2017 - What in the Hell Even Happened?
I spent more time this year focused on projects than gaming, on the whole. I launched multiple podcasts, delved into 3D printing, upped my tabletop role playing quota by about 4 games, and somehow found time in-between to hold down a job and a family.
Bless everyone who put up with me this year.
Some would say that 2017 is the best time to be playing video games and I'm inclined to agree. 2017 was an insane year for amazing releases. Nintendo launched a new console and have shifted their strategies to include 3rd parties at a level that was previously unheard of. A game about killing Nazis released that (once again) proved how great it feels to brutally decimate them by the dozens. VR has continued to grow in a way that I couldn't have predicted. EA somehow topped their previous years as "Worst Company Ever That Isn't Comcast" and killed one of the biggest game franchises in modern history. Man... there's a ton to talk about here.
I didn't get to touch on a lot of games this year because... well... gaming is a weird hobby that can be cost prohibitive and time consuming. But I sure as hell spent a lot of time playing some absolute bangers. Here's a list of 10 titles that I spent the most time with this year. They're not all 2017 releases, but every game had significant content dropped during the last year.
10. Wiz Khalifa's Weed Farm - iOS / Android
Where do I even begin? I had oral surgery this year for some ongoing dental issues and found myself unable to leave the bed for a while. This meant that I couldn't sit at my PC or couch and play "real video games" for a few days.
Enter Mr. Khalifa and his ridiculous clicker game about weed.
I probably spent upwards of 60-70 actual hours watering weed plants, finding new strains, and selling off batches to reset my farm (with higher profit prices) over a few short weeks. Even after my face healed from the surgery I was still checking in to handle my crop.
The game is pretty standard in its clicker genre nonsense - you start off by tapping one low-earning crop until you have enough money to automate the process. Then you use those profits to buy a higher-yielding crop. Rinse and repeat until you're earning quadrillions per second. THE NUMBERS GO UP, AND ITS VERY GOOD.
This game is the most base version of gaming endorphin drip-feeding. Sure, it's not high-stakes and there's no real lose condition... but damn if it's not incredible addictive.
9. [TIE]Doki Doki Literature Club / Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator - Steam
Where do I even begin? I feel like every mention of this game starts with "I'm not usually one to play visual novels / dating sims" and it's true for me, as well. I've dabbled in a few (especially when I was younger), but 2017 released two absolute hits in the visual novel department and, honestly, I'm considering delving deeper into the genre as a result.
I can't say a whole lot about Doki Doki because it's a game that absolutely relies on going in blind. It's the type of experience that can be ruined if you understand the most basic details about the game. Suffice to say - it isn't what it looks like. There are some deep psychological horrors in this title that come as an absolute surprise, given the cute anime nature of it.
Go play it. Like, now. It's free.
As for Dream Daddy - I'd love to put more time into this game. It's a really interesting take on dating sims... not only because it only features dads, but because of the inclusiveness of the whole thing.
There are dads with dad bods, overweight dads, vampire looking goth dads, McElroy Brother dads, black, white, and everything in between dads. There are dads that are surly and kurt, there are dads that are funny and shy.
Ironically, I feel like more of a man after having played Dream Daddy. I highly recommend it, and plan on playing a lot more after the holidays settle down.
8. Destiny 2 - Xbox One/Playstation 4/PC
Us Geeksquatch folks are no strangers to the Destiny universe. We all played Destiny 1 together very heavily before we were podcast partners. I dove deep into the (albeit hidden) lore. I collected armor and shaders that would let me cosplay a group of Power Rangers with my friends. Hell, I started growing a beard because of Destiny 1.
Destiny 2 is... kind of just more Destiny 1. That's not a bad thing, per se, but it's also not a great thing. The game has all of the major qualities of its predecessor that made it great - a unique sci-fi fantasy world, excellent gunplay, social gaming, loot collecting, etc. But what knocked this game that I spent HUNDREDS of hours playing down the list for me was how the content loop just sort of ended.
The story, for once, was actually present in the game itself. Because of that, I'd imagine, a lot of the deeper lore implications seemed to be lost that had been present in Destiny 1's Grimoire feature.
The gameplay remained much the same - you still control a bad-ass immortal Guardian that shoots, punches, and supers their way into really awesome moments of utter destruction. But, because of just how powerful you're made to feel, a lot of the gravitas is lost when the story isn't super compelling. Except for that one level at the end. Holy hell, that was cool.
I have some gripes with Destiny 2 regarding just how much loot rains down upon you. It feels like they heard complaints about the lack of it in the first game and sort of cranked the dial all the way to the right and tore off the knob. The lack of random-rolled stats on guns made the game feel a little same-y when it comes to weapon variation. Let's not even mention some of the weirder practices around business and microtransactions, because we could be here all day.
Let it be said, at the end of it all, that I really enjoyed my time with Destiny 2 and I'd love to come back to it to experience new content as it drops. That being said... holy hell please also keep me away from Destiny 2.
7. Splatoon 2 - Nintendo Switch
OH BOY WHAT CAN I EVEN SAY ABOUT SPLATOON 2?
Really, it's a solid sequel. It's on the Switch, which means I've been able to carry it around with me and play it wherever I want. That, alone, feels like the greatest realization of the PS Vita and the Wii-U combined.
The new Salmon Run mode is a welcome addition that adds a sort of enemy rush mode. There are a few new weapons and lots of new clothing.
Hell, it's more Splatoon on a wider install base. Thank you, Nintendo. Please keep this franchise around.
6. Divinity 2 - Steam
Shout out to my guy Kevin for getting drunk and buying me this game.
How I long for more in-depth RPGs that allow me to play out my D&D fantasies without worrying about planning the sessions and cleaning my house up for company.
Divinity 2 is the sequel to Divinity. It's a top-down isometric RPG that allows you to create and/or recruit a party and embark on a world-spanning story. It's Baldur's Gate for 2017.
I stabbed a wizard in an alley for saying something I didn't agree with. I played in multiplayer (which allows a host to control most actions and all human players to have full control over a party member in and out of combat) and used a mage character to slick the ground with an oil spell, then immolated it to kill like 6 guys at once.
The game is a little unforgiving in its turn-based methods. You will likely die a lot. You may lose party members. But good god, is it not such a freeing game. Solving puzzles and navigating dungeons / combat scenarios with a tactical mind is a must here. For those of you that enjoy deep storytelling and mind games - pick this game up.
5. Elite Dangerous - PC/Xbox One/ Playstation 4
OK, so Elite Dangerous didn't release this year. Nor did its expansion, Horizons. But enough new content dropped that changed how the game works, so I'm putting it on the list.
Elite Dangerous is a space sim wherein you are a commander that is set free in the Milky Way galaxy to do as you see fit. Literally... there is no quest or story marker on your HUD. There are no directions as to where you can or should go. You're just a person in a ship doing whatever you please.
That's the thing about Elite Dangerous that had me clocking over 500 hours this year alone. I bought a joystick and throttle and added it to my already cluttered 8-foot desk because I wanted to be even more immersed in this already incredible game.
This year the game went from having a story about political intrigue and mega corporations doing what they do to a game where a long-lost alien threat resurfaced. The Thargoids are back, baby, and they're as mysterious and dangerous as ever.
This game let me live out a fantasy as a system-hopping bounty hunter, a slave trader, an agent of a mega corporation that went on long-haul space trucking missions, an alien researcher, an armchair astronomer, and a pirate lord that preys on trading vessels. All the while, I sit in my office chair and kill Yuenglings like Anakin in a Jedi temple.
If you like Space (tm) and aren't intimidated by flight simulators and the like - give it a shot. Commander Grustamar is more than willing to help you get started.
4. Gang Beasts - PC/Playstation 4
Gang Beasts is a game where you control a horrible little dough man and fight against your friends (or internet strangers) to be the last one standing.
The game plays like a drunken brawl, as the controls can feel like they're kind of unresponsive and sluggish at first. If you're looking for a fighting game like Street Fighter - look elsewhere. This is the game you play when you and your buddies are on the couch and want to get loud.
I've had a ton of laughs playing this game because everything is just so weirdly over the top. The character models are so very simple in their design, but they remind me of Little Big Planet's Sackboys in that they are incredibly expressive. Raising your hands in the air after throwing an opponent into a pit of fire is among the most glorious taunts in gaming history.
Buy this game. Seriously. It's the couch game of the year.
3. Super Mario Odyssey - Nintendo Switch
Damn, son. Mario done did it again. I haven't finished the game yet, so there's a possibility that this game could move higher up the list at some point. I'm actually super regretful of that and kind of want to stop writing now just so I can pick this Switch up and get to work grabbing moons.
Odyssey is probably the best 3D Mario game, as far as I'm concerned. Yeah, I hear all of the keyboards slamming on about Mario 64, but look - that game is bad in the year of our lord 2017 and I don't care if you think otherwise. It was super important at the time, but holy hell, give it up already (same goes for you, Ocarina of Time... I see you over there).
In this entry you get introduced to some great existential and body horror, as Mario's companion/hat, Cappy, is capable of possessing literally anything in the game and allowing you to control its every action. You wanna be a Goomba? Go for it. A T-Rex? Oh yeah, stomp them rocks. A horrible stone tiki thing? Gotta put them shades on and see secrets. I'm not sure how willing these participants are in the grand scheme of it all, but Cappy's lust for power can't be contained.
In all seriousness - it's another Mario game and a damn good one at that. If you own a Switch and haven't played this yet you should rectify that. If you don't own a Switch this game is kind of enough reason on its own to buy one.
2. Player Unknown's Battlegrounds - PC/Xbox One
MURDER SIMULATOR 2017. THE HUNGER GAMES FOR ARMA NERDS. SHIT-TALKING GAME OF THE DECADE.
It's PUBG - the weird independent game that has utterly dominated 2017 on every front. Twitch? MURDERED. DOTA 2? PFFT. Counter-Strike Global Offensive? HA! GTFO.
PUBG is a game where you start in a lobby of 100 people. Those people then board a plane that flies across a map and choose when they'd like to parachute out. From there, you loot what you can, kill when you're able, and hope to be the last one standing - all while avoiding an ever-shrinking wall of death that forces players into a smaller and smaller play field.
This game has given me no small amount of trouble since I picked it up earlier this year. It's muddy and gross looking. It's poorly optimized. Its controls are obtuse for anyone coming from "normal" PC shooters.
But sweet mother of god... when you ice a motherfucker after hunting them for 10 solid minutes and steal all their shit (which returns them to the lobby, by the way... there are no respawns) it's the most satisfying thing in the world.
This game alone is the reason I'm building a newer PC this year. Literally just this game. I'm going to spent $1500 to play PUBG better. That should be reason enough for you.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Nintendo Switch/Wii-U
The Zelda franchise is my favorite gaming series of all time. I've got a Hylian shield and Master Sword on my wall. I've got a 40-inch stained glass decal next to those. I've played every game to completion and have action figures from the series so expensive that you'll wonder what in the hell is actually wrong with me.
So now, with the launch of a new console that totally rules, we get an open-world Zelda title with RPG mechanics. It's like Nintendo took everything from my checklist and just shoved it in here just for me.
The map is HUGE. There are climates that affect gameplay. You can play with dogs (but not pet them). You can cook to make buffs for your adventures. You can sneak around or go full savage mode in combat. There's no wrong way to play this game because I've literally never tried to do a single thing in it that made sense and been denied my pleasure.
YOU CAN BUILD A FUCKING FLYING MACHINE BY USING A MAGNET POWER ON A METAL DOOR YOU'RE STANDING ON.
Breath of the Wild got me through some weirdly rough times this year because, despite my hyperbole, it's an incredible game with an amazing soundtrack and a world that, for once, feels less than clockwork (no Majora's Mask pun intended).
It's probably no surprise to anyone that knows me to see this game at the number 1 spot on my list... but that's just because Nintendo really pulled out all of the stops on the development of this game - which has allowed it to win several Game of the Year awards already with more coming in every day.
I love you, Nintendo. Never change.
You can find Alex on Twitter yelling about literally whatever. If you want to play games with him, just give him a shout.