2017 has been a rather good year for video games. As is tradition, much of the RPG Site team gathered in one place to talk about the games that released this year and decide our favorites. Rather than picking winners in a variety of categories as previously, we decided to simplify things this time. First, we made a list of every game we thought was worth some recognition this year. Through vigorous debate, we whittled that list down to just ten games, and then we cut that ten down to our five favorite games of 2017 for RPG fans.
In this article, you'll find our top ten and then our top five detailed more thoroughly in both video and text forms. Of those five, four win our Best of 2017 accolade - our official stamp of approval that it's one of the very best games of 2017. The final game is the one that after much debate has been crowned the sole RPG of the Year for 2017.
In other words, outside of a single overall winner at the bottom of the article, the rest of the top 5 is unranked, and the 5 runner-ups are also unranked in their tier. Which will win? Well, read on...
If you want to know more about the decisions, listen to our special Best of 2017 edition of the Tetracast, the RPG Site podcast. This is a raw recording of our debate in full, lasting for hours but allowing you to hear our arguments and reasoning in real time. You can find that below and via our iTunes page.
Do note that our list features both fully-fledged RPGs and some games that are either extremely 'light' RPGs or in some cases arguably not at all. This is by design - as our regular readers will know here on RPG Site that we cover the most 'pure' examples of the genre alongside other games. Our aim is to cover all games we feel fans of the RPG genre are likely to enjoy, and our Best of 2017 list reflects that fact too.
Before we get into the awards proper, there's one more thing to note - and that's you. This article details our staff picks, but we also polled our readers. Thousands of you responded, and we've also published your readers choice top ten on a separate page. We wouldn't be where we are without you reading the site and following us elsewhere, so thank you. Here's to 2018! [Alex Donaldson - Publisher, RPG Site]
Best of 2017: The Near Misses, aka the Runner-Up Five
The games listed here don't officially get one of our 'Best of 2017' awards, but they made it right to the end of the debate fighting off some tough competition - so here's to these five - amazing games all.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky 3rd
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd is the culmination of all that I love about the Trails series. More than setting the stage for future entries in the series, such as Trails of Cold Steel and the as-of-yet unlocalized Crossbell duology, Trails in the Sky the 3rd is an emotional send-off to a cast that players have learned to love. [James Galizio]
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
After leaving us to help fight for humanity’s survival on Planet Mira, Monolith Soft returned to a more story-driven experience in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. With a likable cast of characters that have an infectious camaraderie, it delivers an adventure full of verve and heartfelt moments to round out what has been an incredible first 10 months for the Nintendo Switch. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 not only boasts a battle system that has surprising (if somewhat intimidating) depth and plentiful quests to see you rack up hours of playtime, but one of the best soundtracks that will have graced your eardrums in a long while. [Alex Seedhouse]
Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth
After more than 15 years, fans in the west finally had their chance to check out the Utawarerumono series through its two sequels: Mask of Deception and Mask of Truth. Mask of Truth, in particular, serves as an incredible bookend to the story arc through entertaining gameplay and emotional storytelling. Visual novel fans owe it to themselves to play these games. [Zack Reese]
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is unlike most other games in the Fire Emblem series and offers a fresh take on the series' usual formulas. It's an interesting mix of seemingly weird components that all come together in a delightfully satisfying way. It may not be for everyone, but Echoes is definitely an intriguing entry in a great franchise that might just be up your alley. [Adam Vitale]
Horizon Zero Dawn
While Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the most beautiful games ever, it’s more than just visually stunning. With a fantastic and likable protagonist, a vibrant open world, a complex world lore, magnificent robot dinosaurs to fight, and an interesting story full of mystery, it’s one of the many impressive games of 2017 that you should definitely play. [Natalie Flores]
Persona 5 - Best of 2017 Winner
We’ve all been waiting a long while for Persona 5 and Atlus delivered it in spades. Persona 5 is a wonderful culmination of what makes the Persona series so special. It may have a similar foundation to its predecessor, but it’s ambitious in all the right ways. Persona 5’s bold narrative and extremely slick UI elevates its presentation to the next level. Very few JRPGs can boast the amount of style it offers.
Most importantly, Persona 5 feels amazing to play. An all-new cast allows curious newcomers to hop into the fray, refinements to its battle system make combat even more engaging, and the shift in sound direction from recent entries is absolutely stunning. Despite several shortcomings, the Phantom Thieves have definitely stolen our hearts this year with Persona 5. [Josh Torres]
Persona 5 also wins our Readers' Choice for RPG of the Year 2017, as voted for by thousands of RPG Site readers.
Yakuza 0 - Best of 2017 Winner
While serving as a prequel to an already expansive series, Yakuza 0 works not only as a gateway to the franchise but also to unique subcultures within Japan. With a highly cinematic and compelling story that uses the vibrant backdrop of the 1980’s to its advantage, the narrative twists of Yakuza 0 make it one of the best experiences this year. While the Yakuza series might not fit the stricter definitions of a RPG, it's the sort of immersive, engaging experience that we can't help but highly recommend to RPG fans.
The use of two playable protagonists allows for varied combat styles and narratives to play out individually. Coupled with absurdist sub-stories and a variety of mini-games, Yakuza 0 provides the player with a fair amount of content to preoccupy themselves with when stepping away from the main story; it also provides background and cultural context to both the cities and characters themselves. [Kazuma Hashimoto]
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Best of 2017 Winner
While The Legend of Zelda is more action-adventure than RPG, Breath of the Wild is arguably the most RPG-like entry in the series to date, something that perhaps explains its high placement both in our staff ranking and in the readers’ end-of-year voting poll. The addition of a greater sense of freedom and ideas clearly poached from the likes of The Elder Scrolls work out perfectly. Not only is it the most RPG-like in the series, it’s also arguably one of the best outings Link has ever had.
Breath of the Wild is at its most magical when it simply unfolds in front of you - when systems interact in unexpected ways to create unforgettable emergent moments. Sublime design of both world and mechanics blend to make discovery a constant in a game, be that discovering new, hidden nooks of Hyrule or new ways to take down enemies or solve puzzles. It’s not just one of the best of 2017. It’s one of the best games ever. [Alex Donaldson]
Divinity: Original Sin II - Best of 2017 Winner
While Divinity: Original Sin II may not be as much of a surprise hit as Original Sin in 2014, it takes what was established in the first game such as free-form gameplay, innovative turn-based combat, and inventive storytelling, and smartly refines each aspect even further. Crafting is tweaked into a new recipe based system so that it doesn't have to pull from the rest of your stats, and combat is elevated with a new armor mechanic - emphasizing build variety and allowing for greater encounter diversity.
Non-linear quest design returns with strong writing and a more grounded story in general, resulting in a game that provides a never-ending draw to finish one more quest or explore just one more location. Divinity: Original Sin II will relentlessly test every player’s creativity and keeps giving reasons to continue playing and never lets go. [Bryan Vitale]
NieR: Automata - RPG of the Year 2017
Every year, it’s a challenge to narrow down a list of game of the year contenders to just one, and 2017 proved to be the fiercest competition yet. This year was teeming with incredible releases, with several of them likely to go down in the history books as bonafide classics. However, despite the exceedingly high quality of titles that came out in 2017, none of them quite enraptured us in the same way that NieR: Automata did.
What really sets NieR: Automata apart from its peers is how beautifully written it is and how it takes advantage of its medium. Many of us at RPG Site fell in love with the game’s downtrodden combat android characters, who manage to feel deeply human and say so much about humanity. NieR: Automata is a game that beautifully explores not what makes machines human, but rather what makes humans human, offering a plethora of answers that leave you thinking about the world and even yourself long after you witness the game’s final ending.
NieR: Automata is also one of those rare games that utilizes storytelling methods unique to the medium to tell its narrative, as its story is one that would not be as effective if told through any other format. It is a spectacle to watch and play as it gracefully moves between different gameplay styles, almost as if it were celebrating the different eras of gaming that came before it. Now, going forward, it will be celebrated as a game that is bold in its unforgettable storytelling, characters, and themes; remarkable in its unique art direction and phenomenal soundtrack; and thrilling in its action-packed combat system.
NieR: Automata is emotional, thought-provoking, daring, exciting, and ultimately, our Game of the Year. [Natalie Flores & Kyle Campbell]