As is customary with these posts (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016), it’s worth mentioning that this is based on an incomplete sampling. There were so many games released in 2017 that I never even touched. For example, Horizon: Zero Dawn launched the same week as Zelda and there was no fuckin’ way I could handle two of basically the same game without putting a bit of distance between them1. With all that in mind, these are the best games I played in 2017.
To be perfectly honest, I spent a good portion of 2017 in a fairly shitty place. Not exactly a dark place, but it got pretty gloomy at times. Golf Story was exactly what I needed. A golf RPG that doesn’t care too much about either the golf or the RPG parts of its own game, it just wants to be entertaining. At one point in the game, the action pauses so that two groups can throw down in a rap battle. This game does everything it can to be fun and entertaining and that’s no bad thing. Also, let me tell you a little story: around 75% of the way through the game, I made a series of bad decisions and silly mistakes and ended up accidentally deleting my save game. I immediately started up a new game, no question or hesitation.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins
I thought I was done with Assassin’s Creed games, but I guess not. Pretty early on in my game, I saw the pyramids off in the distance and decided that’s where I was going to go. I traveled across the desert, ignored all of the rest of the world and the game just to get to them. You know that bit in Lawrence of Arabia where Omar Sharif’s character makes his entrance? That’s what it felt like - like I was seeing that scene from Omar Sharif’s point of view. Because of this and thousands of other moments like it, Assassin’s Creed:Origins was more special than I ever expected or that it had any right to be.
What Remains of Edith Finch
There are some parts of Edith Finch that work better than others. The part with the scream-queen daughter was cute and I see what they were going for, but it felt a little too dorky for me. Having said that, when this game hits, it hits hard. Narrative and mechanical inventiveness are important qualities when making up lists like this, but more importantly, it’s the little moments that connect, that hit you in places you didn’t expect, in ways you didn’t expect. In Edith Finch, it was the bathtub section. Before it even started, I knew exactly what was going to happen and they handled it so perfectly that I was a mess of emotions after.
Why aren’t there more games like this? Collections of short, idiosyncratic games based not around a theme as much as based around a feel. I started playing this thinking I’d give it a few minutes and ended up staying up waaaay too late just to see what it was going to throw at me next.
Like What Remains of Edith Finch, I think I was just in the right place — psychologically, emotionally, spiritually — to appreciate Everything, a game that tries to show the interconnectedness of, well, everything. Like if Alan Watts made a video game. If this sounds twee to you, I can totally understand giving it a wide berth. For me, it was the most ambitious game I played in 2017. And the one I needed most.
Gnog is such a beautiful, hypersaturated, delightful toybox of a game that I played through it in one sitting, and had a great time. And then I immediately played through it again in VR and had another great time.
Super Mario Odyssey
I’d love to be all high-minded and talk about how this is a distillation of everything Nintendo has learned over the last 30-odd years of making Mario games. About how it’s the pinnacle of platform games. About how it reinvigorates Mario as a franchise in a way we haven’t seen since Mario 64.
But really, it was just Mario’s dance in New Donk City that did it for me. The moment I saw that, I knew I was in love with this game.
Doki Doki Literature Club
While I was playing this game, I was terrified someone would come into this room and see what I was playing. I was terrified they’d think I’d spent too much time on Tumblr and developed some new kink for anime waifus with ridiculous tits. But once I’d finished the game, I immediately wanted everyone else to play it too, ridiculous tits and all. It’s shockingly clever and cleverly shocking, pushing its engine (RenPy) to its limits and breaking the fourth wall like I’ve never seen it broken before. And it’s completely free, so give it a go.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
If I even have to explain to you why this is on my list, then I guess we don’t know each other at all, do we? (Also, remember, Zelda is the name of the boy).
I’m playing it now though, and I can say that, three hours in, it probably wouldn’t have made this list for 2017