Before we begin, I would liked to note that some very popular games won’t be on this list. For as many games as I played this year, there were many more that I missed out on and will have to catch up to starting next year. I’m sure there are some very good games that would easily crack my top 10 if they didn’t make the fatal error of costing money and time. Hopefully, the industry learns to do better next year, and include rent money with every game I buy.
Still, when I look at my Top 10 list, I don’t feel like I missed out on too much. So let’s begin.
10. NieR: Automata
Frankly, I think NieR: Automata is a very flawed game. The gameplay is simplistic to the point of agony at times. Also the PC launch in particular was a technical wreck that was only saved by the hard work of the game’s community (and a very dedicated member in particular who basically went through every major problem that version had and fixed it personally). Make no mistake, this game was a chore to get through in multiple ways.
What makes the effort worth it is how the game tells its bizarre story in a really charming way. The characters aren’t exactly likable and the writing is sometimes awkward, but there’s a real appeal to this world Yoko Taro has created. It’s somehow goofy and somber. What kept me going through the game was the drive to see these main characters somehow make it through the bleak circumstances of their existence. The game delivers on that promise of finding some sort of hope with an ending that completely caught me off guard, while also leaving me completely satisfied.
No joke here. I think Ending E is a damn near perfect ending and one of the best I’ve ever seen from a game. In fact, that ending alone is probably the main reason NieR: Automata held onto a spot on my list. Sadly, no other part of the game even comes close to matching the impact of those final moments, but it would be pretty hard to.
9. Sonic Mania
Finally, in the troubled development of the Sonic franchise, Sega did the one thing that made some sense and turned to talented fans who had already put a lot of effort into capturing what people originally liked about the series. With their official take on Sonic, they actually reminded me why I enjoy the original games.
It took a lot of time for me to appreciate Sonic Mania. Truthfully, I full-blown hated it and myself throughout the duration of my first playthrough. Sonic has never been the tightest controlling platformer, and there’s a ton of that old-school frustration in this game.
Yet, as annoyed as I was, starting a 2nd immediate playthrough just came really naturally. It was in that next playthrough I remembered what I enjoyed about classic Sonic games. How fun it is to master your abilities in each level, find every secret, and storm to the end. Beating a Sonic game isn’t the fun part, it’s when you put in the time to do it really well. It’s a similar philosophy as the Devil May Cry games in my mind. Don’t just beat the level, but do awesome things along the way.
So Sonic Mania is a great addition to those classic games, with its remixed nods to old levels and the all-new ones that actually stand out above those classics. It’s a great game, and Sega should really just let those guys keep running with what they started here. Let Sonic stay in his original formula, where we were all happy.
Nioh doesn’t really build a captivating world on par with the “Soulsborne” games that came before it, and it does run out of enemies quicker than I would have liked. But what Nioh does really well is take that type of format and challenge the player to navigate through it with a faster, more complex combat system. Switching weapons and stances on the fly, learning new techniques, and using the Ki Pulse feature to make sure you’re always getting the most out of your openings ended up being some of the most fun I’ve had mastering an action game in quite some time.
This was also probably the best loot-driven game I’ve played this year. Always having the ability to combine equipment for better stuff and to be able to use the appearance of any gear I get so I could always look like the goofy fan-fiction ninja that I want to be ended up setting a new high mark for how I think all games should handle loot going forward. Make it all feel valuable, and let the player look how they want.
Of course, Nioh and its many systems can be daunting for reasons beyond its challenge. There’s a lot to learn here, but I felt like both my time and effort were definitely rewarded.
7. Horizon Zero Dawn
As an open-world game, Horizon plays things relatively safe. Any Far Cry player can pick this game up and feel pretty familiar with it. Hunt things, gather resources to craft upgrades, and travel the world doing missions.
Where Horizon stands out is that the world it presents is insanely detailed and captivating. The game is gorgeous, the giant robotic wildlife is awe-inspiring and intimidating from beginning to end, and it also tells a post-apocalyptic story through the world that is both unique and disturbingly believable. Aloy is also a fantastic main character who got a story worthy of such a great performance from Ashly Burch.
You do have to take time getting comfortable with the game’s combat, though, as it is a very particular type of stealth game where you often have to rely on all your tools to come out alive. Still, there was a lot of satisfaction that came from progressing in Horizon. Going from how under-equipped you feel with just a bow and some wire traps, to realizing how you could take down a whole cave of robot dinosaurs with just those things ended up being one of the better feelings a game left me with this year.
6. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
Even if it’s lacking in polish, PUBG is just such a cool idea to me. Air drop about 100 murdering psychopaths into an area and the last one standing wins. It’s one of those ideas that is so good you wonder why we only saw it happen this year.
Then you remember that it’s one of those “simple to explain, really hard to pull off” great ideas. PUBG is packed with jank and it will not play nice with every system out there. But if it does let you and maybe a couple of friends into it both lighthearted and horrifying world, you’re going to get some of the most tense and most hilarious moments I’ve had in any game. For all its technical issues, they made a game that I always wanted but never realized just how badly. I look forward to PUBG being a multiplayer fixture for me well beyond this year.
(Seeing as how this is running long already, My Top 5 of 2017 will go up the 26th. Have a good holiday)