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 20 through 16. Enjoy!
20. Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood
Available on: PS4, PC
I continue to marvel at the turnaround on this game. Final Fantasy XIV Online was a dire, dire game in its original release. In its hubris, Square Enix just released a game and expected that the Final Fantasy name would carry it forward. The mechanics were poor and obtuse, the overall story was bad, and in the end, the entire game was a chore to play.
Very few games get a second chance. Very few MMOs use that second chance to improve themselves. Square Enix did something unprecedented: they tore down everything they had built and crafted an entirely new game. And it worked. It not only worked, but since then, it has thrived.
The team behind Final Fantasy XIV has only gotten better at their craft. Stormblood takes the Warrior of Light to the occupied territory of Doma, with a story of hope and liberation. If A Realm Reborn and Heavensward represented a developer learning what worked and didn't, Stormblood is that same team doing what it does best with confidence.
Even when the last cutscene rolls on Stormblood's story, you still have brand-new dungeons, Primal fights, and raids to contend with. If you love Final Fantasy history, it's here with a supporting character that's the son of Final Fantasy III/VI's Cyan/Kaien, a raid that recalls Final Fantasy V, and a return to Final Fantasy Tactics' Ivalice. And if all you want to do is dress your character up, Stormblood already gives you a ton of options and more are on the way. Final Fantasy XIV has earned its spot on the list with main entries in the franchise and I continue to look forward to what's coming next. —Mike Williams
19. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
You can't just jump into Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. Even with its different cast and different setting, as with the last two games in the series, Danganronpa V3 operates on the knowledge you have from the prior games of the series. Then it tears down your expectations that lie with them. Even then, Danganronpa V3 with its class trials, bewildering murders, and cheeky villainous bear at the center is still very much a Danganronpa game.
Though by its end, something shifts. While the spirit of Danganronpa is remains, Danganronpa V3 feels like the definitive (and necessary) end for the series that was spiraling out of control, thanks in part to its massive fandom. It's a controversial finale, too, as the core fanbase remains split over how the game concludes. Some hated it, others loved it; it's a polarizing game, to say the least.
There's no question that it's a particularly ballsy ending though. And everything leading up to it is just as good, minus a couple predictable and lackluster trials in the middle of the game. All around that though is pure Danganronpa-goodness; with its diverse, eccentric characters you become acquainted with in visual novel portions and beyond. That's always been Danganronpa's strong suit, and V3 is no exception: its characters are what keeps us playing, because who knows if your new best friend is the next person you find dead. —Caty McCarthy
18. What Remains of Edith Finch
What Remains of Edith Finch by Giant Sparrow is a decidedly specific type of "indie" game. High-minded and intellectual, but joyful to play and endlessly creative in ways that only video games can be. A good "art" game should be able to balance both and Edith Finch does all that and more in under three hours.
Edith Finch follows the eponymous character as she pieces together the history of her possibly cursed family. Edith Finch is broken up into little segments that focuses on a different family member up and down the twisty, haunted family tree of the Finch clan. Giant Sparrow has such complete mastery over each character that a short 20 minute vignette is all one needs to understand a Finch family member inside and out. And as Edith works her way through her past, the players are taken on an emotionally devastating journey that only happens when a player and game become intimately linked.
In the end, What Remains of Edith Finch is a powerful experience that explores the messy, beautiful nature of family, legacy, and myth. —Matt Kim
17. Splatoon 2
Available on: Nintendo Switch
There's not too much new about Splatoon 2, at least at the start there wasn't. There was more content at launch, a shorter map cycling rotation, a new PvE mode called Salmon Run, and a better single-player campaign. Even with all that, Splatoon 2 just seemed like Splatoon 1.5. Then as the year went on, more content was added: more maps, more weapons to splat stylish squid-kids with, more music, more gear, more hairstyles, and the list goes on.
Splatoon 2 finally earned the big number two in its title, and it only took months after release for it to do it. Splatoon 2 would probably resonate a little greater if its formula hadn't already been perfected in Splatoon for the Wii U, the lesser played original in the series. Still, Splatoon 2 remains a breath of fresh air in the crowded genre of shooters. It's like a nice dessert after a hearty meal; easy to consume because of the brevity of its matches, low-consequences and low-stakes, while feeding into the urges for both the paint-focused and splat-focused player.
Splatoon 2 may have been overshadowed by the new entries of Mario and The Legend of Zelda this year, but no other game exemplified the greatness of the Nintendo Switch this year. Sometimes when I'd bring my Switch on-the-go and pop in for some Splatoon, I really did feel like I was in those silly Nintendo commercials. Maybe just a little less coordinated though, and less like an inkling waiting for a streetwear drop. —Caty McCarthy
16. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
More than anything Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is an admirable endeavor. Developer Ninja Theory eschewed traditional Triple-A development to work on a smaller, more personal project. Hellblade still has the action-adventure bonafides the studio is known for, but core to their story of a Celtic warrior is a treatment of mental health that, while not perfect, feels genuine and brave. And it might not have landed at all if not for the powerful performance from Melina Juergens, a Ninja Theory video editor tasked with bringing to life Ninja Theory's most complex character yet.
And bring to life she did. Juergens (who won best performance at this year's Video Game Awards) brings to Senua all the fury and hell of a woman tormented by her demons. To see Juergens in action is to see the entire process behind Hellblade. Sure, the combat is rather plain and repetitive, and the puzzles are less than ideal. But Ninja Theory found something special in Senua and Juergens that let them tell a story centered around mental health.
All of the small complaints I might have had about the game melts away in the face of Juergens' powerful performance, and the clear empathy on display in the game. It might not be the best game I played all year, but Hellblade wears its heart on its sleeves and that's deserving of praise all on its own. —Matt Kim
Stay tuned for Day Two's countdown with numbers #15 through #11.