2017 was the year of the loot box. Random chance to get something good in exchange for hard cash started cropping up every other game. It’s not gambling though because the people making money from them say so. The thing is though, 2017 was actually an incredible year for games. You could exchange hard cash for pretty much any box in a game store this year and the chance of getting something good was pretty damn high. That was a very laboured way of saying “Loot boxes suck” and “Amazing games came out”.
I played surprisingly few of the big name games this year, so the bulk of the favourite games this year were lower tier releases. Even then, narrowing it down to just five was very difficult. At any rate, here are the best gaming experiences I had this year. I’ve included all the games I’ve played down the bottom, just in case you think I missed something…
A story driven FPS/walking simulator with a bizarre, horror themed story. You play Cole Black (he’s a manly man!) on a mission for find out where the hell he is and what happened to the girl with a bomb strapped to her that he was trying to rescue. Within an hour, you find yourself in an abandoned asylum with a machine that allows you to enter your memories and begin to unravel just what the hell is going on.
Yes, the FPS sections are flawed, and the stealth doesn’t work quite as well as I might hope, but there really isn’t another game that plays like this. There are events that play out differently depending on your choices without make these choices explicit, the game plays with interconnected memories in interesting ways, and the sound and music is fantastic. It’s not perfect, but it’s well priced and I doubt you’ll have played anything quite like it before.
Damn I loved this one. Four seemingly unconnected stories told in very different ways, culminating in a final revelation. I won’t say more from a story standpoint as it really should be experienced with as little prior knowledge as possible on that front. I will say that it’s a very well put together package. It starts out as a text adventure that seems to have more power over you than you over it. A bizarre point and click adventure and puzzle game involving microfilms follow before culminating in a walking simulator of sorts.
I know, I’m not really selling it at all. But it’s a great couple of hours for a low price and it’s very unlikely that you’ll have played anything quite like it before. I have a soft spot for games that mess with your expectations, and this one certainly does that. Plus, the intro music will stick in your mind for weeks after.
Super Mario Odyssey
Look, I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon, but this is just a fantastic game. I’ve never really been a big fan of the 3D Mario games, finding the controls a pain and the hunt for whatever the magic item is this time. But this was a wonderful experience. The environments are interesting and creative, it’s utterly beautiful, and the capture mechanic! Taking over the body of you enemies (as horrifying that may be for a Mario game) was a masterstroke in creative platforming and puzzles. The caterpillar creatures in the Lost Kingdon are adorable and fun the play as.
At the time of writing, I haven’t finished the main story, but as I understand it, there’s a lot more high quality content after completing it, which is saying something when the content already there is quite so good. I can see me spending a lot of time playing this. I bought a Switch especially for this game, and I don’t for a moment regret that.
XCOM 2: War of the Chosen
Yes it’s an expansion rather than a new game BUT I DON’T CARE DAMMIT! I’ve kept it a closely guarded secret, but I’ll tell you anyway. I really like XCOM. I’m sure those War Log posts didn’t make it obvious. Anyway, War of the Chosen is what an expansion should be. It changes the game in so many ways, adding new ways to play and increasing your power, but also putting dangerous new enemies in your path. The titular chosen can be a significant thorn in your side if you don’t deal with them, but dealing with them means you have to put off dealing with the greater alien threat. Deciding what to do when is even more important than ever.
To keep you in the game, you have access to new factions that grant you very powerful soldiers. The sniper rifle wielding Reapers can detonate explosives at will, whilst the Skirmishers draw enemies in to finish them at close range. Templars use psychic powers to control the battlefield by putting up new points of cover and making enemies more vulnerable. The number of new options in this is fantastic, and when coupled with an already impressive base game you have yourself one hell of a package.
I’m not going to pretend this is anything other than a stunning creative success. Platinum’s trademark fast paced combat combined with the most bonkers yet simultaneously devastating story in a genuinely interesting world is one of the best things I have played this year. For a couple of weeks all I wanted was to get home from work and play more.
I, like many others, had not played the original Nier. Whilst the story here does tie into the previous game (and a number of others in fact) it isn’t needed in the slightest to enjoy this. The cast of characters, the world itself, the brilliant combat that changes styles constantly. And the music! The music is incredible! Being told I had to play through the game three times to see the real ending put me off this one for a while, but each playthrough is so utterly different that it makes each one feel like an almost new experience. If you haven’t played it, play it.
SUPER SPECIAL BONUS MENTION!
Doki Doki Literature Club
Oooooh if there’s one game this year that I would class as the most memorable, it would be this. A few paragraphs back I mentioned that I have a soft spot for games that mess with your expectations, and this manages that and then some. It’s a free visual novel in which you join the school’s literature club and find it run by a number of attractive girls! This is a visual novel, so obviously you set about trying to impress them with your poetry. I will say no more than this: I knew it was going to subvert my expectations (thanks to the Steam reviews), but the way it went about it thoroughly surprised me.
If you do play it (and you really should), it takes about 3 hours before things start to really happen, so do play through the early stages, even if you find them tiresome (I did). And carry on playing even after it ends. There’s a lot of great stuff here and I can’t talk about it without spoiling it!
Below is the list of games that I played this year. It was stunningly hard to pick out 5 from a list of such stupendous games. I didn’t want to overlook The Sexy Brutale thanks to its inventive puzzles and memorable music. Late Shift was a genuinely enjoyable FMV experience. Everspace combined rogue-lites with a space sim to create something quite unique. The Evil Within 2 surprised me by not being nearly as bad as the first one and turning out to be a genuinely fun experience. And that soundtrack! 2017 should go down as another one of those years that should be brought up when anyone asks what the best year in gaming was.
How about you? What would you suggest for a list like this? Have I got it utterly wrong? Obviously I haven’t, but you’re welcome to argue. Let me know!
The Sexy Brutale
Torment: Tides of Numenera
XCOM 2 WOTC
Doki Doki Literature Club
Super Mario Odyssey