Hirun's 10 Favorite Games of 2017: The Digital Beast in the East

It's been a year to remember for single player and Japanese games.

Opinion by Hirun Cryer, .

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.

  1. Yakuza 0
  2. Persona 5
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  4. Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus
  5. Nier: Automata
  6. Resident Evil 7
  7. Little Nightmares
  8. Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
  9. The Evil Within 2
  10. 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.

Elsewhere on the site you can find the best PS4 Games of 2017, best Xbox One games of 2017, the best Switch games of 2017, and the best PC games of 2017.

This article may contain links to online retail stores. If you click on one and buy the product we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments 7

  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #1 NiceGuyNeon 4 months ago
    Ooooh, someone put a Dishonored game on their list. Respek, bruh.

    I honestly think Dishonored tends to get overlooked when awards time comes, but arguably the best major game that came out in each respective year a main entry released, and the expansions have been improvements on existing ideas. I haven't played Death of the Outsider yet, but I love me some Dishonored, so I'll get to it soon enough.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Godots17thCup #2 Godots17thCup 4 months ago
    I think one of my very favorite things in gaming this year is how Yakuza 0 finally (finally!) helped the series catch on with people outside of its devoted, but small, fanbase.

    The games have been pretty great for a long time, but for whatever reason, whether it was SEGA doing a poor job of selling them, a general misunderstanding of what the games even were (Yakuza is many things, but "Japanese GTA" isn't one of them), poor timing for certain releases (the first two games came out during the tail end of the PS2's lifespan, and 5 was a digital-only PS3 release two years after the PS4's launch) or potential players being wary of jumping into the saga midway through, Yakuza just couldn't seem to catch a break in regards to a Western audience for the longest time.Edited 2 times. Last edited December 2017 by Godots17thCup
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for link6616 #3 link6616 4 months ago
    @Godots17thCup I think what helped yakuza the most is social media.

    Till now I've tried yakuza 1, 4 and 5, and bounce of pretty quickly before they get to their weird blend of silly and serious. But with zero, I've seen it being super brilliant and silly and see it pretty much every day on Twitter. Which is a huge help to pushing through. Add being a prequel so people don't feel like they can't play if they haven't played previous entries and you've got a good mix!
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #4 chaoticBeat 4 months ago
    @Hirun You just sold me on Yakuza 0. It's always been the game that "I really need to play that" or "that's next on the list" but it hasn't happened yet. Seeing it at the top of your list followed by a loving paragraph about the game was really inspiring to take action and pick it up!

    Your points about single player games still being relevant and the return of Japanese games being on top are fantastic insights. It's pretty interesting to see the back and forth energy between Eastern and Western game development and how there are emerging trends in each area that become the gaming zeitgeist, get played out, and then re-emerge in different and refreshing forms by the other side of the world.

    Lastly, I want to second what NiceGuyNeon already said and gives props for placing a Dishonored game. Sadly underrated and hauntingly designed games. I have truly loved the series since the graphical fidelity upgrade of 2.Edited December 2017 by chaoticBeat
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for riderkicker #5 riderkicker 4 months ago
    I really wanted those pocket racers when I was a kid, but I always ended losing my regular toy cars. Good thing Yakuza 0 lets me play them. The story of Racer is something to behold.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Feanor #6 Feanor 3 months ago
    Great to see TEW2 make someone’s list here.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Maxbeedo #7 Maxbeedo 3 months ago
    Yakuza 0 certainly took me by surprise. It wasn't on my radar until I kept hearing Michael Huber from Easy Allies bring it up on every podcast for like 3 months. I was expecting some craziness but not a game that so effortlessly switches between insanely goofy sidequests to the gritty, emotional main story and back. It's my #2 of the year behind Horizon (I like them about the same but give the tiebreaker to the new IP).
    Sign in to Reply