It’s absolutely insane to think that 2017 was so good to me that The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, a game made in close consultation with my wildest fantasies, was somehow still not my favourite game for the year.
Instead, that honour goes to a game about my magical teenage friends, who wear masks and change hearts and make coffee and, in true Persona fashion, have haunted me every time the calendar has ticked forwards through 2017.
Aside from that, I guess my list has been pretty predictable? A mix of Yakuza, strategy and sports games, just like any other year, though one glaring exception from my personal norms was the exclusion of a new Assassin’s Creed game, with Origin’s changes to the series’ base formula leaving me feeling cold. It’s the first AC game I’ve never finished, which is a bit sad.
Anyway, enough chitchat: you’re here for a top ten and here it is, in no particular order (well, after Persona 5, anyway).
An absolute masterpiece. I don’t think a day has gone by where I haven’t thought of this game. I’ve written about the importance of the game’s high school setting before, but Persona 5 does so much more. It’s got one of the year’s best soundtracks, its sense of style is almost unrivalled in video games, and its cast—hokey at first—soon work their way so far under your skin that by the end of the game you don’t have party members, you have friends.
This is the best Yakuza game. It’s a perfect starting point for newcomers, sure, but it also learns lessons from 4 & 5 to create the ultimate gangster experience. The balance between characters, the pacing, the slapstick, this game is a masterpiece, whether you’re there for the storytelling or skull-smashing.
I...don’t think I need to say anything more about this game that you don’t already know and feel?
It’s crazy to type this out, but Mario surprised me. I was expecting refined platforming with an art style that, in trailers, had kinda grossed me out a little. Instead we got a game that shows the most important thing Nintendo did in 2017 was learn how to make open worlds fun again.
This is my shit. The systems of Total War drenched in Tolkien with a Sonic the Hedgehog colour palette is the recipe for a damn fine strategy game, and Warhammer 2 is a damn fine strategy game, fixing an endgame problem that’s haunted the series for years while fleshing out a hero system that’s going to make going back to historical TW games very, very hard.
It’s not as good as the first one, let’s get that out of the way now. The pacing is off, the levels less memorable and there’s a general feeling that the game broke somewhere in development and what was left was cobbled together and pushed out the door. The cast is still wonderful, though, and the trial sequence was easily the most ridiculous, shocking and enjoyable piece of video game cinematics this year.
I’ve actually soured on this game in recent weeks after going back to it, but the basic points from my review remain: this is a smart, slick strategy game that continues Amplitude’s knack for taking a dusty old genre and bringing it kicking and screaming into the modern age.
The one true bolter on the list, this game came out of nowhere to not just satisfy my need for a decent Battlestar Galactica game, but for an innovative small-scale space tactics experience as well. My only regret is that Deadlock didn’t have the resources available to make the most out of the license.
Its singleplayer campaign was a disappointing mess, but that can’t change the fact Steel Division had some great ideas in the RTS space, finally nailing a combination of supply, reinforcements, balance and vision that developers Eugen have been chipping away on on since 2010's RUSE.
It’s weird, I know I said PES was the better football game. And for serious football fans it is. But I’m putting FIFA here instead because EA’s story mode was an absolute trailblazer for the fledgling sub-genre, showing the way forwards for singleplayer sports games right at the time other efforts were failing. The story was surprisingly gripping on its own, but the way gameplay challenges were weaved into it was fantastic.