2017 is going to go down in history as one of the best years in history for video games. Many people have said 2007 was the undisputed king, but 2017 has definitely thrown its hat into the ring and has a pretty darn good argument. Sony started off the year strong, but Nintendo finished the year marking its place and throwing more than a few punches at their competition.
In 2017 Nintendo has shown players a new way to play video games and it’s one that I think many people have gravitated towards. I know the Switch has become my preferred platform for play and as a result my top games of the year list is dominated by Nintendo Switch titles. Sony wanted to make sure I started the year off right and gave me two games in January that I’ve still gone back to throughout the year. I won’t spoil anything. I think we should get right to the list. So here we go.
- Fire Emblem Heroes
This slot was originally going to go to Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, but towards the end of the year I finally got a chance to really play Heroes and you know what? For a mobile game, it’s fantastic. I never once really ran into any of the free to play garbage I hate like stamina meters, the need to buy fake currency with real currency or any time or any sort. I got a free to play Fire Emblem game that, while pared down to fit a mobile experience, gave me most everything I love from the franchise in terms of game play. It’s also freaking adorable.
Take British / Celtic history, mix in a healthy dose of side-scrolling brawling, and an unhealthy dose of blood and you’ve got Wulverblade. The game initially gave me the impression of a sort of heavier version of Castle Crashers, but really violent rather than irreverent. The game is fantastic. It’s really hard if you play by yourself. Take a buddy along for the journey and it gets “a little” easier. Also, read all the history bits that the developers have included with the game. It’s a wonderful history lesson.
- Mighty Gunvolt Burst
The game that Mighty No. 9 wanted to be. This game originally started life as a spin-off of Azure Striker Gunvolt, but I think has taken on a life of its own. The game feels classic Mega Man. It looks like classic Mega Man. Where it differs is that you get to mix and match powers and abilities to create a version of Beck, Gunvolt, or any of the other characters that have been released, that fits your play style. The platforming is pixel perfect and solid. The power-ups make you feel invincible at times, and the difficulty seems perfectly balanced. If you want remember Mega Man fondly then this is a game you should play.
- Steamworld Dig 2
I don’t think it’s possible for Image & Form to make a bad game. Everything they’ve done has been so lovingly crafted and fits into this overall universe that they’re building so well. The first game in the Steamworld Dig series was amazing. It wasn’t too long. It had one idea and it built on that one idea until they’d stretched it as far as it could go. Then they took some time off, made another game, and came back to that idea. Steamworld Dig 2 takes everything that first game did so well and just builds on top of it. Some small tweaks to the formula keep things fresh and the new way you build up your character felt new and kept things interesting. The game also looks beautiful. They took brown and made it the opposite of drab. The splashes of color in the world really stand out, but you never feel like you’re just surrounded by different types of dirt.
- Shantae ½ Genie Hero
Wayforward is simply one of the best developers of platforming games out there. Bar none, end of discussion. They craft such amazing experiences it’s almost impossible to dislike one. Shantae saw a revival on the DS and has grown in popularity over the last few years. ½ Genie Hero takes those previous games keeps all the good stuff, like the zany characters and excellent combat, but gets rid of all the bad stuff, like tedious and confusing maps and blends together one of the best platforming experiences of the year. It was a really good year for platformers. Some DLC tossed in lets you come back and revisit many of the places you’d previously explored with new characters and changes things up enough to keep it from feeling overly repetitive. It’s also easily one of the most beautiful games you’ll see all year.
- Sonic Mania
Sonic is one of those franchises that everyone loves to hate. The games have varied so greatly in quality, maybe more than any other franchise. Or at least that’s certainly the perception amongst the general public. This year Sega released two high profile Sonic games. I played this one, and I think I made the right choice. Sonic Mania taps all those feelings of nostalgia that many people have (I am not really amongst them as I was a Nintendo kid growing up) and then blends them seamlessly into brand new experiences without you ever really knowing it. The way the team behind this game started you out in familiar territory and then lead you into brand new Sonic experiences was brilliant. This game also has one of the best boss fights of the year where you just play a puzzle game.
- Farming Simulator
The game I probably played second in terms of hours spent behind Zelda. I love farming simulator games. I have a large garden in my back yard that I help take care of with my wife. Then I come inside and I take care of digital gardens for fun. Who does that? Me, that’s who. I love the feeling of relaxation this game brings me. Yes, there are menus upon menus where you have to time things right so you sell crops at the best possible moment. There are dozens of activities that need to be done in a certain order for you to get the most out of your crops and livestock. I still find myself in an almost zen like state driving a tractor back and forth across these fields for extended periods of time. When I’m done adventuring in Hyrule or saving the Mushroom Kingdom yet again you can bet you’ll find me in a pair of overalls digging in the dirt. Not literally, though. I hate overalls.
- Yakuza 0 / Kiwami
The franchise Micah has been trying to get me to play for years. While I dabbled with about an hour of Yakuza 3 once I never really got into the franchise, though playing some earlier demos got me interested. This year marked the perfect chance for me to finally start this franchise properly and I’m so glad I did. I started the year with Yakuza 0 and it stayed with me the whole year. There is so much to do inside this tiny “open-world”. You’ll never have a dull moment. A Japan filled with so many interesting characters with fun stories to tell can’t be bad. Not only that, but I think Kazuma Kiryu is one of the most likeable characters in the history of likeable characters. The ‘thug’ with a heart of gold. At his core he really is a great man and you feel it every time he helps some kid recover a stolen video game or whatever else he may do. It’s also one of the few times that I’ve been genuinely moved by something that happened in a video game. I can’t pick between 0 or Kiwami. They’re both so good and should be played by everyone.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
This was, without a doubt, my most anticipated game of the year. I knew once it was announced that it would be coming to Nintendo’s new system that I would play it on there and I’m so glad I did. It immediately showed me the importance of the Switch and changed the way I thought about playing games. Having a huge, expansive Hyrule at my fingertips wherever I was; it was simply amazing. The game changed the Zelda formula in such a unique and interesting way. While many of the things that made Zelda games “Zelda games” weren’t there such as hookshots, and other crazy weapons nothing ever felt wrong. It still felt like Zelda. I didn’t mind that there were essentially only four dungeons this time around because I loved the mini-dungeon feel of the shrines so much. There was so much to see and do and explore there was never a dull moment. You were always moving from one thing to another. The only thing that I felt let this game down, and the reason it didn’t make my top spot was the final boss fight. The game, after more than 70 hours ended on a proverbial whimper. I didn’t find any challenge or threat to the fight against Ganon. It was, for lack of a better word, too easy. If it wasn’t for that this game would have been close to a perfect game for me. I still find myself every now and then going back and trying to find so many of the things I haven’t found. I think I’ll be continuing to explore this version of Hyrule until the next Zelda game comes out.
- Super Mario Odyssey
I’ve saved the Mushroom Kingdom from Bowser’s nefarious plans yet again, and I flipping loved every minute of it. This game was so good from start to finish I couldn’t not put it at my top spot. I played this game by myself. I played this game with my kids. I hunted for moons for HOURS upon HOURS. I still haven’t gotten close to finding them all. This is the kind of game I love. A game that’s not afraid to play to its silly side, but still create great game play experiences around that silliness. A game I’m not afraid to play in front of my kids. A game that simply reminds me games can and should be fun. It revisits so much of its past, but in a way that doesn’t feel pandering. You can’t help but light up as you see all these things that you remember and your kids are getting to experience for the first time. So many fun times have been wrapped up inside this game. It was an easy choice to make the top spot in my favorite games of 2017 list.
So, what do you think? Did I pick some good ones? Are there some you haven’t had a chance to play yet that maybe you’re going to be picking up? Let me know in the comments.