The Best & Worst Games of 2017

The Best & Worst of 2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2013 / 2012 / 2011 / 2010

I thought 2017 was a pretty good year for video games, despite the fact that I didn't play the majority of the GOTY frontrunners.

I didn't play Persona 5, because one hundred hours is too much to ask. I never got to Nier Automata, for similar reasons. I didn’t play PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, because I don’t have a gaming PC, and it appears to be broken on Xbox One. I’m not quite sure why, but Horizon Zero Dawn never appealed, so I gave that a miss. It's only in the last week or so that I started playing Zelda and Mario on my brand new Switch, though they've certainly made an impression in that short time.

What I did play was a mix of old and new. I out-squatted a man for a wig, assassinated a herd of hippos, took a road trip with a crew of hair models, gunned down space fish, saved the humans, remembered how to parry, romanced a skeleton, descended into Viking hell, possessed a Moai, got into street fights while looking after a baby, fucked up some Nazis, had dinner with a family of cannibals, and lots more.

I bought myself a Switch for Christmas, completing my set of current-gen hardware, because I always need more consoles. The vast majority of my gaming was done on the PS4, and I bought digital more than physical, around a 60-40 split, which is why the picture above looks a little sparse compared to previous years.

These are the games I played in 2017, to completion or thereabouts.

Played: Assassin's Creed Origins, Azkend 2, Burnout Paradise, Call of Duty Infinite Warfare, Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours, Dark Souls 3 - The Ringed City DLC, Dead Rising 4, Downwell, Final Fantasy VII PS4, Final Fantasy XV, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, LittleBigPlanet 3, Nex Machina, Pac-Man Championship Edition 2, Papers Please, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Ryse: Son of Rome, Severed, Sky Force Anniversary, Son of Scoregasm, Sonic Mania, Uncharted 4 - Survival Mode DLC, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Undertale, VVVVVV, Wipeout Omega Collection, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Yakuza 6, Yakuza Kiwami

Currently Playing: Dragon's Crown, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey

Bought but have yet to play: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered, Darkest Dungeon, Fire Emblem Echoes, Mass Effect Andromeda

What follow are the best and worst games of 2017. Let me know what you think.

Enjoy your games and have a Happy New Year

1. Game of the Year

I’m as confused as usual. I can make a mildly convincing argument for a handful of games, but not quite convincing enough. Not enough for me to be completely happy with my choice, anyway.

A. My Initial Selection: Undertale
A wonderful, funny and charming game, but I think I’m choosing to overlook some of Undertale’s faults. There were parts that dragged, and there was an over reliance on trial and error combat mechanics. On top of that, it isn’t exactly a spring chicken. While it came to PlayStation this year, it’s been on PC since 2015. Undertale would be a problematic selection for my GOTY, yet it might be the right one.

B. Disposable Entertainment: Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Lost Legacy is straight up fun. It has almost all the best Uncharted features, only in much smaller doses. I was smiling from start to finish yet, looking back, I can recall very few plot points or standout moments. Lost Legacy was popcorn entertainment of the highest calibre, but once it was over, I forgot all about it.

C. Paying Tribute to the Yakuza Series: Yakuza Kiwami
Yakuza, one of my very favourite modern franchises, is overdue a GOTY award. Kiwami was a blast, but if I’m honest, it wasn’t even the best Yakuza I played this year. That would be Yakuza 6, which was a late 2016 release, and therefore ineligible for GOTY consideration. Sorry, Kaz.

D. Repping for History: Assassin’s Creed Origins
Origins is the best AC since part two. I want to reward this return to form, and celebrate Ubisoft’s loving recreation of late-Ptolemaic Egypt, because I do love my history. But if I calm down, and look at it critically, Origins has too many issues, such as throwaway characters, primitive combat and dull side missions, to be a true contender.

E. Getting Caught up in the Moment: Super Mario Odyssey
Odyssey is an effortless joy. I’m having so much fun playing with my daughter, but I think I need to step away for a while before I can properly evaluate it. Is it really as good as I think it is, or am I just getting carried away with my first shared game experience with my daughter? Also, Mario is the enemy; give me Blast Processing or death.

F: A Leap of Faith: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild is the best game this year, isn’t it? The setting is outstanding, combat is perfectly balanced, the puzzles are just challenging enough, and it has all those little, Nintendo flourishes that help make a game special. The only problem is that I’ve only played ten hours. The first couple were fairly pedestrian, but it eventually kicked it up a gear, and now I’m thinking about it non-stop. This gen, only Monster Hunter, Bloodborne and Witcher 3 have captivated me to that extent - that’s rare company indeed. But I’ve seen so little of BotW; maybe I’ll get bored soon, and abandon it well short of the finish. Can I award my game of the year based on such a relatively small sample?

Yeah, I probably can.

Game of the Year: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Honourable Mentions: Undertale, Super Mario Odyssey, Assassin's Creed Origins, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Yakuza Kiwami

2. Best pre-2017 Game I Played This Year (for the first time): Yakuza 6

Now is the best time to be a Yakuza fan. Yakuza 6 will be in English soon enough, but for now you'll have to take my word for it that it's a corker. Like the best of Yakuza, it manages to be both ludicrous and serious, often times within the same scene. It's funny, yet also dark, and has some of the most memorable supporting characters in the series' illustrious history. It jumps the shark towards the end, clearing it by a good few feet, but otherwise it's excellent.

Honourable Mention: Dead Rising 4

3. Best pre-2017 Game I played This Year (for the umpteenth time): Final Fantasy VII

FFVII was a pleasure to revisit. This time around, I made a point of appreciating things that I'd never fully considered in past playthroughs. I took screen shot after screen shot, marvelling at the intricacies and beauty in the pre-rendered backgrounds, noticing details that had previously escaped me. Between VII and my runner-up, Burnout Paradise, this is by far the strongest category this year, and perhaps the strongest ever, since I started doing end of year awards back in 2009.

Honourable Mention: Burnout Paradise

4. My Daughter's Game of the Year: Super Mario Odyssey

Mario, by a country mile. We had a lot of fun with this over the Christmas and New Year break. It started off with my daughter shouting out in excitement every time Mario chucked his hat or we came across a silly looking monster. In time, she was confident enough to grab a Joy-Con and throw Mario’s hat herself, while I stood-by, ready to stop the controller from hurtling towards the TV. We’ve barely scratched the surface, so I think Mario will remain in the rotation for a few more months yet. Please keep my TV screen in your thoughts.

5. Biggest Surprise: Undertale

Initially, Undertale wasn't of interest, yet I took to the characters immediately, and found a great deal to like in the combat extremes. I opted for the pacifist approach, and honestly can't imagine taking the genocide route. Killing those lovable monsters would've been far too hard for a big softy like me.

Honourable Mention: Assassin’s Creed’s return to form

6. Biggest Disappointment: Sonic Mania

Sonic Mania is a good game. It does an excellent job of paying tribute to the originals, while also doing something new. It's colourful, it's mostly 2D, and it nails the sense of momentum that defined the 16-bit entries, yet I was miserable playing it. I came to realise that, beyond the rush of nostalgia, Sonic games just aren't fun for me anymore. I'll still list Master System Sonic and Mega Drive Sonic 2 among my favourite games, because of how much they meant to me at the time and how many memories I associate with them, but I don't need to play new Sonic. Not even good, new Sonic.

Dishonourable Mentions: Final third of Resident Evil 7; Dead Rising 4's "to be concluded as DLC" ending; Wolfenstein: The New Order in general

7. Most Addictive: Nex Machina

The older I get, the more I appreciate games like Nex Machina. Games I can just pick up and play, bereft of needless padding, yet deep enough to support extended play sessions. Addictive, satisfying, rewarding, and demonstrating a clear difficulty curve - I find myself increasingly drawn to these types of games. Nex Machina is not quite on Resogun's level, but it's still really good. I'm sad to hear that Housemarque is moving away from the arcade shoot-em-up genre, though I'm excited to see what’s next.

Honourable Mention: Pac-Man Championship Edition 2

8. The "It's Not That Bad" Award (Sponsored by my wife): Mass Effect Andromeda

My wife is adamant that Andromeda is fine. She loves Mass Effect, having played through ME1-3 numerous times. However, she reckons ME2 is the worst of the bunch, so I'm not entirely sure that she can be trusted. Basically she's an expert, but a slightly misinformed one. She's not all that high on MEA’s story, but she's been rinsing the mini-sandbox planets and exhausting every side quest. It looks fun, from a distance, but I doubt I'll ever make time for it. Quite the fall from grace for my most anticipated game of 2017.

9. Standout Moment: Assassin's Creed Origins – location reveals

Exploring lovingly-rendered, ancient locations made me giddy with excitement. It was a treat to see cities and monuments that I have read about countless times, coming to life on screen. I walked the streets of Alexandria; visited a bustling Memphis and scaled the pyramids of Giza, already ancient but still shining a bright white. Each time I saw a city in the distance, I wondered what it could be and what treasures might lie within. AC Origins brings history to life, which is exactly what I want from the series.

Honourable Mentions: Uncharted The Lost Legacy – train sequence, the elephant; Yakuza Kiwami - body toss at the Chinese restaurant; Hellblade – unsettling opening

10. Best Soundtrack: Undertale

Undertale is beautifully scored. My favourite moments were paired with memorable pieces of music, which elevated them to another level. You can hear the retro influences, but it's never just derivative. The score also perfectly captures the feel of the characters and locations - it is sinister, warm, melancholic and hopeful.

Honourable Mention: Assassin's Creed Origins, Super Mario Odyssey

11. Most Furious Shelving: Wolfenstein: The New Order

Sorry, but I just didn't get it. The story was interesting, but the gameplay was bog standard. There was so much pissing about too, wandering through corridors chatting to uninteresting NPCs or looking for a wrench. Who drops their wrench in a Nazi robot infested sewer, anyway? I was expecting great things, but I was just bored.

Dishonourable Mention: Son of Scoregasm

12. Best Multiplayer: Uncharted 4 Survival Mode

I started the year fighting waves of angry South Africans and zombie pirates with a couple of friends. We chipped away at it for a month or so, slowly clearing each level on every difficulty setting. Mastering the waves and the layout of each stage was really satisfying, and it was a worthy addition to one of my favourite games of 2016. It was also free, which is always nice.

13. Most Brutal use of a Spade: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Mr Baker brained that cop proper. He took the top of his head clean off. And it served him right for not paying attention, despite my pleas. Bloody idiot.

14. The Perfect Length: Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Modern video games have a terrible habit of dragging things out. Games that would be better served as a ten hour experience will hang on for twenty; those that should be forty stretch it to a hundred. I liked Uncharted 4 a lot, but it was far too long. Lost Legacy fixed that issue, fitting the full Uncharted experience into an ideal run-time. A tighter experience, freed from the expectations of a mainline Uncharted game, it was the perfect pallet cleanser after Uncharted 4.

Honourable Mention: Yakuza Kiwami

15. Best Gameplay Mechanic: Super Mario Odyssey – Cappy

Cappy is a very simple, yet effective mechanic. You can throw Mario’s many hats to attack or to possess, and reach otherwise inaccessible areas and goodies. Sometimes you observe the target of possession first, and then spend time trying to figure out why exactly the game wants you to inhabit this character. Other times, you find the reason first, and then spend time looking for the enemy or ally that can help you reach your goal. Either way it works, and adds yet another dimension to a game that is never short on ideas.

Honourable Mention: Undertale – pacifist/genocide routes and bullet-hell combat

16. Enjoyed more than I Should: Dead Rising 4

Dead Rising 4 understands what I want from a zombie game: minimal story, hordes of zombies and plenty of ridiculous ways to take them down. The series has changed little since the first game, which suits me fine. I'd take Frank West, armed with a pitchfork taped to a firework, over a muscular action hero with a machine gun any day of the week.

Honourable Mention: Azkend 2

17. Best Inconsequential thing that turned out to be the best thing in a game about four beautiful men on a road trip: Listening to FF songs in the car - Final Fantasy XV

I played FFXV, and honestly I didn’t mind it. It did certain things well, other things far less so. The best part was cruising around the world map, listening to old FF soundtracks. Roof down, hair up, guns out, blasting Blue Fields, letting all the ladies know who we are. Sometimes the best things are the smallest things.

18. Best Character: Papyrus - Undertale

In a cast full of likable and funny characters, it was Papyrus who stood out the most. He's my favourite spaghetti-loving skeleton, and he played a central role in many of Undertale's best and funniest moments. That such a simple character could make a lasting impression is testament to the quality of Undertale’s writing

Honourable Mention: Chloe, Uncharted Lost Legacy; Kazuma Kiryu, Yakuza 6; Senua, Hellblade

19. Best Game to Just run-about in: Super Mario Odyssey

Up, down, across, side to side – Super Mario Odyssey has all the directions! I couldn’t tell you what the story is, beyond stopping Bowser, but I know I’m enjoying searching very nook and cranny for moons, tokens and coins. There’s always something interesting to discover, and wanderlust is always rewarded.

Honourable Mention: Assassin’s Creed Origins, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

20. Best Interactive Experience: Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Hellblade isn't a great game. The combat is fairly simple, there is little in the way of growth or progression, and the puzzles are overly repetitive and more time consuming than they are challenging. Despite this, I'd still highly recommend Ninja Theory's latest. The atmosphere is fantastic, it looks and sounds stunning, and Senua's descent into madness makes for an uncomfortable yet memorable journey. Hellblade isn't a great game, but it is a unique and worthwhile experience.

21. Best Reason to turn on my Vita: Papers Please

I still use my Vita on occasion, usually when I’m on holiday. Two trips back to England gave me ample opportunity to dust off Sony’s forgotten portable in 2017. I blasted through a handful of PS+ offerings and even paid some real, actual money for games, the best of which was Papers Please. It’s been out on other platforms for years, but it was a new experience for me. It starts off fairly simple, a game of spot the difference, but it quickly becomes far more complicated. Before long you’re ruining and saving lives with your rubber stamps, and burying family members. Papers Please is easy to pick up and hard to put down.

Honourable Mentions: Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours, Sky Force Anniversary

22. Most Laughs: Yakuza Kiwami

The Yakuza games are genuinely funny; sometimes the comedy is ludicrous, other times it’s more subtle. Kiwami might be the funniest of the bunch. Majima’s ever inventive disguises and hiding places, Kiryu punching a statue to pieces in a hotel lobby or throwing corpses at enemies as if he were throwing Hammer – Yakuza gets me. Please don’t ever change.

Honourable Mention: Yakuza 6, Undertale

23. Wish I'd Made Time For: Persona 5

Or more accurately, “Wish I’d had time for”. Given how much I enjoyed Person 4 Golden, I really should play P5, but that runtime continues to put me off. Realistically, P5 would take me 2-3 months to finish, and I just can’t be doing with that. The answer may be to give it a whirl but not commit to finishing it – playing it a little would be preferable to not playing it at all. Now that it’s starting to go down in price, that option is a little more palatable.

Honourable Mention: Nier Automata

24. Most Looking Forward to in 2018: Red Dead Redemption and Monster Hunter World

I'd probably favour Red Dead Redemption 2, but Monster Hunter is almost upon us, so my excitement is more immediate. Also, it wouldn't surprise me if Rockstar's western slipped to the end of the year, or perhaps even into 2019. I'm highly anticipating both, just for very different reasons. Let’s hope they live up to the considerable hype.

Honourable Mention: Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes


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