Another year in gaming has come and gone and boy howdy, it was a doozy. It was a year dominated by greedy publishers releasing cynical products in an attempt to fleece as many dollars from consumers as humanly (and possibly, inhumanly) possible. However, despite an avalanche of loot boxes and shoddy business practices, a few games stood above the rest, showing the best of what 2017 had to offer. Here are my top five best games of 2017.
#5: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Nintendo Switch absolutely crushed it this year, and that was in no small part due to the newest addition to the Legend of Zelda franchise. Not only was it a power-move to launch a system—a portable-hybrid system, no less—with possibly the second-most beloved Nintendo property, but one that is so far removed from any other game in that franchise, that the only question I had was, “How did no one think of this sooner?”. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, is by no means perfect; its two most glaring flaws—a weak Stamina system and an absolutely pathetic weapon durability system—marred what would have otherwise be a perfect game. However, in spite of this, BotW still manages to be the best Zelda Nintendo’s released since Wind Waker. Its world feels so lived-in and organically delivered with art direction that is absolutely breathtaking with incredible amounts of colour and details while being surprisingly minimalist. It’s a game that takes Zelda back to its roots, focusing on creating a world and giving you incentive to explore it. And while I couldn’t help wishing that some of the dungeons were a bit more “traditional,” or a few “Zelda staple items” found their way in—or that Nintendo would drop the terrible idea that Ganon is a concept and not a villain—it’s a game that constantly kept me engaged, constantly kept me guessing, and constantly surprised me even hours after I had finished it.
#4: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Resident Evil 7 was not scary. I think that needs to be said right from the start. I’ll even admit that the E3 2016 game demo (despite desperately trying to be P.T.) did deliver quite a few scares, it was just a shame the finished product didn’t. And while a horror game not being scary isn’t ideal, I definitely think Resident Evil 7 earns its place on this list for not only everything it got right, but for the clear indication that Capcom has set RE back on the right track. Resident Evil has neither been scary nor that good since Resident Evil: Revelations back on the 3DS (the remasters don’t count, it was made for 3DS). Since then it’s been a fumbling of too many genres, ideas, and cooks spoiling the broth. RE7 was focused; it knew what it wanted to be and it delivered the goods. It paid homage to the series roots, while re-inventing those similar concepts. Returning the gameplay to a single location that was as much an antagonist as the villains within it felt disorienting and unnerving as you explored the creepy mansion, evading the horrors within as you were forced to retread old ground. The shift to first person added a new layer of dimensionality, as (arguably) the most immersive perspective lends itself best to horror, and the shift from zombies to a more Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe with The Baker family as antagonists was incredibly refreshing (until it wasn’t). The fact that RE7 is a AAA horror game and was as good as it was and came without forced multiplayer, loot boxes and other industry crap is why it deserves a spot on this list.
Friday the 13th: The Game
This game has me at a bit of a crossroads, because based on objective quality, it almost feels like Friday the 13th: The Game shouldn’t be on this list. When it first released it had myriad problems ranging from graphical glitches, incomplete gameplay, and horrible connection issues that would have you waiting literal hours to get into a game (only to be dropped moments later). However, like my feelings with No Man’s Sky—a game that made my personal Best of 2016—I saw mountains of potential amidst the problems. Gun Media has made a tremendous effort patching the game, and has it running in an acceptable state. However, problems still exist that shouldn’t exist for a game with such prestige surrounding it.
That being said, when Friday the 13th works, it REALLY works, and it is easily the most fun I’ve had with any online multiplayer-only game this year. Setting aside that Friday the 13th is my favourite horror movie franchise of all time, the game is just fun on every level. Even for a game where seven other people could easily remove you from the immersion, there is a genuine tension in being a counselor, trying to survive the night from the terror of Jason Voorhees, and a sincere horror when you see him through a window or following behind you as you run for your life. Alternatively, playing as Jason is the definition of twisted pleasure, using an arsenal of otherworldly powers to systematically murder every other player. The amount of love that has been put into this game is worn right on its sleeve and it pays tribute to Friday the 13th in the best possible ways.
#2: Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment
I really grappled with the choice for the number two spot. There were a few games I wanted to put on this list which I noticed were all based within nostalgia, namely: Sonic Mania, Metroid: Samus Returns, and Cuphead. And while both Sonic Mania and Metroid: Samus Returns are excellent games in their own right, I couldn’t help but feel that their spot on a “Best of 2017” is mostly attributed to the fact that they remind me of something dear from my childhood.
In the case of Cuphead, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that despite being very fun and having an incredible artstyle, I never really thought it was the masterpiece everyone claimed it to be, namely because it seemed like the dedication to that artstyle is what kept it from having a legitimate form of cohesive gameplay—i.e. having actual levels that lead to bosses, as opposed to its overworld map that throws a handful of side-scrolling levels for the sake of looking like Contra.
Then I remembered Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment which released alongside the Nintendo Switch, and I knew it deserved a place on this list. I almost wrote Shovel Knight off when I first saw whisperings of it online, judging by the concept of a knight with a shovel, I cynically assumed it would be another game involving mining in some way, trying to capitalize on the continuing craze of Minecraft. Then one fateful night, with nothing better to do, I purchased it and my life was changed forever. Shovel Knight is basically a perfect game: bold, inventive, retro in style yet modern in game design, and nothing like what I had cynically envisioned.
Unlike the last add-on, Plague of Shadows, which delivered the same game and only changed how the main character, Plague Knight, moved through it, Specter of Torment completely rebuilt Shovel Knight from the ground up, creating an entirely different game. Specter Knight is a radically different character in terms of control and attack, and as such, the levels have all been redesigned to be better suited to how Specter Knight controls. Redesigned music better suits the character’s theme and the overall tone of the game and redesigned boss fights add new depth to enemies you’ve battled countless times. New and interesting items and a tragic story the precedes the events of Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope also provide context to the character of Specter Knight. There is so much good on offer not only with Specter of Torment, but the whole Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove pack, and I urge anyone who hasn’t played it yet to get it.
#1: Super Mario Odyssey
Jump Up, Superstar! This should come as a surprise to no one, but Super Mario Odyssey is the best game of 2017. Honestly, I wasn’t sure where to even start when writing this, but all it took was 10 minutes with the game and I knew. Super Mario Odyssey is pure, distilled joy—plain and simple. It would be enough if it was just fun, but this is a game that is so fun, so inventive, and so full of wonder and life that it almost seems unreal. This is a game where each new world feels familiar in theme, but are simultaneously so completely fresh and new that you are compelled to explore every nook and cranny. A game where each new world is beautifully designed, filled with colour and details, and backed by scores that are at times breathtaking, enchanting, and exuberant. Super Mario Odyssey feels to me like the definitive 3D Mario game and there wasn’t a moment I was playing it where I didn’t have a massive smile on my face. Furthermore, you can throw your hat on a T-Rex and you get to be the T-Rex. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT?
Retail versions of some the games mentioned were provided by the publisher for previously published. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.