This category is dedicated to the games I beat for the first time in 2017 but did not come out in 2017. I spend a lot of time throughout the year catching up on games I missed for one reason or another. This category gives me a way to recognize the great ones. So let’s get it started!
#10 - Wolfenstein: The New Order
Wolfenstein is a game that I had heard a lot of love about over the past year or two. Game Informer’s Javy Gwaltney constantly sang its praises. However, FPS games are generally not that interesting to me. I’m not very good at them, and they normally prioritize action over storytelling. That is not the case with The New Order. MachineGames penned a fantastic alternate history story that goes beyond the “nazis are bad” narrative. The protagonist, BJ Blazkowitz, and the supporting cast of characters are generally well written. While I didn’t enjoy playing this game as much as I did watching it, the gameplay itself was mostly enjoyable for me. This game immediately made me excited about playing the sequel that dropped earlier this year. You may see that here in the future…
#09 - The Last Guardian
I’ll be honest with you. I thought this game was going to be much higher on my list than nine when I began making it. The latest game from the director of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, Fumito Ueda, is as wondrous as it heartbreaking. Trico is easily the best animal companion in any game I’ve played ever. He is animated and programmed so perfectly. Trico isn’t domesticated. Trico isn’t going to do everything that you want him to do, when you want him do it. This stubbornness makes Trico feel so real. I have two cats, and let me tell you what; sometimes they won’t do anything I say. Other times, they’re lovely and quick to listen. Yes, it can be frustrating at times, and I understand how people could think it’s a bad mechanic, but it works so well for me. By the time the credits rolled, tears had rolled down my face. This game is beautiful, and I highly recommend it to pet owners and fans of Ueda’s previous games.
#08 - Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Spike Chunsoft’s Danganronpa is a visual novel series. The bulk of the game revolves around a game of death orchestrated by a menacing stuffed bear named Monokuma. The premise of the game is that you are trapped in a school with your new classmates. The only way to leave is to be the last one alive. The twist, however, is that after every death, a trial will be held to determine the identity of the killer. If they succeed, the killer is killed. If they fail to identify the killer, everyone dies, and the killer goes free. Where the game shines, however, is in its characters and its writing. It’s fun to hunt for clues and use logic and reasoning during the trials, but the space between the murders was my favorite. I found myself getting attached to certain characters throughout the game. Because of this, the tension I felt when a murder occurs was unlike any other, and the tension does not release when you learn who was killed. There’s still a chance your favorite character could be the murderer. I don’t play a lot of visual novels, but this quickly became one of my favorite game series period. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the game does handle gender poorly with one character. The game equates being a man as being strong and being a woman as being weak quite often. That, among other aspects about the handling of that character, is quite the dark spot on an otherwise fantastic game.
#07 - Nier
I’m one of those weird people who feels a need to play previous games in a series before I can play the most recent one, even when there isn’t a direct connection between the games. In this case, I am glad to be one of those people. Yoko Taro’s Nier is rough, I’ll be honest. The combat is repetitive and the side quests are poorly designed. However, underneath all that is a brilliant story with unique characters and a game that isn’t afraid to take risks with its gameplay. Most of the game is a standard third person action game, but you may suddenly find yourself in a twin stick shooter, isometric action game, or even a text adventure. The sudden gameplay changes don’t always work particularly well, but I love that they attempted it. The story basically has you playing a father looking for a cure for his daughter who has fallen ill with the Black Scrawl. This basic story serves as a conduit for the player to learn about the unique world. The game does require you to play through the second act of the game at least one more time to get the full context. Fortunately, the game is much easier and quicker to get through a second time and the added story pieces are tragic and beautiful. I could never recommend Nier across the board, but if you love odd narratives, experimental gameplay, and sci-fi, this could be right up your ally.
#06 - Sly Cooper and the Thievius Racoonus
How have I never played a Sly Cooper game before? I was really big into 3D platformers at the time this was released, but somehow Sucker Punch’s Sly Cooper series flew under my radar. I was immediately charmed by this game’s cast of characters. I was nervous about this being a stealth platformer, but I was surprised that the stealth aspects to this game were well done and enjoyable, if a little thin. The boss battles were where the game shined for me. Most of them having you solve some sort of puzzle to figure out how to do damage. Directly attacking a boss almost never works. One boss isn’t even a battle at all. The variety was a breath of fresh air. Sly 2 introduces many mechanics and adds playable characters, but I very much prefer the simplicity of the original Sly Cooper.
#05 - Rise of the Tomb Raider
The new rebooted Lara Croft has been a very compelling character for me. She doesn’t stand out as much as someone like Nathan Drake, but I think that’s to her benefit. Crystal Dynamics has created a character in Lara that is extremely passionate about the work she does. She is resilient and will do everything in her power to accomplish her goals. However, she never lets her work take precedent over those she considers family. Rise begins with Lara out to prove that her father wasn’t crazy; that his life’s work wasn’t just a fairy tale. Her love for her father comes through very clearly and is further seen in the Croft Manor expansion. There is also a moment in the game where Lara is faced with a choice to either go after the artifact or help her friend. She doesn’t hesitate. The game itself is a grand adventure that is incredibly fun to play. The bow and arrow is my favorite weapon to use in games, and the bow gameplay is great here. With the exception of a few “boss fights,” I was always having a great time playing this game.
#04 - Oxenfree
It’s been a long time since January when I finished Night School Studio’s Oxenfree, so I may struggle with writing about it. I had no idea what this game was about going into it. A group of young friends meets up on an island to hang out and have some drinks. You immediately find that there’s some history between everyone, whether individually or as a group. I remember the dialogue being well acted and written. I immediately wanted to know more about everyone. And then the cosmic horror kicked in. Shortly after, you are tasked with reuniting your friends while figuring out what is happening on this island. I do remember that the game often made me feel uneasy in a good way, but I also am extremely easy to scare. I don’t know that I would call it a scary game, but it is definitely chilling at times.
#03 - Deadly Premonition
I don’t even know where to begin. This game is one of the most unique experiences I’ve had with a game. The adorable Swery crafted a love note to Twin Peaks. Deadly Premonition is not necessarily a good game in the traditional sense. It really doesn’t play very well. The map is incredibly hard to navigate. Where it shines, though, is in its atmosphere and off the wall characters and storytelling. You play as Detective Francis Morgan York. You’ve come to Greenvale to investigate the murder of a girl named Anna. This leads to interactions with the towns people, all of whom are just a bit eccentric in one way or another. This is a very hard game to describe. There is also an entire supernatural element to it. York is often transported to a dark version of the town overrun by red vines where he’s attacked by zombie-like creatures with the absolute best voices. “Don’t shoot me” is a phrase I cannot hear in other tone than the weird distorted Deadly Premonition zombie tone; and yes, the zombies ask you not to shoot them. If you can handle the unfriendly controls and dated mechanics, this is a game that must be experienced. I wish I could forget my time with it so I could watch the story unfold for the first time once more. It’s truly bizarre.
#02 - Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
The follow up to Danganronpa uses largely the same set up and scenarios as the first game. Instead of being trapped in a school, you and your classmates are trapped on a series of tropical resort islands. What really elevates this game above its predecessor is its intriguing cast of characters. I don’t think there is a single character that I didn’t enjoy. Even the ones that made a weak first impression were able to win me over by the end. The investigations and trials work relatively the same with some added mechanics to keep things fresh. Despite having a mostly brand new cast of characters, Goodbye Despair continues the story that the first one started. Trigger Happy Havoc ended with some huge questions left unanswered and the follow up delivers upon answering those questions in a very satisfying way. This is definitely not a game you should play on its own, but if you enjoyed the first one, Goodbye Despair is everything a good sequel should be.
#01 - Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (2.X)
Anyone who knows me knows that I am in love with the Final Fantasy series. It’s my favorite. I grew up with it. Square Enix’s second MMO is a love letter to fans of the series like me. They managed to craft a MMO that feels as important as any other single player numbered entry to the series. The only issue I have with it is that there is a lot of it. I have played the game off on and on since its re-release. It wasn’t until this year, though, that I really dug in and finished the main story up until its first expansion. It took me almost 150 hours. While many quests (especially in the early/mid game) are your classic MMO fetch/kill quests, the story Square Enix has crafted is surprisingly well written. Side characters (or quest givers, as they’re often referred to) have characterization and can be genuinely funny. Mostly everyone feels like they have a real personality. The plot revolves around a political struggle, but also contains classic fantasy elements as monster tribes work to summon their primals to the land of Eorzea. Everything works together to weave a narrative that can rival any single player Final Fantasy in quality. This was my first experience with an MMO, and I don’t know that I have any interest in any others, but I can see myself coming back to A Realm Reborn for years to come.
So that’s it! I played some amazing older games this year. It’s only fitting for a year that saw the release of so many amazing games itself. Now I want to hear from you. What were your favorite pre-2017 games that you played for the first time this year?
Aaron (me) is a lover of games, Extra Life member, Twitch streamer, and husband. I have never written much before, so I apologize if things start a little rough. I hope to improve in time.