Looking back on a great year of gaming.
Happy (late) New Year folks! 2018 looks to be an exciting one for video game fans, and Nintendo fans in particular are hoping our favorite company can continue building on the momentum of Switch to provide awesome, new experiences for us over the next 12 months.
While the new year is already underway, it’s also officially GOTY time. I never feel like I can move into something new without reflecting on what has come before, and 2017 was filled with some of the best video games I’ve ever had the privilege to play. So before 2018 truly kicks off, here are the top 20 games I played in 2017. Keep in mind that this list is personal. This isn’t NWR’s list, it’s just mine. Yours may look different, and that’s totally cool!
#20 – Picross S
I don’t really have a whole lot to say about Picross S. I love Picross, and this is Picross on Switch. Let’s move on, shall we?
#19 – Graceful Explosion Machine
This game came out at the right time, when I had just finished Zelda and was looking for a new addiction. GEM is a shoot ‘em up with a lot of fun weapons, and lots of bright, colorful explosions. How couldn’t I love it?
#18 – Lego Marvel Superheroes 2
It’s not a perfect game by any means, but co-op in Lego games is just fun. Especially when it helps you introduce your kids to the wider Marvel universe in a simple, fun, and age-appropriate way. My kids are addicted to this game, and now they love characters like Captain Marvel and Rocket Raccoon, who they had previously not been exposed to.
#17 – Snipperclips
I’ve played dozens of hours of this game with family and friends. It’s a game about cutting the characters into the proper shapes to solve puzzles, but the hilarity and craziness that ensues, especially with four players, has caused more laughter in my house than probably any other game on this list.
#16 – Arms
While this game didn’t have a ton of lasting appeal for me, the two weeks I spent taking out opponents as Min Min online were a lot of fun. It’s a very unique kind of fighting game, I just wish there had been more to the single player.
#15 – Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
This seems low for this game, but it’s a rerelease of a Wii U game that really isn’t that old. I didn’t feel good about putting it in the top 10, even if it’s a fantastic game, for that reason. That said, Deluxe fixed most of what I didn’t like about the original Mario Kart 8, and has provided me and my family with dozens of hours of entertainment.
#14 – Style Savvy: Styling Star
This game really took me by surprise, sneaking in at the very end of 2017. If you know me at all, you’d be very surprised to see a fashion-focused game on any Top 25 list I made. But Styling Star is a great simulation game with an incredibly addicting gameplay loop. There have been nights where I accidentally stayed up until the wee hours of the morning because I lost track of time while running my boutique.
#13 – Xenoblade Chronicles 2
I’m still shocked that this game made it out in 2017 at all. I’m also not entirely convinced it didn’t need a short delay to fix some of its nagging issues. That aside, XC2 is a massive JRPG with a complex but rewarding battle system and likeable characters. It’s not the best in its series (the original still takes the cake), but it’s a good entry nonetheless.
#12 – Metroid: Samus Returns
I know this is lower than many will be expecting, especially since I’m a big Metroid fan. But Samus Returns just doesn’t hit the series highs that other entries do. The map isn’t interesting, and it suffers from bring a very close remake of the worst Metroid game. Fighting the same bosses over and over wore me out, but this game still made the list because 1) Metroid finally came back and 2) the way Samus controls in SR feels really good. It’s not a bad game by any means, I just don’t think it’s as good as what’s come before.
#11 – Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
While I didn’t appreciate the late game’s approach to difficulty increase (they just threw in an enemy generator that would pump out new baddies every other turn), Shadows of Valentia is a fine FE game with some lovable characters and twists to the series formula that keep you on your toes.
#10 – Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment
Shovel Knight is the gift that keeps on giving. The original game is fantastic, but I think the newest, Specter Knight focused expansion may be the best version of the game yet. The new diagonal slash mechanic is a ton of fun, and the tragic story of the man Specter Knight once was ended up being way more impactful than I expected. One thing Specter of Torment does so well is that it nails the vibes of the character in so many ways, from the hub world to the way NPCs interact with you. And the best part is that if you already own the original Shovel Knight, it’s all free, which honestly feels like stealing from developer Yacht Club Games at this point.
#09 – Dragon Quest VIII
The 3DS remake of one of my favorite JRPGs of all time. While some aspects of the game have become quite dated since the original’s release in 2005, there’s no denying that this game is still a masterpiece and the best that Dragon Quest has to offer. The additions made to this version are all great, as well, which only adds to what was already an incredible package.
#08 – Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Another game I’ve been totally surprised by. I am not a Rabbids fan, but Ubisoft pulled this crazy crossover off with aplomb. This game is funny, yet surprisingly deep. Don’t let the simplified strategy mechanics fool you; this isn’t an easy video game. You’ll be punished for your mistakes, but you’ll also learn from them and do better the next time around. If you had told me this time last year that a strategy game starring Mario and the annoying rabbit monsters from Rayman would end up making my top 25 list, I’d have rightfully laughed in your face. I’ve never felt so good about being wrong.
#07 – Ever Oasis
It makes me sad that Ever Oasis didn’t sell more copies than it did. This is a darling game on aging hardware, for sure, but it’s a damn good one. If you’re a fan of Zelda or the Mana series like me, you owe it to yourself to give Ever Oasis a shot.
#06 – Sonic Mania
Thank the gods for Christian Whitehead. I was a massive Sonic fan when I was a kid, but the last decade has been kind of a rough go for the Blue Blur. Sonic Team can’t seem to figure out what works and every time it seems like they’re on the right track, their next release is an absolute stinker. Sega was right to let Whitehead and his team have a crack at a traditional 2D Sonic game inspired by the Genesis classics. The result was what may be the best Sonic game ever made, with great callbacks to the older games while also introducing new levels and mechanics that paid off. Sonic Mania made me happy to be a Sonic fan again, and I’ll always be thankful for that.
#05 – Stardew Valley
I know this game technically came out last year on PC and PS4, but the Switch version is the only one I’ve played, and as far as I’m concerned, the definitive version. Having a game like this on a portable is an insane time sink. I put dozens and dozens of hours into my second life in Stardew Valley, and I regret nothing. I grew up playing the Harvest Moon series, but no single entry in that franchise compares to what a one man team did here. Stardew feels like the culmination of the farming sim genre, but it’s more than that. It’s a lite action RPG, a resource management sim, a dating sim, and so much more. Writing about it here is making me want to jump back in and check on my farm, so it’s probably best if I leave it at that!
#04 – Splatoon 2
Splatoon was my favorite Wii U game and its sequel just ups everything the original game did by half a notch. I have a couple of hangups with it (like making the horde mode a timed event), but any qualms I have can be immediately settled by jumping into a match with one of the new weapons and watching the paint fly.
#03 – SteamWorld Dig 2
This game might just be my favorite indie game of all time. Image & Form’s newest game is incredible for so many reasons, but by far the most impressive to me is how each time a new gameplay mechanic is unlocked through finding a new ability, it changes EVERYTHING. Introducing just one new ability significantly impacts how the player navigates the world, how they tackle enemies and challenges, and how they manage their time and resources. And the craziest part is that this shift happens like five or six times in your playthrough. I’m so impressed with what the development team was able to do here. Buy this game. Play it. Go do it now. You’re welcome.
#02 – Super Mario Odyssey
I never thought Nintendo would make an open, exploration-based Mario game again. But they did, and it’s absolutely amazing. Every world is packed to the brim with fun things to do and things to collect. What I love about Odyssey is that collecting things actually means something. Purple coins can be exchanged for new outfits, as regular coins can too. Moons unlock new levels and challenges. If there’s one issue I have with the game, it’d be the Broodals. I don’t care for their design, and I think fighting them multiple times gets a little bit old. But the rest of the game is so fantastic that I don’t care. Possessing enemies with Cappy is one of the most interesting mechanics added to a Mario game in years, and the ending sequence of the game made me smile like a big, goofy dork. That’s what a good Mario game should do, but something the series hadn’t done in over half a decade.
#01 – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda is my favorite video game series of all time. The 3D games especially. I was so nervous about what shifting to an open world design would mean for the series I loved. I’ve never been enthralled with open world games. At best I tolerate them, and at worst I find that they don’t deliver on the “go anywhere and do anything” promise they all seem to spout in their marketing campaigns. Adding to this fear was that Nintendo had never attempted an open world game like this before, and Aonuma was promising to shake up a formula that, for all I cared about, didn’t need shaken up. Well damn, guys. I was so wrong.
Breath of the Wild feels like a once in a generation kind of discovery. This is the kind of game that I will forever wish I could go back to March 3, 2017 just to play it again for the first time. There are so many moments in this game that made me feel. And the breadth of those feelings… happiness, loneliness, frustration leading to the joy of accomplishment, fear of the unknown, genuine surprise upon the discovery of something new… it was a lot to process. I love everything about this game, despite its imperfections.
Yes, I miss the sprawling, mechanic-focused dungeons of past Zeldas. Yes, the story isn’t as good as Wind Waker or Skyward Sword’s. But Hyrule has never been better or more exciting to explore. In prior games, Hyrule was mostly an empty field for you to run through on your way to the next dungeon. But now Hyrule is that massive, sprawling dungeon, full of secrets and challenges waiting for you to find them. The story isn’t told through dozens of hours worth of cutscenes, but rather through the environment and a handful of memories you discover by finding them as you explore. The Legend of Zelda series feels new again, and that’s exciting to me. I can’t wait to see how Aonuma and his team build on the foundation Breath of the Wild has laid down in the years to come.