2017 has been one of the best years for video games in a long time, and it has given us a bounty of RPGs, visual novels, and adventure games. I've played genres I've never touched before and been surprised more than once, so picking my favourites has been particularly tough. It's been a real dogfight to get into the top five, and some games that would've won in any other year haven't quite made the cut this time, but when you've loved more than five games in a year, who's the real winner? Maybe next year I'll be able to get around to my backlog...
I was ready to be disappointed by yet another Tales of game, but Tales of Berseria is the year's biggest surprise for me. Not only was it an absolute blast to play, it has the best characterization and story since Tales of Vesperia nearly 10 years ago! I played this back at the beginning of the year, and I still look back on Velvet and her pirate crew fondly. The dungeons are certainly not up to scratch, and I'm still itching for an old-school Tales game in the same vein as Vesperia, Abyss, or even Phantasia, but Tales of Berseria shows that with a bit of a series break and some good ideas, Tales of still has it. Long may this trend continue.
I played through the original Final Fantasy XII back in 2006, and while I enjoyed it at the time, I didn't come away from it with any lasting impressions. Years passed, and I dismissed it as one of the weaker titles in the series. Then 2017's The Zodiac Age comes along and proves me wrong, and FFXII has gone from being in the bottom three to being in my top three Final Fantasy games. The speed-up function and job system alone make this a worthwhile return to Ivalice. FFXII has aged beautifully, and as I've grown older, I've come to appreciate the world and characters more. Plus, there are sky pirates! What more could a girl want? I'll be coming back for those last few hunts and espers very soon.
My most anticipated game of the last two years didn't let me down. Persona 5 is visually stunning, making it stand out from the crowd from the get-go. Other than the gorgeous presentation, jaw-dropping UI, and awesome music, my favourite thing about Persona 5 is how it manages to keep the style and feel of the newer games while looking back at the PS1 titles. It reintroduces Demon negotiation, firearms, and some old spells for a much needed change-up. The cast is eclectic, and the dungeon designs are some of the best the genre has ever seen. It's just a shame it had a rushed translation and it didn't handle particular social matters carefully (all the more baffling considering the central theme of being the outsider). However, no one can deny Persona 5 is fun, fast, and fantastic. Now I get to sit back and watch the inevitable milking of this entry...
There's no one quite like Yoko Taro, and there's nothing quite like NieR and NieR: Automata. Automata's gameplay, music, world, atmosphere, and characters are a bizarre concoction that blends together seamlessly into an unusual, thought-provoking, and sleek action RPG. It's a game that takes risks and isn't afraid to pull the rug out from under your feet. It's slightly more conventional that Taro's previous efforts, but it doesn't let the blockbuster budget overwhelm it. NieR: Automata is an essential purchase for anyone who likes action RPGs, or anyone that wants to try anything different. Yoko Taro's efforts in the industry have been underappreciated for years, but with NieR: Automata he's made it, and now people can't stop talking about him.
If you told me 12 months ago that my favourite game of 2017 would be a Zelda game, I would've laughed at you, yet here we are. Zelda and I don't always get on — the linearity irritates me and the formulaic layout of the quest often bores me before long. Breath of the Wild ditches the traditional Zelda format and throws you into a vast, open world with only a few hints on what you need to do. I made mistakes throughout: I broke too many weapons; I ran out of food; I took on enemies that were too strong for me. But for every mistake I made, I found myself coming back with new and exciting ideas, and for every enemy I conquered or every mountain I climbed, I felt a huge sense of achievement. Never have I felt so alone, yet so alive in a single world. Breath of the Wild is magical. My time with the game has been truly special, and it's an experience I'm unlikely to forget.
Rise and shine, ursine!
Danganronpa V3 does not hold back, and it barely missed out on my top 5. My love for this series still burns strong with its over-the-top characters, ridiculous plot twists, and blood-curdling murders. Just be prepared for some surprises. It's a wonderful send-off (hopefully) for this despair-filled series.
There's no way I can't speak about Xenoblade Chronicles 2's music. I thought NieR: Automata's soundtrack would run far and away with my heart this year, but Yasunori Mitsuda and his buds ACE, Kenji Hiramatsu, and Manami Kiyota came along and blew my expectations out of the water. I listened to the sound selection that came with the special edition and openly wept at every track. The themes for some of the Titans are absolutely magnificent and convey the sheer diversity of landscapes and worlds I'm about to explore. While I haven't had enough time to fully experience the game, I can already tell Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has one of my favourite soundtracks of all time.
Both Mario AND Sonic have had good games this year? Well. Super Mario Odyssey is 3D platforming perfection. It's one of those games that puts a smile on your face every time you boot it up. Every world is filled to the brim with bright colours, exciting ideas, and interesting mechanics. Each world is a delight to explore, and there's something new to discover in each one. But my heart has always belonged to Sega, so I can't leave out Sonic Mania, which is a return to form for the Blue Blur. It has excellent level design, an outstanding soundtrack, and bucketfuls of nostalgia. Sonic Mania is one of Sega's finest, and one of the best Sonic games ever. It's great to see these two rivals at their best in 2017, and I'll be playing these two games for years to come.
2017 was crazy, so there are many games I wish I had played this year, but the biggest omission has to be Night in the Woods. Characters that look like they're made from Fuzzy Felt in a graphic adventure game? The cutesy designs had me sold, but the apathetic but realist tone has me even more interested in picking this delightful game up. Night in the Woods looks like the kind of adventure game I've always wanted to play, and I'm so sad I missed out on it this year. If the Switch release hits in 2018, I'll be one of the first to pick this title up.