Before you say I have a type, five of my top ten games of 2017 do not contain androids, virtual pop stars or cat girls. No wait, four. Still a large percentage.
The First 40 Hours Of Persona 5
While I cannot speak to the entirety of Atlus’ latest teenager-powered role-playing game for reasons I’d rather not remember, the 40 hours of Persona 5 I did play were some of my favorite gaming hours this year. I will admit this entry in the series was more style over substance, especially compared to Persona 4, but I like style a lot. The colors, the menus, the presentation and god, the music. I’ve got a nice long holiday vacation coming up. Maybe it’s time to recapture my game. I need more motorcycle Persona in my life.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone
Allow me to read from my 2016 top ten list: “Hatsune Miku Project Diva Future Tone arrives in North America in early January, meaning it might make this list again next year.” And here we are. I’ve spent more time playing Project Diva Future Tone than any other game this year, and that includes the massively-multiplayer online role-playing game expansion on this list. Every time I start Sega’s massive rhythm game, with its 200+ songs, I lose myself for hours. Hell, this list would have been done sooner had I not hopped into the game “for a second” to grab a screenshot.
The game’s received three DLC song updates since it launched, and just this month it received an update that allows it to run at 4K on the PlayStation 4 Pro. Behold, 4K Hatsune Miku. So happy.
Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood
Final Fantasy XIV expansions aren’t really expansions. They’re more like full-fledged sequels, with self-contained stories, new and returning characters and gorgeous original soundtracks. Where the game’s first expansion, Heavensward, was slow and plodding, Stormblood sees players leading not one but two uprisings against an evil empire. Most importantly, I got to lead those uprisings as a Red Mage. If I’m being honest, if Stromblood was just a tiny patch introducing Red Mage to the existing game, it probably would have still made this list.
It’s amazing what a host of artificial and alien life forms can teach a person about humanity. Nier: Automata married Yoko Taro’s unconventional and blissfully dark storytelling techniques with PlatinumGames’ penchant for satisfying action, creating a game that hit me on every level. When not engaging in incredibly satisfying 3rd-person battles (or the odd scrolling shooter sequences) I was laughing, crying and making generally poor decisions over the fate of beautiful androids and rusted robots. And then there’s this song:
I can’t hear this without tearing up. Not after what I’ve helped bring about.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
The really bad localization just adds character. Nihon Falcom has been putting out excellent action role-playing games in the Ys series for decades. They’ve always had solid combat and outstanding music, but none have had nearly as compelling a story as Lacrimosa of Dana. Helping heroic redheaded swordsman Adol and his friends survive a mysterious island filled with angry dinosaurs was a highlight of my 2017.
Hand of Fate 2
The world’s best dungeon master returns for another round of card-based role-playing adventure. The original Hand of Fate was a lovely hybrid of deck-building and action RPG combat. The sequel adds new characters, game mechanics, dice rolls and mission variety, along with a great deal more personality. The first game gently scratched an itch I didn’t know I had. Then the developers spent a year growing out their nails, and the scratching is so much more satisfying. A little lower. To your left. Ahhh, yeah.
Rest in peace, Runic. You made some amazing games, including one that kept The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild from being in my top ten for 2017. Mysterious and beautiful, Hob was all the open-world, free-roaming role-playing game I needed this year. It’s a game with no words and very little hand holding, leaving the player free to get lost for hours while working towards reassembling a shattered world. As an added plus, the main character’s sword never breaks the entire time. That’s a good sword.
The Lego Ninjago Movie: The Video Game
I’ve played a lot of Lego games, and they’re generally a lot of “same thing, different theme.” So I was surprised to discover that what seemed like a hastily put together tie in for The Lego Ninjago Movie was actually one of the most innovative games in the long-running series. It introduced new ways to move, an exciting new battle system, and it revamped basic mechanics like stud-collecting and character unlocking in supremely satisfying ways. The Lego Ninjago Movie game made this fall’s big sequel, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, look and feel dated. Here’s hoping some of Ninjago’s ideas make it into 2018's Lego games.
Star Trek Bridge Crew
I love Star Trek. The uniforms, the ships, the unrealistic expectations of what life in the future will be like. All of it. Star Trek Bridge Crew put me in there, thanks to the future science of virtual reality. Yeah I had wobbly hands and my crewmates were often loud and rambunctious, but hanging out with people who share a passion for a common interest is wonderful. It’s like late night at a Star Trek convention, the video game.
Night in the Woods
Having grown up in a small, run-down industrial town, Infinite Fall’s adventure about a college cat returning to her hometown to deal with her problems struck a chord with me. I’ve always found that going back to my hometown helped ground me and gain fresh perspective on all the things I’ve experienced since leaving. I’ve never uncovered Conshohocken, Pennsylvania’s dark secret, but I am pretty sure it’s got at least one or two.