For a while there, it seemed like the flood of new, generally excellent games would never stop. And this year, the goodness was not just from indie darlings but the often-maligned big-budget studios as well. Sure, there were some duds and disappointments but 2017 set the bar incredibly high for games moving forward.
Favorite Game Released Before 2017, Played in 2017: Bayonetta (PC)
I played Bayonetta back in 2010 when it first appeared on the last generation of consoles. Back then it was something of a novelty to feature a female as a lead character in an action game, and there was some minor controversy around the supposedly explicit nature of the fallen angel lead. It all seems a little silly now. Bayonetta on PC is a reminder of just how much fun the action was and entertainingly quirky the story and characters were. The graphics are dated, even with a new coat of paint on the PC, but it holds up remarkably well.
2017 Honorable Mentions
Prey, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Middle Earth:Shadow of War, Hob, Destiny 2, NieR: Automata
Top 5 Games of 2017
5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild is both one of the best-ever Zelda games and a definitive proof-of-concept for the new Nintendo Switch. It's hard not to be enchanted and captivated by the interesting open world and seemingly endless amount of content to discover. Though I wasn't a huge fan of the degrading weapons and thought the story was a bit rote, overall Breath of the Wild provides dozens of hours of entertainment.
4. Injustice 2
I've never been much of a superhero/comic book nerd, but Injustice 2 -- both on the PS4 and then on the PC port -- made me a believer, at least in the moment. The fighting has enough flexibility to be fun for both button-mashers and hardcore combo masters, and the story highlights some of the relatively obscure DC characters. Injustice 2's loot box system is also one of the less egregious implementations of what came to be a negative theme in 2017.
When it was released (first on PS4 and very recently on PC), Nioh was both dismissed and praised as a Dark Souls clone. In that Souls-like games are actually now a genre, that is true, but Nioh took some of the mechanics of Dark Souls and enlarged the vocabulary with very precise, high-speed combat and many new systems that impacted character development and combat style. Not everything worked, but Nioh definitely scratched the Dark Souls itch this year. The Surge was another big-budget Souls-like, but less interesting overall.
2. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
What began in the pre-history of first person shooters has evolved into a franchise capable of telling a powerful, politically and socially relevant story, on top of being one of the best shooters of the year. With great writing and voice work and an allegorical story that is unafraid of the darkness of which humans are capable, The New Colossus is hard to forget.
1. Horizon: Zero Dawn
Gamers are used to compromises. We expect games to have great visuals but a mediocre story, for example, or for a game to have outstanding gameplay but graphics that could be better. Horizon: Zero Dawn is a compromise-free experience: incredible art and visuals, a compelling story with great voice work and a strong female lead that is neither helpless, overly sexualized or excessively hardened, and gameplay and combat that is fun from start to finish. With so many games -- even very good ones, even ones that I really enjoy -- there is often a cringe-worthy element, whether it be gratuitous violence, ridiculous character design or moronic writing and story. None of that is true with Horizon. It's simply a game I'm proud to love and talk about without hesitation.