The gaming year of 2017 has truly seen an embarrassment of riches in terms of games that are well worth the time and money of discerning gamers everywhere. Hell, the first few months of the year alone had enough worthy titles to rival entire years of game releases in the past.
All in all, it’s been a truly excellent year for gamers of every stripe. The arrival of the Nintendo Switch gave the floundering tech giant more relevance than it’s had in a decade, while Sony doubled down on everything that’s been making the success of the PlayStation 4 such an assured phenomenon for the last 3 years.
While the Xbox One may have less to boast about, even their camp soared to a certain degree, with games like Cuphead making waves and the line continuing to blur between the PC market and the Xbox market.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, 2017 has been an absolute banner year for gaming, but now comes the hard part: finding some order for all of these wonderful gems. We polled our diverse staff and here’s what they chose as the 25 best games of 2017. We’re confident that regardless of what genre or style of games you prefer, you will almost certainly find a lot to love here, just as we did. (Mike Worby)
25) Nier Automata
Nier: Automata did some serious healing in 2017. Not only did it revive an IP most probably thought would forever lay dormant; it (more importantly) repaired the reputation of one of the industry’s foremost action game developers. After some dodgy licensed games, a poorly received Star Fox title and the cancellation of Scalebound, Platinum Games was back – working with Square Enix to produce an exhilarating action-RPG that doubles as one of the most thought-provoking titles in years.
Automata succeeds thanks to the collaboration of two auteurs of their craft. Platinum Games reminded everyone of their action game chops with a combat system that was tight, fluid and varied, while Yoko Taro once again proved what a master of anti-narrative he is. The result is a hybrid of Bayonetta and a bullet hell shooter framed in an existential narrative with 26 different endings, and it’s absolutely glorious.
It’s a good thing that Platinum managed to create such a masterful and enjoyable combat system, because the key to fully appreciating Nier: Automata is to see all the of game’s five main endings. Each one adds twists, fills in narrative gaps and provides alternate perspectives on an already engrossing story of androids, humanity and what it is to live, die, and kill.
There are very few, if any, times you will feel compelled to play the same game through five times (at least), but such is the brilliance of Nier’s narrative and character development that it consistently feels like a necessity rather than a chore. Each time you’ll take control of new characters, adopt different combat styles and experience the world in drastically different ways, and each time you’ll fall deeper in love with Nier. All that’s left to do after that is complete the other 21 endings. Don’t eat the mackerel, yeah? (Alex Aldridge)
24) A Hat in Time
If my full review of A Hat in Time wasn’t proof enough, I love this game to death. It melds the best of the classic platforming generation with modern design sensibilities. Gears for Breakfast, A Hat in Time’s developer, approached a tried-and-true style of gameplay and brought fresh thinking unbound by nostalgia or preconceptions.
A Hat in Time’s design philosophy is one that emphasizes pure fun. From the overarching level design down to the movement mechanics, the game creates an environment for the player to simply play. The game was built around platforming and smart level design, and it shows. The player’s forward momentum allows enough room for creativity and skill to intermingle, while still providing a fun challenge. Rather than focusing on downright hard gameplay, A Hat in Time masterfully treads the line between intuitive and difficult.
But more than that, like so many plucky underdog protagonists, this game has heart. The world and characters of A Hat in Time are an absolute joy to interact with. Despite a small number of worlds, each one possesses a distinct personality. In one world, you’ll investigate a curious case of murder on a high-speed desert train. In another, you’ll zip through soaring vistas across airy mountain peaks. A colorful cast of disco penguins, mafia cooks, and mustachioed girls await you in this adorably cheeky adventure. (Kyle Rogacion)
23) Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
While most publishers are content to take an old game, slap a lick of high definition paint onto it, and get it onto shelves as an HD remaster as quickly as possible, Square Enix went the extra mile with Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age. Yes, the character models and locales look better than ever, and yes, it comes loaded to the gills with a trophy list that will take a hundred hours or so to best, but by far the most important addition here from the base PS2 game is in the Zodiac job system.
Rather than having all characters able to take on all techniques, abilities, and weapons as they previously could, The Zodiac Age requires players to assign two strict job roles to each party member. There’s twelve jobs to choose from, and while you can make a party of six white mages if you so desire, part of the fun comes from mixing and matching the jobs you give to your friends for maximum effect. Want a healer that can also deal out massive damage with a spear when the situation warrants it? Or perhaps an archer that also specializes in deadly black magic spells?
Variety is the spice of life, and Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age gives players enough options to make the experience wholly different to the original, and the new best way to play the game. (John Cal McCormick)
22) Splatoon 2
Creating a sequel to a beloved shooter is difficult. If the game is too similar to the original, new players will compare it to any number of the typical annual shooting entries. On the other hand, existing fans of the series need to be catered to with familiar mechanics and game design decisions. Splatoon 2 managed to tread this line incredibly well, and ends up feeling like a new game while retaining the tight, addictive Splatoon gameplay that made the original one of the best games of the surprisingly strong Wii U library.
It’s clear that the dev team listened to fan feedback from the first game and made tons of small quality of life tweaks. There’s now a difference between team ranks and single-player ranks. Players can finally change their loadouts in-between matches without leaving the lobby. The addition of pants and hair options allows for more character customization than ever in a game that’s very much about style.
At the same time, Splatoon 2 also succeeds with its major additions like an inventive new story mode, a completely new horde mode that works online as well as locally, and the new ranked mode: Clam Blitz. These all offer incredibly fun and inventive takes on the shooting genre as a whole.
Coupled with noticeable visual upgrades and continued support promised for at least 2 years after launch, Splatoon 2 is an undeniable must-own for anyone with a Switch. (Brent Middleton)
What’s that thing Miyamoto says about delayed games? Total production of Nioh took between 12 and 13 years, and let’s just say ol’ Shigsy was right – these things are eventually good.
If you wanted to be lazy, you could say that Nioh is just Japanese Dark Souls. If you wanted to be pedantic as well as lazy, you could say that Nioh is just Dark Souls in Japan. Granted, it has a variation of the Souls progression system, is punishingly difficult, has a co-op and invasion system, has maps filled with traps and shortcuts that lead back to a save point that resets enemy placemen… Okay, it is like Dark Souls, but at a time where the phrase “like Dark Souls” is being used almost every month about something new, Nioh is easily the best game to bear the label.
Nioh sets itself apart with an outstanding combat system that is facilitated by an almost overwhelming amount of loot. Protagonist William Adams (loosely based on the real-life historical ‘Western Samurai’ of the same name) can quickly snap between one of three fighting stances on the fly during combat, and mastery of this mechanic is where the game is won and lost.
During the game’s lengthy and arduous campaign, you’ll be spending a lot of time crafting, combining, enchanting and selling the hundreds of new pieces of weapons and armour you’ll pick up in a variety of beautifully haunting levels. While it might feel like a chore after dozens of hours, it cannot be argued that the game doesn’t provide nearly endless choice in terms of how it can be played.
Punctuating the combat with exploration and some truly impressive bosses, Nioh is one of the most rewarding games of the year. It might be a little repetitive, and it isn’t better than Dark Souls, but it offers just enough individuality to enter into From Software’s realm and still feel essential alongside Miyazaki’s masterpieces. (Alex Aldridge)
20) Doki Doki Literature Club
Doki Doki Literature Club is easily the biggest surprise of the year. It’s also the hardest one to talk about, with even the most minor game details spoiling huge parts of the plot. Generally speaking, it’s an intense visual novel that disguises itself as a simple high school dating simulator. Once that disguise is peeled back, it turns into one of the wildest narratives ever crafted in the realm of gaming. So with that being said, let this be an explanation of how and why everyone needs to play this awesome game at least once.
The most important thing about Doki Doki Literature Club is that it should be played completely blind for the best experience possible. It may seem slow at first, but the game eventually starts introducing some pretty disturbing content after a couple of hours. The game can even be downright shocking at times, meaning this should be an experienced reserved for the older crowd. Eventually, it becomes so much more than a simple visual novel and introduces some ideas that simply haven’t been done like this before. Again, this all sounds incredibly vague, but that’s only because the experience can be so easily spoiled.
It’s also worth mentioning that the game was released for free on steam, meaning that anyone with a steam account should definitely try this one out. The themes get very dark, especially near the end of the game, however, that shouldn’t dissuade anyone from giving it a try. It’s an experience that is sure to be remembered for years to come. (Zack Rezak)
19) Golf Story
All throughout the Switch’s banner first year on the market, there was one genre that felt severely underrepresented: Role-Playing Games. For a long time it seemed like RPG fans on Switch would only have I Am Setsuna at launch to sink their teeth into until Xenoblade Chronicles 2 hit in December. Enter Golf Story, a late September indie release from relatively mysterious two-man team, Sidebar Games. Billed as a spiritual successor to the stellar Camelot Mario Golf RPGs, Golf Story surprised many with its charm, wit, and inventive game design.
From its opening scenes, two things are obvious: Golf Story is all about the characters, and it never takes itself too seriously. Sharp writing with Australian sensibilities abound (“Sucked in!”) and keep players grinning throughout the classic underdog story. Golf Story leans into the typical sports narrative tropes to create a truly lovable cast of characters and some of the most hilarious moments in a game I’ve seen in a long time. The mark of any great RPG is its storytelling, and Golf Story uses a combination of unique set pieces and creative dialogue box animation to drive its ridiculous story arcs home.
Though certainly not the focus, the actual golf gameplay is also quite satisfying both during side quests and full-scale matches. Though the elevation of the ground is a bit difficult to determine due to the 16-bit style, the game does an otherwise great job of providing a solid golf experience with a full range of clubs, courses, hazards, and gimmicks. Optional side quests will test the mettle of the best players, while the main story does a good enough job of steadily introducing new strategies and concepts. If you’re in the mood for a silly adventure that might just trump the Mario Golf classics of old, you owe it to yourself to play Golf Story. (Brent Middleton)
18) Life is Strange: Before the Storm
When Dontnod Entertainment first announced that there would be a prequel series developed for their breakout hit Life is Strange, the idea was met with understandable trepidation.
With the further knowledge that Dontnod had handed the project off to another studio, Deck Nine, and that the voice actress of it’s main character would not be able to return (due to a voice actor strike), Before the Storm seemed increasingly doomed in its hopes of living up to the original.
However, as many fans discovered earlier this year, Before the Storm hasn’t just met the expectations of fans, it’s wholly exceeded them. By focusing the adventure on Chloe Price, and removing the supernatural bent that powered much of the first game, Deck Nine has actually given the town of Arcadia Bay and its inhabitants even more emotional gravitas.
Dripping with the same teenage angst and adolescent rebellion that powered much of Life is Strange, Before the Storm may even supplant its predecessor as it concludes. Either way, this prequel is a worthy part of the Life is Strange saga, and deserves to be experienced by anyone who had even a passing affection for the original. (Mike Worby)
17) Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Mario has been relying on his feet for decades, and the precision gameplay behind the high-jumping, goomba-stomping action rarely disappoints. However, for the Switch Ubisoft had a different idea (so different that it was initially met with a chorus of internet boos), and instead decided to give Mario’s dogs a rest while putting the power in his hands — and players’ minds.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle might go against the grain a bit for those who never imagined concocting a strategy for anything outside of tricky platforming, or that their favorite former plumber would wield a firearm, but somehow it came together and worked beautifully. The X-COM-style gameplay translates amazingly well to the Mushroom Kingdom’s core characters, where Mario, Luigi, and Peach must team with Rabbid lookalikes and a talking Roomba named Beep-O in order to stop a maniac bunny that can’t control his VR goggles. Or something. Like with the best Mario games, plot doesn’t matter that much; gameplay is where it counts, and Mario + Rabbids does not disappoint.
Once the oddity of not directly controlling Mario wears off, players are treated to a surprisingly deep and engaging level of turn-based strategy, as well as a variety of maps and enemies that constantly challenge one to rethink tactics from battle to battle. Those new to the genre might feel a bit intimidated at first, but like a typical Nintendo game, the difficulty is paced to perfection, never suffering from intense rises or falls, all the way through to the end.
In fact, Ubisoft has done an incredible impersonation of Mario’s makers, nailing the colorful look and feel of the franchise so well that those unaware of the game’s actual developers could easily be fooled. A lot of love was put into Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and the results amount to one of the best “Nintendo” games not made by Nintendo — this year and ever. (Patrick Murphy)
16) Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus has no right to be as good as it is. I mean, how does a game about killing robot Nazis end up being one of the most emotionally impactful and well written narratives of the year?
Wolfenstein’s 2014 reboot became a bit of a cult classic. For many it went under the radar, but there were several voices in the industry that praised it highly. The 2017 sequel does little to improve upon what The New Order established in regard to gameplay. It was a simple premise to begin with: run through Nazi bunkers and occupied American cities, shooting anything with a swastika. Combat is gory, over the top and fast.
What quantifies The New Colossus’ placing on this list, is its narrative. It’s hard to explain without spoiling some rather impressive and chilling moments. For the most part Wolfenstein II feels like a video game adaptation of Inglorious Bastards. It’s bombastic, gruesome and funny.
Yet, amongst the absurdity, it finds ample opportunity to tell an emotional and thoughtful tale. A story of abuse, racism and mortality. The genuineness of the actors’ performances and the respect shown to the games writing puts Wolfenstein II among the best single player shooters of the generation. (Chris Bowring)
15) Metroid: Samus Returns
After years of waiting with baited breath for a new Metroid game, fans were finally met with Metroid: Samus Returns earlier this year.
And while calling the game entirely “new” might be a bit of a stretch, Nintendo and Mercury Steam have done enough new things with Samus Returns to justify its existence. As a remake of the Game Boy game, Metroid: Return of Samus, Samus Returns has seen a huge and favorable upgrade in the looks department first and foremost.
Another new addition comes in the fast and frenetic combat which the game boasts, thanks to it’s new counter attack system. Though the mechanic feels a bit over-used toward the beginning of the adventure, the gameplay grows more and more balanced as Samus Returns marches onward to the extinction of metroid-kind.
Though it takes some effort to adjust to this new play style, by the time your super-powered Samus is approaching the end game, you’ll be right at home with this latest iteration of Metroid, and truly sad to see those credits roll.
With a few new surprises for even series veterans who have played the original and the unsanctioned AM2R remake last year, Samus Returns is one more reason to hold onto Nintendo’s fledgling handheld, and its success may even lead to a remake of another classic Metroid title if fans are lucky. (Mike Worby)
14) Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
A tragic tale of grief and personal struggle against mental illness, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice follows the Celtic warrior, Senua, as she ventures into the mysterious Norse land of Helheim to save the lost soul of her dearly beloved, Dillion. With only the memories of her former mentor, Druth, as her guide, Senua must battle the nightmare guardians of Norse mythology and a curse that has followed her most her life. With the story Ninja Theory takes incredible risks to show that small studios are capable of creating beautiful, unique, AAA-like games that tackle important and often taboo subjects like mental health.
Early in Senua’s adventure, Hellblade warns the player that death will cause the rot infecting Senua to snake up her arm and, should it reach her head, the journey will end. Every encounter and puzzle are bathed in tension, as the fear of perma-death lingers in the background like one of the darker voices in Senua’s head. Sadly, one of the few flaws in Hellblade lies in its combat, which feels almost unfinished for a game developed by the same team that made Heavenly Sword and DmC: Devil May Cry. Players are left with a few simple, limited choices and the encounters become repetitive and drawn out, as if they are only there to break apart the story elements.
While Hellblade features an incredible cast and beautiful level design, its greatest triumph is in its sound design. The swirling voices of Senua’s mind come alive through the use of 3-dimensional recording to torment her throughout her quest into the depths of Helheim. This technique creates a truly immersive experience when playing with headphones as voices whisper back and forth around your head. With Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Ninja Theory took painstaking efforts to try and deliver an authentic look inside the mind of an ancient warrior suffering from psychosis. Hellblade is twistedly dark, completely unsettling, and constantly living up to the multiple warnings that are presented at the start, making it one of the greatest games of 2017. (Ryan Kapioski)
13) South Park: The Fractured but Whole
With South Park there comes certain expectations—the humor mostly, and of course the voice acting and animation, but the surprises lie in the realm of “who are they going to make fun of this time?” South Park: The Fractured but Whole parodies the superhero franchise craze in Ubisoft and South Park Digital Studios’ latest RPG. If it wasn’t for the combat, the game could easily be a TV episode of Iliad proportions, but the turn-based tactical combat easily stands on its own sans the South Park world.
What starts as an innocent mission to find a missing cat quickly devolves into one of Cartman’s harebrained schemes to get rich quick—and a lot of iconic, South Park absurdity. The Catholic Church, Jared Fogle, and Santa Claus are just a few things that are the butts of South Park’s jokes. (But then again, when were they ever not the butt of their jokes?) There’s also more flatulence than Blazing Saddles.
What stands out about South Park: The Fractured but Whole’s combat is how much more interesting and intense it gets as the game progresses. Players are also able to unlock abilities of their own as they progress through the game, like the Moses summon, which can heal the entire team. The classes are renamed to fit the South Park style, but are similar to traditional RPG classes, and there’s even a crafting system that unlocks once players reach Morgan Freeman.
South Park: The Fractured but Whole is a great blend of classic South Park comedy with plenty of new “oh wow, they actually went there” moments. Complemented by equally great RPG mechanics, it’s a better game in some ways than The Stick of Truth, and one that South Park fans are sure to enjoy. (Joanna Nelius)
12) Assassin’s Creed Origins
There’s no better way for a franchise to celebrate its 10th anniversary than with a game like this. Since 2007 Ubisoft have built one of the best regarded gaming series of the last two console eras, even if more recent titles have had less than stellar launches.
The series was in desperate need of a rest and by moving away from the sometimes convoluted lore established by previous games, Origins was free to go in whatever direction it wanted without being bound by restrictions or expectations. Bayek’s quest for revenge against those responsible for his son’s death and the establishment of the first recognizable incarnation of the Assassins never proved to be anything other than intriguing.
Ubisoft’s vision of Ptolemaic Egypt with its vast swathes of pristine desert littered with bustling settlements and ancient ruins rendered with impeccable attention to detail is a masterclass in how to create an open world featuring high quality and high quantity content.
With gameplay that was reinvigorated by the inclusion of staple RPG elements and more free-form combat mechanics, Assassin’s Creed Origins is not just the best game in the series thus far but is without question one of the best games of 2017. (Christopher Underwood)
11) PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has taken 2017 by storm and it’s not hard to see why. The premise of a gigantic free-for-all deathmatch has been popular ever since it first appeared in the 2000 Japanese cult film, Battle Royale. It’s a concept that lends itself extremely well to a video game format. There’s something so innately appealing, exciting, and entertaining about engaging in a massive brawl for dominance. PUBG captures that sentiment perfectly.
In PUBG, you parachute into a massive arena with 99 other players. A continually shrinking circle forces you to move and survive, with skirmishes happening as a byproduct of the continually decreasing space. As you make it deeper into the game, you’ll run into various pieces of loot (guns, ammo, armor, etc.) that give you a fighting chance against other players. Sometimes you’ll find your gear; other times you’ll take it by force. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as outplaying an opponent and claiming his gear.
The true genius behind PUBG lies in how free-form it is in regard to gameplay. You can choose to follow large crowds of people and engage in a chaotic storm of punches and gunfire. Or, if you’re more inclined to stealth and subtlety, you can drop far away from others and build up your arsenal. Either approach to the game is perfectly valid, as the pressure of the shrinking circle ensures that the game’s pacing never slows.
PUBG is still technically in Early Access, but the most recent update has proven that the developers are committed to the player base and the ongoing health of the game. In spite of the numerous technical issues, this game still provides a massive amount of entertainment. Every match is unique and sure to create memorable stories of thrilling defeats and anxious victories. (Kyle Rogacion)
10) Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Originally intended as a downloadable expansion to Uncharted 4, The Lost Legacy was later expanded and promoted to a standalone release at a reduced cost. It’s shorter than the other entries in the series (taking eight hours or so to finish), but it’s also a fully developed, satisfying adventure packed with the exciting action and memorable characters we’ve come to expect from an Uncharted game.
Sure, it’s a formulaic adventure without apology, giving anyone who’s played the other four games a distinct sense of déjà vu, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t compelling.
Yes, every shootout and every set-piece in Lost Legacy seems directly lifted from a previous game, but thankfully, Naughty Dog has a rare ability to turn a by-the-numbers summer blockbuster, with seemingly cookie-cutter sequences, into something majestic. It’s as stirring an epic as Hollywood has ever produced and without a doubt, one of the best games of the year. (Ricky D)
9) Sonic Mania
The existence of Sonic Mania can be referred to as nothing short of a miracle, but the use of the word “miracle” would be doing a disservice to the fans/developers who made it happen.
Sonic Mania comes from the dedication of old-school underground Sonic fangame-creating and ROM-hacking fanbases, almost teeming with the ether of communities like Sonic Retro, that have been pining for a true sequel to Sonic & Knuckles ever since its release in 1994.
In fact, Mania is a result of the hard work put in by long-time classic Sonic fan/game dev, Christian Whitehead (a.k.a Taxman), whose work on ports of classic 2D Sonic games to mobile devices and modern gaming consoles, made in conjunction with Headcannon, served as the pitch for the entire project.
While, today, the Sonic series is mostly known for its laughably bad modern 3D titles, with the pinnacle being 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog, Mania broke that (fungicidal) mold by bringing the Blue Blur back to exactly where he left off 24 years ago.
Mania’s gameplay is painstakingly put-together to be as true to the classics as possible, while Introducing new gameplay elements, making it closer to an official sequel than any other Sonic game since the mid-90s. And a truer sequel, especially, than something like Sonic 4.
The beautiful, and immediately nostalgic, soundtrack and visual designs add to this package, as well. Above all, Sonic Mania is a unique success story, a triumphant moment that we don’t get to see often in an increasingly calculated world of big-name gaming. (Maxwell N)
It’s not often a title like Prey comes along, and quite honestly there’s no studio that could’ve delivered it like Arkane did. On the surface, Prey is several games we’ve already seen and played. There’s the setting and large portions of the plot from System Shock 2, the retro-futuristic art direction of Bioshock, and the movement, stealth and interaction system from Arkane’s own Dishonored series. Yet as the sum of all these parts Prey manages to not only stand on its own, but it also comes out as one of the year’s best, if maybe overlooked, titles.
Like the game’s signature Mimic enemies, it draws you in looking like one thing before blowing it’s cover and going wild. While it may at first seem like a run of the mill sci-fi survival horror it quickly becomes apparent that this is closer to a survival simulation of what living on a space station under attack might be. You can just run and hide, or you can shoot your way through, but the real fun of Prey is figuring out how best to break the game’s expectations of you by utilizing its amazing variety of tools.
Take, for instance, the conundrum of a broken elevator. The obvious solution is to take the stairs, but that might be full of enemies. In Prey you can shoot the enemies, or jump up the elevator shaft, or create your own stairs using the Glu-canon, or sneak through a vent, or create a distraction to lure out foes, or create a trap to dispose of them, or find the parts to repair the elevator to working order. Every situation allows for this level of freedom in approach.
While the story of Prey isn’t great, it does offer memorable characters to match it’s memorable moments, never faltering until the somewhat anti-climactic ending. Still it’s a great ride of a game and one worth playing over and over to experience all of the side quests and different character builds. This one may have flown under a few radars in 2017, but is certainly worth checking out in 2018. (Andrew Vandersteen)
It’s hard to talk about Cuphead without smiling with joy. This lovable homage to 1920s cartoons has given me the most enjoyment out of any video game in 2017. Maybe it’s my love of hard games like Dark Souls that drove me towards Cuphead, but the game’s easy to learn controls, meshed with tough as nails enemies and easily accessible boss fights, make every play session just as addicting as the last.
On the surface Cuphead is deceptively simple. Forgiving platforming sections and run-and-gun combat are nothing new to video games. However, the player will quickly learn that there is much more strategy needed to defeat every boss. Carefully timed jumps, counters, and dashes are the only way to survive the onslaught of projectiles hurled your way. Buying additional weapons and health slots from the in-game shop can make your battles a tad bit easier, but true skill and patience are what will win the day.
What makes these highly complicated fights enjoyable is the insane amount of detail and design that go into each boss. Enemies range from a pair of boxing bullfrogs to anthropomorphic balloons and gingerbread houses, all lovingly rendered in a classic hand drawn cartoon style. Additionally, each boss has at least three stages, making memorization of move sets and attack patterns a real challenge. Breaking up each boss fight are mini levels that the player can use to acquire more coins to buy better gear and special moves. This all amounts to a ridiculously exciting and fun gaming experience that, as evident by the number of fans Cuphead has created, captured the hearts of hundreds of thousands of players. Each of the three worlds is vastly different from those previous, and hold a myriad of interesting characters to talk to and help along the way. The addition of same screen co-op is also a refreshing sight, as so few games are willing to offer local multiplayer these days.
It goes without saying that Cuphead is not for the faint of heart. It’s a brutal boss rush with little to no hand holding along the way, but its devotion to a 1920s aesthetic and the hyper addictive gameplay make it a rare gem in 2017’s long list of games. (Carston Carasella)
6) Persona 5
Persona 5 is maybe the closest thing to style personified into a game. The essence of cool bleeds forth from every single part of Atlus’ masterpiece and washes over you like an inviting ocean wave. Persona 5 doesn’t just have Style, it IS style. While the series has always been known for its flashy anime-inspired visuals, P5 goes to new lengths, playing havoc with the color palette and coming out all the better for it.
Flashy visuals aren’t quite enough to sell a game anymore, and thankfully P5 backs up its good looks with some genuine brains, with what is undoubtedly the new watermark in JRPG systems. Dealing with life as a teen is fun enough, with plenty of side activities to keep you distracted, never mind making friends and building bonds with people you meet. The real heart of the game is its dungeon crawling, which features some of the slickest and most enjoyable combat layered into fantastic and interesting dungeons. Everything is incredibly easy to pick up and get into, but there’s intricate layers waiting for those that wish to get even deeper involved.
All of this is wrapped up with a story well worthy of the Persona series. Once again revolving around a supernatural team of super-teens, this time with the theme of subverting adult society and its expectations of young people. The writing is fantastic, save for the occasional misstep in translation, and its hands down one of the best stories in any game this year. Overall Persona 5 sets a new standard for modern JRPGs and proves that one of the oldest genres in gaming still has a lot of life left to go. (Andrew Vandersteen)
5) Resident Evil 7
When Resident Evil debuted in 1996, it helped popularize the survival horror genre and ushered in a golden age of survival horror video games known for their slow-pace, heavy exploration, and brooding atmosphere. A decade later, Resident Evil 4 shifted directions with a third-person shooter approach, fewer puzzles and a greater emphasis on gunplay and weapons upgrading. Both the original Resident Evil and Resident Evil 4 have arguably been the two biggest highlights of the series, and no other game in the franchise has come close to the greatness of those two titles – until now.
The seventh entry in the series, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard swerves in its own new direction by taking the best parts of the series (a measured pace and focus on exploration) and adding a new first-person perspective. Fear is palpable everywhere and just about everything in this game can make a player jump. It could be the creaking of a floorboard or a door that slams shut behind you or even nothing but silence. It immerses you like no Resident Evil before it and all of this is captured with gorgeous (or grotesque) visuals and incredible sound design which rivals the best work ever done in video games.
While the more recent entries in the series placed a focused on action and gunplay at the expense of a methodical, brutal form of horror, Resident Evil 7 does the opposite. Yes, folks, Resident Evil is terrifying again, and a bold and successful reinvention of the franchise. The long-overdue return to survival horror is just what the series needed and it ends up making Resident Evil 7 one of the best games of the year. (Ricky D)
4) Super Mario Odyssey
This year, Nintendo released two complementary AAA headliners: One that prides itself on its breadth and another that prides itself on its density. Like an HGTV drama between city planners with competing philosophies, Team Zelda and Team Mario have conflicting views about proper land use. Team Zelda believes in empty space as breathing room, time for reflection, an opportunity to admire surroundings. But then Team Mario replies “A rock? Stick a moon in it! A tiny bird? Stick a moon in it! A random patch of dirt? Give ‘em two moons — one now and another in the post-game!” But it doesn’t stop there. They also stuffed Mario full of moves until he couldn’t possibly contain any more, and then they said: “We have too many moves for any one man, so let’s stick the rest in other characters and make Mario possess them.” Super Mario Odyssey is so jam-packed, it leaves jam feeling jelly.
The shocking thing is that it works. Mario and his world feel more densely articulated than ever before, while the game’s open design allows players to carve their own path based on their own wants and needs. Like Zelda, Odyssey embraces the differences between its players. And in a year where people around the globe were forced to confront grim realities on a day-to-day basis, this game’s happiness, charm, and spirit were transporting panaceas. Having gaming’s happy-go-lucky mascot back in full swing, while helping its equally brave and bravado hardware resurrect Nintendo’s good name, made Odyssey feel important (and maybe even necessary). Admittedly, this game is also plagued with freebie moons, shallow themes, and tons of filler. And most of us at Goomba Stomp are firmly not in the camp hallowing it one of the Greatest. Games. Ever. Made. But we still think it’s pretty special, in spite of its flaws.
I’ve been writing a seventeen-part kingdom-by-kingdom analysis of the game for the past several weeks and the more I dig into it, the more fascinating it becomes. Though not free of faults, it’s clearly crafted with a rare love of life and an eye for detail that makes it a special entry in one of gaming’s most special franchises. And like the also-pretty-decent The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it sets a template for the series to expand upon and delve deeper into with future entries. But as for now, Mario has once again captured our hearts. (Kyle Rentschler)
3) Horizon Zero Dawn
The first quarter release window was given an entirely new relevance in 2017, with some of the biggest titles of the year (maybe the decade) launching in January through March. Perhaps the most anticipated by consumers and the media alike was Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn.
With it’s picture perfect presentation of a lush post-apocalyptic Earth overrun by mechanical monstrosities straight out of the hybridized nightmares of Issac Asimov and Michael Crichton, this game took basic open world concepts and tinkered with them just enough to make the entire experience feel fresh and new. Its central character, Aloy, set a new standard for female protagonists and finally put paid to the absurd notion that female characters are detrimental to sales.
Her story covered topics from spiritual hubris to corporate greed as well as questions about the very essence of humanity, which made for one of the most compelling and intriguing narratives of this generation. Although it may have been passed over at the Game Awards, it definitely stands out as my personal game of the year as more than any other title released in the last twelve months Horizon Zero Dawn reaffirms the continued importance of brand new, AAA, single-player IPs. (Christopher Underwood)
2) What Remains of Edith Finch
While the initial trailer for What Remains of Edith Finch certainly stirred up some buzz, gamers could be forgiven for wondering what would set this walking simulator apart from the pile of them which had been released over the past few years.
As it turned out though, what set it apart was quite a lot. You see What Remains of Edith Finch isn’t just a walking simulator, it’s the next stage of evolution for the genre itself. It’s a flying simulator, a swinging simulator and an honest to god sea monster-writhing simulator.
It’s a game that asks you to do a mundane task with one hand while focusing on a much more interesting one with the other hand. It’s a game that sends you through a dozen interconnected slices of life in a house too magical to ever really exist. And ultimately, it’s a tragic tale of a family that seems to be cursed by the fates themselves to face one unfortunate mishap after another.
More than any other game on this list, What Remains of Edith Finch is a game that I would recommend to absolutely everyone. With it’s low asking price, short running time, and lasting emotional impact, this is a game that deserves to be experienced by any gamer who is at all serious about this medium as a means for artistic expression. (Mike Worby)
1) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Deviating from the iconic conventions of such a beloved saga is a dangerous maneuver, to say the least, and could have spelled the spoiling of Link’s much-anticipated adventure. Fortunately, what results is the most ambitiously absorbing open-world experience ever crafted, and one of the best (if not the best) games of its genre.
Whilst players may miss zipping throughout intricately ingenious dungeons, hookshot in hand, they can instead fall in love with the array of activities to embrace in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. From conquering side quests and shrines, to felling fearsome foes, to kitting out Link in beneficial (not to mention stylish) garments, every facet of the acclaimed journey is crafted to fixate players in a state of addictive transfixion.
That which cements The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as undeniably masterful, however, is its confidence in its vision (and execution of said vision). For Nintendo to grasp such a saga, flaunting a formula that is held dear to players the world over, and detour from the long-established staples of Link’s adventures, takes a special blend of balmy and brilliant. Such a daring direction that could result in a sacrifice of identity, instead comes to fruition as a truly modernized The Legend of Zelda journey.
A story that blooms gracefully, a soundtrack that compliments gently, and an adventure that engrosses throughly. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sublimely steers Nintendo’s tunic clad hero into a future that’s brighter than the radiance of the Triforce itself. (Harry Morris)
‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town
Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.
It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…
I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.
Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.
Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.
Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.
Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.
The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.
Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.
Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.
The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child
Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.
The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.
The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.
Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.
Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.
When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.
‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab
Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.
In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.
Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.
It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.
Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.
In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.
Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.
Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.
Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.
Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.
Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.
I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.
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