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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

The top 5 video games of 2017

2017 was an impressive year for video games, we round up our five favourite 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Courtesy Nintendo EPD
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Courtesy Nintendo EPD

More and more game critics are voicing the opinion that we are experiencing something of a golden age of gaming, and it’s hard to disagree. The groundwork was laid in 2016, which saw the release of critically-acclaimed blockbusters such as Doom, Overwatch, Titanfall 2 and Dark Souls III. It looked like a pretty hard act to follow, but 2017 has managed to do just that, delivering several games that are already considered classics. This means that coming up with a list of the five best games of the year was even more difficult than usual, but in the end the titles below stood out as simply the best gaming had to offer in the past year.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Through more than three decades, multiple console generations and changing gaming fads, Nintendo has managed to keep Zelda games fresh and relevant. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sees perhaps the most radical reinvention in the series’ history, updating it for the open-world age yet somehow managing to avoid the cliches and pitfalls that have beset other open-world games in recent years.

In an age where creators seem to be in a race to make games more grim and nihilistic, BotW is a breath of fresh air, a throwback to a time when the highest praise you could give a game was that it was fun. Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto famously wanted the first game of the series to capture the sense of discovery and adventure he experienced exploring the forests and fields around his childhood home. That childlike sense of wonder has never been captured more faithfully and effectively than in BotW. The world of Hyrule has never looked this good or offered so much to do and explore. Breath of the Wild is bound to go down in history as one of the best games of all time, and whether you’re a Zelda veteran or neophyte, this is one title you have to play at least once in your life.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn. Courtesy Guerrilla Games
Horizon Zero Dawn. Courtesy Guerrilla Games

In the same week that Nintendo persuaded many to buy its new console to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Sony released its own open-world exclusive, the first of a series of must-play Playstation 4-only releases this year. Zero Dawn took its own approach to revitalising the open-world action genre. Yes, it has a huge map covered in icons, but those icons almost always hold the promise of engaging content that move the story or the character forward. The graphics used to bring this meticulously crafted and strangely lush post-apocalyptic world to life are some of the best you’ll see anywhere, especially when it runs in ultra-HD on PS4 with HDR enabled. A strong female protagonist and a story that didn’t feel like it was created by committee helped to propel Zero Dawn above most of its competitors, raising the bar for future games of this type. It’s one of the showcase titles of this hardware generation, and is likely to remain so for quite a while to come.

NieR: Automata

Nier: Automata. Courtesy Platinum Games
NieR: Automata. Courtesy Platinum Games

NieR: Automata is as enigmatic as its director, Yoko Taro, who usually wears a mask with a grotesque grimace when he appears in public. Even just describing what sort of game it is is no easy task. While it may be mostly a third-person action RPG, at times it is also a side-scroller or a Galaxian-style shooter. Sometimes, it just defies ordinary description entirely.

Players assume control of a scantily clad female android named 2B, a foot soldier in a post-apocalyptic war that pits humans, who use androids to do their fighting, against machines created by aliens. The story is filled with twists and turns, incredibly touching moments, and encourages multiple play-throughs.

Automata reminds me of Dark Souls, not in terms of its gameplay, but by also being an unusual offering from a Japanese visionary, one released with little mainstream fanfare but glowing critical reviews, and whose true importance and impact will probably only be realised quite some time after being unleashed on an unprepared gaming public.

Super Mario Odyssey. Courtesy Nintendo EPD
Super Mario Odyssey. Courtesy Nintendo EPD

Super Mario Odyssey

Just under eight months after Nintendo’s second mascot, Link, got a next-generation makeover in Breath of the Wild, the developer pulled off the trick again with its flagship character, Mario. The diminutive Italian plumber has always proved adept at reinvention, successfully breaking into the third dimension in 1996’s Super Mario 64, a feat his fellow 2D compatriots mostly failed to accomplish. While Super Mario Odyssey isn’t quite as ground-breaking an achievement, it is every bit as good - in fact, just a little bit better - than that all-time classic. It is also something of a spiritual sequel to its Nintendo 64 forebear, returning Mario to an open world. He’s learned quite a few tricks since, though, especially the use of his new companion, Cappy, a sentient piece of headwear that allows him to take control of a variety of creatures in order to defeat enemies and solve environmental puzzles. Odyssey harnesses the power of the Switch to deliver the most beautiful Mario game yet, one whose incredible world and character design is matched only by its delightful gameplay.

Persona 5. Courtesy Atlus
Persona 5. Courtesy Atlus

Persona 5

Persona 5 isn’t for everyone, but its genius is undeniable. It boldly proclaims that “style over substance” is nothing to be sneered at, only to then add copious amounts of substance and depth to match its obsession with flair. Players take control of the life of a Tokyo high school pupil who moonlights as a masked vigilante with the ability to enter the Metaverse, a world of “mind palaces” constructed by the disturbed psyches of people encountered during time spent in the normal, daily life portion of the game. Persona 5 looks like a well-produced anime series, and melds classic Japanese RPG gameplay with social simulation mechanics. The result is a game where balancing the need to make it to your exams in time while finding the time to level up your supernatural abilities in order to take down an abusive high school sports coach is all in a day’s work. The more than 100 hours of gameplay on offer is set to an incredible jazz-infused score by Shoji Meguro, which is worth checking out in its own right.

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