As we start to draw the curtain on 2017 and begin looking back, it becomes very clear that this has quite possibly been the greatest year of gaming of all time. Sure there are other years which could stand toe to toe (1998 springs to mind) but for the sheer volume of great gaming experiences, pound for pound I really do believe 2017 takes the win.
When deciding how to approach our Game of the Year pick it became clear that there were simply too many genuinely worthy candidates. From Zelda to Mario to Wolfenstein to Doki Doki Liturature Club, charming little nindies like Golf Story to gorgeous sprawling world like Horizon; there are simply too many contenders at play.
So this year we decided to open our choice up to the writing team and let them wax-lyrical on their own personal GOTY, here’s what they said;
Jake Green – Editor in Chief
Doki Doki Literature Club
I’m just as surprised as you are that a free visual novel has made the top of my list this year but honestly, the more I think about it the more it just makes sense. When racking my brains for which games had left a lasting impression on me this year there were of course many contenders.
I’ve recently become somewhat disenchanted with gaming, struggling to motivate myself to pick up the controller at all. I think what has been lacking for me personally as of late is that the majority of games released just don’t tread new ground, don’t surprise or impress me anymore. Sure, this year brought us gorgeous open worlds and frame-perfect platforming but isn’t it all stuff we’ve seen before? I think this is why I was so completely floored by Doki Doki Literature Club. I had of course known that the game had twists and turns and that it wasn’t the simple dating sim it was leading its players to believe. But the sheer extent to which the game dodged my expectations is something I have only experienced a couple of times in gaming before. Metal Gear Solid with its Psycho Mantis memory card sequence springs to mind as Doki Doki plays some similar fourth-wall breaking to take its players by surprise.
I would urge everyone to play this game with as little context as possible as I promise you, it will take you completely by surprise, grab you by the throat and draw you into its wonderfully intelligent and messed up world.
Josie Watson – Staff Writer
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Surprise surprise, the Legend of Zelda nerd goes for 2017’s critically acclaimed masterpiece, Breath of the Wild. There’s been endless praise – and criticism – of the title, but I think that for me it comes down to one critical thing: franchise innovation.
Something that Nintendo has always done well with its most successful franchises is not just improving upon what they already have, but continually increasing the content, the quality and the world in which our favourite heroes exist. As well as taking and re-imagining some of the classic, well-recognised locations from the last quarter of a century that fans have enjoyed Hyrule, Breath of the Wild added new dynamic lore and regions, not straying from the whimsical tone of the series either too far into the hyper-fantastic or too close to the predictable.
One of the key criticisms of the game since its release has been the noticeable absence of iconic dungeons and expansive puzzle segments, which were fazed out in favour of the smaller shrines and sprawling landscapes littered with optional, miniature puzzles. Regardless of personal opinions, this was a bold move for the series, and certainly added a lot more personality to gameplay – most puzzles can be accomplished in a few different ways or with a different style.
With endless hours of gameplay racked up and many tears shed along the way, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has to be my game of 2017.
Simon Rayner – Staff Writer
As a devout defender of Hyrule, how can anything other than Breath of the Wild be my Game of the Year? Why the sudden change of heart? It’s almost as if my mind’s been muddled…like something’s been taken.
My heart. It was flawlessly stolen this year by the 5th instalment of Persona, a smooth and relentlessly stylish re-invigoration of the franchise, that’s finally getting the sort of mainstream recognition it deserves. As a student by day, the series sees you battling a cacophony of demons, angels, goblins and gods alongside your classmates; utilising titular Personas, lustrous, combat-ready incarnations of a person’s will, you fight your way to ultimately punch some kind of all powerful god square in the jaw.
Smooth and sleek, the entry improved upon the series in every way whilst respecting the titles that paved the way for it. As Phantom Thieves you don’t just dungeon crawl, nay, you flip, slide, dash and pounce through the halls, tombs and vents of the palaces you’re plundering. This sort of action is accented by some of the most gorgeous UI ever to grace a game, the world is a glistening, gloomy, glorious whirlwind of impossible domains and the music throughout is a monument to soundtracks as a whole.
Swapping part-time jobs, exams and ramen-gobbling for god slaying, demon fusion and general gallivanting around the human psyche, Persona 5 is howling gale of fresh air within the archaic medium of the turned based RPG. Debuffs and critical hits have never felt this epic.
Dawson Roberts – Staff Writer
Resident Evil 7
Resident Evil 7 blew me away. From the second I was dropped onto the baker plot of land I was engrossed in the world at my disposal. As a huge fan of the 1974 horror classic “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” I felt right at home. The grotesque nature of every set piece led me to feel uncomfortable at every single second but yet somehow, I couldn’t take myself away from the screen. It’s like being thrown into one of the classic horror movies I love so much, the bakers are force feeding you flesh, chasing you down with chainsaws and vomiting up bugs to devour you. It’s a truly disgusting but yet endearing adventure. While being hunted your constantly questioning why your fear never outweighs your intrigue. You want to know the mysteries this house entails? why are the bakers hunting you? what happened to the previous residents? And most importantly how this connects to the Resident Evil universe as a whole.
Not only does Resident Evil 7 manage to keep all these mysteries interesting throughout the whole game but it manages to give them all satisfying conclusions as well, a feat no other game has managed to pull off this year. But it’s gameplay only matches the stellar storytelling, with tense searches for ammo, hiding from the bakers and the excellent videotape side missions there is never a moment when you’re not on the edge of your seat. Taking the leap to first person was incredibly risky but it pulled it off fantastically, taking notes from its peers and creating a concoction of previous entries and an entirely new experience. Resident Evil 7 is one of the most intense, intriguing and impressive games I’ve ever played and will be one I will never forget, as much I try to…
James Lamb – Staff Writer
Even having only dabbled in one Persona game prior I can confidently express that the fifth game in the series is truly a JRPG gem: Part high school social sim/part dungeon crawler and with an utterly charming and likeable cast, a beautiful art style and a well written (if slightly eccentric) narrative; Persona 5 delivers on all fronts.
You start your journey as the new kid in school as you become more involved with an ever-growing group of misfits. A key part of the game is striking a balance between uncovering sinister secrets in mysterious dream dimensions and studying to pass your midterms. On top of all of this you spend your days capturing and creating powerful deities called ‘personas‘ to aid you in the quest to make the world a better place.
I sunk many hours into Persona 5‘s beautifully animated city and dungeons. There’s so many ways to spend your time and after many hours surrounded by such a well acted and fully realised cast I found I truly cared about my co-stars’ story arcs in a way that other games can only fractionally compare to (Morgana is my bro for life!). Side quests didn’t feel like a chore, I wanted to go out my way to see their lives fulfilled.
Persona 5 creates a world and lore so inviting, with characters so likeable and a story I found genuinely compelling I would insist you play if you haven’t: You start your new year the right way… Get back to school.
Rena Pongchai -Staff Writer
Doki Doki Literature Club
DDLC makes an impact on the player that prolongs even after they finish the game. As one of the characters suggests, the best thing about surreal horror is how the writer takes advantage of its reader’s lack of imagination, and the developers do exactly that. It cleverly hides its intentions under the guise of cutesy visual novel tropes, revealing a twisted psychological horror game by breaking not just the boundaries of its genre, but between the game and reality itself. The music and graphics are also well commended as some of the best horror elements are successfully achieved through simply modifying its single theme song and the cute characters themselves.
Though the game is focused on writing poems but the theme of writing creates a ingenious double entendre that precedes the game and onto the “code” writing itself. DDLC manages to play on the idea of player’s freedom of choice, or rather, lack of it – ironically succeeding in making the player really feel part of DDLC’s world. My deciding factor however, was how the game continues to mess with our minds long after as I find myself reading through countless of theories within the games files or even alluding to the characters themselves and whether or not, the game even has a deeper meaning that it already manages to hide.
Despite such high quality, it is also free, showing that the developers put a whole lot of love into this game, which has definitely resonated with many fans, including myself.
Justin Mumar – Staff Writer
Being perhaps 2017’s biggest sleeper hit, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has enjoyed growing prominence in the industry for its innovation of the Battle Royale formula. While the genre itself was once considered to be primarily exclusive to certain games by means of mods, PUBG has not only instigated a refresh in terms of design, but has also opened it up to a much larger community.
The game is easy enough to pick up, as the controls and mechanics are simplified to suit anyone looking to join in. However, this ease is balanced out through its difficulty to master, as the game immediately throws you into the fray and refuses to hold your hand all the way through. Its shining moments usually involve a squad of your friends or strangers, cooperating efficiently in order to win that chicken dinner. Furthermore not every playthrough will be exactly the same, as the game consistently shifts in order to keep players to proceed strategically.
PUBG deserves the commendation as it brings the genre forward and maintains exceptionally high levels of entertainment and fun. Besides, no other game this year has given me the same level of adrenaline as when being among the last two survivors in a clutch squad game.
So there we have it, hopefully 2018 is another great year of gaming but honestly, it’s got one hell of an act to follow.