What a Difference a Year Makes

What a Difference a Year Makes

Posted by Kris Randazzo on Dec 21st 2017

Since the end of the year is fast approaching, I've had to start finalizing my Game of the Year picks for the Stone Age Gamer Podcast. (The SAGJGLD Awards!) But the more time I spend thinking about it, the more I realize 2017 has been absolutely bananas! In fact, I think 2017 may have been the best year of video games of my entire life. I’m not saying the best games ever all came out this year, but the sheer quantity of games I played that truly grabbed me and made me extremely happy was astounding. Even when I think back on individual console generations, I can't recall there ever having been another single year where this many quality titles came out. I went back and started comparing years to 2017, and while there have been a lot of good ones over the years, none have hit quite this same level of high. Then I compared 2016 to 2017 and wow. What a difference a year makes.


The last few years have been kind of rough on Nintendo fans. Not that things were necessarily terrible, mind you. In fact, the number of games I had available to me to play fit pretty well with the amount of time I had to play them. Of course that all changed with the Switch and its ability to go anywhere, but I've gone on about that before. 2016 didn’t seem like a terrible year for video games at the time, but in hindsight, especially by comparison with 2017, it started to seem worse than I remembered. I decided to go a little more in-depth and compare stuff in 4 categories. Stuff I played joyously, stuff I wanted to play but didn’t get around to, stuff I was disappointed by, and stuff I was/am excited to play the following year. Here’s how the two years stack up.

We’ll start with the good news, which is stuff I played joyously. 2016 brought me The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD, which I was hoping for since they did Wind Waker HD. I always thought that if that art direction was given a fresh HD makeover that TP would make for one fantastic looking game. I was… wrong. It doesn’t look necessarily bad, but it hasn’t aged as well as I hoped it would. Still it’s a really good game, and it was fun spending time on those dungeons again. Then we had Pokemon Go, and that whole thing was just pure magic. I’ve never been much of a Pokemon guy, but seeing the whole world get in on this craze at the same time was a unique and truly memorable experience. It's really cool when video games bring so many people together. AM2R was released and subsequently eradicated by Nintendo, but I managed to get my mitts on a copy and it was every bit the Metroid game I could have hoped for. I gave it my Game of the Year last year, and it deserved it. Speaking of awesome 2D exploration action games, Axiom Verge was released on Wii U and boy did that game rock my world. I did a whole article on why calling it “basically Metroid” is incredibly reductive to what that game accomplishes, and if you’ve slept on this game, I can’t recommend enough that you go back and play it. It’s a masterpiece. And finally we have Super Mario Run. Its $10 price tag was (and still is) pretty controversial, but I can honestly say I’ve gotten more than my money’s worth out of that game. I’m still playing it fairly regularly to this day. If I’m out somewhere and I don't have my Switch on me, it's the perfect pick up and play game.

ss-978607583bf147d520f488bb9acdb1c00ea3349b.1920x1080.jpgThis game was nuts

And that’s it. 5 games came out in all of 2016 that I was genuinely excited to play. By contrast, I played 17 games that made me extremely happy in 2017. That’s more than 3 times as many as last year. Snake Pass was a magical, weird non-platformer with an incredible David Wise soundtrack. Splatoon 2 took everything I loved about the first game and kicked it up a notch. ARMS was a delightful surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed learning and occasionally picking back up for a day or two of obsessive fighting. Picross S was more Picross. MORE PICROSS ON MY SWITCH!!! With a co-op mode!!! Overcooked was a joy to play with my wife, when it wasn’t making her want to kill me and everyone around her. Puyo Puyo Tetris gave me a traditional well puzzler on my TV for the first time in years, and I loved every second of it. Sonic Mania was surprising and fun around every turn, and an absolute joy to play through. (Also had my favorite game trailer of the year). Star Fox 2 was actually released. I own and have played Star Fox 2. I still can’t get over the fact that it’s real. Arkanoid vs Space Invaders consumed my life for weeks with its brilliant merging of 2 of my favorite old school arcade games. Space Invaders Frenzy is just an absolute blast to play and will be an arcade favorite of mine for years to come. And let’s not forget Chicken Wiggle. There needs to be more platformers starring chickens.

What’s crazy about those games is they aren’t even in the running for my Game of the Year. What’s left is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Blaster Master Zero, Metroid: Samus Returns, Doom, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, and Super Mario Odyssey. For all the joy those other games brought me, these 6 games right here are next-level good. I enjoyed the rest of those games, but these 6 here weren’t just some of the best games of the year, they’re some of my favorite games I’ve ever played. Each one has brought me levels of joy I usually only get maybe once or twice a year. 2017 brought me 6 games of that caliber. I’m supposed to narrow that down to my top 3 games of the year for the podcast, and it’s not going to be easy.

wonderboythedragonstrap-b011.jpgStill one of the most gorgeous games I've ever played

The next category to look at when comparing 2016 to 2017 is games I wanted to play but didn’t get around to. This is another category 2017 wins hands down. In 2016 I missed 9 games as opposed to just 7 this year, but the difference in quality of games I didn't play is notable. 2016 brought Uncharted 4; A Thief's End, which I would still love to play, but I don’t have a PS4. Doom came out, but again, no PS4. Fortunately, it hit Switch and as I said before, I’m enjoying the crap out of it. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam piqued my interest, but I have since heard it wasn’t very good. I wanted to give Oddworld: New N Tasty a go, but for whatever reason I never got around to buying it. Seems I wasn’t the only one. BoxBoxBoy came out, but I hadn’t finished the first one yet, so I waited there. I’ll probably be waiting forever though, because I just don't enjoy spending time with my 3DS as much since the Switch came out. Overcooked was released, and I finally got to play it this year. No Man’s Sky looked incredible, but my lack of a PS4 got in my way again. Plus, I heard it wasn’t so great anyway. Paper Mario: Color Splash also looked super cool, but again, I heard I didn’t really miss much. And finally, The Last Guardian actually saw release, but there’s that pesky no PS4 problem again. Maybe someday.

So of the 9 games I missed, 2 were released on Switch this year, 4 turned out to be not so great, 2 I just need to get my hands on a PS4 to play, and the other one is BoxBoxBoy. In 2017, there was Rocket League for Switch, which I plan on buying sometime soon. Then there’s Yooka-Laylee, which I plan on buying as soon as I’m done with Mario Odyssey. Cuphead looks like it’s exactly the kind of game I would adore, but it’s an Xbox One exclusive, so that’s never going to happen. Horizon: Zero Dawn may have a silly name, but it looks beyond amazing, and I hear it plays as good as it looks. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle I still can’t believe is an actual thing that is a good game, but everyone I know who’s played it tells me it’s great. The Mummy: Demastered is a new WayForward joint, and I’ll play just about anything they release. And finally, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a thing that looks like I could really get into, you know, if I had that kind of time. There isn’t a stinker on that list, and I have concrete plans to play at least 3 of them in the very near future. Turns out 2017 was even a better year for missed opportunities.

This game has made me seriously consider buying a PS4 more than once

Then we have the "disappointed by" category. I guess 2016 “wins” this one because I was let down by 4 games that year vs. 1 genuine disappointment and 2 “sort of” let downs in 2017. For 2016, Street Fighter V made me sad. I still can’t put my finger specifically on what it is about that game, but I do not enjoy it. Star Fox Zero had all the potential to be excellent, but it was bogged down by the absolutely bananas dual screen controls. Metroid Prime: Federation Force needs no introduction. Not that I hate that game, I never actually played it. But talk about bad timing… And then there’s the Grand Central Station of disappointment, Mighty No. 9. What a sad, sorry excuse for a game. I tried. I really did. I kickstarted that thing. I believed in Beck. My faith was misplaced. Mighty No. 9 is awful. 

In 2017, the only game I was genuinely let down by was Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite. Again, I don't’ know what’s going on with Capcom’s fighting game department, but this game just missed the mark. From what I’ve come to understand, it plays well enough, but I just can’t get past the visuals. The art direction on this game is ass-tastic, and in a game where the very concept of playing as these characters is part of the appeal in the first place, when everyone looks so… wrong, it really takes away from the whole thing. The other 2 games were Stardew Valley and Double Dragon IV. There’s nothing wrong with Stardew Valley. I was just sad that it didn’t catch me the way I thought it would. That’s more on me than the game though, so that’s why it’s only “kind of” on my list. Double Dragon IV is a bland-ass bland game. I wrote an article on how I felt about that game, and while I did wind up getting into an absolutely hilarious “argument” with an internet troll who seemed completely incapable of grasping the definitions of certain words, at the end of the day, arguing with that troll was more fun than playing Double Dragon IV. It's not bad, it’s just aggressively bland. And that makes me kind of sad.

What the heck is wrong with Chun Li's head?

So that just leaves what I was excited to play in the future. Honestly, this one’s pretty close, but in very different ways. 2017 was mostly a mystery to me back in 2016. I knew the Switch was coming, but I was still waiting for Nintendo to blow the lid off the secret titles that were going to come my way. Looking back, I think I only really knew about Runner 3 (which still hasn’t come out yet) Wonder Boy, Zelda, and Horizon. Those 4 right there had me sufficiently hyped, and that big mystery of what the Switch would bring was just a big ball of joyous speculation. As for today, there are currently 14 games scheduled for 2018 that I’m stoked to play, with another 2 (Metroid Prime 4 and Bayonetta 3) on the horizon beyond that. Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom looks better every time I see it. Toe Jam & Earl: Back in the Groove looks like the sequel the first game always deserved but never got. Runner 3 looks absolutely amazing. (I love Runner.) Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night looks like it may actually deliver on it potential in ways Mighty No. 9 never could. Kirby: Star Allies looks like a blast, and I haven’t played a proper Kirby game in years, so that could be fun. That new Yoshi game looks great too, and I loved Wooly World. Mega Man Legacy Collection 1 and 2 are hitting Switch, so I’ll be doing a full Mega Man series playthrough again. Always a good time. Mega Man 11 is a thing that is real and I can not wait to see more about it. Bayonetta 1 & 2 are seeing Switch releases and I’m resolved to finally playing these games because they look awesome. Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is going to give me portable 3rd Strike, and that’s pretty much all I’ve ever wanted out of life. Dragon Ball Fighter Z has me hyped beyond words and absolutely BEGGING for a Switch release because come on, I want it!!! Soul Calibur VI has me excited to play Soul Calibur for the first time in years (again, Switch please!) Super Meat Boy Forever is more Meat Boy, and who doesn’t love Meat Boy? And finally, and I never thought I’d actually say this, but after playing Doom, I’m genuinely excited to give Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus a shot when it hits Switch next year.

The visuals in this game are unbelievable

So, wow, right? That’s just me and my predominantly Nintendo-focused gaming year. I’ve come to understand it’s been a pretty darn good year for PlayStation gamers too, and the Xbox One is, well, I think people like that thing too, right? No matter how you slice it, 2017 has been an absolute monster of a year for quality video games. 2018 will be hard pressed to come even close, but I guess we’ll see. Now it’s time for me to get back to narrowing down my Game of the Year. What a difference a year makes.