This is one of those years where every game even in the runner-up list could easily be in a conversation for the number one spot every other year. The industry was just on fire this year, with swaths of great releases of all shapes and sizes, giving everyone more options for what to play than they know what to do with. And I know I'll be playing the ones I missed in the coming years and going "yeah that should have been on my list" but I only had so much time this year! Even if 2018 isn't as strong a year for releases, it's still going to be amazing as I catch up with what I missed, but let's stop looking to the future and look into the past and arbitrarily rank them! Awou (wolf noise)!
Favorite Game Released Before 2017, Played in 2017: Wolfenstein: The New Order
I'll get around to playing New Colossus sometime after I write this year-end wrap-up, but its showing at E3 was so strong that I immediately went out and bought a copy of the first game so I could catch up with the story. New Order has a feeling and a tone to it that's almost entirely unique to a big budget shooter like this – whipping wildly between emotional beats, being at once a grounded tale of broken characters while also having secret underwater bases of ancient technology. It has a main character who can be a larger than life wall of destruction, and in the next scene he can be so rattled by an interaction with someone his hands shake and he can't speak. But it somehow all works together, and of course the idea that a ragtag group can rise up and help smack down a bunch of Nazis was pretty good for this year.
2017 Honorable Mentions
Everything, Splatoon 2, Sonic Mania, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, Snipperclips
Top 5 Games of 2017
5. West of Loathing
It's not exactly the world's most difficult or systems-heavy game, but I was surprised at how well the developers behind the excellent, long-running browser RPG Kingdom of Loathing were able to translate their trademark bizarre, pop culture savvy humor to a 3rd person western. Approaching the world with a sort of Airplane! style "no joke is too dumb or obscure to try" mentality, this game was always making me smile and nod my head at the writing. It's a game you play not so much for the mechanics but for the writing, which is delightful and rewards you for popping in even just for a couple of minutes.
4. Steamworld Dig 2
I think I reviewed the original Steamworld Dig three different times on this site, I enjoyed it so much, and I was extremely excited about the announcement of Dig 2. It took what worked from the original – the mobility, discovery, and honestly, sheer joy of just digging – and expanded the mechanics and story to make it feel full and interesting. It's been cool to see Image and Form add to the mythos of their universe, too, even giving character to the mindless human foes you'd fought in the first. This is an excellent game, completely stealing me away from Samus Returns when it came out, and showing the more established franchise how this kind of exploration-based gameplay should go.
3. Puyo Puyo Tetris
Since this is the year it officially got its US release, it can go on the list, baby! Without question the best Tetris game in recent years, the addition of the long-running but lesser known Puyo Puyo just adds another fun layer to the game, especially in the crazy modes that combine both types of falling blocks together. It's also got a surprisingly robust single player, with good writing and a cast of oddball characters. Plus it's on my Switch so wherever I am, I can just challenge people to feel my Tetris wrath! It's what this franchise always needed!
2. Super Mario Odyssey
Honestly I just wanna give this runner-up place to the Jump Up, Superstar! song that I've been listening to since the E3 trailer, that got performed live at The Game Awards, and that plays in this song during one of the coolest parts of the game. Beyond the music, Mario Odyssey is just a pure joy to play, a game about rewarding exploration and experimentation with a warm and joyful façade. It's the best Mario game in years, full of big moments, and has so much in it there's always something new to find when I go back.
1. Golf Story
I've been stanning for this game since I saw a 30 second clip of it play in the middle of a Nintendo Direct. Just such perfect idea! Take a sport, add in RPG elements and a story, and introduce a series of bizarre ideas for how to use the main golf mechanic. Even through the end of the game, it kept upping the ante, putting in more and more ideas on the way to the credits. I found it funny and endearing in its scope and execution, a surprising game from a first time studio that was just a complete joy to play. It was honestly the reason I rushed out to get a Switch, and I really wish more games were as willing to play with interactions in the world and their own mechanics this way. Golf Story kept me delighted all the way through, and I'm only too glad to name it my game of the year.