive, and how to live and enjoy this wild, breathing world (sorry, this is the last one, I promise.)
Even though the soundtrack is nearly non-existent, it doesn’t feel odd at all. This is how it’s supposed to be, after all. You are out in the open, exploring a world where all you can hear is the breeze every now and then. Sometimes gentle piano tunes accompany you on your journey, giving you a bit of a sense of peace. And that is what I needed from this game, somehow.
I could ramble for hours about how good of a game this is (in fact, I’m pretty sure I already did on one or maybe eight of our podcasts), but man. Maaaaan. This game. I am grateful that it came out on the Wii U as well, because I wouldn’t have liked to miss it for anything in the world. Even if I do get a Switch eventually, I would definitely buy it a second time only to have the chance of playing this on the go. 10/10, would invest 200+ hours again. Without a doubt, this is THE highlight of my year. If you haven’t played it yet, stop reading and do your homework.
You’ll like this if you: Like to get lost exploring worlds. Are willing to part with a few traditional values. Own a Wii U or a Switch. Have not played any Zelda game before. Have played any Zelda game before.
You won’t like this if you: Are on a schedule. Can’t have long playing sessions. Hate Nintendo.
Elite Dangerous (PS4)
Elite is not a particularly new game, but it does deserve a place in my list because in 2017 it was released on the PS4, where I purchased it a second time and spent a LONG chunk of my gaming summer. I won’t really speak a lot of it, but what I will say is that the more I play and understand it, the more I like it. It plays great with a controller, although there is an official HOTAS stick that is compatible with PS4 for full immersion, if you would prefer that. Now, Frontier, do your best to bring PSVR compatibility, and we’re golden.
Thanks for sticking with me all the way to the end! I know it was a long rant, and that it came in a bit too late compared to the others, but with what we’ve seen in 2017 and what we’re looking at in 2018, I’m happy to see where this new year is going to take us. So far, in January, I have my sights set on Dragon Ball FighterZ and Monster Hunter World. That last one may even be my return to the streaming scene!