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Joel Rennie’s Top 10 Games of 2017

As I look back over all the titles of 2017, my heart remains a flutter from the fulfilment delivered by long awaited sequels, while my wallet continues to scream in horror over how much money I’ve spent on video games in the past year.

My name is Joel Rennie and I am here to tell you… The definitive top 10 Games of 2017.

10. Horizon Zero Dawn

A beautiful game that really should sit a lot higher on this list however, I made sure it was at the bottom of the list to keep as much distance between it and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to emphasis how incredible the new Zelda is… and with that out of the way –

Horizon Zero Dawn is equal parts mysterious and beautiful. The post-apocalyptic undertones continuously fed my curiosity however what really drew me into the game were the stealth mechanics and how creative I could get in defeating each new enemy type I came across. Pair that with some of the best bow mechanics I’ve ever experienced, Horizon Zero Dawn has me feel like some kind of sci-fi Robin Hood… and I love that feeling.

9. Sonic Mania

The memories, the nostalgia! I felt like a fat little child again, passing the control back and forth to my friend while the weekend slowly passed me by.

What I love about Sonic Mania is that it feels as if Sega had looked back on all their previous Sonic games and hand picked the crème de la crème, mashing them together as a homage to what great side-scrolling platformers can be. The artwork is nostalgic and charming, the gameplay is fast paced and rewarding of quick decision making– all the aspects that made Sonic such a strong title for so long.

Another large part of what made Sonic Mania such an enjoyable experience is due to how I played it on the Switch. The fast paced rounds feel even more incredible as I play in portable mode, sitting on a Sydney bus that clearly doesn’t know how to go fast.

By the end of the game I felt, for the first time in a long time, proud to be a Sonic fan.

8. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

2017 was a confusing year on the topic of Nazis. Is it okay to hit them? Is it not okay to hit them?

One thing I do know is that, the Wolfenstein franchise has never ceased in it’s promise to deliver romp after romp of comical Nazi killing antics accompanied by a rich tapestry of story driven narratives and larger-than-life characters. It’s just SUCH a classic formula and it’s this very formula that has placed the franchise alongside the greats such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Inglourious Bastards, The Rocketeer, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Hellboy.

Although the game may not have pushed as many technical boundaries as I would have wished for – Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus delivered exactly what I what I wanted out of a new entry in the series – More Wolfenstein.

7. Cuphead

What makes Cuphead incredible and deserving of my number 7 of 2017 is regardless of each boss difficulty, it never feels unbalanced. Each victory feels like a true accomplishment while each defeat like a deserving slap on the wrist, keeping me coming back, fight after fight, to prove to myself I can do better.

The accompanying music and artwork of Cuphead feels beautifully polarised against the hard edged gameplay, only serving to further my enjoyment of the game as the upbeat tunes and cheeky cartoon animations quelled the brief moments of anger I had from having to restart a round.

Each time I picked up Cuphead I chuckled to myself wondering how many parents out there bought this game over the Christmas break, thinking their child will have a nice little time with it.

6. Shattered Pixel Dungeon

Shattered Pixel Dungeon is a game that will never get the recognition it deserves. Why is that? Well, it’s technically a mod of an open source rogue-like that came out 2012. Why does it make the list? Shattered Pixel Dungeon is a mobile game that delivers the complete rogue-like experience package. You explore, you die, you learn. Slowly you begin to understand the mechanics and with that comes a very rewarding increase in progress. This game has continued to be one of my top 10 for the past 6 years because the love and dedication put in by it’s developer means that every update delivers new tweaks and changes, keeping the game from ever feeling stagnant and delivering the polish that continues to let this game stand out.

5. Super Mario Odyssey

You might not be able to tell, but I was a Nintendo kid. NES, SNES Gameboy and N64 – I scrimped and saved every last dollar I got in pocket money to make sure I could buy the next big title to come out… but I couldn’t buy all the games, I had to take a risk and hope I picked the right one.

Buying a Mario game was always the smartest choice and 2017 was no exception.

Super Mario Odyssey is gorgeous, meticulously designed, and a wildly varied game that rewards curiosity and a sense of adventure. The artistic approach of the game kept me smiling happily to myself as I took on one world after another and the pacing never lost momentum from beginning to end.

4. Stardew Valley

While waiting for Super Mario Odyssey, I impulsively purchased Stardew Valley while on my way to work in the hopes to find a game that would help pass the time away until release.

– MISSION SUCCESSFUL –

My biggest criticism of Stardew Valley is that it didn’t time gate me, failing to treat me like the child that I am.

The point  is so simple and so charming. You fix up and renovate an old farm next to a rustic small town with a variety of friendly townsfolk who you can befriend (and ultimately marry).

What earns Stardew Valley a spot so high on my list is, it broke through to me how pleasant and relaxing a farming simulator RPG can be. No matter how stressful my real life work day was, I took comfort in knowing that my next day in Stardew Valley was going to be a relaxing one. It was that lesson which left me playing until 2 in the morning, my mind at ease with the simple tasks of my farm.

I had to uninstall this game on my Switch for fear that I would never again have a productive day in my life.

3. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

PUBG reminds me of the first few weeks of having my license – It’s a mixture of freedom and excitement coupled with bursts of intense panic and concentration.

As a grizzly old veteran from FPS days of old (I don’t want to toot my own horn but… I’ve played Counter Strike since the Alpha) Battlegrounds brought something fresh into the heavily saturated online FPS genre – Luck.

Playing solo or in a group, the luck of the game is what has brought me back time and time again as the reason you lost (or won) that chicken dinner often comes down to what my crew and I like to call the 3 L’s:

luck of the loot, luck of the zone and luck of the dumb.

Yes, PUBG is still a little raw, but that’s the magic of it.

What I loved about this game is the sense of chaos and urgency that happens with each new zone coupled with the fast paced combat system – Each gun in the game has its place and each house it’s strengths and weaknesses, resulting in every firefight become an enjoying mix of strategy, skill and, of course, luck.

2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

You know that feeling you got at the end of The Force Awakens? The feeling of an old wound that had grown and festered over the years, suddenly vanishing and in its place a warmth you never thought you’d ever feel again with that franchise?

Breath of the Wild not only healed the wound that had grown and festered with each Zelda title since the magnificence that was Ocarina of Time, it surpassed all of the titles before it.

You can run almost anywhere, climb almost anything. What made me fall in love with this game is just how well they made the game open world. I could go on and on but really you should be playing this game instead of reading about it.

I’ve played through the story twice, finding all the shrines both times along with fully completing both DLC packs and I am scared at how happily I’d do it all again – Play. This. Game.

1. Shooting Austin Adamson with a NERF Gun

“But Joel, after reading about how much you loved the new Zelda, how can it not be the number 1 game of the year?”

I had the honour – nay, the privilege – to have Austin stay at my house during his trip to Australia. Each day, between the coffee drinking, the breakfast eating and polite conversation… we would war across the house dueling one another with NERF Zombie Strike Hammershot Blasters.

If you have any doubt in my decision that “Shooting Austin Adamson with a NERF Gun” is the Number 1 Game of 2017, follow these steps:

  1. Buy/Borrow/Steal/Make a NERF Gun
  2. Shoot Austin Adamson with it
  3. Apologise for doubting me

 

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