pop culture | no politics
Editor's Note: 2017 is coming to an end, and with so many great games being released this year I've once again asked some friends for help picking the best titles released in the last twelve months. Here's the best games that Josh Poytress played in 2017.
In Super Mario Odyssey Mario has to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser again, who this time is planning on forcing Peach into a marriage that would allow him to take over her kingdom. With a couple new additions to gameplay and a lot of new areas to explore, Super Mario Odyssey was a blast to play. The level design was a lot better than I was expecting it would be, and everything ran extremely smoothly. The big addition to gameplay was the introduction of this sentient hat ghost monster thing that you come to control. Throwing this hat onto other monsters allows you to possess them and use their powers for your benefit. It sounds a little odd, but it’s a very clever tool used for all the puzzle solving and it really works well. The only real issues I had with Odyssey are the camera sometimes would be a little wonky, and the story is pretty much the same old ‘Rescue Peach from Bowser’. Not that it's a bad thing, but I’m curious how a Mario game where Bowser isn’t the big bad would be. If you have a Nintendo Switch and don’t own this game, I would definitely recommend picking it up, you won’t regret it.
As someone who is a massive samurai fan and a massive Dark Souls fan, Nioh was everything I was hoping it would be. It takes the Souls concept and improves upon it by adding different stances, companion spirits, and weapon types. The three stances are; light attack, medium attack, and heavy attack. Each stance has separate attack combos for the games many weapons. My favorite weapon is the Kusarigama, a sickle and chain weapon. There is immense replayability if you like testing out new weapons. On top of these additions, you get power modifiers depending on which Spirit you choose. Slowly over the story mode, you unlock these spirits, and each one has a specific focus on styles of gameplay. In keeping with the Souls theme the game has, it is an incredibly unforgiving game and can be frustrating if you aren’t used to these types of games. Also, while I enjoyed the story, it was probably the weakest part of the game. It was serviceable, but was fairly basic and nothing gripping, which is why its only 9th on my list. As far as gameplay, this would be a game that would make my top 5 easily, but I like to make my lists based more on story elements and how a story grabs you. If you’re a fan of the Souls series and want to try a different take on it, I’d recommend picking it up. If you get easily frustrated by difficult games, I’d skip it.
No one expected Guerrilla Games, the creator of the Killzone franchise, to make such a great open world 3rd person action game, and I think that's why this game has placed so high on a lot of people lists. Don’t get me wrong, I really, really like this game. It’s gorgeous, has a fun combat system, awesome weapon design, and fantastic creature design. You can tell a lot of love went into this game. The story takes place during an undisclosed period of time, where giant machines based on various creatures roam the world. You play as the character Aloy, who was exiled at birth by the Matriarchs who run her village but was taken in by a man named Rost. Aloy wants to know who her parents are, and throughout the game she goes out into the untamed parts of the world to try to find clues, and also to beat the bad guy who wants to destroy everything. Personally, the story for me was solid; well told with some nice twists, although some were a little obvious when you take a minute to think about it. I think the best thing that this game does is world building. All the different clans you meet seem unique and interesting, and the characters tied to a lot of the quests are interesting people that make the world of Horizon Zero Dawn enjoyable. If you haven’t picked this game up by now, I would definitely recommend it, along with the DLC The Frozen Wilds.
Pyre was created and developed by Supergiant Games, the studio’s third game after the great titles Bastion and Transistor. Each of Supergiants’ games have been unique from the other, and Pyre is no different. Describing what kind of game Pyre is is a difficult thing to do, but I’m going to give it a shot. You could call Pyre an RPG, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but the main gameplay elements would lead me to believe its more of a sports game akin to Rugby. Sounds weird I know, but it's actually a lot of fun. The objective is to take the orb from the middle of the map and pass it around to your teammates and dunk it into the enemy team's Pyre or goal. Once you’ve scored enough points their pyre goes out and you win. There are a couple more elements intertwined, such as abilities each character has to stop the other team from scoring or making it easier for you to score, and talisman’s you can equip to boost your player's stats. The best part of the game, however, is the story and the characters involved. Your player is found by a band of three characters called The Nightwings who have been searching for someone who can help them take place in the Rite. Luckily enough, you’re exactly the type of person they’re looking for, and you join them to compete against other teams in order to escape the realm that everyone has been cast down into. Each character is unique and has a well-told backstory as to why they are where they are and why they want to get back. The soundtrack to Pyre, like every other Supergiant game, is fantastic. I would put it in my top five soundtracks in video games of all time, and the best Supergiant has ever done. There were a couple of times where the framerate stuttered a bit near the end of the game, but other than that it played smoothly. The game is very affordable and if the gameplay I described sounds fun to you, I think the story would get its hooks into you and you’ll really enjoy it.
Shadow of War is the sequel to the surprise hit Shadow of Mordor, which was one of my favorite games of 2014. Everything that Shadow of Mordor did well Shadow of War improves upon, and even tells a better story than its predecessor. You again play as the ranger Talion who is trying to beat back Sauron’s forces and retake Mordor with the help of the Elf Celebrimbor. At the end of SoM you create your own version of the One Ring and in SoW, you use that ring to take over various strongholds to increase the strength of your army to finally destroy Sauron and save Middle Earth. The big draw of SoM was the Nemesis System, which was a gameplay mechanic that created unique Orcs that would have certain characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses and they would remember you from previous encounters. War improves upon this system and makes good use of it in integrating it into the hierarchy of your strongholds. I had a couple Orc turn on me because I didn’t make them the Warchief or Overlord of the stronghold I placed them in, and I had to put them down because of it. The combat hasn't changed from Mordor, which isn’t an issue because the addition of more powers and creatures to dominate makes the game a ton of fun to mindlessly roam and slay whatever you find. The soundtrack and score isn’t anything special compared to other games on this list, but it was serviceable. The graphics are solid for the most part, and the pre-rendered cutscenes looked great on the PS4 Pro. As a massive Lord of the Rings fan I adored this game and really enjoyed how they tied the story into the LotR storyline. If you’re a fan of the series, I think you would enjoy it as well.
I’m a big fan of Visual Novel, puzzle, and social interaction and relationship-building games, which is why I love the Danganronpa series so much. The third entry, Danganronpa V3, is all of those things made into a fantastically gripping game, with sixteen uniquely awesome characters. The story is just like all the other Danganronpa games, sixteen people were kidnapped and thrown into a school and forced to play a killing game in order to escape. If one person can get away with killing someone and not getting caught, they are allowed to escape, and everyone else is killed. However, if they are caught, they alone are killed and everyone else goes on living trapped inside the school. The way the game works is once a murder has occurred, there is a set amount of time to gather evidence and testimony from the surviving characters, which is used during a trial in order to find who the blackened, or murderer, is. The recurring character in this series is an autonomous bear called Monokuma, who acts as the Headmaster, judge, and executioner. The story and the characters are the main draws for the series, and in V3, there is a gigantic twist that really took me by surprise and was something I never even thought could be a possibility. That alone catapulted this game to fifth on my list, but character interactions, storytelling, and endgame content also contributed. The only drawback to V3 is that to fully feel the impact of the story, you’ll have to have played the first two games, which I would recommend. It would be a little bit of a time sink, but I feel it would be worth it. The first two games come as a package, so you’ll get both games relatively cheap. Pick them up along with V3 if murder mystery games interest you.
Easily the most anticipated game of 2017 for most people, and easily one of the best games of 2017. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a fantastic representation of what an open world RPG should be. Every place you can see on the map you can explore, you can interact with just about everything you see, and there are tons of surprises in store for doing so. The art style is gorgeous, the sound design is fantastic, the gameplay is solid, and the interactions with random people you find during side quests or just exploring is fun, exciting, and full of laughs. The one part of the game that wasn’t amazing for me was the main story. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the main story, especially when visiting the four champions villages and learning about the Divine Beasts that you eventually fight and control to help defeat Ganon, but the thing that didn’t grab me was the part involving Zelda and Link. I liked Zelda’s part in the story and how they incorporated Link’s amnesia after waking up one hundred years later, but it just didn’t hit me like the top three games on my list did. The other thing I didn’t care for in the game was how the weapon durability mechanics worked. It made grinding for weapons kind of annoying and until you get the Master Sword combat can be a little frustrating. Other than that, everything about this game is exceptional, and if you have a WiiU or a Nintendo Switch and you don’t have this game, I would suggest immediately going out and buying it.
Yakuza 0 was released in Japan in 2015, but it wasn’t localized for The US until 2017 so it qualifies for my list. When I initially watched trailers and gameplay for 0 I wasn’t expecting anything more than fun Yakuza themed gangster drama with button mashing beat em up fighting mechanics. After the fourth chapter, my expectations for the story of this game were shattered and I found myself enthralled by what had transpired. From then on I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen. After one of the most insane roller coaster rides of storytelling I’ve experienced in a long time, I was cheering, screaming at the game in anger, and was almost brought to tears by what I witnessed. After completing the game I immediately bought the follow-up game Yakuza Kiwami, to find out what happens next. Sadly I haven’t had time to play it yet, but I’m sure if I had it would have made this list as well. Alongside the amazing main storyline, the 100 sub-stories that are in the game are mostly great additions and I found myself making sure I completed all of them. I found nothing really wrong with this game other than the camera when leaving buildings or fighting and the subpar graphics, mostly due to the game initially being released on PS3. That being said, the pre-rendered cutscenes are some of the best I’ve ever seen on the PS4 Pro. The only other issue I had were the mini-games that you are required to beat in order to get the platinum trophy, some of which are insanely difficult and are based almost entirely on luck. It took me over 15 hours of grinding the Mahjong minigame just to get the required completion list points to get one trophy. If anything, let that show you how much I loved playing this game even as annoying as that was. I would 100% recommend getting this game when it goes on sale because the story will definitely surprise you.
Persona 5 was my most anticipated game of 2017, and I didn’t expect any game to beat it out for my favorite game of 2017. Persona 4 Golden is one of my favorite games of all time, and when I learned Persona 5 was going to be on the PS4, I was even more excited for its release. If you’re not familiar with the Persona series, the basic storyline for the games go like this; A teenager suddenly finds themselves with a special ability allowing them to call out their inner strength in the form of a Persona. A Persona is basically a manifestation of a spirit. They then use this ability to fight against whatever evil has befallen the town you live in. Eventually, you find others with the same power and you build connections with them and they help you defeat the evil in your town. The other gameplay aspect of the series is going to school and living a normal, Japanese student's life. That entails getting a part-time job, going to class, building relationships with people, and grinding out levels to get your personas stronger. In Persona 5, you play as the leader of the Phantom Troupe, who steal the hearts of bad people to change them and stop them from committing crimes. Everything is very stylized in the Persona series, and Persona 5 has my favorite art style in the series. The jazzy soundtrack is great and fits the game's style perfectly. Its hard to describe with words, and is best experienced while playing. Gameplay consists of turn-based RPG mechanics with elemental advantages and weaknesses and dungeon crawling for level design. The storytelling is great, as are the interactions and relationships you build with the varied cast of characters. As with all the Persona games, the game takes quite a commitment to play through, but it’s worth it. I played Persona 5 for over 200 hours and enjoyed every minute of it. I would highly recommend this game if any of this sounded appealing to you, or if you like JRPGs.
NieR: Automata was a game that wasn’t even on my radar when 2017 started. All I knew about it was it was a Square Enix/Platinum Games title that I saw at PlayStation Experience in 2016. After that was a demo that came out about a month or so before the release. I downloaded it and tried it out, and enjoyed the combat and what little story was in the demo, but didn’t really think much other than that. Coming off of completing Nioh and Horizon Zero Dawn in February, I needed something else to play while I waited for Persona 5 to come out in April. I saw that NieR was out, so I decided to buy it and give it a play. I’m glad that I made that decision. I’m going to try to explain the game without giving anything away that I would want you to experience for yourself, so here we go. In NieR: Automata, you play as 3 separate main characters, Androids named 2B, 9S, and one other that you’ll meet later in the game. Each character has their own storylines to experience, and their own endings to get. The plot of NieR: Automata is that Earth was invaded by Aliens who built machines to wipe out humankind and then created Androids to fight back against the machines. Before mankind could be wiped out, they built a colony on the moon and sent the last remaining survivors there to make sure Humans wouldn’t go extinct. Androids are now sent to Earth for supplies to fight against the machines to try to take back Earth, for The Glory of Mankind. There are a total of 26 different endings to the game, 21 of those are joke endings you get when you mess something up. A small section of text explaining what happened pops up, followed by a very quick roll of credits. You get booted to the main menu screen to where you start from where that ending happened. The other 5 endings are what really got me in this game. The first ending where you play as the female android 2B doesn’t take too long to get, but once you do and start a new game you find yourself playing as the male android 9S. Completing these two endings unlocks the next two endings which, upon completion, unlocks the final ending. I know that sounds like it would take a long time to get to, but it only took me around 35 hours to do. Compared to how much time Persona 5 and Yakuza 0 took me, that's nothing. NieR is an open world JPRG, and gameplay consists of many different styles. Throughout most of the game, you’ll be hacking and slashing your way through machines with some bullet hell sections thrown in. Other times you’ll be flying in a ship Gradius-style shooting at enemy ships. That sounds like it would clash, but the styles blend together really well. Apart from the gripping main story and themes, the soundtrack is what stuck with me the most. The original soundtrack of NieR: Automata is hands down the best I’ve ever heard in any game. Period. I found myself staying in certain areas fighting machines just to hear the specific song that played while exploring them. After I beat the game I immediately went out and bought the soundtrack. I can’t stress enough how amazing it is. I think I’ve written enough about the game, and if I had to choose one game from this list for everyone to play, it would definitely be this one. I don’t think you’d be disappointed by what this game has to offer.