And so 2017 starts to disappear into the past like a ship sailing off towards the horizon. It has been, I think it’s fair to say, an amazing year to be a fan of video games, with arguably some of the greatest titles ever made gracing us over the last twelve months. Filled as I am with a sense of recent nostalgia, I have decided to provide a list of my top five favourite games of the last year. These are all titles that I have played and been released since the start of 2017 though please bear in mind that whilst in most cases I own all of the big games of this year, the number that I’ve actually played is much lower due to life and so forth.
So, without further rambling, and in customary reverse order…
5: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Okay, I realise this is a little bit of a cheat because this is really just a repackaged version of the Wii U game that came out a few years ago, but still, very few titles bring the sheer sense of enjoyment with that Mario Kart evokes. MK8 is, in many ways, emblematic of the modern Nintendo of the last few years, showing that they’ve finally embraced the more hardcore fans who, let’s face it, are about the only ones who bought the Wii U (I’m including myself here), whilst also continuing to make everything utterly accessible. Mario Kart has always been great, and MK8 is the best of them so far. The Deluxe version improves on the original by adding some much-needed proper battle modes, and allowing for two power-ups to be held at once, which adds an extra level of strategy to the game. Plus, the fact that it’s on the Switch means that you can take it wherever you like, which, you know, is a good thing.
4: Mass Effect: Andromeda
I really never understood the hate this got from some people. Sure, at launch some of the character faces were in equal parts ridiculous and terrifying, and, yes, there were an awful lot of Dragon Age Inquisition-esque quests that involved me just flying around to various places checking off lists of items, but ME:A was great. I’ve loved the combat in the ME games since the second instalment, and this is the best it has ever been. The story, though is does take a little while to get started, is deep and involving. So much so, in fact, that it seems such a shame that in all likelihood we’ll never get to see a straight sequel (in game form, at least), and that we will never get to return to the Andromeda galaxy and uncover more of it.
3: Horizon Zero Dawn
I wasn’t expecting this to be any good. I’ve played a couple of the Killzone games that Guerrilla Games were previously known for and, whilst they were technically impressive, they left a lot to be desired i
n terms of fun. As such, whilst I knew Horizon would be pretty, I wasn’t convinced it would actually be any good. How wrong I was.
A distillation of concepts and mechanics from other titles, refined, honed and coupled with a marvellously-well-realised setting featuring a fantastic lead character, Horizon is a masterpiece. Combat is deep, exploration is fun, and the storyline compelling. It is, in short, very difficult to find anything to dislike about this. In any other year, this would probably have come top of the list, but, well…
2: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
What is there to say about Breath of the Wild that hasn’t already been said? I’m not quite convinced that it is the best game of all time, as some have claimed, but it’s pretty damned close. A reinvention of the Zelda formula, taking it more towards the Western RPG form, Breath of the Wild is a masterclass in how to design an open-world title. Not having a great deal of patience, I wasn’t sure how I’d react to a world without markers and points of interest, but I had not reckoned on BotW‘s ability to draw you in, to make it seem as if there is something around every corner just waiting to be discovered. Sure, if you distil it down to its constituent components it seems remarkably light-weight, but the way it has been combined makes it marvellous.
I’m about 60 hours into the game and I’ve still to uncover a good quarter of the map, or complete the main quest-line. The fact that, at this point, I don’t want it to end speaks volumes. What a game.
1: Super Mario Odyssey
I don’t think I’ve been as excited about the release of a game as I was for Super Mario Odyssey in years. It did not disappoint. Pretty much every mainline Mario game (yes, even Sunshine) is a masterpiece, but Odyssey manages to out-do most of them. This really is something that you need to play to understand just what makes it so good. From the controls, with Mario more fun to just move around the screen than I remember in any game, to the settings, to the wry humour, this is just astonishingly good.
I’ll admit that Breath of the Wild is ostensibly the better game, but Odyssey is more fun. It takes everything that was great about the previous 3D Mario games, removes some of the lesser parts, and then adds more greatness to it. One of those rare titles that makes you feel privileged to play it.
And so, there you go: my favourite games of the last twelve months. Many thanks for taking the time to read this, and my best wishes to you for a very happy new year. See you at some point in 2018!