It’s been a hell of a year for gaming. Both positive and notoriously negative, we’ve seen a lot of new titles this year. Some of them have been incredibly exciting and others- gloriously underwhelming. If nothing else, it’s sparked a lot of talk amongst gaming enthusiasts, debating the good, the bad, and the unforgivable.
Since the world as a whole seems over saturated with bad news and negative opinions these days, I’m going to belligerent focus on the positive for my year in review. Now, not all of the games I’m going to talk about are 2017 releases, these are the games I’ve spent the most quality time on and rank as my top five games on 2017. So, let's start from the bottom and save the best for last.
5. Little Nightmares
Tarsier Studios, Bandai Namco
If you’ve read my review of Tarsier Studios puzzle/platformer/horror game Little Nightmares, it’s going to be no surprise to you that this ranks in my favorites of 2017. The atmosphere this game creates is equally beautiful and terrifying, and it stuck with me for days after I completed it. The puzzles are challenging but not punishing, the artwork is stunning and the game does a great job of not overstaying its welcome. It didn’t drag on, and it didn’t end too quickly. I highly recommend this game to anyone who’s been too cautious to dive into the genre of horror games, it’s a great first step into that world.
4. Shellshock Live
Over the holiday season this year I was gifted a multiplayer game from kChamp Games called Shellshock Live, and I never in a million years anticipated that this would become the game that I put the most time into in 2017. Yeah, actually, this beat out all my RPGs and story games when it comes to actual time played, with an absolutely staggering 53 hours logged at the time of me writing this article. It’s an incredibly simple little multiplayer game where you have a little tank, and an ever expanding array of ridiculous weapons. It’s played in rapid-fire multiplayer rounds that last an average of 10 minutes as you and the other players blow the ever loving snot out of eachother. It’s absurd, perfect in its simplicity and has hours upon hours of replayability potential. For a $7 game, this title really blew me out of the water. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s so incredibly fun, something that a lot of games these days miss the mark on.
3. Planet Coaster
All aboard the nostalgia train, if you want an express trip back to your childhood, then I highly suggest you pick up a copy of Planet Coaster by Frontier Developments. Though it is missing some key elements of the original Roller Coaster Tycoon, it’s still an incredibly fun game that has been significantly streamlined from its predecessors. The game is also ever-expanding, with new parks being added, new themes for decor (some free, and some purchased DLC) and new rides, it’s the kind of game you can play for a while, forget about, and then come back to something new and exciting. (It’s also on Steam sale right now for 75% off! Making it only $15, if you’ve been hesitating because of the steep price tag, pick it up now! The sale ends February 2)
This game is a serious test of resolve, patience and stress management. Cuphead blasted onto the scene seemingly out of nowhere, created by studioMDHR Entertainment, this is arguably one of the hardest games I have ever played in my life. And somehow, I loved every second of it. Even the rage-quit moments after fighting the same boss for the hundredth time only to miss a jump, fall off a platform and die. It’s a serious challenge, but presented in such a unique way, I found myself always driven to give it just one more go. The animation style is straight out of the 1930’s, and frankly, it’s stunning. The only thing better than the stylised animations and beautiful character design is the soundtrack- just wow, seriously that soundtrack. It’s- for lack of a better word- magnificent.
1. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
I wasn’t going to buy this game. In fact, I had pretty adamantly decided against it, having only heard snippets on the wind about what it may or may not contain. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was released this year by Ninja Theory, and I first heard about it as ‘The mental illness simulator’ which made me roll my eyes so hard that I swear I saw my brain. In fact, I’m pretty sure I despaired it in early podcasts and let me be the first to say that I was so wrong. I was super duper wrong, and so was whoever said this was a ‘mental illness simulator’. Yes, the game very directly and adamantly focuses on the protagonists schizophrenia, yes you as the player are plagued with hearing the voices she carries in her head, and yes the game goes out of it’s way to mess with your perceptions of reality and what is- and isn’t- real. Though it also expertly dodges all the tropes that surround using mental illness as a plot device, it subverts all the problematic content I was so certain it would contain, and presents one of the most incredible and sobering stories I have ever experienced. From the atmosphere that sweeps over you the moment you start the game, to the apex of the plot, this game delivers something unique and unexpected. A story about a young woman, on a journey to process her grief, who just happens to have a mental illness. My biggest fear with this game was that the whole story would be a mission to cure her, and I am happy to say that wasn't the case at all. Without getting too far into spoiler territory- Senua’s Sacrifice does something with mental illness that I wish more media dared to do, by showing how other people's perceptions of it often do far more harm than the condition itself. This unexpected game, that I wasn’t going to buy, is easily my top pick of 2017. If you’ve hesitated to buy it because of the same fears I had, I encourage you to give it a try- this really is something exceptional.