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.
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.
Growing up in a highly competitive house, I’ve grown into a fair bit of anxiety when it comes to competitive games. Finding one that manages to feel just as fun whether you win or lose is rare, but Ultimate Chicken Horse nails it. I can’t tell you the number of times play sessions devolved into the entire room laughing as the ridiculousness of the stages grow each round. Coming newly to the PS4, Ultimate Chicken Horse is one of the best couch competitive experiences available on the console which can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Tabletop gaming has been something I’ve only gotten deeper into with the last few years, while my video game hobby has been around since I could hold a controller. Since I started getting more into playing board games, I’ve been excited to see the two types of games blend together. There has been no better example of this concept than Hand of Fate. Taking some core concepts of tabletop gaming, like drawing cards for random chance encounters, and mixing them with video game concepts like real-time combat encounters, it worked surprisingly well. Hand of Fate 2 takes all of this and expands upon everything adding more elements and improving the overall structure of how the game is played to make for an even better blend.
Atmospheric exploration puzzle games have long been perfected by the likes of Team Ico with titles like Ico and The Last Guardian providing stellar examples of how the genre is done right. Showing clear inspiration from the aforementioned games, Tequila Works has crafted a beautiful game in RiME, transporting the player to a seaside temple with a bevy of secrets to unfold. Technical glitches occasionally mar the Nintendo Switch version of Rime, but the overall experience is a gorgeous and satisfying puzzle adventure.
When The Jackbox Party Pack first came out, it revolutionized how multiplayer video games could work at parties. So long as everyone had some kind of smart device, anyone could pick up and play the simple and addictively fun games. As new entries have arrived, there has been a mixed bag of as Jackbox Games has experimented with the formula. Coming off of what was, in my opinion, the best suite of games thus far with The Jackbox Party Pack 3, there was a lot to live up to for The Jackbox Party Pack 4. Some games suffer from overcomplicated rules, but largely this is another fun pack of games that any group can enjoy.