It’s time for our yearly tradition of listing our favorite games of the year. This has been a pretty great year for games. The Nintendo Switch launched successful (much to my surprise) and re-established Nintendo’s place in our gaming library. Virtual Reality became affordable finally and so we’re just now dipping our toes into these new games. However, when it came time for me to identify my top five games of the year, my list was pretty easy to write. To be fair, I haven’t played everything I want to play just yet. I haven’t had any quality time with Nintendo games this year (though my few hours with Super Mario Odyssey left me convinced it wouldn’t have made the list). There were a lot of games I liked a great deal but simply didn’t have enough content to justify including (but Batman Arkham VR, Uncharted: Lost Legacy and Little Nightmares are still worth a playthrough!!). But my list was much easier to identify than it’s been in previous years. Here are the best games I played in 2017.
Runner Up: Assassin’s Creed Origins
I’m still playing through Assassin’s Creed Origins and I wanted to only include games on the list that I had beaten. Still, to exclude Assassin’s Creed due to the fact that there’s just SO MUCH GAME here seems very unfair. Assassin’s Creed Origins is massive, sprawling across a beautiful, well-realized Egypt with Roman invaders, varied landscapes, deep tombs and amazing wildlife. Virtually every vista is beautiful from any angle and your hero Bayek is funny, sharp and as well-realized as any assassin before him (and the fact that his wife is his active partner makes them one of my favorite couples in video game history). If you liked any aspect of any previous Assassin’s Creed game and enjoy worlds as large as those we see in Skyrim or the Witcher, then you must find time to play Assassin’s Creed Origins.
NUMBER FIVE: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Of all the games on my list, this is probably the only one you haven’t played. Senua’s Sacrifice is a beautiful, bewildering experience. I’m not clear if I played through an adventure that existed in real life or just in the mind of my protagonist. However, I remember these levels vividly, and Hellblade probably possesses the best single level of any game I played this year. I’d recommend bringing a walkthrough for the weirder portions because you’ll want to play through this game to the end to see everything the game has to offer. Battle is vicious (if a little repetitive) and levels are terrifically varied (and a little oblique at times). Hellblade is a deep, dark, essential experience for 2017. Make sure it’s on your list.
NUMBER FOUR: Destiny 2
Destiny 2 fixed all of my problems with Destiny and then some. The levels are a lot more fun, the quests don’t feel so limited and repetitive, and the planets feel vibrant and inhabited. The characters classes are all very fun to play as well (though the Titan is still my favorite). The story here, involving the loss of your special powers as alien invaders attack, is tightly told and interesting. The side characters are fun and engaging and the new weapons feel smartly defined and fun. Above all, Destiny delivers great gameplay and beautiful graphics with terrific music and continually evolving gameplay. Whether you are playing on your own through the story missions, or with five buddies on a raid, or against everybody in player versus player, Destiny has a lot to offer. Sure, Destiny still isn’t perfect, but it’s easily one of the best games you can play this year.
NUMBER THREE: Resident Evil: Biohazard
Wow. Has any title ever done such a miraculous job revitalizing a franchise as Resident Evil 7? After the disastrous extravagance of Resident Evil 6, the game returned to its roots and delivered thrilling, essential experience for 2017. Rather than playing as an unstoppable marine, here you’re reduced to an ordinary man (who admittedly seems to master killing things pretty quickly). Your battles with the Baker family and the terrifying molded will be invading your nightmares in short order. I haven’t even thought about playing through the VR version of this game; it’s scary and immersive enough on your television screen. Still, as scary as it is, it’s a gameplay experience everyone should have.
NUMBER TWO: Everything
There was no experience I had that was quite like Everything this year. This is a game in which you play as every organism in the universe as you travel through existence learning about the nature of reality from Alan Watts’ lectures on existence. It’s slow but brilliantly smart. It’s simple but impressively intelligent. Some people may play this game for a few minutes and dismiss it as a gimmick, but if you give this game some time and thought, it’s hard to walk away without feeling moved, feeling smarter, and feeling more empathic than you were before. Very few games make you feel more intelligent after you win them (looking at you, Andromeda). In fact, I usually feel like the more time I spend with a game, the less time I spend understanding the real world. Everything, however, actually made me feel more in touch with the world once I completed it. Very few games even attempt to accomplish that.
AND MY (VERY OBVIOUS) NUMBER ONE: Horizon: Zero Dawn
Horizon: Zero Dawn does everything right. Other similar titles either had great stories but ho-hum gameplay (Wolfenstein) or great gameplay but ho-hum storylines (Tom Clancy’s Wildlands). Horizon: Zero Dawn feels fresh and new and amazing. Your hero, Aloy, is an orphan in a primitive post-apocalyptic world where robot dinosaurs hunt humans on sight. Discovering her history is tightly wound around the story of the end of the world and will keep you playing this game late into the night. Along with the impressive story is the absorbing gameplay; you have so many options for hunting dinosaurs. Play stealthy and plant traps for the beasts, or pick a vantage and sniper them from a distance, or just wade right in with your strongest weapons and armor. The thing I like most about Horizon is how much fun it is to simply pick up and play. Horizon provides the best story, best gameplay, best open world, and best cast of characters of any game this year. It’s my 2017 Game of the Year.