Technically, this year isn’t over yet, and many aficionados are probably going to wait until the countdown on New Year’s Eve to release their Game of the Year lists, but we’re jumping the gun a little on this one. Right from the start of the year, we launched with some fantastic games. In the first quarter alone, Sniper Elite 4, Nioh, and Horizon Zero Dawn wowed audiences, and yet none of them are on this list. Each of them could have been Game of the Year candidate in their own right, but 2017 continued to give delivery after delivery of one fantastic experience after the other.
This is one that had been gathering steam on the hype train for long before it released. The original Destiny was, after all, one of the best games of 2014 so it should be no surprise that the sequel is being received just as warmly. This time, the gunplay has been improved, the visuals updated, and a much stronger story has brought the world to the forefront. Time will tell how good post-launch content is with the first expansion coming out in December, but the start is most promising.
Sonic has had a few troubled years, to put it very lightly. The franchise has attempted to capitalize on its legacy with varying success, with the planned trilogy of Sonic 4 seeing a premature end and Sonic Generations getting some critical and fan acclaim. None of them came close to the magnitude of joy that players of all kinds have expressed at the fan-driven, officially-released Sonic Mania, however. For long-time fans of the series lamenting its fall from glory, it’s a stark reminder that, yes, Sonic was once good and can be good again. New levels are complemented by old levels that take drastic turns from their initial incarnations, meaning that there are plenty of surprises even if you swear you’re sick of Green Hill Zone. Best of all, it’s making Sonic relevant to younger players again. It’s a shame Sonic Forces looks to be nowhere near as impressive.
Super Mario Odyssey
Nintendo is another company with its own troubles that knows how to keep its fans on edge. Despite having a few great titles, the Wii U was undoubtedly a disappointment and with an outside-the-box concept like the Switch, many feared it would go the same way. Then came the two killer apps. Zelda: Breath of the Wild probably deserves its own spot but it has been thoroughly overshadowed by Super Mario Odyssey. An exploration of a variety of different worlds with a twist in that Mario can now possess a whole range of things from Goombas and dinosaurs to even tanks and human beings. As gimmicky as that sounds, the game is so full of clever little turns and exploration that work perfectly with the new mechanics to make it feel like it’s an ability Mario should have always had.
Warhammer: Total War 2
The PC has seen its fair share of big hitters this year, too. Warhammer; Total War 2 is chief amongst them. Total War has always been fun for its fans, but grand strategy involving Roman legions and Napoleonic armies might seem a little dry to some. This series is adding dinosaurs, dragons, rat-men, magic and all other kinds of wackiness to it making for one of the most fantastical yet mechanically deep games in the series. Hard not to love, but it can be hard to play. If you want to experience some of the biggest battles possible in the game at the highest fidelities, you need to look at getting one of the top tier gaming PCs on the market. You might also need to get the first game in the series, as the campaigns of both games lock together to form a megacampaign that has all the content, all the units, all the armies, and most of the world map of both games. Far too easy to sink a few hundred hours into.
Gaming is at its best when it catches you by complete surprise and that’s precisely what this game did, this year. Nier is a series in which both games are only related through references that die-hard fans can catch, connected to another different series through a game that came out fourteen years ago. It’s one of those games that looks like it has a history so dense that you could never hope to enjoy it as a newcomer. But it throws all that out the window, telling a self-contained story about exploring what it means to be alive in a world where every single character isn’t human or technically alive. The philosophical themes go much deeper, but it’s so easy to get distracted by the gorgeous soundtrack and the good-as-ever Platinum Games gameplay that you can miss it. For those who like a good story, however, the gameplay and presentation can feel the distraction. A bleak, violent, incredibly Japanese game well worth recommending with a sequel in the works. Whether or not you’ve played it from the start, it’s time to hop on this franchise train.
There’s so much that has been left out here. Resident Evil 7 going back to the series horror roots, Cuphead matching hard-as-nails combat with the most charming 2D visuals ever seen, and Persona 5 offering one of the most stylish RPG experiences, period. Just a few examples of other reasons to say this has definitely been a great year for great games. Here’s hoping 2018 continues to keep up with the hype.