My Top Ten Games of 2017: Full List and Awards

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

10) Fire Emblem Heroes

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.

9) Metroid: Samus Returns

metroid

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.

8) Injustice 2

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.

7) Hand of Fate 2

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.

6) Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Battle Chasers: Nightwar

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.

5) Thimbleweed Park

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.

4) Cosmic Star Heroine

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.

3) Horizon Zero Dawn

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.

2) Divinity: Original Sin 2

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.

1) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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:

  1. Mass Effect: Andromeda
  2. Red Dead Redemption 2
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  4. State of Decay 2
  5. Cosmic Star Heroine
  6. Divinity: Original Sin 2
  7. Torment: Tides of Numenera
  8. Pyre
  9. Battle Chasers: Nightwar
  10. 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

metroid: samus returnsBest 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.

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My Top Ten Games of 2017: #1

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2
#7 Hand of Fate 2
#6 Battle Chasers: Nightwar
#5 Thimbleweed Park
#4 Cosmic Star Heroine
#3 Horizon Zero Dawn
#2 Divinity: Original Sin 2

#1 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I was a relative latecomer to the Zelda franchise. I’ve owned every Nintendo console, but never really got into the series until Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. Ocarina of Time remains one of my all-time favorite games, but The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is demonstratively better, and one of the most overall impressive games I’ve played in years. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2017: #1”

My Top Ten Games of 2017: #3

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2
#7 Hand of Fate 2
#6 Battle Chasers: Nightwar
#5 Thimbleweed Park
#4 Cosmic Star Heroine

#3 Horizon Zero Dawn

I’m very late to the party on Horizon Zero Dawn, but better late than never. I’m still in the midst of playing through this absolutely gorgeous game that somehow balances beautiful fantasy vistas with post-apocalyptic destruction and sci-fi horrors. It plays like the perfect marriage between Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim, but its true power lies within its unique, memorable world-building. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2017: #3”

My Top Ten Games of 2017: #4

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2
#7 Hand of Fate 2
#6 Battle Chasers: Nightwar
#5 Thimbleweed Park

#4 Cosmic Star Heroine

There are lofty goals and then there is aiming your sights at the greatest RPGs of all time. When Zeboyd Games went to Kickstarter in 2013 they conceived of an old school, 16-bit RPG that would feature the compelling story and combat of Chrono Trigger, the base-building, party gathering of Suikoden, and the sci-fi awesomeness of Phantasy Star. Who could say no to that (I certainly didn’t).

While Cosmic Star Heroine is somewhat hampered by its indie budget, it is a damn fine retro JRPG that successfully draws many of the best elements from all those inspirational classics.

The story stars Agent Alyssa L’Salle, a pseudo-space cop who discovers that someone within her own organization is up to no good. With the help of some memorable friends and fun newcomers she eventually joins up with the local freedom fighters, exploring multiple planets and uncovering more sinister details.

Other than a nifty twist toward the end the storytelling is the softest ingredient, leaning heavily on style and humor, which thankfully the game does very well.

Ten party members is a crazy huge number for a 15-20 hour RPG. Some are a bit more underdeveloped than others, but they all have distinct styles and themes, from the break-dancing, schmoozy robot to the bestial alien bounty hunter.

Combat resembles the Grandia games (as well as Zeboyd’s previous retro RPGs) more than any of the actual 16-bit RPGs. There’s a D&D-like initiative tracker, and everyone has more than half a dozen abilities you can equip and customize, as well as Shields that offer even more abilities. There’s also an interesting system involving building up Style and entering Hyper mode. It’s challenging but fun to work out the most efficient timing and unleash your most powerful attacks at the right moment.

In a perfect world developers like Zeboyd would be given twice the budget to create a larger, deeper RPG using their exact same design philosophy. What this two-person team (three if you include the stellar soundtrack) accomplished is nothing short of astonishing. Cosmic Star Heroine wonderfully (and appropriately) embodies the classic quote: “Aim for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.”*

Read my review for Pixelkin!

 

*Yes I’m aware that the stars are much farther away than the moon. It’s still a nice quote damn it.

My Top Ten Games of 2017: #5

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2
#7 Hand of Fate 2
#6 Battle Chasers: Nightwar

#5 Thimbleweed Park

I adore the adventure game genre. When I say ‘adventure game’ I’m specifically referring to point and click, puzzle-based games. There’s no question the Golden Age was in the 90s, during the reign of Sierra and LucasArts. I was firmly in the former camp instead of the latter, yet I fell completely in love with Thimbleweed Park, developer Ron Gilbert’s love letter to classic LucasArts adventure games. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2017: #5”

My Top Ten Games of 2017: #6

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2
#7 Hand of Fate 2

#6 Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Most RPGs need to sell me on story, or combat, or setting, or preferably all of the above. Battle Chasers: Nightwar puts it’s exquisite art front and center, and it’s damn good. From the developers of Darksiders and the artwork from comic artist Joe Madureira come an impressive little indie RPG that offers a compelling turn-based combat system, fun characters, and a lengthy adventure. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2017: #6”

My Top Ten Games of 2017: #7

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2

#7 Hand of Fate 2

top ten

The first Hand of Fate was an interesting take on a rogue-like RPG using cards, but also had some really rough edges (and a straight up horrible final boss fight). The sequel is not only a vast improvement but a great game overall, providing a meaty campaign with wildly different missions and expanding the games of chance beyond cards (read my full review at PC Gamer).

The deliciously acerbic Dealer returns, but his antics take a backseat to the much improved story telling. Each story chapter presents a self-contained story with challenging objectives, from escorting a helpless farmer, to gathering resources while avoiding enemy patrols.

The chapters are still laid out as a series of cards that you flip over, with each card presenting choices, games of chance, or a battle (and often, all three). The new games are a lot more fun than the frustrating card shuffle of the first game, including rolling dice, stopping a card wheel, and stopping a pendulum-swinging laser.

top ten

Combat is the least improved factor, and still mostly a Batman-lite affair as you shuffle from enemy to enemy mashing attacks while blocking and countering their strikes. Often I was facing a dozen or more enemies at a time, which can be exhilarating, but also incredibly frustrating. Controls and camera are still a bit clunky, though weapon abilities and combos work much better, and the different weapon types all feel very different from each other.

The new companions were probably my favorite element, adding a much needed boost to combat as well as some really nice story moments. Their tales were unlocked through a progressive series of cards and challenges, and the ending sequence goes as far as to borrow from the companion-driven climax of Mass Effect 2.

Hand of Fate 2 is an excellent sequel that successfully builds upon the neat ideas and concepts of the first game.

Read my review for PC Gamer!