Greetings! As we celebrate the foray into uncharted territory with the arrival of 2018, I thought it would be fun for me to take a look back at 2017 and talk about what I thought were the most notable games of the year.
In this article, I will be separating my picks into 20 categories, listed below:
- Best Graphics
- Best Musical Score
- Best Story
- Best Art Direction
- Best Sound Design
- Best AAA Game
- Best Indie Game
- Best Horror Game
- Best Strategy Game
- Best Platforming Game
- Best Multiplayer Game
- Best Open World Game
- Best Linear Game
- Best Puzzle Game
- Most Pleasantly Surprising Game
- Most Underrated Game
- Most Overrated Game
- Biggest Disappointment
- Worst Game of 2017
- Best Game of 2017
Something to keep in mind as well, is that there’s a lot of games that I just could not play. I don’t have a PlayStation 4, so titles like Horizon Zero Dawn and Persona 5 are unavailable to me. On top of this, it’s been a busy year for me in general. If there are titles you think should have won that aren’t on here, then they very well may be better than what I chose; I just haven’t been able to experience everything.
Now, with that out of the way, let the awards begin!
Assassin’s Creed: Origins
There were a large variety of excellent looking games this year, but after seeing it running on a high end PC and a 4k display, I can say with confidence that nothing compares to Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins.
Everything in this game — lighting, shadows, texture work, anti-aliasing, and just about every other visual element — is absolutely unbelievable. Though my personal computer is a mid-level rig, Origins still was by far the best looking game I’ve ever played.
Best Musical Score
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Anyone who has seen me talking this year on Twitter knows that I love the hell out of Breath of the Wild. This is a common opinion (after all, it won Game of the Year at The Game Awards) but something I often see the game criticized for is its music.
I couldn’t disagree with people more on this. Not only is this score magnificent in its quality, I also think it’s genius in the way it’s designed. Most open world games tend to constantly play music no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Some like this, arguing that it heightens the immersion. If you ask me, though, there’s nothing more immersive about a world that speaks for itself. By this, I mean that you are able to hear the sounds naturally created in the setting. The ruffle of grass. The wind blowing through the trees. The songs of birds. The rushing of water down a waterfall.
Breath of the Wild understands this, and allows you to audibly experience the world as it is. The music is saved for notable moments in the experience. For example, when a vicious thunderstorm ends and the sun shines through the clouds, a warm and soft series of notes lets us know that the danger has passed. We’re safe again.
The game is full of moments like this (both big and small) where the soundtrack makes itself heard in order to add to the experience. Combat is accompanied by a heroic, intense action theme. Discovering a settlement of people is met with peaceful, hopeful melodies that hammer home the fact that these people represent what Hyrule once was, and could be again. Somber piano music is heard as we look over the remains of the brave Hylian soldiers who attempted to stop Calamity Ganon’s rise to power. Nothing is left other than broken stone walls and rusty weapons embedded into the ground. It’s a depressing sight, and the music that was saved for just this moment helps us feel that in the moment.
I mentioned the quality of the music above, and I feel inclined to point out that what makes this soundtrack so special is that it capitalizes on the advantages the design of the score allows. The way music is reserved for special moments really gives the music a chance to shine, and the beautiful compositions found within Breath of the Wild couldn’t shine brighter if they tried. My personal favorite is the theme that plays in the Temple of Time.
This legendary structure that has played a pivotal role in several Zelda stories has not fared well under the yoke of Calamity Ganon. The picture above shows just how damaged and incomplete it became over the years. In order to reflect this, the Temple of Time theme in Breath of the Wild is a melancholy, crippled variation of the iconic notes heard in Ocarina of Time.
First listen to the version from Ocarina, and then the version from Breath of the Wild.
The new version follows the same exact structure of the original, except it has lost its mystical essence. It has lost its impact. The version in Breath of the Wild is a broken and wounded shell of the original theme’s glory…just like the Temple of Time, and Hyrule itself, are broken and wounded shells of what they once were before Calamity Ganon’s reign.
And that is ultimately the other reason why I love this game’s score; it’s full of music that takes this approach. It’s beautiful, and yet, in that beauty lies loss and pain. It perfectly fits the setting and the narrative of Breath of the Wild, which is exactly what music should do. Pair that with the way that the score allows for the world’s natural sounds a chance to shine in order to immerse the player further into the experience, and you have yourself an absolutely phenomenal soundtrack.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
This was a really hard choice between Breath of the Wild and Life is Strange: Before the Storm, but I chose Zelda in the end.
I think one thing that stuck with me about the narrative in Breath of the Wild is that it’s a subversion of the franchise’s norms. Usually in the Zelda games, we’re fighting to ensure that Ganon won’t win. But in Breath of the Wild, Ganon was victorious one hundred years before the game even starts. What we’re left with is the wounded version of Hyrule (as I mentioned in the Best Musical Score section) and the game tasks us with rising up against Calamity Ganon and saving Zelda, who is currently staving his power off just enough in order to prevent him from fully taking over the kingdom.
This story is told in two ways: visually and through discovering past memories. The past memories give us context to the events that happened before, and also do a lot to characterize Zelda and the diversity of Hyrule; the current day gameplay with Link shows us the result of the kingdom’s failure, and encourages the player to defeat Ganon and restore Hyrule to its former glory.
It’s by no means a complex story, of course. The themes present are easy to understand and digest. But stories don’t have to be complex to be well written, and I think that Breath of the Wild’s narrative is exceptionally well written. It feels like a true hero’s journey, a quest to unite the spirits of the Champions and the power of Zelda’s light with Link’s own in order to collectively vanquish Ganon’s evil. It’s a story about redemption, hope, love, and unity, and it’s beautiful. I fully plan to delve deeper into it in a future article as there’s certainly a lot to talk about.
Best Art Direction
Ah, Cuphead. What a gorgeous little game you are.
Studio MDHR really brought a fantastic concept to life with Cuphead. An entire game designed to look like something straight out of a Walt Disney cartoon from the 1920s is something that the gaming industry never saw prior to this game, and the sheer uniqueness of it is amazing. The designs of the characters, enemies, bosses, and environments is so lovingly handcrafted. When the game’s tough difficulty makes me want to quit, the retro, classic art style always draws me back in.
Best Sound Design
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild impresses yet again with impeccable sound design. I already mentioned how the world’s natural sounds add so much to the immersion back in my Best Musical Score section, so I won’t repeat myself, but that’s one of the two things that makes the sound design in this game fantastic.
The other is the way sound is used to alert the player about things. When a storm is coming, you’ll start to hear light thunder at first, giving you a chance to find some cover and unequip your metal weapons that draw lightning. Animals will make various noises to alert a player who is hunting of their location. Sleeping enemies snore loudly, which can be heard by those who have a sensitive ear and allows those people to sneak up on the enemy camp and steal their weapons and food. The game is full of this, moreso than any other game I’ve played this year.
Best AAA Game
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
So uh, yeah. Is it clear to you that I freaking adore this game yet? By now, it really should be. It gets so much right.
In an era where many AAA games disappoint, it’s nice to see one that ends up being everything I could have hoped for and more. Super Mario Odyssey was my second favorite overall AAA game this year, too, so maybe Nintendo in general is going to be gaming’s best chance for the future.
Best Indie Game
Cuphead represents the essence of the indie genre: a small team of passionate and talented people working together to make a dream become a reality. Studio MDHR achieved this and then some with Cuphead, and it’s all thanks to the game’s incredibly solid mechanics, beautiful art, and catchy soundtrack. I’m looking forward to whatever their next project will be with eager anticipation.
Best Horror Game
Resident Evil 7
After the letdowns that were Resident Evil 5 and 6, I was ecstatic to see the series return to greatness with Resident Evil 7. It’s the first really good horror title I think gaming has had since the first Outlast.
So many elements here are worthy of recognition. The way the unsettling, disturbing narrative slowly unravels. The eerie squeaks and creaks heard throughout the house in which the game takes place in. The creepy, foreboding music. The genuinely frightening evils that you encounter.
At the end of the day, it all just comes together and works. It’s a game that recognizes what you need for a good horror experience, and delivers on those requirements.
Best Strategy Game
Halo Wars 2
I absolutely loved the first Halo Wars, so naturally, a sequel was something I knew I was going to immensely enjoy.
Halo Wars 2 takes the formula that the first game created and tweaks it, making counter units more effective, adding deep mechanics such as high ground increasing the attack range of units, and offering more ways to micromanage your armies, among many other improvements.
Though I think it lacks in the writing and music department, the core mechanics of the game are sound. It is for this reason that I think it’s the best strategy title of 2017.
Best Platforming Game
Super Mario Odyssey
I’m thankful for the fact that there was a category in my list I could award to this amazing game, because in my opinion it goes toe-to-toe with Breath of the Wild on every category that game won other than Best Story. I didn’t want to write this article without at least giving Odyssey a win somewhere, and I realized that it takes the cake for best platformer easily.
The playspace in Odyssey is truly a joy to experience. There are so many interesting and unique settings that test your skills with Mario’s abilities, and with movement mechanics that are as smooth and solid as Odyssey’s, it becomes a recipe for success. It achieves a perfect balance between challenge and creativity, and because of that it’s the best 3D platformer I’ve played since Super Mario Galaxy.
Best Multiplayer Game
Despite the myriad of bugs, issues, and more that PUBG has (even past its official launch) I can definitely say with certainty that it was my favorite multiplayer experience of the year. The gunplay is excellent, and the tension that you feel knowing that anyone could be anywhere is addicting. It kept me coming back for months, and while I don’t play it often anymore, I still return to PUBG for the tactical, tight gameplay every once in awhile.
Best Open World Game
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
All my previous Breath of the Wild awards contribute to this one in the sense that all of those elements (music, sound design, story) massively contribute to what makes the game so amazing. But there’s a ton more than just those things. From the dizzying amount of content present, to the way the world feels so natural and real, this game captures the best parts of great open world titles. There’s a shit ton of different things that come together to make Breath of the Wild a phenomenal open world game, and it would be absurd to try and explain all of them in this article. But just know that I think it gets almost everything right.
Best Linear Game
Resident Evil 7
The best horror experience of 2017 also ended up being the best linear one, too. The linear nature of the levels is perfectly suited for the horror narrative and gameplay of Resident Evil 7, and the game does a great job of making the experience feel structured without making it feel restrictive and too controlled.
Best Puzzle Game
By far, Snipperclips is one of the most unique games I’ve ever played. The concept of two people playing as pieces of paper that have to cut each other to form different shapes is awesome, and it was one of my favorite experiences on my Nintendo Switch this year. There’s a huge variety of different puzzles to solve, and this diversity of challenges made Snipperclips a game that held me for several weeks and never felt stale.
Most Pleasantly Surprising Game
Though I was interested in For Honor when I caught wind of the premise, I didn’t really know what to expect, and given my rather low opinion of Ubisoft overall in recent years, I didn’t have high hopes. I kind of assumed this game would be disappointing like the others.
I was proven wrong. Though the game certainly has issues, such as a lackluster faction war system and pay to win microtransactions (for the 4v4 modes), it delivered a surprisingly fun campaign and a skill-based, complex multiplayer melee experience that rekindled my love for fighting games. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get my $60 worth out of For Honor.
Most Underrated Game
Star Wars Battlefront II
Yep, I’m gonna stick up for this game.
I won’t deny it; the loot box controversy was 100% deserved. That stuff needs to get the hell out of gaming ASAP.
But here’s the thing, though: the solid, engaging and fun shooter that lies underneath the decisions of EA is consistently ignored or pushed aside in order to pile on to the argument that everyone already knows about and agrees with. I wish that this game would be acknowledged for the excellent gunplay, strong audio/visuals, and the depth in the mechanics, for once.
Most Overrated Game
In my original review of Destiny 2, I said that while the game was still as hugely flawed as the original, there were improvements that made it overall a good game.
Since then, my opinion soured upon realizing that the game wasn’t actually fixing the issues present in Destiny; rather, it was simply doing its best to trick the player into thinking they weren’t there. Destiny 2 tries to do the same old schtick. Lack of content? Check. Lack of a good story? Check. (At least this one made sense.) Lack of a competent multiplayer? Check. Taking content away from the vanilla experience unless people buy the DLC? Check.
It’s a freaking joke. I don’t understand how people enjoy this game. It had excellent sales, and in my opinion it didn’t deserve them at all. I’ve lost faith in this series entirely.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
Words cannot even describe how bummed out I was at the sheer mediocrity of Mass Effect: Andromeda. It isn’t a terrible game, but god damn. It’s just so bland and banal. Aside from the Angara, which I genuinely thought were a great fit for the roster of species in the series, there’s almost nothing interesting in this game. The characters suck, the world building sucks, the plot sucks, and the voice acting sucks, too. Music and visuals are solid, but those things alone cannot carry a game. On top of this, the multiplayer wasn’t even that good. I would rather play Mass Effect 3’s any day of the week.
In general, Andromeda just fails to replicate any of the Mass Effect magic that the original trilogy created. And that really blows, because Mass Effect really needed a strong entry after the massive controversy surrounding 3’s endings.
Worst Game of 2017
I had the poor fortune to review this game over on Windows Central last November. Words cannot describe at how utterly bad it is. The story is lifeless, the gameplay (and its controls) are poorly thought out and designed, and the setting is as bland as you can get. It completely lacks almost everything that made the original Black Mirror games as good as they were.
Just when you think it can’t be worse, it unfortunately runs like garbage, too. My Xbox One could barely reach 20 frames for this game (which, by the way, features a stylized, simple design) yet manages a higher, stabler framerate playing realistic-looking shooters. It’s unacceptable performance.
Best Game of 2017
I won’t really go much into detail about Breath of the Wild winning this, as I’m sure it’s what you expected after seeing all the other accolades I gave it. But I will say this: in my opinion, Breath of the Wild is hands down the best game I’ve played in a long, long, long time. For me, it’s a masterpiece. It has some flaws, but they’re minor, and ultimately this game’s experience is a ride of joy, sorrow, exploration, determination and thrill. Nintendo has created a legend.
Well, there you have it. There are my picks for the most notable games of 2017!
Do you agree with my choices? If not, which titles would you have chosen? I’m always interested to hear what my readers think, so make sure to comment here or Tweet me what you think on Twitter.
I’d also like to announce that I’m launching my Patreon page. You can find it here!
Obviously I don’t expect any of you to pledge and won’t care either way, but it would really help me out if you can and the rewards are pretty cool, too. Check it out!
Speaking of Patreon, my first ever supporter is getting a nice shout out for his pledge. Thanks for your help, Ardent Prayer!
Finally, I figured I would show you all what my next article will be. I think fans of classic 2D platformers will find it quite good…
And with that, I have nothing more to say today. I hope you all had a wonderful New Year celebration. Here’s to a happy 2018!