A merry Christmas to all of you out there that are taking a break from your families on this most Yule of evenings and have decided, for one reason or another, to spend some time reading this silly, clichéd offering of mine.
That’s right, as the title above suggests, I’ve decided to throw my hat in the ring with a top 10 list of my favorite games that I played this year. It’s been done to death by anyone with an interest in anything… But what can I say. I’ve always enjoyed the idea and wanted to try it myself.
As I don’t celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah ended a couple days ago, I’m just going to be hanging around all day today more or less. I figured doing a list like this could also double as my ‘here are some good gifts for the holiday season’ suggestions. A little late? Perhaps. But I like to think it’s just well-timed enough.
As a couple of forewarnings before we get into things. Just remember that this is my own personal list of favorites. In other words, it’s an opinionated list, so if you don’t agree with me… Well, that’s your opinion. I respect that you have your opinions so long as you respect that I have mine.
On top of that, while it has been an objectively great year for games in general, it has unfortunately not been a wonderful year of gaming for me. Because of the work constraints I’ve had as a college newspaper editor, a full-time student and an intern, there hasn’t been nearly as much time to play games as I would have liked.
So, if anything, these 10 games I’m listing off are arguably the only 10 games I’ve spent any considerable time actually playing this year.
If you don’t see a game you really liked this year, that’s probably why. As a matter of fact, unless you’re a Nintendo junkie like me, you probably won’t see a lot of games you’re familiar with on this list. A Switch and 3DS are my main gaming systems right now, so there aren’t a lot (if any) PS4 or Xbox games in my playing field.
With all that out of the way, let’s jump into the reason we’re all really here than, shall we? After all, what would a games list be without the games?
￼Editor’s Note: For anyone reading this on my blog proper, I’m going to stick the content under a read more tag. I pretty much let it all out with this one, so it’s long and I don’t want to completely bog everything else down.
Even so, I hope everyone enjoys the show! #UnintendedRhyme
10 ) Splatoon 2
As we start this off, let me just reiterate that this is a list of my favorite games. Thus, even this one at 10th place was a game I really enjoyed, I just happen to have reasons to put it lower than the rest.
That said, let’s talk Splatoon.
I really, really enjoyed Splatoon 1 on the Wii U. Seriously, that game was one of the main reasons I suggested everyone should have owned a Wii U when it was Nintendo’s cutting edge system. Alongside Super Mario Maker, Super Smash Brothers 4 and a number of other really solid titles, I kept pretty busy on that console.
When it comes to Splatoon 2, everything positive I had to say about the first game still stands. The punk-tween sea creature aesthetic that Splatoon as a series boasts is a quirky, wonderful twist to coat a first-person shooter, one that lends itself to plenty of humorous moments as well as interesting settings. It also happens to coat a really nice first-person shooter at that, one with plenty of diverse outfits, weapons and strategies to add an enjoyable layer of planning and execution for getting better with an archetype of your choice.
Plus, it’s a multiplayer-focused game that I can spend hours playing with all of my friends who also have a Switch.
While I enjoy the game series to death… The biggest problem with Splatoon 2 is just what I’ve been discussing already. Everything is very, very similar to Splatoon 1. Enough so that picking up the game I already felt a little burnt out on the formula, and as a whole that issue drastically cut my playtime of the sequel compared to its original.
There are some things that Splatoon 2 does far better than it’s predecessor, of course. First and foremost, it makes wonderful use of the mobile Switch console, which is a far better controller for the game than the Wii U gamepad in my opinion. It’s smaller, easier to use and move around, and feels a little more precise with both button and gyroscope playstyles.
It also has a far better, more fleshed out single player experience. I felt much more engaged in the story mode of Splatoon 2 than I did Splatoon 1. On top of that, the new Salmon Run game mode was a really fun addition that I found more fun than Turf War at times.
However, beyond those two stand-out examples, Splatoon 2 really felt like Splatoon 1+. There were a few smaller mechanical things that also contributed to a better experience, but not enough to help the game stand out significantly.
All-and-all, a super solid follow-up that unfortunately didn’t stray far enough from the shadow of it’s blockbuster opening title. But still a game I know I’ll return to now and then.
9 ) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Now, anyone who claims they are a ‘Nintendo junkie’ must be some kind of crazy poser if they want to put this smash hit so low on their ‘top games’ list, right? I can certainly see why someone would say that… But let me just explain my decision.
Breath of the Wild is a game I was, for lack of a better term, wildly excited for as the initial announcements came out. In fact, you can see my excitement in this blog post I wrote for E3 2016. I watched that particular trailer on repeat for days on end, there was just something about the music they used and the visuals they showed that made me feel like a kid again, playing Twilight Princess with my parents.
Unfortunately, when the Switch first launched, I wasn’t able to get my hands on the console. Plus, from everything I’d heard, the Wii U version wasn’t nearly as comprehensive or fun an experience to enjoy, so I decided to skip out on it. It wouldn’t be until the summer of this year that I got a Switch and a copy of the latest Zelda adventure.
The game itself is an absolute joy, by every sense of the word. It’s visually gorgeous and has an expansive open world that’s wonderful to explore due to said visuals and a whole crapload of charm built into the locales and the Non-Playable Characters (NPCs) inhabiting them.
New additions to the Zelda formula are also undoubtedly a check in the ‘really good’ category for this game. The relatively non-linear story and early adoption of unlimited exploratory powers gives players the chance to explore Hyrule at their own pace, enjoying as much or as little of the immense detail that is packed into the game as possible. The breakable weapon system, while annoying at first, encourages players to constantly upgrade their arsenal and try out a wide variety of tools to waste enemies, and there’s tons of tools to choose from for that purpose. The story is a huge departure from a normal Zelda game, and fairly heartbreaking in just the right emotionally-taxing way.
There’s plenty of other things I can go into to express my love of the experience playing Breath of the Wild. Honestly, I’ll never forget the moment when I first found myself in the snow-capped Lanaryu Mountain to the east side of Hyrule, where one of the elemental dragons awaited atop the peak corrupted by Ganon’s blight. The mission where you purify the dragon, Naydra, before watching it ascend into the heavens in complete silence is truly one of the most transcendent, captivating experiences I’ve ever seen in a video game.
With all of that said, how can Breath of the Wild be so low on the list, I hear you still asking. Well… To be honest, I think for me it’s a case of the game being too much of a good thing.
Yeah, as silly as that must sound, I think this game clashed with my personal playstyle a little too much in just the wrong ways. I’m a bit of a Completionist when it comes to gaming, so the idea of exploring such a wide world packed with secrets is an inherently overwhelming task – but not one I shied away from. (Quick mid-discussion shout out to the Completionist himself for providing me a wonderful word to utilize in my every day vocabulary)
I thoroughly explored every inch of about a quarter of the map, getting every single secret I could get my hands on. It was a blast… But it was an almost frustratingly exhaustive time sink. Every time I picked up the game I had a great time, but I felt like I couldn’t play for a long time without being wiped out, and afterwards I just had to take a couple days break from playing.
Eventually, those couple days grew and grew, to the point that I almost found reasons to put off playing the game entirely.
Maybe it’s just some weird mental block I haven’t come to terms with that keeps me away from Breath of the Wild, and one day I’m sure I’ll return to the post-apocalyptic Hyrule it creates (as I’ve only gotten one of the four Sacred Beasts in my playthrough), but when I do I’ll have to decide whether I feel it’s worth coming in just to finish the story and move on, otherwise I get the feeling I might burn myself out on it again.
8 ) Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions
I actually wrote an extended review of the Superstar Saga remake earlier this year for the Daily Titan. It was one of my most anticipated titles of the year, after all, so it seemed like a good way to force myself to get my feelings out in a quick, succinct fashion.
The general range of my thoughts are laid out there, so I won’t go too much into detail about it here.
However, I wound up never finishing my “Director’s Cut” review of the game that I was going to put out following that basic review, so I think it’s worth going into things at least a little bit.
The original Superstar Saga came out on the Gameboy Advanced in 2003, and to this day it’s undoubtedly among my top five favorite Mario games. The game is not only highly enjoyable and humorous, it’s a great little contained adventure to boot. In fact, I would say it’s one of my benchmarks for how to write a relatively short, compact and entertaining story.
Plus, I would also say it has pixel art that still stands out to this day. I remember years ago I would take the sprites for the game, particularly of Mario and Luigi themselves, and customize them using the Graphic Converter software. I’d make my own custom sprites for power-ups that don’t appear in the game, I’d try my hand at very rudimentary animation and at one point I even made silly little custom scenes based on Super Smash Brothers fights.
It was always a good time, and it always comes back to me whenever I think of Superstar Saga. It’s a game I think of quite often, in fact. I played it at least once a year for a long time, so I was incredibly excited to find out it was being remade.
For the most part, I’d say I wasn’t disappointed by that remake. The 3DS version stays incredibly loyal to it’s older counterpart in visuals, in audio and in story, while updating absolutely everything to make an even more beautiful and enveloping experience.
However… There were a number of trade-offs outside of the presentation that kept the game from being higher up on my list. The only song that didn’t get an improvement in the transition was the general battle theme, which when combined with a number of other mechanical elements led to an overwhelmingly slow, albeit more fluid and pretty, battle system. It was a shame too, considering how fun and fast-pace the original game’s combat was.
On top of that, everything from the combat itself to the overworld ability use has been simplified. Arguably this makes things better and easier… But as someone who experienced the original game, I feel like it lost quite a bit of the intrinsic challenge that comes with an older system’s limitations. Challenge that, in part, helped make the game so fun in the first place.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on the Bowser’s Minions side story. On the one hand, I want to love it. I want to love it so very much. It provides an entire fleshed out plot line that explains how many of the strange or out-of-context events of the game occur in a very creative and entertaining way. Yet, the game accompanying that plot is an utter bore in my opinion. I see what the developers were going for by creating more of a strategic squad-building battle simulator of sorts, but I just could not get into it for the life of me.
That game mode and the slower combat were the main hitches in an otherwise wonderful remake of a wonderful game. However, those two elements were overwhelming chunks of the experience. Thus, personally I think I might be more apt to return to the original version more often than not in the future.
But who knows – only time will tell.
7 ) Jackbox Party Pack 3
Now this one is a little bit of a cop-out, I’ll admit. It’s certainly not a 2017 title, as a matter of fact Jackbox Party Pack 4 was released this year, so that one should arguably take its place on this list right?
Well… Not quite.
This is my list, so I can make my own rules to an extent. In this case, I think it’s prudent to put this game on the list because I’ve had so much fun with it this year. Though it is a long-time favorite among my group of friends to boot up this gem of a game (and it’s prequels, for that matter) at just about every hang-out we have, I feel like this year it has had an especially big impact that I can remember.
For those of you who are uninitiated in the Jackbox Party Pack empire, the games can be described as a series of collections featuring party-specific miniature titles that excel in offering brief but highly enjoyable experiences with friends. The games typically pit everyone against one another in interesting ways, or offer everyone a chance to work together toward some ridiculous goal.
All of the fun is also predicated on often Cards Against Humanity-level humor that provide everyone the opportunity to show off their most horribly hilarious sides.
In the third party pack specifically, a few games stand out in my mind. Tee K.O. is a game where each player has the chance to draw a number of T-shirt designs, then write out a collection of potential slogans that one might see (or wouldn’t ever see) on a T-shirt. After that, everyone’s creations are shuffled, and each player can make their favorite combination to pit against one another.
Fakin’ It is another crowd favorite amongst everyone in my circle besides my friend Juan, who for some reason always hates the game that the rest of us seem to love the most. In it, one player is a ‘Faker’ while the rest of the group is given a prompt based on some easily falsifiable task (for example, pointing toward a specific person or raising up a certain number of figures). The Faker has to do their best to blend in for three rounds at a time to earn extra points, with the group as a whole being given the opportunity to vote on who they believe is the Faker each time.
Really, while the games collection in Party Pack 3 are our favorite of the bunch, this entry could be interchangeable with any other title in the series. They’re all just incredible, stupid fun games for friends that everyone should play with their closest buddies.
Oh and did I mention that the games, while hosted off of a console or P.C., use the Jackbox website for it’s player base? That means anyone with a smartphone or laptop can join in on the fun. It’s a wonderful system, without a doubt.
6 ) Sonic Mania
I’ve never been a huge Sonic player, myself. Never owned the consoles to play his earliest adventures, and it wasn’t until Sonic Heroes for the Gamecube that I was finally able to experience some of the magic of the blue blur for myself. I adored that game growing up, and even if I can admit that it hasn’t aged particularly well, my nostalgia for it still reigns supreme.
Sonic the Hedgehog doesn’t have a great reputation nowadays. Most of his games have a good fan following but not much critical acclaim. However, Sonic Mania promised to be different. It was touted as a tour de force return to the Sonic titles of old, the Genesis-era gems that brought the character into the limelight as Mario’s rival. Because I haven’t played any of those original Sonic games, I never truly understood what made him so popular.
Luckily, I can say that Sonic Mania has given me a truly wonderful entryway into that age of Sonic’s history. I completely understand why there was so much hype, as from what I understand the game is everything the originals were, just updated and improved to the nth degree.
It’s fun, it’s fast-paced, it’s manic and it was clearly pulled together by some people who are incredibly passionate about all things Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s fun to blast through new worlds and old worlds recreated with a splendid amount of new aesthetics and mechanical content.
However, while running through cleverly designed worlds meant to make you feel like the fastest thing alive is clearly the main draw of the game, you ironically miss out on a huge amount by just zooming through everything. The details in the background of each world are immaculate, and they all deserve a solid couple hours spend standing around in different places taking everything in.
It’s also chock-full of references to Sonic’s long history that, while in part are lost on me, are huge for people like my friend Juan who has been a Sonic fanatic for years.
Hell, this game honestly wouldn’t be half of what it is to me right now if it weren’t for that first night I tried it. I went over to his house after I believe summer orientation for the paper and we stayed up until 3 a.m. the day he got the game just playing through everything. It was magical and I went and bought the game for myself the very next day.
While I’m mentioning him again, go check out Juan over on Twitter (and his Tumblr for that matter, which you can find an extension to from there). He’s a really cool dude and mostly everything he passes along are cute animals and video game memes that never cease to make me feel better on a shitty day.
My only real issue with Sonic Mania is that, for me, it’s not the most replayable game. Don’t get me wrong, there’s tons of replayability value to the game between the multiple paths of each level, mini games and achievement-like collectibles, but I get in my own weird headspace when I play a game like this where I wind up going the same way every time because it seems like the most succinct path.
I don’t know, I guess that’s just my own personal issue. Honestly Sonic Mania is an early jewel in the Switch’s game lineup that anyone should own. It’s fun, beautiful and relatively cheap. Definitely pick this one up.
5 ) Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
While Sonic has never necessarily been in my wheelhouse, Fire Emblem definitely has. Since the earliest days of the Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Program, where I got to play the Sacred Stones for the first time in fact. After that, I dipped into Fire Emblem Awakening alongside my friend Jonathan, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Echoes was announced at the same time as Fire Emblem Warriors and Fire Emblem Heroes during a Nintendo Direct toward the beginning of the year. I talked about it back then as something I was pretty excited for, a remake of the second Fire Emblem title. I’ve played Shadow Dragon, a remake of the original Fire Emblem game, so Echoes was an opportunity to round-out my experiences with the earlier games in the series.
Beyond just being a beautifully updated history lesson, Echoes also came with the promise of being a whole new kind of experience in the Fire Emblem canon. After all, the original game came with an experience that would never again show up in the games: Third person dungeon crawling segments.
Echoes delivered the traditionally difficult, engaging birds-eye unit strategy game fans love and more.
I adored my time playing Fire Emblem Echoes, and by god did I spend a lot of time playing it. There are three overarching acts in the game. The first is two separate campaigns following Alm, a farm boy who learned the art of war from his general Grandfather, and Celica, a princess forced into hiding after an usurping force burned her home and killed her parents. The two are separated from childhood despite promising to always be together and eventually reunite due to the tides of war.
The second act has them playable side-by-side after they’ve met up again and gone their separate ways in pursuit of their own goals (Alm looking to destroy the empire that seeks to ruin his home and Celica hoping to restore the power of a kidnapped Manakete goddess).
The third act leads to the two separate armies gathering together to face off against the ultimate evil force driving close to every terrible act in the game.
Undoubtedly it’s a tale that’s been told before, in fact throughout the game I felt like much of it was rehashing what I had seen previously in the Sacred Stones (or I suppose what the Sacred Stones rehashed from Echoes considering the actual chronology, but I digress). Despite that, it’s a tale that’s told masterfully well.
Though most of the characters on both sides of the army only have one major moment at the beginning or end of a mission to characterize them, they have a wonderful little bit of personality. That personality is often exacerbated through the support conversations they have, as is seen in the more modern Fire Emblem titles.
Yet, overall, I would argue the worst part of Echoes is that it doesn’t go far enough with characterization. It’s incredibly loyal to the original game through it’s updates, but I would argue that’s to a fault in this respect. I want to see the characters interact more. I want to see their relationships flourish, and even if I can totally back the “canonical” pairings being set in stone from the original title, I really wish we got to see more interactions all the same.
The worst offender that kind of sums the whole thing up for me is Genny. She’s far and beyond my favorite character in the game, but the only support interaction she has is with a character you don’t get until halfway through the adventure. That’s despite the fact that Genny and Celica are described as being close enough to be sisters throughout the game. Like great that you say that, but show don’t tell a little game! Why don’t they talk!
Anyway… That’s a discussion I could have another day. There are plenty of relationship-related things that are fucked up across Fire Emblem titles that make me upset, but this isn’t the place for it.
Just know that if you want a game with stellar strategy elements and an interesting couple of twists on behalf of the dungeon crawling and weapon forging game play, Fire Emblem Echoes is your homie. Just be warned, if you’re used to the usual Fire Emblem formula from recent games like Awakening and Fates, the systematic changes in Echoes may be a bit jarring to start off with.
4 ) Super Mario Odyssey
Ah Mario. Mario, Mario, Mario. Is there truly anything more lighthearted and entertaining than a Mario game?
Well I suppose that depends on your tastes. And the specific game in question. Kirby comes to mind in fact… But for the purposes of this argument, let’s just say no.
Mario games are something special. More often than not they represent the best of the best when it comes to a Nintendo console’s capabilities. Think about it: Super Mario 3, Super Mario World, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario 3D World… They’re all incredible games in their own rights, and are more often than not listed in the annals of gaming history as hallmarks to reach for.
Super Mario Odyssey is no exception in that regard.
Though the game took an unusual backseat to Breath of the Wild as the Switch’s launch day huge first party game (a title which Mario games have taken for centuries now), having to wait a year for the plumber’s world-traversing adventure has certainly been worth all the anticipation it brought.
Just about everyone in the world, myself included, has been hankering for Odyssey since the first major trailer where our titular hero took over the mind of a T-Rex. Though it took me a little extra time to get my hands on this one, I can assure anyone out there who’s curious that yes. It’s just as exhilarating to play as Mario taking over a T-Rex as you might imagine.
The game follows Mario as he chases after Bowser and his new allies, the Bunny Broodals, as they travel to different kingdoms stealing objects to help plan and execute the Koopa King’s marriage to Princess Peach. All the while, of course, they cause havoc in each area.
Little vignettes happen in every kingdom outside of the overall ‘chase bowser’ plot thread, and it works marvelously with the game’s great writing and enthralling visual design to make a game that exudes charm from every pore. Especially the little things, like Mario’s model changing whenever he gets covered in water, covered in soot or having his nose bloat up when he hits a cactus. Those details are marvelous to discover and observe in the game.
The gameplay itself also stands strong in Odyssey. The mechanical gimmick of the game revolves around Mario’s now sentient cap, which is really a hat ghost named Cappy that took its form when the plumber agreed to help find Cappy’s sister alongside Peach. Bowser took her to be the Princess’ tiara for the wedding.
Cappy can be thrown to take over different enemies so Mario can use their powers to help him advance and solve puzzles. There’s a variety of enemies to use in a number of ways that keep the mechanic interesting and fresh each time the hero enters a new world.
There are also some motion control gimmicks to the game that I’ve seen some people find intrusive, but I quite enjoy. For the most part, from what I’ve experienced, I don’t find them problematic. A lot of them don’t seem to be required so much as they’re simply beneficial. For example, something like jumping as a frog works fine with just button controls, but if you do it by shaking the joy cons you get way higher and arguably more useful jumps.
If it isn’t obvious, I love Mario Odyssey. However, I can’t justify putting it much higher on this list because… Frankly, I haven’t gotten that far into it. I played it a bunch with my friends, but in my personal playthrough of the game I’ve only made it as far as the Metro Kingdom, New Donk City.
Oh, and New Donk is an experience worth the price of admission all by itself, I might add. It’s seriously phenomenal.
Once I beat the story as a whole I’m sure I’ll love it even more, but for now I’m just enjoying the slow, wonderful romp through the expansive collect-a-thon that is Mario Odyssey. Even incomplete it’s definitely the Switch experience to define a Switch experience.
3 ) Pokémon Sun & Moon + Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon
There are not enough good things in the world for me to say about Pokémon as a series. It’s my absolute favorite gaming series of all time, and I hold no qualms saying so. The build-up to Pokémon Sun & Moon gave me one of the first big things to do with my blog back in the day, since I would go over every single detail about the games that were given pre-release.
Unless I missed one or two. But that’s a different story.
It was a blast to do, either way, and I really felt a strong attachment seeing it all come to life on my 3DS at the end of 2016.
I had such a strong attachment in fact that I kept playing it into 2017. Well into 2017 at that, I was still talking about taking part in battle competitions by the time February rolled around. Despite being arguably one of the easiest Pokémon games on the block, Sun & Moon is entirely worth every moment of playtime for creating such a beautiful world full of fun characters and interesting monsters.
I have a pretty extended little discussion of my feelings about Sun & Moon written up back in 2016 for the Daily Titan, and I’m still pretty proud of how it turned out. So I’d go back and read that.
I also did a little multimedia piece with my friend Chris – our Layout Editor at the time – who I had a pleasure sitting down and talking about the game with on camera just as we would in casual conversation. I’d also say that’s worth checking out:
Though be warned, you’ll be seeing a much younger, barely scruffy bearded version of me there.
However, a game from the first two months of the year that bled heavily into the last probably isn’t enough to justify a place on this year’s list.
Luckily the sequel to the games, Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon, came out this November.
I’ll admit that I haven’t actually completely beaten Ultra Moon at the point that I’m writing this. It’s strange, as this is probably the first Pokémon game I’ve ever played that I didn’t absorb in a matter of two weeks or so. On the one hand, it’s certainly in part because I’ve been busy with life and enjoying the game in spurts rather than large, extended play times.
Yet… On the other hand, as much as I’ve been adoring my time with Ultra Moon, I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the reason I’m taking so long is because of the game’s similarity to the first ones in both release timing and content.
From what the developers of the game explained, Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon are technically set in alternate universes than Sun & Moon take place in. That’s how they explain the somewhat varied environments, story progression and overall motifs of the newer games compared to the originals.
For the most part, I don’t think I’d be remiss arguing that the Ultra games do what their predecessors did but better. The already gorgeous Alola region is given a facelift in places that make it even more impressive, such as utilizing a new field of diverse island flowers on Route 1. They also add far more personality to the inhabitants of Alola by providing players tons of new things to do. The amount of side quests in the Ultra games is easily triple how many were in the original games, and they truly make the world come alive.
Honestly, there are a few I’ll never forget. The Ditto Five side quest, the haunted trainer school side quest, the Mimikyu Z-Crystal side quest… Some of them seriously hit it out of the ball park.
Yet, as far as the overall changes go, things are a little more grey. There’s a huge trade-off when it comes to story especially. For example, there was sort of a promise leading up to Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon that all the Island Challenge trials were going to be revamped for a new experience. Arguably they are… But some are more redeveloped than others.
The Electric-type trial and the new Fairy-type trial, for example are hugely welcome additions to the game. However, something like the Water-type trial feels neutered and unsatisfying after the original.
The overarching plot behind the Legendary Pokémon and Ultra Beasts also have hit-or-miss changes. I love the Ultra Recon Squad, and the motivations behind Lusamine’s actions are far more enjoyable in the Ultra games. However, the end-game content with Necrozma feels incredibly rushed and underwhelming, and even cool moments like capturing Necrozma after the ultimate encounter feel sort of hampered because of it.
Plus, I’ll admit, I miss the corrupted Lusamine fight in Ultra Space. Even if I like Lusamine’s arc better overall in the new games, her final fight in the originals is something special.
All that said, I have mixed feelings about the Ultra games. However, my ultimate conclusion basically boils down to this: Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon are what Sun & Moon felt like they should have been. They’re more impressive experiences, but I’m not sure enough is different to feel justified in there being two different versions.
It seriously seems like the team ran out of time and had to release Sun & Moon in a slightly unfinished way, with Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon being the true, complete visions. Yet, because those original versions came out first, there are things from that original version that I can’t get around preferring.
I’m probably going to release a more extended post going into detail about my thoughts, so for now I’ll leave it at this. Even if my statements here feel negative, calling the game similar to their originals is truly a double-edged sword because I loved the first games so much.
Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon are just as worthwhile as their predecessors, if not moreso. I just wish there was more time in between so things didn’t feel like quite as much of a rehash.
Still have to get to the Rainbow Rocket portions, however, and those may just make or break the game for me.
2 ) Fire Emblem Heroes
Don’t act like you didn’t see this coming.
If you’ve spent any time on my blog, you would know that my big obsession throughout this year has been Fire Emblem Heroes. I already discussed my history with the series as a whole up above, and Heroes has kind of been a brilliant little connecting thread among all the things I like about the games.
Once again, I have a story on the Daily Titan reviewing the mobile title, and that was a good observation of the game upon it’s initial release. However, the game has grown and evolved so much more since then.
At it’s core, it’s still a simplified version of a Fire Emblem title that blends heroes from every game in the series together in a beautifully unified front. It’s a perfect game for newcomers to the series as much as it is a fun nostalgia trip for veterans.
The developers at Intelligent Systems have been giving the game a ton of love since it’s release. At least once, if not twice a month, new characters are released into the game. Characters from the few games initially represented in the title, and characters from other games that weren’t there originally to better flesh out the experience.
Hell, there are even a ton of special characters in outfits to represent different seasons and holidays, extra special collectibles that sometimes pay homage to the roots of those characters and sometimes provide interesting gimmicks and strategies unseen before. We’re still working through the Christmas summoning banner as is, and I’m happy to report that I do have a Winter-themed Lissa like I wanted originally.
While the updates add more characters, they also add more mechanics to complicate the game and improve upon the strategic elements even more. Since the release, we’ve gained the ability to inherit skills, upgrade individual weapons, utilize sacred seals for bonus abilities and more.
Between those additions, the constantly growing storyline that only just recently got itself going in a big bad way (making the early months feel like an experiment in character attachment before implementing a plot) and the feeling of joy I’ve gotten out of playing the game alongside my close friends for so long, I’ve only grown more and more attached to Heroes throughout the year.
Yet… It’s flaws have begun to show the longer I play, as well.
While I initially considered the free-to-play microtransaction system harmless and fair if anything, that was before I ran out of major ways to earn orbs. Now, it has practically become a meme among my friends that we hit long bouts of dry spells while multiple impressive banners for heroes to summon appear in a row. Hell, some of those banners are even manipulative in a kind of lousy way by splitting new characters across multiple banners appearing at the same time.
So while I still have tons of fun playing the game and continue to play it every day, it does have a dangerous side. A side that I’ve begun to feel less okay about supporting with real money like I was happy to at the beginning when it was just supporting a wonderful free game.
But that, as I said with my Pokémon portion, is potentially a story for another day.
For now, Fire Emblem Heroes continues to be one of the best video game decisions I’ve made all year. It truly started my romp into mobile games, I still play it every day, and I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had with my friends for the world.
Plus, it gives me something to write about, since it’s one of the few things I have time to really play thanks to the chopped-up, short-form gameplay and my lack of an open schedule. I’m sure some people are tired of seeing it from me, but I’ll love talking into the void about it all the same.
1 ) Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links
The sleeper hit of 2017 for me wasn’t Fire Emblem Heroes, as my obsessive posts about the game throughout the year might suggest.
No, it was definitely Duel Links. The mobile game that, in my opinion, has the most perfected free-to-play formula, updates consistently and provides me something to do no matter where I am in short, digestible chunks or long bouts of play. It’s the game that has been my stress relief and personal source of joy for a long, long time now, and I don’t see that stopping any time soon.
It might be weird to put two mobile phone games at the top of my top games list… But like I said, I haven’t had time to play a lot of games, and these two titles have truly been my rock through that trial.
Plus Duel Links is available on Steam now. So… It’s technically a P.C. game too. Suck it.
There are plenty of reasons I adore Duel Links outside of it being a stress relief I can take anywhere I go.
In one respect, it’s the embodiment of a certain degree of nostalgia in my life that I never knew I needed. When I discovered the game through a YouTuber I watch, shadypenguinn, at first I just watched the series because I love his personality and expected to see some things I remembered from a childhood of playing Yu-Gi-Oh! long forgotten.
But boy did that fond reminiscing take on a life of it’s own.
For the longest time in the earlier months of the spring 2017 semester, I remember watching his videos fondly. The whole time I was considering playing the game myself, but couldn’t bring myself to take the time out of my otherwise packed schedule to do it.
Then Spring Break hit, and I decided to finally download the game. I haven’t looked back since.
At it’s core, Duel Links is just a mobile version of the complete Yu-Gi-Oh! card game. Or at least, a mobile version of the earliest years of Yu-Gi-Oh! simplified down to make quicker games in an on-the-go format.
Classic characters were the first to be available with their own decks and signature cards. They all have interactions with one another and vocals straight from the original run of the anime that truly bring the characters to life with blazing personalities. It’s fun to play as the characters and see them talk about their cards as much as it is to build your own strategies and decks.
As time has passed, that much hasn’t changed. Now there are just far more characters, including those from the secondary Yu-Gi-Oh! GX world (that I also vaguely remember from my childhood, but not quite as well) and a serious treasure trove of cards from pack openings and special events to build out.
The game has a cyclical rhythm to it in that overall aim. You need to get your characters stronger and find more cards to complete missions and advance and find more characters. Those characters provide even more possibilities through new skills and extra gems (the main currency for getting cards) that lead to unlocking more and more so you can unlock more and more people and…
Well, you get the point.
Like Heroes, this game is also constantly updated. More events are added that introduce special characters, there are card-specific events, aesthetic and mechanical gameplay features are improved and certain cards are nerfed to keep multiplayer balanced.
Oh yeah, did I mention? A huge part of the game is playing against real people. Deck against deck, luck against luck, mind against mind. It’s something that can be done endlessly, so even if you run out of your daily NPC fights you can literally always go on the ladder and try to earn more goods that way.
That’s what truly makes Duel Links shine in my opinion: There’s always something to do.
With a lot of mobile games, you can do things for a couple minutes and then you have to wait a couple of hours unless you’re willing to shell out some cash or have an item readily available to restore your energy. That element of Duel Links is there, but it’s by no means the end-all-be-all of the game.
When you run out of your (maximum) 10 NPC battles for a period of time, if you don’t want to wait or restore them right then, there are plenty of other options.
Is there a special event happening? See if you have the stuff available to do that. Do you have the cards to make decent decks? Why not grind out some battles in the ever-present Legendary Duelist gate. You earn keys through NPC battles to open up access to token characters from the series (who are the ones you play as) which can net you rare cards. At it’s most rudimentary, for example, dueling Yugi with black keys can get you more copies of Dark Magician, and dueling Kaiba with white keys can get you more copies of Blue-Eyes White Dragon.
Though the keys, like many of the other resources, are sparse at first, eventually you can easily hit a point where you have too much of everything. It’s basically the opposite of a game like Heroes, where the longer you play the less likely you are to find things. In Duel Links, you can always fight on the ladder or fight NPCs to earn keys and gold. Those keys can fight legendary duelists, which have increased odds to drop things like rare cards and gems. Thus, even when you run out of large gem hordes from upgrading characters, you can still grind out gems forever if you need to.
I’m planning a post for the future to discuss the gem economy in Duel Links further because it’s a fascinating system, just know for now that you can always do something in this game.
That’s probably why I love Duel Links the most. Not only is it a nostalgia trip. Not only is it an easy time sink. Not only is it a fun strategic game. But it’s one that’s fair (besides some really minuscule RNG-based elements that are arguably negligible) and knows how to keep it’s player base happy while always releasing more content to keep them engaged.
Even if they arguably release too much content too fast and make it almost impossible to consume. But again, a different story for another day.
Just… Honestly. I don’t have enough words to describe how much I love, love, LOVE Duel Links. If you want something to lose your time to while always feeling like you’re progressing, this is the game to do it. Even newcomers have a path to climb if they don’t want to spend money. I know because I did, and since I’ve started there’s only more and more available to help anyone get up to speed.
It’s definitely a must for anyone who’s ready to D-D-D-D-Duel.
￼Like I’ve reiterated throughout this list, 2017 was a hard year for regular gaming in my house, but it was a wonderful year for embracing the world of mobile games and their portability beyond what even a 3DS can offer.
How was your 2017 for gaming? Obviously I’m more of a Nintendo junkie, but I’m sure my friends would rave for hours about Horizon Zero Dawn or Overwatch or any number of other games that hit big strides this year.
What were some of your favorites? What do you think of my list? Are there any things you agree or disagree with, any stories you might want to share?
Let me know in the comments below!
Once again, I hope everyone has a happy holiday season, and here’s looking ahead to the New Year with some hopefully wonderful new games to play.