This game of the year watch will consist of my top five games of the year so far, as well as the biggest surprise, biggest disappointment, and a short list of honorable mentions. I have not played every game that has been released this year, but I have made it a priority to play as much as I can. Without further ado, let’s get into it. Let’s get the BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT out of the way first. This was a game I was semi-excited for, having previously only dabbled in its predecessors. While this is in no way a bad game, it feels years old and likes it was developed in a vacuum.
Mass Effect Andromeda is a deep character-driven game filled with goofy animations, mundane missions, and a hand-holding mission structure. The past couple of years have given us amazing open-world experiences that completely overshadow what Andromeda achieves, and it’s truly a shame. It also doesn’t help that the game looks how it plays, with outdated graphics and hideously cluttered menus. Next on this list is my BIGGEST SURPRISE, which is the delightful Gravity Rush 2. This was a game that released before any of the heavy hitters this year and got the chance to shine.
The game’s unique movement system made it a blast to explore the world’s floating cities. The art direction was also complementary to the very Japanese style of storytelling. What holds Gravity Rush 2 back is a lackluster story and a few missions that totally betray the game’s mechanics completely. I hope that a third game can someday be released; it definitely has the opportunity to be a massive success. Now let’s get to my TOP FIVE games of 2017 thus far.
NUMBER FIVE: Persona 5
I’ve never played a Persona game before and am not a fan of turn-based RPGs. Still, Persona 5 somehow has completely engaged my interest with its slick design, fantastic characters, and engaging premise. The moment-to-moment gameplay has you doing mundane activities like going to school, working a part-time job, or taking down an evil gym teacher’s castle (not so mundane). There’s such a variety of things to do in Persona 5 that even after 15 hours of game time, I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface.
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NUMBER FOUR: Horizon Zero Dawn
Sony’s first huge exclusive game of the year was released in the form of Horizon Zero Dawn from developer Guerrilla Games, the makers of the Killzone franchise. The alloy is a great female protagonist that leads you through a rather interesting campaign that took me roughly 25 hours to complete. I was pleasantly surprised with just how well the game actually plays with combat, hunting, and crafting. These elements create a semi-deep experience. The above-average gameplay and beautiful open world can’t quite overcome the traditional open-world vibes this game gives off, though. Tallnecks are your typical Ubisoft “towers” that unlock areas on your map, and the mission structures are lazy at times. It overall feels like a game of checking off the boxes, but the package as a whole is great.
NUMBER THREE: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
I have never actually owned a Mario Kart game and because of that never really put time into any of the previously released games in the franchise. Now that I own Nintendo’s newest console/handheld hybrid, I dove at the chance to play the newest Mario Kart and have loved every minute of it. Not only has it been plain fun to play, but its core mechanics also are flawless, and the game is packed with nearly 50 tracks and a handful of modes. I have also had the chance to utilize the three-player couch coop with my girlfriend and sister, a blast. Mario Kart 8 truly captures what games were 15 years ago.
NUMBER TWO: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
The more and more I thought about Resident Evil 7, the more it moved up on this list. I had never played a Resident Evil game before, nor did I feel like I needed to. But the change to the first person and the refocus on survival horror was massively appealing, more so than the series usual third-person action-oriented gameplay.
Resident Evil 7 boasts gorgeous visuals, a haunting atmosphere, and an overall excellent game design. The Baker residence is a masterclass of level design and became a character itself as I found all of its secrets and dangers. The puzzle-focused way of moving about the house to get to the bottom of what happened to this corrupted family is an absolute absorbing experience, and I can’t recommend it enough. I also played about half of the game in VR, and wow, what a surreal way to play this fantastic game.
Before I unveil my favorite game of the year so far, here are some HONORABLE MENTIONS. Nioh takes advantage of the Souls style of games and puts a nice twist on it. But the lack of a truly connected open world and an odd spike in difficulty makes this game fall off the list for me. I like the attempt to tell a story and world build, but it’s so obviously a Souls-inspired game, and while I like most of the things it implements, the shortcomings stand out even more in the shadow of the Souls games.
Outlast 2 is a great sequel to a game that most likely inspired my number two pick. The new location is vast and scary, with the camera element very enjoyable. The slick graphics don’t make up for the trial and error enemy encounters, though. The game is a good experience, though, and I would recommend the game to any horror fans.
For Honor is Ubisoft’s latest attempt at creating an online-only multiplayer experience that exceeds to certain extents. The core combat mechanics are unique, and I like the experiences it offers on the battlefields. But the game lacks much depth beyond the combat system, and the campaign is a tacked-on afterthought.
NUMBER ONE: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Yep, you guessed it. What’s there to say about Breath of the Wild that hasn’t already been said. The game transcends the typical open-world genre and previous Zelda games to create something so simply magnificent. Every mechanic in the game is created and placed so that the player can truly do anything you can think of. Nintendo has completely taken the reigns off the player and pushes them into the huge game world. I have put in 30 hours into Breath of the Wild and plan to continue to visit it even after beating the game’s final boss. There is a sense of magic while playing this game, and it can’t be explained, only experienced, and it’s something I have never experienced before, which is why The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is my favorite game of the year so far.