GOTY 2017: Aaron's Honorable Mentions
While our list of the top ten games of the year is a collaborative effort, there are always some casualties. Our Honorable Mentions offer each staff member a chance to highlight some of their other personal favorite games of 2017 that simply didn't make the cut.
Last year was total butt.
I used to find it easy to make time for games.
They're just one type of media I love, but games are perhaps the medium I spend the most time with. I derive joy from dissecting, sharing, and writing about them, which hasn't been the case with film and books. When work was stressful or my relationships were rocky, I'd still carve out a few hours of my week to visit myriad digital worlds.
And then I stopped giving a shit.
I didn't touch a game for nearly half of 2017. I mentioned it in my write-up for What Remains of Edith Finch, but 2017 isn't going on-record as a great year for me personally. Professionally speaking, it was also butt.
In the spring, my wife and I were shocked by a significant, unexpected loss. Video games became comparably frivolous. I barely touched a console, handheld, or PC until late summer.
Then, in the fall, I was laid off. My survival instincts kicked in and I spent the next two months hustling for work, which I eventually—thankfully—found.
I'm not writing all this to ask for pity or to compare suffering. Politically, economically, and socially speaking, 2017 sucked for a great number of people I know and care about, and even more for millions I've never met but with whom I deeply empathize.
The point of sharing is to exorcise the last horrible demons of 2017 in this public forum, a space I'm so thankful to have. It's been a long road back to caring about games and the games industry. But I'm sincerely glad I found a way to welcome this weird, dumb hobby of mine back into my life.
On that note, let's get some housekeeping done: below are some brief notes on my other favorite, albeit not perfect, games of 2017.
Assassin's Creed Origins
Ubisoft Montreal | October 27, 2017 | PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
No surprise here. Despite not expecting much from it, Origins made Assassin's Creed great again. (Oh, shit—we can't use those words together anymore, can we?)
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
MachineGames | October 27, 2017 | PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
Admittedly, this was a disappointing sequel. The first rebooted Wolfenstein was so, so good. We even awarded it a spot near the top of our list back in 2014! Its sequel was, well, less good.
My criticism boils down to this: it didn't go hard enough on killing and humiliating Nazis. That audacious "audition" scene aside (spoilers), I kept waiting for MachineGames and Bethesda to deliver on their social media bloviations, what with the company’s takedown of the alt-right, Neo-Nazis, and Trump.
Shortcomings aside, I loved the new freedom-fighting secondary characters and the ostentatious cutscenes, which were the best part of the entire game. As such, I wouldn't object if MachineGames turns Wolfenstein III into a feature-length animated movie.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
Ninja Theory | August 8, 2017 | PlayStation 4, Windows
I'm slowly working my way through this one. Had more of us beaten it before our GOTY deliberations, I think it could've been a contender.
The combat mechanic is unnecessary, though. What feels like a groundbreaking exploration of mental illness is marred by annoyingly cliché melee combat. I've swung that same sword and rolled that same dodge move a hundred times across a hundred different games—but I've never controlled a protagonist whose grip on sanity slips before my very eyes in such a compelling, and truly anxiety-inducing, way.
Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator
Game Grumps | July 20, 2017 | Linux, macOS, Windows
Holy shit, this game. I didn't laugh at any games in 2017 but this one. Well, until Nick convinced me to try West of Loathing this week.
I've never played a dating simulator, let alone a visual novel game. I can say with confidence I'll never forget Dream Daddy and its absurd, painful dad jokes. But it's also a lot more than intentionally bad humor: the relationship between your dadvatar (sorry, I'm just getting into the spirit) and his daughter is incredibly sweet.
Cute dads and dates aside, the characters are all so well written and multidimensional that I was continuously surprised at the maturity and earnestness of a seemingly one-note joke game. From the outside, Dream Daddy could be taken the wrong way. I expected a game developed by a YouTube channel founded by an apparent racist to lean on stereotypes and harmful tropes. From what I can tell, it doesn't. In fact, Dream Daddy is the most positive, supportive, and relatable take on dating that I've played.
I guarantee it'll make you laugh, especially if you like coffee-based jokes about cool indie bands.
(Mat is the dreamiest daddy, by the way.)
West of Loathing
Asymmetric Publications | August 10, 2017 | iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows
Holy shit, this game. I haven't played enough to appropriately sell it, but man. Like I said above, I didn't laugh at any games this year until Dream Daddy, and then no other games after that until West of Loathing.
Maybe the humor is too absurd for some, but this is my kind of ridiculous.
Favorite gag so far: the spittoons.