Over the course of 2017 many games that have been getting high praise were released, but I’ve got to be honest, I did not play an awful lot for any serious amount of time. I hardly finished any of those I started, but that is because I got sucked into one world in particular. Just because I didn’t play a lot of games doesn’t mean I didn’t game a lot. So, my first Game of the Year list is short. Read on to find out my top three and which game took up all my time in 2017.
So, here we go. My first Game of the Year list, how exciting. Not really sure what else to say, so, let’s get to my favourite three games.
3. Resident Evil VII: Biohazard
Horror games are not usually my thing, but I have been making an effort over the last while to try and play a wider variety of genres. Resident Evil‘s return to its roots was almost irresistible. I remember my friends all talking about the first three games when we were in school, but I was too much of a chicken to actually play them. There was no way I was missing out on the conversation this time. That paired with the impressive demo that I watched the Scary Game Squad play had me excited to dive under my blanket, peak out and play the game myself.
It did not disappoint. Despite a shift to first-person, this still feels distinctly like a Resident Evil game. Keeping some of the series key features, like intricately locked doors and puzzles help it feel linked to past entries. The big change is a shift to first-person, and what this does is enhance the horror, and this is a seriously scary game at times. While I’ll admit there may be a bit of innocence in me when it comes to the tropes of the horror genre, but I found the scares effective, often unexpected and even the story was quite mysterious and creepy. Combat is slow and methodical, you are not some trained soldier, just a guy in a horrible situation and this helps to make each fight a tense affair that you would much rather run from.
This series was basically down and out, Resident Evil VII: Biohazard is its renaissance.
2. Super Mario Odyssey
Pure joy. That is what Super Mario Odyssey brought me. This is a game that is designed for the player to do one thing and one thing only; have an incredibly fun time. Boy, oh boy does it succeed in that. Beautiful worlds, packed full of colour, are your playground and exploring these varied, dense locales is an absolute dream. As Mark Brown says in this episode of Game Maker’s Toolkit about the design behind Odyssey:
“…Mario Odyssey can provide depth and complexity, with only three buttons and a control stick.”
Basically, what Nintendo has done with their flagship hero this time around is perfect the formula. Mario games have always felt enjoyable to play, but the controls have been so finely tuned in Odyssey that playing as the former plumber is instinctive. Platforming has never felt so good. Not only are Mario’s trademark jumps and flips feeling better than ever, but the addition of Cappy (your hat is a companion and mechanic, Nintendo are crazy) also creates a more versatile moveset than found in any other Mario game. You can string together jumps like never before, allowing you to perform much more complicated platforming. Never fear though, Nintendo teaches you how to use each mechanic brilliantly, in a couple of hours at most, you will be a pro.
Combine fluid movement, and beautiful worlds with a sense of whimsy, bright colours, humour and bucket loads of nostalgia and you have yourself a great platformer. What makes Super Mario Odyssey the best in class is how rewarding it is to play, the game bombards you with Power Moons, the main in-game collectable, for doing everything from the most simple of tasks to massive challenges. I mean there’s even a memetastic twitter account based on how often you are rewarded with a Power Moon. This game is exceptional, I could keep going on and on about it, but really you should just get yourself a Switch and play it. It is worth the price alone, but this next game… well, it is something else.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
In 2017 I ended up not playing a lot of games, that is because I could not stop playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This entry in the series takes us to a desolate and suffering Hyrule, and it has been realised so brilliantly that it feels like a place I’ve visited, created memories and lived in, survived in. As I write this, thinking back on my time in Hyrule, I can feel myself getting emotional. The Legend of Zelda is my favourite game franchise, and Breath of the Wild is more than I ever imagined it being.
I have so much I could say about this game, about the way it plays and the way the world reacts to your actions, about the beautiful little stories and moments that can be found within the world, about the joy that can be found in Link’s movement, how he traverses Hyrule. Oh, and the incredibly smart, bite-sized puzzles that can be found in the game’s shrines. And how could I forget how exploring, and discovering the secrets hidden throughout the vast map, is an absolute joy. Every corner has something to find if you look hard enough…
…You know what, it doesn’t matter how much I slather over this game, you won’t get it. There is only one thing that will make you understand. Hyrule is out there, do yourself a favour, get out and explore it. I will be for years to come, and I envy anyone who is about to dive in for the first time. What. A. Game.