VG Tribune

Matthew Gibson’s Games of 2017

January 2, 2018 / 7:00 AM

By: Matthew Gibson

It doesn’t have to be said, but I’ll say it anyway: 2017 was a wild year for the video game industry. Sure, it had its downfalls, like the whole Star Wars Battlefront II loot box fiasco, but all of that was still not enough to downplay the absolutely tremendous output of quality titles. Whilst I didn’t do anything for 2016, I decided to at least do something to commemorate the legendary year. This is an insanely long piece, so make yourselves somewhat comfy and I hope you enjoy.

The main spectacle of this article will be a ranking of my top 5 games of last year. Before I delve into that, I’ll be going over some omissions, which I would have loved to have considered for the list. Then I’ll go over some honourable mentions from 2017, before finally arriving at the finale. I do want to return to this idea some point in this year, so I can consider those I haven’t had enough time to play, but I think what I’ve deduced will be good enough for now. Besides, it was already painful enough to deduce which of my best two should come out on top! With that, let’s begin…

Omissions

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a recent release, and I haven’t had much time to dive into it too much, but I’m liking it so far, and I think I’ll get along better with this one in comparison to Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U. Another game in the same boat as this is Yoko Taro’s Nier: Automata. I’ve heard many a good thing about this game, and I can see this one coming into my list if I re-do a list. Cuphead is one that I haven’t even bought (its choice of platforms is my main restriction), but I’m in love with its visual style. I’m holding on to hope for a Switch port, even though it doesn’t seem likely at all, but I’m eagerly waiting for when I do get to rage uncontrollably over it. There’s plenty more that I wouldn’t mind trying, like Horizon Zero Dawn or many of the indie offerings on the Switch’s eShop, so I hope the time to play them will come soon enough.

Honourable mentions

If Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was an original game that happened to come out during 2017, no doubt it would have had a damn good chance of being chosen in the list, even though I typically don’t really consider ports to be ‘new’ titles. But even saying that, this may be the exception, as it set the standard for what a port should be. All of the DLC from the vanilla version on the Wii U was included, in addition to a greatly revamped battle mode, new racers, the smart-steering option (an option that’s great for beginners), and the ability to hold two items at once. Now combined with the Switch’s portable nature, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the cream of the crop in the series.

I guess it could be said that ARMS just didn’t have the LEGS to make it into my top 5

Speaking of multiplayer, ARMS is also worthy of an honourable mention. Sure, it may be more lacklustre in the content department, but it is just so damn fun. It’s the game I have the most fun playing when a mate comes over to my place, just because of the variety of characters and arms combinations. I’m also slightly intrigued in the competitive scene, and I’m curious to see how it grows going forward. It may not be the next Super Smash Bros., but it really doesn’t have to be, since my friends and I are already enjoying bashing each other like eejits.

Snipperclips was a fun and quirky co-op game that tried to test the friendship between myself and a long-time mate (we managed to survive thankfully). Despite not being too ecstatic about it like everybody else it seems, Sonic Mania provided a jolly ol’ time, and special praise should be given to its superb soundtrack. Seeing as Crash was one of my first video game ‘heroes’ per se, it was cool to see the bandicoot return to form in his N-Sane Trilogy, coming with a tough challenge to boot. Wrapping off this little paragraph of many titles, I dedicated a lot of time to Overwatch throughout the year, so I feel it deserves a shoutout too.

I also have two notable surprises from 2017, both I would never have expected to like as much upon first hearing about them. The big one seems to be Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and rightly so, seeing as it has turned out incredibly well. I still have yet to complete the campaign (I’m quite close though mind!), but the options for strategy seem endless. The Rabbids were actually entertaining, during cutscenes as well as just their animations during battle. I have found some bits to be somewhat annoying, but putting those aside, Ubisoft’s unlikely clash of two franchises has resulted in an unexpected gem of a title.

The fact that I even went through with spending money on this game is still mind-boggling

The other has to go to Fire Emblem Heroes, a mobile title of all things. It may not be as packed as the other offerings in the series on proper Nintendo systems, but with rather interesting bits of new content and updates arriving on a frequent basis, it was hard to ignore during the course of 2017. Its gameplay is simple enough so that its easily playable on a mobile device without having to sacrifice the classic formula’s structure. Some things could use some tweaking, prominently the handling of Orbs and summoning, but I never felt too forced to spend real money on the game, as it is fairly generous with Orbs. The crazy amount of heroes in the game is awesome as well, ranging from popular titles to lesser-known entries, even bringing out characters from games that weren’t even released from outside of Japan! It’s far from perfect, but it translates the Fire Emblem experience so well to mobile, and I can’t believe I’ve actually spent money on the damn thing.

Outside of software for a moment, as a Nintendo fan, it was simply wonderful seeing the Nintendo Switch, the new console, be such a massive success. Not a day goes by without seeing somebody enjoying the system. I also greatly appreciate its portability, both in regards to just the tablet itself, and the ease of carrying the essential parts for TV mode. Thanks to that, I was able to bring it on our yearly trip to Ireland and be able to play some Mario Kart action with my cousins, something which we’ve never done before! The Switch is also boasting a fantastic first year software-wise, complete with critically acclaimed first-party games, great support from indie studios, and surprising third-party support (Doom and Wolfenstein 2 coming to the Switch was very surprising). That’s not to mention its tremendous sales. The thing has already sold over ten million, and is on track to eclipse its predecessor’s lifetime sales within only one year from release. The Switch is an amazing piece of tech, and I don’t think I’d have pulled through 2017 without it.

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for now (if you’re still reading that is), with my top 5 games of 2017. Whilst the fifth position was quite easy for me to suss out, the other positions were much trickier. In previous years, it’s so easy to see what the best of that year was. For 2014, it was without a doubt Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. The year after that had to go to Splatoon, and Overwatch is my best for 2016 (looking back, as I originally chose Pokémon Sun). However, I still have doubts if my choices are accurate enough. I don’t do ties, as I do feel like that’s ruin some of the fun that comes with rankings. But, if I can say, my third and fourth are pretty much as good as each other, and the same statement can be made for the top two. So when I revisit this list, I may end up with a different ordering, or different games altogether. Nevertheless, let’s get stuck in.

5. Splatoon 2 (Nintendo Switch)

As I just mentioned, the original Splatoon was my best game of 2015. It was a fresh take on the shooter genre, given its own Nintendo twist on things and delivering a cracking multiplayer game in the process. Granted, it did have its problems. Yet, considering it was so unique, and that I poured many hours into it, there was no question it was my favourite of its respective year.

Fast forward to the Nintendo Switch presentation in January 2017 and its sequel was officially revealed. Of course, I was incredibly ecstatic to continue rising up the ranks on an updated console, as well as the chance for it to attract a larger audience. Splatoon 2 is definitely a worthy successor to the original, retaining the same fresh formula whilst also spicing a couple things up, in terms of its gameplay and visual aesthetic. I fell in love with Salmon Run, dedicating much of my time to splatting Salmonids in a totally-not-shady part-time job. I have yet to have a lot of games with a proper squad of mates, but strangers can be very cooperative (thankfully). I also appreciated some smaller differences, like the fact you can buy food to double the experience points gained, or the fact that maps swap around during Splatfests now.

With all that said though, I did wish they did more to separate it from the original. The title still suffers from problems that were in the original, like the fact maps and ranked modes remain on a rotation (although thankfully a shorter one at that). But even with that, Splatoon 2 is simply a brilliant joy to play. I hope a third instalment will launch the series into even greater heights, but it’s hard to go wrong when a game still delivers such a unique experience.

4. Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch)

What an exciting journey Super Mario Odyssey is. Yes, hate me for it only being number four on this list, but believe me when I say that Mario’s first 3D foray on the Switch is simply delightful. I think Mario controls better than ever before in this game, where merely doing small stunts with his new companion Cappy brought a smile on my face. The movement options here are crazy fun to experiment with, but of course, that’s only one of the adventure’s many highlights.

Cappy is a charming partner to have, and his capture ability makes for some crazy moments and at times tricky challenges. Each kingdom you explore possesses its own distinctive atmosphere and vibe. One of my favourites includes the Wooded Kingdom, which can be judged on its music alone for how much of a jam it is. The Metro Kingdom probably comes out on top though, as its structure acts as a different kind of playground for Mario’s tricks in comparison to other lands in the world. That’s not to mention that it plays home to ‘Jump Up, Super Star,’ one of the best vocal songs in a video game in a very long time. Bosses were also quite a blast to battle, and I enjoyed the different take on the classic story, as it now features Bowser actually trying to marry Princess Peach whilst wearing a very dapper suit. It’s fun stuff.

I took on the challenge of completing it 100%, to which I accomplished. Whilst a blast, it did become a bit of a dozy towards the end, featuring some annoyingly hidden moons, next to impossible picture-recreation tasks, and a grind for over ten thousand coins just to gain all the costumes and moons to max out the Odyssey’s count at 999. But even with all that, the whole trip was far more exhilarating than degrading. It has many surprises that made me go “wow, I can’t believe they actually did this!” It was a grand ol’ journey, and I wouldn’t mind experiencing it all over again.

3. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony (PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Steam)

Admittedly, this choice may come down to a bit of bias, as I think that Super Mario Odyssey is objectively a better game. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, however, did more for me than Mario’s latest outing did (besides, the gap between fourth and third is pretty damn close anyway, so please don’t get too petty). As a big fan of Mr. Kodaka’s murder mystery franchise, the first nine months of 2017 was waiting in anticipation for the latest in the visual novel series to finally be playable in English. January 12th, the Japanese launch date of the title marked the beginning of the long and excruciating wait until September 29th (26th for those in the US, you lucky gits). Sadly I encountered my fair share of spoilers before I got to experience it first hand, including a number of murderers. But I’m glad it didn’t dampen my excitement too much. I think the relief of that long wait finally ending was a high point of my gaming in 2017 (it’s just the little things really).

It may not be a revolution of sorts like a certain game that will be coming up soon enough, but it’s the game I’ve thought about the most after finishing it. I have found the story to be the most ambitious out of the three (and thankfully the first two can now be played on the PS4), with more thrilling twists and shocking moments. The roster of participants for this killing game is on par with the previous games, if not more enjoyable. In spite of being a massive prick throughout, Kokichi Oma was one of the more entertaining contestants, and Kaede Akamatsu made for a refreshing change of pace in terms of being a protagonist.

I’d love to go full in depth on what I love about its story one day (spoilers to be included) since it has been on my mind for so long. The class trials, the heart of Danganronpa hold up as well, with some interesting murders and new mechanics to solve the mystery of each case. It’s all helped by incredibly improved visuals, with everything looking much sleeker and stylish than it ever was. Its soundtrack is superb as well, being compiled of subtle remixes of past tunes in the franchise in addition to a whole bunch of new tracks (the Scrum Debate theme is next level). I still need to go back to play the mountains of bonus content, but the story has been immensely satisfying by itself. If you’re going to watch a playthrough of the series, just don’t; it’s something you need to experience for yourself. Unless you already have played it, in which case you can enjoy seeing people’s reactions to the insanely wild ride.

2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Switch, Wii U)

Adventuring through Hyrule has never felt so good

If this wasn’t a personal list, this absolute jewel of a game would be at the top of the list. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is absolutely worthy of all its praise because it’s such a magical game. Its crowning achievement is that it is the video game embodiment of freedom and adventure. Once you’re past the Great Plateau, it’s your choice to carve out your own journey. The game points you in certain directions, so you can progress through the story, but it never forces you. Sure, you can try to reclaim the Divine Beasts in order to stop the evil beast Ganon from taking over Hyrule, but why do that when you can just ignore all responsibilities and just slide down a snowy hill on your shield?

Breath of the Wild never strays away from this philosophy, creating a wholesome experience where it really is up to you to sculpt your journey. As a result, not only does it feel different from past titles in the long-established Legend of Zelda franchise, but it feels unlike any other game period. It does come with its fair share of problems however, like the weapon system that could result in incredibly awesome weapons being destroyed after only hitting a couple of Bokoblins. The Divine Beasts don’t live up to dungeons of past adventures, as they only feel like expanded shrines rather than their own separate entity.

It should be pointed out that the positives far outweigh the bad points. It throws away tradition for something truly ambitious, and it has paid off immensely. The charming world and the characters that reside within, the challenging shrines, the many moments of breath-taking views and surprises, the near-endless amount of experimentation: I probably don’t even have to mention what makes this game so great. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a marvel of a game, in pretty much every sense of the word.

1. Persona 5 (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3)

I am still contemplating which of the top two should take my number one spot. Both do stuff that are so damn great and both have mastered their different genres to an insane degree. In the end, however, one had to wear the crown, and Persona 5 had to bear it for me.

Like for my number three choice, this is more of a subjective choice. But Atlus’ latest resonated me in a way that the newest Zelda title didn’t. It’s nothing ground-breaking like my runner-up in the grand scheme of things: rather it is how polished of a game it is through and through. The thing that stuck out to me the most, and possibly what caught my attention at first, was its visual style, present throughout the game’s entirety. The in-game graphics look great, sure, yet it’s the UI and menus that really separate itself from the crowd. It’s a silly thing on the surface, sure, but it really did cement itself as having its own identity.

The battling system, the core of any JRPG, has a distinct flow to it, which only expands as you progress through the 100-hour campaign. The dungeons, dubbed Palaces, are some of the best in any RPG I’ve seen, with each being expertedly designed in both their themes and layout. Whether the enemy gets the upper hand on you whilst exploring a Palace, or if you land a successful ambush so you come out on top, you are seamlessly transported into battle, which itself sports a crazily catchy song. Speaking of which, the soundtrack to this game is just superb. I’ve even been listening to it whilst constructing this very article. The tracks featuring vocals are some of the best in the OST, but there are other standouts that hit just the right spot in terms of what I like in a video game’s selection of music.

The thing that spoke to me more and that gained the upper edge over Breath of the Wild for me though was its story and characters. It’s no Danganronpa, but as somebody that has felt some injustice in my life, the story reached out to me in a way other games didn’t this year. I’m always fond of stories like the one told here, featuring rogues setting out to rebel against a corrupt society, and I think Persona 5 has done a great job at telling this type of tale. The Confidant system was also highly enjoyable, which allowed you to grow deeper connections with your teammates, and unlocking new abilities for battle in doing so. But it’s not just your close friends, there are many others that you can bond with, each with their own set of passive skills for you to utilise. Encountering new characters that had their own individual story to tell was something that I didn’t anticipate to care about as much as I did when I started the game for the first time.

The time mechanic could be a tad bit irritating at times, especially when there is a lot to do, but I think it is done splendidly. Each Palace has to be complete within a certain time limit, adding tension in the game’s world, whilst also adding pressure on you as a player. It contributed to making Tokyo seem like it was actually alive. It’s all manageable mind, and I never felt like it was screwing me over.

I probably have gone a bit overboard with talking about Persona 5 for just this article (I would like to do a review to do even more of that). I’m not planning to revisit it soon, as I just finished it the other day, but I’m looking forward to when I do get around to doing a new game + and max out every confidant.

Persona 5 is an absolute Treasure (wink wink). The characters are charming, the world feels so complete, the soundtrack is top quality, and it is exploding with a stylish personality. My time with the Phantom Thieves will be one I hold dear to me. I guess it could be said that Persona 5 stole my heart.

 

And that’s it for this year! Once again, 2017 was truly a remarkable year for video game releases, perhaps too many to play. Hopefully, this bodes well going into 2018, but even saying that I imagine it’ll be hard to top. It could bring even better games, or stir up more controversial topics. Nevertheless, feel free to tell me how wrong my ranking for this list is in the comments below, and I hope you all have an amazing 2018!

About the author /


Like many other game writers, Matthew was brought into the gaming world from a young age. He aspires to be a games journalist in the future. Oh, and he's from the UK, so there's that. He also does Nintendo Podcast System, just in case there isn't enough Nintendo on this site.

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1 Comment

  1. Matthew Williams

    “Its crowning achievement is that it is the video game embodiment of freedom and adventure.”

    This (over x9000), good sir. Your statement above perfectly embodies what truly makes ‘Breath of the Wild’ so unique from other RPGs that came out in 2017. Sure, there are other RPGs (like ‘Horizon Zero Dawn’) that may portray a sense of “freedom and adventure”, but the fact that Nintendo did this with the Legend of Zelda series, makes it much more special.

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