A lot of terrible stuff has happened in 2017, but as far as video games are concerned, it has been one of the most interesting years in recent memory. Acclaimed classics like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released, sequels to mediocre games managed to catch us by surprise with their innovative new features, and most importantly, we learned a lot more about the anatomy of one of our most beloved characters. From the triumphant to the trivial, let’s look back at the stories that gamers can be thankful for this year.
1. The Nintendo Switch is a success
Nintendo’s Wii U console was a complete and utter failure. Neither casual and hardcore players found much to love in the tablet-based system, so they let it collect dust on store shelves. With its new console, the Nintendo Switch, it seems Nintendo is back on top.
Not only has the console outsold analysts’ expectations by a considerable margin, it has also seen a consistently strong stream of games supporting it throughout 2017. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an absolute classic, and this summer’s Splatoon 2 and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle helped to keep players glued to their Joy-Con controllers. Super Mario Odyssey is just the icing on the cake. Speaking of which …
2. Mario’s nipples
For too long, the mystery of what hid under Mario’s overalls had been tearing the gaming community apart. Nintendo stood by and did nothing as our collective psyche gradually eroded into nothing more than some Splatoon ink and a few mushrooms.
But then, we witnessed a miracle. During a Nintendo Direct, we saw gameplay footage of Mario running around in a pair of boxer shorts on the beach. And there they were, in all their glory: Mario’s nipples on his perfectly waxed chest. Few moments have brought the collective gaming community together, but this revelation managed to do it. The gaming world marveled at how Nintendo had managed to keep a secret for this long, and memed the revelation to high heaven. Eventually, the celebration led to a new question about Mario’s biology: Why doesn’t he have a belly button?
3. ‘Nier: Automata’ is a critical darling and a financial success
Auteur game director Yoko Taro has been creating wonderfully inventive and flawed games for more than a decade. His Drakengard series, as well as the original Nier, were unlike anything anyone had seen before from a narrative perspective, but their rough edges and clunky gameplay destined them to be niche titles.
Yet somehow, Square Enix was confident enough in Taro’s pitch for a sequel to Nier, his 2010 action-RPG Drakengard spinoff, to fund one of this year’s most critically adored games, Nier: Automata. With the action studio’s polished combat and Taro’s emotional tale of existentialism and identity, critics weren’t the only ones who felt it was a match made in heaven: The game has already sold more than 2 million copies and Taro is moving forward on some kind of new project.
4. Resident Evil is scary again
Resident Evil 5 took Capcom’s long-running horror franchise in an action-heavy direction, and its sequel Resident Evil 6 further increased the explosions and gunfights to create something completely foreign to fans of the original games. With Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, the series returned to the tense, atmospheric horror that made it famous, and a new first-person perspective limited players’ environmental awareness to make the whole experience even scarier.
These changes appear to have resonated with consumers, as well, as the game sold more than 4 million units, exceeding Capcom’s expectations. This puts it in the top 10 best-selling games in the publisher’s history, and you can bet that means more terrifying games will be coming in the future.
5. ‘Knack 2’ is actually pretty good?
The original Knack’s mediocrity quickly made it an online darling of the meme-crazed internet. Gamers have taken to sarcastically joking that the PS4 launch title, an extremely basic action-platformer imitating series like Crash Bandicoot and Ratchet & Clank, is the greatest game of all time.
After being the butt of a wide-reaching online joke, its neat sequel, Knack 2, surprised everyone this year. The game isn’t complacent, building on the thin size-shifting mechanics of the original game and introduced a deeper combat system, more interesting platforming, and surprisingly great puzzles. It’s a game that’s fun for the whole family, and not just because you all get to keep saying, “Knack is back.”
6. Bethesda remains committed to single-player games without the crap
Electronic Arts, Take-Two, Warner Bros., and Microsoft have all introduced — or pledged to introduce — invasive microtransactions into traditional single-player games, and those without them are being turned into open-world experiences players are meant to return to for months at a time. But there are times when we just want to sit down and play through a game’s campaign mode, enjoy it as an isolated story, and move on, and Bethesda is the sole major third-party publisher committed to that.
This year, Bethesda has published Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, The Evil Within 2, Prey, and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, as well as Switch ports for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Doom. None of the campaigns in these games feature a single microtransaction, allowing players to experience them exactly as their creators intended. It remains to be seen if Bethesda will continue using this model in the future, but some damn fine games have come out of it already.
7. ‘Destiny 2’ delivers on the promise of the original
Bungie dropped the ball pretty magnificently on the original Destiny, delivering a half-baked story, thin endgame content, and a confusing, grind-heavy progression system that had expectations decidedly less lofty for a sequel. But Destiny 2 corrected nearly every issue found in the first game, with an action-packed campaign mode, a smorgasbord of open-world activities, intense competitive multiplayer, and cooperative “strikes” making it the game to play in the latter half of 2017.
Most importantly, however, Destiny 2 made it much simpler to level up your character. After reaching the experience level 20, gear earned through raiding, completing “Nightfall” events, and playing with your clan will raise your overall power considerably, and players no longer receive low-level items from “legendary” drops — an issue that plagued the first game at launch.
8 . EA gives fans what they want: ‘Star Wars Battlefront II’ without microtransactions
Star Wars Battlefront II entered the first stages of its tiered launch this month with microtransactions that gave big spenders an edge over their opponents, who were trying to unlock new items and abilities by playing the game alone. The gaming community took issue with this, and after making smaller changes to specific credit requirements for characters such as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, Electronic Arts eventually elected to remove microtransactions from the game entirely.
Though microtransactions will be introduced into the game at a later date, the message this sent to Electronic Arts and other large publishers is clear: If we pay $60 for a game, we deserve the same experience as everyone else. With investigations underway in multiple European countries concerning the legality of multiplayer games’ “loot boxes,” we will likely only see more pushback to invasive and consumer-unfriendly publisher practices.