Holy moley, 2017 has been such a great year for video games. The best since... 2012, maybe 2007. And that's including the atrocious Mass Effect we got. That's high praise coming from a guy who's favorite game of Generation 7 was the original Mass Effect. Anyway, there have been some excellent stories told and some exciting advancements made this year. Despite our troubles, I am more excited than ever to see where video games can take us. And hey, it's been superb year for shooting Nazis.
Favorite Game Released Before 2017, Played in 2017: Dreamfall Chapters
I've played a number of phenomenal games for the first time this year including Batman: The Telltale Series, 2016's Doom, Injustice: Gods Among Us, and Mafia II. But Dreamfall Chapters, the episodic sequel to Dreamfall and The Longest Journey, is by far my favorite. What makes it stand out is simply the way it made me feel. As sentimental as that may sound, I've never before felt so at home in a game. Playing it was like catching up with old friends. Certainly, it adds to the lore and ties up loose ends. Yes, it has a compelling narrative and some solid puzzles. But it's the characters, the way they interact, and the fitting send offs they receive that make Dreamfall Chapters such a wonderful experience that I cannot praise enough.
Just to be clear, the PC version of Dreamfall Chapters was released in 2016 while the console version was released in 2017.
2017 Honorable Mentions
Hollow Knight, What Remains of Edith Finch, Sniper Elite 4, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, and Injustice 2
Top 5 Games of 2017
5. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
I've never had an Uncharted game on my Top 5 before. I don't think the first three games are very good but I love what they set out to do: create a high-adventure, rollicking good time in the vein of Indiana Jones. And while the fourth game, A Thief's End, is great, it's a departure from that original vision. The Lost Legacy is the first time Naughty Dog has truly succeeded in what they attempted with Drake's Fortune. It's incredibly fun (as opposed to A Thief's End's overly serious tone), it doesn't overstay it's welcome (again, looking at you, Uncharted 4), it's actually fun to play, and it finally ditches the most boring character in the series, Nathan Drake. In short: it's fantastic.
4. Subsurface Circular
Subsurface Circular is a simple game. It's a text-adventure disguised as a puzzle game or maybe it's the other way around. You are robot detective. You are riding the metro. You're searching for a missing robot. You never get up out of your seat and all you do is talk to other robots. But with such simple mechanics, such an ordinary setting, and such a rote call-to-action, Subsurface Circular manages to be completely engaging and wholly unique. If you have an hour and $6, you should play this game.
3. Blackwood Crossing
I don't want to say too much about Blackwood Crossing for fear of spoiling what makes it so special. But it is one of two games I played this year that heavily involve death and loved ones. One is far more polished. That one also has better voice acting, better graphics, more unique set pieces, and it's probably the better "game." The other one is a little janky, the walking animation is rough, and the puzzles aren't terribly clever. But one of the games stuck with me while the other didn't. One of them, I think about frequently. One of them made me cry.
2. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
I'm not going to write anything about Wolfenstein II here. I'm just to paste Wyatt's speech from the end of the game:
Americans, wherever you are, I wish I had words of comfort to give you like the warm winds that this Nazi general sent down from above. But from me you will not get comfort, only the cold, agonizing truth. And the truth is, this great nation has been raped and pillaged by the greatest enemy of our time. They ask you to sell your liberty to purchase your safety, to kneel to the new order, to submit to the winds of change. But my fellow Americans, they that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.
You were born in the land of the free. You fought the kings of old and broke them. You gave your lives for the simplest but most essential truth of all: Give me liberty or give me death. In your veins runs the blood of revolutionaries. So tonight, brandish your guns, your knives, and your fists. Seek out your oppressors wherever they are and tell them: We don’t want nothing… not a thing from you. Tonight, we show those that sow the wind that we… We are the whirlwind.
Where to start? Prey is a graphically beautiful game. It has a phenomenal soundtrack. It tells a thrilling tale. It has the best opening sequence I've played since...I honestly don't know when. But those elements aren't what make Prey so amazingly good. It's a smart game that expects you think. Not just about combat scenarios or the plot (though it does expect that), but about your interactions with others, about who you are and why you do the things you do. About whether we can be better than we were made to be.
Prey is the continuation of games like System Shock, Deus Ex, Thief, and Bioshock. Not merely in that it's a systems-driven game that uses the first-person perspective and has shooter and RPG elements but in how it carries their philosophical torch. And in this day and age, when a Wolfenstein game is criticized because it involves shooting Nazis, when theirs so much vapid entertainment, when net neutrality is threatened multiple times, it is that much more important that we, to paraphrase Ray Bradbury, do not write to predict the future, but rather to prevent it.
Jonathan is the host of the DarkCast, DarkCast Interviews, and Gamers Read. He loves books, video games, and superheroes. If he had to pick favorites, they would be Welcome to the Monkey House, Mass Effect, and Superman respectively.