It’s Loresworn Games of the Year Week, and the main event is finally here! This is our definitive list of the best games we played in 2017. Something missing that you expected to make the countdown? Chances are, it’s one of our Games We Didn’t Get To in 2017 (But Wish We Had).
And don’t forget to swing back by tomorrow for our Most Anticipated Games of 2018.
Let the countdown begin!
Special Mention – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
T.J.: I wanted to throw this in here as I’m a bit more than halfway through it as of the absolute last day to finalize text for this list. So I didn’t exactly “miss” it, but I also didn’t finish it, either. Even so, I’m fairly confident from what I’ve seen so far that it would have made my Top 5 if I had. While I don’t love everything about it (weapon breakage…), it’s overall a spectacular reinvention of the Zelda formula that has been stagnant since Ocarina of Time. The puzzles and dungeons are extremely clever and impressively-constructed. The world is massive, diverse, and feels lived-in. Once again, Nintendo proves they’re still the household name in video games for a reason. I likely have dozens of hours left before I even face Ganon, and I’m looking forward to just about every minute of it.
T.J.’s Picks, #5 – #2
5. Torment: Tides of Numenera
It’s hard to follow up one of the best RPGs of all time, and I don’t know that Tides of Numenera will be remembered quite the same as its Planescape predecessor. Even so, it’s a thought-provoking story set in a fascinating world that, much like Planescape, never ceases to surprise you with its wonderfully bizarre locales, characters, and challenges. The crisis system is the weakest link – which is disappointing, given how much more I enjoyed the turn-based combat in Torment developer inXiles’ Wasteland 2 over the real-time battles in Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity and Tyranny. The writing is so absolutely exceptional, however, that I was willing to fumble through lots of fiddly encounters to get to see more if it. That Tides of Numenera was largely looked over is perhaps one of the greatest tragedies of 2017. RPG fans owe it to themselves to go on this journey.
4. Steel Division: Normandy 44
The issue of scale is ever a bugbear in the design of modern war games. Do you go with something small and squad-based like Company of Heroes? That limits how much of the scope of the conflict you can portray. Do you try to take a look at the whole shebang from a high vantage point like Hearts of Iron? That level of abstraction causes you to lose the connection with the individual units on the ground. Steel Division hits what I see as the ideal sweet spot in the middle, where the battles feel huge and momentous, but you can still zoom in on and give orders to a single machine gun team trying to hold a farmhouse. The realistic range, vision, and damage modeling create a battlescape where intel is often your most important weapon, and the way its phases give nimble but less resilient armies a way to take ground and hold it against a rolling blitzkrieg adds a lot of verisimilitude and interesting tactical consideration to the mix. This was my favorite game to play with friends in 2017.
3. Mass Effect: Andromeda
Anyone who follows me on Twitter should be unsurprised by this pick. To the rest of you who may even now be calling for my blood, I have only to say: I really enjoyed Andromeda. Deal with it. I will concede that it’s probably the worst Mass Effect game. But the very fact that it is Mass Effect – a deep, sprawling, cinematic, well-written, well-acted action RPG in the BioWare tradition of exciting set-pieces and meticulous worldbuilding – puts it in a category of its own. It’s like comparing the worst player in the NFL to high school varsity bench-warmers. Aside from having the best combat in the series so far, I enjoyed the arc of exploring a new galaxy and uncovering its secrets. Did it slip up in plenty of places? Sure. The facial animation was atrocious at times, there were too many filler quests, the party members were mostly unmemorable, and certain story choices fell flat. But when Andromeda’s world really drew me in and I was fighting for my life to save a dying Asari ark? I just didn’t care. It’s more Mass Effect. BioWare could make ten more just like this and I’d happily buy and devour them. And most of them would probably end up on this list.
Pyre is an experience that will stick with me for a long time, and the closest to a perfect review score I’ve ever awarded in my freelance career. The world design is clever, stylish, and evocative. The characters are endearing, varied, and easy to fall in love with. The challenging Trials are given all the emotional weight of watching your favorite sports game play in the championship, knowing that the outcome could change the fate of one of those characters forever. The story made me tear up at times, and stand bolt upright in triumph at others. All the while, Darren Korb’s outstanding soundtrack (which is also my favorite album of any sort to be released in 2017) weaves its moving swells and refrains artfully into every aspect of the adventure. Supergiant continues to stand out as a very special developer in this medium, and Pyre is their best work yet.