Don’t forget to visit the awards hub for more information on each award, the winners, and the schedule of what’s next.
While each year is filled to the brim with AAA releases to many franchises we’ve seen over the years, sometimes, seeing a smaller title get the spotlight is fantastic in its own right.
What’s interesting is that every year seems to blur the line further and further between what is and isn’t considered an indie title. Whatever label you want to give these smaller games, 2017 was another fantastic year for downladable games as well as major titles getting supported by stellar add-ons or stand alone expansions.
Whether coming from a small team of independent developers, or perhaps an expansion to an already fantastic game, these are my favorite games from 2017.
and the nominees are…
Though it suffered through multiple delays, the final product exceeded most fans expectations. The most recognizable aspect to the game is its visual style, looking like a 1930’s cartoon ripped right from the TV. As the titular character Cuphead, players take on a series of boss battles, with a few frantic side-scrolling levels mixed in for good measure. Though the game is well known for being difficult, part of the joy the game gives off is from learning boss patterns and eventually overcoming each trial and tribulation. Come for the impressive visuals, stay for the addictive combat loops.
Say what you want about the state of Sonic these days, but many people would tell you that the franchise as a whole has been on a downswing thanks to consistently underwhelming releases. While fans were hopeful that Sonic Mania could reverse the course, I think most were surprised at just how good the game was. A celebration of the franchise, Sonic Mania is a community focused project with support from Sega, pulling in familiar content and stages, as well as crafting entirely new experiences. If you’re a fan of Sonic or old school titles, this is a can’t miss game.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
I think a lot of Uncharted fans were excited by the prospect of a single player expansion, especially after Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was the planned final chapter for protagonist Nathan Drake. What most didn’t expect is how big this expansion became, ballooning into a standalone release rather than being a simple add-on. The Lost Legacy re-introduces Chloe Frazer into the spotlight for this adventure, taking her talents to India alongside Nadine Ross. It’s a fun, bite-sized Uncharted adventure, though the production values are still ridiculously high. What’s better is that this package also comes with the full multiplayer mode for Uncharted 4 as well. Also, the photo mode in this game is amazing.
Fortnite: Battle Royale
Technically a free update to a major release, this Battle Royale expansion helped catapult the game into the stratosphere after a sluggish Early Access launch. While PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds clearly led the charge for this style of competitive multiplayer on the PC, Fortnite managed to tap into the console market first. Not only did Fortnite give players on Xbox One or PlayStation 4 an outlet to get this fix, it also came as a free download, increasing its appeal tenfold. Thanks to continued updates and a more fleshed out PvE campaign, this is one game that isn’t going away any time soon.
Though it never managed to quite pick up steam at release, I found LawBreakers to be a well made character driven arena shooter. Of course, coming from the mind of Cliff Bleszinski also helps as he’s a man who has had a hand in creating a number of hit franchises like Gears of War, Unreal Tournament, and more. As you can expect, combat is lightning fast and thanks to a variety of different characters, it feels unique. Each character plays differently from the ninja like wraiths, to the tanky Juggernauts. The main hook to this game however are pockets of zero-gravity areas, which introduces a bit of chaos as players can boost and jump almost anywhere inside. With a variety of game modes like Blitzball, Turf War, and more, it’s a shame LawBreakers just isn’t fairing as well as it deserves.
If you asked me to describe Pyre before it released, I’d have a pretty hard time. As I wrote earlier this year, I have an unbelievable amount of respect for Supergiant Games and their ability to craft completely different experiences for each of their games. Pyre follows suit in that it’s a party based RPG where players partake in rituals at a chance to leave this purgatory style world. Rituals themselves play out like a sports game where two teams of three compete to capture an orb and plunge it into the opponent’s pyre. Reduce the pyre’s health to zero and you win, pushing your team closer to freedom. It’s not always that simple however as players need to decide which three players to pick and even free, which has drastic implications going forward.
As I mentioned in the previous soundtrack award, music is what originally got my attention with this game when it launched on Kickstarter. I had no clue that BattleChasers was a highly popular comic franchise penned by Airship Syndicate founder Joe Madureira. Paying homage to old school turn-based RPGs, Nightwar serves as a continuation of that long dormant franchise featuring a very cool visual style, interesting characters, and fun gameplay. Each character has their own personality and abilities, and players can earn/craft new loot to better kit them out. Not only that, combat features basic abilities that build a meter which can be used instead of mana for more powerful moves. It provides more tactical depth giving players the option to use mana to gain access to powerful moves quicker, or save it and build overcharge first.
and the winner is….
Supergiant Games takes home another virtual win during these awards and while Pyre faced more stiff competition, the thing that put it over the top for me was that I relatively had no clue as to what I was getting into. Pre-release articles had a tough time translating the game for me, so gameplay wise I only kind of knew that it was a sports inspired game. Still, the strength of the developer pushed me into picking up a copy and I’m so glad that I did. The story, music, and gameplay all came together to offer not only a compelling and memorable adventure, but a game that continues to stick with me to this day.