Greetings! Another year, another list; normally I like to begin these by reflecting upon some of the good and bad highlights from that year, especially with an optimistic air, but this time around, I feel like 2017 had a lot of lows; mass shootings in Las Vegas, Chester Bennington’s death, the abolishment of net neutrality in the US (fuck you Ajit Pai), the rise (and hopeful fall) of uncontrolled pay to win and ‘it’s just cosmetic’ loot boxes, fidget spinners, The Emoji Movie, Trump being a useless schmuck flinging shit at the media’s ‘fake news’ like a crazed badly painted orange baboon, an innocent young man getting swatted and shot at because a fucking stupid Call of Duty bet and lots and lots of natural disasters, some of which I can personally still feel the economical and emotional ramifications (Mexico’s Earthquake).
Get it while it's still steamy!
So yeah, it’s pretty hard to put 2017 in an optimistic light, but at least I got to upgrade my desktop PC to match a PS4 Pro’s capabilities and a TON of great games were released this year -seriously, if you are a PS4 and ESPECIALLY a Nintendo Switch owner, this year saw the release of MANY great games, I’m especially surprised at the Switch’s sheer amount of great games in such a short amount of time. Of course, I don’t own either of these consoles (I do want to get a Switch) and I don’t get to buy or play every new release, so as always, my list will be a little different from everybody else’s lists, so if you see a glaring omission, it’s because I simply didn’t get to play it.
Or in the case of Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, I chose not to play it, simply because it’s not my thing. Also, keep in mind this is mostly from a PC gamer perspective, so there may be a few odd choices in there. So without further ado, here’s my GOATY list from 2017:
I didn’t grow up with a Genesis myself, SNES was my thing and I still prefer it over the Genesis, but back in high school I caught up with all the Genesis stuff I missed through emulation (and later through a legit copy of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for the Xbox 360) and at the time I thought I definitely would’ve loved to play all this stuff as a kid back then, so despite actually liking Sonic as an adult, he definitely doesn’t hold too much nostalgic value for me, but somehow, playing Sonic Mania for the first time made me feel like a child again. Everything was spot-on, the beautiful pixel art that is definitely impossible to pull off on a real Genesis (seriously, the amount of animation frames is staggering), the controls are spot on, the music is amazing and the level design is one of the best I’ve seen on a 2D platformer yet.
Christian Whitehead, the creator of Sonic Mania, started as a Sonic ROM hacker and this game definitely feels like it’s made by Sonic fans FOR Sonic fans. I haven’t heard many flattering things about Sonic Forces, so Sega, please give Christian Whitehead a bigger budget and more control over the future of Sonic, many Sonic fans would definitely appreciate it.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
This year saw the release of quite a few great 'walking simulators' that defied and shattered the genre by doing more than just 'walk around' while still keeping its trademark emotional storytelling and to me, Hellblade is one of the best yet.
Hellblade had a lot going against it, at launch, it had a game-breaking glitch that was enough for some notorious game pundits to lambast it for, also some of its game mechanics weren’t made clear, but despite its shortcomings, Hellblade is what many AAA studios should strive for; without the shackles of an AAA leech publisher (looking at you EA), Ninja Theory was finally able to tell their own story on their own terms without losing its AAA lustre and polish (to some degree).
Beautiful and yet haunting and disturbing, Hellblade tells the story of Senua’s journey through the Norse land of the dead, Helheim, searching to bargain for her beloved’s soul. Senua also suffers from severe dementia, so you never can tell what’s real and what’s not, so it’s up to the player to decide which is which. The game is fairly short and the price is fair ($30), so please give it a shot whenever possible.
Resident Evil 7
After the amazing Resident Evil 4, Capcom made a notorious shift with the franchise, veering it more towards bombastic and ridiculous action set pieces, although I’m one of the few people on the planet who actually liked RE6, it was an especially confused mess, it tried to do many things, but everything it did wasn’t really what the series was known for.
When RE7 was announced, it was met with both skepticism and indifference. A few months passed and Capcom showed a few demos, the game was set in first person perspective and it was confined to a small shack in the woods -kind of a familiar setting for series veterans, but people were still skeptical about it; “now it’s imitating Outlast!” people cried.
The full game was finally released and it took the world by storm, while it did burrow a few things from Outlast and more contemporary horror games, it still felt distinctively like Resident Evil; sure, it was in first person, but you still had to scour every inch in the Baker’s mansion to hunt for keys and puzzle items, you did eventually get the means to defend yourself, but you still had to ration your precious ammo, you also had to meticulously manage your inventory, but you still had to decide what to take with you and what to either discard or store in your endless item chest. And sure, the game got more serious, but it also retained its goofiness, kind of like the Evil Dead movies.
And finally, the star of the show, The Bakers themselves, easily some of the best villains in the series yet and some of the most memorable ones in recent memory. The game felt like a proper reboot, it truly brought back the series to its roots while still feeling fresh and modern. So yeah, don’t judge a book by its cover. And to Resident Evil 7 itself, “welcome to the family son!”.
This year saw a sort of revival for the mascot platformers in the form of Super Mario Odyssey, Yooka-Laylee (good, but flawed), A Hat in Time, two games from Sonic and even friggin Bubsy of all people, but to me one of the most unique from the bunch has to be Snake Pass.
The game is not particularly good, but it’s absolutely the most original one of all; you control Noodle the Snake, with his hummingbird companion Doodle, what makes this game unique is that to control Noodle, you have to think like a snake; you can’t jump, but you can slither through the levels, there are no enemies to speak of, but you can climb through every stage at your leisure. The game has two kinds of collectibles, the normal three artifacts scattered through every level and the optional blue orbs, if you just aim for the artifacts, the game can be pretty easy and relaxing, but if you hunt for the orbs, the game can be much more challenging, because you have to grab on to tree branches over chasms and such, so for a fun and relaxing game, it can get quite challenging if you choose to.
The music is also composed by the brilliant David Wise of Rare fame, so it’ll definitely tickle a few nostalgic spots. It’s just a likable game all around, even if it gets frustrating, and believe me, it will, you just can’t stay mad at it for long because of how pleasant and likable this game is.
Ever read one of those 'choose your own adventure' style of books when you were a kid? Have you ever wondered “Gee, these would be a thousand times better if they played like NBA Jam and one of my team members was a sassy dog with a fabulous mustache!”? That’s a very specific thing to ask, but Pyre is exactly that, it’s an RPG that limits itself to just making decisions before a “Rite of Flame”; that actually sounds kinda boring, but the game makes a great job at keeping you glued to your ragtag team of exiles and you’ll definitely do whatever possible to keep them comfortable in your shitty caravan and make them win each Rite.
These Rites are pretty much an NBA Jam game, each team has to douse the other team’s pyre with a blue orb to win, each party member has different abilities and will definitely be a deciding factor whether you’ll win or lose. After each rite, the party members that played the rite will win experience points and gain a few abilities if they level up, so it definitely has some RPG elements to it. Between each Rite, you’ll get to interact with your party members and do a few optional side quests to make them happier (relatively speaking) and gain some extra XP for the Rites.
It also has some beautiful 2D artwork and an amazing soundtrack, so if you can get your hands on it, definitely give it a chance.
Shovel Knight: Spectre of Torment
Another year, another wonderful expansion for Shovel Knight. Like, seriously, as if there weren’t already excuses to buy this game already, here comes a new free expansion for Shovel Knight, or at least free for those of us who bought the game before it’s “Treasure Trove” moniker in March of this year. Following Plague Knight’s wonderful Plague of Shadows, now we got to play as the absolutely awesome Donovan, the Spectre Knight. This expansion follows the exploits of Spectre Knight’s quest to hire the other Knights for the Order of No Quarter, so you kind of play as a villain… Or is it? No spoilers, but let’s just say that it’s a much sadder story compared to the adventurous tale of Shovel Knight and the romantic tale of Plague Knight.
Also following Plague of Shadows, the playstyle is very different to the other two Knights, Specter is quicker and deadlier, so he definitely feels at home on a Ninja Gaiden game. With his new abilities, the game also gets a lot harder to balance his slightly overpowered abilities, especially the bosses will have an extra ace up their sleeves.
And specific to the PC version, we finally got to play the awesome Battletoads stage, so hold onto your butts! It’s Turbo Tunnel time! With a Shovel!
Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire
This year saw the release of a bunch of MMO expansions with the likes of Final Fantasy XIV’s Stormblood, The Elder Scrolls Online’s Morrowind, Warframe’s Plains of Eidolon and even Lord of the Rings Online has finally arrived at the aptly named Mordor expansion, but to me, Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire expansion takes the cake.
I haven’t actually begun the expansion proper, I’m still working my way through the Living World Season 3 and I can already safely say that it’s one of the best expansions for an MMO to date. Heart of Thorns was a great expansion, but despite introducing gliders and a new Mastery progression system (although a bit grindy at first), a lot of people were not too happy with the verticality and labyrinthic level design of The Heart of Maguuma, but this time around, ArenaNet introduced what is probably one of the best mounting systems to ever grace an MMO; sure, any other MMORPG has flying mounts or sparkly unicorns, but they are still mostly lifeless vessels to move around faster and show off to strangers, but Path of Fire introduced something that nobody has actually attempted before; giving these mounts actual purpose and personalities.
So, why the heck did I mention Heart of Thorns and the LWS3 when I haven’t even touched PoF in the first place? Because these mounts can be used almost anywhere in the old game areas, heck, once you unlock these mounts, they’re account bound, meaning that even your lowly level 1 alt can start using them right away!
Each mount has different abilities that can help you traverse through different types of areas more easily and sometimes they’re necessary for the PoF areas, for example, the initial Raptor can cross great distances through a single leap, making them perfect to get across most areas, but sometimes a little hop is needed and that why the Springer is for, being able to greatly jump vertically, Skimmers can glide through any surface, including water, etc. So not only do they look extremely lively and awesome, they’re also extremely useful and a ton of fun to use.
For the little I played the actual Path of Fire areas, they are absolutely massive and gorgeous; Nightfall was my favorite expansion for the first Guild Wars after all, so finally being able to traverse through the Crystal Desert in all it’s glory definitely gives me a few nostalgic fuzzies, especially with the new mounts is an absolute joy to explore around.
Bayonetta / Vanquish
Vanquisnetta? Bayovanquish? Earlier this year, Sega released a twofer of Platinum Games awesomeness with the re-release of the first Bayonetta and Vanquish. These two make their debuts on the PC platform, so they’re definitely new to me, I also couldn’t decide which of these two to choose, so I decided to go for both. Bayonetta follows the exploits of the sassy eponymous witch in her hunt to track down some shady operations involving angels. Yeah, the plot is kind of bonkers, but the gameplay is absolutely stellar and it definitely shows it’s Capcom lineage with it’s tight and responsive controls, crazy (and I DO mean crazy) action set pieces and a ton of butt shots.
Vanquish follows the exploits of Douchey McShootsalot and… Yeah, I can’t be arsed to find his real name, he’s as generic as it gets, but the premise is just as bonkers as Bayonetta’s, some space Russians use a satellite to burn people and it’s up to the almighty Murica to save the day. You use your beefed up armor suit to slow down time and zip around like a proactive whore shooting down space Russian robots like there’s no tomorrow. The game is short, but absolutely adrenaline pumping awesome from start to finish.
My oh my, if you told me a few months ago that Okami would ever be officially released for the PC (and PS4), I’d slap your fat liar face for playing with my feelings, but here we are, Okami on PC is as real as it gets and better yet, I can actually add it to my (not so) prestigious GOATY list!
If you somehow haven’t played it since 2006, Okami is the brainchild of (then) Clover Studio’s Hideki Kamiya, it’s pretty much a Zelda clone with a much bigger emphasis on the Overworld, you are Okami Amaterasu (or Ammy for the homies), the wolf sun goddess and it’s up to you to restore the world’s natural beauty using your Celestial Brush. You also get to fight a lot of Japanese demons and all sorts of troublemakers using said brush, a single stroke counts as a sort of sword slash, among other neat tricks.
Like I said earlier, the game has a bigger emphasis on its Overworld, you need to heal the landscape by using your brush techniques and make people and even animals to worship you and get stronger, you achieve this by, well, making them happier and it’s up to you to find HOW are you going to achieve it. This game is absolutely massive, it’ll easily take you around 30 to 40 hours, depending on how thorough you want to be and the game likes to fool you into thinking it’s over, but oh boy, you’re just warming up baby!
I’ve gushed multiple times about this game and I absolutely stand by those statements, this is an 11-year-old game and it has aged masterfully, the aesthetics are still beautiful, the controls are tight and the performance is amazing, although a few people would have prefered it to run at 60 fps, but personally I don’t mind as long as the frame pacing is stable and I’m glad to report it is extremely fluid and stable.
It also gets pretty slow at the beginning, so you can safely skip the intro cutscene before the title pops up. It’s cheap and it’s massive, so go buy it!
And there you go, some of the best stuff I played this year, hopefully, 2018 won’t be such a shitshow as 2017 was. Take care beautiful people and Happy New Year!