Having missed out of the legendary gaming year of 2007 by virtue of never owning a PS3, Xbox 360, or a Wii, it almost felt like an honor to be on the ground floor of the wondrous gaming buffet that was 2017. Innovation, refinement, and, in some cases, an exhilarating sense of freedom are threads that connect my picks for the top 10 games of 2017.
Honorable mentions: Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood (not included because it’s an expansion), Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Cuphead
“That day he made up his mind to fly… and he did.“
10. What Remains of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow)
An exploration of family, death, and unfortunate circumstances, What Remains of Edith Finch weaves a series of stories and vignettes in a way that is only possible in the video game medium. As Edith makes her way through her old home, information and details regarding the fates of her family members are revealed slowly and purposefully, and the way the game controls and how the narrative is presented constantly changes in imaginative ways. You’ll find yourself diving on rabbits, chopping fish, or simply just getting lost in the fascinating layout of the Finch house, easily getting immersed in this macabre first-person adventure.
“Chasing your tail around the valley must be tiring. In fact, you look like death! Ha ha!“
9. Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment (Yacht Club Games)
The second expansion to one of my favorite indie games of all time, Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment adds a ghostly spin to what was already an incredibly polished side-scrolling experience. Revisiting the remixed levels with Specter Knight’s signature slash dash provides a drastically different way to play compared to Shovel Knight’s pogo stick bounce, quickening the pace of an already challenging game, and the spirited music remixes by Jake Kaufman breathe new life into this ghoulish adventure.
“The days when I was Hekseville’s Gravity Queen seemed so long ago…“
8. Gravity Rush 2 (SIE Japan Studio)
Almost literally three times the size of its predecessor, Gravity Rush 2 launches Kat into a wide new world to explore, with new powers like the Lunar and Jupiter stances. Shifting gravity to fly across impossibly long distances and slide around the colorful city streets is thrilling, especially when coupled with a fantastic soundtrack that blends upbeat French polka, soaring orchestral melodies, and the occasional wailing sax and trumpet combo. The pretty art style, unique locomotion, and Kat’s effervescent personality make for a fun adventure with some wild twists and turns.
“So this is what the surface looks like. It’s bright!“
7. SteamWorld Dig 2 (Image & Form)
SteamWorld Dig has one of the most satisfying progression systems I’ve ever played in a game, and its sequel builds upon this foundation, adding a multitude of new power-ups, fun upgrades, and varied environments. The core cycle remains impeccable – casting our hero Dot down into the catacombs to mine for resource to, in turn, cash in for upgrades allowing for more efficient excursions. Each new ability and weapon feels impactful and often has dramatic effects on how Dot traverses the world. SteamWorld Dig 2 even manages to thrown in some shocking story surprises that put this wonderful, subterranean escapade over the top.
“Don’t get cooked… stay off the hook!“
6. Splatoon 2 (Nintendo)
The sequel to the Wii U’s breakout hit brings back everything we loved about the original Splatoon and blasts it with a fresh coat of ink. The gameplay remains ingenious as the singular act of inking turf grants you mobility, special ability charge, and enemy area denial, while new modes like the frantic horde mode Salmon Run add much appreciated diversions. From the new fashion and maps, new weapons and abilities, the glittery ink particles, and the oddly satisfying HD rumble, Splatoon 2 proves that the first game was more than simply a flash in an undersold Wii U-shaped pan.
“The path we chose is cold, and the dark has no place to dream~“
5. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Monolith Soft)
Two of my favorite things in games are environments and music, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has these in spades. Each area is massive and vibrant, inhabited by creatures of unimaginable design, and feels like they’re truly natural ecosystems waiting to be explored.
In a year of exceptional video game music, the soundtrack in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 stands at the top of my personal list, from the sweeping grandeur of Gormott to the folkish bustle of Torigoth to the emotive pastorale of Fonsett Village. Arriving at the Indoline Praetorium for the first time and being absolutely enraptured (and on the verge of tears) by the contrapuntal majesty produced by the legendary Yasunori Mitsuda and the Anúna choir is a gaming memory that I will never forget.
“Cause we’re gonna shout it loud, even if our words seem meaningless~“
4. NieR: Automata (PlatinumGames)
My most anticipated game of 2017, NieR: Automata delivers on its promise of flashy combat and daring narrative direction and is a meld of contrasts. Intense story beats are immediately followed by practical jokes, rusted metal is littered by massive overgrowth, and a beautiful, expressive soundtrack haunts the deliberately sparse environments.
Discontent with normalcy, NieR: Automata plays with expectations and strives to keep you on your toes, frequently shifting between a shoot’em up to a twin-stick shooter to a visual novel. On top of the meta self-awareness and nihilist overtones, the moment-to-moment gameplay has you juggling between a plethora of dashes, dodges, slashes, pod blasts, and perhaps even the occasional self-destruction.
“So you know that we’re out there, swatting lies in the making~“
3. Persona 5 (Atlus)
In my heart of hearts, I believe Persona 5 has the most important and powerful message of any game released in 2017. To stand up, to vocalize, to mobilize – Persona 5 dares us to rebuke corrupted authority and challenge those who choose to misuse their power and influence.
The game is colored by a nearly unrivaled aesthetic, with its slick menus and striking finisher screens, and an absolutely killer soundtrack complements its confident attitude. Improved dungeon design and additional battle mechanics like demon negotiations and gun techniques bring the gameplay to the series’s heights, while a lovable cast of confidants provide ample treasured moments on this unforgettable journey.
“But courage need not be remembered, for it is never forgotten.“
2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)
Where most games give us a checklist of objectives to do and gate our progress, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild asks us to do one thing: go. We’re invited to go cross that field, go ford that river, or go scale that mountain, not because we have to, but because we can.
We may find a new weapon or yet another Korok seed, but ultimately the true reward is this act of going and the sense of discovery that comes with it. The feeling of wonder when I first stepped into Zora’s Domain, surrounded by towering cascades, or the awe I felt when I spotted the dragon Farosh majestically breaching the waters of Lake Hylia are just a few of the many magical moments afforded by Breath of the Wild‘s liberating design.
“Don’t fear, don’t shed a tear, ’cause I’ll be your 1-Up Girl~“
1. Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo)
Super Mario Odyssey marries the flawless controls we’ve grown to love from the series with the brilliant new Capture mechanic. Every time you throw Cappy at an object, you effectively change how you play the game and how you traverse through the world. The game is the culmination of the Japanese bonsai garden design philosophy that was first sown over twenty years ago in Super Mario 64. Dense with secrets around every corner while maintaining an elegant simplicity, each kingdom feels expertly hand-crafted and acts as a jungle gym to flip around in at your heart’s desire.
Even after over thirty years of jumping, Mario proves that he still has so many unbelievable tricks up his hat. When measuring the unbridled joy found within the game, whether you’re diving into the fizzy seas of Bubblaine, rolling through the sandy dunes of Tostarena, or bouncing up to the dizzying heights of New Donk City, Super Mario Odyssey is simply unmatched in sheer smiles per hour.