2017 was a great year for gaming. There were plenty of top quality titles for every gaming genre. The Battle Royale genre took off this year with the highly successful Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) taking the PC and, as of December 12, the Xbox world by storm by throwing 100 players onto a large island and forcing them closer together until one team remained. The shooter genre saw a bunch of sequels to much-loved franchises such as Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, Destiny 2, and Call of Duty: World War 2.
Fans of platformers were rewarded this year with a new Sonic game, Sonic Mania, that drew on the classic formula and art style. Cuphead was another platformer that delighted players with its original 1930s hand-drawn art style and punishing difficulty.
The launch of the Nintendo Switch in March, a console I was originally sceptical about but have since grown to love, gave us The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey in October, two fantastic games that showed Nintendo still knows how to make terrific gameplay experiences.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins turned the franchise into a role-playing game and performed well critically (I have yet to play it myself, but am eager to). Another role-playing game loved by critics, despite some of its clunky mechanics was Divinity Original Sin 2.
Last year I listed my five favourite games in no order. This year I’m taking a different approach. I found I played less games this year, but spent more time with the ones I did play. Below you’ll find my three favourite games of 2017, and four games I believe deserve attention. Let’s begin.
3) Destiny 2 (Bungie)
Destiny 2 once again demonstrates that Bungie knows how to make fun and engaging shooters. Improving on many of the original’s shortcomings, Destiny 2 includes a more coherent and entertaining story, while maintaining the franchises addictive shooting and looting.
In summary, the story sees the player fighting to reclaim the mysterious being called The Traveller from a jealous Cabal called Ghaul. It makes more sense than the first game’s story, but doesn’t explore the world’s lore much more than the first game. With that said, there are still some great missions, and the vehicles based ones reminded me of some moments from Bungie’s Halo games.
There is a lot more to do after the main story is complete, with side missions called adventures expanding the story. The strikes – 20 to 30 minute missions that end in a boss fight – this time around feel more varied rather than just asking players to fight through waves of enemies.
Destiny 2 still has issues with replay-ability and is having issues satisfying casual and hardcore players at the same time, but the superb shooting mechanics, abilities and loot have kept me coming back since its September launch.
2) Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo)
Super Mario Odyssey feels like a celebration of what’s come before, while also adding something new to the historic franchise. The game is basically a collect-a-thon, as you travel from world to world hunting for Moons to power Mario’s new ship, The Odyssey. Each world feels unique; from beach-side resorts, to a land based on food, to the game’s stand-out New Donk City.
Super Mario Odyssey introduces a new mechanic and companion for Mario, a hat named Cappy whose sister was captured by Bowser along with Princess Peace (surprise, surprise). Mario can throw Cappy at certain enemies to control them, opening up new gameplay mechanics like stacking goombas to reach higher places or using a bullet bill to reach Moons on isolated platforms. Cappy can also be used to assist Mario with traversal, such as using him as a bounce pad to reach further distances.
I usually don’t go out of my way to find collectibles in games, so Super Mario Odyssey doesn’t sound like my type of game. However, Super Mario Odyssey makes collecting its moons so much fun. It’s an absolutely delight to play and a great selling point for the Nintendo Switch.
Super Mario Odyssey reminds us that fun gameplay will always be a major factor in a game’s success.
1) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the best game of the year, and it may be one of the best of all time. The last Wii U title and a Nintendo Switch launch title, Breath of the Wild is a masterclass in game design. From the moment you take control of Link, the game’s protagonist, Breath of the Wild invites you to explore its world, and rewards you for doing so. No part of the world is wasted. Climb a mountain and you will find something interesting, travel to the very edges of the map and there will be something of value.
The hundreds of shrines scattered around Hyrule act as waypoints and mini-dungeons, with the completion of a small puzzle or combat scenario rewarding the player with a spirit orb which can be exchanged for more health or stamina. It’s a great way to demonstrate Link’s progression as the player travels through the world with him getting stronger the more shrines the player completes.
What makes Breath of the Wild so amazing is the near infinite amount of possibilities available with the game’s mechanics. There is no right way to play Breath of the Wild. Nothing you do feels like an exploit or an incorrect use of the mechanics, if you can do it, then the game wants you to. Breath of the Wild gives the player the freedom to play it how they want. This is true of the main story missions, with the player allowed to choose which order to restore the four divine beasts.
In summary, Breath of the Wild‘s main story sees Link waking up after being asleep for 100 years. He learns that he, Princess Zelda and four champions failed to kill a being called Calamity Gannon and he was placed in a coma. Link must restore the four divine beasts that Gannon has taken under his control, recovering his memories in the meantime. The few story cut-scenes throughout the game do a terrific job at creating an emotional connection between Link, Princess Zelda and the four champions which piloted the divine beasts.
I’ve never been as captivated by a game as I have by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I spent the first half of the year playing it almost exclusively. The world is interesting and invites exploration, the story is minimal, but tugs at emotional strings, and the game mechanics encourage experimentation and give the player freedom. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece and 2017’s best game.
2017 Honourable Mentions
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory)
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is unlike any game I have ever played. It’s a story about mental illness, a women’s internal struggle with psychosis. The game’s audio design is a standout, playing with headphones is recommend by the developers to appreciate the use of 3D sound. Hellblade has no HUD, all story cues and combat warnings are spoken by voices in Senua’s head.
It’s purposefully unnerving. The camera is positioned close to Senua’s shoulder, limiting spatial awareness and creating a level of intimacy between the player and Senua. Playing with headphones, I felt like I was hearing voices behind me as they whisper to Senua, continually questioning and ridiculing her decisions, but also letting her know when enemies are behind her during combat. It’s uncomfortable, and a perfect way to make the player empathise with Senua.
I’ve yet to finish the game, but from what I’ve played so far, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is one of the most interesting game’s I’ve played in 2017. What the game does with sound wouldn’t be possible in a book or film.
Call of Duty: WW2 (Sledgehammer Games)
Call of Duty leaves jump jets and outer space behind this year, returning to the ‘boots on the ground’ gameplay that popularised the series. The single player story is the typical six hour action blockbuster, this time returning to World War 2. It becomes quite clear where the narrative is going early in the campaign, but Sledgehammer Games still does a great job at executing its vision of a telling the story of a small squad just trying to survive the war.
Accompanying the single player campaign is a great multiplayer offering. It’s strange that it feels refreshing returning to the staple of the Call of Duty franchise. Call of Duty multiplayer is as fast paced as ever, the gunplay remains tight, and the power of the scorestreaks are rewarding for players who can earn them. Sledgehammer Games’ Advanced Warfare was the last Call of Duty multiplayer I sunk a lot of time into, and I can see myself doing so with WW2 well into 2018.
I had to put Cuphead on this list because of its phenomenal art style. Cuphead is based on 1920s and 1930s animation, even featuring the film grain and imperfections. It’s a wonderful ode to the era and an art style rarely, if ever, seen in a game before. Even the game’s theme song has a 1930s quartet vibe.
Don’t be mistaken though, underneath the animated art style is a difficult boss-rush platformer. Lose all of your lives and you have to start a level again. The platforming feels responsive enough, though, that it always feels like user error rather than cheap enemy design that causes game overs. Each level and boss has its own unique style and the bosses attacks are all varied.
If you’ve been following Cuphead since it was first announced, it’s been several years in waiting for the game’s release. The wait was worth it. The team should be commended for their dedication to the art style and creating great gameplay to back it up.
Fortnite: Battle Royale (Epic Games)
Of the two Battle Royale games that have popularised the genre this year, Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode was my favourite. The map is much smaller, so travelling across it does not seem like an endeavour, and encounters with other players occur more often. Fortnite’s unique trait is the ability to build structures in the game using materials mined from the world. Every building and item is destroyable and grants building resources. When you’re not looting buildings for weapons, or moving towards the continually shrinking play circle, you can be mining for resources to build structures. It removes those lengthy periods of doing nothing. Furthermore, matches are more dynamic because opposing players can build makeshift fortifications during battle.
The Battle Royale genre rose to popularity in 2017, and the dynamic building in Fortnite made it my favourite entry.
I’d love to know what games you enjoyed playing this year. Let me know by commenting below. Look for my top films of 2017 soon.