Last year, we released our list of all our favourite games of 2016 to hunker down and celebrate this medium we love so dearly. It felt important to do so in a year that had been, as we called it, “the whole world’s Gas Leak Year”. 2017, as it turns out, has been just as contentious even if the contention itself was a lot more subtle and drawn out. Despite the – how can we put this lightly – ungainly political climate of the world, it has become clear that this has been a tremendous year for videogames. While the year had a fantastic beginning with the likes of Resident Evil 7 and NioH, not to mention the launch of the Nintendo Switch which has taken the gaming world by storm in less than a year of being out in the wild. Our very own Vincent wrote a flaming rant about how this year’s games needed to slow down because there simply wasn’t enough time in the day to fully enjoy and appreciate all the amazing content there was out there. Over the next few months, however, it seemed the conversation around the gaming industry became less about the games and more about the manipulative nonsense that most AAA publishers wrap around their titles. The microtransaction controversies around Middle Earth: Shadow of War and Star Wars: Battlefront II have been thoroughly documented, and even Destiny 2, which we loved, wasn’t averse to its own share of horrible microtransactions and shoddy DLC practices.
Our point is that for all the positivity that the year began with, it seems to be ending on kind of a downer note. So as with last year, we would like to set some time aside and talk about all the games we love and why we love them. To that end, all of our gaming writers have put forward five of their favourite games from 2017 and why they love them. Also just like last year, these are unranked lists. There is no one definitive winner here at Absolute Geeks. We’re here to celebrate the medium, not to hand out accolades. Videogames are amazing and the only winner is you, the player.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
It almost feels blasphemous that a Zelda title would not be in my favourites list, but Breath of the Wild is not only the first truly open-world game in the series; it awakened a feeling inside me that very few games have managed to achieve, and certainly not to this extent. The only game in recent memory that made me want to explore was Skyrim. Breath of the Wild goes far beyond where Skyrim took me; it isn’t simply a matter of making you want to explore, but also giving you the feeling that you are an explorer. You’re at the mercy of the elements. You need to manage your resources. You can climb, paraglide, and cook. You can get creative and stumble upon new mechanics accidentally, even if you’re over 100 hours into the game. BoTW is more than a Zelda game; it’s a true adventure.
What Remains of Edith Finch
Yet another year is graced with a wonderful “walking simulator” (editor’s note: we really need to come up with a less pejorative name for this genre), and What Remains of Edith Finch is nothing short of a masterclass in storytelling. Though short in length, the game is concise and intense enough for it to feel like an interactive, trippy movie that is in the same breath terrifying, exhilarating, magical, deep, and emotive.
Metroid: Samus Returns
The genre-starter is back and Samus is stronger and more badass than ever. Navigating the labyrinthian levels, picking up abilities and power-ups, defeating bosses, and unlocking colour-coded rooms all seem like they don’t belong in a game released in 2017, but Metroid: Samus Returns is a case study that shows how timeless gameplay is still sound with minor tweeks (like the 360-degree aiming) and a strong premise.
Resident Evil 7
The year 2017 has been seeing a few tried-and-true franchises re-establish themselves in a bold new format (see Zelda and Metroid above), and Resident Evil 7 does not disappoint. Despite some quirks in how the game dishes out the enemies in the later segments, for the most part Resident Evil 7 is a return to true horror and a great way to re-establish the franchise as the king of the genre (shame about the fate of Silent Hills, though). With an optional but absolutely stellar VR implementation, it’s very hard to fault the game’s ambition, even when some of its individual elements stumble halfway through the game.
Super Mario Odyssey
Nintendo’s plumber’s latest adventure is certainly a strange one. Instead of introducing some new worlds or altering some gameplay mechanics, Nintendo has given players the unthinkable: the ability to become your enemies. This very tiny mechanic has profound conequences on gameplay. While in previous Mario games you would often see your objective and wonder how to reach there, in Super Mario Odyssey, the question is as what (and, in some cases, how many). Odyssey broadens your puzzle solving skills in that you not only utilise what Mario himself can do (jump, triple-jump, stomp, use hat has platform) but also how you can leverage the skills of surrounding enemies to open new paths, reach heights, or cross territory to reach that tricky moon. Not only that, but the levels also “change” in a way halfway through, and even after the game ends, all levels open up new possibilities, and new levels become available as you collect more moons. Needless to say, there is a LOT to do and discover in Odyssey.
Think of sports and think of the hunger games and the larger politics in a world filled with magic laws and the elite; then add an element of choice, and you get Supergiant’s latest game. In fact “choice” is the one word that describes everything I can say about Pyre. The mechanics of Pyre are an elaborate game of handball but you’re not actively playing yourself; rather you’re the coach, the manager and ultimately, if you do well enough, you also become judge and jury.
The element of choice in Pyre is something that will make and break you. When you build a good character and you’re forced to let them go knowing this may affect your chances of winning in the future, will you?
Studio MDHR’s breakout success came in the form of the animated extravaganza that is Cuphead. Having recently gone double platinum with over 2 million copies sold across all platforms. The colorful and playful disposition of this game masked the tricky platformer that it truly is. The art style of traditional animation makes Cuphead a game that stands out as one of the best indie platformers I’ve played till date.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
It would appear that the current global political climate across the western hemisphere inadvertently served the marketing of The New Colossus, which developer Machine Games and publisher Bethesda Softworks had no trouble taking full advantage of. Yes B.J won my heart for the best FPS this year, while I did expect a little more from the story, Machine Games seem to be saving their one last hurrah with their next – and apparently final – installment which I’ll hope it will be soon.
As for gameplay well, the game offers you multiple ways to deal with Nazis and that there lies the reward.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins
This game reminded me of the original Assassin’s Creed but with a much larger scale that Ubisoft have tried with this iteration. I’d be happy if they use Origins as a template now to develop future AC games in different settings because truly, I found that Assassin’s Creed: Origins became my favorite in the series and it looks like I’ll be investing a lot more into it as we step in 2018.
(Editor’s Note: Sorry to butt into Kevin’s space but I just wanted to point out the fact that Bayek’s characterisation is easily the best in the series. You may read my review of the game for more on that. Okay, back to Kevin).
When I first played Yoko Taro’s game, I was curious as to why NieR really made the news earlier this year and on the insistence of our very own Vincent (who refuses to shut up about this series) I decided to give the game a shot. I was expecting a mundane hack and slash game but I was very wrong. There’s several layers of gameplay, customization and among all of that, a great story that allows you to explore and interpret a story that involves you playing the title multiple times. Backed by a beautiful score and at times the ability to not take itself seriously makes Automata is among my favourite titles 2017.
(Editor’s Note: Oh no, it’s me again. I wanted to touch on the fact that NieR: Automata is one of those rare games whose story can only be told with the audience complicity that the interactive gaming medium brings. The game uses every bit of the mechanics, world building, UI elements, and even your expectation of what a “game” is to drive home its narrative and themes, which is what makes it truly special)
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
What can I say about Hellblade that hasn’t already been said before? Starting off as a passion project within the genius minds at English studio Ninja Theory (Heavenly Sword, DmC: Devil May Cry), Hellblade was imagined as an “indie AAA” (a term that still makes me cringe) title that the studio sought to develop out of their pockets and self-publish outside of the Publisher-driven corporate machinery of the games industry. From the get-go, the main objective was to create a game driven by nothing but the creators’ artistic vision where they got to decide everything from the game’s creative direction to its release schedule and pricing. Over the course of development, Ninja Theory vociferously documented the development process in a series of dev diaries that are as engaging as the game itself, if not more. Renting or outsourcing the tech they didn’t have and DIY-ing the tech they couldn’t afford, the sheer degree of innovation that went into making Hellblade happen would make it one of the most important projects ever even if the game was a dud. The fact that it actually ended up being a mind-bending and emotionally overwhelming game brings me much joy.
Hand of Fate 2
Have you ever wanted to play an action RPG that combines elements of adventure games, collectible card games, classic D&D, and procedural roguelikes? Well congratulations, weirdo, Hand of Fate 2 is just the game for you. A sequel to 2015’s Hand of Fate, this is one of those sequels that simply improves and iterates over the original in ways that make the original itself obsolete. What I’m trying to say is that you don’t need to play the first one to get into this one. Unfolding on a tabletop setup of what looks like a one-on-one D&D session, you create a deck of cards listing all the potential scenarios and equipment you can encounter on your journey through the run. The DM then shuffles your deck with his own deck of mandatory cards that you need to progress through the campaign, and voila! You get a different adventure each time. Narrative encounters are done through dice rolls and dialogue choices while combat encounters unfold in a third person action game reminiscent of the combat seen in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Die, and you go back to the start. It’s absolutely riveting stuff into which I’ve sunk and ungodly amount of hours. There’s even some DLC coming down the line that will add even more decks and scenarios to what is already an expansive array of possibilities.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm
I can’t believe this game is actually among my top five this year. Having first heard the news of this prequel mini-series nobody needed focusing on the backstory of Chloe (a character whose backstory really didn’t need fleshing out) where she was not voiced by Ashly Burch, written and developed by a Deck Nine Games instead of original developer Dontnod, nothing about this game made me feel drawn to it. But I played the first episode the day it came out and I was immediately hooked. Going back three years from the original game to tell the story of how Chloe met Rachel during a time in her life when she was seemingly abandoned by everyone else, stricken with unfathomable grief over the death of a loved one. The game is written with a deft hand, going for the smaller moments instead of trying to answer the big questions of the original game. Instead of trying to tie everything together, Before the Storm props itself up as a portrayal of Chloe and Rachel’s burgeoning relationship, and their quiet devotion to each other makes for some of the best narrative moments I’ve experienced this year. Deck Nine did good with this, and if they decide to continue fleshing this world out, I will be lining up for it on day one.
Night in the Woods
Night in the Woods took me by surprise. Coming out, seemingly out of nowhere, early in the year Night in the Woods was a beautifully told coming-of-age story about being stagnant in a world where everyone seems to be moving on. The game tells the story of Mae Borowski, a college dropout returning to her idyllic suburban hometown as she tries to reconnect with her old friends who have all, for lack of a better word, become accustomed to not having her around. Dealing with the abandonment of a community that has taught itself to function without you is at the heart of the narrative in Night in the Woods, but the game’s whimsical tone and wonderful soundtrack make sure these heady themes never get too downbeat. Where the story eventually ends up going is a journey you’re best taking for yourself, but take my word when I say this is a truly special game.
Horizon Zero Dawn
I am absolutely gutted by the fact that Horizon Zero Dawn didn’t win a single award at this years Game Awards. There are very few games out there in which you form a strong emotional connection with the character(s) and the world within minutes of inhabiting. For me, I was fully invested, emotionally, within the world of Horizon before the prologue cutscene even ended. Killzone veteran studio Guerrilla Games have left behind their gritty dystopian legacy and clearly invested their hearts and souls into creating this absolute gem of a game. The world is gorgeous, the action is breathtaking, the music is entrancing, the cast is diverse and fleshed out, and the story is strange and beautiful and heartbreaking and inspiring all at the same time. Ashly Burch (Life is Strange, Borderlands 2) lends her voice and personality to Aloy, who is instantly iconic and immensely relatable. Her story is a sprawling epic that gradually devolves into a deeply personal quest to find your place in the world. Maybe I found a little bit of myself in Aloy’s pursuit of her self-identity, or maybe Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the finest games ever, and easily the best game of 2017.
And that’s about it for 2017. Can’t believe we made it. Happy holidays, everyone!