Hey peeps! Wow it’s been forever since I’ve typed words on here. What’s it been, 5 or 6 months? There were a lot of personal things going on in my life in the last several months of last year and taking a bit of a break was necessary but it’s a new year! I’ve taken on a role in the games industry (Woo! Check us out at @wushustudios on Twitter) and so, I still won’t have all the time in the world to jot down down my thoughts every single day or week, but I’m feeling energized.
What better way to get back into Shinobi Speaks than to talk about my favorite games of last year? This was an incredibly hard list to make all things considered. There were so many worthwhile titles that I genuinely couldn’t get to, and I make note of that at the very end. So without further ado, here are the top 10 games I had the most fun playing in 2017, starting at #10.
10. What Remains of Edith Finch
I didn’t know exactly what to expect here, but I’m more than happy with the results. Giant Sparrow delivered an incredibly somber experience that I won’t soon forget. Every memory hit me, and some felt like a gut punch that stuck. Some had me sitting and staring at my TV thinking “Did that just happen!? Oh my God…”. The world was beautifully rendered, the script excellently written, and the narrative wonderfully told to me as the player. I’m really glad I got to experience this.
9. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
I’ve always been a fan of Ninja Theory’s games, especially Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and DmC: Devil May Cry. They know how to do action, and Hellblade had plenty of it but it was more nuanced than their past games. They built a unique world through gorgeous art direction and a sense of place. I felt for Senua. I admit I haven’t had a lot of exposure to mental health issues, and it’s a stretch to say this game exemplifies the subject with 100% accuracy, but, it felt like an eye opener. I wanted Senua to be ok – to be safe. I wanted her to succeed, to be free and to be happy. This was amplified by some of the most incredible acting I’ve seen from any video game character. To hear that this was her very first acting job…yeah, it blew me away. Combat felt slow yet methodical. It felt real, like it had impact. I’m so happy the game ended up being a success for the studio because they deserve it.
8. The Walking Dead: A New Frontier
My love for Telltale’s The Walking Dead series continues with the third mainline entry this time. While I didn’t get to play as Clem this time around, she was still prominent in almost every episode and I kind of felt a sense of…pride seeing her continue to grow into a strong woman? It was a nice feeling. She can truly take care of herself now and kick anyone’s ass. You go girl. The overall story wasn’t as emotional or impactful as the original game, but there were some pretty high stakes throughout and I have to say, I loved, loved, loved Javi and Kate’s relationship here. Probably Telltale’s best when it comes to a genuine bonding between two characters. It was a new crew that I quickly grew to love. I had a genuinely great time and I’m definitely looking forward to the final season. Though I don’t know if I’m ready. *breathes in*
7. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Over 3 years later and it was finally here. The New Order was one of my favorite games of 2014 and that’s because Machinegames delivered one hell of a reboot for the Wolfenstein franchise. I was pumped to finally play The New Colossus and it really didn’t disappoint. The shooting felt just as frantic, punchy, and in-your-face as its predecessor, the mission variety was great, the cast of characters was better than ever, and I was enamored with the chemistry between BJ and Anya. It was nice to see that affection and romance blossom in such a dreadful time and place. One of the best video game couples for sure. The New Colossus seriously delivered some moments that took me by complete and utter surprise and I won’t forget them anytime soon. I love the series and, like a lot of other games on this list, can’t wait to see where the studio takes it next.
6. Yakuza 0
I’m ashamed to admit it, but this was my very first Yakuza game! And damn am I happy I decided to take the plunge and see what this series was about. I can’t praise it enough. I really can’t. Kiryu, Majima and gang are such a memorable, larger than life cast. Rarely has a game sucked me into its story as quickly as Yakuza 0 did. A true mob story. I wanted answers. I wanted vengeance. I wanted revenge. I wanted to kick some ass. All of these feelings raced through my mind with every mystery I unraveled and every mission that I completed. There were so many amazing plot twists that I honestly couldn’t get to grips with anticipating what was going to happen next in the story. Combat had an awesome beat ’em up feel with additional customizable layers sprinkled in. I’m so happy I took a chance with this (thanks in no small part to all the recommendations from some lovely folks on Twitter), as I’m currently going through Kiwami next.
5. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
It’s a little strange for me to say that I don’t feel The Lost Legacy was talked about enough in 2017, but for a year with dozens of fantastic games, it makes a bit of sense. There was just so much good stuff out there. What started out as DLC blossomed into one of my favorite games in the series. In fact, it’s my favorite after Uncharted 2 and 4. The visuals were absolutely stunning as expected from Naughty Dog (think I took over a hundred screenshots lol), the combat was intense and dynamic, as much as or even more so than Uncharted 4, and for the first time in the series, we got a pseudo open-world in which to explore and play around in – with a map! Chloe and Nadine’s relationship felt real and I cared for both of them. All of it culminated in one the most action packed and gripping cinematic gameplay sequences I’ve ever played in a game at the very end. Damn that was good. Naughty Dog continues to prove it’s one of the best in the business.
4. Life is Strange: Before the Storm
The original Life is Strange was one my top games of 2015. Dontnod built a world that sucked me right in. I cared so much about the characters I interacted with. I experienced happiness, sadness, dread, anxiety, confusion, anger…and rarely has a game ever made me feel the way Life is Strange did. Before the Storm was more of that but in a slightly different light. Experiencing Rachel and Chloe’s relationship first hand made the original game actually feel so much more impactful in hindsight (you’d know what I mean if you played both). There was so much happy potential in their future throughout the game, and my mind was going in circles because of the love I was seeing on screen – yet I was wrangling with the inevitable future that befalls both character. At the end, I’d never felt a pit in my stomach like I had with this. It’s really just a testament to the incredible writing and narrative team at Deck Nine Games. I love both studios so much and I’m so happy they gave us this IP.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
This was actually the very first Legend of Zelda game that I’ve beaten. I’ve dabbled in the series in the past, getting fairly far into Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Link’s Awakening, and a couple others, but for some reason never finished them. This one clicked with me to the point that I clocked in over 80 hours at the end of it all. The world is massive and it was such a blast discovering shrines and completing puzzles, finding Korok Seeds, meeting all the quirky denizens of all the different towns and seeing what their little problems were all about.
As a big fan of engaging narratives in games, I’ll admit this disappointed me in Breath of the Wild. The story was ultimately somewhat forgettable, and I wasn’t a fan of the Divine Beasts, but I was mostly ok with that for some reason and I think that’s simply because of how fun everything else was. The dynamic systems in place were nothing short of insane. Running outside in thunderous weather? Don’t wear any metal lest you get struck by lightning! Is it windy out? Set a field of grass on fire and fan it with your giant leaf and watch it spread. Climbing a surface in the rain? Good luck, you’ll slip. I probably didn’t even encounter every in-game system either. What a detailed world, and one I also just loved playing around in. I’m happy to have spent the time I did with it. Can’t wait to see where they take the series next.
2. Assassin’s Creed: Origins
This took me completely by surprise. I’ve been a fan of the Assassin’s Creed series since its inception over 10 years ago, and while I’ve appreciated them and enjoyed them, I felt Assassin’s Creed II and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag were the only truly “great” games in the series. That changed with Origins. I’m still playing it today and the reason is due to the revamp treatment given to the franchise by the Black Flag team. Everything is overhauled. Movement and controls are really the most fluid in any action adventure game I’ve ever played.
Whether I’m riding a camel or horse, swimming, sailing a boat, walking or running, or flying Senu in the air, it’s smooth as butter. The parkour is a sinch. Combat is completely redone to what felt like a mix of Dark Souls and The Witcher to me, which I loved. Bayek is up there along with Ezio and Edward Kenway as my favorite protagonist in the series and that stems from his humor, his thoughtfulness in his actions and his personality as a father. That clicked with me as a dad. He loves children, and that’s ever more present from his personal loss.
I can’t even speak enough of the world of ancient Egypt. The team at Ubisoft built one of the most believable worlds in a game I’ve ever experienced. The map is not only MASSIVE, but filled to the brim with details. Every town and city feels unique. There are shopkeepers bargaining and selling, soldiers roaming the streets, dogs, cats, birds and all kinds of animals going about their lives, stonemasons doing their work, butcher shops, leather tanners, people sailing down rivers…it feels so incredibly alive. I completed main quest line around the 50 hour mark, and yet there’s still almost half the map left unexplored. I’m going to continue with playthrough. I’m adoring every single second of it.
1. Horizon Zero Dawn
I really don’t even know where to begin. I’ve always enjoyed Guerrilla’s Killzone games to a certain degree. Killzone 2 was the pinnacle of the series for me, and I appreciated what Guerrilla Games had brought to the table with that franchise. When we first saw what Horizon really was, I was absolutely stunned. The team that brought us Killzone had created a game like this. The world is so lush and mesmerizing that I stopped at every new town I discovered, every clearing, every outcrop, every river just to take it all in.
Exploring the world was satisfying. The sounds, the art direction, the characters, the environmental variety are all absolutely breathtaking. The machines are so incredibly detailed that I shake my head at the idea of how long it took to design them. Aloy became one of my favorite characters this generation and that sprouted out from her wittiness, her smarts, her bravery, and really just her all around charm.
The story genuinely gripped me from the very beginning and I was actually motivated to figure out just what the heck was going on – what happened in the past? Why is Aloy special? What was Project Zero Dawn? As if all of that wasn’t enough, I love the combat. While the melee action could use improvement for a future game, fighting enemies at range with the various bows was so smooth and fun. Like many others on this list, I just can’t wait to see where Guerrilla Games takes us next most of all.
So those are my top 10 favorite games of last year. I say “favorite” because I don’t like using the word “best” when I’m describing my feelings on them. I don’t like to compare their in-game mechanics or what looked visually superior to another or what have you. They’re simply the games I had fun playing the most.
I also want to touch upon a few games I started playing but have yet to finish: Resident Evil VII, Super Mario Odyssey, Little Nightmares. I’ve only put in a few hours into each of them. As a fan of Gravity Rush, I also never got around to playing Gravity Rush 2, but I will! I will. And yes, Persona 5 is not on there because, again, another I just didn’t have to get into! Would my list have looked a little different if I did finish these in time? Maybe, maybe not – but the list is there regardless for the ones I did get the joy of experiencing.
Thanks for even checking out my blog and reading my musings guys! See you online!