AfterStory’s Top 10 Games of 2017

2017 was a meteoric year for gaming, arguably dishing out some of the best titles the medium has seen in decades. Release upon release of exceptionally crafted works of art, 2017 flipped preconceived notions of established franchises, while pushing boundaries of creativity with precariously novel IPs. While 2017 had its fair share of shade –  it further cemented the toxic implementation of loot boxes and microtransactions – 2017 managed to maintain a pristine shine of quality, despite the ever growing culture of filth that has surrounded this beloved medium. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is an unpolished, yet addictive multiplayer experience that rightfully took the world by storm with its heart pounding action and unpredictable encounters. Nier: Automata, while not the underrated masterpiece fans claim it to be, is an exuberant experience with the foundation of a masterpiece, as technical and design limitations hold it back from further greatness. What Remains of Edith Finch is arguably the most diverse and entertaining walking simulator to date, with a sense of gameplay variance that is unprecedented for the notorious genre. ARMS is a surprising gem of local multiplayer goodness, crafting one of the best motion-controlled experiences to date. Seeing the release of two games that effortlessly entered my “favourite games of all-time list” and the copious amount of diversity and quality released throughout this illustrious year, 2017 will forever be remembered as  the best year of the current generation, a personal favourite of mine that continuously exceeded my expectations. Without further ado, below are my favourite games of 2017.

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2018 Video Game Awards

Here you can find all of my 2018 Video Game Awards (celebrating the best of 2017) in one convenient place.

Best Sound

Best Music

Best Visuals

Best Remake/Re-release

Biggest Surprise

Best Online Multiplayer

Best Local Multiplayer

Best Content

Best Handheld Game

Best Indie Game

Best Gameplay

Best Platform

 

And of course, Game of the Year.

 

Top 10 Video Games of 2017 (Game of the Year)

Here we are. The big one. Game of the Year.

Naming the best video game to be released in almost any given year is a pretty challenging endeavor – I say ‘almost’ because some years, like 2012, kinda suck in the video game department (I’m sorry, how else can you explain Journey winning so many GotY awards for 2012?). This difficulty is doubled, maybe tripled for a year like 2017. Despite some questionable directions the video game industry went into during the year (I’m looking your way, Battlefront II), when was the last time a year had so many stellar releases beginning right out the gate all the way to the tail end of the year?

Seriously, 2017 was a hell of a year for video games! It was like BOOM! Awesome game! BOOM! Awesome game! BOOM! Awesome game! It was murder on the wallet, but worth every penny.

With such a high watermark of a year now in the history books, the year’s best game must be named. Traditionally, I have acknowledged my top 5 games of the year. But for a year as exceptional to the medium as 2017, I had to up the ante to a full-blown top 10!

The following are the ten games that I feel stood out the most among the many greats of 2017. A number of notable titles barely missed making it on here (PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, for example, snagged my “Best Online Multiplayer” award for its intensity, but it lacks the polish of the ten games I’m listing here). I haven’t reviewed all of the games I’m about to list just yet, but I hope to get around to it. Also, as I always state when making such a list, these are my feelings for the moment, so if I later appear to change preferences to what I list here, that’s not necessarily a contradiction. Opinions change. The only things set in stone here are the top two.

Also of note is that, despite being one of the best games of this (or any other) year, I have exempted Mario Kart 8 Deluxe from this top 10 for the obvious reason that it’s a re-release. Same goes for Crash Bandicoot.

Now with that out of the way, my top 10 favorite video games of 2017!

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Video Game Awards 2018: Best Platform

Before I go any further, I’d like to acknowledge that, somehow, I haven’t given out an award for best platform in previous years. While I hope that, maybe someday, I can give some kind of retrospective of what I believe to be the best video game platforms throughout the years of my life, for now, let’s just retroactively award Best Platform for the previous years that Wizard Dojo has existed.

2014 Best Platform: Wii U: Yes, the Wii U. Mario Kart 8, Bayonetta 2, Smash Bros. and DKC: Tropical Freeze in the same year? 2014 was the year to be a Wii U owner.

2015 Best Platform: Playstation 4: Bloodborne alone was probably reason enough to ascend the PS4 to the top of the mountain in 2015, but it also featured other high profile greats as well.

2016 Best Platform: Playstation 4: Overwatch and Dark Souls 3 may have also been available on other platforms, but PS4 also had Uncharted 4. So it gets the edge.

Now with that out of the way, let’s get to 2017. In such a landmark year for video games, it seemed like just about every platform was a viable contender to be the best of the year. But, of course, I have to pick one.

 

Winner: Nintendo Switch

Has any video game console had as stellar of a first year as the Nintendo Switch? Right out the gate, it boasted what is probably the best Legend of Zelda game, and it quickly followed suit with other greats like ARMS and Splatoon 2, as well as a re-release of the exceptional Mario Kart 8, and the surprise of the year in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, before wrapping up the year with the phenomenal Super Mario Odyssey. To believe some people still try to use the whole Switch has no games “argument.” Seriously, when was the last time a console fired on all cylinders throughout its first year in the way the Switch did in 2017? Fingers crossed that the Switch’s sophomore year can replicate at least some of this consistency.

 

Runner-up: SNES Classic Edition

Runner-up: Playstation 4

Video Game Awards 2018: Best Gameplay

Gameplay is the glue that holds a game together. No matter how good a game’s story might be, no matter how much content a game tries to cram in, if the gameplay isn’t engaging, it’s all for naught. As such, naming the best gameplay of any given year is kind of a big deal.

There were certainly no shortage of fantastic games in 2017, but in the end, one had to be more fun to play than the rest.

 

Winner: Super Mario Odyssey

Come on! How could it not be Mario? Sure, there have been other series that have matched Mario’s playability on occasion (some more frequently than others), but there’s not been another series that has so consistently mastered the fine art of gameplay quite like Super Mario, and Odyssey is arguably the most fun entry in the series.

You can possess a T-rex for crying out loud! A freaking T-rex!

It’s not just that, though. Super Mario Odyssey reaches the heights it does because it has so many ideas constantly at play, end executes them so excellently. The aforementioned T-rex is just one of many creatures and objects Mario can “capture,” each one bringing with them their own gameplay. Then we have Mario himself, whose moves have never been so versatile, and possibly never so fluid to perform.

Super Mario Odyssey was largely touted as the spiritual successor to Super Mario 64 and Sunshine as a new “sandbox” entry in the series, and while that’s true to an extent, its design and gameplay feel just as influenced by Super Mario World and the Galaxy titles which – with all due respect to 64 and Sunshine – were on another level gameplay-wise.

Every kingdom of Odyssey is filled with countless things to do, and every last one of them are fun. Sandbox? No no no, Super Mario Odyssey is a toybox; giving you all the tools you need for the ultimate playtime.

Runner-up: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Runner-up: Persona 5

Video Game Awards 2018: Best Indie Game

Indie video games have come a long way. The late 2000s saw independent developers really start booming, with many a critical darling being released. That trend continues today, though I personally would argue the difference between then and now is that the indie games of today warrant the praise they receive. Abandoning the forced “arthouse” attempts of the late 2000s, indie games have more readily embraced themselves as video games, and have begun to really flourish because of it.

Though 2017 wasn’t quite the highpoint for indie gaming as some other recent years (not every year can boast a Shovel Knight or Undertale), it still provided some stellar indie experiences.

 

Winner: Cuphead

In all honesty, this award was a toss up between Cuphead and Hollow Knight. But in the case of the latter, I have been unable to finish the game, due to my computer crapping out and slowing down whenever I get to a boss fight, so it looks like I need to wait for a new computer or the Switch version to be released before I can play it to its fullest. So it looks like Cuphead wins by default.

With that said, it doesn’t take anything away from Cuphead’s quality. Sure, Cuphead is far from perfect (some of the bosses feel a little cheap, and the run-n-gun platforming stages are non-entities), but what Cuphead does well, it does very well.

Of course, the hand-drawn, 1930s cartoon visuals are what immediately gets your attention and, my god, are they beautiful. But the gameplay is also fine-tuned and addictive, and as difficult as it can get, Cuphead keeps drawing you back in.

It may not be perfect, but Cuphead is a charmer all its own.

 

Runner-up: Hollow Knight

Video Game Awards 2018: Best Handheld Game

Once upon a time, the convenience of being able to take a game on the go also meant sacrificing much of its quality. Sure, there were some exceptions – with Link’s Awakening and the early Pokemon titles being early examples of well-regarded handheld titles – but it would be hard to argue that the Gameboy boasted the same quality or timeless appeal as the SNES games that were being released at the same time.

The early 2000s saw handheld gaming take major steps towards sharing the same level of quality as their console counterparts. More recent years have really brought handheld gaming to another level. Now, with the Nintendo Switch combining a handheld with a home console, the line between the two is more blurred than ever.

On the downside, that also means that traditional handhelds as we know them are becoming a thing of the past. It’s even hard to imagine Nintendo giving the 3DS a successor when they can do more on the Switch anyway.

As such, I think naming the best handheld title of the upcoming years may be a different beast than it’s been in the past (considering handheld games are now quite literally the same as home console titles). If I choose to continue this category in the future, it may seem like a superfluous additional token to a Switch game or the like. Because of that, I’ve decided to omit Switch games from this category for 2017 (because how could Super Mario Odyssey or Breath of the Wild not win?). Think of it to give a “last hoorah” of sorts to handheld gaming as we once knew it.

 

Winner: Pokemon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon

I have a complicated history with Pokemon. As much as I love the overall idea of the games (and their many wonderful creatures), I’ve often felt it’s the most unchanging of Nintendo’s major franchises (which is particularly ironic, given its emphasis on evolving creatures). For every Pokemon I’ve got to level 100, I have a game unfinished.

Thankfully, the 3DS entries have been heading the series in the proper direction. Finally shedding their 2D skins for 3D graphics, the X and Y versions felt like they brought the series more up-to-date, while Sun and Moon felt like a rightful step forward. They may not have reinvented the formula, but they added some much needed alterations to it.

Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon (the “Yellow versions” to Sun and Moon’s “Red and Blue) continue this trend, bulking up what its preceding versions built while also adding in some tweaks of its own (including a weird story involving alternate dimensions and the long-overdue return of Giovanni and Team Rocket, who will hopefully be back in Pokemon Switch seeing as all subsequent Pokemon baddies felt like their bargain bin equivalent).

The new “Ultra” versions of Sun and Moon allow you to obtain almost every legendary Pokemon from the series’ history, which feels like a great way to pay homage to the series’ heritage. While aspects such as those may play up the nostalgia card, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon also bring about enough of their own changes to the established formula to ensure that the future continues to look bright for Pokemon.

 

Runner-up: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions