Dec 26

Gamer-Tech’s Best Game Picks of 2017

2017 has been an interesting year of gaming for me. All sorts of new hardware and software has been released this year. Unfortunately, my from my own point of view, most of the hardware has lacked that ooooh and ahhh factor that makes much of it a must buy.

HOWEVER, on the software side of things, there has been a decent amount of game releases that have been of decent quality. So, even if you’re NOT a hardware junkie like myself, there’s still great games that you should pick up as they’re some of our favorite games this year that are pretty much guaranteed to give you a good amount of entertainment. 🙂

With that being said, here’s our picks for our favorite games that have come out this year (in no particular order.)

Cuphead

Studio MDHR – Xbox One, Windows

Cuphead is a throwback to the 8-bit era of games. Why? Because this sucker is “Nintendo Hard.” The game’s practically unbroken series of boss fights each proceed in its own basic pattern every time, and Cuphead artificially extends its game length by ramping up the difficulty into some ridiculous levels. Even on the so-called “easy” mode, it’s one of THOSE kinds of games that will likely to appeal only to a certain kind of reflex-focused gaming masochist who enjoys throwing controllers at their televisions.

However, Cuphead still makes our nice list because of the level of presentation polish that it brings to the table. The screen-filling, hand-drawn bosses look like they were birthed directly from old school 1930s cartoons, with expressive and impressively lifelike animation that’s literally like nothing that you’ve seen in a video game before. The excellent music and sound effects also capture that throwback feeling of early animated film shorts, bringing the whole package together in a great little gaming present.

Whether you’re a hardcore gamer or a filthy “casual,” you really should pick this game up. Or at the very least check out some video of Cuphead being played well. Old timers and nostalgic gamers will certainly appreciate the artistry and technical accomplishments the game has made. No doubt.

Sonic Mania

Christian Whitehead/Sega – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows

Ever since the Sonic the Hedgehog series moved into the third dimension with Sonic Adventure, there have been a few abortive attempts to return to the classic 2D gameplay that many gamers have missed over the years. While some of those released titles have had their ups-and-downs, they just have not come close to capturing the feeling of ridiculous speeds and sprawling level design found in Yuji Naka’s original series of Genesis games.

So Sonic Mania may surprise many in that it seems to recapture that 16-bit feeling almost effortlessly. The game plays like a continuation of the original series of games, ignoring most of the games that had come since. Everything from the precise controls and the detailed pixel art, to the level and boss design, to the music and bonus stages feels authentic to the original Sonic games but made bigger and better with the benefit of  the polish that current levels of technology can muster.

While other 2D Sonic games just use familiar characters and scenery to maintain a faint nostalgic echo, Sonic Mania is an obvious work of love from obsessive fans who know what made those original games special. By succeeding to not make changes to the fun basic formula of what made Sonic great decades ago, Sonic Mania becomes one of the most satisfying 2D platformers in years and the best 2D Sonic game in a LONG time. Definitely a must try.

Resident Evil 7

Capcom – Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows

As a fan of many of the prior games in the series, I’ve noticed that in later installments things were really starting to get off-track with the Resident Evil series. Many gamers and publications were pretty much declaring the series dead, which I could pretty much agree with, honestly. However, Resident Evil 7 accomplished what Capcom needed: it revitalized one of the most dead, done, and buried game franchises in recent memory. After titles such as Resident Evil 5 and 6 saw the series lose its way to a painful degree, this sequel did something that you don’t see in many cases in the game industry: The company learned and get their ducks back into a row. Simply speaking, Capcom learned from their mistakes, finally. 🙂

Capcom got rid of the unnecessary overblown, Hollywood-scale set pieces and the ridiculously boring, plot-crippling allegiance to series lore. In place of that was a game that did what Resident Evil is SUPPOSED to do: Do horror, and do it well, even if the rip off other established horror-film conventions, and throw in some interesting twists along the way. In this case, Capcom went full Texas Chainsaw Massacre by trapping players in a single, screwed-up compound and making them contend with the family from hell, all while managing a mix of explosive combat and seriously limited survival options.

Everything tense, scary, and funny about RE7 becomes even more interesting if you get a chance to strap into the game’s VR mode. I’ve only personally been able to mess with this once or twice, but Capcom really got this part of the game in order, providing a decently interesting VR experience, even with all of the obnoxious jump scares. Good job getting back to basics Capcom. Use this as a learning experience and let’s see what you can bring to the table in 2018! 🙂

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Nintendo – Switch

After more than three decades, the basic core elements that make up a Legend of Zelda game have definitively been well-established. What makes this game more surprising is that Nintendo threw out almost every one of those conventions for Breath of the Wild. Even MORE surprisng is that the game didn’t come apart at the seems because of the lack of the old structure. That, in and of itself, is a testament to Nintendo’s usually impressive game-design skill.

More than any Zelda game before it, Breath of the Wild feels like a living world, with every rock, chest, enemy, and weapon adhering to a simple set of physical world rules. Weapons can break constantly, Moblins go flying over cliffs, and metal boxes can be thrown at enemy encampments with a quick fling. And the enemies in the game feel more threatening, with impressive animations combined with aggressive attack patterns that test your reflexes more so than in part Zelda games.

By throwing out past title conventions and making Zelda a truly open world environment that you can explore at your own pace, in pretty much any order you want. It’s an incredibly sprawling world, full of towering mountains, lush forests, and secluded valleys to explore, unveiling an impressive amount of secrets and threats around every corner.

Breath of the Wild can almost be a little TOO open worlded at times, with quite a few empty spaces that can take a long time to cross. (Thank you fast travel system!) And the finding of every single one of the game’s hidden secrets can definitely evolve into a pointless scavenger hunt through unremarkable corners of that world. However, it’s still a massive step up from prior disappointments, such as Skyward Sword. This is a definitely a Zelda game that you’ll want to return to, again and again.

NieR: Automata

Platinum Games/Square Enix – PlayStation 4, Windows

NieR: Automata is one of those come out of nowhere, sleeper hits of 2017. The android-centric action-RPG is the sequel to cultish NieR title—itself being a sequel to one specific ending from an even more underground old school PS2 game, Drakengard. (Remember THAT one?) So, it is definitely a welcome surprise to see this title on many publication’s game of the year lists, no question about it. But why?

It turns out that Director Yoko Taro’s bizarre vision and Platinum Games, the studio that designed the gameplay for Automata, were two tastes that go great together. NieR doesn’t bring Bayonetta type levels of hyper-kinetic action to the table, but it was just strong enough to push most players through the game’s treatises on philosophy, civilization, sexuality, and so much more.

What starts as a seemingly well-trod tale of robots trying to emulate humans reveals itself to be much bigger; you can explore the game’s plot over five unique “routes,” each with its own ending. It’s a shocking mix of satire and existentialism; horror and comedy; hack-and-slash; and top-down shooting. Few games of NieR: Automata‘s scale even seem interested in exploring these depths, much less with this much style and competence.

NieR: Automata is one of those games that may have been a surprise hit of 2017, but make no mistake, I would expect that would be seeing a sequel in the future. Let’s just hope that it measure up to this title and improves upon it even more.

Super Mario Odyssey

Nintendo – Switch

Most likely my biggest complaint recently about many of the more recent  Mario games is that there just isn’t enough to do in their inviting, candy-colored worlds. After being exposed to many open world titles, even the more expansive 3D games that have been released in recent years feel small-ish to me.

Super Mario Odyssey throws that out the window and packs a borderline ridiculous number of internal goals into the tried-and-true Mario formula. Now there are hundreds of excuses to keep running and jumping with Mario for dozens of hours. Race some turtles or climb a skyscraper. Ride a scooter or dig for a Power Moon under the desert. Become someone else, like a dinosaur or a Bullet Bill. This game brings a LOT of things to do and see to your Nintendo Switch.

Unlike Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey‘s world never feels padded with wasted, empty space. On the contrary, the game’s sheer density is one of its strongest points, ensuring almost every screen is filled with interesting goals, both hidden and obvious. And that’s before the “late game” goals that are only introduced after Bowser has been defeated.

Not every one of these seemingly endless micro-goals is interesting, but there’s enough interesting things TO do that’ll keep players wanting to explore Mario’s jam-packed world for dozens of hours. Combine that with a bright, colorful world, great music, and the usual level of Nintendo polish, and you have a winner on your hands. Believe it.

Super Mario Odyssey is an exquisite entry in the long running Mario series, bringing some gaming joy, even to those who may have never liked a previous Mario game. Try it and you just might find out I’m right. 🙂

So, that’s a wrap for our personal picks for fave games of 2017. Do you agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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