In video games, failing the task at hand generally means you receive a Game Over. Time to try again. But in Pyre, Supergiant Games' 2017 joint, losing is merely a setback. Or maybe it's what you really wanted. Pyre's colorful, mysterious underworld, called the Downside, is an undesirable place. Its many exiled denizens wish for freedom, which can only be obtained through Rites, a competition that resembles a 3-on-3 version of NBA Jam. By exploring different corners of the Downside and taking part in Rites, you'll meet several potential allies, but your partners leave your caravan permanently if you win enough to grant them freedom. Your opponents have their own stories and struggles as well, and players might be motivated to lose Rites on purpose to see them achieve a positive end. Pyre is a fascinating game, both for being a unique combination of basketball and nonlinear storytelling, and for being the rare RPG that has players question the very nature of winning and losing.
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Games are proving more and more lately that we need to rethink the definition of an RPG. What's terrific about RPGs is how flexible they are — it's probably the least rigid genre in gaming. Enter Golf Story, a refreshing little eShop gem that blends golfing with traditional genre mechanics, such as stat-building and side quests. At first glance, Golf Story may just seem like a novelty; when you dig deeper, however, you see that its hilarious script and surprisingly rich gameplay couple to create a worthwhile experience. Golf games can be niche, but Golf Story succeeds in making the sport accessible to a wide audience with its charming cast and unique RPG twist.
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Six votes separated Supergiant's latest unique take on gaming and the the indie darling Golf Story. Ever Oasis and Prey put up a good fight here, at each earning only 20% fewer votes than the winners, but apparently in this category, 2017 was all about the sports-themed games.