In mere days, 2017 will have left us, and in its wake, there was a glut of fantastic games that graced our various consoles and electronic devices. Being that I tend to focus more on old-school games and more cost-effective options than new releases tend to lend themselves to, my experiences with games that were released in 2017 are slim. I did still manage to play a few great games that were actually released this year.
Most of my criteria for the games that I added on to this list were simply that they were released within the year and that I had played enough of them to really formulate a solid opinion on them. Some games that didn’t make the cut I’ve been enjoying but I’m still cutting my teeth on- Nintendo’s Super Mario Odyssey and Deep End Games’ Perception being two notable titles that are very promising- and a lot of games I completed this year are a year or two off- Night School Studio’s Oxenfree comes to mind. Honestly, if you’re looking for recommendations of games outside of the past year? I’m a wealth of information and offerings.
What did I manage to play from this year, though, that has stuck with me and made some kind of impact? After thinking thoroughly through my playlist over the past twelve months and sequencing them by relevance- well, I’m just impressed by people being able to work out top 10 lists without endless agonizing.
Now, to add to the top lists of the year of 2017- here is my list of my completely subjective and biased top five games from the year (and one honorable mention) for your consideration and entertainment!
(Oh, and as an added note, while I try to skip over spoilers as much as possible since I’ll be writing a bit more about some of these in upcoming posts, there very well may be spoilers. As vague or minute as they might be, I’d rather warn my readers than not!)
Honorable Mention – Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King – PC, Switch
Despite playing very few games that came out this year, I dabbled in a lot of indie games. One that I happened on that I was excited about since I tried it at Pax East was Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King. While I haven’t played through it yet, the game has a lot of features that made it difficult to keep away from a ‘top of the year’ list.
Playing as Lily, a Knight of the Rose, you must travel the land to put an end to the sleeping curse that has been placed on the king. The story opens, however, as a story being told by a grandfather to his grandchildren, and there are a number of references in the narrative that remind you that this is a story within a story. Gathering items and abilities, Lily will traverse dungeons and other locales while solving the mysteries of the kingdom and interacting with the flower-themed residents therein.
The similarities between this and Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past are plain to see and while it feels very much along the same mechanics and style, it does gain an identity of its own in its presentation and audio. If you are a fan of the Link to the Past style Zelda games, you will do well to explore Blossom Tales. There is plenty of charm and story to keep you entertained, and there are plenty of subquests to extend the experience as well. I’m looking forward to playing more of this, as it’s kept me engaged every time I’ve turned it on.
5. Friday the 13th – PC, XBox One, Playstation 4
Since the last attempt at a video game based on the prolific horror movie series, Friday the 13th has had a stigma over it (and with good reason). Being a huge fan of the series since childhood, I had given up hope of seeing any viable Friday game come out, but the Internet hadn’t. People speculated that a game based on the films would have to revolve around playing as Jason Voorhees, the famed serial killer, but nothing seemed to pan out in many of those concepts. Still, the desire was strong for a new game to make up for the misguided attempt made in the days of the NES.
After a very successful Kickstarter campaign and various other games of the like appearing in the market- most notably Dead by Daylight, another personal favorite- Friday the 13th found its launch on October 13th. With series mainstays Sean S. Cunningham, Harry Manfredini and Kane Hodder joining the teams of Illfonic and Gun Media to license and produce a finished product, there was very little chance of the game not leaving the target audience satisfied.
The premise of the game is exactly what one would expect. A group of up to eight players take the roles of camp counselors, save for one who steps into the mud-covered boots of Jason himself whose goal is to eviscerate, singe, and otherwise murder the rest of the characters.
While the game had a rocky launch and still has a myriad of bugs and issues that are being addressed consistently, Friday the 13th is a love letter to the series and the fans. Levels are meticulously modeled after various locales from the movies and being able to play as any of the Jasons as well as clearly defined characters who fit the mold of any given typical cast. The recent updates of the Virtual Cabin, a veritable treasure trove of trivia that is part museum and part puzzle game, and offline bots to match your serial killer wits against for a single-player experience are just two of the amazing additions from the crew behind the game. Given how amazing the developers have been at communicating about their future plans and working to perfect their game, Friday the 13th truly feels like a game made by fans for fans.
4. Doki Doki Literature Club – PC
Various factors play into my fourth choice from 2017 and by this point, most people have heard some kind of rant about this game that blindsided an entire corner of the community. Doki Doki Literature Club is a free game that graced the Internet on September 22nd of this year. Before all of the articles and streams, I had heard about it from a friend of a friend of my husband, and I decided to look it up. The warnings on the Steam page and at the beginning of the game seemed a little weird. Psychological horror and content warnings pasted to a pastel pink visual novel seemed misleading. Heeding the warnings, though, I booted up the game and began my trek into the world of a high school literature club and the misadventures therein.
The game opens on you, the player, being approached by your close friend, Sayori, who wants you to join the club she just became a part of. If you don’t, the club can’t survive so, ever the reluctant protagonist, you join her after school and meet the other members: shy and intelligent Yuri, brash and overprotective Natsuki, and effervescent club president Monika. All of the tropes are present that one would expect from a dating sim visual novel but, as the warnings read- and I stress this so that those who may be adversely affected can be prepared- the game does take a sharp turn into unexpected territory and tone.
Without revealing much more, the writing of the game is pretty fantastic and what it does, it does amazingly. The characters are easy to care about, and the game, despite coming in at a short time of about four to six hours, feels like a colossal experience by the time the closing credits read. Doki Doki Literature Club came out of nowhere, and Team Salvato has done a bang-up job of creating a work that has left a good chunk of Internet dwellers (myself included) scouring for details on the game and their next work.
3. Resident Evil 7 – Playstation 4, XBox One, PC
As an avid fan of the Resident Evil series, I can honestly say that I’ve felt a little less than fulfilled from some of the recent offerings from the series. Resident Evil 5 wasn’t terrible, but not what I would call ‘survival horror’. Resident Evil 6 and Operation: Raccoon City both received such unpromising reviews that only recently have I even started the sixth entry of the main series. Resident Evil Revelations 2 felt like the beginning of a return to form, and I really started to enjoy the series again- but tentatively. It’s been the same with a lot of ‘survival horror’, though, which seems to have replaced the ‘survival’ aspect with over-the-top action.
Resident Evil 7 felt like a true return to survival horror form. Playing as series newcomer Ethan Winters, you are drawn to the Baker Estate in Louisiana after receiving a tape from your wife, Mia, who you believed to be dead for the past three years. As soon as you arrive on the site, things feel strangely isolated, and they only become worse from there once you encounter the Baker family and their manse.
The game has everything from atmosphere to resource management pretty well in hand. The story and lore fit nicely into the existing Resident Evil universe, and Ethan is a likeable protagonist- all things that felt lacking in the aforementioned titles above. The game does lean on a few horror conventions heavily- namely a plethora of jump scares- but it deters minimally from the overall feeling of the game.
Even with the game feeling much more like it is outside of the Resident Evil tone, by the end of the game, you are absolutely sure that you are playing a Resident Evil game. Capcom knocked it out of the park with this game, and even the DLC feels spot on. Here’s hoping that should Resident Evil 8 be around the corner, they continue with what they have set up with this game.
2. Persona 5 – Playstation 3, Playstation 4
Anyone who knows me knows that I am head over heels for the Shin Megami Tensei series. In particular, the Persona series is my favorite of the Shin Megami Tensei mythos and probably in general. When the announcement for Persona 5 was announced, I immediately started salivating for the finished product. Every bit of information and every trailer that became available, I leapt on and waited for more. Finally, on April 4th, the game was released, and my Steal Your Heart Special Edition arrived.
It was everything I had hoped for.
Taking up the mantle of a high school student transferring to Shujin High, you find yourself at odds from the beginning of your adventure. You have been sent to stay with a family friend during your year-long probation for being accused of assault. Despite negative feelings about you from your host, your fellow students, and a number of others, you find yourself making friends, slowly but surely, and it isn’t long before you are pulled into the Velvet Room. Propositioned by Igor, the usual catalyst for the protagonists in the series, you are granted the power to use Persona and inevitably become the leader of a group called the “Phantom Thieves” who find a way to make wrongdoers and criminals confess to their misdeeds by traversing a part of the subconscious called the Metaverse and ‘stealing their hearts’.
There’s much more to the plot than that and, in true Persona fashion, the plot revolves around as much self-discovery as it does story development. Following the format of Persona 3 and 4, you spend your days and nights outside of the Metaverse getting to know people, going to class, and navigating activities to raise your attributes and meet new people. These relationships help in battle, either directly or through raising your affinity to certain types of Persona- which is all tarot based and appeals to me on a thematic level more than I can express. The game’s messages and themes are nearly impossible not to empathize with in some vein, and the overarching story feels all the more pertinent given the national and world climate at this juncture.
Despite the short delay in release- the game was supposed to release in February and was pushed back for quality and content purposes- Persona 5 was hands down the best RPG to release in 2017. I could go on about how devastatingly stylish it is visually or the amazing soundtrack with special mention of Lyn Inaizumi’s enviable vocals. I easily sank over 100 hours into the game without batting an eye at grinding or a few of the unevenly paced moments. This game felt like a shining combination of the conventions of the recent entries and the darker nature of the original Persona games, and it’s honestly a must-have for any role playing game enthusiasts.
1. Fire Emblem Echoes – Shadows Of Valentia – Nintendo 3DS
Over the past couple of years, it has felt like Nintendo has been working diligently to promote their Fire Emblem series in the US and other markets. As a rabid fan of this series (really, it’s second only to Persona), I’m more than happy to see their efforts to varying degrees. Having played through each of the games in some respect, I watched Shadow Dragon make a piddling splash in the Nintendo DS library, and while Awakening was an amazing effort, the Fates trilogy felt more like a cash grab than catering to the fans- but by no means were Conquest, Birthright, or Revelations bad games. Hearing about Shadows of Valentia, a remake of the Famicom’s Fire Emblem Gaiden from 1992, was interesting and a bit concerning considering it felt like it appeared out of nowhere.
As more publicity started to arise, everything about the game was getting me anxious to play it. The storybook art-style felt like a beautiful deviation from the anime-style veneers of the other 3DS games. A promise of a fully voice acted Fire Emblem was even more intriguing. Given the direction of the series, though, there were concerns about what they might do to the now antiquated systems of the original game.
To summarize the plot, you follow two characters- a young villager named Alm and a priestess named Celica. Alternating viewpoints as you progress through six chapters, you watch as they gather allies and try to solve why Duma and Mila, the sibling god and goddess that have watched over the continent, appear to have broken their truce which has resulted in conflict and a quickly encroaching war. As the story progresses, you learn more about Alm, Celica, and their relation to the events that have unfolded as they attempt to bring peace to their lands.
Intelligent Systems stuck to the roots of the original Gaiden, and it benefits the game immensely. Closer to the Game Boy Advance titles, especially Sacred Stones, the game focuses more on the strategy role-playing elements of the series rather than relationship building and base building. There are dungeon exploration sequences that are new to the series, and they work seamlessly into the action of the game, and the ability to craft and upgrade weapons with coins found throughout the dungeons is an nice addition to the formula that isn’t completely foreign but feels like it is handled better than in previous games. Without the extra trappings and complications that have been dressing up the Fire Emblem series recently, the game feels tighter and more streamlined.
While I love the Fire Emblem series and Gaiden is a personal favorite of mine, I was surprised at how much I adore Shadows of Valentia and how I keep recommending it to anyone who might remotely be interested. With the inclusion of a Casual or Classic mode (depending on whether you prefer permanent death for your characters or not), the game is accessible as ever and the character relationships feel more interesting without having to force them to produce half of your army. Objectively, this game probably won’t top many lists for 2017, and that’s a shame as it was my favorite game that I played all year, and it’s difficult to find much flaw in it based on my experience. I, and all of the other fans of the Fire Emblem series, can only hope that the direction that is indicated by Shadows of Valentia and its production are a glimpse into a very bright future for the series as a whole.
So there they are- my totally subjective and biased top 5 games of 2017! As stated in the introduction, I don’t tend to play a lot of games ‘in season’ so while it wasn’t difficult to choose the games I enjoyed, I hope that my opinion may have opened some eyes to games that they may not have gotten exposed to this year, just like plenty of top lists from other blogs have done for me.
If you have any games for me check out or wonder if I have any further thoughts on other games of 2017, let me know in the comments- and here’s to more fantastic games we’ll get to see in 2018!