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.
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.
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.
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.