GOTY 2017: Rob's Picks

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Many people are out there saying 2017 has been the best year for games in recent history, and considering I easily got together a top 10 list with plenty of recommendations to spare, plus a whole other list of games I could well have ranked highly if I’d spent more time with them, well.. I can certainly see how a case could be made!

Start of the year, I tried to be good and stick to single player games, finishing them or otherwise being done with them before moving on. This was going pretty well until a little something called Battle Royale decided to play with the pleasure receptors in my brain, PUBG hooking me into online multiplayer long enough for Fortnite to deliver the follow-up to this one-two punch. GTA Online followed in behind as the year closed out, and these 3 games certainly explain why there are some big single player releases that don’t feature in my top 10 but may otherwise have done. 

I'm a walking, talking Nintendo advert, and I-I-I-I-I love it.

I'm a walking, talking Nintendo advert, and I-I-I-I-I love it.

The Switch also came out this year, and it’s an incredible device. Nintendo really pulled off the home console on the go thing so masterfully, with a fantastic-feeling console that has been host to what I’d rate as contender for the best launch year for any system ever.

I’m gonna start things off with some statistics, because if you know me personally you’ll not be surprised to learn that I keep a thorough list of the games I play. Here are some stats from across the last 3 years; I’m not surprised by the decrease across the board but it still says I play a stupid number of games.

Rob's Playlist Statistics

I have some other games to talk about before my Top 10, to give a fuller picture of my year:

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    Non-2017 Games I Loved In 2017

    • Our most recent collective obsession has been GTA Online which we finally broke through to the good stuff on. We have the Doomsday Heist left to complete.
    • Four in February finally forced me to play Resident Evil 4, and you know what? It’s very good.
    • It also got me playing SWAT 4 after I saw Danny O’Dwyer playing it. Some big heart pumping moments!
    • Hitman’s Elusive Targets ran through until July, within an incredible new campaign released with the GOTY version.
    • I returned to Dishonored 2 and finished it, love me some immersive sim!
    • The season pass content for Mafia III was a little rough around the edges but delivered more of the game I adore.
    • We finally finished Jamestown together.
    • I also picked up these older games on my Switch: Human Fall Flat, L.A. Noire Remastered and Thumper.

     

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    Want To Play (More)

    • Gran Turismo Sport really wants everyone to race each other professionally, and for the most part it does a good job of deterring would-be troublemakers, resulting in a more intense and entertaining online multiplayer experience. I’ve had several races ruined by getting shunted off-track, though, and my limited time with it means I don’t know how successful they’ve been with their pro racer ambitions overall.
    • I have played a handful of hours of Nier Automata so far and haven’t enjoyed it much. However, I’ve listened to enough talk about it to know that I’ll need to endure a whole lot more to see the best bits for myself. I’ll make some time for it, I guess.
    • I’ve played several hours of Nioh and dig its whole vibe, and with my interest in the Soulsborne games having grown in the last couple of years, I really should stick with this one.
    • I came to Horizon: Zero Dawn several months after its release as I was playing Zelda at the time. It feels a little clunky and hasn’t grabbed me, but I will give it more time.
    • Prey has been pretty sweet so far, it should be right up my street as an immersive sim with a hint of horror. Another victim of my year of multiplayer vice.
    • I’ve only played Tekken 7 away from home and in multiplayer, but as a big fan of Tekken 3 it sounds like this is a good one to make a trip back to the series with.
    • I’ve bought, tried and fallen off of every Supergiant release, and unfortunately the trend has continued with Pyre. This one’s less to do with the game itself, though, so it’s on my playlist still.
    • This hasn’t been a big local multiplayer year for me, so my time with Nidhogg II has been very limited. I like what I’ve played though, the weapon cycle seems like a big tactical consideration and the range of maps seems decent.
    • I was surprised that Resident Evil VII ended up being pretty damn good, my initial impression was that it was cribbing a little too heavily from P.T. but no, it has so much more to offer and in many ways feels a lot like the first 3 games. I just didn’t stick with it.
    • I picked up Tiny Metal on my Switch on its December launch day, and so far it’s a little rough and ready but is delivering in the premise of filling the Advance Wars-shaped hole in my life.
    • I didn’t play any Yakuza Zero for myself in 2017, choosing other PS4 releases instead and resorting to watching the Giant Bomb East guys play through, but even that was too much of a commitment for me to stick with so I’ll be picking this up as soon as it gets another deep discount.
    • Finally, I don’t have but would like to play: What Became of Edith Finch, Night in the Woods, Assassin’s Creed Origins, The Evil Within 2 and Spintires: Mudrunner.

     

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    Honourable Mentions

    • I got around to free PC game Doki Doki Literature Club whilst writing this article, and maaaaaaaaaaaaaan. Virtual novel sympathisers, go and play it.
    • I did not fall for DiRT 4 like I did for 3, but I recommend it without question for any rally fans out there. The rally racing itself is exciting and far more inviting than DiRT Rally was, with several other sports mixed in for good measure.
    • It turns out Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a fine installment in a series I’ve always enjoyed, and not a b-team cash-in like Gears of War Judgment was. Shorter run-time than Uncharted 4, different lead characters for a change, and some neat changes to level layout and design.
    • Did you remember LawBreakers came out? I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t, and that’s a big shame. We collectively enjoyed and shed light on it, but the lack of a player base makes it tough to recommend. I really hope they come up with something and give me a chance to play it again, because if not this pretty awesome arena shooter is nothing but a memory.
    • We played High Hell during the marathon this year, and I went and finished it in my own time, and had a smile on my face all the way through. 
    • I also think you should go and look up: The Sexy Brutale, Never Stop Sneakin’, Guts and Glory and Flinthook.

     

    Game Of The Year - Rob's Top 10

    Here it is, thank you for reading!

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    10 - Cuphead

    art by porygon2z

    Cuphead’s a very impressive achievement, the MDHR brothers totally nailed the aesthetic and the resulting game is a sweet arcadey boss rush that I’ve enjoyed working my way through, one quick restart at a time. A bunch of the bosses seem damn near insurmountable on first attempt, but the learning process is fun; Taking newly obtained knowledge from each failure through to the next attempt until I reach the boss’ final transformation and scrape my way to victory. It’s a great fit for shorter play sessions, definitely take a break when you find yourself stuck on a level and come back later with renewed energy to get 'er done.

     

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    9 - Super Mario Odyssey

    I felt like I might have played this game wrong. I moved from world to world as soon as I had the minimum needed number of moons, and as a result had a pretty easy time with it because the game is saturated with them. I also haven’t returned to it since completing the baseline story, but I know for sure that I’ve only really scratched the surface of it. I didn’t fall in love with it and some of the worlds seemed pretty lame - sorry, but I really didn’t like New Donk City from what I played - but that’s not to say it didn’t have me smiling, usually when capturing a creature with a really cool ability. I don’t know if my misgivings with my time with it are my fault, or if the game’s structure failed to show me its best bits. Either way, I’m looking forward to digging deeper and needing to learn some of the more advanced platforming techniques.

     

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    8 - Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

    The New Colossus is a trip, an incredible journey with ridiculous moments and setpieces, and at least a few occasions that had me slack-jawed at the game’s audacity. I recommend experiencing it. It’s a shame that a lot of the gameplay itself doesn’t match that high standard, because if it had then I’d be ranking this way further up my list. The stealth mechanics don’t work well and the level design doesn’t seem to allow for successful circumvention of combat, which in itself pales in comparison to last year’s DOOM. The difficulty just seems off; I never dropped it down to the easiest option, but from what I’ve discussed with friends it seems like that would have been the best way to go, which is absurd because I look for challenge from shooters as much as anything else.

     

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    7 - Persona 5

    Persona 5 had already earned its place high on my 2017 list long before my PUBG addiction replaced it as my daily obsession. I love its style maybe more than any other aspect; Just hanging out inside the game is enjoyable because it takes place around Shibuya and the soundtrack prominently features some filthy funky bass guitar. The core battle system feels satisfying, and I enjoyed balancing my time between getting things done in the real world and making enough progress in the dreamlike dungeons to succeed before it's too late. I find myself thinking about Persona 5 a lot.

     

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    6 - SteamWorld Dig 2

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    This one was a very pleasant surprise for me late in the year, I took the plunge based on some very strong recommendations from the guys at Giant Bomb and the fact that I was on Christmas holiday with my Switch. I instantly fell in love with its perfect blend of looking, sounding and playing great, and always offering up new areas to explore and challenges to overcome, with a respec-able skill tree to experiment with. It’s great on the Switch as both a small and big screen game, and it has been keeping me on its hook ever since I started with its awesome sense of flow and discovery, offering something new to tease you with at all times.

     

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    5 - Splatoon 2

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    Splatoon 2 is better than the Wii U original, and honestly there wasn’t much more that I needed to be onboard with it, spending hours at a time passing the controller back and forth with my girlfriend, who's equally passionate about it. I love the J-punk style and the core concept of a shooter that isn’t about kills but about map control, with sweet new weapons and levels thrown in. I sometimes wonder if the game would be better by handling itself in a more traditional manner, instead of doing crazy stuff like gating each mode to a 2-map rotation for 2 hours at a time. Then again, its uniqueness in all regards is what defines it and makes it special, so I'll take the rough with the smooth. 
     

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    4 - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

    Breath of the Wild is brave. I felt such incredible freedom during my playthrough, discovering Hyrule's environment dangers and rules for myself, choosing where to explore, marking my own destinations from atop the world's towers, and completing shrines using what felt like my own, unconventional tactics. As a result, it felt like a personal journey of discovery. I agree with critics of the game's core story and the four main dungeons, but their relative weakness is dwarfed by the time I spent in the open world and in the many, many shrines. I defeated Calamity Ganon with all four of the Divine Beasts tamed, but never retrieved the Master Sword, and according to the Hero's Path addition from the expansion pass, neglected to visit several locations. With those to check out, and the expansion's content to dig into, I'll be making a return and look forward to carving my own path once again.

     

    3 - Fortnite

    So, first up if it wasn't clear, I'm talking about Fortnite Battle Royale here. Fortnite's Save The World wave-based survival story mode is alright, but it's not the draw. What's kept me playing for countless hours is that Battle Royale mode, and it's been a big success in my eyes because it feels rock solid to play, Epic shrewdly converting their polished but unfinished mechanics to take advantage of the surprise success of Battlegrounds, and the construction/destruction gameplay offers a compelling alternative that has led to me finding space in my life for both games. Winning matches through crafting stairways around the enemy is so, so gratifying, as is taking down a group that thinks their fortress is enough to keep them safe.

    The early access support has been incredible, with a ton of playful experimentation taking place including new gear and weapons, and limited time modes that are poking around with the battle royale concept. Fortnite is a deserving alternative and a far better fit on console (so far), a worthy and brilliant multiplayer release that I'm glad I gave a chance.

     

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    2 - Danganronpa V3

    Deciding to play Danganronpa was one of my best personal choices ever. This series is incredible. For the uninitiated, Danganronpa places you as a high school student trapped inside the school, and told that you'll only get to leave if you kill a fellow classmate and get away with it. Once a murder occurs, a period of time is allowed to investigate, followed by a class trial where the group must work out 'whodunnit', or else fail and be punished by death. It's a visual novel, so very story-heavy but with a lot of agency and interactivity to get into.

    Much like 2, Danganronpa V3 gets to play with the fact that you will have played the previous entries, leading to moments where my expectations were used to deliver heart-thumping twists, turns and revelations. Once again, I loved all of the characters (the monokubs are a fun new cast of antagonists), and got heavily invested in the story. This series, for me, is the definition of a page turner in videogame form.

    I'd say all told, my favourite is still 2, but that should not put any series fans off. For those that might have put the series off, or are only hearing about it now, I urge you to get on it now. It's difficult to talk details without giving much away, even down to sharing screenshots, so you'll just have to trust me!
     

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    1 - PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

    PUBG is the realization of my many competitive shooter fantasies, a vice I’ve wished to feed since my Xbox Live clan days from 10 years past. At first glance I dismissed it as another Arma mod I’d never get into, but after my first play of it on a borrowed copy from Hush, I fell for it. It speaks to my soul.

    It is the ultimate thrill in online gaming, and it takes my Game Of The Year 2017 top spot because the emotion it draws from me is unparalleled. My journey from discovery and personal improvement to that first chicken dinner, to that first self-earned chicken dinner, to the many that eventually followed as I felt command over the island of Erangel and the game's set of weapons, with the group of duo and squad mates I evolved with along the way… The heart pumping thrill of a final zone showdown, and the satisfaction of a hard fought or lucky victory, cannot be beaten.

    I far prefer duo and squad play over solo, but there are differences amongst all three match types that I love. What draws me to the team stuff is the teamwork, the feeling of working together as a unit to best other groups that are doing the same, the need to communicate, plan, and have each others’ backs. This game is the ultimate in emergent storytelling, generating ridiculous stories to share with every session. No game before it has led me to record every match on video, so that I can share and relive every win.

    As my abilities with the game developed, so did the game. Being there from week 1, scrabbling through patch notes and clawing over every minute detail, gleefully sharing the excitement with the group on Discord, it's something I've never done before but imagine MMO players do all the time. I don't care about the downsides of playing an early access game; The problems along the way, from crashes to downtime, pale in comparison to the raw emotional power of its last man/team standing coupled with watching the game evolve underneath my feet. 

    2016 and 2017 have really gotten me back into online multiplayer. Overwatch, Battlegrounds, Fortnite and most recently GTA Online have had me online almost daily, and with a group to boot. I have 163 hours on record with PUBG, and it took over 2 months for me to win my first match, such are the odds and variables in play. I’ve not spent more than an hour with the second map, Miramar, and the vaulting that both come as part of the 1.0 PC version, but I immediately got that sense of wonder and tension from getting dropped into new locations, and the idea of entering and exiting buildings without having to use the doors sends my mind racing as I comprehend the tactics we might get to use.

    Of all of the games on my list, PUBG is the first one that comes to mind when I think about getting back online in 2018.