I didn't think 2017 would be the year where my top three games were all from established franchises that I'd never touched before, but here we are. No, I hadn't ever played a Legend of Zelda game before Breath of the Wild, and yes, I am sorry.
But there'll be no apologies for the true Game of the Year list featured below. My list boasts the latest entries in famed franchises like The Legend of Zelda and Resident Evil, two new IPs, triple-A releases, and a nice mix of games made in the East and the West.
- Yakuza 0
- Persona 5
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus
- Nier: Automata
- Resident Evil 7
- Little Nightmares
- Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
- The Evil Within 2
- Horizon Zero Dawn
I picked Yakuza 0 up a few months back in a PSN sale, and it might be the single greatest decision I've ever made in my entire life. You've probably seen half the game in GIF form by now, but for every comedy moment that Yakuza 0 nails, there's a dozen excruciatingly emotional story beats to follow. Yakuza 0 is a bit like its protagonist Kazuma Kiryu. On the outside, he's nothing more than a brawler where motorbikes are thrown and people are punched through doors, but on the inside there's a heart of gold and an encapturing tale to tell.
I've noticed two themes while I've been putting this definitive Game of the Year list together: single player ain't dead and horror has had a slight resurgence in 2017. Literally every single game in this list is single-player, and even the ones that didn’t make the cut—Nioh and Gravity Rush 2—were also single player-centric. In a year where single player has (for some reason) been questioned and doubted by critics and multinational corporations alike, all 10 games listed above exist to prove doubters wrong.
But there are two major differences in how these games deliver their single player content. Breath of the Wild, Nier, Horizon Zero Dawn, The Evil Within 2, and to a certain extent Persona 5 offer fantastical worlds to explore, allowing you to venture forth in one of many directions. Whereas games like Wolfenstein 2, Resident Evil 7, Little Nightmares, and Death of the Outsider set players on a single linear path, with a focus on story.
As for the resurgence in horror, it's been an interesting year. Resident Evil 7 returned to the roots of the series and, if you forget the last two hours, rivals the likes of Dead Space for pure, atmospheric dread. Little Nightmares took me completely by surprise, weaving an ambiguous tale of mystery and suspense, evoking memories of Limbo and, weirdly enough, the Hayao Miyazaki animated film Spirited Away. Rounding out the cream of the horrific crop is The Evil Within 2, a game that, like Little Nightmares, I had no prior knowledge of until release. Going in blind, I was left stunned by the terrible and twisted ways it messes with the player.
Yakuza, Persona, and Zelda as the top three Games of the Year all reflect my conscious effort to embrace Japanese games in 2017. I've been hamstrung by unwittingly keeping my focus on western blockbuster games over recent years, but if my first experiences with games like Yakuza, Persona, and Zelda are this positively mind-blowing, I want more.