2017 was an awful year all around. Let’s be perfectly honest about that. Looking back on 2017, it was an exhausting net-negative in the grand scheme of things.
That said, if you’re like me and drown yourself in the consumption of art and pop culture to escape from said awfulness, then you’re in luck! This was a good year to be doing that, especially when it comes to games. Nothing like sinking yourself into the abyss of a 40–100 hour game to forget that everything is actually really bad.
Today I’m listing out all of these little portals of escapism that I enjoyed the most. It is important to mention that this list is unnumbered — I feel like there’s no point in trying to put one game above all the rest, when they’re all so drastically different from one another, and I gained something unique from each of them. That’s going to ruin the SEO on this piece, but that’s alright lol. I’m also going to assume you have an idea of what these games are, because summarizing them is boring and you have Wikipedia for that.
Without further ado — the good games of the year (oh, and some of the bad ones).
I’ve been waiting for Persona 5 for nine years, and it was actually worth the wait. In hindsight, it didn’t affect me as deeply and personally as Persona 4 did, but there has to be a reason that I have a Persona 5 phone theme, wallpaper, phone case, icon, and use the limited edition tote bag to carry my laptop around. Oh right, there is a reason: Persona 5 is the most stylish game of 2017 by leaps and bounds. Entire classes could be held on its UI/UX design. It is incredible that during my 75 hours with the game, I never got tired of the animations in combat. In an RPG! Good job, Persona 5.
Nier Automata is basically a game crafted from my dreams. Platinum Games’ tight action together with Yoko Taro’s narrative genius and Keiichi Okabe’s beautiful music is a combination that rivals the Chrono Trigger dream team. Nier Automata is the kind of game that attempts to inject some much needed literary technique into the gaming industry, which I appreciate. It has, like, motif! And theming! Can you believe it? Nier Automata does things with the medium that are weird and experimental and crazy, and I love it, even if it doesn’t always stick the landing.
Tales of Berseria
You know 2017 is wild when a Tales game is on my list. Berseria probably wouldn’t be on most people’s lists, but it deserves a spot on mine because it feels like a complete turn-around for a series that was beginning to get stale. It’s like Namco got an entirely new team of writers that can actually delve into interesting themes, and create a fun and engaging ensemble cast of characters. It’s a Tales game distilled into its finest elements, and the best one I’ve played since Symphonia.
Gravity Rush 2
Gravity Rush 2 released the same day as the inauguration of our current president. It was the perfect counter-balance to what would be an awful year, a cacophony of joy and bright earnestness that swept you off your feet and took you to a beautiful alternate world of wonder. There are very few games that I can point at and say that I love — love in a way that I never want to leave, where I feel paralyzed at the thought of finishing it, because I have to admit that it’s over. Gravity Rush 2 is one of those games. Even 11 months later, when I can feel the walls closing in on me, I’ll boot it up and fly through the islands of Jirga Para Lhao. It never fails to make me feel better.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 turned me into that guy — the one that crawls through Gamefaqs threads and learns insane combat tech to pull off literal millions of HP damage. I’ve put in nearly 80 hours into this game, more than any other in the year, and I don’t see myself stopping any time soon. It’s bright, bubblegum pop anime garbage, and I’ve loved nearly every second of it. In an alternate world, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 came out on the PS2 in 2004, and was extremely popular, which is I vibe I am definitely digging in these deeply depressing winter days.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
Ys games are my comfort food, as I’ve mentioned in the past, and Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is no exception. What sets it apart from previous entries, however, is the fact that it takes a page from its sister series, Trails, creating a story that sets it above and beyond previous Ys games. A satisfying cycle of combat, exploration, and plot meant that I couldn’t put Ys down until I was done with it. If you’re looking for a solid, polished experience that may not blow your mind, but will definitely keep you hooked, check this one out.
Query: Can Supergiant Games ever do anything wrong? Answer: absolutely not. I went into Pyre completely blind, because I didn’t need to be convinced to play it — such is the power that SG has on me. Oh, and I was right! Pyre’s fantasy-ball is an addictive experience, but it’s not what you’ll remember of it when you finally finish the game. No, instead you’ll be wracked with a melancholic sadness for the characters that you’re forced to leave behind. Just, play Pyre. Play it!
Puyo Puyo Tetris
I can feel it every time I close my eyes. See the blocks falling. They’re the only things that can give me comfort. Lining them up into neat boxes of four…it’s the only form of control I have on this garbage earth. I have to stack them all. It’s the only way I can truly find peace.
…So yeah Puyo Puyo Tetris is exactly what it says on the tin. And since Tetris is literally perfect, it deserves a spot on the list, amplified by the myriad of playable modes and all the cute characters that you can collect (give me Draco Centauros or give me death). I still pick it up for a few sessions every couple of weeks. It’s a staple in my library now. Give a shot.
Oh but skip Puyo Puyo, that game is garbage. :)
Doki Doki Literature Club
DDLC kept me up for days after I finished it, where I had a bit of an existential crisis at the horror I had just experienced. It’s hard to explain what makes this game so special without spoiling the entire thing, so I have to keep it brief. But the way it takes elements of visual novels and turns them on their head is fascinating. It ended up being a critical look at the way we engage with fictional characters, as well as one of the most memorable stories I’ve experienced in years.