2017 was a tremendous year for gaming. From strong AAA sequels, to new IPs that pushed boundaries with their uniqueness, to the triumphant return of some of our favorite nostalgic franchises, there were some truly amazing game releases this year. We here at mxdwn Games have put our heads together and assembled a list of what we found to be the very best this year, pulling from the many different corners of the industry that appealed to us.
And now, for your consideration, we present mxdwn’s Top 10 Games of 2017:
10. Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon
Starting off our list we have Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. The original Pokémon Sun and Moon brought so much to the Pokémon universe, with the addition of new ‘mons, a new region to explore, and an exciting new story. Add in the new nostalgic-yet-fresh Alolan forms of older Pokémon, and Gen 7 was already shaping up to be one of the more memorable generations of the seemingly-eternal Pokémon franchise. Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon came in with all the right tweaks and changes, as well as the huge addition of Ultra Wormholes, creating a game experience that proved the importance of getting all the “small things” just right. By building off a great foundation and reaching even higher in ultimate achievement, Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon proved to be some of the best “enhanced” versions of any Pokémon games to date, and cemented the Alolan journey as a truly great entry in the long line of Pokémon titles.
9. Middle-earth: Shadow of War
Ninth on our list is Monolith Games’ Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the follow-up to 2014’s Shadow of Mordor. The vast open-world action RPG sees players return to the role of Talion, a former ranger of Gondor imbued with the spirit of elf lord Celebrimbor, as he forges a new ring of power and gather forces to challenge Sauron. Shadow of War is the culmination of the story begun by its predecessor, bringing a dark and intricate piece of history to the Middle-earth fold. One of the game’s most entertaining elements is diverse cast of crass, gristly, and at times goofy orcs, with whom Talion can build an army and topple enemy fortresses. Shadow of War’s Nemesis system has been largely expanded and upgraded, letting players acquaint themselves with, recruit, and beat down on orcish war chiefs. Heavily inspired by Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, epic, large-scale battles became a focus in Shadow of War and supplied a great deal of intensity and fun to the gameplay.
Parts of the game left something to be desired; micro-transactions in the form of loot boxes, XP boosts, and the like are tiresome, and the game’s confusingly vast and overdeveloped skill menu can become confusing. Nevertheless, the strengths of the first game have been bolstered and polished in Shadow of War, making for a truly entertaining power struggle in the darkest reaches of Middle-earth. Besides, who wouldn’t want to be serenaded with the bloodthirsty lyric prose of an orcish bard?
8. PlayerUnkown’s Battlegrounds
Arriving in March, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is one of the most widely played games of the year. Know in the community as PUBG, the game bolstered the “battle royale” genre, marking the popularity of free-roam, survival shooters. PUBG adopted the most prolific and well-optimized aspects of predecessor survival shooters, such as DayZ, H1Z1, and ARMA, to create an amalgamation of nerve-wracking mechanics best enjoyed in a highly competitive multiplayer experience.
The game presents beauty in simplicity as the objective is simple: after one-hundred players are parachuted into an arena which slowly shrinks as the round goes on, the last player(s) remaining alive win. The balanced optimization urges players to roam around for supplies, and in turn, discourages “campers” from isolating themselves to a corner in hopes of survival given the disadvantage of being severely unequipped. Experience in firefights is widely unavoidable, and only increases as the round does, urging for players to be able to suffice with any gun they find. PUBG has spawned various copycat titles in its popularity, strengthened Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene’s regard, and turned Twitch streamers into adored celebrities overnight. It’s currently the second-best- selling PC game of all time, and emits all the praise to show for it.
The infamous run-n-gun platformer, Cuphead, turned heads after boasting a smooth, hand-drawn vintage cartoon artstyle. Not only that, but the insane difficulty helped it gain additional traction and the game went on to sell over 2 million copies in 2017. Cuphead’s protagonist, the title character, is accompanied by his brother, Mugman. Together they make a bad deal with the devil and have to traverse the world, shooting and dodging in fast-paced levels, in order to get their souls back. The story is simple, but more than makes up for it in its rewarding gameplay and phenomenal art direction. Unfortunately, the co-op in this game is local-only, so it misses major points for the lack of online-multiplayer. Despite that, it’s a game that cost blood, sweat, tears, and a re-mortgaging of a house, and it all shows greatly.
6. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Say what you will about sequels, there was certainly no sophomore slump for MachineGames. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus picks up right where it’s predecessor left off, throwing players deep into a Third Reich-controlled version of 1961. The tone swings wildly between drama and comedy but rarely struggles with the sharp transitions. The strong narrative is well supported by a host of dynamic revolutionaries surrounding long-time Wolfenstein protagonist BJ Blazkowicz. But no revolution would be complete without a good villain and Frau Irene Engel shines in the role. Her relentless and joyful sadism gives a scarred face to your fascist foes and makes each victory against her forces all the more thrilling. The stunning single player action is well punctuated by smooth first-person mechanics and customizable weapons you can dual wield to mow down every soldier in your path. This game doubles down on everything that made The New Order great and manages to bring a few new tricks to the table.
Year after year, gamers have proved they’re always down for a round of Nazi punching fun, but there’s much more than that to enjoy in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, landing it the number six spot on our list.
5. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice took the gaming world by storm by offering a unique narrative, playstyle, and most notably, sound design. The Celtic and Norse-inspired psychological horror puts the character in Senua’s shoes, who is trying to revive her dead lover and free herself from a suspected curse. During Senua’s journey, death has a greater impact, as the game states that there is a finite number of deaths allowed before your game data is erased, and each death worsens the curse put on Senua. Although it only offers a simple combat system, minor replayability, and, at times, contrived puzzles, it shows us that gaming can be pushed even further than once thought.
4. Horizon Zero Dawn
Taking the number 4 spot on our list is Horizon Zero Dawn. This action-filled RPG places players within a vast and beautiful, yet dangerous, open world. The breath-taking environment is host to many camps and settlements filled with tribes who share their own beliefs, mysterious clues to what led civilization to the way that it is now, and, last but not least, blood thirsty mechanical beasts.
The story is intriguing and the main missions are well developed to really get you wrapped within the narrative, although the otherwise can be said about the side quests. But aside from the story and the environment, the main attraction to the title is definitely the combat. Stalking, evading, trapping, killing, and salvaging lifesaving equipment from the ravenous mechanical monsters that roam almost every inch of the wide open world can be endless fun. There are many various monsters with their own strengths, weaknesses, habits, and loopholes that make taking them down truly rewarding. These beasts even behave differently when being hit in certain spots so each confrontation with every monster is truly unique. The overall gameplay has a few similarities to other RPGs but does a good job blending in its own elements with Aloy’s crafting, traps, and the fact that she can use the weapons that fall off beasts to her advantage against them. Horizon Zero Dawn truly was an enjoyable experience with the intriguing main campaign, mixed in with its beautiful environment and exciting combat.
3. NieR: Automata
Yoko Taro’s next entry into the NieR series, NieR: Automata, proved that Platinum Games still has life left in it and that post-apocalyptic worlds still have stories worth telling. With a rich soundtrack, fun combat, unique playstyle, and a deep story, the ARPG bullet-hell fusion stars 2B, a YorHa android sent on a mission to pave the way for future incursions into hostile machine territory. She is accompanied by fellow android unit, 9S, and together they venture throughout an open world, uncovering the story behind its inhabitants, YorHa, and the hostile machines that nearly eradicated humanity centuries ago. There is plenty of bang for your buck, and the game is a must-play for the story, ARPG aspects, and challenge alike.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
While Breath of the Wild falls just shy of the number one spot, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t the most important game of the year. Single-handedly responsible for the Switch’s dominance of the gaming landscape, it revitalized one of the most cherished franchises of all time and delivered an experience few players were prepared for. With a beautiful and astonishingly huge open world, a mind-boggling number of collectibles and side objectives, and an insistence on putting the player and their freedom first, Breath of the Wild is a bold vision of the future of not just Zelda games, but of video games as a whole.
However, that doesn’t mean that the game is without reproach. At the forefront of most criticisms is the breakable weapons system, and while it’s a clever way to keep players from immediately seeking out a late-game weapon and tearing through the world, a certain amount of frustration is inevitable. Additionally, the novelty of the rotating dungeons and similar boss fights wears thin rather quickly—another side effect of being able to tackle objectives in any order.
Nitpicks aside, Breath of the Wild is an experience unlike any other, and the high-water mark for Zelda since the Ocarina of Time/Majora’s Mask double feature. However, one game stands
alone as the very best of 2017…
1. Super Mario Odyssey
There is an elegance and a simplicity to Super Mario Odyssey that almost defies explanation. If Breath of the Wild represents the ambition of Nintendo games moving forward, Odyssey is the culmination and celebration of more than 30 years of innovation, genius level design, and characters that have helped introduce multiple generations to the joys of gaming. It has never felt this good to be Mario—not in Super Mario 64, not in Sunshine, and not even in Galaxy—and at every junction there is a cleverly placed Power Moon, a surprising enemy to possess, or a humorous piece of dialogue to keep things fun and fresh. And with over a dozen areas and over 800 Power Moons to track down, it offers a level of exploration only topped by Breath of the Wild’s vast wilderness.
At the core of the experience, however, is maybe the most inspired of all Mario gimmicks: Cappy. This one little idea is the key that unlocks the game for all audiences and unleashes a wicked amount of variety. He introduces the hat-centric setting and the unshakeable air of blissful silliness that runs through the game. Using him to possess enemies introduces dozens of gameplay styles, many of which are at first glance simple but eventually explored to their full potential. And using Cappy in the platforming can be both a safety net for less experienced players and a tool capable of busting the game wide open for more technical players—especially speedrunners, who are close to defeating Bowser in under an hour.
Super Mario Odyssey, like Breath of the Wild, is a masterpiece. However, its accessibility, irresistible charm, and unparalleled inspiration solidify it as the very best game of 2017—and one of the finest video games ever made.
2017 was truly a remarkable year for gaming, and we hope you all had as much fun with these titles as we did. From all of us here at mxdwn Games, have a happy new year, and here’s to a great 2018.