Favorite Video Games of 2017

The past year was arguably one of the best for video games in years. There are a few games that, in any other year, would be the game of the year. My feeling is that, although these few games are some of the best games I’ve ever played, the depth of quality of titles wasn’t present in 2017. The good news is most of my favorite games this year were 30-100 hour adventures that kept me busy all year long.

The Nintendo Switch was such a bright spot for me and had my two favorite games this year. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is my favorite Zelda game in 30 years and it soaked up 80 hours of my time, of which I enjoyed every minute. Super Mario Odyssey would easily be my favorite in any other year. I have been a Sony Playstation loyalist over the past few years, so it speaks volumes about how great a year the Switch had by taking the top two spots on my list over Playstation titles.

Without further ado, here is the list of my favorite video games of 2017:

1. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild took the Zelda formula and turned it on its head. Instead of large, long dungeons; there are short, small dungeons called shrines. The map is completely open from the start and you can go fight the final boss, Ganon, right from the beginning. You can climb anything. No more looking for the proper spot and hand holds on walls. It felt like a true adventure and is one the best games I've ever played.

2. Super Mario Odyssey

Mario games have a long history of fantastic gameplay and Odyssey is no exception. The capture mechanic was brilliantly executed. By throwing your hat on anything in the environment, you gain control of that person or thing. World after world, there were new techniques unlocked that changed gameplay. I always had a smile on my face while playing this game, which is a huge compliment.

3. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

I’m a huge fan of the Uncharted series. In fact, this series made me switch from using Xbox as my main console to Playstation. Lost Legacy was a shorter adventure; which, in my opinion, told a tighter story. It also had the first open world level in Uncharted history, which was executed well. I loved the characters of Chloe and Nadine and their chemistry. The voice acting was second to none and really allowed me to get wrapped up in the story.

4. Persona 5

This game just oozes style. The production design is so eye catching and the music is super catchy. What Persona does best is character development. As days pass in the game, you hang out with your friends and develop relationships with them. It is part high school simulator, part dungeon crawler. The player has to balance both aspects to finish the dungeons on time. Other than Breath of the Wild, no other game this year captured my attention more than Persona 5. You would be hard pressed to find a better value for your money than the 100+ hours you get with Persona 5.

5. Horizon Zero Dawn

Coming from a studio that previously developed first person shooters, I was surprised at the quality Horizon since it is a third person open world action adventure game. The story was fantastic and bringing down mechanical dinosaurs was a blast. Each one had their own strengths and weaknesses and offered different ways to approach them. I loved playing as Alloy and her story was one of the best this year.

6. What Remains of Edith Finch

A shorter experience with no combat, Edith Finch tells its story through a series of vignettes. You play as Edith Finch, the daughter of Dawn Finch, who visits the Finch house and experiences a series of memorials and stories about how each Finch family member died. Each story is told in unique ways that really leaves an emotional impact. I really enjoyed this story and how it was told.

7. Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Set as a prequel to the original Life is Strange, Before the Storm tells the story of Chloe Price, a friend of the main character Max from the previous game. It dives into the relationship Chloe has with Rachael Amber. Most of the game is focused on developing this relationship through natural high school interactions. The writing is spot on and the relationship that develops feels organic. Shortening the story from the five chapters of the previous game down to three chapters really focuses the story.

8:  Hellblade: Senua Sacrifice

Hellblade was the game that surprised me the most this year. I wasn’t really interested when it was originally announced. What made me try it was the discounted price of $40, $20 cheaper than other games. Hellblade follows Senua, a warrior inspired from Norse mythology and Celtic culture, who is trying to rescue the soul of her dead lover from goddess, Hela. What Hellbade does best is display the struggle with psychosis as Senua hears voices in her head and see memories from her past. It is a game that must be played with headphones. As you play through the game, the voices Senua hears play around you. It makes you feel like you are suffering from the same condition as Senua. 

 9. Destiny 2

The sequel to the original massive hit game, Destiny 2, tells a better story than the original. The addiction to loot is still there and the fun multiplayer component continued to excel. There have been some issues with character progression and that was enough to make me stop playing. It still was my favorite multiplayer game this year and took up most of my spare time during the month it came out. For that reason, Destiny 2 lands at number 9. 

10. Resident Evil 7

This game in VR was so scary I couldn’t even play it in that mode. I had to move to regular TV mode. I love how it felt more grounded than that last few in the series. Some of my favorite memories of this year in gaming came from the scares and general creepiness of Resident Evil 7. It did lose some of its momentum later in the game and felt a little long, but the first few hours are worth it.

The top 5 games could all be my favorite game any other year. They all were fabulous experiences that I loved throughly. 

Next week will be all about movies. Until then...

Favorite TV Shows of 2017

As I look back on the last year in television, I think this might be the best year of TV ever. There were so many quality shows that I had to expand my usual top ten list to fifteen. I believe, with so many channels and providers offering original content, we are in a golden age of television. I hope that highlighting my favorites, you might give one of them a try and find a new favorite yourself.

To stake the obvious, I didn’t watch every TV show so this is an incomplete sampling. There are only so many hours in the day. Without further ado, here are my favorite television shows of 2017.

1) Master of None

2) The Leftovers

3) The Handmaid’s Tale

4) Game of Thrones

5) Mr. Robot

6) Insecure

7) Big Little Lies

8) Better Things

9) Black Mirror

10) Sense8

11) Legion

12) Better Call Saul

13) Glow

14) 13 Reasons Why

15) Orphan Black

What are your favorites? Did I leave one of your favorites off the list? Let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for suggestions.

Look for my favorite video games of 2017 list next week. Then, the week following, I will post my top 10 movies list.

Until next week…

The Last Guardian Review

One of my greatest joys in life is spending time with my dog. The unbridled joy he has when he sees me, the companionship no matter what is going on in my life, and the unconditional love is always present. These feelings are extremely hard to convey in a video game because few animals on screen look and act like a real animal. The Last Guardian is able to accomplish this in a way I’ve never experienced before.

Trico.jpg

Trico, the bird/cat/dog hybrid, reacts just like a real animal would. At the beginning, you have to build your relationship with him. He won’t respond to your commands and he is fearful of you. Trico will scream at you to get away until you insist otherwise. This can be frustrating at first for gamers used to pressing a button and always getting the same result. I found it refreshing and these reactions made Trico feel more lifelike. By the end of the game, Trico was there for me when I needed him and I was there for him when he needed me. We were a perfect pair and because the relationship grew organically, it paid off it spades.

The real marvel with Trico is how he moves. The Last Guardian development for an extremely long period of time, which left many wondering if the game  would ever see the light of day. I imagine what took so long was getting Trico to act and move like a true animal. Trico will wander, sniff around, get enamored by random items and it will be hard to break his attention from these distractions. The expression in his eyes and his ears give Trico personality that will melt your heart. By the conclusion of the game, I was less motivated to get to the end because I didn’t want my time with Trico to end.

I would be remiss to not mention the incredible score of the game. Its sweeping orchestration that came and went as emotional action happened on screen gave me chills at times. The music helped build the relationship between you and Trico in a magical way. As you get to climactic moments, the music would build and crescendo right when you are falling and Trico would swoop in and save you. The score always added to the moments while never dominating them. Bravo to Composer Takeshi Furukawa.

The Last Guardian is a Playstation 4 exclusive that is a must play if you are able. Fumito Ueda, who previously brought us Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, created another masterpiece. Games like The Last Guardian are why I play video games. It gave me an experience like no other form of media can and I can’t wait to see what Ueda-san does next.