Much like last year, 2017 was a good year for games. Once again it’s a list of five, in order from bottom to top. I played a lot of good games this year, and it was a little tricky to narrow it down to five. First though, honourable mentions:
Honourable Mention #1: The Evil Within 2
The original Evil Within had a few good ideas, but they were ruined by an avalanche of terrible gameplay mechanics, design choices, and those few good ideas being run into the ground. It was, for the most part, total shite. Imagine my surprise when its sequel turned out to be a solidly made horror action game that ironed out most of its predecessor’s flaws. Its story was engaging, its characters actually had something for a player to work with, and its gameplay was no longer a frustrating, punishing mess. This is the game the original should have been, and while not as good as a certain game in the top five, it is an enjoyable horror game, and one of the biggest surprises of 2017 for me.
Honourable Mention #2: Berserk and the Band of the Hawk
Yeah, I know. I know it’s that standard musou gameplay of cutting down literally hundreds of enemies, to the point where they offer no real threat, in large, sparse environments. But you know what? I got a real kick out of it; I wanted a game where I got to play as Guts, cutting down soldiers and demons, and now and then fight a villain from the manga, and that’s exactly what I got. It’s really quite good actually; it follows the plot of the manga surprisingly closely and makes the most of the musou trappings to do so, playing as Guts feels good, and some of the boss fights are genuinely great, particularly the fight with Zodd on the Hill of Swords. There were better games released this year, but I personally had a really good time with this, so I had to at least give it a mention. Title’s still stupid though.
5: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
In a year when saying how shit Nazis are somehow became just one side of a debate instead of the accepted truth, a new Wolfenstein was more than welcome. As I said in my review it felt like a combination of two games: an epilogue to The New Order, and its sequel, The New Colossus. The former is a dark, sombre tale of a man racing towards death, falling apart at the seams and doing as much damage to the Reich as he can with the time he has. The latter is a pulpy, over the top tale of slaughter and revolution, and the two halves combine to form a game that alongside DOOM represents the current gold standard for first person shooters. It takes risks, it gives the player room to explore and get to know the characters and their plights, and it layers it all on a bedrock of slaughtering Nazis. The only things holding it back from a higher spot are its short length and the slightly jarring shift in tone between the two halves, but neither of those aspects stop it from being one of the best games I played this year.
4: Yakuza Kiwami
Two words: Majima Everywhere. Sure, it’s a remake, and Yakuza 0 did wonderful work for everyone’s favourite snake skin-clad mad cyclops, these points I cannot deny. But Kiryu’s story in 0 is generally weak and largely superfluous; existing primarily to bring two important characters together. It also causes some issues for the original game, and as a prequel to Kiryu’s story it doesn’t really add anything. Had it just been Majima, it’d be on this list with no questions asked, but as it stands I prefer Kiwami. Its story is tight, focused and the central conflict between Kiryu and ex-best friend Niskiyama is solid. In particular how the game treats Nishiki as a foreboding presence, looming in the background with power and influence of an unknown extent before you finally confront him. The style system carried over from 0 is still great, as are the new finishers, and the graphical overhaul is lovely. But it’s Majima that steals the show, expending time, effort, money and the manpower of seemingly his entire family purely to restore Kiryu to his former Dragon of Dojima greatness. Goro Majima truly is a beautiful gift, and he must be cherished.
3: Mass Effect Andromeda
People give Andromeda a bad rap, in my opinion. I’ve seen people treat the game as a complete and utter failure; a disaster of epic proportions from which the series can never return, and I don’t get that at all. I genuinely loved Andromeda, for the most part; its new crew were all delightful (particularly best girl Vetra, pictured above) and its story of unified races expanding into the unknown, teaming up with the Andromeda natives to save their new home was great. The combat was pretty much the same as it always is in this series; functional but not particularly exciting, though that was helped by the new boost jetpack thing built into protagonist Ryder’s suit. But it really came down to the crew of the Tempest, who I enjoyed spending time with at the expense of everything else in the game. Much like Berserk and the Band of the Hawk, mentioned above, I got what I wanted, and that was enough for me to really enjoy the game. I wanted more Mass Effect with new characters, I got just that, and I will happily defend this game and its place on this list. It has its issues, namely that terrible sudoku minigame, but I really enjoyed Andromeda and I am hungry for a sequel.
2: Resident Evil 7 Biohazard
Ah Resident Evil. Just when I thought the series was long overdue either a reboot or being taken out back and shot, RESIDENT EVII. BIOHAZARD (Or if you’re in Japan, BIOHA7.ARD RESIDENT EVIL) as the box art insists it’s called comes along and singlehandedly saves the entire series. Simultaneously fresh and classic, Resi 7 brought back a big scary house full of puzzles, bizarre locking mechanisms and prowling monsters, but switched to a first person view and focused the events on a family of nigh-invulnerable swamp folk. The humour’s back, it’s genuinely creepy again, and it’s so nice to play a horror game that puts so much stock in good environment design, both mechanically and aesthetically. The only downside to the main story is its weak third act, in which the player is forced to run around a grounded boat while plot happens, then loses all their weapons and has to run around it again looking for a way back out. It’s by no means a deal breaker, but those first three-quarters of negotiating the Baker estate and fending off southern-fried horrors are so impeccably paced and designed that anything of even slightly inferior quality sticks out like a sore thumb. The Baker family are characters that will stick with me, and Resident Evil 7 will too, both on its own merits as a masterful survival horror and as the exact thing this series needed, coming out of nowhere to save the day in a way I never saw coming. It absolutely deserves a spot on this list, and for a long time it was number one. Were it not for what’s coming next, it would win hands down, but as it stands it gets a well deserved silver medal.
1: Persona 5
As far as I’m concerned, it could only be one game. Resi 7 had the top spot comfortably until I played through this absolute juggernaut, a game that’s a serious contender for my new favourite, and certainly one of them at least. I’ve already written a lot about this game and why I love it so much, so I’ll try to keep this brief: Persona 5 is a sublime mix of style and substance, as rewarding to play as it is beautiful to look at and listen to. 2017 had a lot of excellent videogames throughout its duration, but none of them resonated with me, engrossed me and gave me the level of sheer enjoyment as Persona 5. Whatever you’re doing, whether it be breaking into fortress-esque physical manifestations of people’s minds, maintaining the game’s “Social Links” with the protagonist’s friends or just attending school, everything is given the same care and attention, and every moment of the game is a gem. That’s why Persona 5 is my game of the year, and why it’s a game I’m really glad I took a chance on.
Well that’s 2017 all wrapped up in a NEAT LITTLE PACKAGE. As I said it was a great year for games, and narrowing down this list was hard, even factoring in honourable mentions. 2018’s looking good from where I’m sitting; Red Dead 2, Persona 3 and 5 Dancing games, Far Cry 5 and Yakuza 6 are all on the way. I’ll get to them all throughout the year, but next on my list is Assassin’s Creed Origins, which will be up soon.
By James Lambert