2017 has been a shit year, but luckily it’s been perfect for retreating into video games as it’s maybe the best year to ever happen in video games ever. The Nintendo Switch made a ridiculously strong debut, PlayStation couldn’t stop vomiting up must play games, numerous franchises returned and reinvented themselves in great and awesome ways (and some not so much), and, in general, way more ridiculously awesome games than anyone had time to play were released. It was also a landmark year for representation in games and for redefining what a video game can be.
There are way more than five games that will define 2017, but these are the 5 games that I enjoyed the most.
Games that Were Almost on this List: Night in the Woods, Golf Story, Battle Chasers Nightwar, Human Fall Flat, Nex Machina, Friday the 13th, Fortnite.
Personal Games of the Year that Didn’t Come Out this Year: Bloodborne, Darkest Dungeon
5. SteamWorld Dig 2
SteamWorld Dig 2 is probably the most fun game of 2017. It features a perfect gameplay loop of resource mining and character improvement that’s dressed up in a lovable Mertoidvania-meets-Dig Dug shell. Even as someone who’s not a huge fan of the genre, I couldn’t put my Switch down and was constantly itching to go digging through caverns to search for gems so I could upgrade my jetpack. Having it on a handheld is the perfect fit, allowing you to jump in and farm for a few minutes at a time without having to play whole levels or sit through lengthy story segments. If you want to play longer, that works too as it’s easy to lose hours digging tunnels and battling bugs and poisonous goo mounds. The only real downside is that at some point, the game has to end.
4. What Remains of Edith Finch
I’ve never played a video game like What Remains of Edith Finch, and I don’t think I will again. It’s a fully moving tale about death and human impermanence as seen through the things left behind by a family, but it’s also a fantastical and whimsical collection of vignettes that feels more magical than any game has before. Each family member’s story is told as a dreamlike recreation of their life, taking you anywhere from a character in a slasher film to bounding through trees as a cat in the night. The game is breathing with color and personality as you slowly piece together the lives of the people who have lived in the house. It’s also incredibly grounded and emotionally effecting, serving as a conduit for your own inner reflection.
3. Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn is a no-brainer and will be looked at as a master class in video games for years. Combining a massive open world, an intriguing story, and some of the most intense battles in recent memory, Horizon Zero Dawn set a new standard for action RPGs. It’s also a technical achievement, somehow managing to steal Uncharted 4’s crown as most-stupidly-gorgeous-game-to-ever-grace-consoles-without-exploding. Aloy is a lovable protagonist, and whether it’s the adrenaline rush from murdering a massive robo-T-Rex or just marveling at the detail of her footprints in the snow, your journey with her is unforgettable. But for real, fuck Lance Reddick. Please stop putting him and his stupid voice in video games.
2. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Hellblade tells the story of a young girl who’s battling mental illness as she treks into Helheim to battle the goddess Hela and save her dead lover from Hell. That’s a lot of Hell but Hellblade is anything but. Senua’s Sacrifice is a moving and harrowing exploration of mental illness where every inch of the game feels painfully crafted. From the jaw dropping visuals and audio design to the completely engrossing story and the acting that accompanies it, Ninja Theory blurs the definition of what exactly a AA developer is and what caliber of games you can expect from them.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild is both a rebirth of the Legend of Zelda franchise as well as a mind blowingly fun and a blissful escape from the world around you. The Legend of Zelda has always been about freedom, exploration, and the adventures along the way, and Breath of the Wild purifies and refines everything we thought we knew about those concepts in video games. You can go anywhere, do anything, and create your own endless solutions to just about any situation in the game. You can embark on an epic quest to save a princess or not. It’s really up to you and that’s the beauty of Breath of the Wild. Once you add in its inventive physics and mechanics, the stunning art and world design, the ever unique and thoughtful puzzle shrines, or even just the simple act of jumping off of anything with a hang glider, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a no brainer for game of the year, and likely, this generation.