To say that 2017 has been a big year for games simply does not do it enough justice. We have seen some of the most ground-breaking experiences come out of studios that we have been patrons of for years, even decades, now. Independent developers have shown us that they can deliver games with the same impact as companies with considerably more funding. AAA studios have taken the time to perfect story-telling, gameplay, and design in games from some of our favorite series, as well as completely new IPs that will surely spark future installments. Something that has been exciting for me to witness, personally, is the resurrection of a company that I have counted out for the last few years (Nintendo) becoming a forced to be reckoned with. Sony have been pushing their first-party developers to their potential while simultaneously helping to pioneer Virtual Reality as a key member of the gaming medium. Microsoft just released “The world’s most powerful console” and are poised with enough games that they might remind Sony and Nintendo very soon that they are still a superpower in the industry. Let’s not forget that Steam and the PC front have also helped to expose gamers to incredible indie titles, games from notoriously influential studios, and have made it easy to access games of nearly every genre.
This year, deciding on our Top 5 games released in the last 12 months has not been an easy task. Truly, there are many incredible games that have not made it to this list that are worth every ounce of your attention. After heavy deliberation, we have decided on our Top 5 Games of 2017. One of these incredible titles will go on to be awarded the Gamer Professionals Game of the Year Award, so stay tuned in the coming days to see which game had the most impact on our team.
Night in the Woods
Sean Price: Night in the Woods is an odd game that presents the player with an even odder sense of charm. Much of the game’s personality is derived from the perfectly reserved antiquity of the game’s setting, Possum Springs, and the heavy, if not entirely pleasant, sense of nostalgia caused from returning to Mae’s (the lead character) childhood home. The game is artsy and surreal; hopeful yet morose, and allows players the chance to remember all the successes and failings of their own personal growth as much as it allows them to experience Mae’s. The game perfectly encapsulates the sensation of a youth distilled in a purposeless place, and leans heavily upon the importance of one’s identity. This idea is driven home through the manner in which the player becomes increasingly and intimately familiar with the story’s protagonist as layers of her complexity are revealed through her interactions with her friends and fellow townsfolk. The strength of the town’s characters lends itself heavily to the weight of Night in the Wood’s narrative. The conglomeration of such exotic and smartly crafted personalities offers an interesting and rare insight into the veneer of depression. Depression is seen here not as some state of perpetual sorrow, as it is so frequently portrayed, but instead as an empty and ravenous void. The game creates a neat allusion between the psychological state of its characters and ties the story back together with relevant political motifs, all the while allowing the player to create their own Bildungsroman-styled adventure. While Night in The Woods does indeed have a story it is eager to tell; the first half of which is widely remembered for the simple mischief its well-realized characters find themselves engaged in. From knife-fights to band rehearsal in a garage, getting sloppy-drunk at a party to picking out and horribly mishandling ingredients for a family dinner, Night in the Woods will see that its players commit all the crimes and hopefully come away with a bit more introspective for their time spent with it. On top of its story, Night in the Woods boasts a stellar soundtrack to accompany its artful aesthetic – immersing the player in an experience uniquely its own.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War
Justin Carey: Whether it was the release of the Nintendo Switch or the wide variety of games to come out, 2017 was a great year for the video game industry. When I look back at all the games I have played this year, I think of all the unforgettable adventures I went on. However, there was one game that I enjoyed the most. Ironically, it was one of the games I was most skeptical about. That game is Middle-earth: Shadow of War.
They are many things I can point to as to why I enjoyed Middle-earth: Shadow of War. As a fan of the original game, Middle-earth: Shadow of Modor, I wasn’t sure if the sequel could top the original. Not that the original was perfect, but I was skeptical when the game was first revealed. The game finally came out and I still cannot stop talking about it. Every single aspect that made Middle-earth: Shadow of Modor great has been improved for the sequel. The game looks surprisingly well-polished, with gorgeous locations and very detailed yet unique character design. The story is exciting and is supported by interesting side quests which are worth experiencing. The leveling system is more fleshed out and collecting loot adds a new layer of customization to the game that was absent in its predecessor.
What sets the game apart is the Nemesis System, which was already great to begin with. Now that system has expanded even more to create a unique experience for everyone. It is no longer just about recruiting orcs but instead controlling an army. You have to constantly be on your guard for whatever the system throws at you. You can even control your army and conquer fortresses. Words cannot describe how epic battles really are. All your actions have weight and the world changes based on those actions. The unscripted moments I have experienced had me smiling ear to ear as carnage unfolded on screen. Some of these impromptu moments are easily my favorite gaming moments of the year.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Brandon Bui: Breath of the Wild has already won plenty of accolades, and it’s no different here at Gamer Professionals for our Editor-in-Chief. I had an early opportunity to demo the game at E3 2016, and throughout 2017 it was my favorite title because of its innovative take on the open-world genre; redefining a lot of the concepts that gamers have come to imagine. The immense world, the meticulous detailing provided to this iteration of Hyrule, and the many hours of exploration made this a game to remember, capped with a downloadable expansion that added new dungeon trials, more shrines, and new takes on the runes that needed some extra thought in the puzzle solving process.
The deciding factor that brought it all together was just the circumstances that occurred while I played the game through – late into the first year of my pharmacy school curriculum, and in need of something to take the edge off of the studies. Breath of the Wild gave me that sense of calm as I explored mountains collecting Korok seeds, completing side quests for villagers, and then taking some time to complete the Champion’s Ballad to acquire the Master Cycle Zero. The idea of a game that allowed almost complete freedom in how to approach the world was one that stuck has stuck in my mind from the E3 demos, and was constantly a game that I raved and praised to everyone who would listen. With the holiday season coming to a close, I recommends it as one of the top titles to purchase on the Nintendo Switch.
Read our Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild review here. Check out the review of the game’s recent DLC, The Champion’s Ballad, also.
Casey Weinmann: Why is Cuphead one of my personal games of the year? Cuphead is something truly special, this game is like nothing that we have seen to date. If you’ve been keeping up with games even remotely, you’ve probably heard the name of this game a time or two.
The first and most noticeable thing about this game is the art style. Developer Studio MDHR, painstakingly hand-drew every single frame of animation in this title and it is obvious how much they care about their game. Styled after a 1930’s era cartoon makes the game feel like something new and not just as another sidescroller which we have seen done many times before. Studio MDHR hit the mark perfectly with their chosen art style for this game.
The combat in Cuphead is something unique as well You are tasked with fighting the many boss characters in a small space while attempting to avoid their overwhelming attacks and take them down simultaneously. The game is somewhat brutal in the sense that it will take many tries to take down a single boss but even after the many deaths it takes to beat one, the game never feels unfair in how you died. The boss encounters can normally be completed around the two minute mark, this is what keeps bringing the player back after multiple deaths giving the player the feeling that next time they can definitely beat that pesky boss.
The music and sounds in the game are great and really add to the 1930’s vibe that is set when combined with all the other elements in the game. Fighting tough bosses to the tune of upbeat jazz keeps fights interesting and gives you something fresh to listen to.
Cuphead is something truly special and will be remembered as one of the great games of this generation. Looking forward to what is next from Studio MDHR and hopefully we get more to come for Cuphead.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Ben Hutchings: Come, take a place by the fire side, and let me regale you with a story about one who sees the unseen, one who speaks to the past in order to save the future. She was known as Aloy, and her exploits deserve to be immortalized above all others this year.
Her birth was as shrouded in mystery as the breathtaking landscape she dwelt in – chasms of ancient technology nestled in the depths of verdant forests, hiding secrets that only she could uncover. But discovering the truth of her origins lead her to also address the problems plaguing the land. Monstrous machines, once docile, were rampaging among the Human settlements. And a new threat was emerging from the West; corrupted machines being controlled by a shadowy cult.
But they were no match for Aloy. With bow and spear did she carve her way through all opposition. No matter what was thrown at her, be it apparitions that seemed to materialize from thin air, or gigantic abominations with a devastating arsenal, she would dispatch them all with stealth and skill. She was a joy to watch, if you were so lucky to catch a glimpse. She dodged and danced among the machines, a deadly whirlwind of power and perfect aggression. When it came to combat, she was unequaled. A master of all weapons.
But there was one weapon she wielded more cutting than any other: her wit. Kings and tribesmen alike would bow before her dazzling intellect, shrewd awareness, and most of all, her wounding (but never unfunny) sarcasm.
Ok, back to reality for a moment, because Horizon Zero Dawn is absolutely the best thing to happen in 2017. And that’s saying something, considering everything we’ve been treated to this year. It’s a world so drenched in lore, a world so unquestionably beautiful, that naming anything else ‘Game of the Year’ would be ignoring all that Horizon achieved. A game not completely new in its concepts, but crafted in such a way as to reinvent three, four, or even five tropes of gaming into something exhilarating and endlessly enjoyable. It was a world I love exploring, and existing in.
There they are, our Top 5 games of 2017! In the next few days, one of these will be named the Gamer Professional’s Game of the Year. Be sure and let us know your favorite games from 2017 in the comments below.