While 2017 was a rough year in many regards, it was one of the best for gaming. This past year was packed with so many excellent release that making a list of the best could very well turn out to be a losing proposition. I’m going to try, though I should mention that these are my favorites of the year – this list was not determined by committee, nor will it be ranked. Since this is a list of my personal favorites, I’ll obviously only be discussing games that I’ve played. Therefore, if you don’t see your favorite game of the year, don’t necessarily take it to mean that it isn’t good. Let’s dig in!
Sonic the Hedgehog was the first video game I ever played. The year was 1992 and I, a baby-faced five year old, had just unwrapped a Sega Genesis for my birthday. By that point, Sega was tossing in Sonic the Hedgehog as a pack-in game, and I was instantly hooked. I would ask my mom to wake me up early so I could play Sonic before school, and most nights I would sneak out of bed to watch my dad play Sonic from the hallway, long after I should have been asleep. Over the years that followed, I became a big fan of the Genesis Sonic games, and to this day, they remain some of my favorite games of all time.
READ MORE: After Sonic Mania, 2D Sonic games need to be a prioritySonic Mania is a love letter to those games, and though many of the Sonic games released over the past two-and-a-half decades range in quality from “okay” to “I’m never buying a Sonic game again,” this is not one of them. Sonic Mania updates the series’ fast-paced, 2D gameplay just enough to feel fresh, while at the same time offering the perfect number of throwbacks to the Genesis era. Everything about this game is wonderful, from its music and boss battles to its level design and secrets. If you have even a passing interest in 2D platformers, pick this one up.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
Never has there been a more perfect throwback to the cRPGs of the past. Divinity: Original Sin 2 offers excellent turn-based tactical combat, a deep class system that lends to many different playthroughs, a wonderful cast of characters, and tops it all of with an enthralling story. Add to that a DM mode that allows one player to lead a group of others through various campaigns, and this could very well become one of the most played games in your Steam library.
While Divinity: Original Sin 2 is great a single-player adventure, the game really shines when you get a group of your buddies together to do a co-op run. If you have fond memories of playing through games like Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn, Icewind Dale, or Neverwinter Nights, you’ll feel right at home with Divinity: Original Sin 2. Even if you don’t have a history with those RPG giants of the past, you should still give Divinity: Original Sin 2 a spin if you like magic, mythical creatures, and a good story.
Emily is Away Too
Emily is Away Too is a game that’s well outside of my usual comfort zone. I’m a big fan of RPGs and adventure games, so to find such joy in playing a visual novel that takes place almost entirely within a program inspired by AOL Instant Messenger came as a surprise to me. Still, Emily is Away Too succeeded in bringing back a lot of memories of my tumultuous teenage years, where strong friendships were formed – and sometimes lost – in chat windows and the timing of an away message could speak volumes.
Anyone who was in high school in the mid-2000s will almost instantly relate to this game. Though it’s short (my first playthrough was done in a single night over the course of just a couple of hours), its branching narrative invites you to play multiple times. While I realize that not everyone will want to reminded of their high school years, those who have no hesitations about diving in will find a game that perfectly encapsulates the feeling of navigating friendships, relationships, and high school drama at a time when you’re trying to figure out who you are and what you want for the future.
Anyone who has played PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds knows why this game is on here. PUBG offers engaging multiplayer gameplay that’s difficult to find anywhere else, and though there are a handful of other games that do something similar, none of them really match PUBG’s flavor.
READ MORE: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds reviewQuickly skyrocketing to become Steam’s most popular game, PUBG has become a PC gaming phenomenon. Though it still has its share of problems even after exiting Steam Early Access, it provides an intense and addicting multiplayer fight for survival that you can’t find anywhere else. It feels like 2017 is just the beginning for PUBG – expect it to break even more records and become an even more common name next year.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Had The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild not launched this year, we probably would have heard much more raving about Horizon Zero Dawn. Don’t misunderstand: Horizon Zero Dawn received plenty of praise, but Breath of the Wild’s launch a mere three days later overshadowed talk of this PS4 exclusive in a fairly significant way.
Still, if you own a PS4, Horizon Zero Dawn provides one of the best experiences of the year. Solid character development, thrilling combat, and a beautiful open world to explore are at the center of all the praise lavished upon Horizon Zero Dawn throughout the year, and though the open world genre is packed to the brim with excellent games, Horizon Zero Dawn manages to stand out from the crowd. In my opinion, Horizon Zero Dawn was the essential PS4 game of 2017.
Super Mario Odyssey
There isn’t much to say about Super Mario Odyssey that hasn’t already been said. By the time it launched in October, fans had been waiting on a 3D Mario game like Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy for years, and Super Mario Odyssey hit all of the notes it needed to hit perfectly. In short: It proves yet again that Nintendo is the master when it comes to making best-in-class platformer games.
READ MORE: Super Mario Odyssey reviewThough Super Mario Odyssey feels instantly familiar, it changes things up enough to still feel fresh at the same time. Fans who go in expecting a rehash of Sunshine or Galaxy are going to be surprised, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is a lot to love when it comes to Super Mario Odyssey, and it (along with some of the other games on this list) makes an excellent case for buying a Switch in its first year of availability.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
If, at the beginning of the year, you would have told me that a game featuring Rabbids would rank among my favorite games of the year, I probably would have told you to never speak to me again. Yet here we are, with me possibly more surprised than I’ve ever been and Ubisoft delivering a Mario and Rabbids mash up that is an absolutely blast to play.
Even stranger is the fact that Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle borrows so much from the XCOM series while at the same time being able to stand on its own. I never thought I’d see a tactical RPG featuring Mario, but I’m very glad that Nintendo took a chance on Ubisoft with this title. If you’re holding off because you don’t think you’ll like a game with Rabbids in it, you’re very much missing out. This game is wonderful from the very start, with addicting battles and cutscenes that can actually be quite a bit heartwarming.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Though this list is mostly unranked, I have to say that Breath of the Wild is my personal Game of the Year. Never before have I seen a series change so drastically but so successfully at the same time. Breath of the Wild is very un-Zelda, but after 30 years of temples and hookshots, that definitely isn’t a bad thing.
READ MORE: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild reviewIs Breath of the Wild a perfect game? No. There are legitimate complaints to be made about the game’s weapon system and you could make the argument that other games do the whole “open-world” thing better. Those complaints aside, Breath of the Wild is a game that captivated me for more than 100 hours, and I’m looking forward to playing through it all again. There aren’t many games that can claim that kind longevity, and if you don’t own a Switch, you need to get one so you can play this game.
I really get the feeling that this list could be twice as long if only I had more time throughout the year. Regardless these are my favorite games of the year, and now I want to hear yours – head down to the comments section and post your own list of favorites for 2017!