USgamer's Top 20 Games of the Year 2017: #5-#2

You thought you were getting our Game of the Year today? Sorry to break the news: but Day Four only leads to our second top choice of GOTY.

Feature by USgamer Team, .

This year we decided to do something a little different for our Game of the Year. Since 2017 was such a big year in terms of the sheer quality and volume of video games coming out, we opted to do a Top 20 list, in addition to our personal top 10s that you found on the site all last week. So, all week long we're counting down our 20 favorite games of the year. Today we're listing off numbers 5 through 2. Enjoy!

5. Yakuza 0

Available on: PS4

Yakuza 0 is the first Yakuza game to really, and I mean really, catch on in the west. Word of mouth propelled it on social media, as players shared their tender moments with misunderstood bad boy Majima and the stoic but kind-hearted Kiryu. At times, browsing Twitter almost felt like a gigantic Let's Play, as everyone shared their favorite moments with the two heroes, from overdramatic RC car racing to helping a father "reconnect" with his long lost daughter who works at a hostess club. The Yakuza series was finally getting its due.

When Yakuza 0 released early in the year, players were introduced to a seemingly new sort of semi-open world action brawler. Starring as two anti-heroes from opposite ends of Japan, players followed the game's surprisingly gripping tale of two Yakuza outcasts, left to weather running businesses and trying to get revenge against tattooed thugs, and, y'know, occasionally running errands like helping break people out of cults too, as you do.

The best thing about Yakuza 0 is that no two missions are the same, whether you're mainlining the story or are helping out every random acquaintance you run across in its condensed streets. It's a game that has fun with its structure and 1980s Japan setting, packed with side missions, activities, and a riveting story at the core of it all. Yakuza 0 will be remembered for years to come for how much it took the western gaming audience completely by storm during a seemingly dead period of games. Or how in reality, it was really just the start of a crazy year. Or maybe it'll just be remembered for that one amazing karaoke number with Majima. Only time will tell. —Caty McCarthy

4. Super Mario Odyssey

Available on: Nintendo Switch

This is probably the most obvious pick for Game of the Year outside of Breath of the Wild. This delightfully light-hearted Mario romp arrived just as people were discussing how their appetites for a collect-a-thon game had gone unsated for many years. Well, as a successor to Super Mario 64, Super Mario Odyssey is the answer for hungry fans of collect-a-thons (sorry, Yooka-Laylee).

Each of Odyssey's kingdoms are small open worlds that you're free to explore at your leisure. You can execute a huge selection of moves to find Power Moons, and also for the satisfaction of going to areas you're technically not supposed to. Nine times out of ten, however, Nintendo will reward your nosiness with a small treat of coins or another power-up. Exploring Odyssey rarely feels stifling or punishing. There's no hand on your shoulder and voice saying, "No, why don't you go over there?"

Granted, fans of Super Mario Galaxy's tight, fast-paced environments might feel a bit let down by Odyssey's looser structure. If you've been waiting for a true follow-up to Super Mario 64, however, you'll feel right at home in New Donk City and its surrounding suburbs. —Nadia Oxford

3. Persona 5

Available on: PS4, PS3

Out of all the games I played in 2017, Persona 5 made me feel the widest range of emotions. Atlus' RPG expertly reels you in during intense moments, but it also gives you plenty of slack so you can calm yourself while you roam around. I still think about the slow, subdued version of "Beneath the Mask" that plays when you finish your daily tasks during the game's rainy season. It's a perfect cap to a long day of stealing hearts in the name of justice.

Persona 5 also boasts a unique visual style that's almost hypnotic to look at. Everywhere you look, bloody reds and watery black shadows spill across the landscape, effects befitting of a game about high schoolers attempting to clean up a corrupt world. Realism matters less and less in game graphics, and Persona 5 is a good indication of where we're going. Style garners more praise than power, and I'm okay with that.

I first sampled Persona 5 under unique circumstances. I was about three quarters through my first playthrough of Persona 4 Golden (and by extension, my first Persona game) when I decided to "just try out" Persona 5. As much as I liked Persona 4, 5 hooked me in a way its predecessor never quite managed. The visual style and characters immediately grabbed me, as did the more substantial and themed dungeons (Persona 4's dungeons are randomly generated). I also like 5's emphasis on forming bonds with your Personas: Baphomet is the Prince of Hell. Why would he hang with a pack of snot-nosed high schoolers unless he has a reason to respect them? Though the negotiation process becomes a bit repetitive by the game's dwindling hours, I much prefer bargaining with my sidekicks versus simply winning them at the end of a fight, a la Persona 4. It really does feel more like a partnership when negotiations are involved.

Persona 5 is an easy recommendation for RPG fans. Now bring on Persona 5 The Crimson for Nintendo Switch. Pleeeease. —Nadia Oxford

2. Nier: Automata

Available on: PS4, PC

Nier: Automata, the action-RPG from Platinum Games and legendary director Yoko Taro, is a game overflowing with poignant, affecting moments, but one in particular that stuck with me happened at the start of the second playthrough. I was playing as the character 9S now, a sidekick to main heroine 2B, seeing the world through their renewed eyes. Just as with the start of the first playthrough, the game took me to its settings and laid its menu bare for me to tinker with. It was here that I quickly realized something: I wasn't in control this time. I was watching my past self get acquainted with the menus. I knew this because I remember lingering on brightness settings or something for an absurd amount of time.

That's a small example though. The tip of the iceberg, if that iceberg was intent on destroying the expectations that are inherent to video games, JRPGs, and science fiction alike. Nier: Automata isn't just a clever game playing with what we anticipate though, it's a game that by its end felt like nothing else I have ever played. It encapsulates everything my favorite games of 2017 did: giving modern game design and storytelling conventions a big middle finger. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising to see Yoko Taro actually doing the latter.

The late film critic Roger Ebert once argued that video games can't be art. They're too malleable because of their interactivity, was the crux of his argument. Art should be cemented. In a distorted way, Nier: Automata feels like the natural answer to that. It's a game that marries its interactivity with its storytelling; it's the sort of story that couldn't be told through film or a novel. Through its intricate boss fights, multiple perspectives, ever-changing gameplay, twisty-turny playthroughs that feel more like sequels than different "endings," and the upsetting decisions players have to make, Nier: Automata builds and builds and builds until it crescendos. And the whole experience is a wondrous thing. Glory to mankind. —Caty McCarthy

Day One: #20-#16
Day Two: #15-#11
Day Three: #10-#6
Stay tuned for Day Five of our countdown (and a roundup of the whole list), revealing our official Game of the Year!

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Comments 24

  • Avatar for BulkSlash #1 BulkSlash 3 months ago
    Unless it’s not Breath of the Wild was it worth holding back #1 when it seems like it’s the only obvious game missing from the list? Unless you’ve come to your senses and picked the true winner- Blaster Master Zero?
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  • Avatar for btsierra #2 btsierra 3 months ago
    @BulkSlash Indeed. It seems the games that would be on the list were almost a foregone conclusion at this point, the only question was order. It's either BOTW, which is expected, or BOTW didn't even make the top 20, which is so unlikely as to be impossible considering the positive coverage it got here.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #3 NiceGuyNeon 3 months ago

    The order is about what I expected. I can't play Yakuza if it doesn't go to Switch or PC, I have Mario Odyssey sitting on my buddy's staircase because I haven't picked it up from him yet since I don't have a Switch, Persona 5 I can't play unless it gets ported too.

    I know I'll love Persona 5 and Mario Odyssey, it's a matter of degrees: how much will I love them compared to P3 and P4? Or compared to Galaxy 1 and 2, 64, or 3D World? Yakuza is another my gaming friends talk up, but I tend to really despise open world design outside of Breath of the Wild and Fallout: New Vegas. Even Witcher 3 can't make a compelling reason to be open world, and I don't think any game really has for me outside of Breath of the Wild.

    But Nier: Automata? I want it. I bought the original on 360 because everyone talked it and the sequel up, but haven't gotten to it yet because I don't feel like playing on a 360 (sorry), but also, CAN YOU BELIEVE SQUARE-ENIX? A freaking Steam sale is going on and Nier is regular price? COME ON GUYS, I REMEMBER IT BEING ON SALE THANKSGIVING AND NO WINTER SALE PRICE? How am I supposed to play this thing? By paying full price? PFFFFFFFT YEAH, NO.

    But I'll get to Nier. It looks like the type of weird game that would totally speak to me. But it'll have to wait while I deal with Witcher 3's amazing writing and character work, but also the crap combat and pointless open world.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #4 NiceGuyNeon 3 months ago
    @BulkSlash Maybe everyone writes their opinion about why BotW or FIFA 18 deserves to be GotY rather than the perspective of one writer. We have 7 team members and six of them ranked it on their lists. And one brave soul had a list of one. A single, shining, exemplar of a game at the top.

    But yeah, just roll with the feature and enjoy the written words, there's more to it than just the ordering of it all.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #5 VotesForCows 3 months ago
    Glory to Mankind indeed. Been at this hobby a long, long time and I don't think I've ever encountered a finer game or work of art. So thrilled to see it achieve such widespread success too!
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #6 VotesForCows 3 months ago
    @NiceGuyNeon Not played Zelda or FIFA, so no horse in this race. I'm rooting for you though - EA needs a bit of love!
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  • Avatar for Vodka-Tonic #7 Vodka-Tonic 3 months ago
    Holding back the USG GOTY? Why do that, unless it's a title other than Zelda?

    Unless...the GOTY is Mass Effect Andromeda? Oh, the horror.
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  • Avatar for mattcom26 #8 mattcom26 3 months ago
    Tune in tomorrow for Breath of the Wild's victory lap. Say what you want about 2017 generally speaking, but it gave us a great Zelda game.
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  • Avatar for Maxbeedo #9 Maxbeedo 3 months ago
    A tie between Zelda and Horizon eh?
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #10 MetManMas 3 months ago
    @Maxbeedo USG didn't really like Horizon all that much, so no.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #11 Kuni-Nino 3 months ago
    The only thing wrong with this list is that Nioh isn't in it. But hey, that's the kind of year it's been.

    Great list overall.
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #12 SIGGYZtar 3 months ago
    #1 is DOAX3 VR?
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #13 MetManMas 3 months ago
    Called it.

    Between the anime high school setting, the creepy-pandery anime tropes, and verbosity being the last thing I want from most jRPGs these days, I've already come to accept that Persona 5 is probably not for me. I do appreciate the art direction, though. If Atlus corporate ever decides to pull the Mara out of its ass and stop being dumb stupid babies about PS SHARE I may give it a chance to impress me on a good sales week.

    Despite what I said above though, I am definitely looking forward to playing NieR:Automata. No matter how much I may want to punch some PS SHARE users through their TV screens for all the 2B panty shots, I know that Yoko Taro knows how to make a really great jRPG story, and Platinum Games knows how to do great gameplay.

    Super Mario Odyssey, well of course I'm gonna buy that. It's frickin' Mario, and as a big fan of Super Mario 64 I'm happy to see a return to the sandbox.

    And Yakuza 0's been on my buy list for a while now, just like Night in the Woods. So many great games in 2017, never enough money.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #14 link6616 3 months ago
    I'm betting number 1 has to be...

    Umineko : Answer Arc. Finally the best visual novel series was finished, in English this year. Not enough people talked about it. But it's a game that thrives on mystery. So it makes sense to keep it hidden till this moment!
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  • Avatar for DrCorndog #15 DrCorndog 3 months ago
    What a year it's been, when a game as good as Metroid: Samus Returns doesn't even crack the top 20.

    That, or everyone at US Gamer is just wrong. ;)
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #16 riderkicker 3 months ago
    Super Robot Wars V has got to be #1. Kat has Veto power right? That Natto mission...Edited December 2017 by riderkicker
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #17 Flipsider99 3 months ago
    @BulkSlash Good point! Blaster Master Zero was good enough to deserve a place on this list, I keep forgetting about it. Unfortunately it seems like not enough people played it.
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  • Avatar for LunarKnite #18 LunarKnite 3 months ago
    So #1 is a tie between Steamworld Dig 2 and Breath of the Wild, right? Because Steamworld Dig 2 definitely is a top 20 game this year, right? ...right?
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #19 LBD_Nytetrayn 3 months ago
    @MetManMas "USG didn't really like Horizon all that much, so no."

    I thought it was just Caty who didn't care for it as much?
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #20 MetManMas 3 months ago
    @LBD_Nytetrayn Well I didn't necessarily mean that everybody didn't like it, just that it wasn't as big a hit here as it was with some other popular gaming websites. Like, I just don't see it netting the #1 spot in the Top 20 when Breath of the Wild got a whole lot more love at USgamer, is all.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #21 NiceGuyNeon 3 months ago
    @MetManMas Oh it's going to be Breath of the Wild. If for some wild, freak decision, Breath of the Wild is not it (it is) literally any other game has a better shot than Horizon Zero Dawn. EVEN BATTLEFRONT II I dare say!
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  • Avatar for Fallout2 #22 Fallout2 3 months ago
    Nier as #2 is exactly right and any other year it would have been top of the hill. What a fantastic game (and it's not even my usual jam).
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  • Avatar for Maxbeedo #23 Maxbeedo 3 months ago
    @MetManMas Yeah, USGamer gave HZD the lowest score of any critic on metacritic, I was vainly hoping their opinion had improved over time. It was my #1 this year, even though I LOVED several other games. At least Mike and Hirun put it in their top 10.
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  • Avatar for choog #24 choog 3 months ago
    I think holding back #1 for the next article gives focus on Nier: Automata and I'm fine with that.
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