Wow, what a year! 2017 can place itself comfortably among the great years of gaming. 2007 was the last time the industry has felt this kind of high. With a year filled with so many amazing games, it was hard to nail down a Top 5. I have painstakingly been debating my Top 5 for weeks, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 made things interesting in the final weeks of 2017. So, after much internal debate, here is my Top 5 RPGs of 2017.
As one of only a handful of people who owned a Wii U, I had the opportunity to play Xenoblade Chronicles X, one of maybe 3 RPGs on the console. As someone who loved Xenoblade Chronicles for its incredible story and cast of characters, I was very disappointed by X's focus on an open world. The world itself wasn't very interesting, the characters were bland, and the story was relatively non-existent until later in the game. Even famed composer Sawano Hiroyuki didn't really seem to put forth his best effort. When I picked up Xenoblade Chronicles 2, it was a huge relief to see them go back to having characters I could care about. The battle system was a big improvement over the previous games, the world was interesting, and there are finally character models that don't look like they're from the PS2 era. In addition, it has an absolutely stellar soundtrack that brings back feelings of nostalgia. While there hasn't been enough time for me to finish, I can already see this ranking among my top games of the year.
In my humble opinion, nothing else comes close to touching this game for best story of the year. The trials and tribulations of 2B and 9S as they explore the destroyed Earth and interact with the machines that they are supposed to destroy was extremely riveting. In a story full of twists and turns, it was almost impossible to tell what was going to happen next, and it left you constantly on edge for the next plot point. The soundtrack was also top of its class for the year, with its atmospheric tone and epic boss music. The only problem I personally have with the game is that I have seen better combat out of Platinum, and the map is a mess when trying to find quests. Other than that, it's a fantastic game that I would recommend everyone play given the time.
As mentioned in my review, I had a lot of ups and downs while waiting for Fire Emblem Warriors' release: absolute elation at its announcement and complete disappointment upon learning the game would be focusing on Awakening, Fates, and Shadow Dragon. This is certainly not a concept that is doomed to fail at the start, so I went in with middling expectations. What I got went well beyond those expectations. Fire Emblem Warriors is an almost-perfect union of Fire Emblem and Warriors. There's the fast-paced action of the Warriors games, but there is also the strategic element of the Fire Emblem games. You always have to keep the weapon triangle in mind as you cut your way through the battlefield and make sure you're not flying your Pegasus Knights into a bunch of archers. A great soundtrack, smooth combat, and the strategic class-based combat of Fire Emblem all mesh together to create the best Warriors game I've ever played.
More than any other game that came out this year, talking and hearing about Persona 5 makes me giddy. Having never played a Persona game in the past (though I have played other Atlus games like Shin Megami Tensei IV and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE), I had always heard about how good the series was. So I decided to get with the times and try out the latest entry. Simply put: Persona 5 is the traditional JRPG perfected. Every aspect of this game is masterfully polished, from the general gameplay to the wonderful soundtrack. Persona 5 is a powerful story-driven JRPG all wrapped up in the most stylish package Atlus could find. It was a blast to hang out with Persona 5's cast of characters as they struggled to deal with the shackles that society had put on them. Persona 5 is a game I couldn't stop playing and a game I never wanted to end. It's one of those special games that I wish I could forget just so I could play it again and feel all of those great emotions I felt during my first playthrough.
In all of my years of gaming, few games have entrapped me in their open worlds for long. Most of the open world games I have played had worlds that were huge, for sure, but never made me feel invested enough to care. Thankfully, Breath of the Wild sets itself apart from the pack. After you get past the tutorial area (the Great Plateau) the entire world opens up to you and says, "have fun." And that is exactly what I did. There are no reminders to set you back on the path to the story, there is no hand-holding, there is no real instruction at all. You can go and complete every shrine, get every Korok seed, talk to townspeople, do the main quests, or head straight to the final boss. You can do WHATEVER you want. There is no right or wrong way to play Breath of the Wild. Everything you do in Breath of the Wild is on you as the player, and how you tackle the game is likely to be different for each person. For these reasons, Breath of the Wild takes it for me. Breath of the Wild is one of the handful of Zelda games I have ever completed to the end of its story, and that was because I was enthralled in everything the game had to offer.
I'm sure many of us didn't think much of Ever Oasis from its reveal up to its release. A chibi art style and simple dungeons didn't look too appealing on 3DS. Even the 3DS itself saw its position of handheld of choice get overtaken by the Switch. It's a shame most people seem to have missed out on Ever Oasis because of this — it's a very charming game with its adorable cast of characters, delightful music, and its general happy-go-lucky tone. The chibi style helped give the characters more detailed facial expressions, which the game utilized to great effect. There's just something about two characters greeting each other in town with a wave and a smile that warms me up inside. Yes, the fetch quests for materials were insanely annoying until the middle portion of the game, and the combat was extremely simple, but this is a game I fell in love with that I had no expectations of.
For over a year now, I have made it a part of my daily routine to play Overwatch for at least a couple of hours. Despite rolling out characters and maps rather slowly, nothing gives me more thrills than my Overwatch matches. The character variety and the unpredictable nature of each game keeps me coming back for more day after day.
My favourite game from 2016 was the gift I didn't know I needed so badly until I played it. That game was just non-stop fun for me, a fair challenge throughout, and had that happy go-lucky vibe that I needed last year. It is a game that I hope I can one day share with others; hopefully I can somehow stream it out so that people can see how much this game means to me. I am still waiting for a Switch port, and I will lose my mind like the N64 Kid if it ever happens.