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Games of the Year 2017: The Good

I am not a "games journalist" so I have not had the time to play the vast majority of video games that were released in 2017. I know that I have missed out on numerous titles which many people consider to be one of the best games released this year. Nier: Automata, Horizon Zero Dawn, Divinity: Original Sin II, What Remains of Edith Finch and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus are a short list of some of these games.

I don't want these games of the year articles to be fodder for the un-ending argument of what was "the best game of 2017" using a constantly warping set of criteria. This list is what are the best games that I, Reid Main, made the time to play in 2017.

1. Persona 5

Back in April I wrote that I did not think anything would supplant Persona 5 as my game of the year for 2017 and I turned out to be right. Nothing else even came remotely close.

Persona 5 took me about 90 hours to beat and I loved almost every minute of it. The story was engaging, the characters were captivating, the UI was beautiful, the art style was jaw-droppingly gorgeous. There were dozens of quality of life improvements made from the previous Persona games like the streamlined combat controls to the overworld map that made it much easier to understand how to build your social links.

Compared to Persona 4, I was amazed how much more natural the story in Persona 5 felt. It seemed to flow much better from one story-beat to the next. I remember in Persona 4 I felt that I had a lot of random downtime where the story just seemed to freeze until an arbitrary point was reached and it kicked back up again. In Persona 5 almost all of the side-stories seemed relevant to the main one. Whenever I was getting backstory for my party members it always had some sort of tie-in to the main story that really helped you understand why these people grouped up with you. That central theme of fighting back against those with power bled into everyone's lives and helped turn Persona 5 into a very organic world that I felt I was inhabiting compared to a stereotypical video game world where everyone's motivations were conspicuously perfectly aligned with yours under very flimsy pretenses.

The only real negative I can say about Persona 5 is that it drags out a bit too long. The final two dungeons seemed almost unnecessary and/or pointlessly difficult. By the time I reached that stage of the game I really just wanted to see the end of the story but numerous difficult fights that I had to grind to beat started to wear me down. I did manage to beat the game but in those last five hours I was dangerously close to putting down my controller and just watching the ending on YouTube. It was a sour chaser to an otherwise amazing game.

If you are in the mood for an amazing JRPG with a super Japanese style story that is somehow still incredibly poignant to the political climate in the West, you must buy Persona 5.

2. Super Mario Odyssey

I was prepared to dislike Super Mario Odyssey. I am a super fan of Mario games and Super Mario 64 will undoubtedly go down as one of my favourite games of all time but I was not sold on the direction that Nintendo was taking with Odyssey. I did not think open world style levels would be as entertaining compared to the customized levels that every previous star in 3D Mario games had. While I maintain that I prefer the old school style Mario games, Super Mario Odyssey was incredibly entertaining nonetheless.

It took me a little over a dozen of hours to beat and I "ended" the game with 250 moons. I say ended because I still played for an hour after the final boss and collected a bunch more moons because the game is that much fun. The only times where I got annoyed, frustrated or bored was during the boss battles with maybe the exception of Bowser. They were quite uninspired and were a pointless speed-bump during an otherwise exceptional game. Seriously please Nintendo do not bring back the Broodals. Just let them die. They look idiotic and their boss fights were never fun.

There are two other gripes that I had with the controls of the game. The first was with the camera. I don't know if it has been so long that I forgot how the camera worked in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy but in Super Mario Odyssey it was garbage. I don't know how/if they changed it but I seemed to have to constantly micromanage the camera. It never was intelligent enough to move to where I needed it to or when it did move it almost always was not where I wanted it to be. Like I said maybe I have rose-colored glasses on but I swore that in Super Mario Galaxy I barely thought about the camera.

Second is the motion controls. They are absolute shit and serve no purpose. Full stop. They should never have made it into the game. There are literally enough fucking buttons on the Joy-Cons that every motion control could just be mapped to them. The stupidest thing is that Nintendo wants you to play with Motion Controls but if you leave your Joy-Cons connected to your Switch then you have to shake the entire console when you want to do something. If you thought that you could get around this by placing your Switch in the dock and using a Pro controller think again because the motion controls don't seem to be as responsive so you'll find yourself flailing around trying to execute the simplest command. It seems that Nintendo wanted you to play Super Mario Odyssey with the Switch out of the dock and the Joy-Cons disconnected which is a configuration that I think barely anyone plays in. If I have a TV available I'll dock my Switch and if I'm in handheld mode I'll connect the Joy-Cons and curl up on the couch.

Anyways these gripes don't take away from the fact that Super Mario Odyssey is a fantastic game that every Switch owner should play. I feared the open world design and while I am sad that Nintendo is abandoning their old ways and making everything open world, Super Mario Odyssey did a perfect job at ensuring that a power moon or something interesting was always in the corner of your eye and never more than 30 seconds away.

3. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

OK let's get the negative things out of the way. Yes PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is buggy as hell even after the v1.0 launch. Network lag is constant. Cheaters are everywhere. There are frame rate drops all over the place even with the beefiest hardware. You'll see players swimming in the sky and can easily get stuck in geometry. It is a very rough game for a company that has taken in over half a billion dollars in revenue. Even the Xbox version they released sometimes only does 10 frames a second. I don't know how anyone at Microsoft thought that was acceptable to release but this PUBG train seems like it cannot be stopped.

The gameplay itself can also be frustrating as all hell and make you want to rage quit and stop playing entirely. Loot being sparse a couple of games in a row is never a good feeling. Not being able to pick up a weapon and getting killed because of it would make anyone upset. Heck even when the game doesn't bug out and you spend 20 minutes gearing up, encountering no other players and then get sniped out of the blue from 200 meters you can want to put your fist through your monitor.

And here is the power of PUBG. Even though all of that has happened (and continues to happen to me) I still play this game. It's core gameplay is super interesting and addicting as all hell. It is so easy to die, get frustrated, curse out whatever god you believe in and then click that "PLAY" button and be right back into the action because you are just so engrossed in the tension and the feeling that any one of these games could be that one where you win.

PUBG is going to go down in history as one of the most influential games of all time but because of how slowly the developers are improving it I am very interested in seeing in what their competitors do in 2018. You would be naive to not think that every major player who has experience with a multiplayer game (and even some that don't) are not experimenting with or actively developing their own battle royale type of game. Fortnite's Battle Royale by Epic Games is the prime example of this and they are eating PUBGs lunch on console because not only is Fortnite free but it also runs amazingly well. I am waiting for the first PC game that runs solid and has its own unique little take on the battle royale genre that can make a crack in PUBGs armor. I don't think people are loyal to PUBG. I think they are just really interested in the battle royale genre and PUBG is simply the best option they have in a sea of mediocrity.

Irregardless, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is still a masterwork of game design and definitely goes down as one of my favourite games of the year.

4. Injustice 2

I actually can't remember what the last fighting game I played was but Injustice 2 was so newbie friendly that I felt right at home within a couple hours. The training modes were so entertaining that it made me want to practice with different characters. By the end of the each training session I felt I had a solid grasp as to what the strengths and weaknesses of a character were and I didn't have to keep pausing to look up their moves. The story was engaging as well and forced me to use a plethora of characters but never made me feel out of my element. I can barely remember being forced to play a character that I struggled with. Also the story actually makes sense which is more than I can say about the DC Extended Universe.

Maybe the greatest praise I can give Injustice 2 is that it actually made me consider getting an arcade stick. I didn't end up doing it in the end so maybe that honor will fall to Dragon Ball FighterZ next year.

5. Superhot VR

If you have the ability to do room-scale virtual reality you absolutely must buy Superhot VR. It is a mind bending game where time only progresses when you move. So if you stay perfectly still you can assess your situation and plan your attack. By using your environment, which contains everything from knives to guns to beer bottles, you must defeat your enemies and make it to the end. Probably the best way to describe this game is that it is a John Wick simulator. By the end of playing you will feel like an indestructible badass.