Kyle’s Top 5 Games of 2017

2017 hasn’t been a great year for a lot of things, but it’s been a banner year in gaming, especially when it comes to Nintendo. The company went all in on their new Switch console, and while the system had a lot of potential, no one really expected to blow up the way it did. The console is now the fastest-selling console in Nintendo history, and is projected to sell 14 million units in its first year (in comparison, the Wii U only sold 13.5 million units during its entire lifespan).

A console is no good if there are no games to play on it, however, and after the Wii U failed to take off, Nintendo took that lesson to heart and put together an incredible first-year lineup for the Switch, including some titles that will likely go down as some of the best of all-time, not just the best of 2017. Unlike the last several years, Nintendo brought their best to the party this year, and the gaming community is better for it.

But I’ve filibustered long enough—let’s get to the list already! Without further ado, here are my top five games of 2017:

(Note: Only games that I actually played this year are eligible for this list. In other words, I owe an apology to Pokémon Ultra Sun.)

#5: Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch)

The fact that perhaps the most critically-acclaimed Mario game of all-time just barely made this list is a testament to the quantity and quality of games this year. Recent Mario games leading up to Odyssey were perfectly playable, but felt a bit uninspired (especially the New Super Mario Bros. series), to the point where Super Mario Maker, a game in which users built their own levels, was by far the best of the bunch.

Super Mario Odyssey, however, was anything but uninspired. The developers returned to the open-world, exploratory style of Super Mario 64, expanded the levels to sizes previously unimaginable in Mario games, and tossed in the fresh-and-fantastic “capture” mechanic to enhance Mario’s abilities without the need for power-ups. The graphics are superb, the controls are tight and responsive, and the player has the ability to play the game however they wanted—you can follow the story path or just wander around for a while. Oh, and Mario has a bunch of cool and/or weird costumes he can wear, because sometimes you don’t need a reason to add something awesome.

So what’s this game doing down here at #5? As crazy as it sounds, Odyssey is here because it could have pushed the envelope so much further. The story is the same old princess-kidnapping tale we’ve known for decades, and the worlds feel a bit empty in spots, as if they were just expanded for the sake of expansion. In a way, Odyssey is a victim of Nintendo’s success, as they set an obscenely-high bar for open-world games in…

Ugh, is this really the only BotW snapshot I have?

#4: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Wii U/Switch)

Whereas Super Mario Odyssey harkened back to the franchise’s N64 heyday, Breath of the Wild calls all the way back to the game’s NES roots, allowing the player to progress through the game’s dungeons and puzzles in any order they choose (or even skipping them entirely and taking on the final boss right away!). Nintendo has been dangling this game as a carrot for gamers for several years ago, and despite years of waiting and sky-high expectations, Breath of the Wild delivers on all counts.

Hyrule has never been this big or looked this spectacular before (even the Wii U version looks amazing!), and the sheer geographical variation (paired with Link’s climbing ability and paraglider) means there’s always somewhere to go and something to do. The story is much more engaging than Super Mario Odyssey, aided by the well-produced cutscenes and exceptional voice acting. It’s a much harder game than usual, and the game forgoes most of the typical handholding and tutorials in favor of letting the player learn through discovery and trial-and-error. Above all, I was most impressed by the puzzle design: Nearly all of them (and there are a lot of them) felt intuitive and logical, and moments of complete confusion were few and far between.

The game is not without its shortcomings: The weapon durability mechanic just lead me to hoard weapons and avoid combat whenever possible, and fighting enemies didn’t have the payoff it should have. (Its status as a highly-anticipated single-player title also hurts its ranking, perhaps unfairly, by limiting its replay value and surprise factor.) Overall, however, Breath of the Wild is a fun, immersive title that deserves a spot on this list.

#3: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Nintendo Switch)

When word of this game started leaking out, the reaction was mostly repulsion: Rabbids? With Mario? How could this possibly be any good? As an RPG fan, however, I held out hope that this would be at least be an interesting take on the Mario franchise. What we got, however, was an XCOM-style tactical RPG with outstanding character design, and a game that was so immersive that it was the only game this year that I played to 100% completion.

This game does a lot of things right, but its biggest achievement is taking generic, aggravating, one-trick characters like the Rabbids, and infusing them with enough personality and depth that they become likeable, even amusing! (The team at Ubisoft also does a nice job fleshing out Luigi and Peach as characters, making Mario feel a bit flat and boring in comparison.) Here, the player character Rabbids feel unique and useful, to the point where the “no more than two Mario characters in a party” restriction feels unnecessary. You’d be crazy not to use the Rabbids!

The game was sold as a very difficult one, but my experience was that this concern was overblown, as the game gives you more than enough tools (attacks, movements, special moves) to get the job done. Furthermore, the dash attacks, special effects, and team jump ability lets you chain attacks together for devastating effect, and leads the player to spend several minutes plotting out their strategy before they even start to move! Not even Breath of the Wild’s many puzzles makes you think as much as Kingdom Battle, and it’s beyond satisfying when a plan comes together A-Team style.

The game isn’t without its warts: The beauty of the overworld masks the fact that there isn’t a lot of exploration allowed, and the between-battle puzzles are a far cry from those in Breath of the Wild. (Also, unless you want to fork out more money for the DLC, there isn’t a whole lot of replay value here.) Still, what is here is excellent, and Kingdom Battle is easily the best gaming surprise of 2017.

#2: Splatoon 2 (Nintendo Switch)

The surprise isn’t that Splatoon 2 is this high on my list. It’s that Splatoon 2 isn’t higher.

I loved the original Splatoon game, and Splatoon 2 delivers a very similar experience: The unique battle modes, the special weapon classes (rollers, buckets, etc.), the character customization, the Miiverse-esque community, the commitment to ongoing content rollouts, and so on. The result was a colorful, engaging take on the shooter genre with infinite replay value.

Had Splatoon 2 just been Splatoon DX, that probably would have been enough to make this list. What truly pushed the game this high were the additions, both structurally (hey, you can finally change gear without leaving a lobby!) and in terms of game modes (Salmon Run is incredible, and even the single-player mode has more replay value thanks to the variation of new hero weapons). Splatoon’s key to success has always been more Splatoon, and the game has delivered this in spades.

So what kept Splatoon 2 from being #1? The problem is the game’s reliance on the Internet: When I had a consistent, unlimited network connection, this game was incredible and I spent untold hours playing Turf Wars. When I lost that connection, however, the game lost a lot of its appeal, simply because I couldn’t play it the way I wanted to. Even with the expanded single-player content, there just isn’t a lot to do here if you don’t have a reliable network access point. Additionally, Splatoon 2 doesn’t have Nintendo’s undivided attention like the original game did, leading to fewer community events like Splatfests.

Splatoon 2 is still an awesome, awesome game, and with any luck I’ll eventually be able to re-establish my network and rejoin the Splatoon community. Its Internet reliance, however, opened the door for a plucky little game from the Switch’s older brother to swoop in and claim the title for my favorite game of 2017.

#1: Miitopia (Nintendo 3DS)

Yes, the game basically plays itself. Yes, the battles can be incredibly repetitive. Yes, the story (while longer than you might expect) is boilerplate and not terribly deep. And yes, it’s on the other Nintendo handheld, one that appears to be in the twilight of its life.

Simply put, Miitopia tops my list because it is the customizable, character-driven RPG that I’ve been looking for since I finished playing the Baldur’s Gate series. It’s a fresh take on the classic fantasy adventure trope, and it positively oozes with Nintendo’s customary charm and polish.

The game is equal parts traditional and progressive, with a wide variety of class choices (warrior, mage, pop star, cat, etc.), a set of personality options that can affect your battle strategy, and a relationship system that can lead to crazy combo attacks when the mood is right. The story makes up for its unoriginality by continuously expanding its world in defiance of the player’s expectations, and the random missions of the Traveler’s Hub give the game a surprising amount of post-game content and replay value. The game isn’t in the same visual class as the other games on this list, but the environments are lively and colorful, and the 3DS has enough horsepower to make everything look great.

The big draw, however, are the Miis themselves, and the game’s Mii Central functionality lets you access the limitless creativity of the 3DS user base. You want to cross over Kirby, Spiderman, and Gravity Falls? There are Miis for that. You want to take on the Dark Lord with Ariel from The Little Mermaid and the cast of GameXplain? Go for it! (You may have to make your own Derrick and Ash Miis, though.) The amount of cool Mii designs I’ve seen while playing this game has been mind-blowing, to the point where I really wished they hadn’t been minimized for the Switch.

Despite some strange design choices (why can’t I control my entire party?), this is the game that’s been getting the most screen time lately, simply because it’s a better fit for my lifestyle and gaming habits. It may not for everyone, but it was definitely the game for me.

Break it down, gang. You earned it.

On the whole, though, 2017 was an incredible year for gaming, with Nintendo’s push to make the Switch a success translating into a historic year of success. 2018 can’t possibly match this success, but I’m excited to see them try.

One thought on “Kyle’s Top 5 Games of 2017

  1. Haha, the only game I got to was Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon which sure, are just basically to Sun and Moon what Crystal, Emerald, and Platinum were to past Pokemon games. Still, the little changes made to the game were so worth it, and considering the Alola region is one of my favorites ever, I didn’t mind going through it again.

    Breath Of The Wild is one I’m very jealous of it. I’ve tortured myself with teasers of it on Youtube, but I’ve never gotten to play it. Oh well, guess I’ll have to go back to Oracle of Ages and Seasons on the Gameboy again 😉

    I know I keep saying it, but I want a Switch SOOOO bad. Unfortunately I’m at that age where if I want a new game system I can’t rely completely on my folks to buy it, haha. My other passion aside from music is gaming, so while I’m glad I’ve got something else to explore my passion with, I do wish I had more time (and also the means) to play more games. I appreciate the list! I’ll have to check out Miitopia!

    Like

Comments are closed.