Michael's Top 5 Games of 2017

I'm on the bandwagon; 2017 was a stellar year for gaming, saturated with titles well-received by consumers everywhere. And I'll admit, there's a decent stack I have yet to play through as we make our way into cold, brutal January. But I've played enough to know why so many people point out this year as one of the best. We saw franchises honing their craft left and right, producing stellar entries that will be talked about for years. Then you had the new IPs, of which there admittedly could've been more in the triple-A sphere, kicking up dust through quality and sales. But best of all (for me), we saw the resurgence of 3D platformers. Time will tell if that was a momentary thing, but man was it awesome to get a 1998-style barrage! Anyway, here are my picks!

Favorite Game Released Before 2017, Played in 2017: Doom (2016)

Hell has broken loose... again! Set against a backdrop of corporate hubris, Doom takes you back and forth through the labyrinths of Hell and the massive UAC facility on a winding mission to exterminate every demon in sight. The UAC has royally dropped the ball, and it quickly becomes apparent that the silent protagonist is determined to keep it from falling back in their court. With its complex levels, constantly moving gunplay, variety of upgrade options, gorgeous visuals, and darkly humorous undertones, Doom is the near-perfect marriage of everything I love about modern and old-school shooters. 

2017 Honorable Mentions

The Escapists 2, Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, A Hat in Time, Knack 2

Top 5 Games of 2017

5. Sonic Mania

While it suffers slightly from a non-sequitur plot and an old-school approach towards extra lives, Sonic Mania is nonetheless a stupendous game. If you missed the way Sonic's 16-bit adventures were built, pick this up right away. Every stage has been carefully laid out for you to explore in all directions, with loops and inclines existing not just for style, but genuine substance. Alternate characters give you plenty of choices, too, and while it's nice to use Tails for an easier ride, you feel so badass rocking Sonic and his awesome Drop Dash. I do see room for improvement, but this is nonetheless the best in the series thus far. 

4. Oh... Sir!! The Insult Simulator

By far the cheapest and simplest game on this list, The Insult Simulator stands among the greatest I've played all year. By mixing well-implemented humor with a surprisingly engaging combat system, this game had me coming back over and over. You control one of several caricatures, each with their own insults and special weaknesses, and try to knock the other's health down in a turn-based battle of words. In spite of its limited vocabulary, you'll have plenty to do by mixing up sentence clauses and playing with contractions to come up with some really insidious remarks. And as I mentioned in my review, it all makes you stop and think about how ridiculous - and unrelated to the instigating subject - our quarrels can be. And if you don't get that from it, you'll certainly have fun with its online mode. Here's a game where you hurl despicable insults at people online- and you're supposed to! 

3. Night in the Woods

Stuck on these tired old streets~. No piece of media I have ever experienced manages to so perfectly capture the bittersweet twilight of carefree youth. Our protagonist, Mae, has returned from college to her economically crippled hometown. You are given free reign to talk to the weary denizens of Possum Springs and engage in breezy yet emotionally revalatory hang-outs with her believably troubled friends. Come Halloween, though, a kidnapping phenomenon reaches its boiling point, and it's up to Mae and the gang to solve a mystery that's effecting the whole town. Featuring an outstanding art style and soundtrack, and believably tackling complex themes such as depression and mental illness, Night in the Woods spoke to me in a way few other games have - on top of being plain fun to play. While you may be let down by its fairly abrupt ending, I urge everyone to give it a shot.

2. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Or as I like to call it, Bayouhazard! Eh, guys?? After an explosive sixth entry with an absurdist plot, it was great to see Capcom dial back the scale for something more intimate and yes, scary. Visually, it's something of a bar-raiser. You can almost smell the sticky, rotting flesh that coats the basement halls of the Baker residence. Meanwhile, you're up against some gorgeously hideous enemies along with the trio of cannibal lunatics that cultivate them. So cobble up whatever supplies you can find and try to make it out of this Deep South dream house gone wrong. Along the way, you'll find many notes that, along with the plot itself, allow you to piece together exactly what's going on. I won't spoil anything, but I will say that what you find makes everything both sadder and scarier. If you're a diehard RE fan, the many ways this one shakes things up might prove to stray a bit too far from its zombie-centric predecessors, but to me, RE7 is a masterpiece.

1. Super Mario Odyssey

No character or franchise has produced as many great titles among such a wide range of genres as Mario. It's almost eye-roll-worthy, then, that in this year of notable 3D platformers, he beats all of them. Featuring an innovative mechanic that lets you control enemies, Odyssey puts you on a grand adventure through a myriad of creative and beautiful locales. And for the first time since 2002, you feel as though you're nagivating through living and breathing locations, surreal as they may be. Contained within each kingdom are several Power Moons, which you collect by doing things both familiar and entirely new. Every challenge is fun on some level, but if you disagree, just save some coins and buy some Moons yourself (that's in game currency that you earn, and we all know how easily this could've been held to real cash ransom). After all, this is a collect-a-thon, too. While I would've welcomed a more solid attempt at unifying the shreds of continuity from previous titles, the explorative and visually varied nature of this game is undeniably special. 

That's the operative word: "special." Mario Odyssey resonates with me on a personal level. By bringing me through its many areas, challenges, gameplay elements, and epic story moments, it captures why I play video games to begin with. I adore Super Mario Odyssey, and will be revisiting it for a long, long time. Plus it has a T. Rex!