It’s the most wonderful time of the year: my Game of the Year list! This is my full top ten Game of the Year list, followed by some fun individual awards.
This has been an exciting year. We saw the Nintendo Switch launch in March along with Zelda, and Nintendo would continue to dominate the entire year with an incredible lineup of games.
I finally got a PlayStation 4 this year, adding a bunch of games to my library that I had missed over the years (I skipped PS3). A good half those are still in my backlog, but you’ll find two of them in my Game of the Year list below.
It was a much better year for RPGs, both indie and AAA. The past continues to provide a wealth of solid remakes, enhancements, and retro-inspired games. Mobile games are gradually becoming more pronounced as Nintendo swaggers onto the scene, while the most popular game of the year made everyone google search what “Battle Royale” means.
For my part I continued to sink hundreds of hours into Heroes of the Storm, my defacto multiplayer game of choice. I also dabbled in other MOBAs like MXM, Battlerite and Arena of Valor. My Wii U was basically retired after beating Zelda, and I anxiously await getting my hands on a Nintendo Switch.
2017 may have been an awful year in many ways, but I’ve still got 10 great games that I loved.
My Top Ten Games of 2017
Adapting a turn-based strategy RPG on mobile devices can be tricky, but Fire Emblem Heroes creates a nice balance by providing miniature, single-screen battle maps and (mostly) 4v4 battles. The scaled down battles work perfectly in this format, and the theme of throwing dozens and dozes of Fire Emblem characters into one game is a blast for long-time fans.
Nintendo surprised everyone when they announced a full 2D remake of Metroid II with Metroid: Samus Returns, and it’s a damn great game. The level design still holds up well, and the new 3D models and improved controls work great in modernizing a classic.
Injustice 2‘s campaign mode fell flat but it more than made up for it with the amazingly cool Multiverse and new loot drop system. Adding RPG elements is eye-rollingly common, but I’ll be damned if it’s not exactly what I needed to keep me playing a fighting game.
Hand of Fate 2 is bigger and better in every way. It doesn’t just provide new cards. There’s a much better campaign structure with unique scenarios, more varied games of chance, and awesome new companions. Hand of Fate was a fun idea, but Hand of Fate 2 is a fun game.
Come for the fantastic comic art but stay for the challenging but fun turn-based combat. Battle Chasers: Nightwar is clearly inspired from 16-bit RPGs, but it also infuses a lot of fun modern elements like a bestiary, replayable dungeons, and an intricate combat system that rewards synergy and combos.
Ron Gilbert has a message for anyone who thinks adventure games are over: Fuck You. Thimbleweed Park is raunchy, clever, challenging, and funny as hell. It perfectly recreates the beloved SCUMM game engine that powered so many 90s classics, while providing an all-new story, multiple protagonists, and astonishingly fun puzzle design from one of the masters of the genre.
It’s been a good damn year for old-school RPGs. Cosmic Star Heroine doesn’t exactly provide the next Chrono Trigger but it is a reasonable, indie facsimile. A huge cast, fun combat system, and super awesome soundtrack made me sad that it was over far too soon, but I loved every minute of it.
Horizon Zero Dawn is the beautiful love child of Assassin’s Creed and The Elder Scrolls, and it’s one of the best-looking console games I’ve ever seen. The contrast between crumbling cities, wild nature, tribal humans, and robot dinosaurs is instantly compelling, and a wonderfully fun backdrop to explore.
The first Divinity was my #1 Game of the Year in 2014, and the sequel is even better. Divinity: Original Sin 2 has all the tactical turn-based combat I want, with a welcome new armor system, improved skills and abilities, well-integrated companions, and a much more interesting story.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was Nintendo showing the world what a psuedo-open world adventure game could do. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild proves that they’re still king of the pack. It’s expansive yet detailed, challenging yet intuitive, stylistic yet beautiful. It’s completely open, yet still tells a solid story of war, loss, failure, and redemption. And it’s my favorite game of the year.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2, Monster Hunter Stories, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Before we get to the awards, let’s compare my Game of the Year list to my Most Anticipated list I wrote in January, as well as the mini-Most Anticipated list I wrote in June. This is always a fun comparison full of face-palming, and this year won’t be any different.
Here’s my Most Anticipated Games of 2017, as of last January:
- Mass Effect: Andromeda
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- State of Decay 2
- Cosmic Star Heroine
- Divinity: Original Sin 2
- Torment: Tides of Numenera
- Battle Chasers: Nightwar
- South Park: The Fractured But Whole
Alright so, yeah. It’s not too horrible if you remember that we were all really, really excited about a new Mass Effect. Oh how wrong we were.
I actually didn’t hate Andromeda at all. I enjoyed it decently enough (hell, I put it at #5 on my Mid-Year list). But I fell off, hard. I’m about 20 hours in and never went back, and nor do I have any real desire to. That’s really bad. Considering I had it here at #1, it’s very much my Most Disappointing Game of the Year.
I was pretty accurate when it came to game releases this year, with only two games slipping into next year (hopefully): Red Dead Redemption 2 and State of Decay 2 (with both games almost going completely dark for much of the year).
That leaves seven more games. Two I didn’t play at all. Torment: Tides of Numenera I kickstarted years ago, so I own it but just haven’t had the time to dive in. Argh! As for South Park, I’ve heard mixed reports, and I’m okay waiting for a sale.
Now we’re at five games, and four of them made my final Game of the Year list. I’m a big fan of Supergiant Games but Pyre just didn’t really do it for me. It still had a great soundtrack and compelling writing and art, but the actual gameplay left me wanting. The weird sports matches just weren’t my thing, though I did dig the story, characters and world. Compared to Bastion and Transistor, however, Pyre wasn’t nearly what I wanted.
Look for my Most Anticipated Games of 2018 list in the coming weeks!
Best Multiplayer: Battlerite*
Most Disappointing: Mass Effect: Andromeda
Biggest Surprise: Thimbleweed Park
Most Played: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (72 hrs)
Best Early Access/Beta Game: Fortnite
Best Original Music: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Best Soundtrack: Cosmic Star Heroine by Hypderduck SoundWorks
Best Art Design: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Best World Building/Atmosphere: Horizon Zero Dawn
Best Writing: Masquerada: Songs and Shadows
Best Cooperative Game: Divinity: Original Sin **
Best Game Nobody Else Played: Cosmic Star Heroine
Most Improved Sequel: Hand of Fate 2
Favorite New Game Mechanic: Climbing everything in The Legend of Zelda
Most Innovative: Pyre
Best New Character: Aloy (Horizon Zero Dawn)
Favorite Moment: The opening hour of Horizon Zero Dawn
Best Industry Trend: Nintendo’s back baby!
Worst Industry Trend: Too many loot boxes
Didn’t Have Time to Play: Torment: Tides of Numenera
Too Long; Didn’t Finish: Divinity: Original Sin 2
Favorite 2016 Game of 2017: Dishonored 2
*I may have to eliminate this category, because for a third year it’s really Heroes of the Storm, though we dabbled in Battlerite a bit.
**Cheating with this category as it’s not a 2017 game, but I’ve had a blast playing the first Divinity on the PS4 with my wife.