Dawning into yet another new year of gaming, 2018 seems to offer another flourish of artistic masterpieces for the gaming community to embrace. Let us not get carried away in the realm of anticipation, let us instead dial back to the genre-defining titans released in the light of last year. My personal top hits of the year will be highlighted and explained, as to persuade one to my line of thinking when it comes to this artistic field of design.

2017, to put it bluntly, was one of the best years of gaming to date. Many companies brought their A-game upon announcements and delivery of anticipated releases. One can become awestruck just thinking back to the opening months of the year, for that time period alone released innovative and artistic games that one can only embrace. Sure, controversy swarmed certain few releases over the course of the year; however, none of that negative energy diluted the amazing games from both indie developers and AAA giants within the industry.

Though not getting to personally experience the full extent of content throughout the year, I have been indulging in many gems released. Selecting only a few games to highlight throughout the long stretch of 2017 can seem a difficult feat, however the ones that stuck out had personal ties and overall grand experiences associated with them. Of course, everyone has a right to their own opinion. As of such, this is not intended to be a debate of the best games of 2017, but rather a delve into what creates a great gaming experience.

Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey, New Donk City, Mario, Cappy

The icon of gaming embraces us with another title in his highly successful line of Super Mario games and proves that he can not only adapt with the times, but further exceed expectations. Super Mario Odyssey brought gamers the sense of reliving the past in a brand new adventure. The classic tale of thwarting Bowser continues as Mario gains Cappy as a sidekick, introducing some of the greatest platforming in a 3D game.

Nintendo itself had a grand spectacle of titles this year, with many receiving high praise for their originality. Super Mario Odyssey is no different, and I think it sits on the throne of releases. Not only is it engaging for the die-hard gaming fans, but it is accessible enough for many age groups to experience the wonder of this universe. Hitting a majority of the target demographic, there was no question whether this would be a brilliant success. A classic adventure with Mario fusing together the great moments of the old along with the sleek new designs of the Nintendo Switch. No other source is keeping one playing for countless hours other than the fact that it is a joyful experience. Gameplay outshines the story and creates an exuberant gaming experience.

While being a good adventure by itself, the primary reason Super Mario Odyssey holds a highlight is the ever-engaging art of speedrunning. With the move set comes some amazing feats that can let players complete the entirety of the story in a little over an hour. Almost as if it was made with this hobby in mind; it is truly an encapsulating feat to watch.

Super Mario Odyssey brought the child-like allure of a forgotten time back to the present day, encouraging all who once felt it to feel the jubilant expression of a kid again.

Persona 5

Persona 5, Ren Amamia, Joker, Ann Takamaki, Ryuji Sakamoto, Morgana, Skull, Panther, Mona

I will start this highlight off by saying yes, I am a Persona fanboy and loving all the series had to offer since my grand introduction to the series. Persona 5 is a great JRPG, not many can dispute that point. Though these points do not add to the true reason I am highlighting it. Countless praises can be sung about many aspects of the game, though the true reason why it holds a place within my gaming mind is it reintroduced the Persona series as a whole to a lot of the Western audience.

Story is the thing I am most interested in when it comes to any art-form. Persona 5, and the series as a whole, encapsulates what it means to have lifelike characters and intriguing stories. This is a great introduction the the series, truthfully oozing more style and overall gameplay than the previous installments. Starting the story in medias res (in the middle of things) is a welcomed new way of storytelling that many games do not touch on.

Additionally, the masterwork of a soundtrack heightens the game to another scale. This acid jazz style of music encapsulates the eardrums of players with its soft beats and engaging words. Though not a huge factor, it deserves a mention because, personally, it has the best soundtrack of the year. Orchestral pieces weaved together with thought-provoking lyrics of the inner story. Reviving a near-dead form of music and fully embracing the ridiculousness and stylistic tone of the game itself.

In essence, Persona 5 revitalized the classic JRPG in mainstream gaming and truly shows the power of storytelling in gaming.

Divinity: Original Sin II

Divinity: Original Sin 2, Elves, lizardmen, dwarves, sourcerers

A hidden gem found amongst the treasure hoard of releases, Divinity: Original Sin II was overlooked by most of the gaming audience. Funded by kickstarter and developed by Larian Studios, this title has the workings of a AAA giant. With the recent resurgence of the tabletop market and allure of Dungeons & Dragons, Divinity: Original Sin II melds the gaming and tabletop spheres perfectly. A challenging adventure with the freedom of choice fully given to the players, allowing many possible outcomes for completing quests. A true revival of the lost genre of turn-based RPG games from the early 2000s, set for the present day.

Story is again ever-present within this game, though it really is about the journey, the decisions made, and the enemies slain. The world feels alive with all of the NPCs with their own determinations and outlook on the current situation. Though this journey is far from easy. Combat is rigorous, especially in the lower levels, and requires critical thought when approaching a set of adversaries.

The introduction of the Game Master mode further solidifies the similarities between its tabletop counterpart. This mod allows players to create their own fantasy adventures, going as far as designing their own maps, cities, and quests. Personally, this is the best RPG of the year. It excels at portraying a grandiose adventure that is sure to be completed after many sessions while playing as the personal avatar of the player.

Divinity: Original Sin II is a perfect AA game that embraced this year even though not many experienced the magic of it.