Another year has passed by like so many grains of sand falling through an hourglass. That sand might as well represent all the games that came out in 2017, because even with as many as I reviewed there are many titles I didn’t have time to play.
I’m looking at you, Nier: Automata.
With that in mind, here’s what made The Blade’s 2017 games of the year list.
Game of the Year
South Park: The Fractured But Whole (PC, XBox, PS4)
One of the things that stood out this year was that I finally lost my patience for lengthy games that leave me quoting Monty Python and the Holy Grail, tapping my invisible watch and shouting, “Get on with it!” On top of being funny, smart, and even poignant, South Park is an RPG that never wasted my time with the typical tropes of modern role-playing games.
Clocking in at less than 20 hours, Fractured presents what would be a fantastic episode of the long-running series in the form of a video game narrative. Where the first entry in the series, The Stick of Truth, leaned more on an overload of references to the show, this superhero tale relies more on showing the heart and core of its beloved cast of characters.
The new battle system is a natural and smart progression from the turn-based combat of the previous game. In many ways it made the fighting feel like a great session of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons combat, moving my character around the field and slinging spells as if I had rolled a natural D20.
This expansion of the combat complements the wonderful boss fights, which were some of the best big encounters in any game this year. One of my favorites included Cartman waving off damage and status effects — saying his opponents attack didn’t hit — while other characters call him a cheater. Small moments are prime examples of South Park at its best when reminding you that it’s a show about how children navigate the adult world.
South Park isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and while I admit that I love the series, I still think that The Fractured But Whole is a stand-out role-playing game in a year where a new entry in the Persona series also came out. You won’t spend long in that quiet little mountain town, but the time you do dedicate to South Park is more than worth the cost of admission.
Now, if I could get the “Let’s fighting love!” song out of my head.
Runner-Up: Horizon: Zero Dawn (PS4).
Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)
I never knew that Mario needed a retro-pastiche jazz hit with cheesy lyrics referencing the game, but here we are. Nintendo always swings for the fences for its soundtracks but went the extra mile for Mario’s newest journey on the Switch.
I can be sentimental to a fault, but my eyes might have watered in wonderful nostalgia upon hearing the game’s title track, “Jump Up, Superstar!” the first time. A new, mainline Super Mario game is always a special thing to behold, and I have a feeling I’ll be humming the beats from Odyssey for years to come. After all, shouldn’t we all jump up in the air?
Runner-Up: Life Is Strange: Before the Storm (PC, PS4, XBox).
Daddy’s Home – Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (PC, XBox, PS4)
Resident Evil 7 needed to remind people that the world of survival-horror created by Capcom once meant more than bad one-liners and ridiculous numbers of guns. While Biohazard’s pacing and momentum jump off a cliff in the last hours, the opening sections within the Baker homestead are some of the best and scariest moments in gaming.
This is thanks in large part to “Daddy,” the patriarch of the Baker family and the thing that goes bump in the night, chasing players with extreme persistence and bad intentions. While the Baker house is terrifying itself, Daddy almost feels like a living nightmare that you’re unable to wake up from.
The climax of the horror results in a chainsaw fight that left me feeling tense and charged with adrenaline. Sadly, the game is all downhill from that moment, but I suppose that Daddy and I will always have those fleeting moments together in the Baker house for as long as I live.
Runner-Up: Running straight to Hyrule Castle – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch).
Best Visuals/Art Design
“Cuphead” is really hard but learning its tricks is awfully fun. MUST CREDIT: Studio MDHR
Cuphead (PC, XBox)
Cuphead has the kind of art style that you can show a mere few seconds of and it will immediately grab your attention. This hand-drawn throwback to the 1930s era of early Disney and Fleischer Studios is a sight to see in motion, with expression and attention to detail not found in games twice the size and scope of Cuphead.
Each encounter is so visually engaging that it makes me feel like I should never attempt any kind of creativity ever again. After all, what’s the point when Cuphead looks so good? Even if difficult platforming isn’t your style, Cuphead should be seen, heard, and experienced.
Runner-Up: Persona 5 (PS3, PS4).
Contact Will Harrison at DoubleUHarrison@gmail.com or on Twitter @DoubleUHarrison.