This year was an exceptional one for games, with a tidal wave of games crashing down onto our tiny little unprepared souls (and our nearly full console memory cards). But amidst that onslaught of incredible titles are a handful that stood out as truly exceptional.
10. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Okay okay, I admit it: I’m a bit of a scaredy cat, which makes the fact that I finished Resident Evil 7: Biohazard a lot more meaningful.
Unlike the previous games in the series, RE7 takes a more cinematic route and becomes a slower-paced horror game rather than an action-puzzle game. Those elements are still there, but they’re intertwined with an atmosphere that was sorely missed since the days of Resident Evil 1 and 2, when bullets were hard to come by and every room meant potential death.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a spooky time, one that I must admit I was wrong about before playing, because it truly does save the Resident Evil franchise. What makes the experience even better, though, is when its played on the PSVR. Give it a go… if you dare.
9. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
At the risk of sounding like a bit of a hipster, I knew about Hellblade a long time ago, and following its progression to becoming the incredible, ambitious, thought-provoking title it is today was an absolute pleasure. If you haven’t heard or seen any of Hellblade, it’s a game that follows the celtic warrior Senua as she mourns the death of her lover and seeks vengeance for his murder. But it’s not a simply third-person hack-and-slash action game; in fact, its gameplay is perhaps its least impressive feat. It’s the incredible performance by lead Melina Juergens (who is also the small studio’s video editor) as Senua and the story that takes on the hardships and perceptions of mental health that makes Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice so damn captivating. Mental heath is a topic not touched on in video games, and when it is, it’s often done poorly. Hellblade nails it with grace, power, and compassion, conveying a strong message that sat with me even when I wasn’t playing.
Imagine Space Jam, but as an RPG with deep mechanics that make you feel real emotion — like Football Manager combined with an 80’s space cartoon. That’s Pyre. If that doesn’t sell you on a game, then you must be an emotional husk or a cardboard cut out of Danny DeVito.
Developed by SuperGiant Games, the developers behind hits like Bastion and Transistor, Pyre features absolutely gorgeous visuals and a colour palette only matched by the likes of this year’s Cuphead (which we’ll get to in a moment). Pyre makes you fall in love with its cast of characters — and then promptly forces you to make really, really hard, story-based choices that heavily impact your gameplay.
I have a love-hate relationship with Cuphead. I both love playing it and hate dying to its well animated NPCs and unforgettable bosses.
Cuphead took the video game world by storm earlier this year, and for good reason. Its strikingly difficult gameplay ambushes you after it lures you in with its charming visuals and catchy jazz soundtrack, and then repeatedly bashes you over the head whilst you most likely complimented it for its beautiful design choices. The run-and-gun indie title simply hurts so good.
6. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
A lot of the games I loved most this year contained deep RPG mechanics and convoluted stories. But that’s not that case with Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. This game is as straight forward as could be: kill Nazis and save the world. And oh how satisfying it is to do just that. Wolfenstein II does a great job of making you feel like an unstoppable (but mortal) killing machine that mulches every Nazi scumbag in your path. Beyond its raw gameplay, Wolfenstein II also has a well-written cast of characters as well as some cinematic moments that earn its place in my top 10 of 2017.
5. Hollow Knight
Hollow Knight is everything I love about gaming and indie developers: it’s unique, challenging, and oozes with love. Whilst I played it, I could feel the passion that the Adelaide-based developer Team Cherry have for video games. Hollow Knight is a perfect marriage of Metroidvania royalty and Dark Souls, all displayed with an eerie, dark aesthetic that looks like its been plucked from the mind of Tim Burton. On top of this, it’s also got a stellar soundtrack, a rewarding progression system, and some of my favourite NPC sprites of all time.
4. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
If you’ve watched me stream PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, you’ll know that often when I’m playing it, I’m screaming about its plethora of bugs and glitches — and yet, to this day, I still play it regularly. Since its early access launch way back in March, I’ve sunk in a ludicrous 480 hours into PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and despite often dying in games and slapping my desk several times in a fit of rage, I continue to jump from that plane over and over. Why, though? Why would a game so frustrating and broken make this list? I’m still trying to isolate the exact reason, but its probably got to do with addictive gameplay and adrenaline-fueled moments that, even after all this time, always manage to make my palms sweat. The quest toward a chicken dinner is never over…
3. Night in the Woods
I am grateful that our editor AJ Caulfield recently gifted me Night in the Woods on Steam (thank you again), because it deserves to be on everyone’s top games of the year list. Night in the Woods may as well be the ultimate example for the metaphor “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” because despite looking like a child’s book, it’s a real drama-thriller story set on the backdrop of economic hardship in a small American town, and features themes that all adolescents encounter, like maturity and expectations. This says a lot, because Night in the Woods does something that not many games do for me: it makes me relate to and care for its characters, which is wild, because I can relate to a small cat woman more than most white guys in film and television.
2. NieR: Automata
I was a late-comer in terms of joining the NieR cult. Before checking out Automata, I first watched a 40-minute video by the YouTuber Clemps that explained in great detail the plot leading up to the 2017 sequel. Despite this, it still didn’t prepare me for the shock that was NieR: Automata. It’s a game about loss, acceptance, love, hate, and companionship, and is all told through varying methods of storytelling, each as captivating as the next. Not every piece of narrative in this game makes sense at first, and at times I was left slightly scratching my head before finding the last piece of a side story hidden in the environment or from an ambiguous NPC. NieR: Automata totally ambitious in its methods, and even this carries across to its gameplay. It constantly surprises you with its gameplay as well: One moment, it’s a crazy hack-and-slash; the next, it’s the most challenging bullet-storm game you’ve ever played.
Oh, and once you’ve finished the game, you’ve not actually “finished the game.” NieR: Automata has an ending that corresponds with every letter in the alphabet, but only five of these endings are real. These conclusions aren’t by any means easy to accomplish, and not all of them carry insane emotional weight, but I implore you to finish them on your own before turning to the quick Google search for the endings.
On all levels, NieR: Automata is a masterpiece, and I don’t say this to sound fancy, it’s the only way I can really describe this fantastic game.
1. Persona 5
Picking my game of the year for 2017 was actually quite easy, because Persona 5 is truly, in my opinion, head and shoulders above the competition. From its cast of lovable and despicable characters to its unique premise and strategic gameplay that’s all bundled up in a fully realised, breathing beautiful world, Persona 5 captivated me in every aspect. The Naoya Maeda-designed game is so engrossing, it even managed to make me care about my school grades, what girls liked me, and whether or not I would make it to a particular fast food restaurant in time for its special deal on a burger (in game, of course).
Some may find this weird heist game set in a strangely geographically accurate Tokyo a bit overwhelming and odd — and, well, it is. But if you let it embrace you with all its quirks and beauty, it rewards you with one of the most satisfying gameplay experiences you’ll EVER feel. (Also, I totally know how to navigate the real Tokyo subway system because of this game. Crazy.)
What were your top games of this year? Let me know in the comments below!