It goes without saying that 2017 has been an amazing year for video games on the whole. The big-budget side of the industry has seen a flurry of new IPs including Hellblade, Nioh, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle and Horizon: Zero Dawn, while also being shaken up by the overwhelming success of the Nintendo Switch. The small-budget side has continued to flourish and there’s even a developing small-scale publishing industry starting to reform after the last two console generations devastated the old line-up.
Long-term fans of games also had a bumper year as, alongside sequels to more regular IPs like Mario, Zelda, and Resident Evil, we saw a roaring comeback for Sonic in Sonic Mania, Micromachines, SpellForce and more. Nintendo also released the long-lost-but-not-actually-lost Star Fox 2 and we saw a kind-of-sequel to Maniac Mansion launch in Thimbleweed Park. Also, Lizardcube released their remaster of Master System masterpiece Wonderboy: The Dragon’s Trap, which has almost certainly upped the bar for remasters going forward.
If, last year, you’d told us that Mario, Zelda, Sonic, Star Fox and Wonderboy would be some of the big names we’d be talking about at the end of 2017, then we’d probably have nervously laughed. But here we are.
2017 has also been an excellent year for the website, with the site twisting and turning in new ways as the year has gone on. We’ve launched the board game side of the website and our focus on Wargaming and Simulation titles have massively improved. We’ve also started to return to our roots with Jam coverage, as well as showing our faces at more events.
All of these areas are set to continue to expand through 2018 and we’ve got a whole bunch of other stuff we’re working on too — 2018 is going to be massive for B3 as we continue to be better and better each day.
Without further ado, here are a few of the team and their Game of the Year choices.
Actually possessing all of the games on my Want List for 2017 would be a gamer’s dream come true. Just as with movies, I am usually a year or two behind actually getting the opportunity to partake in them. No matter what I’ve heard or read, I can obviously only comment on what I have truly played for my Game of the Year for 2017. Games to me are like children: it’s too hard to only pick one as favorite.
One of the top two on my list (of 2017 releases only) would be Endless Space 2. It’s 4X, engrossing, immersive, turn-based and set in space. It’s extremely absorbing and I can easily lose a multitude of hours in it without ever even realizing how much time has passed. Each species has their own lore, gameplay mechanics, pros and cons. Plus, it continually gets better and better. One… more… turn.
The other of my top two for the year is Field of Glory II. Again, it’s engrossing, immersive and turn-based, but instead of space, it’s ancient war. The sheer number of civilizations, scenarios, and units is genuinely staggering. Again, it’s easy for me to sit down with and just melt hours away. One… more… turn.
Although I haven’t spent nearly enough time with it, Battle Brothers gets a mention here as well. It’s an indie, turn-based, strategy RPG with some excellent, top-notch features and gameplay. Because I loved what little amount of time I put in, I plan to revisit it as soon as humanly possible.
Every bit as important as new releases to me are games that get constant care, from updates, DLC or both. XCOM 2: War of the Chosen is among the top of this list as it includes almost an entire new game’s worth of content. War of the Chosen is an outstanding DLC which adds a ton to the XCOM franchise.
Right alongside it is the Crusade Expansion Pack for Galactic Civilizations III. Between Crusade and all of the updates, Galactic Civilizations III is barely recognizable from where it started in 2015. It is truly an incredible game.
The final shout-out here goes to Stellaris along with its DLC: Utopia. Stellaris is constantly changing and evolving, with entirely new pieces and ideas being implemented and re-worked. Once again, this is not the same game that came out of the original box.
This list is in no way complete nor comprehensive. It would take pages to list and/or even remark upon all of the great games I have played so far this year. However, if you want to read what I have played and reviewed since June, please visit my profile here on the site!
Last year I declared Hitman (2016) my Game of the Year. At the same time I threw in a comment stating that I didn’t feel Battle Brothers could qualify as ‘out’ in 2016, due to it not hitting version 1.0 that year, and it didn’t even enter early access in that year either — so I couldn’t wing it the title through that measure..
In 2017, right at the start of the year, Battle Brothers hit version 1.0, adding in massive, map-altering mid-campaign events which either drew rifts between human factions, organised and further militarised the greenskins, or stirred up the undead into deadly rank and file, marching against humanity to reclaim the land and end all human life.
Battle Brothers takes the best of Mount & Blade’s dynamic overworld — with peasants, caravans, lords and mercenaries roving the world — and adds in a deep combat system based around armour and dodging rather than whittling down health points. I’ve played dozens of campaigns yet still feel like a novice at times; I still wind up retiring in a ditch after a battle suddenly takes a turn for the worse.
Now onto some honourable mentions which I most definitely need to spend some time discussing — Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!!, Heat Signature and Immortal Redneck launched this year, each instantly making their way onto my ‘short run’ mound on Steam with high marks.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! is beyond simply more of the same. It’s something that (like the first) I will lovingly return to when I need to shake myself out of a dark, tired or dreary mood. Preparation counters add a rhythm to the game, which wasn’t in the first, and really allow for some fantastic moments where things just click.
Immortal Redneck is a roguelite shooter, but unlike its subgenre contemporaries of Heavy Bullets, Tower of Guns and (the exceptional) Rogue Shooter, it captures the pace and verticality of Quake and Unreal Tournament but then deftly nips off towards the procedural with how it handles level and enemy distribution. It’s extremely easy to pick up and play, and the progression system ensures that you never feel too disheartened when you only make it up a few floors.
Had Battle Brothers not hit full release this year, then the award would have most definitely gone to Heat Signature instead. It takes the almost puzzle-based elements of stealth action titles and creates a sci-fi trickster’s toolbox filled with quirky gadgets which ensure that the game is brimming with eureka moments.
These eureka moments could be moments like flicking on a shield to rebound bullets at people, using a teleporter to swap positions with somebody so they catch a bullet they just fired at you or venting yourself and your mission objective from the ship just as you’re about to be captured.
It’s all held together by a very cool pause-to-plan feature, along with the fact that there’s enough variety in the game files for the missions to never feel as though they repeat. Heat Signature is a perfect demonstration of what a stealth action sandbox should be — a game where players control the difficulty they face, and have enough freedom and options to create clever chaos.
The Darkside Detective
Near the middle of this year, I had fallen somewhat out-of-love with point-and-click games. So much so that I considered flat-out refusing to play another for quite some time. I had become frustrated by clunky design choices and needlessly long-winded gameplay. I was mentally ready to tar all future titles in the genre with the same brush. Harsh, perhaps, although still surprising that I had managed to stick around for so long as someone who initially failed to understand the whole point-and-click concept.
Suffice to say, I am extremely glad I did not go ahead with this tarring.
I had never heard of my game of the year before, nor noticed it mentioned online before I picked it up. And yet now, more than half a year since I first played it, I can’t help but smile every time I hear how well it’s doing.
The Darkside Detective (you can read my review here) won me over almost instantly. It was simple, quick to get into and quick to enjoy. Its two main characters, Detective McQueen and Officer Dooley, drew me into their world straight away through the warm glow of their witty repertoire. Above all, it just seemed made with such care, down to the tiniest detail. Every character has their quirks, every item has its uses. Unlike in many other point-and-clicks, combinations and puzzle solutions are intuitive, but not over too soon, and satisfying.
I feel that I must leave with one final point: before I played The Darkside Detective, I was blind and could not see, and thought that pixel art could not be eminently beautiful. I was wrong. So if you’re looking for a great game, a good laugh and guaranteed fun, I can only give this game my fullest recommendations.
Honourable mentions go to: Reaching for Petals, which brought a tear to my eye; and Empires of the Undergrowth, which satisfied my long-lost penchant for observing bugs.
It’s hard to talk about Thimbleweed Park without directly acknowledging its DNA and the personal nostalgia tied to such a lineage, so I’m just going to put this out there. Thimbleweed Park redraws the edges of what could be expected from a SCUMM adventure game, as such it can feel like a legitimised fan game, minus the fawning and tropes (I can’t word this, but I’m trying to say, that while fangames exist in the genre and a whole subculture of games exists using tools built to mimic the earlier games, they tend to have on the nose fanservice). It could be said to rely on audience knowledge of previous genre and, while I might be in that target audience, I also haven’t completed an adventure game since 2002.
I intentionally went in blind, knowing there would be references and homages to all things SCUMM and Lucasarts. I let the game wash over me. Thimbleweed Park shares its DNA with the early SCUMM games its designers co-created; as such the game occupies a weird position, in which it’s not exactly a tribute, but a refined continuation of the toolset and gameplay.
This game isn’t an echo of previous games in the genre, nor is it really a reverberation, it feels timeless, but is very much a game of this era. Its core has the weirdness of Zak McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders, the finesse and charm of the Monkey Island games, and feels as lived in as the Edison mansion from Maniac Mansion/Day of The Tentacle. Although it exists within a genre mainly puzzle based, the characters manage to exist as individuals with their own personal objectives, while it’s not exactly going to blow your mind, it’s worthwhile, a true return to form.
Nier Automata is the perfect combination of hilarity and heart-wrenching pain. Of gameplay and story. Of world and the music within it. ‘Multiple playthroughs’ is normally a death knell for me when it comes to games, but Nier Automata rewards your persistence with a deepening story and an ending that makes you question everything you’ve ever done — and not just in the game...
2017 has been a great year for games. Some top-level AAAs, amazing indies and the release of the Switch have made sure there really has been something for everyone this year.
There were so many games I have loved in the last year that I simply could not choose, so I had to use statistics to determine my game of the year.
Luckily for me, my most played game on Steam just so happened to release this year. (Also, don’t judge me — I like pool, okay?)
Portal Knights, to many, will be ‘just another Minecraft clone’, but to me, it had that certain something that none of the other ‘clones’ did. Using many smaller, individual worlds and adding in RPG elements — such as leveling up, skill trees and bosses — gave the game a point, a real reason for playing and a true sense of progress. With charming graphics, largely varied creatures, and an excellent combat system, it’s well worth your time. I have played the game from early access on the PC, but Portal Knights is now available on the Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch.
If you want to read more, I have written a review of the Switch version.
Over this year, my game of the year has changed a whole bunch. First it was Paradigm, a point-and-click adventure which won me over with its sharp wit and amazing story. Next it was Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock, a turn-based space combat game set in the marvellous universe of Battlestar Galactica. Then it was Heat Signature from Suspicious Developments, a fantastic space bounty hunter puzzler which wowed me with its quick combat and vast universe. Finally, and with less than a month left of 2017, I found my game of the year: Super Mario Odyssey.
Although it has been out for many months, I only got Odyssey and a Switch in December, but instantly fell in love. It is a beautiful and well made platformer which is both accessible yet filled with challenges and puzzles for all skill levels. Reinventing the Mario formula with the addition of a sentient hat, Odyssey plays to its strengths, putting a large emphasis on the new gymnastical abilities Mario has acquired to side-somersault, hat-dive and ground-pound jump across The Kingdoms.
Although Odyssey has a high entry price, its mechanics, graphics and overall design make it a fantastic game and one which I am definitely going to keep playing — I’m not even halfway through the moons!
My honorable mentions go to: PUBG (viva la Early Access!), Opus Magnum and Party Hard 2.
I’ll admit, I haven’t really played much new stuff this year — most of my time has been consumed by the never-ending pit of human-leather-based addiction that is modded RimWorld (much to the dismay of the majority of my life). Those new bits I did manage to pick up were smaller games swiped from the monolith of Steam’s repository via gratuitous sales, many of which occupy the dusty, dank section of my library reserved for everything with under three hours of play.
If there is one game that sticks out in my mind for 2017, it would be the beautiful, friend-testing slash-a-thon Crawl which immediately drew my attention and my wallet via one of the best game trailers I’ve seen, surpassing the previous champion Dyad.
I’m generally a sucker for local-multiplayer games — it has been a declining genre on PC for nearly a decade now, but seems to have been reversing its fortunes in wonderful fashion for the last couple of years — as I love having a few friends over with controllers charged, drinks in the fridge and insults at the ready. Crawl delivers on the promise of friendship-ending gameplay ten-fold by letting my wife continuously play as the stupid gnome thing that keeps laying spikes, or my sister wield the Chthulu-thing and create over-powered tentacle forests, both ending my spate as the monster-destroying protagonist once again.
I really hope to see couch–co-op and local-multiplayer games make a big resurgence in 2018, with more lovely studios following the likes of Crawl, Ultimate Chicken Horse and Death Road To Canada in order to pave the way for a local gaming renaissance where the subtle art of shouting insults at your friends from a metre away makes a wild comeback.