Disclaimer: 4 out of 5 of these choices are Switch games because reasons. Sorry. Also I haven’t played Xenoblade Chronicles 2 yet. Double sorry. Finally, I know this is a tad late for a 2017 retrospective post. Triple sorry.
2017 was a lot of things for different people, but I think when it came to video games, it was more or less universally considered to be one of the best years for games we’ve had in forever, regardless of your choice of platform(s).
For me personally, someone who’s slowly been losing their faith in the industry and the direction it’s been taking in recent years, I haven’t been this impressed in the current output of quality games since the Gamecube days.
Which means that picking 5 games from the list of all the amazing titles that came out last year is no easy feat.
But here I am, doing it anyway, because I’ve currently decided to abstain from playing games for the next couple of weeks to increase my productivity in areas of my life that actually matter and slack off less in general, so I need to get my gaming related fix some how… By writing about them!
So yeah… Here’s my Top 5 video games of 2017. Enjoy, and feel free to share your own choices down below.
5. Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy
If you were asked to cook up a list of the popular gaming mascots who more or less dominated the gaming industry when you were growing up, I’m sure Naughty Dog’s infamous, wacky bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot, would no doubt appear somewhere amongst the likes of Mario, Spyro (RIP), Banjo and so many others.
But if you’re at all familiar with Crash, I’m sure you’re also aware that for the better part of a decade, he’d more of less vanished from the public eye entirely, stuffed away in the dark, dusty chest of forgotten franchises buried deep within the basement of Activision’s Headquarters, never to be heard from again.
…Until they decided to let the little guy out and remake the original Naughty Dog trilogy of PlayStation 1 games from the ground up into one game on the PS4.
What a time to be alive. I can’t believe this game actually exists and that Activision of all people actually listened to the fans of Crash Bandicoot and actively played a role in bringing the franchise back.
Being a remake of the original games, N. Sane Trilogy is more or less what you’d expect. It’s the same levels, the same challenges, the same music, the same general storyline… It’s all what we grew up with. Only it’s enhanced, improved and much more refined than what we’re used to.
The graphical update is incredible, the remade musical tracks are a fantastic combination of nostalgia pandering and freshness and the gameplay and controls, while largely unchanged, have a modern polish to them that makes the game feel less dated.
My only real complaint with this game would be the difficulty, particularly that of the first game. No, I’m not going to start spouting that this game is “the Dark Souls of Platformers” because not only do I not consider Dark Souls to even be a hard game, but such a comparison is… Baseless and honestly stupid.
But Crash Bandicoot 1 is hard. It’s hard as nails. It’s unfairly hard in its later levels, and it’s mostly a result of poor checkpoint placement and ridiculous platforming challenges that require the precision of the worlds greatest military sniper.
Fortunately the other two games don’t suffer from this problem and are generally less unforgiving.
The original Crash games still hold up well by modern standards, and honestly haven’t aged all that much, but if you’re looking for a fresh coat of paint, along with some refined elements here and there, N. Sane Trilogy is definitely worth your time.
Now hopefully we can get new Crash games. Or maybe a Spyro N. Sane Trilogy?
4. Fire Emblem Warriors
Outside of a very brief and short lived experience with Dynasty Warriors 4 on the PlayStation 2, I’ve never had any exposure the Koei Tecmo’s extremely popular, and seemingly constantly released, hack and slash franchise.
I also never got the chance to play Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U for no reason other than that I never ended up getting around to it, and probably never will now because… Wii U.
However, I am a pretty big Fire Emblem fan. The Sacred Stones is probably my favourite game on the Gameboy Advance, and Binding Blade, Blazing Sword and Radiant Dawn are all games I replay often, and have sunk hundreds of hours into.
So naturally when I heard that Fire Emblem was getting “the Warriors Treatment” as I like to call it, I was immediately on board, and man, oh man, is this game something special.
I was originally worried that Fire Emblem Warriors was simply going to be a Dynasty Warriors game with a Fire Emblem coat of paint on it, but it’s actually so much more than that.
Yeah, it plays like a Warriors game, and a lot of the gameplay consists of you controlling one of several characters and mowing down thousands upon thousands of enemies with insane combos and crazy special attacks, but there’s a lot of little things in amongst all that, that keep the gameplay fresh and exciting.
The biggest of these being an implementation of the Weapon Triangle system from the mainline Fire Emblem games. If you’re playing a character who uses a sword, they’ll be good against someone who uses axes, but struggle a lot against an enemy that uses lances. This applies to all weapons in the game, and while it’s a small thing, it really changes up the gameplay and adds a lot more strategy to the often simple Warriors gameplay.
Also your allies have good AI and actually do things to help you. That’s a plus.
And for a game that I figured would take me around 20 hours to complete, I’m actually shocked at how much content Fire Emblem Warriors has. There are countless unlockables, hundreds of missions and a surprising amount of replay value. There’s easily 100 hours worth of content in here. Probably more.
I can’t wait to dive back into it again.
3. Disgaea 5: Complete
I’ve sunk more hours into the Disgaea franchise than would be considered healthy by most human beings. I’ve probably spent around 500 hours on each game in the franchise, and even after around 10 years, I still find myself going back to the original game because there’s just so much to do and so much fun to be had.
So when the latest game in the franchise, that I never got the chance to play, gets ported onto a portable system like the Switch, with all of the DLC and extra content from the original version, you can bet it’s going to be on my list of best games of the year.
Disgaea 5 Complete is the definitive Disgaea experience. It builds upon all of the strengths of the previous games in the series and tosses out many of their weaknesses, while also adding a ton of new ideas and mechanics that take the gameplay to a whole new galaxy of awesomeness.
The game isn’t for everyone, with its silly, self deprecating, humour-filled story and its poorly tutorialised gameplay systems, but if you can enjoy the story for what it is and take some time to learn how everything works, there’s some real fun to be had here. Fun that is more or less endless due to the fact that the game has no level cap and a bottomless well of things to do.
And it’s portable. I can take this endless RPG to work with me.
Here’s to another 1000 hours of grinding the hell out of maps.
2. Super Mario Odyssey
I already gushed about how much of a dream come true Super Mario Odyssey was for me, and even after a couple of months have passed since completing it, I’m still wow’d by how incredible this game is.
For someone who grew up with the likes of Super Mario 64 and Sunshine, and never quite got the follow up to those games that he wanted, Super Mario Odyssey is the embodiment of everything 3D Mario and 3D Collectathon Platformers should be.
Mario has never controlled better than he does in this game, and the freedom of movement that is given to the player compared to that of past 3D Mario games is simply astounding.
Every world is interesting and fun to explore, and not one of them is forgettable or boring, even the short intermission stages between the larger worlds. The presentation is simply breathtaking, and everything feels so vibrant and colourful, with the music also being among the best Mario soundtracks ever composed. It rivals the music of Galaxy.
And the gameplay is just so… Fun! The Capture mechanic adds a whole new dimension to the collectathon formula of “explore the large open world and find cool shit” and the boss fights are actually a stand out. In a Mario game. Yes.
Before Mario Odyssey, it seemed that the collectathon genre was doomed to never retake its well deserved crown, with critics continuously making bizarre statements about the genre, such as “it doesn’t work by today’s standards” and “the genre was never good to begin with”.
Mario Odyssey laughs in the face of such baseless critiques and proves that this genre can still work and that it is indeed still good.
Play Mario Odyssey. And if you don’t have a Switch, get one.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I hate open world games. I really, really, really don’t like open world games. The world of such games is often a barren wasteland, with quests scattered all over and enemies to fight, and I can’t stand it. And while there’s always plenty of things to do in these open worlds, the gameplay is often clunky and boring and the world never feels alive. It doesn’t feel like an actual world that I want to get lost in and know more about or that I want to dedicate hours of my time to.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild however, breathes new life into the realm of open world gaming, because not only is its gameplay refined, enjoyable and full of creative ideas that redefine the very foundations of the genre, but its world actually feels like a world. It feels like a place with its own inhabitants, history and culture.
Hyrule is actually fun to explore, and not just because there are countless quests for you to do, and tons of enemies to fight, but the world itself is a joy to explore. I’d honestly argue that you could remove the quests and enemies entirely, and that simply wandering around and taking in the locale is an enjoyable act in and of itself. In fact, there were many times where I stopped what I was doing mid-quest just to see what that thing in the distance was, and even if it turned out to be nothing, I felt rewarded. Because I got to see something, even if that something was nothing more than a beautiful landscape or a cool looking set of trees.
And that’s not even getting into the gameplay itself, which is seemingly endless when it comes to content. There’s so much to do in this game, from the hundreds of dungeons scattered throughout the world, to the tons of sidequests offered by NPC’s, to cooking, to hunting, and all the main story content and collectables… I’ve sunk in over 100 hours, and I still haven’t beaten it.
And the combat is actually good and there’s an actual challenge, unlike almost every other Zelda game that’s come out before it.
And there’s DLC. God help me.
I’ve seen a lot of complaints that Breath of the Wild is too much of a deviation from the traditional Zelda formula, and while I can definitely see where people are coming from with these complaints, I’d argue that such a change is necessary for the series to move forward.
I love Zelda. It’s one of my favourite gaming franchises of all time, and Ocarina of Time remains one of my all time favourite games, even though it’s been over a decade since its original release.
But Breath of the Wild has taken the series to new and exciting places that, while not perfect, are wonderfully realised and executed on a level I never thought was possible for an open world adventure game.
It’s probably my favourite Zelda game, because it’s not just another Zelda game. It’s much more than that. It’s something new, while also still being Zelda. And it works. It works perfectly.
Games that are in development for as long as Breath of the Wild was tend to be huge disappointments, but Breath of the Wild actually shattered my expectations. Completely.
It’s a masterclass of open world game design, the best open world game in existence and by far the best game of 2017.
And I guess I should go finish it at some point…
What were your favourite games of 2017?