It’s that time of year again where everyone who ever took a keyboarding class decides the rest of the world gives a shit about their opinion. I’m old enough that they called it “typing” when I was in school and if anyone had said keyboarding we would have punched them right in their sniveling faces. That’s how we did things back in my day, those hard knock times known as the 80s.
Having taken the aforementioned typing class, I feel it my duty to share with you what I feel are my five favorite games of the year. Because most of my opinions are stupid and wrong, I’ve also asked the other SP writers to come along and share theirs. We’ll start today with all the games that didn’t quite make it into our Top Five. Let’s face it, 2017 was a boffo year for games. Not just mobile games, but gaming in general. There were a slew of great tabletop and PC games released this year and let’s not forget Nintendo’s extremely successful experiment, The Switch. Because I hate confrontation, I let the writers pick from whatever platforms they wanted as they put together their lists. Having such a wide selection made narrowing things down to only five items a bit daunting, so I also received a lot of games that were almost top five games, and probably would have been any other year. On to the runners-up!
Stately Play’s Almost Top Games of 2017
Three stand out for not quite making the cut: Super Mario Odyssey, Warhammer Quest 2, and Age of Rivals. I’m biased enough against the genre that Mario was merely great, especially for playing with a youthful sidekick. WHQ2 was lovely, but stabbed itself in the kidneys by not replacing random enemy spawning with another method of creating tension. Age of Rivals is the only one I really hate to leave off my list, but I don’t think I can boot anything else in good conscience, either. It’s been quite a year!
Others worthy of mention include the sequels to Framed and Monument Valley, both of which were great, but short and innovated little within their series. Subsurface Circular and Warlock of Firetop Mountain were excellent interactive fiction. Onirim, especially with the first two expansions, is so effective a phone game that I sort of bounced off Card Thief (by which I mean I probably only put about ten hours into it) and never tried most of the other great phone games this year, like Missile Cards, Solitairica, and FlipFlop. I’m even non-ironically very grateful to have Tokaido on the iPad—it would never be my first choice, but a gorgeous version of my son’s favorite game is with me whenever I travel.
The one game I wish could have fit on my list was one you’ll only find in cardboard form, The Fox in the Forest. It’s a great 2-player trick-taking card game, but you can read all about that in my review.
2017 was an incredible year for video games. Any of games I’m about to mention probably would have made my top five last year, which is frankly ridiculous. Age of Rivals and Flipflop Solitaire were the mobile games that got the most play from me this year, since I still haven’t been able to wrap my head around Through the Ages. There were two multiplayer shooters I got into this year: Splatoon 2 and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Splatoon 2 is my ideal pick up and play multiplayer game, and I love how “fresh” both its aesthetics and design are. Battlegrounds was the game that I was most surprised to like. Every match has moments of slapstick insanity butting up against sheer terror. I’m excited to pick it up again once the new map releases. Heat Signature is basically a “do cool shit in space” simulator that I can pop on for ten minutes at a time. And a final, late-breaking entry: the mind-bending and beautiful Gorogoa.
Gorogoa – I haven’t had time to form a complete opinion of Gorogoa yet, but I’m a sucker for games with distinctive art styles, and I could just look at Gorogoa forever.
Night in the Woods – Did I mention that I’m a sucker for distinctive art? Night in the Woods has that in spades, plus a nuanced almost-everyday plot and subtle characterization of the sort that we so rarely see. Oh and queer representation, something I crave in story games.
Bury Me My Love – another game with beautiful art (see a theme here?), Bury Me My Love is loosely in the same genre as the lifeline games, but is a socially conscious “texting” game about a couple of Syrian refugees separated by the ongoing humanitatian disaster. Thematically reminiscent of that cheerful, lighhtearted romp This War of Mine.
The Arcana – this visual novel has some great character writing, an original fantasy setting, and jaw-dropping art. A diverse romance with characters that exceed and defy their tropes, it is… complicated… by FTP monetization of a fair-but-still-frustrating sort.
Monsterhearts 2 – my favourite tabletop game of the year, a beautifully queer-inclusive RPG about teenage monsters in love (hate, despair, elation, inconsolable sadness and other extreme emotional states). More like Monsterhearts 2.0 than a sequel, the main focus of the revision is on focusing on the intangible emotional core of the game’s teenage werewolves, vampires (sparkles optional), ghouls, ghosts, and beasties that go bump and grind in the night.
Tomorrow we’ll get into the actual Top Five with everyones’ choices for #5 and #4. Stay tuned.