Good hardware, good blockbusters, good indies, and good Aussie games. It's been one of the best years since the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One, and no matter where you look, there's been something to enjoy.
There's always a ton of regret whenever Christmas comes around, if only because there are so many good games still to play. For instance, I never got around to Nier: Automata, since I buggered my wrist right when I was hoping to play it. That same injury stopped me from finishing Cuphead and giving Hellblade a go, although I'm hoping to tackle those soon.
Nonetheless, I was fortunate enough to get to a good chunk of games this year. So without further ado, let's begin our annual ritual.
10. Race For The Galaxy
This would have been higher on my list, had the superb Through The Ages also not come out this year. Nonetheless, it's still a top-notch card game where players race to colonise the galaxy as fast as possible by building developments and settling planets.
Every player can take one of five actions, with a few variants if you're playing the advanced version for two players: drawing cards, building developments, settling planets, trading resources (for cards or victory points) and generating resources. Like Puerto Rico, any action taken by one player is subsequently taken by all players, but only the person who chooses that action gains a special bonus. (Unlike Puerto Rico however, actions are taken simultaneously and multiple players can choose the same action.)
I've mostly played Race For the Galaxy on mobile, but the Steam version is a quality port as well. More importantly, the AI's good, the UI is relatively readable even on a smaller screen, and the tutorial is reasonable (if not completely exhaustive). One of the best digital board games this year.
9. Ashes Cricket
Being one of the few games I could play with a buggered wrist, I was very happy to spend a chunk of time with Ashes Cricket of late. Besides: it's an Ashes year, I'm a cricket tragic, and Ashes Cricket has done the decent thing of resolving a lot of the issues I had with Don Bradman Cricket 17.
It still needs some post-release work, as does any game, and the career progression could badly use a redesign. But it's still a good dose of virtual cricket, and far more entertaining than watching the Poms fail endlessly.
8. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
A game that completely came out of nowhere for me this year, Hogwarts Battle is a family-friendly cooperative deckbuilder. I'll have more to say about it before the year is out, but it's a surprisingly clever game, really well designed, and a great tonic for Harry Potter fans. Hugely impressed by this.
7. Horizon Zero Dawn
The first game that gave the PS4 Pro a purpose, for many. The console's initial launch was a tad underwhelming: there were a lack of games showing off how valuable HDR could be, not to mention few console games were pushing 4K at the time. (The console didn't even have Boost Mode at the time so it could run existing games at 1080p better.)
But then Horizon dropped, a beautiful game with one of the most incredible engines seen this year. It's also the kind of game that has very clearly learned from great open-world RPGs of the past, with a lot of clever design inclusions and one of my favourite UI's of 2017.
6. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I fell off the Zelda bandwagon a lot this year, but after the initial Switch month died down I returned to Hyrule and started making more progress. I personally prefer more cinematic, story-driven epics - Witcher 3 and Horizon are a good case in point - but even with that, it's hard not to enjoy how good Zelda is.
Also, I had the fortunate benefit (thanks to an unnamed friend) of experiencing a bit of Breath of the Wild through CEMU, with all the bells and whistles cranked up.
And holy shit, is that something.
5. Golf Story
Oh, Golf Story. One of the most charming games of the year, and one of the best Aussie games released in a very long time - even amongst a year of very good local releases. If you have a Switch, and you spent any amount of time enjoying Mario Golf, you need to buy this game.
4. Hollow Knight
Australian games over the last several years have always had a particular character to them. There's charm, good ideas, and plenty of fun, but there has also generally been some telltale signs of what happens when you're forced to deal with small teams and small budgets.
Put simply, it's a lack of polish. Sometimes the UI isn't as clean or sharp as it should be. Sometimes the graphics are a bit off. Performance isn't that tight. Or maybe there's just a few bits and pieces missing, things that a bigger team or budget would have nailed.
Hollow Knight doesn't have those problems. Top to bottom, it's an outstanding game. It's comfortably one of the most polished games I've ever seen come out of Australia, and a triumph of local design.
3. Divinity: Original Sin 2
I'm almost glad I buggered my wrist, if only because it finally gave me the chance to dive into a world-class RPG. It's not without it's problems, and the difficulty can really catch you off guard at points. But that's what oldschool, traditional RPGs do.
It's also fun to go, "What if I put this and this together and holy shit it works." Divinity 2 rewards and encourages creativity, often in highly amusing ways. I've not had the joy yet of experiencing how good the Gamemaster mode can be yet, but the amount of the silly shit the campaign lets you get up to is well worth the price of entry alone.
I've put 81 hours into Divinity: Original Sin 2 over the last 12 days. When I wasn't playing, I was thinking about it, or talking about it. It's brilliant and frustrating in turns, and occasionally both at the same time. I adore it, but for now I'm glad to be done with it.
2. Through The Ages
Up until the day I installed Through The Ages on my phone, the only thing that stopped me playing was an update that introduced a bug where colonisation rounds wouldn't resolve.
Beyond that, I've played the digital recreation of Vlaada Chvatil's genius daily. I've played it on the crapper. I've stayed up until 0300 in the morning grinding out challenges. I've played it on the train. It's been a constant companion that has sucked so many hours out of my life, and surpassed by only one other game this year.
Vlaada Chvatil is a bit of a legend in board games, having made Codenames, Mage Knight and Galaxy Truckers. And recently, one of his earlier hits got released on mobile. Through The Ages. It's basically a Civilization inspired card game, and it's been keeping me up all week.
1. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds
We haven't seen anything go viral quite like PUBG, except for perhaps DayZ back in the day. Which is kind of apt, given that Brendan Greene started out as an ArmA 2 modder.
I've not played as much PUBG in the last couple of months, particularly since the injury, but it still retains a special place for me this year. I've spent almost 200 hours flipping karts and bikes, and the intensity of the final ten still reminds me of some of the most intense moments I had playing competitive Counter-Strike.
The other night, I jumped into a game of Battlegrounds with some friends. We hopped into the same Discord server so we could all chat to each other, even though we had eight players and PUBG squads have a limit of four.
But no matter. Both teams searched for a game separately, and continued on our merry ways. And then about fifteen minutes in, things started to get a little awkward.
That's a special memory for me. And despite all the bugs, the lack of polish, the desperate need for optimisations (especially on Xbox), and the nightmare that is open voice chat, PUBG is a special game.
What have been your favourite games of the year?