by Emily Reuben, Nolan Leahy, Aidan Kearney, Tanner Kinney and CJ Wilson

Another year of Byte reviews allowed us to shine a light once again on a wealth of games worth playing. Sure, there were some duds, but the masterpieces far outweighed them. The year 2017 featured improvements on recent installments of the Destiny and Sonic franchises, plus a spectacular first-year showing for the Nintendo Switch including obligatory new beauties in the Mario and Zelda departments. And with Cuphead bringing some mainstream attention to a brand-new indie studio, the future of independent gaming has never looked brighter.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Claiming this year’s Game of the Year award, this title is a must-own for Nintendo Switch owners. There isn’t much that can be said that hasn’t already about this spectacular game. Successfully breaking the Zelda formula, Breath of the Wild elevates the series to new heights. With stunning graphics, meaningful gameplay and a seemingly endless open world, Breath of the Wild is guaranteed to keep players entertained for countless hours. More impressively, to compliment this already content packed game, two DLC packs have been released to further add to the magic of Breath of the Wild. – Emily Reuben

Click here to read our original review of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Sonic Mania

I can go on for hours about why this game rules, and I was a bit saddened to see that it wasn’t given a lot of recognition at this year’s Game Awards. This game is a love letter to the fans who have been wanting a true successor to the Sonic trilogy that won the hearts of Sega Genesis gamers. While Sonic 4 attempted to fill that gap and was pretty decent, it doesn’t compare to the game that Christian Whitehead constructed. While some call Sonic Mania a remake, I see it as a game that stands on its own ground.

Sure, many of the levels are directly inspired by the original trilogy, but they’re completely restructured and given tweaks to surprise gamers. The environmental effects with the various shields are fantastic and add an extra level of depth to its design. The bosses are innovative and fun to fight. Many of them don’t take the simple arena approach that the classic Sonic games had and tend to offer something more active than stationary. In other words, the bosses keep the players on their toes. The game has very few bugs, and the different possible routes give replay value to the other available characters. I honestly believe that it’s the best Sonic game ever made. – Nolan Leahy

Click here to read our original review of Sonic Mania.

Destiny 2

Destiny 2 thrusts players into humanity’s mythic future, rife with combat, exploration and alien invasions. Three months after its initial release, Destiny 2 is currently in the middle of both its new expansion Curse of Osiris and its winter-themed Dawning event. As the release campaign finished, Bungie looks to continue Destiny 2’s story through expansion DLC and themed events.

The game itself features highly satisfying shooting, with a variety of player classes tuned with different abilities, mechanics and equipment. The story and writing are relatively simplistic, albeit a step up from the first game. Players should expect a game similar to an MMO, with plenty of quests and activities to do with friends online. Thanks to its combination of excellent gunplay, beautiful graphics, and audio design, Destiny 2 is a recommended multiplayer shooter with ongoing developer support. – Aidan Kearney

Click here to read our original review of Destiny 2.

Persona 5

Winter 2014 finally arrived this year, and Persona 5 blew competitors out of the water. This game was easily the best JRPG of the year, possibly one of the best JRPG’s of all time. The characters are all incredibly real and make the player want to help them out and learn what their personal struggles are. The story is typical JRPG affair, but has enough twists and turns to still be relatively fresh.

The combat and visuals, however, seal the deal for this game to be a showstopper. The combat is fast, fluid, strategic and constantly engaging, thanks to the uniquely designed UI that fuses with the gameplay for a perfect turn-based RPG experience. The aesthetic of the game is definitely Japanese, but a crowning achievement of Japanese games. The game is also a decent challenge for those looking for it, but not impossible for those who want to enjoy the story. Even if it took 3 years longer than promised, Atlus truly delivered something special with Persona 5 and stole the hearts of gamers everywhere. Also, Haru is best girl; Makoto fans can get bent. – Tanner Kinney

Click here to read our original review of Persona 5.

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony delivers a perfect combination of murder mystery chills, murder trial thrills, and inventive but sometimes overly complex kills, which is enough to keep even people who wouldn’t normally play a visual novel interested. The class trial minigames are also fantastic and keep the trials engaging beyond watching relatively static character portraits speak. The real draw, however, is the complex and insane story that ties all the trials together.

A cast of vibrant and lovable characters moves through the bizarre world of Danganronpa, with both friends and enemies being killed along the way. The story is constantly twisting and turning, giving the player a rollercoaster effect of emotions. Both hope and despair come and go like the ups and downs on a seesaw. It’s admittedly not for everyone, but it at least deserves a shot from anyone who likes a good murder mystery. – Tanner Kinney

Click here to read our original review of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony.

Cuphead

Cuphead caught me off guard. I didn’t know how good the gameplay was going to be. This is Studio MDHR’s first game, which is simply crazy because it brings so much back to video games that’s been outdated for over a decade. Cuphead is a run-and-gun shooter that primarily focuses on boss battles where the art and music are centered on the style of a 1930s cartoon.

One of the reasons why I gave it such a high score was because it took a genre that was pretty dead to video games and got people excited about it again. A good run-and-gun shooter game hasn’t been in circulation for quite some time. The other reason is simply because it’s an artistic masterpiece. The animations stay true to the ideals of classic Disney, while also taking inspiration from some great cartoon shows and films in our history like Tom and Jerry and The Iron Giant. The soundtrack is an excellent change of pace with classically-inspired jazz music along with other music that takes inspiration from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s. I never doubted that Cuphead would win best indie game and art direction at this year’s Game Awards. – Nolan Leahy

Click here to read our original review of Cuphead.

Super Mario Odyssey

An excellent addition to the Switch library, Super Mario Odyssey is phenomenal because for the first time in its 3D Mario franchise, it takes the nonlinear route like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild did earlier this year. It’s a complete collectathon that gives reasons to keep visiting previous worlds, and the possession technique is reminiscent of the various transformations that could be accomplished in Banjo Tooie.

The addition of Cappy as a companion is everything that F.L.U.D.D. in Super Mario Sunshine wasn’t. He’s that extra platform, the boomerang, a key to certain doors and immensely unpredictable. I always had high anticipations about what I could possess within the next level of this game, and it kept on surprising me. Few Moons feel like they’re a slog to collect, and there’s always another one to discover. Odyssey isn’t as great as Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy, which I place as the top dogs of the franchise, but it’s really close. This game proves that Nintendo’s creativity is far from dead. – Nolan Leahy

Click here to read our original review of Super Mario Odyssey.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is easily one of the best first-person shooters that have released in 2017. Not only does it tell a deep and involving story about freedom and cruelty, it provides excellent gameplay with its vast array of weapons. It also contains unique abilities like the contraptions that can give you an advantage in many of the game’s gorgeous environments. It allows you to dual-wield any type of weapon like shotguns or assault rifles, which can give you a wide assortment of ways to kill your Nazi enemies. It elevates the Wolfenstein series to new and interesting heights that will please any FPS fan, while also providing an FPS experience that doesn’t have a tacked-on multiplayer component to the game. – CJ Wilson

Click here to read our original review of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.

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