GOTY 2017 | Number 1 — The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The hype was real for The Leg­end of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but no one could have seen just how inno­v­a­tive and rein­vig­o­rat­ing the game would end up. Nin­tendo had been play­ing it safe for too long with the Zelda series and vowed to go back to its roots for Breath of the Wild. The suc­cess they found with this new for­mula will likely go on to influ­ence the series going for­ward and likely the design of open world games in gen­eral. Many open world games rely on point­ing the player in the direc­tion they want them to go, for fear of them get­ting bored. Nin­tendo expertly solved the issue that other devel­op­ers didn’t even see here, by rid­ding the world of developer-laid icons and allow­ing the player to choose their own jour­ney. Stand­ing at the top of a tower, you might see some­thing that looks inter­est­ing and decide to inves­ti­gate. Nearly every time, you will be rewarded for your curios­ity with some­thing, even if it’s some­thing small. This is what sep­a­rates Breath of the Wild from other open world games. It allows play­ers to cre­ate their own sto­ries and explore the world at their own pace, while pack­ing every nook and cranny with fun things to find. Hours melted away while I was play­ing Breath of the Wild as I got lost in the gor­geous world. The Leg­end of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the best games ever made and eas­ily deserves the spot as the best game of 2017.

BenoftheWild

GOTY 2017 | Number 2 — Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

It was easy to lose heart after the garbage fire that was Res­i­dent Evil 6. Thank­fully, Cap­com stepped up and deliv­ered a brand new Res­i­dent Evil expe­ri­ence that is both brand new feel­ing and upholds the roots of what makes the series fun. Bring­ing the series into the first-person per­spec­tive was bold move, but it paid off with Res­i­dent Evil 7. Even though the point of view changed, every­thing about the game­play like man­ag­ing ammo, find­ing keys, care­fully nav­i­gat­ing cor­ri­dors and even open­ing doors still felt uniquely like it belonged in the series. Play­ing the game in vir­tual real­ity is one of the most intense expe­ri­ences I’ve done in gam­ing. Many parts of the game are very scary and being put into that world through a VR head­set only makes it that much more ter­ri­fy­ing. The story is self-contained enough that folks who are new to the series can eas­ily join in now, with some sly easter eggs for series vet­er­ans. The char­ac­ters, espe­cially the Baker fam­ily, are inter­est­ing to learn about and the story goes to some cool places by the end. Many peo­ple have crit­i­cized the lat­ter por­tion of the game for becom­ing more action heavy, but if you look at pre­vi­ous games in the series, it actu­ally fol­lows a sim­i­lar pat­tern in that regard. I played through this game four times in 2017 alone and will likely go back for another round in 2018. In any other year, this would have been an easy top spot, but I reluc­tantly call Res­i­dent Evil 7: Bio­haz­ard the 2nd best game of 2017.

BenBaker

GOTY 2017 | Number 3 — Super Mario Odyssey

Pick­ing the order of the top three games of 2017 was a night­mare. Each of these games are amaz­ing in their own right and rank­ing them was near impos­si­ble. That being said, I have decided on an order and I am stick­ing to it! Super Mario Odyssey is a joy to play in nearly every way. The bright and col­or­ful envi­ron­ments are packed with fun stuff to do and inter­act with, nearly all of which will earn you some power moons. I never had a play ses­sion with Super Mario Odyssey where I felt that no progress had been made and I always spent the entire time smil­ing ear to ear. It has been a long while since we’ve got­ten a Mario game as open as this one and this could arguably be the best one that fol­lows that for­mula. The main game doesn’t over­stay its wel­come, allow­ing you to blast through each world and get a short intro­duc­tion before mov­ing on, but doesn’t dis­cour­age stick­ing around and play­ing in each king­dom for a lit­tle longer. There are some very fun sur­prises after the cred­its roll and the game is a great one to come back to every now and then for some relaxed fun. Super Mario Odyssey just barely came in as the 3rd best game of 2017.

BenOdyssey

GOTY 2017 | Number 4 — Horizon Zero Dawn

Post-apocalyptic robot dinosaurs. These are prob­a­bly the only four words that needed to be spo­ken in the pitch meet­ing that green-lit Hori­zon Zero Dawn. Piv­ot­ing away from their first-person shooter com­fort zone, Guer­rilla Games shocked every­one when they announced Hori­zon Zero Dawn. This open-world action game is, in my opin­ion, the finest work the stu­dio has put out to date. The com­bat sys­tem is fun and diverse, with a mul­ti­tude of options to approach any encounter. There’s plenty to do as you explore the world, with side-quests that feel more per­sonal than the “go there and get that” fare of other games. The story is top-notch, with a vibrant world full of inter­est­ing char­ac­ters and fea­tures an out­stand­ing per­for­mance by Ashly Burch as Aloy. It’s also one of the best-looking games to come out this year from top to bot­tom. Hori­zon Zero Dawn more than earns its spot as the 4th best game of 2017.

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GOTY 2017 | Number 5 — Cuphead

The mark of a high qual­ity dif­fi­cult game is when it man­ages to be incred­i­bly fun as well. Cup­head was quickly on most people’s radar due to the art style which oozes the charm of 1930s car­toons. Play­ing Cup­head, it’s almost incom­pre­hen­si­ble how Stu­dioMDHR was able to so accu­rately and fluid cre­ated the look of this game. Many peo­ple have floated the phrase “it’s like play­ing a car­toon” about games before, but it has never been more true than with Cup­head. The char­ac­ters are fun and styl­ish and it has one of the best and most fit­ting sound­tracks of the year. On top of every­thing else, the game is fun as hell! Each boss takes trial and error, patience and feels amaz­ing every time you beat them. Cup­head cer­tainly deserves the spot as the 5th best game of 2017.

BenHead

GOTY 2017 | Number 6 — Nier: Automata

Not often enough does a story in a video game leave you as speech­less as Nier: Automata left me when I played it this past year. Start­ing off as a fairly com­mon “how human are robots” type of tale, it esca­lates with each end­ing. Even­tu­ally, the places it goes will leave you a quiv­er­ing pile of per­son­i­fied exis­ten­tial dread that few nar­ra­tive media forms have been able to match up to this point. Nier: Automata also sports some of the best char­ac­ters of the year and man­ages to make good on their arcs more often than not. In a play of classi­ness, not often seen in huge games like this one, it will even let you buy any of the game’s tro­phies after you com­plete the game so you can enjoy it with­out wor­ry­ing about com­plet­ing every last thing. Many of the mechan­ics in the game can be used in sur­pris­ingly cre­ative ways and there are a few side-quests that are just as good as the main story. Nier: Automata def­i­nitely deserves the spot as the 6th best game of 2017.

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GOTY 2017 | Number 7 — Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Naughty Dog always starts off devel­op­ing DLC with the best of inten­tions. Build­ing upon the themes and lore of their most recent game by explor­ing rela­tion­ships either hinted at or nonex­is­tent in the main game, the DLC grows in size and scope. Inevitably, every story-based DLC that Naughty Dog pro­duces breaks off and becomes a bite-sized bit of bril­liance. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy con­tin­ues this tra­di­tion in great form by tak­ing some of the best things from Uncharted 4 and expand­ing on them in some smart ways. The rela­tion­ship built between Chloe and Nadine dur­ing the short adven­ture is a lot of fun to watch and the ban­ter is bril­liantly per­formed. The open design imple­mented in the mid­dle sec­tion of the game improves on what was in the main game by giv­ing you rea­sons to explore the beau­ti­ful envi­ron­ments. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy gives plenty of rea­sons to be an excel­lent 7th best game of 2017.

UnchartedLLBen

GOTY 2017 | Number 8 — The Evil Within 2

Tak­ing the for­mula set forth by the orig­i­nal entry and improv­ing on it in nearly every way, The Evil Within 2 is a stel­lar sec­ond entry in this horror-action series. Open­ing up the envi­ron­ments allows the player to dis­cover the scares it has in store at their own pace. The Evil Within 2 also makes some smart improve­ments to the com­bat, mak­ing encoun­ters feel more tense and requir­ing some smart plan­ning to get through. The story is a lot more cohe­sive this time around and has a clear arc that runs through the game and doesn’t over­stay its wel­come. The Evil Within 2 evokes the bet­ter parts of Res­i­dent Evil 4 in many ways and deserves the spot as the 8th best game of 2017.

EvilWithBen2

GOTY 2017 | Number 9 — Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

One of the best-looking games to come out in 2017, Hell­blade: Senua’s Sac­ri­fice is an intense jour­ney that tackle some tricky sub­jects. I am always a fan of what Ninja The­ory puts out, but the amount of care they put into Hell­blade is stag­ger­ing. Ninja The­ory brought in men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als to ensure they were accu­rately and tact­fully rep­re­sent­ing men­tal ill­ness in their game and their work shines through in the final prod­uct. The audio design around the voices in Senua’s head is superb, you need to wear head­phones play­ing this game, and the sub­tle visual touches they make to rep­re­sent both mild and major hal­lu­ci­na­tions are done extremely well. As usual, they have incor­po­rated live action footage in some very cre­ative ways to fur­ther improve the over­all visual design and the per­for­mance from the Ninja The­ory designer who played Senua is top notch. Hell­blade: Senua’s Sac­ri­fice would have been much higher on my list in a dif­fer­ent year, but it still deserves this spot as the 9th best game of 2017.

HellBen

GOTY 2017 | Number 10 — Outlast 2

Shift­ing per­spec­tives from a cramped insane asy­lum to the wide open spaces of a rural cult, Out­last 2 did not dis­ap­point in the scare depart­ment. Despite the envi­ron­ments being a lot more open, Out­last 2 leaves you feel­ing even more vul­ner­a­ble than the first game by often obscur­ing your view, as with the corn field, and forc­ing you to hide in water while hold­ing your breath. The scenes where you are trans­ported back to a trau­matic event from your past added some inter­est­ing back story to the main char­ac­ter where there was lit­tle in the orig­i­nal game. In a year full of amaz­ing games, it says a lot about Out­last 2 that I con­sider it to be num­ber 10 on my list of the best games from 2017.

Outlast2Ben