Its the end of the year- which means all around game journalists are writing about their game of the year awards. Most of them are listing their top 3, 5 or 10 games. However, I don’t really believe in ranking games, especially games with such massive variety to them. So here are some game highlights from the year:
Biggest Game Surprise
Doki Doki Literature Club AND Dream Daddy
If you told me that a dating sim would make any sort of top game lists this year I’d be shocked, but in the end TWO different dating games ended up making a splash.
The first one, Doki Doki Literature Club, appeared on several websites for year end favorites. It’s free, so I figured why not check it out? Before I knew it, I was presented with a warning screen “This game is not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed”. I’m sorry… what? This is a dating game right? A high school dating sim? Curiosity piqued I dove in blind. I expected eldritch horrors, maybe a cult. This game was nothing like I expected. The game starts slow, but when it hits its stride it really pulls you in. Its well crafted, clever, and has depth to it that was entirely unexpected. Days after finishing it and I’m still turning it over in my head. You’ll notice I’m not giving any background really and that is because the best experience here is to go in blind. Just, take those warnings seriously. But this game, all in all, was definitely a big surprise and an impressive game.
The other surprise was Dream Daddy… a dating sim about a gay (or bisexual) single father raising his teenage daughter in a new town, months before she goes off to college. What was surprising about this game was that… its made by the Game Grumps, a pair of internet comedians. This is their first game and its a damn good one. Its also incredibly heart felt. Yes, its a dating sim game, but its not really so much about dating as it is about a father and daughter figuring out how to connect before she heads off to college. Its also about dads dating each other, and as such there’s more dad jokes than you can swing a stick at. The comedy in this game is so incredibly cheerful and amusing. The characters are well written too, with some definitely real moments to be found in this silly little game.
I don’t play many dating sims. Actually, yea, I don’t play any unless they do something strange like that one with the pigeons- but if we get more unique games like Doki Doki Literature Club and Dream Daddy, that might easily change. These games were incredibly well done and worth playing, not to mention neither one of them was too much of a time commitment, so they’re worth checking out.
Runner up: Night in the Woods
Most Impressive Console
This is where I was going to write about Breath of the Wild as top Switch game, because everybody is saying that- then I realized I didn’t really have anything to add to that story. So instead I’m going to talk about how impressive a first year Nintendo has managed with the Switch. This thing came out in March and for MONTHS was impossible to find on store shelves. I went to go buy it in June and even then I had to call 3 Targets and wake up at 8 AM on a Sunday morning to go chase it down- and I literally grabbed the last console minutes before another couple. Even now at the end of year this console does not sit long on a store shelf. It has sold as well as the PS2 did in Japan in its first year. It has tons of good games to play, ranging from fighting games (Arms) to shooters (Splatoon). In the first year Nintendo published a new Zelda AND a new Mario for the console. That is a damn impressive line up.
But even if we’re just talking about the console itself- its insanely innovative and unique. Nintendo has always done gimmicks, but this gimmick actually caters to people’s lives in a way I did not expect. When I first got it I thought it would be a home console, but I’ve probably only had it plugged into the tv for 10% of my play time. Most of the time I like using it as a handheld console, playing puzzle games and indies right before bed. And it is hands-down the best device to bring on flights, as it is even smaller than a laptop allowing for easy play in a cramped quarters. I never imagined the portability of the device would be such a big deal, but it really is.
It also has a great indie line up. One of my favorite games from last year, Stardew Valley, sings on the Switch, even with its long saving times. Other small games like Steamworld Dig, Binding of Isaac, Golf Story and Shovel Knight make the Switch a dream console for playing portable indie games. For the portability and the games, the Switch is easily a break out impressive console and the best one this year.
Personal Favorite Game
Horizon Zero Dawn
The game that so impressed me, it practically drove me to begin blogging. I won’t repeat myself, but if you want to read the review you can head over here to see why I love it so much. Basically, it gave us a gorgeous new world- a post apocalyptic world that was for once NOT barren and ugly. It gave us a strong new female protagonist, who was curious, intelligent, and wonderfully stubborn. It gave us a story filled with twists and turns and promising questions. But most of all, its my favorite game of 2017 because despite being Open World it never felt TOO big. It never felt overwhelming or full of fluff. It was juuuust the right amount of content, clocking in at a respectable but not incompleteable 35- 45 hours of play. And what is more, later this year they released DLC content called The Frozen Wilds. I have not played this content yet, but I am looking forward to doing so. I know folks may have been distracted by another game that came out that week in March *cough* Zelda* , but you should really give HZD a try.
Kickstarter Game of the Year
My Time at Portia
This utterly charming game was on Kickstarter earlier this year. I wrote about it here and I could tell it was something interesting even before I got my hands on it. Since writing that bit on it I’ve played around 20 hours so far. The game is already functional and stable, and you can play many months in game. You can already get married, craft everything from furniture to vehicles, and you can explore at least 2 dungeons. And its not even in early access yet (It’ll go live in late January). Many early access games do not release with such polish and so much content, so My Time at Portia is already impressive in many regards.
As a cross between Dark Cloud and Harvest Moon this game is definitely going to fill an unsatisfied niche in the market. The art style is vibrant and welcoming and it is full of unique and bright characters. Some like Emily, the farmers daughter, may be reminiscent of historical Harvest Moon characters, but other people are quite new, like Abu the bear who can talk, and Django the sword fighter / restaurateur. You can see these citizens not just wandering around town but working out, holding debates, and sometimes playing games. Portia is full of life and things to see and do, and while it is nowhere near complete it is already a fun little experience of a game, which is why I’ve picked it as the Kickstarter game of the year.
The Game I wish I’d Played More Of
Divinity Original Sin
Yea its a wordy award but whatever. This game looked so good. I heard so many good things about it. When I finally got my hands on it it was a blast to play- but sadly life got in the way and I only got to play about 6 hours. I fully intend to circle back around some day and put in a lot more time with this one. The new addition of fleshed out characters to pick from really adds something. More than the main plot I want to learn about the red prince and the other characters in this tale. They all seem to have their own intricate pasts and I cannot wait to find out about them more. Alas, something for 2018.
This was the year I realized a short game told well really does make me happier as a gamer than a long game that drags. I tossed aside star quality games like Persona 5, Breath of the Wild, and er… I guess Mass Effect Andromeda, due to their lengthy open world nature. In a world with so many games to offer, I found my attention waning for focusing on one tale for more than 40 hours. Instead, I devoured short games such as Dream Daddy, Night in the Woods and Firewatch. No matter what game you liked though this year was a stand out year with so many top games its hard to pick just one. And 2018 looks like it’ll pack a punch as well with wonderful games like Monster Hunter World just on the horizon.
If you’ve got a favorite game from 2017 feel free to leave it in the comments!