Making Sense of 2017’s Best Video Games

We’re back in full swing now that 2018 is over — the break is done and the fun has just begun. Or something. But we’ll have a Dave episode of the podcast tomorrow, and Thursday is the annual Best Of episode where we’ll list the top games, movies and music of 2017.

That has me in a bit of a pickle. Last year was a phenomenal year for gamers, regardless of platform or genre or console. There was damn near something for everyone, and some true titans battling it out for Game of the Year honors. You’ll have to tune in Thursday to hear my pick for the best game of 2017, but I actually want to talk about something a bit different: the huge list of titles that didn’t even make the top 5.

Most years I start with a list of about 10-13 games and start to whittle it down based on how my heart and brain feel about each choice. That process is usually pretty easy, but sometimes things get a little blurry around the cutoff spot. In 2017, I had five games that I think are head and shoulders above the rest, but there are another 20 or so that were good to great — and that’s just among the ones I cared about! (Sorry, Halo Wars 2.)

The top five, in alphabetical order (so as not to give it away), are Horizon: Zero Dawn, Persona 5, Super Mario Odyssey, Tales of Berseria and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’ll go way more in-depth on those Thursday, but look at this list of games that couldn’t make the cut, in order of when they were released:

  • Batman: The Telltale Series: While Telltale’s formula has worn extremely thin at this point, their take on Batman got off to a strong start before going off the rails a bit in the last two chapters.
  • Danganronpa V3: An exciting new offering in a series that has existed under the radar in the States for far too long.
  • Resident Evil 7: A return to form for a franchise that had lost its way in ludicrous action sequences, delivering perhaps the scariest experience yet.
  • For Honor: A highly technical and entertaining hack-and-slash experience that I would have given more attention if I enjoyed PvP more.
  • Yakuza 0/Yakuza Kiwami: Two Yakuza titles in one year??? For Majima fans, this was a match made in heaven. Both are silly and fun.
  • NieR: Automata: Probably the last game out of the top 5, NieR has cool characters and some interesting takes on humans and machines alike. It’s a shame they buried some of that in multiple playthroughs that get a bit repetitive. But this was still awesome.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd: The final chapter in the Liberl trilogy changes protagonists but still provides a welcome experience. Even though it’s a bit dated, I’m just glad we got it.
  • Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia: The FE series knows how to nail its remakes, and Shadows of Valentia was no exception, fixing several of the mistakes that we saw in Fates.
  • Tekken 7: A frantic and kinetic fighting game with perhaps the coolest roster crossovers we’ve seen, though Smash 4 certainly offers competition. Geese, Akuma, Noctis and Heihachi — sure.
  • Tokyo Xanadu: A more action-oriented take from Falcom that has an inferior version on the Vita. Get eX+ on PC or PS4 if you’re interested in checking it out.
  • Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age: A much more streamlined and accessible take on a slept-on Final Fantasy game, featuring a vastly improved license system and a new approach on jobs.
  • Sonic Mania: Hey, did you know that people like good 2-D Sonic games? What better way to make them happy than to bring in developers who have worked on fan-made mods and churn out a labor of love like this? To think, Sonic supporters had like three months of imagining the blue blur might be back before Forces took a dump in their mouths.
  • Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana: Another RPG series that just doesn’t get the recognition it should in the States, Ys gives us a stunningly beautiful soundtrack and its most vibrant offering yet. This is another one that was close to top-five status.
  • Metroid: Samus Returns: Just think, as recently as before E3 we assumed Metroid was still a dead franchise. Then, within months we get an announcement for Metroid Prime 4 and this remake of the second game, with some cool new mechanics like the parry system. What a time to be alive.
  • Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite: Look, the game has flaws and its story is abysmal, to put it nicely. But the gameplay itself is a ton of fun, already boosted by what DLC characters have been added — and just imagine if those leaked lists are true now that Fox is under Marvel’s umbrella again…
  • Cuphead: An unforgiving old-school platformer with a ton of charm. This was a game with a groundswell of support and positive word of mouth that I haven’t seen since Undertale, and it’s deserving of the hype.
  • Nioh: You put samurais into the Dark Souls formula and apparently that’s enough to grab my interest. Team Ninja knocked this out of the park.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Can’t say much about this yet considering it just came out a couple weeks ago, but I’m excited for the possibilities.

Look at that list! That’s a ton of solid games, and there are more I didn’t mention. (There are also disappointments like Mass Effect: Andromeda and an awful Valkyria title and Star Wars Battlefront II, but let’s not waste space on them.) I hesitate to call something the best year ever a day after it’s finished, but…2017 was extremely solid for gamers, and we can only hope that 2018 delivers along the same lines.

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