As time continues to be a flat circle into 2018, let's sit back, crack a brew open, and reflect for a few moments in glory for what the last year meant for video games:
The successful launch of the Nintendo Switch.
Zelda making both a comeback and an ascendance back into the halls of modern relevance.
Persona 5 stealing our hearts and our tears.
NieR: Automata. No more words needed.
Horizon Zero Dawn proving that original ideas and their debuts can soar and thrive in a crowded market.
The Game Awards showcasing the relevancy and absolute iron will of this popular and ever evolving medium.
These are the points that I just popped off from the top of my head. There is so much that 2017 did for video games that I haven't listed, and I think that's part of the beauty of it all. What means so much to me means something different to someone else, and that discourse makes our communal love of this medium so darn special.
On my end, this being one of my busiest years professionally, I haven't had as much time to sink into video games as I'd like. Even still, I did manage to guide a few titles all the way up to the finish line, and luckily, they were all good.
Without further ado, here's my list of games that were, like, super great in 2017!
Pyre is the latest title created by Supergiant Games, and it is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, my favourite game they've ever released. I would never have guessed that the fusion of celestial basketball as a core gameplay loop and the mechanics of Oregon Trail would be something that I would fall in love with nearly immediately, through my 20-odd hours with this title. Striking eldritch visuals communicate a purgatory rent asunder, character designs are both colourful and varied in both shape and size, and the story sweeps through grand themes and yet never lets the characters that you make the journey with feel flat or stale.
Oh, and that soundtrack, though. Darren Korb & Ashley Barrett once again knock it out of the park, weaving a soundscape of mandolins, lurid vocals, and beautiful solos.
Pyre is essentially everything I enjoy in an RPG distilled into a lean, focused experience. Do yourself a favour, and make the journey that Pyre offers. I can almost guarantee you won't forget it.
Oh, man. There's no poetic description of why Yakuza 0 is here on this list. I mean, I could talk about how it offers one of the most realistic depictions of a Japanese cityscape as an overworld. Or, how its minigames and sidequests become titular pursuits in and of themselves. Or how impactful it is to see Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima's origins within the yakuza trade, or the Yakuza series in general.
Yakuza 0 is on this list because it is the purest expression of fun that I played all year. All of its gameplay systems bleed into improving your dual protagonists to almost superhuman levels of fighting strength. I spent countless hours maximising my skill at karaoke, dancing, and slot car racing in the pursuit of growing stronger as a yakuza, and as a man. When a game throws an enemy called Mr. Shakedown at you, with the full intent of swiping all your hard-earned currency through a street fight, you can't help but laugh at the sheer absurdity of it all.
And I did. Like, a whole bunch.
Zelda came back with a Ghibli-esque vengeance, y'all! The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sports an utterly beautiful world to freely explore, characters brimming with personality, and the freedom to tackle problems in nearly any way that you, as the player, see fit. After a short introduction and a few tasks completed, the world of Hyrule is opened up almost fully, without any restrictions other than sheer difficulty and the absolute necessity to be smart as a player. And what a world it is! From the highest peaks to the most ancient of dungeons, Breath of the Wild is an amazing game to lose yourself in. I can remember multiple times over the last month or so where I only had time to play the game for an hour, but after I checked my watch, four hours had melted past. There are a few niggles, such as the obscene level of low weapon durability and the inability to check in a bear as a horse, but for the most part, Breath of the Wild is an imperative experience in the Zelda canon, and one that I enjoyed thoroughly this year.
This game stole my
heart. From its striking red, black, and white visuals to its acid-jazz laced soundtrack, Persona 5 is the very definition of what I feel a JRPG is. Being the fifth iteration in a franchise is no easy feat, but Persona 5 does it with ease, blending turn-based gameplay, social links, and the macro-narrative together in enjoyable and addicting ways, making the TAKE YOUR TIME on the loading screen a mantra that I kept close to my heart. Throughout its 100-hour playtime, the game presented an absolutely stellar snippet of Tokyo that had me smiling fondly, as well as showcasing characters full of both zest and adolescent rebellion. If I had played this game when I was younger, I imagine it would have become a fundamental keystone of my identity and an instant classic. At the age of 25, it still rings true and lies warmly in my heart. Plus, any game that gives me an absolute zinger of a track like "Rivers in the Desert" deserves to be in my top five.
NieR: Automata is a game that only works as a game. Throughout the forty-and-change hours that I spent with the title unlocking the five main endings, I felt. Emotions, I believe, are the integral ingredient as to whether a piece of media or entertainment is successful. If we can't relate to it on an emotional level, it fails. We can recognise the work that has gone into it, and the intellectual worth of it, but if it doesn't stir our heart, then something is lost. This game, through the actions of its protagonists, had me both weeping, laughing, and shouting in equal measure. It weaves a tale of existentialism, of going beyond the boundaries of what you think is possible, and upending those limitations in ways that both shock and surprise. For a story about robotic protagonists, it has a heck of a lot of heart. With a ripper of a soundtrack by Keiichi Okabe and the team at MONACA, the journey of 2B, 9S, and (SPOILER) is one worth taking. Discussing why ruins the experience of the game, I think. And it does have flaws such as simplistic combat, irritating map design, and a colour palette that can get wearisome after dozens of hours exploring the same locales. Still, if you've got a spare slot in your gaming for 2018, you could do worse than NieR: Automata.
Plus, the ending of Route E. It's worth it. Not a dry eye in the darn house when I got there.