As Scholarly Gamers approaches the end of our first calendar year, we began to discuss some of the best games we’d played in 2017. Considering the fact that we have dozens of people on staff, we knew that there would be a lengthy list of contenders for Game of the Year (GotY), and quickly realized that the only way to settle it was through a 100 person battle royale. But on the chance we’d have a lawsuit filed against us, we opted to have every member of the staff vote for their Top 3 picks of the year. We assigned points to each tier and with some simple arithmetic, we tallied up the scores and arrived at our democratically chosen Top 3.
Today we have for you the detailed nominations put forward by a number of our Contributors and Streamers, who had more to say about their favorite titles than simply ranking them one through three. Some of these titles helped to define how we spent large portions of 2017, and we wanted to take the opportunity to go in-depth about what these games meant personally to each of us.
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of votes cast internally. Many of our staff elected not to share the granular points of their decision-making, but their votes will be included in the final Scholarly Gamers Game of the Year selection.
Honourable Mention nominations are not assigned a score; they are typically non-2017 games that were first played during 2017 and would’ve been a GotY contender with the right timing, or games which through post-launch content really hit their stride in 2017.
Pick #3: Bronze / Third Place
Pick #2: Silver / Second Place
Pick #1: Gold / First Place
Be sure to check back on December 31st for the final reveal of who Scholarly Gamers have elected as the 2017 GAME OF THE YEAR!
Matt Ferguson – Editor-in-Chief
My experiences in gaming in 2017 were exceptionally varied, but I kept finding myself coming back to a singular theme in all of the games that really pulled me in: worlds that I could get lost in. We saw an explosion of not just traditional open-world games in 2017, but games breaking the mold to provide a more engaging and interactive version of their worlds from past iterations. This past year has featured a large influx of these types of games, which feature prominently in my Top 3 picks for this year.
I personally have a very hard time assigning a ranking to games released over the course of an entire year, especially when so many of the games we are comparing have such complex differences that are truly impossible to objectively compare, contrast and sort using just three numbers. When it came down to it I made my decisions based of course on the quality of the game and my experiences with it, but also based around what these titles offered that made them stand apart from the competition, and what they meant to me as a gamer:
- The ability to play through an entire game with my friends.
- A new release that brought me and my wife together for an experience which felt like a 150 hour vacation.
- A surprise from a long-running series that brought my university degrees to life in a way I never imagined.
These were the types of things that made games stand out to me in 2017, in addition to the usual factors that I judged them by, and I think that’s really important. Just because a game’s relation to a personal experience is much harder to qualify for other people who didn’t have the same experiences, it is these things that make video games so special to us, and which make one game so much more dear to one gamer than the next. So without further ado, here are my personal picks for 2017 GotY.
2017 PICK #3: Ghost Recon Wildlands
The Ghost Recon franchise has always featured high on my third-person shooter list, offering a narrative driven campaign typically focused on counter-terrorism and segmented into linear missions. I had thought the series reached a high point with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and the impressive Gunsmith, squad commands, and exceptionally fun and equally engaging campaign and multiplayer this year modes. And then Wildlands arrived, and took everything that Future Soldier had done right to the Nth degree.
Ghost Recon WIldlands is the perfect example of a franchise that made a brilliant transition from segmented linear missions to a full-blown free-roaming open world concept, which tied together brilliantly through the same powerful narrative-driven story we’ve come to expect from the series. I’d argue the narrative was even more hard-hitting then previous entries as well, exploring the real aspects of the Bolivian drug trade in a way that only Ubisoft could have done through their expert on-the-ground analysis done by their development team in Bolivia. Wildlands shows what can be done when a team puts the extra effort into researching their location and setting the environment to match the story they are trying to tell.
It’s what happens within this expertly researched and designed world that really makes GRW shine though, and the evolution of the squad-based combat to incorporate cooperative multiplayer through the entirety of the campaign — and beyond into multiplayer modes — is something that has been sorely missing from recent years in gaming. The wealth of activities that you could undertake with your friends, whether working through campaigns or just taking down cartel hotspots, meant there was always something to do. A large factor in Wildlands‘ place in my Top 3 had to do with the fact I had a 60+ hour campaign that I could play with up to three of my friends, with more than enough side missions and exploration-based objectives to keep me entertained and occupied between gameplay sessions.
I should also note that their post-launch content, with the free PvP multiplayer add on and the addition of the Predator hunt, have ensured that this game has longevity far past its initial release window. The inclusion of new events and free add-ons is a trend we don’t see near enough of nowadays, and is a huge factor in why I’m still playing Wildlands today.
2017 PICK #2: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I feel like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a Top 3 pick for me for different reasons than a lot of other people. First off, it is another example of a game which has evolved from pseudo open-world map styles — varying in execution from game to game — into what may be considered one of the most free-roaming games of all time. I’m not only referring to the size and environmental detail of the world or your ability to tackle the entire game as you please — both which are exceptionally welcome features, albeit not completely new in the Zelda franchise — but the movement/climbing system that Nintendo utilized which turned the entire world into your personal jungle gym. If there is one lesson I hope that developers take from BoTW‘s success, it’s how to craft an engaging and accessible world.
While I could go on for pages about the combination of nostalgia, excitement, and wonder I felt playing BoTW, one of the largest contributing factors to my enjoyment of the game was that I played the entirety of it with my wife, passing the controller back and forth. We’ve always enjoyed Zelda together, and tackling Hyrule as awakened Link was an experience we’ll never forget; it was like going on vacation with your best friend to somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit. I delighted in being able to guide her through the Lost Woods, gleefully whistling along remembering my very first treks into the woods in the 1986 original, and then again in Ocarina of Time. My wife on the other hand was enthralled with the joyful colour and engaging nature of the game, losing herself for hours just wandering the Gerudo desert or climbing mountains to get every Shrine and Korok seed.
At the end of the day, it was the combination of everything that we had grown up loving about Zelda juxtaposed against everything we had always wanted from a Zelda game, which gave this game the impact that it had on us. Even after sinking well over 150 hours into the game between my wife and I there is still much more that we can do in Hyrule, and there are not many games out there of this format that can offer the same enticement that’s found within BotW. With the addition of Hero Mode and the Trials — which we reviewed here —, Nintendo has also shown that they are willing to support the game through a variety of content to keep players engaged. You can read more on my thoughts on the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in my official review.
2017 PICK #1: Assassin’s Creed Origins
It’s really hard to sum up all of my feelings about Assassin’s Creed Origins in just a few paragraphs, simply because of the sheer breadth of the experience in that game. Ubisoft broke every mold for me with this newest release in the franchise, as someone who has been avidly following the series since its initial inception. What really makes Origins special is that it manages to perfectly tread the line of completely revamping large aspects of their game — both in terms of environment and gameplay mechanics — while retaining everything that draws people to the series; the mystery and majesty of the worlds they have created.
There are so many things that can be praised in Origins: The blending of myth and reality through the gripping narrative, the wholly revamped and visceral gladiatorial-style combat, and of course the beautifully crafted environment. What really hit home for this game for me was the verisimilitude; the absolutely captivating accuracy and realism of the Ptolemaic Egypt that Ubisoft created. I wrote my undergrad in Greek & Roman History, and it was like nothing else seeing large swathes of my research come to life, and then to be able to walk through cities and interact with people I’d read and written about. Long after beating the game, I’m still finding myself wandering through the expanses of desert and combing each tomb to uncover every secret that lies buried for me to discover.
Assassin’s Creed Origins isn’t just an example of an expertly crafted game in terms of narrative, gameplay mechanics, environment, and just sheer entertainment — which it assuredly is all of these things in spades — but the pinnacle of what I think games should be: A way to experience the worlds we can only dream of. For me personally, those worlds in a large part are the histories that I’ve studied and interacted with through my degrees, and nothing thrills me more than being able to come as close as possible to experiencing these time periods first hand. The Assassin’s Creed franchise has always done a superb job at setting their location and historical atmosphere, and Origins has taken that verisimilitude to new levels.
Much like my other two entries this year, Ubisoft is continuing to support Assassin’s Creed Origins through free post-launch content, including the Trials of the Gods which just recently ended, as well as the literal out-of-this-world crossover with Final Fantasy XV which was delightfully fun, and as one Scholarly Gamer member put it “easily the best DLC delivery system to date.”
I could write another full review on the things I loved about Origins, but you can read more on my thoughts on Assassin’s Creed Origins in my extensively detailed review. Suffice it to say it was the most captivating and entertaining game I played this year, and truly showed the amount of work Ubisoft put into their latest iteration of the long running franchise.
Markus Piil – Head of IT
NON-2017 HONOURABLE MENTION: The Division
The Division first launched in March 2016, and has received eight major patches since release. Most of them brought in new content for players to explore, new gear to acquire and optimize, some fixes and rebalances to major player-reported issues, and, to some degree, a host of new problems on their own. Regardless of how each individual patch has been received at large, my feelings are that each has made major progress towards building The Division into the game we’ve all wanted to sink our teeth into.
Though some of the patches have been more substantial than others, The Division developers Massive Entertainment alongside other Ubisoft-owned studios have deployed incursions (raids), total rebalances to major mechanics, several large game areas (Dark Zone, West Side Piers), and more – all for free, and directly in line with requests from the fanbase they’re very in touch with. The Division gets an honourable mention for how it plays today in 2017 compared to its launch some 18+ months ago.
2017 PICK #3: Call of Duty: WWII
This iteration of Activision’s blockbuster Call of Duty franchise really surprised me, from the launch trailer right through to the final, delivered product. It’s been several years since I bought a Call of Duty game on launch day (2013’s Ghosts), but the return to World War II piqued my interest and played (heavily) upon my unabated love for Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. Though there are many parallels that may be drawn between the two (most notably the infamous D-Day Normandy landing on June 6, 1944), Call of Duty: WWII truly does stand on its own in terms of storytelling and gameplay amidst the field of wall-running, exoskeleton-powered shooters brought out in the last few years.
The game’s campaign is paced quite well and boasts a surprising level of interpersonal development between the player and their squadmates. It’s a much more explorative approach to storytelling than Call of Duty typically takes, heavy with third-person cutscenes and narration by the player character. The multiplayer is another return to form by putting boots back on the ground and a relatively straightforward progression system that shouldn’t be too unfamiliar for longtime fans. Zombies, as my least-played mode in the game, is still quite good; a massive map and general guidance through the ‘casual’ storyline changes up the age-old formula of simply holding out against the undead horde.
2017 PICK #2: Ghost Recon Wildlands
I’ve been a longtime (casual) fan of Tom Clancy titles such as Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, and, more intently, The Division, but March’s Ghost Recon Wildlands was a curious treat that I didn’t expect to see from the Ghost Recon franchise. Scrapping the linear, level-based, campaign system for a massively open world, the team (playable with three AI squadmates or up to three friends) is left almost entirely to their own devices and methodologies for tearing down the Santa Blanca Cartel, brick by brick. The game world features 18 provinces, each of which is chock-full of collectibles, weapons, weapon parts, side missions, and story missions that bring you closer to your ultimate goal: crippling the cartel’s operations by taking out the underbosses and making your way up the chain to the big boss, El Sueño.
The breadth of the game’s available activities does, however, come at a cost; a great deal of your inter-provincial deeds lack narrative connection to the goings-on in the rest of the country. Because each of the provinces functions as an island unto itself (4-6 successive story missions working towards the underboss), it’d have been impossible to link them all together with direct references due to the sheer magnitude of quests available and permutations of the order in which they might be executed. Beyond that, gameplay is excellent, visuals are stunning, and this is a true sandbox for friends to kick back and ‘do whatever’.
2017 PICK #1: Mass Effect: Andromeda
Any entrant to the Mass Effect universe is likely to sit well with me, and Andromeda is no different. Though I initially worried some about the how this title would fit into the established timeline / web of context that formed the original trilogy, I think the team at Bioware did a bang-up job sidelining it into its own title in a believable manner. I mean, by the end of ME3, the entire galaxy was at war – how do you escape the context-rich world built up by that point? Take your crew to another galaxy, of course. In this, I believe, Andromeda found its greatest strength.
To me, Mass Effect has always been rooted in equal parts exploration, combat, and developing relationships (positive or otherwise). In sending humanity to the galaxy-next-door, all three facets made themselves available in spades. The relationship-building laid some good foundations for potential sequels in the series, and though many have argued that there were too few available maps / planets to explore, I found myself disagreeing. Granted, there are only a handful, but they are massive in scale, well-populated with activities and encounters, and sizeable chunks of them only unlock after you’ve spent time working through the game’s primary and secondary story arcs in other worlds. The combat and movement mechanics are stellar, and the addition of a jump jet / mechanic brought an entirely new element of verticality to the game not seen before for the franchise. Above and beyond that, there are too many things to discuss in a quick year-end summary (skill system omitting classes, enjoyable multiplayer, stunning visuals, etc.), but for fans of sci-fi, RPGs, or pioneering, Andromeda is well worth the time spent.
AcuteJungle66 – Content Coordinator
NON-2017 HONOURABLE MENTION: Euro Truck Simulator 2
Euro Truck Simulator 2 first launched in October 2012, and is a direct sequel to the 2008 game Euro Truck Simulator. Since release the game has received several official DLC packs which contain features ranging from new paint jobs to entire new countries to explore-the latest being Italy. In addition to the official DLC that is available, there are countless third-party modifications that offer a myriad of enhancements for this game. This continued support has no doubt contributed to the game growing significantly since launch (for perspective, Steamcharts shows ETS2 slumping at a miserable 977 players in June 2013; whereas 2017 saw the game hit an all-time high of almost 48K!)
Like many others (47,950 others to be exact), I only started playing ETS2 in 2017; and I certainly wish I had started playing it sooner. With only 176 hours spent on the road and only 33% of the in-game achievements attained; I will definitely be spending more time on the roads in 2018. Euro Truck Simulator 2 is a game like no other, it deserves an honourable mention in my book
2017 PICK #3: Ghost Recon Wildlands
Ghost Recon Wildlands is a game that my squad-mates and I were sincerely looking forward to; whilst we all experienced the beta together, only 2 of us actually purchased the game. I cannot put my finger on why exactly we did not all follow-through and grab this title, as we tend to play exclusively as a group in most games: The Division, Rainbow Six Siege, Destiny, Destiny 2, Rocket League. But frankly something was just missing. The game itself is fun: a compelling narrative, a massive open world, collectibles, realistic weapons which can be extensively customised, story missions, side missions, vehicles, aircraft. But the subsequent DLCs that have been released have been strangely implemented. Rather than adding to the base game, they are separate game modes altogether; which just doesn’t feel right at all
If I feel this way, then why I am including Ghost Recon Wildlands in my top 3? First and foremost, the game is fun; plain and simple. Secondly, after being enhanced for the Xbox One X, the game’s visuals are amazing (and it was already a good-looking game to begin with). But the free special event that pits you against the Predator is what sealed the deal for me, truly one of my favourite gaming experiences of 2017.
2017 PICK #2: Destiny 2
I was hooked to the original Destiny, I own a few t-shirts/hoodies and of course the highly sought-after ‘stress ball’ engrams (which have never returned to the store). With 1,347 hours played, I certainly got my money’s worth and had a blast in the process. It should come as no surprise then that my fire-team and I were excited for the release of Destiny 2-which had certainly been hyped up considerably. What we ended up with was-in my opinion-a regression from the first game, rather than a continuation. Jay sums it up quite nicely here. Now don’t get me wrong, the game is beautiful and the gun-play is exceptional; but the game lacks any real incentive to keep playing it currently, hence why my total play time has sat at 365 hours for several weeks now. The game has potential, but sadly has not fully realised that potential yet.
Despite the issues and the controversies surrounding Destiny 2, it still makes it on to my list for 2017. My friends and I had a great time crushing the ‘end-game’ content such as Prestige Nightfalls and of course the Leviathan Raid. Playing through the story the first time was an excellent-albeit short-experience, and Destiny 2 reminded me that it isn’t always about which game you play, but who you are playing it with. My friends and I had some great moments this year within this game, and that is why it is my #2 pick.
2017 PICK #1: Stories Untold
Some may think this tops my list because it was made by my fellow Scot: Jon McKellan, or perhaps because I love everything that Devolver Digital touches. Those are just ‘Brucie bonuses’ to a game that is a stunning masterpiece, it didn’t win a Scottish BAFTA for nothing after all. Stories Untold is an episodic adventure-puzzle video game developed by No Code and published by Devolver Digital. Written and directed by Jon McKellan, the game was released on 27 February 2017, for MacOS and Microsoft Windows. It is a mix of adventure game genres, including text-based adventure, first-person exploration, and puzzle solving, and is themed after technology from the 1980s. The Game consists of four episodes, each an adventure game, of which the first is a remastered version of The House Abandon, which was a shorter adventure game released in August 2016 as freeware.
To paraphrase GamesRadar: the game feels like opening your childhood toy-box and in, the nicest possible way, finding it swarming with cockroaches. It playfully recalls how it felt to be scared as a child, recreating the fear of rushing past the horror section in a VHS rental shop, afraid to catch a glimpse of a clawing hnd or empty eye socket. In my opinion, this is the gamer’s version of Stranger Things, and wholeheartedly my top game of 2017.
Sheldon Goodridge – Contributor / Streamer
2017 PICK #3: Assassin’s Creed Origins
Having invested a fair amount of time into the game, I felt that Assassin’s Creed Origins delivered the tried-and-true story-driven approach expected by fans of the franchise. In the same breath, Ubisoft studios have polished out some of the smaller issues that the series has held, and the addition of new elements (such as RPG levelling and skill trees) was a wise move to bring forward in the latest Assassin’s Creed game.
2017 PICK #2: Cuphead
I was absolutely enamoured with Cuphead, and I can’t come up with enough nice things to say about it. Between the charismatic animations, the gameplay, and the art style, I cannot recommend this game enough for fans of the platforming genre.
2017 PICK #1: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Sitting in the #1 position for me, there’s nothing I can say about this game that hasn’t been said elsewhere before. I felt like this was an excellent entry to the Nintendo Switch, having its release timed nicely with the console’s. It’s nice to see Nintendo continuing to deliver quality games such as this one; it’s smooth, visuals are on-point, and the perfect level of discovery within the world they’ve created is something that surely everyone’s been looking for.
Lithic Goose – Streamer
2017 PICK #3: Ghost Recon Wildlands
Tom Clancy’s stories and characters have long been brought off the pages and into movies, television, and, more recently, video games. Their topical material lends itself especially well to games, and Ghost Recon Wildlands is no exception. From the first drop into modern-day Bolivia, the scene is set to show the country under the corrupting grasp of El Sueño, leader of the Santa Blanca cartel. Your mission is simple: tear apart the cartel piece by piece, using everything at your disposal to see the objective through. Nothing is ‘out of bounds’ in this open-world shooter; even though some provinces within the country do have higher difficulties that are best handled when you’re of a higher level and better equipped.
Ghost Recon Wildlands is best enjoyed with other friends, though three AI companions will join you for solo play. This is where I found some problems arose; the bots could be somewhat clumsy and would only take action when specifically told to carry out some given task. For some missions, I’d directed them off and away to another location so that they wouldn’t interfere with my ability to play out the mission the way I’d hoped to.
2017 PICK #2: PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS
To begin, I’d like to note that I’ve both seen the Battle Royale movie and read the book that PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS takes its core from, so I had a good idea of what I’d be (literally) jumping into. I haven’t delved into (m)any of the other mods following the Battle Royale format before PUBG, but there’s something quote addicting about jumping from a plane amongst a hundred players whose sole purpose is to come out on top of the heap. PUBG is an exercise in patience; five minutes’ wait for thirty seconds of adrenaline, rinse and repeat. Adding to the nature of combat, all of the loot drops are RNG-based, which makes for each round of PUBG a unique experience. Granted, some locations are weighted heavier than others, which makes military or civilian areas a high risk/reward situation for those unwilling to scavenge the outskirts and loot other players killed in the battle.
Though this game spent most of the year in Early Access with bugs and flaws under the spotlight, it’s still wholly playable with very few game-crashing exceptions. Lastly, with PUBG entering its formal 1.0 release on PC, players get access to a second map that plays completely different than the original one.
2017 PICK #1: Assassin’s Creed Origins
Though the two Assassin’s Creed titles released before Origins were faced with some criticism due to bugs and glitches, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little bit apprehensive with respect to picking this up on day one, but I’m glad that I did. This entry received some more polish that did away with many of the (personally) expected issues – the two-year development cycle for this title did it some good.
With respect to the historical location and accuracy, Assassin’s Creed Origins is top-notch; the story is largely a work of fiction, of course, but other aspects like the map’s size, visuals, and density of side-activities is second to none. The addition of new mechanics (such as your hawk scouting companion) is a welcome change, though some other elements (such a button mapping) leave something to be desired until they come to be second nature. Though I’m not completely finished with the story (closer to 75%), what I’ve seen has left me confident enough to name Assassin’s Creed Origins as my pick for Game of the Year.
Steel_Shin – Streamer
NON-2017 HONOURABLE MENTION: The Tenth Line
Interestingly enough, my honourable mention is a game played for only an hour. It sat for quite some time on my wishlist, waiting for a significant enough discount to pick it up. After digging into it a little bit I wondered why I hadn’t taken the plunge on it sooner. The game is a combination of so many of my favourite JRPGs that I’ve played and loved in the past. It boasts a combat system similar to Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga, a platforming exploration game map filled with secrets, and a leveling system reminiscent to Mana Khemia and Final Fantasy XII – a puzzle unto itself to see how you will maximize each of your character’s stat points.
All of the elements listed above were introduced in the first fifteen minutes of the game. Who knows – if I had more time and played with it more, it may have properly earned a Top 3 nomination, but for the time being it sits with an honourable mention until I get back into it.
2017 PICK #3: Hollow Knight
The worst thing I could’ve done (and did do) with Hollow Knight was initially judge it by its cover. When I first saw the hero as a small bug with simple dots as eyes, the overall design didn’t resonate with me. Later, I happened across it and gave it a shot – much to my surprise, I found a wonderful ‘Metroidvania’ with a gorgeously drawn world that I’d spent some time looking for. Hollow Knight is, at first impression, a simple platformer with fun combat and lots of exploration. Upon playing and exploring some, I realized just how large the world actually was, and getting all of the power-ups to navigate the maps and uncover secrets was quite enjoyable.
Though I’m not usually someone who seeks to find all of the secrets within a game, I spent a fair amount of time exploring and discovering hidden bits all over the place. Hollow Knight is a game loved by the players, and one that’s given loads of attention by the developers that continue to release free DLC.
2017 PICK #2: NieR: Automata
I’ll admit that I’m new to the franchise; I haven’t had the chance to play through the original NieR or the Drakenguard series, and I didn’t have much interest when NieR: Automata was first announced. I did, however, end up a little bit curious and decided to check out the lore surrounding the games, and fell in love with the dark and grim stories featuring heroes you’re unsure about rooting for. When I finally got my hands on NieR: Automata, I was pleased to find a story that drove me forward, characters I was truly invested in, and a wonderful soundtrack (composed by Keiichi Okabe) that left me standing in place, lost in the music.
Without getting into story elements (it’s best explored on your own), the gameplay is something that could be talked about at length. Platinum has done a fantastic job with the gameplay by blending in facets from multiple genres into one fleshed-out package. You see some ‘shmup’, action-packed hack-and-slash, and even some side-scrolling platforming sections.
2017 PICK #1: Persona 5
I was excited for Persona 5 from the moment it was announced. Between the gameplay, music, and story, I simply could not get enough. The latest entry to the series brought welcome changes to the combat by adding new elemental attributes and the extra option to shift into a ‘gun mode’ to change the tide of battle (or simply do extra damage). No longer is acquiring a new persona an element of luck, but rather negotiation; in removing random shadow monsters as enemies, you now fight the actual personas.
The lackluster dungeons from previous games have been redone as handcrafted levels with linear progression and puzzles peppered in; no two dungeons are the same, which makes for a more enjoyable experience. The only personal gripe of mine with the game was the main cast of characters whom I did not find to be as memorable as previous games. The soundtrack, however, may reign as my favourite within the series as another project by Shoji Meguro. I couldn’t let a day go by without putting in ten hours until I beat Persona 5, and awarding it my Game of the Year nomination was not a difficult decision to make.
Tara Zellam – Contributor
NON-2017 HONOURABLE MENTION: Stardew Valley
Released on PC in February 2016, Stardew Valley offered a new avenue for fans of Harvest Moon and similar titles on a platform that did not have many such options. This continued when the game saw release on both Xbox One and PS4 in December 2016. Due to the late-year release, many console players did not discover or play Stardew Valley until 2017, a few members of Scholarly Gamers’ staff included. Offering a rich town to play in with interesting characters, the humble work of ConcernedApe became a fan favorite.
I mention it in this Game of the Year summary because many people started playing Stardew Valley in 2017. I’ve watched quite a few of my friends fall in love with the game, and I think the multiplayer expansion – now expected for beta testing in early 2018 – will bring even more people towards it. This game also led me to discover my #3 pick on this list. Stardew Valley is not going to be forgotten to the days of 2016, to be sure.
2017 #3 Pick: Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles
This Prideful Sloth production made its way onto my list for a few reasons. I found out about Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles through Stardew Valley. Aside from huge titles like Mass Effect: Andromeda and Horizon: Zero Dawn, Yonder was my most-anticipated game of 2017. Thankfully, I had the pleasure of reviewing the game. Yonder allows players to explore an island full of interesting critters and try to save it from a dark time in the past. As landmarks are discovered, recipes are learned, and as animal-friends are made, Gemea shows that there is always more than meets the eye.
SImply put, Yonder is an adorable game that is fun to play. It is a simple title that allows players to move at their own pace, keeping with the magic of the island. It can be farming-centric, or players can focus on any or all of the crafting subclasses. The game is visually gorgeous, with a soundtrack that makes it soothing to play. Different biomes create an island more diverse than most video game planets. Yonder takes my third place nomination for being simple, fun, and relaxing to play.
2017 #2 Pick: Destiny 2
To me, this is the most surprising pick on my list. I was not a fan of the original Destiny; turned off it by the repetitive gameplay and the lack of story. I jumped ship before any of the expansions came out. I was not planning on getting Destiny 2 at all, but now I’m quite glad I allowed myself to be talked into buying it.
Destiny 2 became my multiplayer game of the year, a throne I expected to belong to Mass Effect: Andromeda or Overwatch. This game made me realize that I truly enjoy competitive gameplay, though not always without a grain (or shaker) of salt. It offered an engaging story, though not an overly-complicated one, riddled with humor, and Crucible became a way for me to spend nights trash-talking with friends. While the game did not offer anything that truly blew me away or granted some new insight, it was fun and brought friends together for much killing and trash-talk.
2017 #1 Pick: Mass Effect: Andromeda
Mass Effect, as a series, has stolen my heart from the first time I started one of the games. Andromeda kept the trend going, adding to the series I dearly love without tainting what was already established in the main trilogy. It brought aspects to the Mass Effect universe that expanded on what worked in the main series. The writing created a tone of humor to what could only be described as a dystopian situation – stranded in a different galaxy, all plans laid to waste, no guarantee of survival.
The contrast between protagonists Ryder (Andromeda) and Shepard (Mass Effect 1-3) was refreshing. Compared to playing as a battle-hardened, established military officer, being thrust into Andromeda as a twenty-something who suddenly has the fate of mankind in Andromeda on their shoulders is terrifying. Having Ryder and friends take on their challenges with humor made the game for me, reminiscent of the Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3. The open-world environments brought back the exploration aspect of the first game, thankfully in a much more polished way. The Angara more than filled the expectation for new aliens, while relationships between characters – an absolute staple for most Bioware fans – offered more chances for exploration. For me, Andromeda reminded of everything I loved about the franchise, and far more than I could point out in a summary.
CapnMcMuffin – Streamer
HONOURABLE MENTION: Mass Effect: Andromeda
I got into Mass Effect both too early and too late in the game, by which I mean that I was excited for the first one to come out but never bought it and watched my girlfriend play through them far after the fact (with a slew of trivia and fun fact commentary from her to rival a wiki). So, when the fourth installment came out earlier this year, we were both pretty excited. When at last we played through it (I really just watched) I was frankly a little underwhelmed. I give Mass Effect: Andromeda an honorable mention because while the game was pretty average gameplay-wise, the writing and humor were amazing and I loved each character for different reasons; coming to know them like I’d know a good friend. We laughed at too many fantastic one-liners to even count.
2017 PICK #3: Horizon: Zero Dawn
This was a game I saw very little of when it was coming out, but when we finally picked it up (the extra-special edition, art book and Aloy statue included), I realized just how special it really was. The facial animation, while not very dynamic, is so lifelike I was blown away every time I went to talk to someone. The complexity of the gameplay, visuals, and worldbuilding and designs for the machines were all astounding. Now, I haven’t gotten very far in it because other games took over my interest (see below entries) but every moment just exploring in this post-apocalyptic is a joy to behold.
2017 PICK #2: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I wasn’t directly on top of the Nintendo Switch when it was announced and released, but I was beyond excited when I got my hands on one and procured a copy of Breath of the Wild along with it. Let me be frank when I say that I was never impressed any Legend of Zelda game and could never get into the somewhat linear gameplay or long and arduous temples. However, this game blew all of that aside and instantly presented an open world where long-term objectives were merely a suggestion. The moment that I saw the size of the map I went all around the world uncovering it as much of it as I could. I loved the differences in scenery as I traveled, how every upgrade was unlocked from the start, and how every obstacle felt possible at any stage at the game, but if you died, it was your fault and you knew it. Such a great deviation from the norm, and a game I will be coming back to many times.
2017 PICK #1: Super Mario Odyssey
Man, where do I begin? I had always loved the 3D Mario titles and preferred their imaginative nature to the carbon copies of Super Mario Bros. 3 that we received time and time again from the late 2000s to mid-2010s. I remember falling deeply in love with Sunshine after getting my Gamecube in 2005, and waiting impatiently for Galaxy, so I had high expectations for Odyssey to launch earlier this year. Boy, did they raise the bar and surprise me again. Like Breath of the Wild, the linear nature has been cast to the wayside and exploration and secret-hunting is far more encouraged. Every kingdom I traveled to was colorful, and I often found myself trying to look around every cliff and under every platform to find power moons; I wound up being surprised every time to find a new platforming challenge. The concept of gameplay elements changing about as new enemies were captured was inspiring. Oh, and the references were off the charts. Super Mario Odyssey was such an absolute joy to play.
Thanks to everyone who read through our detailed Game of the Year picks, and don’t forget to check back at 12 EST on December 31st to see our final pick for the Scholarly Gamers 2017 GotY!