It’s about this time every year that I take a look back at the games I’ve played over the past twelve months and, in a move lacking any originality, compose my own ‘Top 5’ from 2017’s batch. Everyone likes to undertake this in their own way, but as in previous years, my list is selected from the games that I first played this year, rather than necessarily being released this year. As always I’ve provided the full list of games I have played at the end of the post for those enthusiastic readers who want to scrutinise my decision.
It’s been a year stark in contrast to 2016; this time last year I was complaining about how barren the gaming landscape had been, by comparison I’m still struggling to whittle down from my last 10 to a decisive ‘Top 5’. It’s been a year where I’ve rejoined console gaming with the release of the Nintendo Switch, and it’s been the year where I’ve enjoyed a fair amount of ‘new-to-me’ retro gaming. From a blogging perspective I’ve also had quite the year, but you’re right, I have already talked about all that once, so I’ll spare you the sepia-soaked montage of my year and move right on to the games themselves.
The ‘Honourable Mentions’ section of any end of year list is basically the ‘I want to talk about more than just my selected few’ section, and for those who’ve never done a ‘Top 5’ list, it exists because the ‘nearly-theres’ are often much more interesting to talk about than the ‘Obvious-Winners’.
Bioshock is a great game, and revisiting it in the form of the remastered version this year only served to remind me how much I enjoy the tone, the setting, and the plot of that undersea extravaganza. Its depiction of the rusting, crumbling, once-great utopia of rapture is polished by the updated graphics, but still retains what made the original release great. To anyone out there who has never journeyed to that undersea city I say “Would you kindly go and do so please” because there are few single player FPS experiences that are quite like it. The only reason that this didn’t make the top 5 was because I felt that it contravened my own rules slightly being as I have played a version of the game before.
PLAYER UNKNOWN’s: BATTLEGROUNDS:
PUBG didn’t make my list this year, but still deserves being highlighted for providing a unique experience creating an ingame tension unrivalled in the current gaming scene. Sadly the pacing and technical issues have not yet been resolved and there’s little sign that it’s a game that will ever move out of Early Access, a trait that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I really wanted to include Stories Untold in my Top 5 this year, but it just didn’t quite make the cut. Looking back at the time I spent with it a few months ago, I was reminded at how much the game managed to do with so little. The sense of mystery and growing dread made it one of the standout Indie titles of the year; sure it’s not going to be to everyone’s tastes, but if you think it looks like your kind of thing then I’m pretty sure you’l love it.
… but enough stalling, here it is….
Hundstrasse’s Top 5 Games That I have Played This Year!
#5: 7 Days to Die
‘7 Days to Die’ is the first game that made me realise that I enjoy crafting games more than I thought. It’s pretty rough around the edges and full of janky… including one bug that meant I just starting levitating higher and higher whilst riding a mini-bike… but it also provided hours of entertainment on Wednesday evening online gaming sessions full of zombie killing, town raiding, and of course digging an epic tunnel system. It provided enough elements of co-op fps, exploration, crafting & building, and driving around on mini-bikes (assuming that they didn’t sink through the ground when you parked them) to keep everyone in the group happy and cater to pretty much all moods. By the time we finally gave up and let our server lapse the fortress we’d constructed was an epic monstrosity with adjoining viewing tower and functional drawbridge. ‘7 Days to Die’ proved that fun doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with polished.
When I reviewed Strafe a few months ago I said that the developers pulled the ol’ switcheroo and had given us a rogue-like masquerading as a 90’s FPS rather than the pure 90’s FPS experience that many people had expected; unfortunately this seemed to upset more people than it impressed. Given the chance ‘Strafe’ is a challenging, fun, and ultimately rewarding experience full of charm, nods to the era it is mimicking, and jam packed with goofy secrets. It has that same incremental reward feedback that made ‘Spelunky’ so addictive; that idea that a ‘good-run’ means something progressively better and better each time you hit that play button. The whole package is wrapped up in Quake-era polygons and a suitably epic soundtrack which comes together to make something pretty special.
#3: Fortnite: Battle Royale
Free to Play has been a mixed bag, and despite delivering some solid titles I’m still not entirely sure on the idea of funding a game entirely through micro-transactions… Having said that, I can’t deny that F:BR is good, and shelling out cash for the in-game currency is only necessary if you’re interested in cosmetic items. I’ve already discussed how its faster pace and less arduous gameplay make it more ‘me’ appropriate than PUBG, but more importantly it actually feels like a polished game rather than an interesting-mod even though both titles are still early access. It’s drawn me back in again and again for just one more round despite my distinct mediocrity as a player. I’m also impressed with the string of updates that actually tackle problems; rebalancing weapons, ironing out kinks, and optimising the network side of things have all been regular features.
Sliding in to second place is Owlboy; a glorious celebration of the pixelart style diligently created over many years. When I played it during the early part of this year, I was impressed with not only the art style, but how it was used to create a rich in-game world whilst avoiding extensive exposition. The plot and themes may be cliched re-tellings of ‘Good vs. Evil’, ‘Finding your own place in the world’, and ‘Friendship is the best type of boat’… or whatever... but they’re so lovingly retold that even the cynic in me was warmed by them. The gameplay sticks to being simple and effective with a certain metroidvania twist and fun use of the colourful cast to act as the keys in unlocking new abilities. It’s also a game that made me question the use of the word ‘retro’; around the time of its release I kept seeing phrases like ‘A great retro-inspired game’, and ‘A retro loveletter to the 16-bit era’, all of which detract from what Owlboy is. It IS a great game, sure visually it uses a pixelart style that is similar to the that used in the 16-bit era, but I think we should move past the point where retro-styled is used as a qualifier and simply appreciate a game for what it is rather than framing it in a time that it isn’t from.
#1: The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild
I had a substantial internal debate about adding another illustrious ‘Best of the Year’ title to BotW’s already long list of 2017 accolades, but in the end I couldn’t let my instinctive urge to kick back against everyone else stand in the way of a pretty breathtakingly amazing game. BotW drew me in to a world that I really hadn’t entered in to before and made me want to go back to explore the rest of the franchise. It creates a wonderful sense of freedom, magnified by the horse-riding and gliding mechanics, allowing the player to choose where they go and how they approach this expansive open-world. For anyone willing to soak it up, it is also a rich world full of lore, detail, and most importantly stories, both big and small, which interweave organically making this rolling-landscape feel more ‘real’ than many I’ve virtually wandered through before. It has been some time since I significantly re-engaged with a title following the completion of the story, or took so much enjoyment in the meandering leisurely path that Link and I shared to get there.
… and as promised, here is the entire list of games that I played this year for the first time…
- Resident Evil Revelations
- Resident Evil Revelations 2
- House of the Dying Sun
- Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens
- Magicka 2
- We Were Here
- 7 Days to Die
- Banjo Kazooie
- Signal from Tölva
- Stories Untold
- The Final Station
- Hard West
- Typing of the Dead: Overkill
- Bioshock Remastered
- The Witness
- Jurassic Park CD
- Lovers in a dangerous space time
- Feel the Snow
- Bioshock 2 Remastered
- PLAYER UNKNOWN’s BATTLEGROUNDS
- Guardians of the Galaxy (Telltale)
- Sonic Mania
- Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Splatoon 2
- Dungeon Keeper 2
- Mario Kart 8
- Dino Crisis
- Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles
- In the Shadows
- FortNite: Battle Royale
- Jackbox 2
- Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
- Prototype Mansion
So what do you think? Did I make the right choices?