Welcome back! Here’s what you’ve missed so far:
30. FIFA 18
EA Sports, EA Canada
Martin Robinson: It’s not as good as PES. Sorry, Wes.
Wesley Yin-Poole: Right, okay. I’ve spent much of 2017 reporting on the good, bad and ugly of FIFA 18. I reviewed it and recommended it because at launch it was a fun, over-the-top game of virtual football with some wicked new game modes (Squad Battles slotted seamlessly into my lifestyle like a cross into David De Gea’s soft hands). But then, well, carnage. A post-launch patch went down like Ronaldo in the box, so bad were the changes. This fuelled complaints about what are considered to be broken aspects of the gameplay, such as inexplicable passing errors, shots hitting the woodwork over and over again, and overpowered low driven shots.
The negative sentiment snowballed, eventually manifesting as the #FixFIFA movement. There were even calls to boycott the game, although this never went anywhere. I’ve reported on a kick-off glitch, alleged cheating among the FIFA pros and even potential cheating by the game itself. And then there was concern about the way FIFA Ultimate Team, EA’s billion-dollars-a-year mode, exploits young people with its card packs, pay-to-win design and gruelling Weekend League. All the while, EA’s communication with its community was about as insightful as a footballer’s post-match interview.
And yet, despite all of this, FIFA 18 is still better than PES. Sorry, Martin.
Thunder Lotus Games
Edwin Evans-Thirlwell: Sundered is possibly my game of the year. The electric hum and thwop of your whip-sword! The extravagance and murderousness of those bullet-hell boss battles! The daredevil ease with which you learn to move around the geometry – chaining double jump to upper cut to chimney kick to mid-air combo to batwing glide to teleport-dash! True, the environment art is a bit murky in stretches and the use of procedurally generated levels is an acquired taste, but I haven’t got such enjoyment out of an aerial uppercut in ages.
28. Little Nightmares
Edwin Evans-Thirlwell: Remember how adults used to look when you were very young? All hairy and creased and warped by perspective, with yellowing teeth and massive hands, masters of a world that dwarfs you? Little Nightmares weaponises that childish dread, and piles on a heaping spoonful of atrocity imagery for good measure. It’s yet another horror-platformer in the Playdead tradition, but I think it exceeds Limbo (though perhaps not the subsequent Inside) in terms of its ogreish threats and the squalid, mechanical lives they lead when they aren’t chasing you around like a rodent. Say what you like about Limbo’s giant spiders, but at least you don’t have to watch them eating. A short, brutal masterpiece.
27. Sonic Mania
Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, Sega of America, PagodaWest Games
Martin Robinson: Maybe it was nostalgia getting the better of me, or possibly it’s because I’m a man in his mid-30s with a pair of Sonic pyjamas, but no game got me quite as hyped as this. It was like Sonic Twosday all over again. Even better, playing through Sonic Mania managed to cast away that doubt that’s been at the back of my mind ever since falling head over heels with the hedgehog back in his 90s heyday; that thought that maybe these games weren’t that good after all. Sonic Mania restored the style, the speed and the imagination that I always felt was at the series’ core; the truth, though, is that those games were never quite as good as this.
Christian Donlan: Simogo Games called this their game of the year, so that has to count for something.
Oli Welsh: I never got Sonic. I thought this would be the game to change that. It didn’t. Still, I’m very happy for all of you.
26. Mass Effect: Andromeda
Tom Phillips: It’s been months now, and I’m still not okay about Mass Effect Andromeda. On launch – chucked out days before the end of EA’s financial year – Andromeda arrived as a fine but far from fantastic Mass Effect game. It was unpolished, in need of another few patches to iron out its most GIF-worthy bugs, and it required another writing pass to really draw out its soul. It didn’t get that, and while it would likely never have reached the heights of the series’ past – a Mass Effect 2, a game of the generation – it could still have really been something. Andromeda had huge shoes to fill, yes, but it could have been enough – enough that BioWare’s plans for the future of the Mass Effect franchise weren’t instead snuffed out. Andromeda had so much promise, and so many moments worthy of seeing, I’m heartbroken we won’t get a sturdier, more refined sequel which expands upon these, that we will never see more of ancient Drack, motherly Vetra, sly Kallo, discover the Benefactor, meet the Jaardan, or save the quarians. Even as an average Mass Effect game, Andromeda is still well worth the journey. And I’m still not okay.
Edwin Evans-Thirlwell: Andromeda could have been a brave new start for Mass Effect – a galaxy in which the original trilogy’s once-mighty races are needy vagrants, a protagonist unburdened by decisions in previous games, a core mechanic that sees you terraforming planets and so, altering their threats and ambience rather than just running a hoover over all their secondary objectives. Instead we got a vague retread of Mass Effect 1’s plot with uneven writing, lots of boring legwork, some questionable Big Choices and a king’s ransom in bugs. It’s a shame, because the combat is snappy, florid and fairly substantial and the environments are truly glorious, on par with Destiny’s in their scale and artistry. If you’re in a forgiving mood and have time to burn, there are worse ways to see out the Christmas period.
Wesley Yin-Poole: Andromeda isn’t a bad game, as the internet circa launch had you believe. It’s just not very good, and for Mass Effect fans, that’s perhaps the biggest video game disappointment of the year. The bad faces were not in fact Andromeda’s biggest problem, although they were the funniest. The game’s biggest problem was how boring it all was. The characters weren’t particularly interesting, the planets were uninspired and the quests were instantly forgettable. For a series that made its name on all three of those things, Andromeda was the letdown of 2017.
And yet, here it is, on this list of top games of 2017. Why’s that? Well, the combat is fun. The new spaceship is pretty cool. And, well, Jaal is kind of awesome, isn’t he? There’s flashes of Mass Effect magic buried within Andromeda’s banality. You just have to work really, really hard to find it.
Oli Welsh: One of these days, we’re going to have to talk about what the city of Montreal and the development culture there – created by Ubisoft and turned into a factory/strip-mine kind of operation by every other big publisher – is doing to gaming. Because it’s not good. In the last couple of years it’s killed off Deus Ex and Mass Effect. I’m seriously worried Tomb Raider or something will be next. Will no-one think of the franchises?
25. For Honor
Oli Welsh: Of course we’ve just segued straight into a cool, relatively original game and not overly bloated game made in Montreal. Way to undermine my point.
Edwin Evans-Thirlwell: You have to hack away quite a lot of dead wood to get at what makes For Honor great – the overloaded UI, the wayward gear system, that rather pointless campaign war mechanic. I was far too forgiving of all that clutter in my review, but who’s got time to worry about gear unlocks when there’s a lady in bearskin trousers swinging axes at your face? For Honor’s combination of a shoulder-cam and three-stance attack/parry system, plus Ubisoft’s usual, breathtaking animations, make it one of the most enjoyable fighting games I’ve played, if hardly the deepest. The trick is to stick to 1v1 and 2v2 matches with no gear advantages, though the MOBA-inflected Dominion mode is quite a nice palate-cleanser, with its legions of miniature soldiers just begging to be cut down.
Wesley Yin-Poole: I loved For Honor at launch, despite its many, many problems. There’s so much about it that’s appealing to a fighting game fan. Underpinning the satisfying melee combat is a compelling mind game that feels fresh, unique and as complex as you want it to be. It’s just a real shame that what’s great about For Honor is buried beneath a mountain of bullshit. Whether it’s rampant disconnections, embarrassing exploits or controversial progression (what game doesn’t have controversial progression these days?), the issues meant For Honor was hamstrung from the start. I stuck with it as long as I could before I left for pastures new. Ubisoft is doing good work trying to win players back (dedicated servers are in the works), but it’s an uphill struggle. One of those missed opportunities.
24. Puyo Puyo Tetris
Sega, Sonic Team
Christian Donlan: The secret best game on the Switch is also a brilliant reminder that the secret best feature of the Switch is that little flap you can pull out on the back to prop the whole thing up on a pub table while you play Puyo Puyo Tetris.
Tom Phillips: Puyo Puyo Tetris is my second-most played game on Switch – somewhere in the region of 80 hours, beaten only by Zelda – and a lot of that is from local multiplayer. I’ve played it at home on the TV with my fiancee, I’ve played it in the pub with Eurogamer pals, I’ve played it on the plane to E3 and the Eurostar to Gamescom. If I wasn’t writing this I’d probably be playing it right now.
Martin Robinson: Sonic Team’s best game this year. Okay, the other one they released was proper shite and this did originally come out in 2014, but still – if you’ve ever thought that Sega’s core devs are past it, a session with this should do more than enough to persuade you some of that old magic is still there.
Wesley Yin-Poole: Hey noobs. I’m the best at Tetris at Eurogamer. I don’t own a Switch because I’m an adult, but then my pals said they were good at Tetris and we could play it in the pub. They don’t ask me to play any more. Funny that.
23. Assassin’s Creed Origins
Many, many Ubisoft studios
Christian Donlan: This was such a delight. After years of slightly underwhelming Assassin’s games, Egypt properly delivers: massive scale, effortless mystery, and a brilliant twist – that by the time we get to Egypt all the famous stuff is already ancient – that turns this into a surprising glimpse into the world of classical tourism.
Tom Phillips: What a difference a year makes. Origins is the first game in the once-annual series to be given an extra 12 months in development and boy does it show. Assassin’s Creed has reemerged with new systems, questlines and an enormous world which swaps robotic map-clearing for moments of genuine discovery: breaking into a tomb, the only sound your torch’s soft, guttering flame as you suddenly find a chamber full of glinting gold, or trekking through a shimmering mirage-filled desert under a burning sun to fight an enormous simulation of a god. Assassin’s Creed hasn’t been this fun in years. New main characters Bayek and Aya are both great, too.
The Fullbright Company
Tom Phillips: Short but sweet character-driven sci-fi, this is more than just Gone Home in space. The premise is similar, but its engrossing narrative echoes make smart use of Tacoma’s teasing snippets of story in a compact zero-G setting. The ending is great, too.
21. Gran Turismo Sport
Martin Robinson: I said in my review that this is perhaps Polyphony’s most purely enjoyable game since Gran Turismo 3, and a couple of months later I stand by that. It might not be as exhaustive as previous outings, and there may well have been one cut too many in the series’ move to PlayStation 4, but in jettisoning so much Gran Turismo has rediscovered the pure thrill of driving and, for the first time, of racing. Every other racing game that came out this year – and there were more than a few – was more generous in features and content, but none of them gave me anywhere near as much pleasure as this.
Oli Welsh: 100% agree with Martin. It was a good year for racing games but this phenomenal piece of work stopped them all in their tracks. From a certain angle it looks like a drastically cut back Gran Turismo, but from another it’s a Gran Turismo that’s been stripped down to the core, modernised and rebuilt with a new focus. And let’s be honest, GT has needed modernising for over a decade. The single-player may seem slim, but the mission mode is more imaginative and engaging than any amount of trad GT grind. And the online Sport mode – which aims to create a sort of mass-market, accessible iRacing – is by far the most competitive, thrilling, disciplined and fair online racing game on consoles, possibly anywhere. The Brands Hatch race where I qualified 8th, got dumped to 12th in a turn-one pile-up and fought tooth-and-nail to finish 4th is my gaming moment of the year.