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.

10. Cuphead

3295239-cuphead+screen+shot+9_28_17,+6.37+pmIf I were to hand out awards for specific categories, then Cuphead would be a no-brainer for best art design. Its hand-drawn animations and watercolour design is an unprecedented work of art. Cuphead’s inspired rubber hose style of animation is brilliantly realized, mirroring the impeccable likes of 1930’s cartoons. Its exceptionally gorgeous, with its vibrant colours popping to no end in an act of aesthetic euphoria, and runs at a flawlessly rendered framerate. Paired up with an infectious jazz-y musical number and what you have is a masterpiece in presentation value. If every other aspect of Cuphead reached the astronomical heights of its presentation, then the end result would be nothing short of a masterpiece – sadly Cuphead is not nearly as fun to play as it is to look at. While its run and gun styled platforming is competent and its euphoric sense of gratification upon boss completion is remarkably satisfying, its approach to difficulty weighs on the frustrating side of the spectrum. A punishing sense of difficulty is nothing new in the contemporary world of video games, From Software ushered in this renascence of masochism, however key titles of this popular formula have one common element that alleviates frustration: the game is always fair. Cuphead is an invigorating and rewarding experience – with each idiosyncratic boss boasting brilliant aesthetic and gameplay transformations that are a spectacle to behold – but there are far too many scenarios that simply feel unfair. Overall, Cuphead is a brilliant achievement in presentation value that ultimately provides an entertaining and challenging gameplay experience.

9. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

wolfenstein-launch-keyartAs someone who was not the biggest fan of The New Order, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved its sequel, The New Colossus. Wolfenstein II is an exceptional game with a pristine sense of balance; both its narrative and gameplay elements are inherently separate but are equally as strong, carrying the core experience to insurmountable heights. With a slew of charismatic characters that simply ooze idiosyncratic personalities, a bevy of exceptionally bombastic segments and jaw-dropping moments, and its fast and visceral dual-wielding gunplay that gives DOOM a run for its money, Wolfenstein II simply never lets up, crafting a violently addictive experience with a lot of heart. It is equally disturbing as it is heartwarming. The New Colossus also promoted Frau Engel to the role of main antagonist, a comically sadistic General who is arguably the best video game antagonist in recent memory. With its brilliant writing, responsive and explosive gameplay, and impeccable world-building, Wolfenstein II is an exceptional narrative experience that consistently evolves, throwing in one exhilarating segment after another.  In a dire world where the FPS campaign is a dying breed, The New Colossus is a welcome response to a desperate cry for help.

8. Resident Evil 7: biohazard

resident-evil-7-3250x1882-biohazard-survival-horror-pc-ps4-xbox-one-hd-23422017 kicked off with a bang; Resident Evil 7 reconstructed the contemporary formula of the long-running series, finding solace in the franchise’s roots with a heavy emphasis on horror, environmental exploration, and claustrophobia. Resident Evil 7: biohazard is exceptionally well-paced, arguably the most efficient in the series, and never fails to perpetually emit an uncomfortable sense of fear. The heart of the beloved series is revitalized in this latest entry, imploring a key emphasis on puzzle solving, ammo scarcity, resource management, exploration, backtracking, and other beguiling adventure elements. Resident Evil 7 is a relatively bipolar experiment as its perspective and overall tone are a departure from the series’ renowned tendencies, despite its aforementioned return to form; seamlessly blending the core fundamentals of survival horror, while also implementing popularized elements of contemporary game design, resulting in a harmonic balance of the new and old. Its lack in enemy variety is a notable drawback, hindering the impeccable pacing ever so slightly, and its short length simply leaves you wanting more; Resident Evil 7 is a brilliant success story, immaculately weaving the tried and true horror fundamentals of yesteryear with the popularized survival horror mechanics of today, crafting the best horror experience of this generation.

Read Resident Evil 7: biohazard Review

7. Splatoon 2

promo324080340Seeing how the original was an undermined gem on the extremely underrated Wii U, Splatoon 2, in a lot of ways, feels like a re-imagining of the original – a fine example as to what the original Splatoon was supposed to embody in the first place, exposing this fine shooter to a wider audience. Splatoon 2 is an ingenious bite-sized extravaganza that is consistently evolving via post-game content. Its addictive bite-sized matches, bombastically boss-scentric cooperative mode, surprisingly robust gear/equipment system, and entertaining single-player component that outshines its predecessor’s in almost every conceivable way, Splatoon 2 polishes off its established formula to a shimmering tee. Splatoon 2 is still an excellent sequel, despite its shortcomings and cyclical issues, that embraces the fundamentals and success of the original, while adding a few variances here and there to spice up the formula. Splatoon 2 is easily one of the best games of 2017 and is undoubtedly the freshest online experience that Nintendo has cooked up. With the inclusion of flamboyant Splatfests, Nintendo has been dishing out  bountiful incentives to keep players coming back for more. 2018 is looking mighty bright for Nintendo’s idiosyncratic shooter.

Read Splatoon 2 Review

6. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

mario_rabbids_review_1Arguably the most surprising success of 2017, this eccentric crossover incorporates novel systems typically foreign to both the Super Mario and Rabbids series. This turn-based strategy gem takes clear inspiration from XCOM, and while it’s relatively simplistic upon first glance, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle boasts a surprisingly robust system that is delightfully challenging. As a brilliantly complex experience that’s filled to the brim with quality content, the Switch’s portable factor greatly enhances particular elements, catering to a copious amount of addictive playstyles. With an excellent story mode – one that’s brimming with that iconic Nintendo seal of charm and the Rabbid’s typical slapstick  humor -, an engrossing cooperative mode that acts as a welcome pallet cleanser, and the newly added versus mode that promotes competitive chaotic fun, Mario + Rabbids is the best game Ubisoft has released in a long time. Layer upon layer of notable implementations ascend this strategy underdog to surprisingly meteoric heights as it competently holds its own against some of the best Nintendo spin-offs and prestigious examples of the strategy genre.

5. Horizon Zero Dawn

horizon-zero-dawn-thunderjawEasily one of my most anticipated titles of 2017, Guerilla’s glorious new IP is a delightful return to form for the first-party Sony developer, as their previous release – Killzone: Shadowfall – was an unpolished, muddled disappointment. Horizon Zero Dawn a stern example of the risk to reward mentality of developing new IPs, and how certain trials and tribulations pay off in the end as Horizon Zero Dawn is nothing short of excellent and arguably the best work that Guerilla has dished out thus far. Enriched with an exceptionally gorgeous and realised world, an enthralling narrative – dripping to the core with intrigue and mystery – and some of the most creative enemy design that ever graced the light of gaming, Horizon Zero Dawn is an absolute gem of a PlayStation 4 exclusive. The sheer thrill of hunting animal based machines emits an unparalleled sense of euphoria; the bombastic battles between a gargantuan Thunderjaw or a menacing Stormbird are exceptional highlights with a satisfying sensation sticking with you upon their inaugural defeat. Horizon Zero Dawn is such a significant departure from Guerilla’s established repertoire, everything from the tonal shifts to its invigorating gameplay is inherently different; I tip my hat off to Guerilla for simply trying something risky and novel. Despite its glorious achievements, Horizon Zero Dawn does falter here and there; its pacing is relatively sluggish in certain instances, its mission structure is fairly repetitive and ultimately becomes predictable, and while not a knock on its level of quality but Horizon was eventually overshadowed by The Legend Zelda: Breath of the Wild due to its superior nature in similar attributes. Regardless of preferences and minor qualms, Horizon Zero Dawn is a testament to Guerilla Games’ ability to evolve and adapt, resulting in one of the greatest titles and exclusives available for the PlayStation 4.

4. Nioh

3165129-screen_nioh_group_i_4k_00While From Software fostered its iconic Souls formula, Team Ninja’s conspicuous take on the beloved masochistic sub-genre is arguably the best iteration yet, encompassing the inert core of From Software’s repertoire, while implementing a robust combat system that outshines anything that came before it. While Bloodborne still carries the crown as the best Souls-esque title to date, Nioh is a remarkably close second that implements a minutia of particular elements that enhance the established formula, while also ironing out certain kinks, resulting in a far more streamlined and enjoyable experience. Nioh’s robust and visceral combat is enriched through its dynamic stance and Ki recovery system, innovative gameplay implementations that extend combo length and implore strategic thinking and input. These systems further enhance what is already a masterfully executed combat system that is outlandishly satisfying. An underrated aspect to Nioh is its brilliant soul matching system, as it adheres to Nioh’s profound sense of flexibility. Having your preferred weapon inherit the level and strength of another, while retaining your weapon’s stats, is remarkably gratifying. While its narrative is rather disjointed, following the discombobulated footsteps of From Software’s repertoire, its fictitious take on the late Sengoku Period is absolutely enthralling, plucking out key  key moments and figures in history. Given the resounding success of Team Ninja’s iteration on the beloved formula, I am eager to see how Bandai Namco’s take pans out with Code Vein.

Read Nioh Review

3. Persona 5

p5bgIt is no secret that Persona 4 Golden is my favourite game of all time, I’ve mentioned this more times than I’d like to admit, so claiming that its long awaited sequel had an insurmountable level of expectation to live up to would be a severe understatement. While Persona 5 doesn’t reach the impeccable heights established by its masterful predecessor, Persona 5 is the very definition of a near-masterpiece, straying ever so slightly from a masterful level of quality. It might not possess the life-changing fundamentals that its older brother fostered so immaculately, but Persona 5 is an excellent standalone experience that is extraordinarily gratifying for those who wish to partake in this exquisite journey. The emotional connection between the Phantom Thieves may never hit the same stride as the loveable mystery gang of Persona 4, but tossing negative qualms aside, you have the most mechanically sound and centrally driven Persona experience to date. It’s a near masterpiece that perfectly encapsulates an invigorating sense of equilibrium between quantity and quality. Gameplay is appropriately stylized, mirroring Persona 5’s flamboyant aesthetic, while streamlining rudimentary kinks that have subtly plagued the Shin Megami Tensei subseries for years. As always, the infectious score composed by Shoji Meguro is an immaculate work of art, as he consistently outdoes himself with each new iteration of the series. Persona 5 is not only the best PlayStation exclusive of 2017, but it is also one the best RPGs of all time, standing amongst the likes of Persona 4, Final Fantasy VI, and Chrono Trigger.

Read Persona 5 Review

2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

zelda-breath-wild-3What was certain to be my top game of 2017 ended up being the penultimate entry on the list. Game of the year for most – and wrongly so – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a resounding masterpiece that acts as a revitalizing surge of energy to one of Nintendo’s most beloved series, propelling it forward on a glorious path for the future. Breath of the Wild is exactly what I expected from a modern take on the legendary series. It’s a natural evolution to the profound sense of adventure that was established over thirty years ago, cultivating an experience that also transcends those same expectations, surprising me at every turn. Its extraordinary world is ripe with tantalizing goodies, an exquisite aura of mystery, and exceptional water cooler moments of discovery and wonder. It’s a thought-provoking experience that challenges your traditional perception of survival, traversal, and exploration, inviting you to overcome obstacles of any magnitude in ways that were thought to be impossible. Its bite-sized approach to the traditional dungeon works surprisingly well, as these Shrines alleviate the pace of discovery and exploration, while never giving into the sense of quantity over quality, as each Shrine is dynamically unique and implores a radiating sense of critical-thinking. Breath of the Wild is a masterclass in game design, a stellar example of rewarding experimentation and immaculate execution. Link’s latest adventure is the embodiment of harmonious balance, with each element in Breath of the Wild bearing two equal sides. It’s a resounding testament to Nintendo’s unparalleled seal of quality and their pristine ability to evolve as Breath of the Wild is a remarkable masterpiece and a brilliant example of impeccable game design.

Read The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review

1. Super Mario Odyssey

DiK0dhZSuper Mario Odyssey is the most joyous experience I have had the pleasure to review, a glorious example of expectations surpassed to an infinite degree. While Breath of the Wild has been unanimously praised for its adaptability and sense of evolution, Mario has consistently pushed the boundaries and limitations of the medium, perpetually evolving and seamlessly weaving in novel elements with each new iteration. Super Mario Odyssey is by no means an exception to the rule; in fact, one could argue that Mario Odyssey is the greatest entry in the legendary series. Its sense of scope and imagination is limitless, as Mario Odyssey is a gargantuan bevy of novelty and creativity that constantly astonishes with each newly introduced element. It’s a successful formula that rightfully acknowledges the past, but also leaves way for innovation and improvement, encompassing a disposition for unpredictability and audacity. Super Mario Odyssey is a prime example of Nintendo’s pristine ability to take the familiar and beautifully mold it into something brilliantly exotic. Mario Odyssey’s revolutionary capture mechanic is one of the greatest things ever implemented in video games, imploring an unparalleled sense of versatility and creative-thinking. Super Mario Odyssey is a constant, joyous surprise, that never failed to put a smile on my face – it’s a remarkable testament to why I love video games. Super Mario Odyssey is a magical adventure that’s charming, surprising, innovative, and undeniably brilliant – an impeccable master class in level design and gameplay variance that easily surpasses the gold standards of the Mario franchise. Whether if you’re partaking in the extravagant festival in New Donk City -celebrating the beloved history of this iconic staple in brilliant 2D fashion – , excavating Kingdoms (both the uncharted and familiar) for new Power Moons in Mario Odyssey’s surprisingly robust endgame, or simply exploring every nook and cranny of the impeccably designed Kingdoms, each element in Mario Odyssey is masterfully crafted and fine-tuned to perfection, crafting a rewarding experience that is constantly evolving in surprisingly brilliant ways. Its non-linear approach to level progression and structure is a glorious cherry on top to this exquisite sundae. Super Mario Odyssey is not only the best game of 2017 bar none, it’s arguably my favourite game of all-time.

Read Super Mario Odyssey Review

So those are my top 10 games of 2017! What were your favourite games of 2017? Be sure to sound off in the comments below!

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Author: AfterStory

Your friendly neighbourhood video game writer/musician from the Great White North. While he's been playing video games since the late 90's, the one video game that kickstarted this obsession, hobby, and possible career (?) was Bioshock, which is coincidentally themancalledscott's favourite game, so that's why the two of them are good pals! You can follow him @the_afterstory if you care to listen to his peculiar ramblings.

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