11. Resident Evil VII
Sometimes it’s good to be wrong. Seldom have I been more happy to be wrong than when playing Resident Evil VII. I write an entire article openly fretting at what I’d initially seen of Resident Evil VII. I was worried my beloved Resi was ejecting its campy charm to be just another clone of such recent first person horror titles as Outlast or Amnesia: The Dark Descent. But when the game came out, I found my fears to be unfounded. Resident Evil VII somehow manages to please fans of Resis 4-6, who loved the escalating over-the-top craziness and fans of the more survivalist, claustrophobic original Resident Evil.
There’s plenty of genuine scares as you find yourself imprisoned in a disused Mansion owned by the mutated and utterly mad Baker family. There’s often moments of genuine terror as you find yourself low on ammo or weaponless – crawling through dark tunnels or hiding from the Bakers, feeling vulnerable. Likewise though, there’s more than enough campy craziness too, such as when the Baker family tie you to a chair and make you have dinner with them, feeding you entrails and seeming almost completely oblivious to how Grandma is a corpse. One of my favourite moments is when the crazy redneck patriarch of the Baker family blasts his own head off just to freak you out a bit!
Combat ranges from moments of scarcity and having to desperately conserve pistol ammo to moments of sheer badassery, exploding bloated mastadons with the grenade launcher and scorching zombies with a flamethrower made out of junk you find in the garbage (seriously).
Resident Evil VII just goes to show that sometimes you CAN please everyone, and is a gratuitously gory delight fans of every Resi era can enjoy.
– Jonathan Trussler
10. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
I am a huge fan of the Danganronpa adventure game series. Having played all of the titles and watched all of the anime episodes, I have become well entrenched in the universe painstakingly created by Kazutaka Kodaka and the fine folks at Spike Chunsoft. With all of that said, I wish that I could say that I wasn’t concerned when I heard the news that Danganronpa V3 was going to get released in 2017 for the Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita. The reason for the being that the previous entries in the saga of Hope’s Peak Academy wrapped up in such a wonderful way that I didn’t want to see them open that can of worms once more for the sake of gainful profit. So color me surprised when the game was also touted as a new beginning for the series with completely new students, a new school, and new Super High School Level Ultimate abilities.
For those unaware, Danganronpa is a series of story driven adventure games where the player is placed into the shoes of a student amongst a class of amazingly talented youngsters. These children find themselves faced with a grim situation where they are held captive by a monochromatic teddy bear against their will. Escape is absolutely impossible to achieve and the only way for one of them to be allowed to leave their makeshift prison is if they manage to murder one of their other classmates and then manage to get away with it. Players engage in investigations where they comb the scene for evidence to the crime’s circumstances and its culprit. Afterwards, they are forced into a wacky courtroom scenario riddled with mini-games, absolute verbal chaos, and a wealth of shattering mysteries as the class inches ever closing to determining who it was that murdered one of their own.
If all of that sounded rather ridiculous and bizarre to you then that is absolutely the expected outcome! But there’s a reason as to why this series has become so popular in both the US and Japan in the last few years and that reason is worth discovering by checking the series out from the very beginning. However, I can honestly say that, even after multiple games prior, DRV3 managed to still slap me with a number of unexpected twists and turns both in the individual chapter murder mysteries and in the overall plot. The best part of all is the ending itself. I can’t say anything about it as I would rather that anyone reading this experience it for themselves but I will say that it blew me away. I managed to review and complete the game before its official release date and waited with baited breath and anticipation to see how the fanbase would reach to, what I considered to be, one ballsy ending. Some loved it! Others detested it. And the creator of the series even decided to walk off into the sunset after the game’s release! Trust me when I say to avert your eyes from the Internet and experience this game firsthand. Form your own opinion and come to realize why I feel that Danganronpa V3 deserves a place on the list of top games of 2017.
– Pernell Vaughn
9. Sonic Mania
Critics of Sonic Mania – and there’s more than a few – deride it as nothing more than an exercise in nostalgia. And I mean, yeah, sure. Sonic Mania’s campaign took me right back to the days of playing Sonic the Hedgehog 3 as a youngling, arguing with my brother over who got to be Tails (because Tails can fly!) and dying over and over again on Hydrocity Zone.
Considering it’s been 12 years since the last 2D Sonic game, Mania could be forgiven for just trying to capture that moment in time. But this is so much more than a trip down memory lane. In fact, what makes Sonic Mania so fun is the way it constantly subverts the expectations of the player. The final boss of Sonic 2 shows up in the very first zone. Oil Ocean gets set on fire. And even the Mean Bean Machine, of all things, makes an appearance right when you least expect it. This is to say nothing of the true standouts – the stages which are entirely new, like the achingly beautiful Press Garden, the thrilling Studiopolis, and the (quite literally) game-changing Mirage Saloon.
From the gorgeous graphics to the jazzy soundtrack to the endlessly-replayable complex level design, Christian Whitehead and his team have clearly put time, thought, and effort into polishing every piece of this pixel-perfect platformer. So believe the hype. This is not just a lazy attempt to cash in on nostalgia. In fact, Mania feels like the freshest and most surprising Sonic entry in years.
– I. Coleman
8. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Despite what some may think, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice deserves an entry on every GOTY list this year. Sure, the gameplay was often repetitive and the combat didn’t featured much complexity. One might assume that the only thing it even had going for it was the titular character Senua’s psychosis being so flawlessly communicated into both the gameplay and narrative. Those people wouldn’t be wrong, but there’s a bigger facet to Hellblade that I feel deserves to be mentioned, and it’s also the main reason I feel it deserves to be on our GOTY list. Hellblade showed a consumer base just what a studio can do with AAA gameplay and graphics, all while not demanding a AAA price point.
Ninja Theory showed gamers (and game makers) that great games can be made without the greed of major studios backing them. In a world where companies like EA and Ubisoft get themselves in trouble regularly with their greedy loot box tactics and questionable development and marketing choices, Ninja Theory eschewed everything to break the mold and give the world a game we all deserved.
Again, I fully admit that mechanically Hellblade was more than a little lacking now when I look back on it. The puzzles were repetitive, as was combat at times, and the storytelling could get a little convoluted. Yet I was also scared shitless at times, such as in near pitch black environments with barely visible blob monsters ambulating after me, or when an angry fire wraith chased after me in a house, or just going through underground caverns in absolute darkness while running and screaming from light source to light source while hoping that a monster that I could not see wouldn’t catch me and kill me.
These are things I’ve had actual nightmares about, and Hellblade saw fit to make them real. Which is great! I think.
My point being that the environments and tactics used to showcase Senua’s psychosis were used almost expertly throughout the game. They made simple things seem arduous, which is often the crux of a disability, perhaps even more so when it’s an invisible disability.
In other words, the game accomplished exactly what it set out to do. How many other games can that be said about when the main goal isn’t just about making money?
If you haven’t tried Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice then you’re truly missing out on a piece of gaming history. Nothing else has been released like it yet, and for the asking price you definitely cannot lose.
– Bethany Meadows
7. The Evil Within 2
In this horrific (in a good way) sequel to 2014’s The Evil Within, ex Krimson City detective, Sebastian Castellanos, must team up with the evil company MOBIUS to save his presumed-to-be-dead daughter. Once again, Sebastian must enter MOBIUS’s dangerous virtual world, where his daughter is trapped and being hunted by a maniacal photographer. This isn’t any old virtual world though! This world is crawling with flesh eating zombies and other nightmarish creatures that will stop at nothing to put an end to Sebastian’s life. Like the first game, if someone dies in MOBIUS’s virtual world, they also die in real life.
While the first The Evil Within was a great survival horror game, it had some glaring issues. The controls were pretty clunky, the story was hard to follow, and camera angles could be be described as frustrating. Well, I’m happy to say that all of those problems were taken care of in The Evil Within 2. The game controls like butter, the camera was never a problem throughout my multiple playthroughs, and best of all, the story is simply amazing. Sebastian is still kinda bland but the characters around him are what really pull everything together. Without giving too much away, there is one section towards the end of the game when Sebastian realizes how much power he holds in MOBIUS’s virtual world, and this moment had me smiling ear to ear. Sebastian becomes a true badass! By the end of the story I was surprised to be wiping a few tears away from my face! This is a survival horror game, right?!
Developer Tango Gameworks should be commended with what they have done with what is now one of my favorite franchises. They’ve learned from their mistakes and have created an amazing survival horror game that improves upon virtually every aspect of the first The Evil Within. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next!
– Mike Vito
If there’s anyone I would trust to marry inventive gameplay and equally standout storytelling in a package that doesn’t outstay its welcome, it would be the folks over at Supergiant Games. And no wonder; they’ve already done it twice now, from Bastion’s guitar-string wasteland to Transistor’s slick, cyber-gaudy streets.
But Pyre takes it a step farther. The story and gameplay are both in turn more outlandish and unusual than anything the indie studio has done before, which is always risky business. Pyre is a game about groups of exiled peoples playing supernatural football in the ancient battlegrounds where their forebearers fought titanic monstrosities, all for the hope of salvation and readmittance back into society. One of them is a talking dog. Another is a bird-woman. The list goes on. Players will spend half of their time with Pyre engaging in rounds of the black magic sport of the RItes, competing with other groups of exiles fro a chance for even just one person among their count to earn their freedom. The other half of your time is spent traversing the strangeness of the Downside, making choices and interacting with the members of your caravan along the way.
There are plenty of great games out there that emphasize player choice, but it seems like a lot of those are ones more grounded in reality. Pyre is one of only a handful of times I can say I felt like I created a story all my own in a setting as outlandish and unique as what the game presents. If you lose a match, the story goes on. If you fail at the final match of a round of Rites, you watch one of your storied opponents deal with their own salvation. Time and time again, you will make your way to the top of the mountain at the edge of the world and choose one of your most beloved party members to send away to salvation. It’s easy, by comparison, to create a new setting and tell a set and exact story in it. But Pyre is a masterclass in freedom, all within a package that isn’t quite like any other game I have ever played.
– Jay Petrequin