GOTY 2017: Tyler'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.
An Ode to the Nintendo Switch
Despite growing up with Nintendo systems, I’ve become increasingly skeptical of the company’s decisions over the years. The Nintendo 64 had an awful trident controller and cartridges that were often double the price of PlayStation discs; the GameCube had another malformed controller and couldn’t play DVDs; the Wii refused to join the HD era and came with a (mostly terrible) motion based gimmick; and the Wii U…well, I bought one, but I was never thrilled with my purchase.
As we entered 2017, Nintendo appeared stuck in an age that no longer existed while trying to create a new market that nobody wanted. Its policies seemed blatantly consumer unfriendly, with region-locked devices and a distinct lack of account-based digital purchases. Nintendo looked like a brand I could never truly have confidence in again.
Then, it all...switched.
When I first saw the Nintendo Switch, the company's newest console announced in October 2016, I couldn’t tell who it was for. The Switch wasn’t as powerful as the home console competition, and also not as mobile as a true handheld. The device seemed like one last hurrah before Nintendo went multi-platform and all-in on mobile. How wrong I was.
The Switch had one of the best launch years I’ve seen for any console in 25-plus years of playing games. The Switch isn’t just region-free, it’s incredibly easy to change accounts and play games from any territory. I can honestly say that there’s no console I’d rather be playing, and every time a new game is announced my first question is, “Is it coming to Switch?”
I’m thrilled to see Nintendo finally learning from the mistakes of the last 20-odd years and building a platform friendly to both gamers and developers. It’s a trend I hope to see continue through 2018. Here are some of my favorite Nintendo Switch titles that didn’t make our top ten.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
August 29, 2017 | Ubisoft | Nintendo Switch
Who in their right mind though this would ever work? Whoever they are, I want to take them to Vegas, because Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle sounded like a complete disaster. I didn’t like the Rabbids (i.e. the proto-minions); I certainly didn’t want them anywhere near Mario; and you’re going to make it an XCOM-esque strategy title, and Mario has a gun? Such a shockingly strange pitch sounds like it was developed in a government lab to be the worst idea for a video game ever devised.
By god, though, it works.
Davide Soliani and the rest of the team at Ubisoft Milan managed to spin gold from straw, and beat Firaxis at their own game. The presentation of Kingdom Battle is top-notch, with vivid environment, whimsical music, and entertaining characters and moments. Heaven help me, I actually don’t hate the Rabbids anymore.
More impressive is that Kingdom Battle doesn’t just replicate the XCOM style, it improves upon it in ways that make XCOM 2 seem uninspired. Mario + Rabbids finds a way around the “turtling” problem found in many strategy games by introducing fun and beneficial movement abilities that encourage traversing the levels and getting up close and personal with the enemies. It’s truly a marvelously designed game, and I can’t wait to see what insane peanut-butter-and-pickles combination Nintendo and Ubisoft come up with next.
...and now, the lightning round:
September 28, 2017 | Jupiter Corporation | Nintendo Switch
It’s more Picross, and it’s on my favorite new console. Yeah, I’m into this. The only way it could be any better is it if it was Picross 3D...
August 15, 2017 | Sega | Nintendo Switch
Sega finally figured out how to make a good Sonic the Hedgehog game…by taking it away from Sonic Team and giving it to the fans that brought Sonic CD to mobile devices. It’s a fantastic combination of old and new, and looks beautiful on the Switch screen.
September 28, 2017 | Sidebar Games | Nintendo Switch
I absolutely adored Mario Golf on Game Boy Advance, but Camelot Software Planning lost the lightning-in-a-bottle charm in future titles by doubling down on the sports aspect and abandoning the novelty of the RPG elements entirely. Australian developer Sidebar Games brings back what the Mario sports games have been missing with some charming side quests, and geese. So many geese.
Battle Chef Brigade
November, 2017 | Adult Swim Games | Nintendo Switch
Anime fantasy Iron Chef with action platforming, novel match-three puzzles, all garnished with a charming art style.
September 21, 2017 | Terrible Toybox | Nintendo Switch
Is it possible to feel nostalgic for something you never enjoyed much as a child? I was never a fan of SCUMM games but Thimbleweed Park is pleasantly evocative of an older era of adventure games while utilizing some modern stylings to make it feel fresh and not too frustrating.
March 3, 2017 | Shin'en Multimedia | Nintendo Switch
This ersatz WipEout has an enjoyable Ikaruga-style color switching mechanic. Not quite as polished as the legendary PlayStation racer, but it’s a worthy alternative (where’s F-Zero though?)
May 18, 2017 | Drool | Nintendo Switch
I don’t have a VR headset, which is where this horror-rhythm title got the most attention on its launch in 2016, but on the Switch with headphones it’s still an incredibly well-playing and tense experience.
Nintendo has done a fantastic job curating the Switch in its first year, and it’s a testament to the quality of the hardware that such a variety of titles work so well on the platform. After questioning (and losing?) faith for so long, I am once again happy to support the house that Mario built. 2018 is looking quite promising for the new device, but let’s hope that Nintendo doesn’t lose sight of what made the Switch—and Nintendo themselves—so successful in the first place.