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Austin’s Top Ten of 2017

2017 was an incredible year for myself and for games. Over half of the year I spent across the world in a place called “Australia” where I was introduced to some of my greatest challenges in life so far. The satisfaction of overcoming these challenges, while also making many incredible life-long friends and dipping into the Aussie gaming scene for some wonderful new opportunities was monumental. 2017 might have been crappy on a macro-scale, but it will be remembered by me as the year that paved the way. Enough about that here are the games.

10. Mom Hid My Game

It really takes something magical for a free, mobile game to be ported to Switch and have it be even more charming. But that’s exactly what Mom Hid My Game managed to do. A simple gameplay loop of solving puzzles where failing becomes one of the most enjoyable aspects. I enjoyed every second of My Mom Hid My Game (and the free mobile games: Hidden Game By Mom 1 & 2, and My Brother Ate My Pudding).

Best Moment: Discovering that the Switch version adds new puzzles and takes advantage of the hardware in clever ways.

 

 

9. Pyre

Never has a fake sport within a game ever interested me in the same way that The Rights does in Pyre. The beautiful 2D art storying telling manages to be extremely powerful with very little animation, something I usually find off putting but manages to work for Pyre.

Best Moment: Pulling off some truly impressive esports level moves to win a match, giving me the false hope of “Maybe I could go pro.”

 

 

8. Destiny 2

I spent a ton of my time in mid 2017 with Destiny 2. Bungie improved upon the first game in almost every single way. The story might have lacked depth, but it was cinematic and cohesive in what I need from a loot driven co-operative game. I played most of the campaign mode solo, because that’s how I like my Bungie games, but I sank a ton of hours with my friends discovering and conquering the raid. Destiny 2 would be higher up on my list if I didn’t fall off so hard after the raid. Where as most of the fun in Destiny 1 was in the end-game, this time around the end-game is the weakest part.

Best Moment: Playing the Leviathan Raid for the first time, with a group of 5 friends all working together. Taking down the final boss and seeing the wonderfully satisfying final area.

 

 

7. SteamWorld Dig 2

I love a good 2D Metroidvania, and in a year with a new Metroid game it’s a little surprising for me to have loved an imitator more. SteamWorld Dig 2 nails the genre in every way. The quirky western theme from the first game carries over with colorful interesting characters. The platforming challenges, rate of upgrades that are dished out, and the power difference from the start to the end is incredible. Additionally the charming story, and rad music makes SteamWorld Dig 2 one of the most pleasant games of 2017.

Best Moment: Getting home from a long day, and just zen digging and collecting gems. Unwinding with some good old-fashioned mining.

 

 

6. Cuphead

From the first time I saw Cuphead in a brief sizzle reel at a Microsoft E3 keynote, I knew it was going to be special. It’s almost too obvious to state, but the art style is something magical. Perhaps what is most surprising about Cuphead is that it manages to live up to the expectations delivered by the art resulting in some seriously awesome challenges. It takes a bit to get a feel for all of the systems, and learning the different ways different weapon types are useful but once the mechanics are learned, putting the knowledge to the test is both painful and satisfying. I am glad Cuphead became more than its initially planned boss rush, in favor of adding some run and gun levels because they act as perfect ways to decompress.

Best Moment: Taking down a boss. Seriously, every boss. Each time it feels earned, and is a satisfying achievement.

 

 

5. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

It’s rare for a video game to cause a wide range of emotions throughout a single play through, which is why I was even more surprised that this year a Wolfenstein game had me feeling joy, shame, embarrassment, fear, pride and sick over the course of the campaign. The bizarre story is goofy, and heartwarming while contrasting some deep rooted, serious issues– all of which are serviced by a run and gun gameplay, murdering as many Nazis as possible. The gameplay sometimes got in the way, but nothing could stop me from seeing how things could possibly get any crazier. Things always got crazier.

Best Moment: There were many moments that left my jaw hanging. Multiple times I thought there it was impossible to be surprised beyond what had already happened, but after three or so moments like that I arrived at my favorite moment. When your character is auditioning for the starring role of a movie about himself, as written by a senile, decaying Adolf.

 

 

4. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Competitive shooters come and go all the time, it’s very unusually to think that in 2017 there is a perfect blend of existing shooter variants to set the world on fire. PUBG did just that. Initially I was bored with how the PUBG heavily favors luck. I played many games where I’d find nothing but pistols, only to get gunned down by someone hiding in the bathroom as they wait for the game to end. But I came around when I decided to make my own luck. The dynamic pacing of the game is mostly determined by your own desire. Want to see a lot of action? Drop into one of the hot zones right at the start. Need time to make a sandwich or run to the toilet? Find a quiet place on the edge of town, hide in a house and do your business. PUBG really shines when you get a squad together, communicate and execute. The randomness and luck becomes an enemy of the squad, even more so than the 90+ other players. It isn’t about getting that #1 slot, it’s about being able to do it regularly, and learning the right ways to react in a situation.

Best Moment: While playing the ‘game preview’ version on Xbox One X, for the first time I managed to get 8 kills, and claim a chicken dinner all while constantly checking the controls throughout my run. Now I never need to play the console version again, and can go back to playing on PC.

 

 

3. Super Mario Odyssey

What an incredible year for Nintendo. They launched new hardware and release a heap of new, first party games and a couple of them are really, really good. Super Mario Odyssey is the weirdest Mario game I have ever played, and that helps it stand out as one of the best. Normally I’d argue the first chunk of gameplay is a little too easy, too casual but with Odyssey I didn’t care. I was blowing through the early areas eager to see what the next world would be like. The forced motion controls for certain aspects (yes there are somethings you simply cannot do without motion controls) are but a blemish on what is otherwise a purely joyful experience. Odyssey is a shining example why I want to see Nintendo using the latest hardware. The art direction is beautiful, and they are able to achieve so much with so little power, imagine what they could do if a Nintendo system was the most powerful console.

Best Moment: Throwing Cappy onto a new character, enemy or object. Each time I was able to control a new thing in Odyssey I had the same rush of discovery and curiosity, “What can I do with this, how do I use it to get me another moon?”

 

 

2. Persona 5

I was so busy in 2017, it was hard to make time to see and play every part of every game. Persona 5 had me playing every evening for weeks, not out of a sense of obligation, but out of anticipation to see what happened next and to build my social links to empower my team. The Persona series has always been praised for its characters and Persona 5 is no exception. The slice-of-life, modern Japan world feels genuine and engaging. I wanted to explore every new location, learn about the different techniques in making curry rice, why someone would pick a Blue Mountain coffee blend over a Kona blend. Never has a game resulted in me daydreaming about packing bags and moving to Japan. After Persona 5 I am honestly considering it. The combat is the least interesting part of Persona 5 but is a vast improvement over previous games. The stylistic menus and music penetrate into every aspect of the world, and the dungeon ‘palaces’ feel unique and far less rote than a traditional JRPG. Once I finished my first play through immediately started new game+. I need to see everything that Persona 5 has to offer.

Best Moment: Unlocking the ability to make Japanese curry rice at the cafe below where I live. Seriously, Japanese curry is some of the most delicious food. Persona 5 has inspired me to start making it at home instead of just dreaming about my favorite chain, Coco Ichibanya.

 

 

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

While this might not be much of a surprise to see someone calling a Zelda game the best game of the year, this is a big deal for me. I have never been a big fan of the franchise, bouncing off of The Ocarina of Time each attempt to get through it, even when it was new. The only Zelda game I saw through to the end was the 2004, Capcom developed GBA title, The Minish Cap. The Zelda formula disruption with Breath of the Wild is exactly what I needed to be interested in the franchise. They made an interesting sandbox with great challenges, cool things to discover and an art direction that straddles the line between classic 3D Zelda and Wind Waker in a way I was not expecting. Nintendo made an open world game, in a time where the market is saturated with open-world games and made it compelling enough for me to not only spend dozens of hours in, but also to see myself through most of its content. Strip away the bad storytelling, the cheesy writing and the often atrocious voice acting and Breath of the Wild still manages to be an incredible experience, that I would call the best game of 2017.

Best Moment: So there I was out exploring, when I triggered a treasure chest fight with a moblin horde. I wanted what was in the chest, but it wouldn’t open until I killed each member of the crew defending it. I used one of my many swords to take out the first few while the others ran over to defend. Before they could get to me I shot an arrow at an explosive barrel, conveniently placed alongside their path. It killed one of the final two, but knocked the survivor off of a massive cliff. He must have tucked and rolled when he hit the ground, because he was still alive. There was no way I’d be able to survive that fall, let alone manage to find my way back to the chest after disposing of the final moblin. I had to improvise. I took out a heavy axe and chopped down the closest tree. Then I rolled the branchless log to the edge, positioned it just right and gave it the final push. The log tumbled and bounced down the cliff as I watched in anticipation. After what felt like minutes, and a few particularly precarious bounces the log impacted with the moblin, killing him on impact. Then I lost camera controls as focus was put onto the locked chest, the conditions were met and the loot was mine for the taking. I don’t remember what was in that chest, but it was at that moment I understood what Breath of the Wild was going to be for me, and that it was worthy of a top slot in my end of year list.

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