It's that time of year again! Join the crew of Dorkly (and CollegeHumor, also some great freelancers) as we remember our most cherished game experiences in the garbage fire year that was 2017.
Let's get this out of the way: PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds is not what anyone would call "a good game." From the very beginning through the modern day (where it is still impossibly popular), it's been a buggy ugly mess - constant glitches ("esports ready" is the meme dujour whenever one of these moments pops up), ugly framerate drops and reused assets, and a terrible history of fixes and updates (how long was vaulting over walls promised?). By anyone's standards, the game looks bad, plays bad, and often FEELS bad.
And it's incredible.
PUBG is literally that experience you used to have of watching a movie and thinking "Oh man, it would be so cool if this were a game," but then you dismissed it because it would be WAY too complicated to ACTUALLY make a game out of something like Battle Royale. And while there are some key differences, the core conceit is the same as that classic film -- and it plays unlike anything we've seen in multiplayer shooters. Of course, it's completely shaken the multiplayer shooter industry - with other multiplayer-focused games (notably Fortnite) coming out with their own PUBG-style modes.
What's even better is that the experience of playing PUBG differed wildly based on how you were playing. Solo matches were practically horror games, where you'd find yourself alone for long stretches of time, only to hear enemies creeping up around you or attacking you suddenly from out of nowhere. Duo/Squad matches were infinitely more fun affairs, since you had someone by your side keeping an eye on your back as you tried working together (and ultimately wound up failing a lot of the time). And watching insanely good players on Twitch was sometimes the best way to experience the game -- you can pick up solid strategies, feel like you're involved without actually having to deal with the stress of PUBG, and live vicariously through others' chicken dinners.
Regardless of how you play, it's a WHOLLY UNIQUE experience -- even if that experience typically involves me getting sniped from out of nowhere halfway through the round and smashing my keyboard in frustration. -- Andrew Bridgman
I want to be clear about one thing: Nidhogg 2 is a very ugly game. A huge departure from the minimalistic graphics of the original, Nidhogg 2 is filled with irritatingly bright colors, off-putting textures, an uncomfortable amount of "jiggling" and I love every bit of it. The visuals are complimented by the sounds of screaming, stabbing, slicing and stomping as you and your opponent eviscerate each other with a rotating choice of rapier, broadsword, knife, or bow and arrow. Because it's an extremely simple fighting game that focuses on less on characters and story and more on trying to outsmart your opponent, every battle feels like a very violent game of rock paper scissors, except everyone is holding scissors.
The premise of the game is simple. Starting in the center of each seven sectioned level, you have to run to the end of the opposite side to claim your prize -- being eaten by the disgusting flying unicorn worm that is the titular Nidhogg. The fun comes from battling your opponent, whom you have to kill at least once in order to advance. As you hack, stab, and stomp your way through the stage you begin to notice where you have killed or been killed because of the vibrantly colored pools of blood and guts that splatter and leak all over the level and conveniently match the appearance of each character. Battle itself is based on fencing with options to strike high, mid, or low as well as the impressive yet risky option to throw your weapon. With one hit kills and only a few seconds before a respawn, Nidhogg 2 has a frantic intensity and addictiveness that triggers that thing that makes you want to play "one more round" before going to bed way too late.
With all this, a great soundtrack and surprisingly decent character customization I give Nidhogg 2 an 8/10. Actually Tristan never said if we were doing rankings (Editor's Note: I never specified, specifically to torture my co-workers). Are we doing rankings? I don't want to be the only one that gave a ranking. -- Randy McKay
Hindsight is 20/20 when it comes to blue rodents. I had played a fair amount of Sonic games when I was younger (Sonic & Knuckles, Spinball, and Sonic Adventure 2 chief among them), but it wasn't until I ran through Sonic Mania this year that Sonic's impact on my life dawned on me. The absurdly catchy music. The thrill of running through loops and losing rings. Controller-snappingly precise jumps. Zany candy-colored levels. It may be little more than a well polished fan game, but Sonic Mania doesn't try to be anything more than a good bit of nostalgic fun. I'll speed to that. --Dylan Green
Fidel: Dungeon Rescue is a mashup of two genres that should not work together: It's a procedurally generated dungeon crawler, AND it's an intricate rule-based puzzlebox. And yet, this charming indie game pulls off the combination with aplomb. The ruleset may seem simple -- make your way from the entrance to the exit, obeying the rules of each monster or treasure tile, without stepping on the same tile twice or running out of health -- but when combined with well-tuned random generation and a strict time limit, it becomes a challenge to quickly and efficiently find the optimal path through each level. And since each level contains optional challenges, paths, and items to collect, each run through the game is different from the last. Not to mention, you get to play as an adorable dog who's trying to save a Grandma! 2017 had bigger games, but few packed in as much fun-per-dollar than Fidel: Dungeon Rescue. -- Adam Conover
I spent dozens of hours with multiple games this year, but Localhost managed to do something in under 60 minutes that most endless open-world games couldn't do in 6,000 minutes: Haunt me. At the outset of the dystopian adventure/visual novel, you're tasked with erasing four AI programs who would prefer not to be wiped from existence. As you switch back and forth between the programs, you start learning new things about each distinct personality, and you may or may not elect to kill each one on an individual basis. After I was done with my first playthrough, I rolled my decisions around in my head, wondering if I had done the right thing. Months later, I'm still wondering if I should go back and try and give different responses and make new choices. I'm also wondering if that would just make things worse. If you don't have enough doubt and regret to chew on in your life, consider giving Localhost a shot. -- Tristan Cooper
I swore to myself that I would give up on the Resident Evil series after 5. And I did, until this back-to-basics minimalist scare fest drew me back in. The kind of game where tension is built through both spooky atmosphere and walking ant monsters. The kind where a family of swamp dwellers infected with... something act out what is basically a long chase scene extended over five hours. Living through found footage tapes and catching yourself gripping the bed frame when the lo-fi freakout tricks screams from your throat. Biohazard is white-knuckle thrilling in ways that no Resident Evil game has quite possibly ever been, and the TV show embellishments are just a bonus while you watch your father-in-law run your head over with a car for the fourth time. -- Dylan Green
Golf Story does two things exceedingly well -- it provides the player with some truly tight golfing gameplay (not overcomplicated, not too dumbed down, the mechanics are juuuust right) with a nice mix of courses and challenges, and it's incredibly and endearingly funny. I added "endearingly" because there's a very specific rhythm to Golf Story's humor, something that feels personal and idiosyncratic, even in a mass marketed videogame. The premise should give you a hint: Golf Story takes place in a world where golf is the only thing that defines culture. Everything is about golf and all anyone cares about is golf, culminating in the game's most ridiculously perfect moment - some the elderly elites and young punks engaging in history's only actually funny rap battle.
Golf Story never tries to be more than what it presents itself as -- the golfing sections play wonderfully, the characters bring a great deal of warmth and humor to the proceedings, and it boasts (what is for me) an ideally short length of a little under 10 hours. And even more, it solidifies the Switch as the perfect indie machine. After playing Golf Story on it, I want ALL my quirky pixelated indie darlings here. -- Andrew Bridgman
-- Eli Yudin
Looking to escape this post-apocalyptic wasteland we call Earth? And don't want to play a game like Horizon: Zero Dawn that'll just plunge you into another post-apocalyptic wasteland? Monument Valley is waiting for you. It will welcome you into a serene world where all that is being asked of you is to move some pastel blocks around and solve some chill-ass puzzles and reunite an adorable mother and daughter pair and feel some gentle feelings, if that's okay with you. It's not a surprise that Monument Valley 2 feels like a safe haven because, as we learn in the sequel, MoVal is a motherfuckin' matriarchy (yas Ro yas queen).
Sure, MV2 is easier than its predecessor but I assume that's because the developers knew how rough 2017 has been on us. I know on December 31st, I'll be waving goodbye to 2017, my chest filled with relief, my eyes wet with tears of joy, and, at the very last second, 2017 will turn around to look at me one final time, and I'll whisper, "We'll always have Monument Valley 2." -- Chloe Cole
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus has a singular message to share with its players: An emphatic "fuck Nazis" ululated over blood and fire-belching dieselpunk. The shooter sequel starts from the solid base laid by its better-than-anyone-expected predecessor. It's a grim, alternate vision of the 1960s where the Nazis won WWII with robots and super-weapons. All the better excuse for the player, as series lead B.J. Blascowicz, to promptly strike back through some of the most absurd narrative lengths ever seen in a AAA game.
Yet Wolfenstein 2 never fails to blend its over-the-top alternate history with deadly serious subject matter. It asks just how different the United States' darkest corners are from their genocidal "oppressors" (spoiler: not very). Then, in the very next level, it presents you with a hatchet and a KKK collaborator for some virtual catharsis.
To truly describe how wild the game is willing to go would stray deep into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say: Sometime after B.J.'s cybernetic and/or LSD-slurping crew teams up with what are essentially the Black Panthers and a UFO theorist, things heat up 100-fold. It's certainly enough to carry some middle-of-the-road level design and assuage any sore feelings over sudden difficulty spikes. The emotional, political, and stylistic heart of Wolfenstein 2 is just too strong to ignore. -- Steven Strom
If we're talking about cultural impact, it's hard not to see Dream Daddy as game of the year. Disagree? Go to Tumblr, Deviantart, or Archive of Our Own and browse the mountains of fan works about the game's suite of dateable dads --probably not at work, though. Sure, your Zeldas, your Niers, and your Cupheads generated loads of fan content and conversation too, but Dream Daddy had far less behind it.
Amidst titles produced by huge studios or wrung out of the exhausted bodies of desperate indie devs, Dream Daddy not only presents a compelling, warm play experience but feels like a cultural product that mere mortals might be able to reproduce. It didn't just inspire fan works, it sparked a renewed interest in the dating sim genre and inspired players to create their own similar projects. There may have been games that reached higher levels of technical achievement, that deployed more exciting mechanics, and even ones that told more interesting stories -- but none of them had the widespread appeal of this simple game about dating dads. -- merritt k
There's something about that first sequel. Resident Evil 2, Dead Space 2, Uncharted 2, Half-Life 2, Halo 2, Mass Effect 2 -- these games took a solid base and expanded, bolstered and all-around improved on their predecessors in many ways. Steamworld Dig 2 joins those games as a sequel that's better than the original in just about every way. And hey, Steamworld Dig 1 was already great! But SD2 improved on its forebear's visuals, music, pacing and level design. The (sigh) Metroidvania genre has been honed and focused to a fine point, yet SD2 manages to stand out with an addictive mining loop and satisfying mobility options. On top of being one of the tightest, most well-crafted experiences of the year, there's also a surprisingly effective sequence that comes out of nowhere and transforms the genre of the game for a while. The developers didn't have to do that, but they also didn't have to set the bar impossibly high for Steamworld Dig 3, but I'm glad they did. --Tristan Cooper
After waiting for years, we were finally able to play Cuphead. Overall, it was a fantastic game with a monster difficulty level. Cuphead is a run-and-gun action game in the style of classic video games like Contra. The big draw of this game is the art style. The game pays tribute to the classic cartoons of the 30s and it pulls it off beautifully. Each character & environment animates so uniquely it's amazing that this was all hand-drawn and animated frame-by-frame. The difficulty of this game is the other draw. Cuphead is no joke. You will die a lot in this game.
The difficulty can get very annoying, especially with bosses like Grim Matchstick the Dragon, yet despite dying 675 times total, I kept coming back to beat each boss. The challenge was too addicting, and I wanted to see the different bosses throughout the game and as well as their various transformations as the battles went on. The music is also fantastic, as it too retains that classic cartoon feel. I still listen to it even after beating the game. StudioMDHR pulled off a wonderful game that is both challenging and gorgeous. The game will test your patience to the fullest, but once you finally beat that one boss that's been taunting you with every death (GODDAMNIT GRIM!!!) you will feel amazing. Go support Cuphead, and join everyone in rage as you die and die again. -- Trenddi Alexis
Having not played the original Nier, I feared that Nier Automata would be very foreign to me and I wouldn't enjoy it. But thankfully you don't need to have played Nier to understand and enjoy Nier Automata. The story is handled fantastically. As you play as androids 2B and 9S, you get to know both of them so well and it helps to understand their characters especially when things go South in the plot. The story gets very dark later on, and there are some deep moments for the characters. It's surprised me as I kept playing.
The other characters also shine. Although most of them are machines and androids, they showcase various emotions which can bring a tear to your eyes in some cases. I really liked that the gameplay changed itself up throughout to keep it from getting boring. Both 2B and 9S control differently from each other and it fits them perfectly (even though I would say I'm not a big fan of playing as 9S). The music is also gorgeous. I love listening to it anytime I can. There's a reason there was a musical concert for this game. Nier is also beautiful looking for a post-apocalyptic game. From the desert to the plain grass to the water, it's a beautiful visual experience that works with the story. Overall, I loved every moment of this game. The way the story starts and changes kept me playing The music flows great and I loved the characters. To say more might ruin the many surprises in Nier: Automata. Just go play it! -- Trenddi Alexis
Indie games have the reputation of evoking deep-seated emotions within us all and Night in the Woods does not break from this tradition. You play as Mae, a cat who just dropped out of college and moves back in with her parents in her childhood home. You join her on a journey that hits eerily close to home. The game perfectly transitions between moods, however, letting you go from a heart warming conversation with a friend to a knife fight in the woods with your best friend. Everything just seems to hit the right mark as sharp writing is met with a fantastic soundtrack, wonderful art, and excellent game play. Never once during this game will you feel bored or like this is a "walking simulator." If you haven't played this game, jump on it. Play in your old high school garage band, wreck a mall, wreck yourself at some parties, discover something lurking in you and your town... just like high school! -- Julia Lepetit
Have you ever seen that old Mario Got Milk commercial from the 90s? Where those two kids are playing Super Mario 64 and they keep trying to get Mario to jump but he keeps slamming into a wall? They quit and leave the room, and once they're gone, Mario hops out of the TV, rolls across a soccer ball, onto a skateboard, flings into the fridge, chugs a fuck-ton of milk, gets big and strong as shit, and then he bounds back into the game and easily steps over the wall he couldn't jump over.
Playing Super Mario Odyssey is like playing with that kind of Mario. One who breaks beyond the barriers of what you thought Mario could do. One that can string together insane jumps, rolls and cap throws into areas that shouldn't be reachable. One who wears a wedding dress and can possess frogs and shit. Odyssey's fun-loving recklessness -- it's Bowsers wedding night, you can be a dinosaur, Mario's old flame Pauline is the mayor of bizzaro New York -- has a childlike, hey, why not? quality that pairs exceptionally well with Cappy, a game mechanic worth building a game around, and beautiful worlds that are delightful to explore and rewarding to revisit.
Mario Odyssey gladly lets you burst out of your TV to have your milk and drink it too. -- Ryan Creamer