Sometimes making a Best of Year list is easy, but this wasn’t one of those times. Between not getting a Nintendo Switch (yet) and it being a lackluster year for Xbox, I just didn’t play that many games this year. 2017 was a great year for movies, television, and anime, an average year for pop music, and I’d personally say gaming found itself in the middle of that field of quality. Not that there wasn’t good stuff, it’s just I didn’t think that there was a whole lot to rave about. A couple of Nintendo titles, a handful of Playstation titles, and next to nothing from Microsoft, all with a smattering of multiplatform games. The good news though is that what was there was usually pretty good, with only a few outright duds (thanks, EA), so I was able to find 10 games that I wound up putting enough time into to... say some things about. Five honorable mentions, and five games that I believe represent what 2017 should be remembered for (besides the Switch, obviously).
And with that out the way:
Man oh man, this game is torturing me. Not because of the choices I’ve had to make in my playthrough (although some of them have been gut-wrenching), but because the last two episodes have been MIA for the past few months. I have no idea of what’s happening with Telltale (maybe they’re finally getting a new game engine, hopefully?), but all I can hope for now is that we aren’t left with just that cliffhanger ending from episode 3. Otherwise though, season 2 of Telltale’s take on Batman is still pretty damn good, giving us a surprising yet logical twist on Harley Quinn (and her relationship with the Joker), and... actually, that’s all I can honestly say. Riddler was great but short lived (heh), Waller is still The Wall, and the Batman/Catwoman romance is still the best ever interpretation of their relationship outside of the original comics. Still my favorite Telltale game, but... geez, I expect mid season hiatuses in my shows, not my games.
I’m sure everyone had their own personal gaming disappointment this year, but instead of Battlefront 2 or Gran Turismo Sport, the game that let me down the most was Forza Motorsport 7. A game that could’ve easily made it onto my top 5 list, if it weren’t for the variety of issues that should’ve been resolved before it went on sale. Forzavista was missing features we had for years, a fifth of the car roster is locked behind an extremely arbitrary wall that means you have to luck into getting cars you probably want, a lootbox system that doesn’t rely on mircrotransactions and thus cuts into your in-game earnings in order to get mods and driver suits, and the rivals mode has been severely cut back. If it weren’t for the drop dead gorgeous visual fidelity, the updated handling models, and the vastly improved single player campaign, this would’ve been the first Forza to not even make it into the honorable mentions sections. Thankfully though, it does just eek its way onto the list, even though it makes me nostalgic for its two year old predecessor.
I know, I know. Look, I haven’t finished enough of NieR for it to crack the Top 5. It’ll probably make my Best of What I Missed in 2017 list, but for now, just know that I’m hugely impressed with the couple of hours I’ve put into it. A combat system that’s like a version of Dark Souls that’s [gasp] somewhat FUN to play, a focus on aesthetics over graphics (in a Playstation title, of all places), and a truly fascinating sci-fi setting. I’ll definitely talk more about it when I play through all the endings, so for the meantime keep this in the back of your head until the end of 2018...
I know this was available in early access last year, but nope, Slime Rancher officially released in August of this year, so it makes the list! Ha! And here I was worrying I’d have to fill out this section with Mass Effect: Andromeda... I kid, I kid, but I really am thankful that I remembered this game before I published this list. Slime Rancher is one of those games that’s almost theraputic in how chill and laid back it is. It’s a full-on farming game, with a real economy, mechanics that require your full attention, and a bittersweet backstory, but when I played it months ago none of that fully mattered. All I cared about was the subtle, Nintendo-esque aesthetic and sound design, and a FPS shooter that didn’t rely on you shooting things in their face in order to achieve your goals. Not to say I don’t enjoy the core goal of the average FPS, but it’s so refreshing to see something so uncommon that it almost turns the entire notion of the genre on its head.
One thing I’m really surprised got lost in gaming coverage from 2017 is that all three of the PS4's biggest hitters all starred women: NieR, Horizon ZD, and this all featured female protagonists, and it was so nice seeing that (and no, Gran Turismo Sport wasn’t a heavy hitter, sadly). This was one of the many reasons why 2017 was the year Playstation finally won me over, thanks to having titles that really spoke to me on a gameplay and narrative level (games that weren’t Bloodborne, basically). Of my five honorable mentions, this one just missed being on the proper top 5 list, and that’s mostly due to its short length. But besides that, everything else here is fantastic: the characters and their performances, the story and various arcs, the little moments in it, the visuals, the setpieces (which are some of the best in the entire series), and even the shooting isn’t as aggravating as its has been in past Uncharted games. I also love the mini-open world section in the game, and I hope this is the first of more, Nathan Drake-less Uncharted games. I thought this series ended on the perfect note with Uncharted 4, but if we get more of this, I’m more than fine with getting more of these games in bite sized editions.
And now, after three weeks of thinking things through and putting them off:
This game is half the reason I waited until mid-January to publish this list (the other half was procrastination, of course). The first brand new Assassin’s Creed game in two whole years? Damn right I’m gonna take my time with it, and I’d say it was time very well spent; this is easily one of the top five games in the series, sitting comfortably with the underappreciated Syndicate and the surprisingly well-aged Brotherhood (but not quite as great as AC2 or Black Flag, mind you). This is easily the best looking game in the entire series, thanks to Ubisoft finally making full use of current gen hardware, and the incredible beauty of ancient Egypt, capturing the palpable scope of a region that despite looking desolate at times contains a living, breathing world, full of opportunities to hack and slash enemies. Actually, it must be said that the combat is this game’s one weak point; instead of the easy but enjoyable Arkham-esque freeflow combat we were used to, we’re treated to a Dark Souls attempt, and... it is terrible. Game developers, please, I beg of you, for the love of whatever deity you worship, stop copying Dark Souls’s combat into your games.
Okay, okay, other things besides the combat... oh yeah: fleshed out characters that are genuinely engrossing, a satisfying origin story for an organization that really needed some insight into its formation, stealth mechanics that are the best in the entire series, and although I badly miss the twin assassin blades, the eagle drone, bow and arrows as third-person-shooting gunplay, and an amazing amount of fun callbacks to other games more than make up for it, and they all build up to make Origins the best AC in close to five years. Here’s hoping Ubisoft can keep this new found momentum going.
I struggled with whether or not I could honestly put this in my top 5, because I really think this was one of the more overhyped games of the year. Beautiful? Hell yes. Great concept? Undeniably. Achievement in storytelling, a great protagonist, and a fun combat system? Eh... Look, it’s not bad in any of those areas, but I cannot for the life of me see what all the fuss was about. The story, while solid, just feels a bit too lifeless; I can’t remember a single time the main game really made me laugh, or genuinely smile. The protagonist, again, while solid, falls into having the “discovering who I am/I am the chosen one” narrative that I thought we were past by now, and has a personality that feels like it was focused grouped just a bit too much (although I am more than open to seeing Alloy in future games). And the combat, again, whilst SOLID, has the same problem as the combat from AC Origins were it has too much of what I hate from Dark Souls for me to ever really like it (game developers, come here. There are things to steal from Souls games, BUT THE COMBAT SYSTEM IS. NOT. ONE. OF. THEM.). So yeah, I wasn’t too hot on it making my top 5, and it was really close to losing its spot to Uncharted: TLL.
Then The Frozen Wilds dropped. And it felt like the people at Guerrilla Games had somehow heard about my grievances, because this is one of the few times where I consider the DLC to be better than the game it was made for. The story is vastly more interesting, by taking a look at religion in a post-post-apocalyptic world were AIs are treated as deities. Alloy, while still a bit on the boring side, interacts with a great cast of side characters who all have enough depth to make you care about them, from either being fun to interact with, to having relationships with one another that make you invested in seeing what happens to them. And the combat... well, there’s no fixing that (whoever designed those fire-bears needs to be slapped repeatedly for a good long while), but on the very bright side, the musical score is several steps up, going from the got-annoying-way-too-quickly tribal chants and vocals, to a much more listenable orchestral soundtrack that is truly wonderful. So yeah, Horizon ZD: come for the robot dinos, stay for the frozen wilds.
All in all, 2017 was a really good year for DC comics. Rebirth is still going strong, Wonder Woman was a good as it deserved to be, Justice League... wasn’t a complete dumpster fire (I
enjoyed liked parts of it, okay?), and with Injustice 2, we got one of the best fighting games you can buy right now. While the story isn’t as groundbreaking as the first game’s was, it still has its fair share of incredible moments, from Harley Quinn standing up to Wonder Woman in a moment that made me go “holy shit!” out loud, to a layered dynamic between Supergirl and Batman/Superman, and the endlessly entertaining banter between every character at the start of each and every fight, makes this game hugely entertaining just to watch. And that’s all before we even touch on the gameplay itself, which is so good it lets people who absolutely suck at fighting games (like myself) play for hours on end. And best of all, we’re getting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in a game that already got Hellboy! Hell yes, this game is fantastic.
Like I said, this was not a great year for Xbox. Halo Wars 2 came and went without much attention, Forza Motorsport 7 was fun but flawed, and the Xbox One X, while immensely powerful, feels like it might be too ahead of everything else to justify its existence. But Microsoft did have one, great idea in an otherwise barren year: bring one of the most unfinished yet addictive games of the decade over to its console before anyone else. Yup, I dropped $30 on one of the most frustrating games of the year (a year that, I remind you, gave us Destiny 2), and in just one session, I completely got what all the hype was about. I know the shooting is nothing to write home about, I know it has the worst driving physics I’ve ever come across in a videogame, I how it can be quite boring and frustrating for minutes on end, but there’s no denying that Battlegrounds can be to the 2010s what Horde Mode was to the 2000s: a simple idea for a game mode that could very possibly dominate the landscape for years to come. Except in this game, you, and everyone surrounding you, are the horde. This is something that, as unpolished as it still is, deserves to become a staple of every game, and shamelessly ripped off. A total unknown becoming ubiquitous... it’s almost perfectly poetic.
Git gud: FPS edition. Oh, what, this game too hard for you? But I thought you all liked games that made you work for every kill! I mean, why else did you all praise Dark Souls and Bloodborne? Also, there is no demonspawn or hellbeast in those games that’s anywhere near as satisfying to kill as the Nazis in this game. Headshots, obliteration by shotgun, hatchet through the spine; hell, you even get to crush Hitler’s windpipe on Venus! This is easily the most satisfying game of 2017, and it’s further bolstered by also being so damn memorable thanks to superb storytelling. An entire cast of characters that are all memorable, from BJ Blazkowicz’s expanded (and exceptional) backstory, to the newly added team of freedom fighters who all come various ends of a spectrum of die-Nazi-die, and... okay, the villain is still kind of weak, but dammit if I didn’t want to see Frau Engel die a deservedly painful death. Tying them into a story that just kept topping itself with incredible setting after incredible setting, and well designed level after well designed level, and batshit wonderful moment after batshit moment... this was the game I couldn’t put down for a week. And that was all before the side missions where I got to shoot Klansmen.
I know this game shouldn’t be as satisfying or... cathartic as it is, but I don’t think there was any other game that 2017 needed as much as this one. Partly because of the enemies you spend hours sending to a bloody grave, but also because it’s a game that puts thought and depth into the circumstances surrounding the world it depicts, and how it became so messed up. Everything from an America being quietly complicit with a Nazi rule, to even smaller things like how a toxic family structure and hateful rhetoric also enters into a horribly destructive system of humanity at its worst. But at the same time, it shows people at their best: risking their own lives for others, never giving in when things seem bleak, and celebrating the smaller things in life. 2017 will probably be remembered for how almost fittingly bleak its media was, thanks to pieces such as Logan, Dunkirk , and even this year’s Star Wars, but even at its most depressing, these same pieces were also capable of showing how even when all seemed lost, there was always a tomorrow to fight for. This, along with absolutely stellar gameplay, is why Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, is without a doubt, my Best Game of 2017.
TGRIP is a film student studying in Portland, OR. TAY’s resident Xbox and racing game fan, he also (part time) reviews and does opinion pieces on games, movies, television, comics, and anime. He also runs his kinja sub blog Work(ing Title) In Progress. You can follow this third person narrating weirdo on Twitter @Dennis_wglasses, and his Gamertag on Xbox Live is “Aventador SV”.