2017 was a big year for gaming. It marked our first official year in publication, proved itself another solid year for Sony, a relatively mild one for Xbox, and an absolute slam dunk for Nintendo. There were highs (like [insert-favorite-game-title-here]), there were lows (like [insert-disappointing-game-title-here]), but above all there was more than plenty to get us excited about the years to come. Now that 2017 is nearing its triumphant end, here’s a look back at the highlights.
Horizon Zero Dawn, an all-new PlayStation exclusive IP from Guerilla Games, kicked it all off in February to critical acclaim. Its story was gripping, its world enchanting, and the game made history as the PlayStation 4’s second best-selling game of all time (behind Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End).
In March, Nintendo kicked off its comeback tour with the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the Nintendo Switch. It featured a rich open world, bold original mechanics, and a markedly drastic departure from Zelda’s signature formula, an intriguing risk for a stagnating franchise. The risk more than paid off, as the game helped bring Nintendo back into the spotlight, as well as make history for the company for becoming Nintendo’s first Game of the Year. Also in March, PUBG Corporation’s early access smash hit, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, released exclusively for Windows and Xbox One to critical acclaim, breaking several player-count records on Steam, surpassing the likes of Fallout 4, Grand Theft Auto V, and Dota 2.
In June, Vicarious Vision brought our wildest childhood dreams to life by releasing the PlayStation exclusive Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, a collection of the franchise’s first three games remade in glorious HD. At the same time, Nintendo launched a new IP in the form of an online fighting game featuring characters with extendible arms called ARMS.
In October, Nintendo kept the good times going with yet another contender for Game of the Year, Super Mario Odyssey. This installment saw Mario and his hat (now with a personality of its own) traversing the globe in pursuit of Bowser, who (you guessed it) kidnapped Princess Peach. Although its story was far from unique, the implementation and mechanics of Mario’s new hat (which allowed him to take control of the various enemies found throughout the game) was thrilling, unique, and breathed new life into the series. Also released in October was Assassin’s Creed Origins, Ubisoft’s first Assassin’s Creed title to break the series’ annual release cycle and save it from potential retirement.
September brought us StudioMDHR’s sleeper hit Cuphead, which featured a wacky premise and an iconic 1930’s-inspired rubber hose style of animation (made popular by the likes of Walt Disney and Fleisher). This same month also brought us Destiny 2, followed my November’s Star Wars Battlefront II, but these game became renowned for very different reasons. Controversies that are still unfolding to this day have erupted around the way Bungie and EA Game has handled their in-game purchases, a practice that has been increasingly criticized over the last few years. It’s a topic that is steadily garnering national attention, to the point that some politicians are even starting to speak about it, and believe that they may very well herald a reckoning with the way games handle paid content in the years to come.
We’ve only listed a few of the games released this year, but we believe each will serve as a reference for the projects of the future, let alone inevitably dictate the narratives ahead.
Even though 2017 brought us the Xbox One X—which has been crowned the most powerful home console to date—it was overshadowed by the biggest surprise of the year from a competitor that was previously regarded as being on the brink of obscurity. We’re talking, of course, about the Nintendo Switch, which has not only brought Nintendo back into the mainstream but is single-handedly redefining portable and home gaming as we know it. Not to mention, it’s completely dominating the spotlight for us here at Joy+Sticks Gaming.
Towards the beginning of 2017, at the crux of the 4K era, everyone seemed to be regarding Nintendo’s new console with intrigued but doubtful skepticism. The main draw of the system was its modular promise of choice—a portable console and a home console hybrid that could switch back and forth at will (pun intended)—but critics worried about how much power Nintendo was sacrificing in favor of its vision. After all, a home console whose flagship games can barely even pump out a 900p resolution seemed doom to fail, especially since its competitors deliver gaming experiences in dazzling 4K and HDR. And yet, despite even our own expectations, the Switch has enchanted the masses and turned out to be one of the greatest devices—if not the best device—released this year (sorry not sorry, iPhone X).
After the nigh-epic disappointment of the Wii U, the end of Nintendo’s home console foray seemed inevitable, and yet by some miracle the Nintendo Switch has somehow completely reversed this trajectory to become many people’s console of choice. Even now, more than eight months after release, retailers are struggling to keep the Nintendo Switch in stock. This kind of 360-degree comeback is hard to comprehend, but it’s easy to see that Nintendo is here to stay, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, and for us we can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store for us next year, not to mention how (and if) Sony and Microsoft plan to respond.