Hello Dear Friends! I hope you all had Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year. This is (was) my favorite time: Christmas Night. It’s the long exhale after the climax where everyone can relax and play with their presents, while basking in the relief that it’s over. I saw some awesome videos of kids opening up presents on Christmas Morning (the Nintendo Switch unwrapping was amazing), and I, myself, received Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild , my very own PS4, tons of git cards, a special vase, and a bunch of other awesome gifts!I’m (was) also off Tuesday and Wednesday and figured now is as good of time as any to (start working on) post my 2017 Best of List for gaming before the elderly year grows older (sadly it died before I could finish. Alas); however, mine is going to be a little bit different from the others I’ve seen floating around. As of today, I’ve only finished five games on the dates indicated:
- World of Final Fantasy – 2/19/17
- Journey – 3/22/17
- The Room – 5/16/17
- The Room Two – 5/27/17
- The Room Three – 8/15/17
There’s no doubt which the best game out of all of those is.
Obviously, I loved WOFF and The Room series was one of the best for puzzle games ever, but you can see how I’m not really in a position to adequately talk about games based solely on the ones I played this year. However, since I did watch a ton of Let’s Plays, I feel as though that would be the better population from which to draw my Top 10. So without further ado…
Though this initially comes off as a spooky/horror game, it’s much more. Have no doubt, there are harrowing parts (those really tall ghosts. Hell. No), but that’s not the inner spirit of the experience.
9. The Witch’s House
There’s a lot to be said about a game where you’re killed by a teddy bear, and I said a bit of it here with my review. Created with RPG Maker, don’t let the cute, sprite graphics lull you into a false sense of security. You will die. A lot. Gruesomely. And shockingly. The puzzles are quite clever, and the RPG mechanic works surprisingly well for a horror game. I also cannot stress how much the ending messes you up and literally turns everything on its ear. It’s worth it just to play through for that.
In the vein of games with shocking endings, Inside notches it up to the “what the absolute fuck?!” level. At no point did I expect to see what I saw, and where The Witch’s House is heartbreaking in its horror, Inside is flat out disturbing, but absolutely fitting for the setting. The game is exactly what you’d expect from the creators of Limbo. It has similar gameplay, but the story goes much deeper and, as such, is ripe for the theorists.
I had to scramble to place this in my Top 10, because I just finished it the other day. I knew it was going to be a tearjerker when I saw the hospital setting, and I figured out what was going to happen at the end, but that did nothing to lessen the sorrow. This is a beautiful game that expertly weaves a far too recent and real life tragedy with a parallel fantasy world. What your character (called only The Boy) does in Morizora’s Forest is echoed in his hospital home, and this goes for the people he helps.
Rakuen is a puzzle game that plays like an RPG without the random battles, so if you’re not a fan of those, you don’t have to worry about them. This isn’t to say there aren’t any enemies, but there’s only one type (nor do I think it’s really an enemy, but that’s edging spoiler territory), and there are no confrontations with it, only avoidance. While this was a game I could’ve played myself, there were some creepy parts that I’m glad I only had to watch. Combined with some overly cutesy things, it gives Rakuen a bit of Mood Whiplash, but this is not a critique, merely an observation. The soundtrack is wonderful with vocal performances that are not only gorgeous, but serve an integral part of the story. Make sure you have some tissues ready for the end.
6. The Mass Effect Trilogy
Even though I watched the first game in 2016, I didn’t finish the other two until last year, so I’m going to count that I finished the trilogy then. This is the only game on the list that I plan to play in the future, and I decided that based on watching the LP by Olizandri. There’s too much to say about Mass Effect to really get into it here (and most of you probably know about it already lol), but rewatching the ending with the knowledge of what came before under my belt completely changed my perspective on it (either that or the ending was updated to show more than what happened to Joker and EDI; I’m really not sure). I have a great deal to say about it when I finally get to my review in addition to comparative essays (e.g. how Reaper indoctrination is similar to the also hive-minded Jenova’s mental manipulation), and I’m looking forward to exploring all of its angles and discussing it with all of you fine people when I do.
5. Little Nightmares
I’ve watched both the original game and the two currently released DLCs, and, were it a game I could conceivably play (if I wasn’t a wuss puss), I’d have no problems doling out the ducats for all. The DLCs are apparently inexpensive yet quite expansive in both exploration and storytelling. There are traces and hints of what went on in the main game all throughout, though just the former is enough to give me full fledged nightmares for days (nothing little about that). There are no cut scenes, and players are obliged to piece together the story from what can be observed in the levels. Like Inside there are quite a few theory videos out there to either explain or spark new perspectives. Whether you play this game in the light of day to ward off the eeriness or in the midst of darkness where the nightmares prowl is entirely up to you. I, for one, will continue watching my Let’s Plays in the sun and covering my face at necessary moments.
4. Ori and the Blind Forest
This game is literally a work of art. From the visuals to the music to the poignant story, Ori bookended me with tears. While not wholly tragic, the game uses sorrow for emphasis and forces you to examine where your full allegiances lie. I did an almost about face about a particular character once their true motivation was known. Moon Studios should be both commended and supported for future endeavors.
I considered stopping the LP when I first started so I could play myself, but I’m glad I just continued watching. There is no way in hell I could pull off those sweet, platforming moves that Cry so brilliantly preformed (though there was some Power of Editing involved lol. No hate though). It’s a Metroidvania game, so there’s a lot of backtracking to open up areas previously unattainable. Also, did I mention the soundtrack? I did? Well let me mention it again, because I need to download it.
P.S. The name of the setting is the Forest of Nibel and there’s both fire and mist.
3. Valiant Hearts: The Great War
Ya’ll if you want to ugly cry, please play or watch this game. Where Ori had me misty (hey that’s what “Nibel” means!), Valiant Hearts made me bawl. My husband stopped playing Destiny 2 to make sure I was okay, and the friend he was playing with asked if everything was alright. THAT’S how serious I am about what this game did to me, and it’s not even what you’d expect. It hits hardest because it’s unexpected and just so wrong. There’s a wonderful video by The Closer Look called “How to Make the Audience Cry,” and it explains what concept universally causes it and why. I’d recommend watching it only if or after you’ve watched/played Valiant Hearts. It’s not a major spoiler, but a game/story like this should be experienced untainted.
2. The Last of Us
I had a long talk with myself about whether this or the number one game would have that place, but in the end, I decided it based on after effects. Which story haunted me more? Which caused more of an existential crisis? While TLOU certainly vied with the first question (especially in any intelligent discussions about it), the number one pick literally blew the second out of the water, but that doesn’t mean the tale of Joel and Ellie is worth any less. It is a very close second, and, along with the first, is one of my more essay-like reviews. I have a lot to say about this game, and I see the ending from multiple different points of view. Understanding loss, I understand why what happened did, but I can also see why there is a great deal of negativity about the decision and the game mechanic that makes you (the player) part of something you might find reprehensible. Because I not only suck at stealth (seriously…you should see me in Assassin’s Creed: Origins. It would be embarrassing if I had any shame…), I’m also a wuss puss when it comes to any kind of horror, and I utterly abhor being chased. When something like this comes after you…
I was also completely wrong about Ellie’s peculiar attribute in terms of what caused it, and that was proven with one of the saddest deaths in the game. Then when I thought I’d figured it out again, that wasn’t the case either. However, while I might rail against my inelegance, I’m often happy to be wrong in these cases, because it means I could use my “wrong” suppositions in a story of my own and I get to be surprised!
Speaking of which…I have a soft spot in my heart for TLOU, because it has damn near the same plot as the first novel I wrote. In a different setting and a different relationship between the “Joel” and “Ellie” characters, but “experienced, morally grey bad ass with a devastating loss in his past (that he witnessed first hand) hired to take an inexperienced, young woman to pre-determined location and on the way they learn to love each other” plus the spoilery stuff at the end of TLOU is exactly the same, and I’m a bit shook.
This is one of those games that every gamer should experience. I’m not one of those “hates cut scenes” people so they don’t bother me in the least, enhancing the narrative rather than taking away especially in this case. I can’t wait for the second part to come out.
And my number one game of 2017 is…
There’s no delicate way to put this. This game fucked me up…badly. I was messed up for weeks. It might not be far fetched to say that I’ve never been so directly fucked up by a video game before. Oh, the Metroid series scares me with its monsters (especially Mother Brain *shudder*) and of course Final Fantasy VII certainly has its Fridge Logic and Fridge Horror aspects, but SOMA’s ending hits you like a leviathan right then and right there. As soon as it happens, it all comes together, and you realize the truth that you’ve already seen demonstrated, but because Simon believes, you don’t really give it a second thought…until the end. Then all of the existential horror just comes crashing down.
What is consciousness? That is the quintessential question SOMA asks. Without it, we couldn’t experience this world we live in. We could have neither the overwhelming pleasure nor existential horror. You couldn’t be reading my words right now. I could neither have watched SOMA nor would SOMA itself exist. Consciousness is the only idea that has to exist for anything else to have meaning. The only way to study the brain is to use the brain, and we, as humans, are brains trying to understand themselves. No other entity is like that. If you want to study a star or a bird, you don’t use a star or a bird (though you might have them for reference); you use your (conscious) brain. Just like you can’t talk about language without using language, you can’t talk about the brain without using the brain. SOMA takes consciousness, the brain, the thing that makes you you, and renders it into almost a commodity. We all see ourselves as individuals and our experiences as unique. My red is not necessarily your red. There’s an ineffable quality to the human conscious experience, and SOMA questions it all.
I studied psychology in college almost twenty years ago, and though there have been marvelous advances in that field, we are still not much closer to understanding what consciousness is. Does it arise from the complexity of neural connections and brain structures or is it something received from elsewhere? When did it first arise? What were the first creatures to gain a semblance of consciousness? How does your conscious experience differ, and is there any way of knowing or even explaining how it differs? Despite these questions being heavy handed, SOMA really isn’t. It doesn’t pound them into your head, it just lays them out for you to stumble upon.
The true horror is how normal Simon is. He’s not a doctor or a researcher or a marine biologist. He’s just a guy from Toronto who works at a bookstore. A fatal car accident led him to require special treatment and get a brain scan, and the game completely messes with your sense of time, but you don’t realize that until more information is revealed.
This is another very long review. It’s more essay at this point requiring prerequisite reading and research so I can adequately discuss it. If you haven’t played or watched this, I couldn’t recommend it more, and Mr. Odd is an excellent LPer with reactions similar to what mine would be (though this is another “Nope” game, because “monsters” chase you. The quotes are important…and disturbing), but Cryaotic has one as well. I wish SOMA wasn’t a one and done type of game for me, because I know Cry’s play-through is probably epic.
Though I haven’t watched any of the Amnesias, I think I can safely say that SOMA is Frictional Games’ greatest work. Though I believe this about all of the games on my list, this one here is not one you should pass up. Even if it leaves you like I was for weeks unable to sleep because of what a mind fuck it is…I still believe it was worth it.
I hope you enjoyed my Top 10 Let’s Play list! Are there any games you’d add to this? What were your Top 10 in 2017? Were they released in 2017 or did you just play them then? I can’t wait to hear what you think in the comments, and may 2018 be an even better gaming year than the prior.