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: #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 Five Games of the Mid-Year 2017

My top five games of the first half of 2017 and my most anticipated games for the second half.

It’s that most wonderful time of the year – when it’s hot as hell and video game releases have all but slowed to a trickle.

The first half of the year saw some really monstrously huge releases, such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mass Effect: Andromeda, and Horizon Zero Dawn (I really need to get a PS4). Spring has evolved from leftover Holiday titles into a legitimately exciting time for new games.

Meanwhile Summer is still a great time for getting through the backlog, or with this year still working on Zelda! It’s also time for my third annual Top Five Mid-Year list, where I rank my top games of the year thus far, as well as the five I’m not excited about for the second half.

My Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of the Year 2017

My Top Five Games of the Mid-Year 2017

5) Mass Effect: Andromeda

There’s a very solid chance that Mass Effect: Andromeda will end up as my Most Disappointing Game of the Year, despite being in my top five here. Glancing at my Most Anticipated list I wrote in January, I had extremely high hopes for the next game in the Mass Effect series. How do you continue on without Shepard?

Not easily it turns out. Andromeda does a lot of cool things and combat has never felt better nor been more fun (jet packs!). But the animations are laughably bad and the story, writing, and world are mediocre at best. Still, I’m enjoying my time with it. Even a sub-par Mass Effect game is still more than worth my gaming time.

4) Fire Emblem Heroes

I love that Fire Emblem has gone from fairly niche and obscure series to almost mainstream in just a few years. Awakening and Fates have graced my lists in previous years. This year saw yet another release – a remake in Fire Emblem Echoes. But Echoes was not the best Fire Emblem game – that goes to free-to-play mobile game Fire Emblem Heroes.

I know, it’s crazy! There’s no reason a free-to-play Fire Emblem game should work. The phone-sized battlefields perfectly recreate bite-size versions of classic Fire Emblem turn-based strategy, and it works beautifully. Acquiring heroes is fun thanks to the huge roster and leveling everyone up is a satisfying time sink.

3) Thimbleweed Park

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: veteran game designer wants to return to their roots and – oh, you’ve heard that pitch before? Ron Gilbert doesn’t care and made an amazing nostalgic-laced retro LucasArts adventure in Thimbleweed Park.

Most of my adventure gaming nostalgia lies with Sierra’s more whimsical tales, but Thimbleweed Park is so well-designed and written that it stands on its own as a compelling 2D adventure game filled with clever puzzles, solid voice acting, and a mysterious, delightfully surreal story. Dare I say it’s the game Broken Age should’ve been.

2) Cosmic Star Heroine

Cosmic Star Heroine has graced my Most Anticipated lists for the last three years. This tells you two things: I’ve been waiting a long time for this game and time has not diminished my excitement. With its inclusion here I’m happy to announce that it was well worth the wait.

Zeboyd Games infused all their best technical and mechanical skills into crafting a Chrono Trigger-like 16-bit RPG. It’s a love letter to the golden age of JRPGs. The story falls a bit short but the large, diverse cast of party members makes up for it.

1) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

In the past couple of years I’ve been delightfully surprised by indie games vaunting up to my #1 spot. This year it’s hard not to go with the flow. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is indeed that damn good.

I’ve been an on/off Zelda fan for years. I loved Ocarina of Time, hated Majora’s Mask. In recent years I have enjoyed the handheld top-down Zeldas more than the 3D adventures.

But Breath of the Wild transcends and redefines the entire open world genre. That sounds like a phony marketing bullet point but holy shit. Just the simple fact that you can climb any mountain or cliff or tree opens up a world of possibilities. Disarm enemies. Roll boulders down a hill. Surf on your shield. Tame and ride horses. Take selfies. Breath of the Wild is both intuitive and challenging and will rightfully make its way to the top of most peoples’ lists at the end of the year.

 

My Top Five Most Anticipated Games of the Second Half of 2017

Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Release: October 3

I still don’t know all that much about this game I backed on Kickstarter years ago. But it’s crafted from the developers of Darksiders, based on a comic series, and features some JRPG-style turn-based combat. My body is ready for Battle Chasers: Nightwar.

Divinity: Original Sin 2

Release: September 14

Larian Studios’ first Kickstarted Divinity: Original Sin rocketed up to the #1 slot of my 2014 list. The sequel looks better in every way, with expanded cooperative play and an intriguing Game Master mode that lets you essentially create a Neverwinter Nights DM mode. Gimme!

Metroid: Samus Returns

metroid

Release: September 15

“Give us a 2D Metroid you bastards,” we cried. “Fine,” said Nintendo, “Here’s a remake of Metroid 2.” Oh, okay! It’s note exactly a new 2D Metroid but Metroid fans will take anything these days. Metroid Prime 4 is still a long ways off and I never did play the 1991 Game Boy game. A 3DS remake in Metroid: Samus Returns sounds superb.

Pyre

Release: July 25

It’s Supergiant Games, ’nuff said. Okay I’ll say a little more. Bastion and Transistor were amazing games, easily cracking my top tens of their respective years. I adore their entire packages – the music, the writing, the immersive worlds, the art, the Logan Cunningham. Pyre is their first dip into party-based gameplay and I’m excited to see it in action.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

Release: October 17

South Park: The Fractured But Whole has been delayed several times now but I’m confident it’ll finally see its release this fall. Despite not really watching the show much anymore, I had a hell of a lot of fun with The Stick of Truth. It’ll be interesting to see Ubisoft taking over for Obsidian and if this sequel can create another compelling and hilarious adventure within Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s satirically irreverent world.

Cosmic Star Heroine Review [Pixelkin]

Read the full review at Pixelkin

We’re supposed to “reach for the moon” in our goals. That way if we fall short we’ll still land among the stars. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given that the nearest star is several light-years farther away than our moon. But the point is sound.

Zeboyd Games’ moon is represented by classic, beloved 90s Japanese RPGs such as Chrono Trigger, Suikoden, and Phantasy Star. It’s a big reason I backed the game on Kickstarter several years ago. To take on some of the best RPGs in gaming with an indie budget and two-person development team is a daunting challenge. While Cosmic Star Heroine falls short in some ways, it still lands among the stars as one of the best games I’ve played this year.

READ THE FULL REVIEW AT PIXELKIN

My Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2017

We’ve survived the hellscape of 2016. But we also played a ton of really great games. Meanwhile 2017 will give us a new Nintendo console, new Zelda, new Mass Effect, and a ton of big Kickstarter indie games I’ve been looking forward to for years.

This is my annual Top Ten Most Anticipated Games List. If you’ve been reading my Top Ten Game of the Year lists you know how fun it is to compare these predictions at the end of the year. I predict that I’ll be much more accurate this year – since literally half the games on this list carried over from last year’s Most Anticipated list!

Continue reading “My Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2017”

My Top Five Games of the Mid-Year 2016

I rank my top five games of the first half of 2016, and list my most anticipated games for the second half.

Why wait until the end of the year to rank my favorite games? I want to talk about great games now!

Last year I began doing a mid-year Game of the Year-style list. Since I’m ranking half of the year I only allow myself five games to choose from. All must have released in the first half of 2016. I also include my most anticipated games for the second half of the year.

Last year both my #1 and #2 picks of the mid-year went on to become my #1 and #2 in my final Game of the Year post. Two of the games dropped off to make room for exciting fall releases. It’ll be interesting to see where the games fall this year.

My Top Five Games of the Mid-Year 2015

My Most Anticipated Games of the Year 2016

My Top Five Games of the First Half of 2016

5) Stellaris

stellaris

I had dabbled with Crusader Kings II but found it overwhelming and borderline impenetrable. Paradox’s Grand Strategy titles always seemed intriguing, but the gameplay a bit too menu-driven and complex. Not to mention the themes a little too dry.

Enter Stellaris, which fixes all my complaints in one fell swoop, creating one of the most intriguing strategy games I’ve played in years. It’s got a great mix of exploration, diplomacy, side quests, and war. The emergent stories that creep up are fantastic, and I love the way all the random alien races are defined by an interesting combination of ethics and governing bodies. The sci-fi theme is fantastic and I’ve lost dozens of hours moving battling star fleets, creating outposts, subjugating uplifted races, and fleeing from ancient star-faring empires.

 

4) Fire Emblem Fates

Fire Emblem Fates

I have an embarrassing confession to make. I bought Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest when it first launched in February and I have yet to fully complete it.

I’m about 80% of the way through, but real life just caught up to me and it’s been tricky to find the time. That may be a mark of a disappointing game, but Fire Emblem Fates scratched all the right itches of its 2013 predecessor. The combat updates are a vast improvement, though the story is noticeably weaker. Even an okay Fire Emblem game is still one of the best games of the year!

 

3) Overwatch

top five 2016

Blizzard has been on fire in the last few years. Diablo 3, Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls, Hearthstone, Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void, and Heroes of the Storm have all graced my Game of the Year lists in their respective years. 2016 is the year of Overwatch.

Overwatch is easily their most accessible game – and they’ve built their entire company over making certain genres popular and accessible. The team-based hero shooter is simple to play yet deep to master, with over 20 unique heroes that all combine and play off each other in interesting ways. This is my go-go online game to play with friends, and very well may climb the charts by my final Game of the Year list.

 

2) XCOM 2

top five 2016

XCOM 2 was one of my most anticipated games of the year with good reason. I had absolute fallen in love with the first game, spending well over 100 hours in nail-biting tactical playthroughs over the last few years. The sequel is a five star example of how to improve upon a winning formula, adding More Good Things.

I’ve only completed a single run so far, but I spent a total of 60 hours going the extra mile and racking up various achievements. I adore XCOM and XCOM 2 is better in every way. Hopefully I’ll find time to play some more in the latter half of the year.

 

1) Stardew Valley

top five 2016

Talk about coming out of nowhere. I had no idea this charming farming sim even existed until it launched earlier this Spring. Then it quickly took over my life (and my wife’s).

There’s a unique intangible quality to the pixelated adventure-RPG. It’s just so god damn delightful. The town is like your favorite quaint 16-bit RPG town. The farming mechanics are fun and enjoyable instead of tedious. You can explore a giant dungeon and fight monsters, cook meals, get married, fish, raise livestock, and brew ale.

I’ve spent over nearly 80 hours over the last few months, and my wife has spent even more – making this by far her most played single-player game. We are chomping at the bit for the eventual co-op mode! I don’t know if Stardew Valley will remain #1 at year’s end but so far it’s the game I love the most this year.

 

My Most Anticipated list has done a damn fine job with its predictions so far. All three games that have released so far on that list made this one.

The biggest shocker is obviously Stardew Valley coming out of nowhere. I love that the gaming industry can utterly surprise me with these fantastic indie titles that make me fall in love with gaming all over again.

The one honorable mention I want to make is Grim Dawn. I’m playing it right now as my backlog adventuring and it’s a pretty great Action-RPG. Very much a spiritual successor to Titan Quest (which I also loved). If I allowed myself a sixth game right now, it would be Grim Dawn.

 

 

My Top Five Most Anticipated Games of the Second Half of 2016

(alphabetical order)

 

Civilization VI

top five 2016

Civilization VI was just announced about a month ago. Since Civilization: Beyond Earth has received only one expansion, I was pretty surprised. Yet it’s also been six years since Civilization V, one of my most played games of all time.

It’s Civ, it’s going to be great, and I’m going to play a lot of it. The new City expanding mechanic looks like it’ll do for cities what Civ V’s unstacking did for armies and warfare. This is a Day One Purchase, no question.

 

Cosmic Star Heroine

cosmic star heroine

It’s been on my Most Anticipated lists for last year and this year, so it would feel wrong to leave it out. This Chrono Trigger-like Kickstarter game Cosmic Star Heroine just recently received a trailer. It still doesn’t have a release date but the PlayStation blog has confirmed a Summer release. This is one of the longer Kickstarter games I’ve had to wait for, and I’m incredibly excited for it.

 

Dishonored 2

top five 2016

Dishonored was one of those sleeper games that everyone played later on after it went on sale, me included. We also all discovered a hidden gem, a first-person game that combined BioShock‘s excellent world-building with some Deus Ex stealth combat. The one element lacking was a strong story, and it looks like this sequel will provide that, starting with Emily as a playable character!

 

No Man’s Sky

no mans sky

What the hell is No Man’s Sky? Nobody seems entirely certain. Sort of a Minecraft/Starbound/spaceship sim? It looks insanely ambitious and may be a bit overhyped, but hell if I’m not incredibly curious. Exploring is one of my favorite things to do in video games, and No Man’s Sky looks like it’ll provide that in spades.

 

Pokémon Sun/Moon

top five 2016

The seventh generation of Pokémon titles were recently announced. We didn’t get a main Pokémon title at all last year, and the year before was a remake of Gen 3. Suffice to say I am very ready to jump back in with the true sequel to Pokémon X/Y, my first and still one of my favorite Nintendo 3DS games. I’ve been a fan of the series since the beginning. Though I’ve wafted in and out of the franchise, I’ve been firmly planted back in since Gen 5. My body is so ready for more Pokémon.

My Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2016

From space aliens to cyborg warriors to a Link and his horse, I list the ten games I’m most excited about that are set to release in 2016.

xcom 2 soldier

You’ve already read my Top Ten Games of 2015. Now it’s time for everyone’s favorite annual list. Who doesn’t like getting excited about new games? And holy crap, 2016 looks really freaking fantastic.

Here are my Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2016! Continue reading “My Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2016”