Giant Sparrow

The 25 Best Video Games of 2017
The 25 Best Video Games of 2017

5

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

What truly cements Resident Evil 7: Biohazard as a stand-out horror experience isn’t the franchise’s shift to a first-person perspective, but how neatly it evokes classic horror movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre within the existing framework of its franchise narrative. Where previous entries in the Resident Evil series stagnated in their desire to raise the stakes with even bigger monstrosities and more over-the-top threats against entire nations by omnipotent evil corporations, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard toys with our primal fear of being at the mercy of a more recognizable evil. Terror starts at home, and it’s at the twisted Baker family mansion that the series finds its way back to what made it compelling in the first place: with a small group of sympathetic characters trapped in a believable location with few weapons at their disposal to fight back against seemingly countless and grotesque horrors. The sickening, almost Cronenbergian frights are always right up in your face, literally so if you play the game using the PlayStation VR, making the experience an impossible one to shake. Aston

The 25 Best Video Games of 2017

4

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Horizon: Zero Dawn features one of the most vibrantly envisioned open worlds in a video game to date. It’s a world where woodland creatures scrounge for their next meal alongside humans living in seemingly primitive tribes, and the only clues that we’re immersed in a futuristic setting are some nifty gadgets that the protagonist utilizes throughout and the enormous metal predators stalking the forests and deserts. What separates this open world from the settings of games with similar ambitions is how it functions in service of the characters and their lives. Young redheaded orphan Aloy and her kin are just as beautifully realized as the world around them, their believable and sympathetic characterization driving the narrative as Aloy discovers the dark reasons for the state of this world and attempts to find her place within it. As the narrative builds to an unusually affecting and optimistic conclusion, Horizon: Zero Dawn’s brand of post-apocalyptic sci-fi comes to feel like a necessary corrective to the troubles of our present day. Aston

The 25 Best Video Games of 2017

3

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Ninja Theory’s Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice is unusually sensitive as a horror game, rejecting the trend of using mental illness for cheap scares. As disturbing as the contradictory voices in the titular protagonist’s head might be, her fractured psychological state doesn’t exist to leave players feeling frightened, but to serve up a philosophical inquiry with universal resonance. Between fights with scores of mythic beings (the one-versus-all war in the Sea of Corpses is gaming’s most ominous action spectacle of the year), the player learns that Senua loathes the voices within her as much as she does anything else—and that self-hatred must be recognized and managed in order for her to attain some form of peace. This dark but life-affirming parable amplifies its emotional power through mesmerizing audiovisuals, where hallucinatory whispers argue over whether you’re ever going the right way and motion-capture graphics ironically seem like reality when juxtaposed against full-motion video. Pressgrove

The 25 Best Video Games of 2017

2

Super Mario Odyssey

The joy of Super Mario Odyssey is in your self-made journey. This is a game that invites you to dwell within and interact with both the old and the new. Wander around a recreation of Peach’s Castle (from Mario 64) to your heart’s content, maybe enter the retro 2D levels ingeniously embedded into certain flat surfaces throughout the game’s kingdoms. You can also adopt a completely new identity throughout by possessing foes, allies, and sometimes random objects: You can rocket around as a fragile Bullet Bill, spring into action as a stilt-walking sprout, or swim up a volcano as an adorable lava bubble. However you play this game on your way to saving Peach from a forced marriage, it’s start-to-finish fun, and the travel-guide presentation of the in-game map suggests that Super Mario Odyssey aims to serve as a kind of vacation. The game’s collectible Power Moons reinforce this leisurely emphasis, as you’re as likely to get a reward from performing agile acrobatics as from paying close attention to that dog wandering along a sandy beach. This freedom elevates Super Mario Odyssey, making it not just a game, but a colorful, creative playground. Riccio

The 25 Best Video Games of 2017

1

NieR Automata

If NieR Automata were just a straight-forward open-world action title, one that could be completed in approximately 10 hours, stretching from the first line of dialogue until Ending A, it would still stand tall this year for being a fundamentally odd game about machines pondering their own humanity, ending on a quaintly sentimental but earned grace note. Ending A, however, is the tip of the iceberg, partially obscuring what eventually reveals itself to be one of the most unique ludological and existentialist exercises in any medium. On one hand, it’s a love letter and celebration of everything games are, as its mechanics flit joyously between genres; it’s a hack-and-slash power trip one moment, a shooter the next, sometimes even a platformer. On the other, it’s pathologically obsessed with tearing down everything about what those genres have done up to this point in the history of gaming. NieR Automata performs a philosophical autopsy on the post-apocalyptic corpse of humankind through the lens of machines finding themselves bound to make sense of their own burgeoning sentience from the scraps we leave behind. The actions of the game’s androids and robots frighten, sadden, and disturb us more than the actions of any other enemy one can face in any other game because, fundamentally, these beings are us, fumbling violently around existence with only the most vague concept of what life, love, sex, murder, religion, and death mean in the grand scheme of things. It’s a game that revels in the destruction of one’s enemies, and also forces players to recognize their own role in creating them, and the imperative of understanding them to truly move forward, a pensiveness framed by one of the most glorious, eclectic scores ever composed. There has never been a game quite like NieR Automata, and until the day there’s more than one Yoko Taro, there’s not likely to be another. Clark

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