I know it has been said many times before, but 2017 has been one hell of a year for gaming. If you had asked me this question at the start of the year, based on what we knew was ahead, my top 10 would look a lot different from that below. And in a way I’m grateful. The games I was mostly anticipating were sequels to past favourites, but most turned out to be a let down. Instead of following in their prequel’s footsteps, they felt quite stale. And although they were no less impressive in their technical delivery, overall they failed to hold my attention for long and my crooked controller hands soon strayed to other blue cases. What followed was an epiphany.
Let me explain. Up until this year, limited funds meant I was strict with my purchases. Scared of throwing good money at bad releases, I’d only buy FIFA, Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Gran Turismo and the F1 franchise at a hefty price, whilst waiting for the rest to come down. But that was hardly foolproof; some incarnations left me disappointed. They just felt like a safe choice because I knew what they were, and more importantly, that I liked them. So what changed? I started writing for a website *cough* Pure PlayStation *cough* and my horizons were truly broadened. To the extent that all of the above series’ 2017 launches have gone by unpurchased.
But the mad thing is I haven’t been without things to play, as you’ll see below.
It was a year of many firsts, including my first ever JRPG, and no lasts. And funnily enough the Japanese genre quickly became a firm favourite, and the strongest performer in my top 10 list.
My thirst for Indie was quenched by The Escapists 2 and the physical release of Stardew Valley, whilst South Park: The Fractured But Whole satisfied my daftness and Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy reminded me of my gaming roots. They were good, but top ten they were not. So, let’s cut the waffle and get to the important bit.
#10 – Little Nightmares
This has nothing to do with the fact that Six and I have the same taste in coats. Okay, maybe a bit. But Little Nightmares has a lot going on that means it earns a place in my top ten all by itself. I’m not one for intense horror so the underlying tension of Maw is enough to keep me on my toes without the need of a cushion to hide behind. The artwork is, above all else, inspiring. It paints Maw as every bit the nightmarish land that Tarsier hinted at whilst not relying on the more common horror traps. And although it is not the longest game, the atmosphere and unique perspective gives it replay value. Yellow macs unite!
#9 – Dirt 4
The racing genre is not short on titles. There are plenty of pretty, flash cars waiting to be driven to their limits, with 2017 alone seeing the release of both Gran Turismo Sport and Project Cars 2. But there is racing and then there is racing. Dirt 4 falls into the latter category where scratches and mud splatters are expected rather than expensive. The gamer vs simulation mode let’s you choose how realistic you want it to play, whilst ‘Your Stage’, though repetitive at times, means you are never out of tracks. But the cherry on the cake, and a feature that alone could claim this top ten finish, is Rallycross. That joker lap is like the banana skin in a certain kart game: unpredictable, refreshing and game changing.
#8 – WipEout Omega Collection
Okay, so I’ve admitted I love motor racing; I just can’t get enough of the track memorisation and car tuning. But sometimes it’s nice to simply bung in a disc and get straight to the race, especially when you haven’t got much free time or you don’t want to feel like you’re sitting your SATs. This is where WipEout comes into its own. Plus, its hyper speed and weaponry make it a completely different game to anything else around. It still requires track knowledge, possibly more than the traditional type due to the lack of run-off, but it hasn’t got all of the garage bloat that can be off-putting at times. Between the track, car and medal selection, this is a game that just keeps on giving. It’s three equally enjoyable games in one, with different objectives like race and combat. And just when you think you’re getting the hang of things, you decide to change airships… The learning just never ends.
#7 – Injustice 2
A lot of the time I’m meant to be devoting to serious writing is actually
wasted enjoyed creating Batman fan fiction. And there’s quite a few comics around my place so it’s safe to say I like superheroes… A lot. I’ve never taken to the likes of Tekken or Street Fighter, instead preferring the combat style of UFC or WWE. But step in Injustice and suddenly everything comes together nicely. It has a gripping storyline that would fit into the pow-ow world of comic books and big budget movies. There is a generous selection of characters, each possessing their own strengths and quirks. Combos give you plenty of opportunities to show off your supersonic crooked finger skills. And the level-up system, more akin to RPGs, is a welcome addition for those of us who like to see the playable character learn from their actions and get bigger, bolder, better.
#6 – Everybody’s Golf
If only St Andrew’s looked this cool! Everybody’s Golf is a fresh take on an old classic, not that we thought it needed it but it is by no means wasted. The Mii style characters allow a sense of immersion, though in a digitised way. Their gathering in crowds out on the holes makes the game more inclusive, whilst a selection of new modes brings enough to the table to call it a step (or three) forward from previous releases. It has been accused of being repetitive, but if you’re like me (poor you) and like the strategic challenge on offer then you can’t really tire of it. Even after teeing off for the umpteenth time. But what do I know, I actually enjoy watching golf on telly…
#5 – Horizon Zero Dawn
What Horizon Zero Dawn does, it does it very well. Guerilla Games deserve more than a pat on the back for this one considering open world RPGs could be accused of being done to death and of having their day for the time being. But if I had to zoom in on one thing then I would focus on its attention to detail. The world is visually stunning; you can’t help but wander around, snapping away in capture more and losing many an hour to non-meaningful progression. Then there’s the robots. You can practically see how they are made down to the component level instead of the usual and simplistic humanoid style; think Fairey Swordfighter vs the Eurofighter Typhoon. It is a game with both style and function. But it for the adventure, stay for the world.
#4 – Assassin’s Creed: Origins
As someone who loves 1) Assassin’s Creed and 2) Ancient Egypt, Origins would have to go to some lengths to disappoint. But it didn’t even come close. The world is truly a pleasure to explore, a vast expanse that is reason enough to forget about the story progression for quite some time. Senu is a unique companion, certainly a change to the dog/horse/robot/kid we’re usually lumbered with. And you can even pretend you’re a tomb raider and go in search of cryptically hidden loot. All in all, probably the best Assassin’s Creed this decade at least.
#3 – Yakuza 0
How could I not love Yakuza 0? After all, it’s like Austin Powers meets Grand Theft Auto. And it has got phone boxes that haven’t been requisitioned as a urinal. But in all seriousness, Yakuza probably ended up being my biggest surprise like of the year. It has the action of GTA, yet the cut scenes play more like a movie. It has side missions just like countless other openish-world titles, but you’re hard pushed to find two the same; some are outrageously in a league of their own. There’s karaoke that wouldn’t be out of place playing in Wembley. And it has bad guys who actually get their hands dirty. They even wear suits and not just their under crackers (here’s looking at you Trevor). I can’t wait to get play Kiwami.
#2 – Persona 5
This is like a Japanese Harry Potter, where your dungeon exploration is rudely disturbed by your education. Turn based combat is certainly a Marmite feature, but if it’s your cup of tea then it doesn’t come better than Persona 5. The importance of time management was at first a challenge, considering missions are usually as long as it takes you to complete them. But you soon learn to embrace it, usually after a few mistimings. It boasts a strong support cast of non playable characters, some of whom are rather intriguing. And the anime art style can prove rather addictive; my doodles have adopted an Eastern tone. At its core Persona 5 has a lot to say about the changing face of life, with various themes addressed throughout its marathon length. But it’s nice to see something looking at the world with their rose-tinted glasses off, especially when it’s thrown onscreen in big and bold speech boxes.
#1 – Nier Automata
What can I say? From the moment Nier Automata loaded I knew I was in for a treat. There was something special about it that I couldn’t put my finger on. But then I realised that Nier was just that, special. The classic platforming gameplay we all grew up with is intertwined with the commonly used open-world dynamic to create a refreshing new way of storytelling and action; there’s even a top-down Space Invaders tribute going on at the start. It was also nice to play a game that didn’t appear garish. Instead its muted colours add to the emotion invested in the game, both by studio and player. But that’s not to say it’s drab. Far from it. The fighting is crisp, the world is intriguing and the androids make a change from the daft AI humans we’re usually faced with, peering suicidally above the parapet. And more than one ending gives you big bang for your bucks.
How high is Horizon Zero Dawn on your list? What game, if any, has frog leaped over Aloy’s adventure for you?