So 2017 is on its way out and the D-pad Joy team are well and truly in the festive spirit (after consuming several festive spirits as well). But, before we can sign off until the New Year, there is one last order of business to be addressed; submitting our choices for our Game of the Year.
However, to avoid things being thrown and friendships being broken, we have elected to choose 3 of our top games from the past 12 months as opposed to trying to agree on one overall winner. Call it a cop-out if you may, but we think going down that route will do a great disservice to all the fantastic games we’ve had this year. So strap in, grab a beverage or two and see what picks the team have put forward – it’s going to be a good one…
#3 Mass Effect: Andromeda
A solid space exploration RPG/third-person shooter that instilled you with a sense of awe and kept you gripped with its fun, engaging combat system – and that’s not even mentioning its intriguing cast of characters and great dialogue. Andromeda was by no means perfect, but I personally have great memories of this worthy continuation of the Mass Effect franchise which is why I’ll stick it third here.
#2 Resident Evil 7
I’m not sure if this is the most obvious choice of game to put in a top three, but I have a fairly biased reason for having included it here. RE7 was great for me, not just because of its VR-centred graphic presentation and tense, edge-of-your-seat gameplay, but also because of the time I had playing it with certain family members. You really haven’t lived until you’ve seen someone shriek their butt off after encountering an unexpected ambulatory dead person in true horror movie fashion. A prime example of how to make a great VR game.
#1 Sonic Mania
Topping off my list is the return to gaming glory for everyone’s favourite blue hedgehog. Unlike the relatively lacklustre Sonic Forces that came out this year, Mania put the speedy critter back where he belonged – in two-dimensions, with a whole slew of colourful, inventive levels and challenging bosses and special stages. The addictive retro-style simplicity of Mania is what keeps me coming back to it and I can only guess this is the same for many other Sonic fans across the globe. It takes everything that was great about Sonic’s Mega Drive/Genesis adventures and puts it on steroids.
#3 Persona 5
The Persona series has managed to captivate audiences with mature themes and its addictive ‘high school life’ simulation throughout its twenty-year tenure. Persona 5 was no step backwards, as it lifted the series to even greater heights, tackling even greater social issues, and doing so in a unique and flashy art style. The sheer amount of content throughout its 100+ hour long story brings waves of emotion across the many different characters and subjects portrayed.
#2 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
With the launch of the Switch, Breath of the Wild truly marked a new era for the long-running Nintendo franchise. Exploring a massive sandbox littered with all of the Zelda aesthetics, fans and newcomers alike were able to embark on a journey through the vibrant lands of Hyrule like never before. Sprinkling in a flurry of additional side quests, tons of various melee weapons, bows and armour sets, and the absolute freedom to explore at your heart’s content, The Legend of Zelda series has shown yet another strong entry. A remarkable adventure not to be missed any Nintendo Switch owner.
#1 Horizon Zero Dawn
The beautifully designed open world of a futuristic vision of an Earth taken back by mother nature, Horizon Zero Dawn provided an experience that delivered on every aspect of gaming. With a healthy dose of side quests, hunting grounds, other activities and collectables to keep the player satisfied well beyond the main quest line, the stories behind the diverse cast of characters, and not to mention the outstanding visuals/animations, puts Horizon Zero Dawn above anything else that released in 2017.
#3 What Remains of Edith Finch
Edith Finch blew me away – it had me hooked from the first moment I stepped into the huge house of the Finches. I wanted to know more about the intriguing and peculiar past of this family. The developers have said that the game is about what it feels like to be humbled and astonished by the vast and unknowable world around us – and I couldn’t agree more with that statement.
#2 Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice
As perhaps one of the most talked about and controversial games this year, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice definitely deserves a spot on my top 3 list. Inspired by Norse Mythology and Celtic culture, Hellblade takes us into Senua’s world, a warrior who travels through Helheim to find her lover and release him from the goddess Hela. However, this is a metaphor for its more important theme: mental health. With stunning visuals as well as reflective dialogue, I must say that it has been a long time coming since a game was this emotionally challenging to play through. The dedication and passion that went into the development of this concept, as well as seeing and experiencing the fantastic end product – it would be wrong NOT to have Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice on my list.
#1 Night in the Woods
It was a difficult task to choose which one of my top three would be the “winner,” because they are all so incredibly good – they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. However, there is one that sticks out; that keeps staying closest to my heart. When I first started playing Night in the Woods, I knew that there was something special about it. I keep finding myself coming back to this game, and its lovable story. The characters are memorable and relatable, and I love how the weird gets mixed into the sweet, the sad, the angry, and the fun. The characters are relatable, lovable, warm and funny. I could keep finding similar adjectives to describe this game for ages. But you get the picture. I love everything – everything – about Night in the Woods.
#3 Middle-Earth: Shadow of War
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War had no qualms about tossing supposedly pre-established Tolkien canon out of the window, daring Lord of the Rings devotees to try and reconcile the final events in Talion’s journey – featuring spider deities, the Eye of Sauron at war with himself and a complete retcon of past Nazgul mythology – with the Third Age. Get past those borderline heretical subversions and the wafer-thin core storyline, though, and you’ll find an intricate, immensely challenging RPG which packs dynamic AI thanks to the enhanced Nemesis System, compelling side quests that expand Tolkien’s Middle-Earth lore in bold new ways and by far some of the most satisfying boss battles of the year.
#2 LEGO Marvel Superheroes 2
A confession: after the entertaining but mechanically repetitive LEGO Marvel Superheroes and its comprehensive but convoluted MCU sequel LEGO Marvel’s Avengers, this writer thought TT Games had milked the eponymous comic-book publisher’s multiverse for all its worth. Little wonder, then, that in delivering an inventive non-linear storyline, a rich open-world brimming with geographical variety and fan-servicing detail and a huge roster of characters with unique attributes and animations, LEGO Marvel Superheroes 2 caught me completely off-guard. It’s a completely essential purchase for Marvelites everywhere.
#1 Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
How do you follow one of the most critically acclaimed quadrilogies of all-time? Aside from producing perhaps the most critically acclaimed survival horror of all-time in The Last of Us, Naughty Dog’s answer was to shift the limelight from Nathan Drake to two of his best-loved frenemies, an approach which predictably peaked fans’ curiosity from the outset. Between the ambitious open-world second act, dynamic vehicular sequences, its protagonists’ sizzling chemistry and its narrative’s unashamed focus on conducting a personal, provocative character study, this brief but utterly brilliant spin-off adventure easily sets itself apart from Drake’s escapades and, indeed, from the majority of gaming experiences delivered in 2017 to boot.
#3 Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
There’s no doubt that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s infinite playground, otherwise known as the land of Hyrule, is an absolute joy to explore. Throughout the finely-tuned experience, curiosity is encouraged and rewarded, and there’s always something more to find in a world positively swimming with ideas. What excites me the most about Breath of the Wild is that Nintendo wasn’t afraid to innovate and try new things with a series 30 years in the making. They didn’t have to, but it paid off, leaving us with one of the freshest titles in years.
#2 Persona 5
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE on the Wii U, an obscure gem with key elements from Shin Megami Tensei, led me to giving Persona 5 a try – my first foray into the beloved Persona series. I’m glad I did, as it very quickly became one of my games of the year. Quite simply, it’s scary how much there is to accomplish in that world. Like living a second life as an angsty teenager all over again, Persona 5, most brilliantly of all, asks the right questions too. Questions like: why are individuals in positions of utter authority – bankers, politicians, even teachers, the people we need to trust the most – so corrupt in modern society? It was motifs like this, aside from the excellent gameplay, that raised this into special territory for me.
#1 Super Mario Odyssey
There are so many positives things to say about Super Mario Odyssey that you couldn’t possibly fit into the limited space I have here, so a brief, effusive list will have to do: the holiday brochure-style maps, those costumes, the assist mode that guides younger, more inexperienced players, the stunning soundtrack full of whimsy and heroism, the satirical humour, the bonus mini-games, Pauline, that particular festival, that particular Kingdom, the better than expected two-player mode where one of you controls Cappy – really fun. I could easily go on… It’s worth buying a Switch for alone and is certainly one of the best Mario games for many, many years. A grand celebration of the plumber and his long-running history and my third and final pick for Game of the Year.
#3 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Unsurprisingly, Zelda appears in my top three for 2017. It’s impossible for it not to appear as this game was the sole reason why I bought my Switch and boy am I glad I did. Admittedly I haven’t played it in a while, but when I do I love every single minute of it. The sights, the sounds and the missions; they’re all there and each is fantastic. The world Nintendo have built is simply superb and has so many different locations, hooks and unique twists that it’s impossible not to fall in love with it. For many, BotW could easily be classed as one of the best, if not the best, Zelda games there has been.
#2 Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
What can you say about Lost Legacy that hasn’t been said about any of the Uncharted games that have come before it? It is quite simply stunning. Considering that it isn’t one of the main titles, more a spin-off, it’s staggering how much attention has been given to it. For a reduced price, it puts many other games to shame when it comes to storytelling, acting, length and entertainment. Given that Drake seems to have been put into retirement, I would be more than happy for Chloe and Nadine to carry the torch from now on. Where they will go next nobody knows, but I think it’s fair to say that their visit to India sets the benchmark for future travels.
#1 Super Mario Odyssey
Never did I think there would be one Nintendo title in my top games of any year, let alone two. It’s unheard of for me as I am not the biggest Nintendo fan out there and was very sceptical when I first picked up my Switch. Boy was I in for a treat when Mario came to town. For me, this is quite easily his finest hour and it has been a long time since I dedicated all my gaming time to one video game alone – until I rolled the credits on it. From controlling a T-rex, seeing Mario in Speedos and finding out Mario is tiny compared to real humans, it has it all. I can’t resist the call to go back every now and again and witness bits which I may have missed the first time through, but I don’t think I’ll ever find all of those damn moons! Cappy gives Mario a fresh feel and breaks the 2D mould of old – it shows us that Super Mario clearly has a bright and fruitful future on the Switch and beyond. Mario here’s to you and a fantastic 2017!
That’s a wrap! Which were your favourite games of the year? Let us know in the comments below. See you all on the other side in the New Year. Merry Christmas and Happy holidays from your friends at D-pad Joy.