The TechRadar editor's personal gaming picks for 2017
2017 has been a great year for games. From the multiplayer mayhem of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds to a return to form for the Assassin's Creed series with Origins, 2017 has had something to offer both single-player and multiplayer gamers alike.
Our official game of the year awards were posted just a couple of days ago, but here we want to shine the spotlight on some of our more personal picks.
After all, there are certain games out there that have more than their fair share of rough edges, and yet still managed to completely suck us in.
That's not to mention the games that have taken over our lives in 2017 despite having been released in 2016 or even earlier. Maybe we didn't have the time to pick them up until this year, or maybe it took them a while to sink their teeth into us.
So without further ado, here are the TechRadar editor's personal gaming picks for 2017.
Nick Pino - Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Nick Pino - Senior Editor, Home Tech
Personal Gaming Pick: Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
There’s something about years that end in a ‘7’. 1997 brought us 007 GoldenEye, Mario Kart 64 and Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation; 2007 had Halo 3, Portal, BioShock and Super Mario Galaxy; and 2017 had both a new Mario and a Legend of Zelda game from Nintendo, Sony had Horizon Zero Dawn and Microsoft gave us the most powerful console in history with the Xbox One X. It’s a long way from now, but if they’re going to beat this year, Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft had best start preparing for 2027 right now.
And while I could wax poetic about any of the above games, one game that really hit home for me was Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age. Curmudgeons will say what they will about remakes being cheap cash grabs on old software, but to me, they’re opportunities to go back in time and play something that you might’ve missed years ago - or, in my case, revisit a world that I was too quick to write off when it came out in 2006.
When I played Final Fantasy XII on PS2 in 2006, I was just two years from graduating high school. I was obsessed with World of Warcraft at the time, and every open-world RPG just felt small compared to the yet-untarnished world of Azeroth. The story in Final Fantasy XII was too obfuscated for me to enjoy back then, too nuanced in its subtleties. The freedom of escaping a class system was liberating and confusing in equal measure, and the real-time combat - where you can move around enemies for one of the first times in a Final Fantasy game - just felt too wild and uncontrollable.
I had a set preconception of what Final Fantasy should be. And because of it, I missed out on one of the best games of that year, World of Warcraft be damned.
This year, the Zodiac Age gave me another shot at exploring Ivalice through the eyes of a tired - but more mature - adult. All the issues I had at 16 vanished, and what was left was this shining gem of a game that ripped traditional RPG elements to shreds and became the prototype for the next decade of the franchise. If you haven’t had the chance to play it or, perhaps worse, are like me and wrote the game off a decade ago, you ought to give The Zodiac Age a shot before you make the same mistake twice.
Matt Hanson - Thimbleweed Park
Matt Hanson - Computing Editor
Personal Gaming Pick: Thimbleweed Park
There have been some amazing games this year, ones with mind-blowing graphics, huge productions values, life-like CGI and expansive, imaginative worlds to explore. A great deal of them have given my powerful gaming PC a decent workout, but when thinking about my own personal gaming pick of 2017, it has to be a game which would look more at home on a floppy disk inserted into my Amiga A500+.
Thimbleweed Park is a point and click adventure that harkens back to early LucasArts games such as The Secret of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle. Created by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, two people who helped shape some of those iconic games, it features an art style and control system that closely resembles games of that time. As a kid who fell in love with those games in the early 90s - the Monkey Island series in particular helped define my love of games and comedy - I was absolutely besotted with Thimbleweed Park. It really felt like a game made for me. I’d spend days thinking about a solution to a diabolically challenging puzzle, and that sense of relief and pride when you finally stumble upon the answer is something that I hadn’t felt for a long time. Many of the puzzles are abstract and bordering on unfair, but they never quite tip over fully into the ‘unfair’ category, as they stick to rules established in this cartoony world.
The retro artwork is a real joy, and the cast of characters and misfits is wonderful. It’s also genuinely funny. In 2017 it sometimes felt like I needed to be reminded of a happier, more innocent time, and to be able to laugh, and Thimbleweed Park provided that. That’s why I love it.
Emma Boyle - Super Mario Odyssey
Emma Boyle - Staff Writer
Personal Gaming Pick: Super Mario Odyssey
Before I first played it I couldn’t understand why everyone was so excited about Super Mario Odyssey. Sure, it was a new Super Mario adventure. But there are quite a few Super Mario adventures. Sure, it was another game on the Nintendo Switch. But there are going to be a lot of new games on the Switch. Sure, its advertising featured an in-game T-Rex with a moustache. But - okay, that’s something you don’t see much.
Intrigued but nonplussed - that sums up my pre-Super Mario Odyssey feelings. Then I played it and felt nothing but delight. In 2017 I’ve had the pleasure of playing some incredible AAA games. Games with stunning graphics, picturesque open worlds, and visuals so realistic I was starting to see myself as cartoonish by comparison. None of them grabbed me quite the same way as Super Mario Odyssey.
Maybe that’s because Super Mario Odyssey has absolutely no intention of trying to create a realistic world. A game doesn’t have to be a 4K thrill-ride that takes you dangerously close to the uncanny valley to be fun. In a year where things have been challenging across the board, it’s so nice to sit down with an open world game that wants to take you places that ignite your imagination and sense of play, that encourages exploration in a way that requires more than a horse, that looks fantastic without necessarily looking real.
Super Mario Odyssey is a game that’s unashamedly a game and it’s nonstop fun as a result. It’s far from the only game that’s steered clear from realism this year, but it’s the one that’s most consistently made me pick up my Switch time and time again. Super Mario Odyssey has made me feel playful and lighthearted more than any other game I’ve played this year and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.
Jon Porter - PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds
Personal Gaming Pick: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
No other online game has hooked me in quite like PUBG has in 2017, and yet I still struggle to articulate exactly why. Part of its appeal is simply how rare victories are, which has driven my constant desire to play more, but there's a lot more going on that's harder to put your finger on.
Battle Royales, loosely described as games in which a large amount of players scavenge and then battle across a large map, are nothing new - but PUBG is the first to properly understand their appeal.
Long, protracted matches are no fun, so PUBG introduces a gradually shrinking map that pushes its players into close proximity to bring an end to the game. It doesn't get too bogged down in realistic weapon physics and complex crafting systems, instead focussing on letting people get down to the business of murder as quickly as possible.
All of this adds up to a game that really understands how people like to play games online. It meets you halfway rather than forcing you to conform to its ideas of how the genre should work.
And yet it’s a game that absolutely doesn’t deserve to win our game of the year award. It’s terribly optimized, will crash at the drop of a hat, and is filled with bugs that range from the mildly annoying to others those that will literally cost you victories at the final hurdle.
But no other game has delivered so many moments of unscripted brilliance as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds for me this year, and that's why it has to be my personal pick.
James Peckham - Hitman: The Complete First Season
James Peckham - UK Phones and Wearables Writer
Personal Gaming Pick: Hitman: The Complete First Season
When I initially thought about writing this entry The Witness on iPad jumped into my brain, but that wouldn’t have been true to my year in gaming. The game I’ve ploughed the most hours into in 2017 is… well… 2016’s Hitman.
After the announcement of Hitman becoming an episodic experience I was disappointed and avoided it entirely. I even refused to try out the initial demo. Despite positive reviews, I ignored the hype until the disc version landed in January this year. From then I haven’t been able to look back. I was Agent 47 and nothing could stop me.
I’ve been a Hitman fan since playing the original few games of PC - back when I was definitely too young to be embodying a genetically mutated murderer who dresses up as a clown to meet his victims - but Hitman (2016) is by far the best experience I’ve ever had in Agent 47’s blood soaked shoes.
The more you play, the more you learn about each environment, leading to dozens of reasons to replay every area time and time again. I now know each map off by heart, leading to an exponential increase in the amount of different ways to murder my targets. On second thought, perhaps I’ve taken too much joy this year in poisoning birthday cakes, throwing men onto church spires and inserting bodies into wood chippers.
Cameron Faulkner - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Cameron Faulkner - Associate Editor
Personal Gaming Pick: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Link’s latest adventure is easily my favorite game of the year, but oddly, I didn’t see this level of brilliance coming. Sure, I knew that it’d be a good game, but not this good. Given that 2017 has overflowed with games worth playing, I was surprised how often I felt compelled to come back to Hyrule after the credits rolled, if only just to run around for 15 minutes at a time. I’ve enjoyed previous Zelda titles, but always felt ready to put them away once I beat each one. But now, I think I’m about to start a new run on Hard mode.
What’s the recipe for success? Nintendo boldly picked through the formula of one of its prized franchises with a fine-toothed comb, supplementing what worked (a gripping tale of rescue against all odds) with some really fun and modern gameplay systems that make the adventure more fun, dynamic and, if you want, everlasting.
Leave it to Nintendo to figure out how to make the open-world genre feel fresher than ever.
Andrew London - Assassin's Creed Origins
Andrew London - Staff Writer
Personal Gaming Pick: Assassin’s Creed Origins
This year has been such a good year for games, and quite an interesting one for me as a gamer. I’d taken a bit of a hiatus ever since I completed Red Dead Redemption back in 2010 when it felt like the industry was moving towards being all about multiplayer shooting games rather than the single-player adventures I've grown to love.
I’ve always been a fan of a great story, and so the rise of the story-led game again recently has been a massive treat for me. There are so many games to choose from, which makes this choice particularly tricky. I’ve loved Uncharted 4, Witcher 3, Skyrim (I know, I know, I was on a hiatus), but I think the one that’s got to take it for me is Assassin’s Creed Origins.
I was a huge fan of the first couple of Assassin’s Creed games. The combination of freerunning, history, puzzles, and the occasional stabbing was so satisfying. But then the franchise starting feeling a little rinse-and-repeat, and so I stopped playing. After hearing colleagues talk about Origins so effusively, I thought it was probably time to give it another shot, and I’m so glad I did.
While Ancient Egypt might not seem like the most obvious choice for parkour-stab-attacks, there’s some stunning temples to climb, and even when you’re not near buildings, riding a horse-drawn carriage through the desert is a surprisingly satisfying experience.
There has clearly been a great deal of work that’s gone into making this game breathtakingly beautiful alongside its brilliant story.
Marc Chacksfield - Global Managing Editor
Personal Gaming Pick: Sonic Mania
It's Sonic! It's actually bloody Sonic. None of your 'nearly Sonic but we'll utterly ruin part of it, because we don't like people having actual fun' Sonic but the blue hedgehog that we all loved in the '90s back and in a ridiculously refreshing retro game.
This 2D platformer reminded me what was great about Sonic The Hedgehog and one of the best pick-up-and-play games to come out in 2017, that didn't take 30-odd hours to complete. The reason it's so good is that it was made for fans by fans. Those behind it were part of a ROM hacker community who had created a fangame before being asked to work on the official game. And it shows.
Sonic is back and thankfully back to his best.