Games. Culture.

Blessing Adeoye’s Top Ten Games of 2017

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2017 has undoubtedly been a landmark year for both OK Beast and the video game industry as a whole. In May, our website merged with Pixel Pulse Radio and we saw a meteoric growth in ourselves and the audience that follows us. For that, I would like to say thank you to everyone involved in getting us here. As far as video games are concerned, 2017 seems to have been the year where no matter where your allegiance is, your wants and needs were satiated. Nintendo fans got a new console with Mario and Zelda meanwhile, fighting game fans got Tekken 7, Injustice 2 and more. PlayStation fans got Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, and Nier Automata meanwhile fans of shooters got Wolfenstein II, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, and Destiny 2. It’s been a bonkers journey which has led to this moment and despite politics, world events, Hollywood scandal and more, we still have the ability to escape to video games in one of the greatest years of game releases this medium has ever seen. So for OK Beast, game of the year 2017 is a celebration of all of this. With that being the case, I’d like to celebrate by sharing my list of the top ten games that I’ve played this year.

Honorable Mentions:

Life is Strange: Before The Storm

As of the time I’m writing this list, episode 3 isn’t out. This is why I can only give this game honorable mention status. Those first two episodes though… MAN those first two episodes. Powerful storytelling and relatable emotions are eloquently portrayed in Life is Strange: Before The Storm. Rachel Amber’s character is one of the best of the year and getting to meet her character and understand her and Chloe’s relationship fleshes out the universe of Life is Strange greatly. I was faced with heart wrenching decisions and moments that made me truly emotional. Those moments of genuine empathy felt while playing Life is Strange: Before The Storm is what makes this game great.

Sonic Mania

It shocks me that this game isn’t making my top ten of the year but that speaks volumes to the nature of 2017. Sonic Mania is a vibrant recreation of one of the games that established my childhood. It’s one of the best Sonic games ever made because of how true to form, yet innovative it is. It pushes Sonic forward and understands the franchise enough to display why it’s beloved the way it is.

Tekken 7

Tekken 7 is the only game I got the platinum trophy in this year. Within my first thirty seconds of booting up the game, I was already convinced that I was going to enjoy what it had in store. The pumping music and familiar yet refined and outgoing presentation welcomed me back into the series with open arms. The fighting improvements and new characters added built well upon what the franchise had established. That’s the thing about this game. It is solid in every shape and form and as a fan of fighting games, it turned out to be one of the most solid gameplay experiences I had this year. Upon entering Tekken 7 I was reminded of those nights endlessly going head to head against friends and losing hours to intense, fun competition and this latest entry continues that legacy.

Top Ten:

10. Cuphead

The painstaking attention to detail in Cuphead is unparalleled by any other game this year. Every time I booted up Cuphead it was difficult for me to not immediately appreciate the hard work it took to get this game made. Cuphead is impressive. The animation is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a video game given it looks one for one like an old style cartoon. The bosses are beautifully designed and the gameplay is brutal, but fun. Personality oozes out of the game and its polish allows me to only get mad at myself when I lose at the 3-headed dragon boss for the third time in a row.

9. Golf Story

Golf Story puts you in the shoes of an up and coming golfer who is down on his luck and is determined to make it big. What separates Golf Story from other games is not only its retro stylization, but how it molds two distinct styles of game into one. Golf Story has the storytelling and exploration of a 16-bit RPG. It also has the mechanical engagement and the fun gameplay loop of a sports title. That’s where the magic lies.

At one moment, you’re lining up the perfect putt while accounting for the wind direction and the slope of the fairway. The next, you’re laughing at the hilarity of two of NPCs getting into a rap battle. Golf story is fun, quirky, and given its status as a hybrid sports game, it’s very replayable. If you missed Golf Story this year, I highly recommend picking it up on the NIntendo Switch. I had a blast during my time with it.

8. Doki Doki Literature Club

Doki Doki Literature Club is not the type of game I would’ve expected to have played and fall in love with. At first glance, it’s a visual novel anime dating simulator. At second glance, that’s still a pretty accurate description. I jumped into this game thinking that surely I’d play it for about 30 minutes and all of a sudden a veil would be removed and it would be a different game entirely. Yet, 3 hours in I was still talking to the characters, learning things about their personalities, and genuinely enjoying the dialogue being put forth.

There ARE some turns in Doki Doki Literature Club, and those turns are what have made this game a low key viral sensation. However, Literature Club is more than the moments that catch you off guard. Literature Club is about the characters. It’s about relationship and friendship. As a player, the more you connect with the girls in the game, the better the payoff is. It’s a clever take on this genre and one that I’m not going to forget any time soon. I can only compare it to Undertale in its ambition and clever writing except unlike Undertale, instead of the feeling of warmth and hope you gain from that game, Doki Doki Literature Club leaves you with a different type of feeling entirely. This game is a special experience that is unique from everything else I’ve played this year. It’s also free on Steam and so if you have time, I’d recommend checking it out.

7. Persona 5

If you’ve followed me on Twitter or listened to the podcast, you may have already heard my feelings on Persona 5. Frankly, I’m harsh on the game. I’m harsh on it because having just played Persona 4 Golden for the first time last year, my expectations were through the roof for Persona 5 given that P4G is one of my favorite games I’ve had the privilege of playing. I stand by my opinion that the dungeons in Persona 5 are lackluster from a gameplay and puzzle design perspective. I also stand by the opinion that a lot of the dialogue in the game is badly written. That being said, guys it’s Persona 5. This game is hard not to love.

Persona 5 exudes style through every inch of its presentation. The way the visual novel and dungeon crawling portions of the game intermingle is something you can only get from a Persona game. Even within the context of my complaints, what Persona 5 does is still special. I was heartbroken when Anne’s friend reached her breaking point due to Kamoshida’s abuse. I was touched by Makoto’s struggles rooted in high expectations and self-doubt. I even laughed when Ryuji couldn’t keep his voice down when discussing the Phantom Thieves. Persona 5 is a game that shouldn’t exist given its quirks, depth and polish but here we are. The games industry is better when Persona is present.

6. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Never during a gaming experience have I felt as uneasy and as paranoid as I did during my playthrough of Hellblade. The game experiments with the capabilities that video games have to tell stories. By using binaural audio and clever presentation, the game puts you in the shoes of Senua, the game’s protagonist who suffers from psychosis. You hear the voices in Senua’s head just as she does and the audio techniques used to portray this are effective in simulating that experience.

Hellblade also tells a touching story of Senua’s trials and tribulations as she makes an impossible journey. The gameplay is a clever cross between a walking simulator, environmental puzzle game, and a character action game. As chaotic as it sounds for these different gameplay styles to work in tandem, Hellblade pulls it off and uses these play styles to benefit the storytelling. Above all, Hellblade is intense, psychological, meaningful, and is an experience I’m glad I had this year.

5. Destiny 2

If you were to tell me in 2013 that I would be playing Destiny 2 on the Xbox One with my friends online, I would have laughed so hard at the idea that my black face would have found a way to turn red. Competitive and co-op shooters are not my jam. MMORPGs are even further away from being my jam. In 2013, the Xbox One was so far from being my jam that I was convinced Microsoft’s Xbox division was going out of business. In 2014, the first Destiny did not do it for me in any way. Fast forward to this year and Destiny 2 is most definitely my jam.

Destiny 2’s music, polish, smoothness in gameplay, and overall presentation represents some of the best that this medium has to offer. Couple that with my time during the Leviathan Raid, and you have all of the reasons why Destiny 2 is in my top 5 this year. I know views on Destiny 2 are mixed especially among those who had played the first game and believe that the second game is half-baked in terms of what it means to be a sequel. However, I played the first game and immediately didn’t like it and so I bounced off. Destiny 2 is my first real experience being deep into Destiny which means that a lot of those complaints don’t apply to me. I had fun going through the campaign and completing public events with friends. The world itself doesn’t interest me but mechanically the game does something that I absolutely love with the raids.

The Leviathan Raid was simultaneously my most hated and loved portion of a game that I’ve played this year. I hate the process of struggling with other people and the dynamics that the raid presents because as an introvert, I hate the pressure of being that situation. I don’t enjoy arguing about the best way to complete a task and in fact, teamwork is something I try to stray away from when I can because I would prefer to tackle adversity alone. The raids presented this obstacle for me and getting through the raid was both a gameplay challenge and a personal hump for me to climb over. The nature of the raid means adequate communication is required. Cooperation is the only way to get through and the challenge of the raid means that as a player, you have to be on your best game. This challenge was unlike anything I have ever experienced in a game and so for that, I have to say thank you to Destiny 2 for presenting the opportunity to really push myself like that.

Also the competitive mode is pretty fun.

4. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Wolfenstein II constantly delivers a narrative that is more actively engaging than any other first person shooter I’ve played in a long while. Alongside that, its attitude is over the top, bombastic, and unashamed as it insults, murders, and tears down Nazis in an alternate reality America. Though the gameplay was tough at first, once I moved down the difficulty of the game, I found it even more fun mowing down enemies effortlessly and mercilessly as opposed to the challenge of the shooting portions of the game. I feel like the game is almost meant to be played on the “baby” difficulty because this mode fully exhibits the rage and wrath of Terror Billy.

The biggest reason why I love Wolfenstein II is its moments. There’s not one cutscene in the game where something incredible doesn’t happen. The pace at which the game rapidly delivers a satisfying story is unprecedented. I’ve never seen anything like it. From the grounded, deeply emotional story beats detailing BJ’s childhood to the nonsensical “wow” moments of the game, Wolfenstein II delivers a blockbuster experience that understands the capabilities that games have to tell compelling, entertaining stories.

3. Nier: Automata

What does it mean to be human? It’s kind of a cliche question that is brought up often in science fiction. Before playing Nier: Automata, I thought I had explored all of the ideas that this question could bring forth. In fact, I even thought I had the answer until I reached the 5th ending of Nier: Automata and realized that I frankly have no idea if their even is an answer. Nier Automata is about sentience, emotion, and the meaning of life. It isn’t the first game to ask questions about these things. The upcoming Detroit: Become Human is a high profile game that will aim to ask similar questions and we’ve gotten into this subject matter before with games like Fallout 4.

Blade Runner is one of the pinnacles of science fiction and tackles the varying concepts regarding sentience and what that movie does for the world of film, Nier: Automata does for video games. The nature of Nier: Automata being a JRPG means that it has more time and greater capabilities to play with these ideas and it does so over and over again. Whether it’s within the various gameplay mechanics such as plug in chips which act as an upgrade system both figuratively and literally, or the way the game dives deeper into the themes of the game with each ending it presents, Nier Automata is unlike anything I have ever played before. It’s layered, unfathomably deep, filled with jaw-dropping moments, and it is straight up artfully made.

2. Super Mario Odyssey

There were multiple moments while playing Super Mario Odyssey when I vocally wowed and awed in amazement at the utter creativity that the design of the game exudes. As I’ve made my way through the various kingdoms in the game, I’ve found myself laughing at surprises and left turns. I could feel my heart melt during barrages of cheeky references. I’ve even cheered aloud at moments that so perfectly encapsulate the wonder and essence of Super Mario. Super Mario Odyssey is not only a triumph in 3D platforming, it’s a celebration of gaming’s most cherished franchise.

Celebration is the best word that I can use to describe what this game is. Odyssey is a love letter to the Super Mario franchise. This is evident in moments and references that harken back to the origins and pivotal moments Mario has created in gaming culture and pop culture in general. The homages to Mario’s history range from the 2D sections that place you into the shoes of Mario in the original Super Mario Bros to the whole level of New Donk City which serves as a standalone love letter to the original Donkey Kong. From the street signs that are named after characters of the Donkey Kong franchise to Pauline being the mayor of the city, New Donk City is one of my favorite levels in a Mario game period not only because of its aesthetic and fun design, but because of how it celebrates the franchise in such a sincere and over the top way. Mario Odyssey doesn’t even stop there. There are cheeky references to other games in the franchise including 64 and Galaxy and it is all packaged up in a charming way that uplifts Mario as a series and a cultural icon.

Super Mario Odyssey is the most fun I’ve had playing a game this year. Feelings of joy and happiness are practically jam-packed into this game. I’ve found myself smiling upon entering into certain levels because of how unexpectedly cool they can be. Super Mario has been in need of a game like this for around twenty years and I am happy to say that Odyssey delivers.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild delivers its promise of being a solid entry into the Zelda franchise while at the same time exceeds every expectation of what that implication means. It is a masterpiece that follows in the footsteps of games like Super Mario Bros. 3, Shadow of The Colossus, and Portal 2. Breath of The Wild reinvents what it means to be an open world and it does this confidently and better than I have ever seen done before.

Open world games will never be the same to me after playing Breath of The Wild. The game takes influences from Assassin’s Creed, Skyrim, Minecraft, and others and makes borrowed mechanics play together to create a playground that makes almost too much sense for an open world game. The experiences that emerge during gameplay are unlike any other modern open world game, and furthermore, the stories that come from the pure exploration even rivals the traditional story that the game has to tell.

Navigating Hyrule is enjoyable because it feels like around every corner there is a new adventure. The world is jam packed with secrets for the player to discover. Main quests and side quests are outlined for the player via the menus and the game also has collectables; however, where the game shines is in its attempt to take its guiding hand off of the player and allow him or her to roam free. The world is its own character and you get to uncover its qualities very slowly. Whether it’s the creatures, the characters, the scenery, the stories, the riddles or just about anything else you’d expect to uncover on a grand adventure, the component of discovery the game has to offer is beyond the scope of what I personally thought was possible in a video game. The scope of Hyrule is massive which somehow doesn’t compromise the style of the game and the gameplay itself. The game still feels polished. This is especially impressive given that Hyrule feels like the biggest open world I’ve ever explored. In reality, I’ve played games with larger worlds in terms of mass but Breath of The Wild’s world feels endless compared to other games because it forces you to take things slowly and really take in the environment. Zelda: Breath of The Wild is a very long, refreshing walk in the park.

The game provides a new standard that other games will need to look to in order to reach masterpiece status. Even with my modest list of flaws, when held to this game those flaws are very minor compared to the feat that Breath of The Wild has made in terms of scope, storytelling, environment, and polish. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild executes on creating a world that feels lived in and the story that this world has to tell is one of the most fascinating stories in gaming.

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