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 15 through 11. Enjoy!
15. Assassin's Creed Origins
Available on: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Since the launch of the first Assassin's Creed in 2007, Ubisoft has released nine primary entries and a number of spin-off games. After Unity faltered in 2014 despite having a strong setting to work with, Ubisoft decided to take a year off and give 2016's entry another year to cook.
The result is Assassin's Creed Origins, which acts as a soft reboot for the entire franchise. The hoods and Hidden Blades are still here, but Ubisoft has done some work on this ride. The storytelling is improved and the game functions more like an action RPG with gear and levels. Thesee changes mark a title that heads back to ancient Egypt to tell the story of the founding of the Assassin Brotherhood.
A major draw of Origins remains the same as other games in the series. No other developer or publisher can recreate historical eras and regions like Ubisoft can. Origins will take you from sunblasted deserts to hidden swamps and glistening oases. The cities feel real and unique, from your quiet home town of Siwa, to the Roman influence of Alexandria and the Greek color of Kyrenaika. No game in 2017 looks this good and the attention to detail has to be seen to be believed.
The tale of Bayek of Siwa, a man who has to find a reason to exist beyond revenge, is a good one. Bayek himself is more than just his revenge; he has the joy and sense of humor or Ezio, the driven nature of Altair, and more nobility than Edward Kenway. He is the father of the Hidden Ones and his journey does a great job of putting Assassin's Creed back on track. —Mike Williams
14. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Available on: Nintendo Switch
Yeah, I'm as surprised that this game is up here on this list as you are. How this title not only coasted through the pitch and development phases, but also ended up being good is beyond me.
On paper, bringing Nintendo's marquee Mario franchise together with Ubisoft's Rabbids seems like a pure cash-in. Beyond that, you'd think the result would be a platformer like the Super Mario series or a mini-game collection like many of the Rabbids titles. Instead, it's a streamlined version of the gameplay found in the XCOM franchise: isometric turn-based strategy.
Ubisoft knew what to cut. Gone were the huge squads of soldiers prone to breaking down under pressure or simply dying; instead you have a small team of core characters you build over time. Tired of having an 80 or 90% chance to hit and still missing? Mario + Rabbids has three chance types: 0%, 50%, or 100%. Getting a little bit bored of the early phases of XCOM, which are all about slowly moving into position? This games adds team movement, bouncing off a squad member to leap far distances and land on enemies' heads.
Despite these change Mario + Rabbids isn't easy. It'll still kick your teeth in, even if the presentation is bright, colorful, and family-friendly. This is still a top-notch strategy experience, it just happens to be one that stars Mario and the Rabbids. I'm shocked I'm even typing that sentence. —Mike Williams
13. Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Available on: Nintendo Switch
If Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was a person, it'd be a huge, loud, and over-eager scatterbrained pal who just wants to show you a good time whether you're in the mood for it or not. You might find yourself reluctant at first, but in time, you start to realize—"Hey! I am having fun!"
I don't know if I can easily recommend this MMO-inspired RPG to anyone who didn't love the first game, though. You're generally looking at more of what Xenoblade Chronicles dished out on the Wii: Goofy protagonists with doofy British accents screaming about love and friendship (unless you turn down the voices and / or download the Japanese voice cast). The battle system is also a bit hard to grasp at first, but once you have it down-pat, you may be surprised to discover how chill it actually is.
And, like the first Xenoblade game, you can expect sweeping plains, mountainous landscapes, and an incredible soundtrack. If you have 100+ hours to donate to an RPG after Persona 5, you could do worse than commit to Xenoblade Chronicles 2. —Nadia Oxford
12. Uncharted: Lost Legacy
Available on: PS4
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End was the literal end of the Nathan Drake story. Our Indiana Jones, our protagonist that had shot, ducked, and leapt his way through four other adventures finally got his happy ending. It was a grand adventure that felt like an emotionally satisfying way to close out Drake's adventures.
So where could the series go next? Drake's children? Fill in the backstory of Victor Sullivan? Cover an additional adventure in Drake's past?
Instead, Naughty Dog decided to build on Drake's supporting cast. Originally planned as a downloadable add-on for Uncharted 4, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy represents the first tiny step into the franchise's future. The focus shifted to former Uncharted 2 love interest Chloe Frazier, joined by Uncharted 4 antagonist and mercenary Nadine Ross. Together, the pair have to bond under pressure, rolling from set piece to set piece, solving puzzles, and getting into all sorts of trouble.
The Lost Legacy started with the core gameplay found in Uncharted 4, but it ultimately built upon one of that game's missteps. The open-world section of Uncharted 4 felt aimless and shoehorned in. In The Lost Legacy, it was beefed up: the level design was improved, the puzzles spanned different areas, and there was a reason to hop off the beaten path. The open-world section acted as a breather for the rest of the game, which remained mostly linear.
On top of that, Chloe and Nadine are a great pair. Together, they learn how to trust and rely on each other and by the time The Lost Legacy rounds out its story, you know who you want future games to focus on. Chloe and Nadine have a different relationship compared to Nate and Sully, but they're still wonderful together. I look forward to seeing what mischief they get into next. —Mike Williams
11. Sonic Mania
Available on: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Sonic Mania solidified once and for all that Sonic is in fact a great platformer.
Yes, there has been some question about that in my mind. As a professed Mario fan, I've always found Sonic to be too messy; too reliant on flash and not enough on substance. True, there were great levels like Chemical Plant Zone, but the bad often seemed to outweight the good. When Sonic had to slow down and actually do some real platforming, even the best games in the series seemed to fall apart.
Sonic Mania, by contrast, relentlessly ratchets up the quality, each level being better and more creative than the last. It's a glorious testament to the 16-bit era, putting both Mega Man and Mario to shame with some of the best pixel art I've ever seen. And best of all, it's available on the Nintendo Switch—the new spiritual home of the classic platformer.
In short, Sonic Mania made me really love Sonic for the first time ever. It's a tribute that stands on its own better than any throwback I've ever seen, and deepens my appreciation for the original games. It's a hell of an achievement. —Kat Bailey