Crashing down on us in 2014, The Fall was a fascinating adventure game with some admittedly clunky combat. The story mainly consisted of a combat suit with artificial intelligence, named A.R.I.D. searching for medical attention for the passed out human inside of it. In a major twist, stop reading here and go play The Fall if you haven’t already, the suit turned out to be empty the whole time and her whole purpose has been made null. As you might expect, I was eager to see where the story went from there and The Fall Part 2: Unbound does certainly go in some interesting directions.
Video games always seem to involve characters resolving their problems with their fists or guns. Sometimes, is it a smarter choice to use your words? This is the hypothesis that Oh… Sir!! The Insult Simulator and Oh… Sir! The Hollywood Roast seek to answer. Taking a brand new spin on fighting games, these games pit two characters against one another in a battle of words that can only end with one victor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.