Mark Trapp

Fifteen games I enjoyed playing in 2017

Once more around the sun, a bunch of video games came out and I enjoyed playing some of them. 2017 was an amazing year for video games, and I tried to play as many of them as I could fit into my free time. Even so, I missed quite a few big releases this year, and am still working through others. Here's hoping 2018 is more of a quiet year so I can catch up!

Before I get to that list, the usual disclaimer: these are not the games I think are the best ones to come out in 2017. I don't play nearly enough games to be able to make that call in any year. And these aren't games that are perfect by any stretch of the imagination: every one of the games on this list has recognizable flaws. But they are games that I came back to time and time again this year, and are at least worth checking out if you ever get the chance.

Now, the list of games I really enjoyed playing in 2017, in alphabetical order:

Ether One

Ether One logo

What does it feel like to have dementia, and how would try to cure it from the inside of the patient's mind? These are the questions Ether One attempts to answer as an exploration/puzzle game set inside the mind of a patient suffering from dementia, trying to help them reconstruct past memories. It's a game that could easily tread into oversimplifying a disease for the sake of entertainment, but its treatment of dementia is quite empathetic and carefully considered.

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture logo

Set in a small English village, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is about solving a mystery: where did everyone go? As you move through the now-empty town, you experience "flashbacks" of conversations amongst the townspeople: you learn of relationships, goings on, and start to unravel what exactly happened. I found its ability to create a connection with its characters—without ever actually directly interacting with them—to be incredible, right up there with games like Gone Home.

Everything

Everything logo

What is it like to be a bat? A tree? A planet? A house? A horse? Anything? Everything? An extremely weird, but enthralling game, Everything is exploration game about being anything. And everything! It's quite difficult to explain, really. Go into it blind, if you can.

Factorio

Factorio logo

Factorio is about building the ultimate Rube-Goldberg machine via yak shaving. You are stranded on an alien world, and need to build a rocket to escape. How do you build a rocket? Well you need engines, and fuel, and a dozen other things. How do you build those? Well...

I Am Setsuna

I Am Setsuna logo
  • Genre: Japanese RPG
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Windows (I played the PlayStation 4 version)
  • Official website
  • Gameplay video

I am Setsuna is an unapologetic throwback to an older generation of Japanese RPGs: games like Final Fantasy VI* and Chrono Trigger. You form a party to protect Setsuna on her quest across the world to save it from some mysterious evil force: sound familiar? And like Chrono Trigger, you can combine your attacks to form combo attacks. It doesn't do anything new, but it was a great modern take on "one of those games".

Infinifactory

Infinifactory logo

Infinifactory is one of a series of "programming" games by developer Zachtronics: in each level, you're given a set of inputs, a limited set of "operations", and are tasked with creating specific outputs. Infinifactory's premise using these mechanics: you have been abducted by Vogon-like aliens and are tasked with creating pointless factories forever.

Infinifactory slightly overstays its welcome by having a few too many levels that require truly insane solutions, but if you find traditional puzzle games too easy, you can't go wrong giving any of Zachtronic's games a try.

Inside

Infinifactory logo

Inside is a puzzle platformer where you play as a boy on the run from a malevolent corporation. It's hard to talk about much more without spoiling any of the twists the game takes in both narrative and mechanics, but it blends both seamlessly and was a really enjoyable experience.

Linelight

Linelight logo

Linelight is a one-dimensional puzzle game. You are a light stuck on a line, and are tasked with navigating a series of puzzles to get to the end of each world. Each puzzle builds upon the last, and each world introduces new types of mechanics.

With its low-key gameplay and relaxing soundtrack, Linelight was a game I kept coming back to after a stressful day.

NieR: Automata

NieR: Automata logo

Set in a post-apocalyptic world where humans have long been forced off of Earth due to an ancient alien invasion, the world is now infested with the long-gone alien's machines. You play as 2B, an android as part of an expeditionary force tasked with trying to defeat the occupying force and make Earth habitable for humans again.

As you progress, you find the machines aren't just mindless automatons: without their makers and having "won" the war, they have begun to question their purpose. At times funny (there's an amazing scene where the machines "re-interpret" Romeo and Juliet) and heartbreaking, NieR: Automata is interesting exploration of existentialism and trying to figure out how to give meaning to an otherwise meaningless existence.

To tell its story, NieR: Automata goes places mechanically to create a narrative that could only be told via the medium of video games. Without spoiling too much, even the UI—normally an ignored "conceit"—is used to convey story elements and contribute to the plot. Its true ending is one of the most unique experiences in gaming.

NieR: Automata is not without its flaws, but given a chance, it's one of the best examples of what video games can be. If I had to pick, NieR: Automata is probably my game of the year.

Rime

Rime logo

Taking notes from Journey, Myst, and The Witness, Rime is an environmental puzzle game where you play as a young boy, shipwrecked on a mysterious island, trying to figure out how you got there and how to get home. The slow reveal of what is actually going on was one of the more emotional experiences of this year, and I highly recommend giving it a chance.

Slay the Spire

Slay the Spire logo

Slay the Spire is a dungeon-delving Rogue-like where combat is conducted via a deck-building game. Instead of typical card games like Hearthstone or Magic: the Gathering, you have a small deck that you expand over the course of the game. Instead of the game ending when you run out of cards in your deck, you simply reshuffle your discard pile and continue.

It's still in early access, but Slay the Spire already shows a lot of promise. If you like card games, but are looking to try something new, Slay the Spire is an easy recommendation.

Solitairica

Solitairica logo
  • Genre: Rogue-like, solitaire
  • Platforms: Android, iOS, Mac, Windows (I played the iOS version)
  • Official website
  • Trailer

Solitairica is what happens when you cross the classic game of Solitaire with a game like Puzzle Quest. Like Solitaire, you have a field of cards and a deck, and your goal is to remove all the cards on the field using cards dealt from your deck. However, in Solitairica, you have a health pool, and an AI opponent with its own deck trying to stop you. As you deal cards and remove cards from the field, you gain mana you can use to cast spells and use abilities.

Quite possibly my favorite on-the-go time waster of the year.

Transistor

Transistor logo

Transistor takes place in an Art Deco-styled simulated world that seems to have gone haywire. You play as Red, an opera singer who is betrayed by the world's elite to have her voice stolen, and a talking sword that serves as the main voice of the game. Combat is done via a tactical mode that lets you plan out attacks ahead of time.

Transistor is developer Supergiant Games's second game, and like its super popular predecessor Bastion, it oozes style, boasts a killer narration and an amazing soundtrack.

Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey logo

Despite many attempts over the years, I am not a Nintendo person. I have always found it hard to get into their games, even though they receive near-universal praise. Super Mario Odyssey has been an exception, and is the first Mario game I've beaten since Super Mario Land 3 for the original GameBoy.

What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch logo

What Remains of Edith Finch is a story about a family convinced it is cursed. Told through a series of vignettes as you walk around your family's old home, you learn how each family member interpreted the supposed curse and how they tried to overcome it: some stories are hilarious, some are absolutely tragic, and—like NieR: Automata—some are surprising in their use of mechanics, becoming a narrative that could only really be explored through the medium of games.


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