Danika Harrod's Top 10 Games of 2017
Sometimes laughing, crying, and singing karaoke with your sworn brother are the best medicine for a terrible year.
Welcome to Waypoint's Pantheon of Games, a celebration of our favorite games, a re-imagining of the year's best characters, and an exploration of the 2017's most significant trends.
10. HQ Trivia
2017 was a weird, fucked up year, filled with moments that felt completely surreal. One of those moments, though not as bad... but still kind of fucked up, was the instant I discovered HQ Trivia. Pal of the team, Casey Malone, sent a message in a group chat that just said, “Download HQ.”
I had no idea what he was talking about, and when I searched “HQ” in the Apple store, some random app came up that had no reviews and 2 stars. I kept searching. I had no idea what I was looking for… and then… I saw him. The man, the myth, the Trap Trebek… Scott Rogowsky.
Despite first opening HQ when it had a measly 800 players, I was quickly drawn in by Scott’s bubbly, hilarious personality and the fact that it was a thing I could experience with all of my friends. HQ is a twice-a-day live trivia game where you’re asked 12 multiple choice questions and, if you win, split a cash prize with other winners. It’s not something I play every day now that it’s garnering 300k-400k players each game, but it’s something that made the last few months of the year a bit brighter. Thanks, Scott.
Officially released just two weeks ago, Gorogoa is perfectly timed. A short, detailed, meditative puzzler, this game took me through four-panel landscapes in a way that left me feeling emotional and uplifted. Clocking around three hours total (some of the puzzles took me a while), Gorogoa felt like the cherry I needed on my GOTY deliberation ice cream. As tough as some of the puzzles were for me, the ambient-drone style music kept me completely chilled out and focused throughout.
8. Destiny 2
I surprised myself while figuring out my list this year. I spent hours with Destiny 2. I played it to completion and further on both PS4 and PC, multiple times, and I loved it. I even wrote about it once. I am historically bad at shooters, I’ve never been big on multiplayer games, and I never touched the original Destiny, but so many people I knew were picking this game up that I had to get in on it, and I’m so glad I did.
My relationship with this game ranged from excellent (while playing through strikes or finishing out the campaign with friends) to frustrated (while working through the raid). If I didn’t have friends to play with, I doubt it would have made it on my list at all. My late nights with Destiny 2 are ones that I’ll cherish, but it isn’t a game I see myself continuing to go back to the way I do with other games. Who knows, maybe once I finally check out the expansion I’ll change my mind.
7. Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire
OKAY, HEAR ME OUT. THIS GAME, Y’ALL. I spent so much time with it. Yes, I know, it’s just a mobile clicker, but you’re fighting against the corporate machine to redeem your drivers so they can stop being taken advantage of by some shitty asshole in a white suit. Remember all that shit that happened with UBER this year? I basically played as if I was battling against UBER with a crew of incredibly funny and interesting characters to take back control of paid transportation in the town. IT’S SO FUN. ALSO, sexy Santa. Thank you.
6. Night in the Woods
I played through Night in the Woods over the course of about a month. I took my time, savoring the environment, relationships, and the feelings it gave me. I felt a connection with most of the characters, especially Bea, and it reminded me of being in my hometown and often ending up back there after leaving, feeling stuck and unable to escape.
I loved every little thing you could do in that game, from the minigames to moving bulletins around to the dungeon crawler on Mae’s computer. I loved being able to look through a telescope to find constellations, and I loved running through the night with the whole crew. I loved the month I spent with that game.
5. Nier: Automata
Boy did I sure take a long time to finally start this game. I’m one of those people who gets a little scared of games that are incredibly popular. It took me over a year to play Undertale, and almost six months to pick up Nier: Automata. I’m so glad I did. 25 endings later (I still need Emil’s quest ending) and I was laid bare, fully embracing my inner nihilism and fully devoted to robots.
The soundtrack to this game is unrivaled this year. I hear the first note of Pascal’s song and I’m destroyed. The combat was clunky for me at times, and I wasn’t the best at the hacking element, but this game changed my year for the better and turned me into a longtime fan of the franchise.
4. Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn was my #1 GOTY contender for… basically the entire year up until last month when a few things changed. I am one step away from platinuming this game, and I’ve gone back to it time and time again, completing the DLC and revisiting my first playthrough.
Horizon felt so incredible to play. I loved the combat, I loved the machines, I loved the story, but most of all I loved the environments and the character interactions. It has so much going for it, and I found myself wondering time and time again why the creators felt the need to include the headdresses, use the word “brave,” and appropriate cultures that were not their own and that Aloy did not fit into. When we asked the narrative director specifically about the use of the word “brave,” his response was avoidant, blaming the internet for being overly sensitive, and it really turned me off from continuing to play this game.
The game would have been good without all of that. The interactions between the characters were incredible, the facial expressions were sharp and evoked what was coming across in the dialogue, and the voice acting was top notch. On top of these interactions, the setting and environments had a huge effect on me. I took hundreds of photos, some of which you can see in Dia Lacina’s end of year photo mode appreciation piece. This game holds a truly special place in my heart and I’m looking forward to what’s next from Guerilla. Just hoping they learned a bit from this game.
3. What Remains of Edith Finch
This write up is going to get a little sad and will tackle some of my feelings about death, specifically my father’s impending departure from my life.
Since I got word in October that my dad didn’t have much time left (cancer’s a real bitch), I’ve been struggling with media consumption. I connect to media in a way that often moves me to my core, or whatever. I get all fucked up and I’m bad at talking about media I consume analytically because I’m just too much of a mess over it. But, because of everything going on lately, I’ve felt like that piece of me has gotten a little lost, and finding that connection to media has recently felt close to impossible. I’ve been desperately trying to find it again.
I woke up at 7am one morning and checked on my dad. I rarely use Facebook, and when I do it’s almost always to see if he’s online. Sometimes he goes off the grid and I get nervous. Sometimes he sleeps all day. He hasn’t been sleeping at night, so he was online when I woke up (4am his time) on this specific morning. I called him and we talked. He was in a good mood. He’s been going out lately, doing open mics and playing blues, he’s feeling happy and in turn, so am I. His good mood stemming from playing music motivated me to try playing… anything.
I bought What Remains of Edith Finch and started it at 7:30 in the morning. I streamed it because, why not? A few people were awake and kept me company through one of my most emotional gaming experiences of the year. Thanks to all of you.
The way Edith Finch handled death was amazing to me. The stories usually ended on a light-hearted note, but left me feeling torn up inside. This was a good thing. By the time I got to Lewis, Edith’s brother, I was a mess. His entire story was incredible. From discovering his room to watching him chop fish heads off to seeing what was going on inside his mind, I was face-forward, completely wrapped up in what was happening despite knowing where it would lead. It quickly became my favorite gaming moment of the year.
I came away from What Remains of Edith Finch feeling tired, but hopeful. I was hopeful seeing a character like Edith walk through a house filled with memories of life and death, still sounding so positive and gentle when talking about her family. I wanted to immediately play through it again. I want to play it with my dad, I think he’d really love it.
2. PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS
This is going to be short and sweet. I fucking suck at this game but I will forever be grateful for my Breakfast & Battlegrounds family, and the moments we’ve shared. It’s brought my team so close in a year that’s been so utterly fucked and I am so, so thankful for it.
1. Yakuza 0
WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG TO PLAY THIS GAME? Yakuza 0 has changed my entire life. These boys… THEY’RE GOOD BOYS. They’re such good boys. I was so pleasantly surprised by the tone in this game. The serious, very hardcore Yakuza storyline mixed with silly side quests and fun mini games somehow managed to feel cohesive and smooth. You’d think going from barreling through a room filled with guys who want to kill you straight into karaoke with your sworn brother would maybe feel a little jarring, but no. It doesn’t. It feels fucking fantastic.
I’ve been tweeting for weeks about Yakuza 0. I finished the game after putting 50 hours into it and I somehow only managed to complete 13%, which means I am for sure going back, and going back, and going back, and filling my brain and heart with my two most favoritest boys, Kiryu and Majima. Yakuza Kiwami arrived in the mail today. Maybe I won’t even have a GOTY 2018 list because I’m ready to go back and play every single Yakuza game in existence. I’m a mess.
I’ll end my GOTY list with these words:
Dear Video Game God, Please Turn Me Into A Video Game Character And Let Me Kiss Kiryu And Majima At Some Point In My Life.