John Ceccarelli – Ranking My Gaming 2017

The last year brought us many things in the gaming space. Between the release of an awesome new retro machine (SNES Classic), the most innovative console to date (Nintendo Switch), and what may very well be the greatest window of releases we’ve ever seen (Sony’s stretch from February to May, including Horizon Zero Dawn, Nier: Automata, Danganronpa Reload, Nioh, the Kingdom Hearts remaster, and Yakuza Zero), its been a massively loaded year in gaming (not to mention loot box controversies and two potential new candidates for the gaming GOAT – greatest of all time). I’ve been quite busy myself, enjoying and experiencing the many games as they came out, as well as many in my backlog. Below is my power ranking of games I beat in 2017. These are single player games with a standalone story, that I saw all the way to completion, including the ending, in my personal order of ranking…

But first, let’s look into a few other categories:

In Micro-transaction Memoriam

Many games this year were weighed down by loot boxes and micro-transactions, completely ruining the flow and feel of the game. I was extremely hyped for the following games, but wound up avoiding them due to the mechanic ruining what would have otherwise been a fine game.

3. Shadow of War (Part 4)

Ok, to be fair, I didn’t fully avoid Shadow of War. I played through the first 3 parts, and very much enjoyed the game. However, when I reached part 4 (aka, the micro-transaction laden castle defense part), there was no way I was going to throw either time or money away to see a 30 second cut-scene that didn’t even touch on the story of the game.

2. Star Wars: Battlefront 2

To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have sunk a ton of hours into BF2 had it neglected to insert canc- sorry, micro-transactions into its game. I was as excited as everyone else when it was unveiled on the E3 stage, and couldn’t wait to try it out, but I wasn’t really a fan of the old-man shooter feel of BF1. While I may have given it a shot, the micro-transactions made me steer clear altogether.

1. Need for Speed: Payback

This one hits me hard. From the first trailer I saw, I was hooked on Payback. A mix between Most Wanted and Burnout? Count me in… that is, until I saw the upgrade mechanic. And the need to effectively play slots to get the upgrades you want. This was a massive turnoff, especially for a single player game, limiting the control a player actually had around their progression. My hype was DOA with Payback actually released.

Multiplayer

In the past, I’ve sampled a Costco-sized variety tray of multiplayer games every year, and I’ve quite enjoyed each one for the most part. However 2017 had only a handful of games that stole my attention and didn’t let go.

6. Lawbreakers

The only really bad game I played this year in terms of multiplayer, was Lawbreakers. I didn’t enjoy much of anything I played, which was disappointing, because it seemed to have so much potential. However, in such a saturated market, when competing with the likes of Overwatch, it’s really hard to make an impression when the bar is set so high.

5. Overwatch

I have nothing but good things to say about Overwatch, I respect and admire its growth and playerbase. However, it’s simply not my cup of tea.

4. Mario Kart 8

Mario Kart 8 was one of the driving factors that got me to buy a WiiU. When I saw it running beautifully at a friend’s house, I just had to have it. When it launched on Nintendo Switch, I was a day one buyer. Mario Kart is still one of the best couch racers in the entire industry, ruining friendships, and blossoming rivalries, memories are made during each race – be it dropping profanities in a bank after losing due to a Horn to the face around the final stretch, to busting out the switch on a camping trip after a challenge was declared. Mario Kart simply makes every gathering better.

3. Rocket League

Who would have thought the idea of Car Soccer would have taken off like it has, especially looking at it years later. Rocket League continues to be one of my favorite games to come back to, and its addition to the Switch has made it even easier to take when traveling on the go. I’m always finding myself busing out my Switch when some quiet time arises when I’m away from home, fitting in one more match.

2. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)

You knew it was coming. Like everyone else, I found myself sucked in to endless hours chasing the dragon that is a PUBG chicken dinner. As an early purchaser in May, I’ve seen PUBG go through its share of ups and downs, and the game still finds ways to be broken as hell even after 1.0’s release. However, the game doesn’t stop being fun. There are tons of rage-inducing RNG moments (like landing on a 3 story mansion to find not a single weapon, while the dude who landed in the shack next to you somehow has a fully decked out M4), but the collection of memories and stories I now have with my friends (blasting Vanessa Carlton while driving to the circle, endless quotes, and countless motorcycle flips) keep me coming back.

1. Rainbow Six: Siege

My #1 multiplayer game this year came out in 2015. When it launched, it had some of the worst issues we’ve seen in a multiplayer game since Halo: MCC. And to top it all off, it was an Ubisoft game, so clearly, it would be left to rot, right? Wrong. The amount of care and dedication that has gone into Siege is unparalleled for Ubisoft. They’ve made this game something absolutely great, with new characters, new maps, and cosmetics-only loot boxes that have absolutely zero effect on gameplay. With plans already in place to continue delivering content in Year 3, the sky is the limit for Siege. No game is ever the same, and communication is key. With an always changing Meta, the game never gets stale, and is always evolving. This is my favorite multiplayer game I’ve played in 2017. All Hail Lord Tachanka.

2017 in Review

61. I Am Setsuna

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Original Release Date: 6/19/2016
Metascore: 74
Winner of the “Generic RPG with Paper-Thin Characters” Award

Bringing up the rear is I Am Setsuna. Due to an extremely forgettable story containing characters with no personality or any depth, this one is at the very end of my power rankings. The combat system uses an active battle system we’ve seen before, and there’s no variety to the small contained world. It was a slog to get through Setsuna, which came from the aptly named Tokyo RPG Factory.

60. Marvel vs Capcom: Infininte

Platform: Xbox One
Original Release Date: 9/19/2017
Metascore: 77
Winner of the “You’ve Shamed Your Ancestors” Award

I’m not mad, I’m just… disappointed. After playing through the Injustice games, I should have realized how high the bar was (while they can’t do movies, DC does other mediums VERY well) for MvC:I. That being said, if the bar was a foot off the ground, they’d still have stumbled. The game is clunky, generally looks bad, and the campaign is simply nonsensical. Marvel V Capcom 2 is one of the greatest fighting games out there, and even MvC3 was pretty good. With that kind of pedigree, there are certain expectations that come along with the Marvel vs Capcom name. Well, at least there used to be.

59. Sly 2: Band of Thieves

Platform: PS Vita
Original Release Date: 9/14/2004
Metascore: 88
Winner of the “PS2 Camera Controls Poorly Aged” Award

Last year I played (and really enjoyed) Sly Cooper on PS Vita. I was very excited to play Sly 2 this year as a part of my 12in12. That excitement lasted through the first 2 areas, upon which I had that sinking “oh boy, this is going to be rough” feeling. This game has really not aged well, especially when playing on PS Vita. The camera is wonky and sometimes fails to cooperate, and some of the climbing and movement that feels so fluid in today’s games just doesn’t flow at all in Sly 2. I can see how Sly 2 may have been game changing when it first released, but it certainly puts into perspective how far we’ve come since it came out. This was a rough one to get through, but here’s to hoping Sly 3 is better.

58. Ape Escape 2

Platform: PS4 (PS2 Classics)
Original Release Date: 7/18/2002
Metascore: 82
Winner of the “Nostalgia is One Hell of a Drug” Award

One of my primary memories about the PSX era was about a distinct lack of something: a Dualshock controller. This was primarily due to sitting on a copy of Ape Escape for several months before nabbing a controller to actually play the game. I loved everything about Ape Escape, the challenge, the different Apes, and the different gadgets. Unfortunately, this was heavily because I was a kid, and while I enjoyed Ape Escape 2, it just didn’t hit those same highs. While I still enjoyed catching each and every Ape, and the different obstacles they presented, a lot of the game was tedious, and the camera was a classic representation of how far we’ve come since the PS2 era.

57. Ico

Platform: PS3 (PS NOW)
Original Release Date: 9/25/2001
Metascore: 90
Winner of the “Stay Away From Her, You B&*@$” Award

Ico is one of those games that every raves about, remembering it fondly as a groundbreaking experience. You spend the game escorting a princess around a castle, trying to escape, not really knowing what’s going on. The combat is funky, fighting shadows with a stick, and not being at risk of death (losing the game consists of the shadows captured and taking the princess away). The game came out early on in the PS2 era, and that’s very prevalent, with the graphics, character design, and the camera control (a recurring theme in these PS2 games I played this year). In my preparation for The Last Guardian, I found myself enjoying Ico, if for nothing else, the educational experience.

56. Mighty No. 9

Platform: PS4
Original Release Date: 6/21/2016
Metascore: 52
Winner of the “Took More Criticism Than It Probably Deserved” Award

I’m a massive Mega Man fan, played through everything the Legacy Collection had to offer. I absolutely love these types of games. I came into Mighty No. 9 with the lowest of expectations, and I have to say, it got a lot more s*** than it deserved. The game had pretty decent platforming mechanics, the main problem was with the absorption mechanic. I’ll admit, it was pretty cludgy, but it didn’t tank the game, which really did merit a much higher metascore.

55. Commander Keen 2

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 12/14/90
Metascore: N/A
Co-Winner of the “Look How Far We’ve Come” Award

Commander Keen was the very first game I ever played, on my parents’ first computer. The game was revolutionary then, being the first game on PC to have a scrolling background (if you haven’t, I highly recommend checking out Masters of Doom, covering ID Software’s origins). That being said, the game is far from as fluid as the original Super Mario Bros, with an emphasis on clunky jumping, pogo sticks, and an awkward action to trigger the ray gun, the game really shows where PC platforming began and how far we’ve come.

54. Max Payne 2

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 10/14/2003
Metascore: 73
Winner of the “Most Graphically Improved” Award

If there’s one area the sequel is better than the original in for Max Payne, its graphically. Max Payne 1 to 2 went from block faces (think the PlayStation MGS faces) to actual textured faces. Both games were extremely dark and gloomy, but they sure were fun. There’s nothing like going into bullet time and wiping out a cluster of enemies, but there is a problem when a pistol is better the use than a shotgun in many cases. The story was top-notch, and it came with several great memorable lines.

53. Emily is Away Too

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 5/26/2017
Metascore: 81
Winner of the “Way Too Relatable” Award

The first Emily Is Away game left me with some very conflicted and weird emotions. Flashbacks to high school and using AIM are always cringe-worthy, but the game nailed the language and idiosyncrasies that were all too common back in those days. The sequel took what the original did and ratcheted it up another level, having the player essentially have to choose between two girls and try not to break any hearts. While not as heavy as the first game, EIAT still hit those nostalgic feelings, reminding you of those good ole days, spending hours at the computer messaging with friends. Thankfully this time, a happy ending is possible.

52. Commander Keen

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 12/14/1990
Metascore: N/A
Co-Winner of the “Look How Far We’ve Come” Award

What can I say, I’m a sucker for finally returning to finish the job. I never actually beat Commander Keen back in the day. Returning to finish off an old challenge is always an amazing feeling. That being said, the game is similar to Commander Keen 2 in that it really displays what games were like in the early days on PC. The game is generally clunky, as you’d expect from a game released 27 years ago. The mechanics feel slow and sludge-like, taking a long time to stop and start moving, with jumping taking several frames, vs the instant pop we’re used to today. That being said, you never forget your first.

51. Owlboy

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 11/1/2016
Metascore: 88
Winner of the “Unique Combat” Award

There’s just something about 8/16 bit 2D side-scrollers that gets me. Owlboy ticks a lot of boxes, with some fun but somewhat forgettable characters, an interesting movement mechanic, and some decent worlds, it’s a fun game. Where it shines is its combat mechanic. Your character himself doesn’t actually fight anything, instead, his friends and partners do the heavy lifting while your port them around from place to place. This is also how solving puzzles, and overcoming obstacles works. Some of the stealth areas don’t work exceptionally well, but overall the game is a fun time.

50. Injustice 2

Platform: Xbox One
Original Release Date: 5/11/2017
Metascore: 89
Winner of the “Wacky Comic Storyline” Award

Injustice 2‘s storyline was just plain crazy. Brainiac controlling people, having to work with evil Superman, and going to Gorilla City? Pretty much par for the course for one of the weirder storylines in a comic book. However, the fighting mechanics of Injustice are purely top-notch. The game is a lot of fun to play, and while weird, the story was pretty fun to consume. It flowed well, and the concept of choosing which characters to fight with in each story was a lot of fun. Plus it introduced a lot of lesser known DC characters to the fighting community. Also special props for being features in the Arrow show this season.

49. Max Payne

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 7/23/2001
Metascore: 89
Winner of the “Super Dark and Overly Gritty” Award

Max Payne has some of the best dialogue and presentation of story in games. I loved the graphic novel style presentation, and the general morbid nature of the lead character. The game had some great twists, and the story was pretty remarkable. Granted, there were a few parts that Rockstar never bothered to fix on PC, so I had to use console commands to skip a single dream segment, but overall the game was extremely enjoyable. It was definitely a case of the original being better than the sequel, despite blockface graphics (as previously mentioned, think MGS on the original PlayStation).

48. Wardor (Middle Earth: Shadow of War) – Chapters 1-3

Platform: Xbox One
Original Release Date: 9/27/2017
Metascore: 81
Winner of the “Nobody Play-tested This” Award

Massive Disclaimer: I didn’t bother with Chapter 4 of Wardor. I have no desire to waste my time playing lootbox-based castle defense when there are so many quality games on the market. Ain’t nobody got time for that. That being said, I like Wardor A LOT. However, there were so many little things that added up during the course of the game. The climbing, random jumping off ledges, the amount of time it took to run places, and opening and closing the menu take forever. Mainly, there’s no way to fast forward or skip a captain from their spiel when you see them. When you’re mid fight and everything stops so an Orc can spout dialogue you’ve heard several times already, it can really take you out of the game. There were just pieces where it didn’t feel like anyone playtested the game and flagged these QoL (quality of life) issues for the developers. I really enjoyed the revamped Nemesis system (even if it did feel like it somewhat pushed you towards the loot boxes towards the end), and actually taking the fortress in each region was a blast.

47. Late Shift

Platform: PS4
Original Release Date: 4/18/2017
Metascore: 58
Winner of the “Interactive Narrative Story” Award

First off, I really hope we see more of these types of games. I really enjoyed Late Shift and believe it deserved more than the metacritic score it received. Despite a somewhat forgettable story, I really enjoyed the concept of watching a movie and making decisions for the main character. I played through the game several times – something I don’t typically do – to see the different outcomes, and the story can differ pretty drastically based on a few key decision points. The acting in the game was pretty solid, despite a lack of description on why some ancient cup is so damn important.

46. Injustice

Platform: PS4
Original Release Date: 4/16/2013
Metascore: 81
Winner of the “Actually Really Good Comic Storyline” Award

While I thought Injustice 2‘s storyline was crazy and out there, I absolutely loved the idea of Superman going crazy and evil in the first game. The concept of something happening to the woman he loves, turning him into a militaristic worldwide dictator was fascinating, and I love how they spun pulling the heroes we know from Earth 1 to help. The combat was fantastic, and the story was broken into easily digestible chapters that were each enjoyable in their own right. I very much enjoyed the original more than the sequel.

45. Crash Bandicoot Remastered (N-Sane Trilogy)

Platform: PS4
Original Release Date: 6/30/2017
Metascore: 80
Winner of the “These Jumps Are Impossible” Award

The Crash Bandicoot Remastered games were some of the very few games I nabbed the platinum trophy in. This required beating every time trial, and nabbing every gem, which proved to be a massive pain in the butt, since they based each game off the Crash 3 engine without updating the previous jump gaps. This led to some damn near impossible jumps that required absolutely pixel perfect placement, and even then, it was blind luck if you had a nitro box hop while you were in the air and throw everything out of whack. That being said, the trip down memory lane was well worth it. Crash 1 was always the weakest in the bunch, with the least memorable boss fights, and some of the early 3D platforming levels from Naughty Dog (these would be improved upon in the later Crash games). Despite all this, Crash Bandicoot looks absolutely beautiful, and provides a ton of fun (when you’re not contemplating how much it would cost to buy a new controller if yours HAPPENED to wind up lodged into the dry wall).

44. Papers, Please

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 8/8/2013
Metascore: 85
Winner of the “TSA Will Never Look The Same Again” Award

I had no idea what I was getting into with Papers, Please, but wow was it an eye opener. As a border agent, processing passports and having to screen out potential terrorists and people with invalid documents, the game could be stressful at times. Especially considering you’re trying to process as many people as possible to keep your family warm and fed in the cold Eastern Europe winter. My first trip to the airport after playing this game was even more stressful than I thought it could be, as I wondered if there was anything possibly wrong with my papers when I passed them over. The game starts simple at first and adds layer upon layer of conditions to check to determine if someone is allowed access to your country, and if you get one wrong. That dreaded buzzing sound will haunt your dreams.

43. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Platform: Xbox One
Original Release Date: 9/30/2016
Metascore: 81
Winner of the “Palette Cleanser” Award

Shantae is a bright and colorful game, full of joy and fun. Basically, it’s the perfect game to play after finishing something terrifying (like Resident Evil 7). The 2D metroidvania-like structure spread across several different stages works exceedingly well, even if directions can be somewhat hard to interpret at times. The cast of characters is an absolutely delight to interact with, and I have to admit, the music in the game is top-notch, as are each of the boss fights. I had a lot of fun playing through Shantae, which never felt like it dragged on too long. It’s a great game to liven things up if you need a change of pace from more serious games.

42. Half-Life 2: Episode 2

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 10/10/2007
Metascore: 90
Winner of the “Cliffhanger of the Century” Award

The Half-Life 2 games are really good. They hold up really well; shooting feels good, the limited weapon variety works really well, and the story is still one of the best an FPS game has to offer. That being said (and I know I’m a decade late on this) THAT ENDING THO. After the revealing of the planned story for Half-Life 3 last summer, the dream appears to be dead, but I can say for certain; Episode 2 is still a fantastic game worth playing, even if the last chapter, defending each of the bases, is a massive pain in the ass.

41. The Order 1886

Platform: PS4
Original Release Date: 2/20/2015
Metascore: 63
Winner of the “Overpriced Good Game” Award

Disclaimer: I nabbed The Order for $5 on a PSN sale. That being said, I can see why people felt completely screwed if they paid 60 dollars for it on launch. The game is absolutely gorgeous, from the starting point (looking at the water physics and details of the costumes), through each encounter with a lycan, to fighting on a zeppelin. I really enjoyed where the story took me through the brief time it lasted. I’m sad we’re unlikely to see a sequel, as the twist threw me for a loop. I also feel like it was underrated because of its price, not its quality. The combat mechanics are a somewhat generic cover-based 3rd person shooter, but its graphics are still some of the best on the market today, almost rivaling The Last of Us and Uncharted 4. But again, if I had kicked out more than a Ulysses S Grant for the game, I’d most likely have a different opinion on the matter.

Destiny 2_20170912214832

40. Destiny 2

Platform: Xbox One
Original Release Date: 9/6/2017
Metascore: 87
Winner of the “Best Shooting Mechanics” Award

Say what you will about the grindy treadmill, lack of end game content, or anything else about Destiny 2, but god damn, its shooting mechanics are absolutely incredibly. No other game feels as good as Destiny 2 does when it comes to firing a digital firearm. I played through the campaign and dabbled in very little end game, but I really enjoyed the public events I took part in, as well as there being an actual identifiable villain this time around. The planets were diverse and offered very different atmospheres this time around, but it took way too long to take hold of a sparrow (given out first thing in Destiny 1). Once the end game hit, I lost interest pretty quickly, but I really enjoyed the story in this one when it had its hooks in me.

39. Hotline Miami 2

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 3/10/2015
Metascore: 74
Winner of the “Crazy LSD-Induced Fever Dream” Award

Let me start with the fact that I have no idea what happened in Hotline Miami 2 when I was playing through it. There were some levels in the city, some where I knocked people out and didn’t kill them, and some in Hawaii (which felt more like Vietnam). I had to look up what all happened in a story breakdown later. That being said, I freaking loved the fast paced action of HM2. Like the first one, you better not blink while enemies stream toward you and timing needs to be perfect. One mistake can cost you, and a floor may take you 15 tries, but it is incredibly rewarding when your blood covered screen shows your character standing among a pile of bodies.

38. Half-Life 2: Episode 1

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 6/1/2006
Metascore: 87
Winner of the “Best Giant Metal Dog” Award

I found HL2: E1 to be a lot more enjoyable than Episode 2. I really enjoyed picking up where Half-Life 2 left off (they really have a thing for cliffhangers, don’t they?), and working somewhat opposite from where we started, weapon-wise, in Half-Life 2. Starting with the super gravity gun, and slowly building your arsenal back was an absolute blast, not to mention quite an epic final chapter. Having to work my way through the city and then defend civilians while juggling a limited stash of ammo got the adrenaline pumping. Better than Episode 2, but still a ways off from the original, Episode 1 holds up very well today.

37. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 8/8/2017
Metascore: 83
Winner of the “Taste Of Psychosis” Award

From the get-go, Hellblade pulls no punches. You’re encouraged to wear headphones to fully experience the sensation of hearing voices in your head, introducing people to what it must be like to have some form of psychosis. The entire story is quite the mindf***, as you journey through a Norse land trying to bring back the only person in your life who cared about you and understood you. Hellblade shines in a few different places, the combat works really well, which is no surprise coming from Team Ninja, as do some of the puzzles and exposition (voices in the back of your head of course). However, its impossible to follow the story your first time through (I admit, I needed to do some research afterwards to figure out what the heck was going on). Hellblade feels like the perfect length, even if the ending is somewhat drawn out and a little frustrating.

36. Death Squared

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Original Release Date: 5/13/2017
Metascore: 78
Winner of the “Most Innovative Puzzle Game” Award

Death Squared is absolutely hilarious. From the first “test” (otherwise known as level), the narrator had me cracking up, with little quips and words of advice to two AI-driven test cubes (controlled by the player). With several different tricks and obstacles, some of the puzzles in this game were a blast to figure out. In many, you’d get one of your cubes all the way to the end, only to destroy your other cube with a batch of spikes on the way. The game is loaded with content, and can be played with 1-4 people (the more people, the more hectic!), working together to try to solve each puzzle. This is a great cooperative game, and is much less likely to ruin friendships and relationships than a game we’ll cover further down.

35. Final Fantasy XV

Platform: Xbox One
Original Release Date: 11/29/2016
Metascore: 83
Winner of the “Autopilot” Award

Final Fantasy is one of the most iconic franchises in gaming. Up there next to Zelda, Halo, and Mario, if you have a mainline Final Fantasy game (with a number next to it, not one of the sequels, like XIII-2), you know you’re in for a good time. Final Fantasy XV, long-awaited, had a pretty decent story, even if the last third felt like it had just begun a week before the game went gold. The chapters were short, there’s no land to explore where it feels like they wanted to flesh it out a bit more, and man, the hallways in the second to last chapter were downright brutal. I also wasn’t a fan of the “hold A” combat system. It feels like you just put your character on autopilot, and back off when you need to heal or something. Many of the quests are super fetch-questy, but the main story ones sure are epic. I had a fun time with FFXV, sinking quite a few hours into it. That being said, it doesn’t hold a candle to FFIV or FFVI.

34. South Park: The Fractured But Whole

Platform: Xbox One
Original Release Date: 10/17/2017
Metascore: 84
Winner of the “Best Adaptation of a TV Show” Award

Similar to Stick of Truth, if you like South Park, you’ll like this game. The humor, characters, and general flow of the story follows what you’d see in an episode of South Park. As a sequel, I’m amazed at what they pulled out of the well, since I had thought they’d ticked off pretty much all the beats of older seasons of the show. This game utilized a lot of references from the latest game, but it left out President Garrison, as well as quite a disappointing limited role for Mr. Hanky (the Christmas Poo). In a bizarre decision, there’s no run button, which can be a pain since you’re stuck trekking all over the city of South Park, and the monotony in that can wind up being pretty wearing on the attention span. Finally, playing this game, you will at some point, wind up dreaming about microaggressions, guaranteed.

33. Journey

Platform: PS4
Original Release Date: 3/12/2012
Metascore: 92
Winner of the “My Emotions!” Award

For a game with zero dialogue, I found Journey pretty remarkable and moving. I have no idea why I felt how I felt playing through the game, but the soundtrack was on point. At some points in the game, you’ll come across other players partaking in their own journey, which can be surreal, as nothing is spoken between the two of you. However seeing each distinct area and environment, with incredible accompanying music stoked something deep inside me, and I can’t explain why. The game is just plain powerful.

32. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Platform: PS4
Original Release Date: 8/22/2017
Metascore: 84
Winner of the “Spinoff of the Year” Award

Uncharted 4 is one of my top 10 games of all time. The emotional highs of that game are incredible, as is the combat and story. I was doubtful when they announced there’d be a spin-off game (and it wouldn’t even have the character many thought was the perfect choice for this thing!). I was absolutely thrilled to be proven wrong. Chloe and Nadine’s trek through India was an absolute blast. Indian Gods aren’t very often discussed, so I found it incredible interesting having an entire game focused around them. The two main characters develop some great chemistry throughout the game, despite a somewhat cliché villain, and excessive open world area. For gamers who bought the season pass for Uncharted 4, this was an absolute steal, for everyone else, it is still a fantastic value.

31. Resident Evil 7

Platform: Xbox One
Original Release Date: 1/24/2017
Metascore: 86
Winner of the “Change of Shorts” Award

The reason I remember Dead Space so clearly is because frankly, that game scared the crap out of me. Resident Evil 7 was much the same way. With twisted characters, well done jump scares followed by heart pounding chase scenes, I found myself terrified while playing this game (as previously stated, I needed a palette cleanser full of bright fun characters after beating it). The change to first person for this game was brilliant, but I don’t know how anyone could play this in VR without having a heart attack. When the game began, I was incredibly curious as to how a family of 3 would be able to serve as the main villains for an entire game, but it worked pretty well. The boss fights were actually a lot of fun (including a chainsaw duel… more games need chainsaw duels, just saying), and the major plot twist was very well done. You’ll know pretty early on if this game is for you or not, I’d recommend keeping an extra change of shorts close when you hit start.

30. Overcooked

Platform: Xbox One
Original Release Date: 8/2/2016
Metascore: 80
Winner of the “Most Likely To Ruin Relationships” Award

I’ve never yelled at my wife to stop washing dishes and start chopping onions. I’ve also never been yelled at by said wife to stop cooking burgers and “deliver the damn food before it goes bad”. Overcooked is a ton of fun, but at times, it can sure get stressful. Especially if you want to 3-star every level like we did. Each stage is more of a puzzle to figure out than anything else, requiring you to discover what kind of methods and roles work well between your 1-4 cooks in the kitchen (don’t play this solo, you really do NEED another person to maximize fun). That being said, this game can put a massive strain on a relationship, as every player can get somewhat locked into what they need to do in their mindset, and fail to communicate. Requiring you to wash dishes, prep ingredients, cook food, put it together, and deliver it, Overcooked is a ton of fun, and one of the best co-op games out there. However its curious lack of online functionality is a bit questionable. I love that it offers a couch co-op option for gamers, especially in today’s market, where couch co-op seems to have largely gone the way of the dodo, but this doesn’t feel like it would have been a hard game to make online an option as well.

29. 20XX

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 8/16/2017
Metascore: N/A
Winner of the “Best Spiritual Successor” Award

Have I mentioned how much I love Mega Man? Because I REALLY love Mega Man. Now imagine, if you will, a rogue-like Mega Man game, executed to perfection. Got it? Yeah, that’s 20XX. This game is amazing, trending more so towards Mega Man X than Mega Man, offering a choice between 2 playable characters (Effectively X and Zero). There are 8 stages and bosses to tackle, followed by 2 final stages. Each stage is randomly generated, which can lead to some repetition, but overall, the idea works really well. You begin with a randomly selected stage, after which you can choose one of three different stages to tackle next. Each stage and boss has variations based on which iteration of your run its played in, which makes picking your next location pretty crucial. Some bosses I struggled with, so I’d rather get them out of the way early, and fight one that I think is easier in the later iterations. I absolutely loved 20XX, and highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the blue bomber.

28. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 10/27/2017
Metascore: 86
Winner of the “Beyond Suspension of Disbelief” Award

There are few activities in video games more satisfying than killing Nazis. Bludgeoning, shooting, stabbing, dismembering, any form of Nazi murder is incredibly gratifying. In this, Wolfenstein 2 excels tremendously. Picking up where the first game leaves off, BJ jumps immediately back into the fray, killing Nazis from his wheelchair in a variety of ways. I loved every minute of this game, despite some massive questionable moments that pushed straight through suspension of disbelief. Also, if you offer a stealth option to the game, why bother if you force players into combat 99% of the time?

27. Golf Story

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Original Release Date: 9/28/2017
Metascore: 78
Winner of the “This Game Has No Business Being This Good” Award

Golf Story has no business working. Throw a 16-bit skin over an equipment based RPG with kooky quests (like throwing turtles in a lake), with a main story about… golfing. And you get Golf Story. That being said, I couldn’t put this game down. I damn near binged it. The game is jam-packed with content, and very few of it is repetitive. There a set of mini-golf challenges, chipping challenges, disc golf, and a nice lack of collectibles. The game features a lot of variety, and keeps things fresh. The different courses you’ll play through are all very much their own, as you never play the same thing twice. Finally, the characters are actually really fun to interact with, and the story is just over the top enough for a game like this.

26. COD: WWII

Platform: Xbox One
Original Release Date: 11/3/2017
Metascore: 80
Winner of the “Baptism By Fire” Award

Whew boy, COD doesn’t pull any punches to start off this year. Dropping you straight out of the boat on to Normandy, expect to die a lot before you get to your first checkpoint. The game goes back to its roots where the magic first began, and it succeeds in a big way. The story of the game takes you all throughout the European theater of WWII, and actually introduces you to some fun and memorable characters. The shock of seeing a concentration camp (even in digital form) never fails to rock me to the core, and this game is no exception. Using iron sights gives an appreciation for the holos and the red dots of modern gaming, and sub machine guns feel somewhat useless, but the game just feels great. This may be the best COD since Modern Warfare.

25. Half-Life 2

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 11/16/2004
Metascore: 96
Winner of the “Quality Lasts Forever” Award

Early on in my 12in12 this year, I had the absolute pleasure of starting an adventure of the level of quality rarely seen in games. Half-Life 2 was all that it was made out to be, 13 years after release. The gunplay still feels smooth and great, the enemies are still intimidating, and the gravity gun is STILL the best gun in games. I thoroughly enjoyed every step I took as the silent Dr. Freeman, blasting my way through militia, zombies, head crabs, and the occasional Antlion. Half-Life 2 had massive expectations for me, and it exceeded all of them.

24. Crash Bandicoot 3 Remastered (N-Sane Trilogy)

Platform: PS4
Original Release Date: 6/30/2017
Metascore: 80
Winner of the “Most Cleverly Hidden Secret Stages” Award

Crash Bandicoot 3 takes everything that the first and second iterations of the series did, and ramps it up a notch. I’d say that in some places, they’re trying to do too much, mainly the jet-ski and racing levels. The boss fights in this game are extremely memorable, even if they’re frustrating at times, and thankfully you can actually beat the game without destroying your controller (unlike Crash 1). Each stage is eye-poppingly gorgeous, from the medi-evil themed levels to the futuristic towns, the game is just plain fun. Crash 3 has some of the most ridiculously hidden secret levels (for one, you need to crash into a specific street sign, with no hint or indication). With a terrifying villain (at least when you’re a kid), the game is fantastic from start to finish, with a much less anti-climactic final boss fight than Crash 2. Nostalgia may play a big factor into my ranking, but the game really does stand tall on its own.

23. Portal 2 (Co-Op)

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 4/19/2011
Metascore: 90
Winner of the “Best Partner Interactions” Award

There’s nothing I can say about Portal 2 that hasn’t already been said. It is a tent-pole puzzle game, with an incredible physics engine and physics-based puzzles. Both Portal and Portal 2 force you to think in such a different way than other games do, it’s a breath of fresh air. Being able to play a specialized campaign with a friend was that much more fun because of it. The puzzles that separate each player as they have their own track to figure out and aid the other player through was a blast to work through. Finishing a stage endowed me with a great sense of pride and accomplishment (without even needing to fork over money for microtransactions!), especially when we finished with one of the partner interactions. Maybe a dance move, a high-five, or a plain old-fashioned hug. The game is great, and is a must-play.

22. Crash Bandicoot 2 Remastered (N-Sane Trilogy)

Platform: PS4
Original Release Date: 6/30/2017
Metascore: 80
Winner of the “Just Enough Content” Award

It was close, but fair. Crash 2 stands above the rest as the best of the series. The game is a blast from start to finish, with no need for extra abilities as you play through the game (with the exception of the speed shoes – only useful for the speed trials). There’s something great about playing a game and being able to just… go, no need to wait for something to be unlocked. Each stage is well designed, and nothing feels unfair (like the first game). There are essentially three types of stages (plus the jetpack stages, but there are only two of those); Polar Bear, platforming , and Escape stages. Each of these iterates on each other throughout the game, and it just works well. The enemies are fun to look it, whack, and stomp, and the variety of deaths that can befall Crash are staggering (all come with their own animation). Crash 2 is the standard-bearer for the franchise, and there’s a reason why.

21. Mega Man X

Platform: SNES Classic
Original Release Date: 12/17/1993
Metascore: N/A
Winner of the “Successor To The Throne” Award

Mega Man is one of the greatest franchises to ever grace this great Earth. From the platforming to the combat, to the incredible boss fights, it comprises some of the best games in the NES library. When the SNES came out, a Mega Man game didn’t follow, a Mega Man X game did. And with it, came speed. Mega Man X is all about speed and style, with much more cool and edgy characters in X and Zero. Dashing and wall jumping your way around levels to fight some fantastic bosses is one of the best feelings out there. The game has quite the villain in it, and gaining each armor upgrade is a fantastic feeling. If you can get the hadoken, you’re good to go, but that can be tricky in and of itself.

20. Metro 2033 Redux

Platform: Xbox One
Original Release Date: 3/16/2010
Metascore: 81
Winner of the “Most Underrated Unknown Game” Award

Based on the book of the same name, Metro 2033 nails atmosphere, tension, and combat. Each gun has its own set of upgrades that cater to a stealth or gung-ho battle style, and the game actually lends itself to both play-styles. The guns and their aesthetics feel like they belong in the post-apocalyptic underground, and the different segments of the game are both heart-pounding and terrifying at the same time. There’s also nothing quite like sneaking your way through a battlefield with two warring factions trying to murder each other. Metro is really well done with the way it handles inventory management and level progression, however it would have been nice to be told not to worry about ammo during the shooting gallery challenges.

19. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

Platform: PS4
Original Release Date: 7/26/2012
Metascore: 81
Winner of the “Bigger, Better, Weirder, WTF” Award

Straight out of the gate, Danganronpa 2 (D2 from here on out) takes all of your expectations and throws them out the window. Introducing a fantastically fun cast of characters, it gives away one of the secrets withheld from the original cast in D1 for the entirety of the game, and throws several confusing things at you based on your preconceived notions of what to expect from the first game. D2 is way more over the top than the first one, and some of the character’s personalities are… a bit out there. I really enjoyed D2, even if some of the logic in the class trials was a bit of a stretch, and one of the mini-games involved was impossibly dumb. The story kept me coming back, however, as I just had to know how this would go and how it would intertwine with the original.

18. Plague of Shadows (Plague Knight)

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Original Release Date: 9/17/2015
Metascore: 89
Winner of the “Alternative Playthrough” Award

Shovel Knight is one of the best retro spirit games released in the last decade. The concept of a decked out knight wielding a shovel to defend the land is, not only ridiculous, but amazing. The real genius, however, lies in making some of the bosses he is pitted against playable. Yacht Club did a top-notch job in this. Especially with Plague Knight since he is so different than Shovel Knight. Instead of whacking people, you throw bombs and boost jump your way around the map. It is truly a brand new way to play the game, and you can even see in some levels where they had to retrofit the stage to accommodate this new way of travel. The original story was especially heartwarming, as it was more of a love story (and better than twilight) than anything else.

17. GTA V

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 9/17/2013
Metascore: 96
Winner of the “I Feel Dirty” Award

There’s way too much stuff to do in GTA V. It’s incredibly overwhelming, but once you get your bearings, this is one for the ages, and most definitely the best game in the franchise. You will have nightmares about Trevor, but the other two characters are awesome, and a blast to spend countless hours with. The story kicks off with a bang and keeps the needle in the red the entire time, as you shoot and steal your way through Los Santos. The map is gigantic, and offers a lot of variety (however, no snowboarding yet, which is a little disappointing). The different side quests take you through a lot of fun and just generally different activities, like driving a tow truck, which they somehow make fun. GTA V takes a little bit to introduce you to each and every playable character, but the first time you meet up with each is electric.

16. Super Mario World

Platform: SNES Classic
Original Release Date: 11/21/1990
Metascore: N/A
Winner of the “Gameplay Is King” Award

The game that made the SNES hasn’t changed one bit, and that’s a good thing. Super Mario World proves today that gameplay is the most important thing when it comes to making a good game. Graphics are purely ancillary. If a game is 8-bit, 16-bit, or cutting edge, if a game looks terrible, but has the best gameplay ever, it’s going to stand out. Super Mario World doesn’t disappoint, there’s not much more to say than that.

15. Donkey Kong Country

Platform: SNES Classic
Original Release Date: 11/24/1994
Metascore: N/A
Winner of the “Memories From Childhood” Award

Donkey Kong Country is one of my earliest gaming memories, and somehow, I still remember all of the secrets in the first world. Playing through with a friend on the SNES Classic was a blast, knowing exactly where each random point on a wall to hit was, and the different animals to ride took some time to get used to. DKC is a difficult game (not nearly as difficult as DKC2, but still a challenge nonetheless). There’s a reason Rare made their name with the DKC games, and it shows even after all this time.

14. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havock

Platform: PS4
Original Release Date: 11/25/2010
Metascore: 80
Winner of the “Best Characters” Award

I was irrationally sad when I discovered who the first killer in the game was. Backing up, the premise is hard to describe. A bunch of high school students (each the best at what they do – or Ultimate) are trapped in a school, and the only way to get out is murder a fellow student and get away with it. That being said, my early pick for favorite character was cleared from the deck pretty much immediately. The plot in Danganronpa is pretty interesting, and kept me engaged, wanting to know the how and why behind the school killing game, and the several twists along the way didn’t disappoint.

13. Cuphead

Platform: Xbox One
Original Release Date: 9/29/2017
Metascore: 86
Winner of the “Most Challenging But Fair” Award

Nothing about this game is cheap. From the hand drawn frames, to the well thought out stages, to the gameplay itself. If you die, it’s because you made a mistake. The game is incredibly difficult, but it is incredibly fair. I love me a challenging game, and this scratched an itch that I didn’t even know I had. Mechanically, the game is all about dodging and getting your hits in where you can, and if you can master a parry, you’re solid. Each boss has seamless transitions between each form, and the feeling of accomplishment when toppling a boss is almost as gratifying as the feeling of despair when dying with a sliver left on the progress bar against them.

12. Horizon: Zero Dawn

Platform: PS4
Original Release Date: 2/28/2017
Metascore: 89
Winner of the “Best New IP” Award

From the moment it was announced at E3, I was hyped for Horizon: Zero Dawn. The game looked like an amazing open world, with a killer skill tree, and some great mechanical beasts to take or kill and salvage parts from. Besides a somewhat exposition dump in one of the quests, the story flows really well, introducing you to different facets of the world and different tribes. The equipment is fed to the player in a way that it doesn’t ever feel like you become too strong, and some of the enemies in the game are immensely gratifying to take down (like the stormbird and the thunderjaw). HZD also may be the most graphically impressive and beautiful game on the market today.

11. To The Moon

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 11/1/2011
Metascore: 81
Winner of the “I’m Not Crying, There’s Something In My Eye” Award

Very few games can bring me to an emotional state that I didn’t expect, especially through story alone in such a short period of time. The game is only 4 hours long and takes you through a dying man’s memories to try and help him see his life long dream of traveling to the moon. It’s a point and click adventure game, with very little puzzles to actually solve. Mainly, its just a narrative story game that will take you through an emotional roller coaster. Any game that brings a tear to my eye is a winner in my book.

10. Spectre of Torment (Spectre Knight)

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Original Release Date: 3/3/2017
Metascore: 84
Winner of the “Best DLC Campaign” Award

While Plague Knight felt like an exercise in retrofitting the original game for a new system of movement, Spectre Knight re-wrote the entire damn thing. Spectre Knight serves as a prequel to Shovel Knight, introducing you to one of the 8 bosses, Spectre Knight, as well as the other members of the Order of No Quarter. The Hub world is completely different from Shovel and Plague Knight, as is the upgrade system and characters. Movement is move around style and slicing your way around stages, as opposed to basic jumping (Shovel) and blast jumping (Plague). Spectre Knight was my favorite of the two additional campaigns added to Shovel Knight for these reasons, but more than anything else, it excites me for King Knight’s campaign coming out in 2018.

9. Shovel Knight

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Original Release Date: 6/26/2014
Metascore: 91
Winner of the “Nostalgia, Perfected” Award

Have you ever thought back on a game from your early days of gaming and reminisced about how great it was? Maybe you even went and tracked down a copy of that retro game to play through those amazing and detailed worlds again. Only… when you fired up the game, you realized that while a lot of the game is fantastic, there’s a LOT wrong with it, and your rose-tinted glasses sure did cloud your memories. Shovel Knight aimed to take the Rose Tinted memories of the old school NES games, and make a game around them. They aimed to disregard all the clunkiness that didn’t work and those games, and they succeeded. Shovel Knight delivers in a way seen few and far between in games today. The world is vibrant, with a Super Mario Bros. 3 inspired overworld, a blend of Super Mario and Mega Man stages, with incredible Mega Man style bosses. Throw in upgrades and tools straight out of Zelda, and you have a recipe for success. The amount of love that went into Shovel Knight is incredibly apparent, from each unique stage, to the side stages (like the library), to the quirkiness of each boss. The game nails the most important thing: it is massively fun to play, and walks that tightrope between challenging and approachable with a unique checkpoint system allowing the player to decide just how much they want to punish themselves for a mistake.

8. The Last Of Us: Left Behind

Platform: PS4
Original Release Date: 2/14/2014
Metascore: 88
Winner of the “Reminder of Greatness” Award

Playing through The Last of Us on PS3 was an incredible experience. Naughty Dog has a penchant for taking hardware and pushing it far beyond what anyone else has done. TLoU looked like a PS4 game running on the PS3, and playing through the Left Behind DLC on PS4 was a reminder of just how much detail they put into these games. The minutia of the animation, the quality of the voice acting, and the flow the game itself all coalesces together into a magnificent game. Playing as Ellie, trying to get Joel healthy and protect him, while at the same time learning about her backstory was a great reminder of just how fantastic this game is. Left Behind did the trick in generating my excitement for The Last of Us Part 2, and I can’t get my hands on it soon enough (even if it will most likely come out in 2019).

7. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Original Release Date: 8/29/2017
Metascore: 85
Winner of the “Mashup of the Year” Award

When rumors began leaking about a cross-property game involving Mario and the Rabbids, I was terrified we were in for another Mario and Sonic at the Olympics game. The idea just sounded moronic, and it was terrifying as a Switch owner (and staunch champion since that January showcase) to see that this is what Nintendo had in mind. I’d say it worked out well. Taking Mario and giving it the XCOM treatment was one of the best ideas that could have ever come about. Between the combat, adventuring, and incredible animation, the game is a work of art. Each scenario can be tackled successfully with several different combinations of characters (Luigi OP), and I had a blast trying to figure out which playstyle I enjoyed the most. The freedom of movement, the fixed hit percentages based on cover, and the thought process required to take into account friendly fire all meshed together in a fantastic experience from start to finish. I especially enjoyed the unique challenge each boss presented, as it was never as simple as “empty the magazine!”, with each serving as another form of puzzle. Collecting gold trophies in each challenge was immensely gratifying, as some of the later challenges and scenarios were never a simple task.

6. The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine

Platform: Xbox One
Original Release Date: 5/31/2016
Metascore: 94
Winner of the “Best Developer In Gaming” Award

A lot of RPGs out there consist of about 10 hours worth of story, and 30 hours worth of game. The world is detailed in some parts, but left pretty barren in others. Their subsequent DLC expands a little bit on some of these areas, but overall just sprinkle a little more seasoning on the main dish. CD Projekt Red isn’t like those developers. Blood and Wine is a full game in and of itself, with rich characters, a beautiful peace-laden countryside land, and quite a fantastic mystery that needs a certain white-haired wolf to solve. Blood and Wine offers a bevy of quests to solve on the side, each with wide-ranging ramifications on the ending, and an entire tournament to take part in. In true Witcher fashion, there’s a good chance you won’t get a happy ending, and there are impossible choices to be made. It most certainly doesn’t hurt that The Witcher 3 is one of my top 5 games of all time (SOTN is #1 if you’re curious), but that aside, Blood and Wine is most likely the best expansion ever released. Coupling this with the also excellent Hearts of Stone, the season pass is an incredible steal for The Witcher 3. CRPR continues to prove time and time again just how excellent they are at providing value to consumers, and just how much they care about their properties. Here’s to hoping they keep up the momentum with Cyberpunk 2077 coming in approximately 2028.

5. A Hat In Time

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 10/5/2017
Metascore: 79
Winner of the “Platformer of the Year” Award

When 2017 began, I had no idea that a game about an alien trying to go home would capture my heart in the way it did, but here we are. A Hat In Time takes you across 4 unique worlds, each with their own theme. You can see the progression of the developers skills as you progress the game, with each new world meshing together better than the first. Each world also has a great narrative to it, from the battle of the birds in the movie-themed second world, to the concept of selling your soul to the devil in the third graveyard world, ending with the open world mountain to explore to your heart’s content. Movement in the game is extremely well done, giving the player multiple options to tackle many of the Platforming challenges laid out for them. While combat may be a bit lacking (jump, attack, rinse, repeat), the boss fights are something to behold. Each was incredibly unlike the last, and were fun to play through. I had no idea what to expect coming into A Hat In Time, and I came out the other side playing one of the best 3D indie games of the year.

4. Jak And Daxter

Platform: PS4 (PS2 Classics)
Original Release Date: 12/3/2001
Metascore: 90
Winner of the “Aged Perfectly” Award

There are very few games I play through in one sitting. The last one that comes to mind was Axiom Verge. Even fewer games, I take the time to platinum in one sitting. I couldn’t put Jak and Daxter down, despite some small camera issues. The game works so well, even after 16 years. This is one of Naughty Dog’s finest works of art, and has me extremely excited to tackle Jak 2 later this year as a part of my 12in12. Daxter is a fantastic sidekick, and each world chains together beautifully, no world is too big, and it’s not impossible to figure out where you may have missed some of the collectibles. My romp through J&D was one of my favorite classic game experiences, and I now understand why gamers have been calling for a modernized Jak 4 (or a remake like Ratchet and Clank) for years now.

3. Super Mario Odyssey

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Original Release Date: 10/27/2017
Metascore: 97
Winner of the “Successful Hype Delivery” Award

When it comes to mainline Mario games, there’s a standard that needs to be hit; the bar is about 3 miles off the ground. From the moment you pick up the game, Super Mario Odyssey delivers in a way I couldn’t have expected. It’s the first game that embraces open worlds and hundreds of collectible moons, without any real kind of designed scenarios. While Super Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy all had chapters for each world, Odyssey drops you into the game with a few defined moons to get in each world to progress the story, but you don’t even need to grab those if you don’t want to. There’s so much to explore in this game, and there’s not a kingdom that rubbed me the wrong way. Granted, some I enjoyed a lot more than others (like my favorite – Luncheon Kingdom), but there’s not a bad one in the lot. With 870 unique moons to grab, there’s a lot of game here to work with, and being able to master the movement system opened up the game tremendously. Being able to jump, dive, spin, and throw your way through each world gives a massive sense of gratification. The 2D sections in the game are executed extremely well, and the nods to Mario’s history triggered all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings in me (especially New Donk City). Finally, there’s a massive sense of challenge in a lot of areas in Odyssey, but none that just destroy the experience. I may have struggled with the Dark and Darker sides of the moon, but it was a blast learning from my mistakes and getting further and further with each expedition through the stages.

2. Hollow Knight

Platform: PC
Original Release Date: 2/24/2017
Metascore: 86
Winner of the “Indie Game of the Year” and “2D Platformer of the Year” Awards

As you may have noticed from SOTN being my favorite game of all time, I really like Metroidvania games. Exploring with no particular objective in mind, seeing what the world has to offer, while at the same time finding new equipment and skills that will help me navigate throughout the land. Most of these games are something like 12 hour experiences, and the latter few hours tend to be exploring and filling out your inventory. Hollow Knight puts those games to shame. This game is absolutely massive. Full of several unique areas, the game kept surprising me even after I was 30 hours in. I’d think I had everything mapped out and good to go, and I’d find an entirely new half of the map I hadn’t even touched. Speaking of maps, the mapping system is fantastic, first you need to buy the blank map after finding the map maker, then explore, then actually fill in said map at one of the many benches in the game you can store your progress at (via taking a brief respite). The game introduces a dark souls like element, where dying causes you to lose your stores up currency, however it isn’t terribly difficult to go track down your shadow-self. From start to finish, Hollow Knight had its hooks in me, and I couldn’t help but enjoy my dive deeper and deeper into the Hollow Nest. Each boss fight was something new, and for $15, the game is an absolute steal. If you don’t have a Switch, this is the game I most highly recommend playing from 2017.

 

1. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Original Release Date: 3/3/2017
Metascore: 97
Winner of the “Game of Year” and “Contender for the GOAT” Awards

Breath of the Wild was everything I hoped it would be and more. The amount of work that went into the engine powering this game is outstanding, resulting in what might be the most amazing world to explore. There is so much variety to be had in BOTW, from the desert to the snowy mountains, if you can see a location on the horizon, you can go there. The climbing system in place is fantastic, as is the stamina system in general. The fact that everything you do utilizes stamina forces you to make tough decisions when it comes to increasing health or stamina throughout the game, and also helps to guide players toward figuring out the cooking mechanic as well. In many games, I typically figure out the bare minimum about these kind of systems, but in BOTW, I found it was incredibly easy to figure out, and fun to see what dishes different combinations of ingredients would result in. Each race in the game is beautifully detailed and wholly unique (the Rito are my personal favorite), and I enjoyed having to manage the different weather elements while making my way to each new dungeon before I could find clothes that would mitigate my needs. While the game lacks an ultra compelling story, Zelda has never needed one, and honestly, you make your own. Through different treks and journeys in a play session, you piece together fun experiences that you will share with your friends, who may be doing something wholly different. Plus, the first time you take down a silver lyonel may be one of most epic battles of your game. Each boss and dungeon are well put together and the levels are all designed extraordinarily well, not to mention the rewards received each time you finish freeing a divine beast. The thing that stood out the most to me about BOTW is the fact that there’s just no defined path. You can conquer each of the Divine Beasts in any order you choose, and with each friend I’ve talked to, it feels like they did things a little differently than me. The world that was built to accommodate this game is just incredible, and I’m hoping that because the groundwork has already been laid, it won’t be too long before we see a sequel.

About John Ceccarelli

John lives in a small city outside of Portland, OR. He has been chasing achievements and trophies since his early teen years. After working at a small shoe company during the week, he enjoys spending time with his dog and wife, writing code, and crawling through monster-infested dungeons.

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