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ICYMI: Hidden gems of one of the biggest years in gaming to date

By Sean Willett, January 23 2018 — 

Despite all of its many, many problems, 2017 was a great year for video games. Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds became a cultural phenomenon, big franchises like Resident Evil and Assassin’s Creed received much-needed overhauls and Nintendo reasserted its industry dominance by releasing the Switch. Even indie games did well, with titles like Cuphead and Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy breaking into mainstream success.

However, there’s a downside to so many high-profile games being released in 2017 — there simply wasn’t enough time to play them all. Whether you were busy with school, work or other video games, it’s likely that some of last year’s smaller, more obscure titles passed you by. Fortunately, we are currently in a bit of a video game dry spell, so there is no time like the present to catch up on some of 2017’s hidden gems. While there are too many to put in a comprehensive list, here are four unique games released last year that every fan of the medium should play.

NieR: Automata (PS4, Windows):

The most ‘traditional’ game on this list in terms of gameplay and graphics, NieR: Automata first appears to be a typical Japanese action game. But looks can be deceiving — underneath NieR: Automata’s flashy exterior is easily one of the most daring and cerebral big-budget games ever made. I’m hesitant to give too many details, but it’s safe to say that I have never played a game quite as beautiful and tragic as this. There is a caveat — NieR Automata can take up to 40 hours to finish in earnest, so only pick it up if you know you have the time and patience to experience it properly.

Gorogoa (iOS, Android, Nintendo Switch, Windows):

If you are looking for an experience that is significantly shorter than 40 hours, but still uncompromisingly gorgeous, Gorogoa is the game for you. The game’s hand-drawn style is immediately eye-catching and helps to guide players through a series of elegant, mind-expanding puzzles. No other game plays with space in the way Gorogoa does and I was constantly surprised and delighted at the inventive solutions its puzzles demand. At roughly two hours, Gorogoa can be experienced in a single sitting — a refreshing break from games that attempt to hold your interest for dozens of hours.

Everything (PS4, Linux, MacOS, Windows):

While there have been video game adaptations of movies, TV shows and even books (remember Dante’s Inferno?),
Everything is likely the first video game adaptation of a philosopher’s body of work. Based on the writing and lectures of British philosopher Alan Watts, Everything attempts to convey through gameplay the idea that everything in the universe is connected. Does the game do this successfully? That’s up for debate. Is the game a joy to experience? Undoubtedly yes. Somehow both deeply profound and incredibly silly, Everything is likely the only game that allows you to pilot a flock of giant camels across the galaxy as you listen to a calm British man talk about empathy.

Universal Paper Clips (iOS, Android, web browsers):

While people are more familiar with Bennett Foddy’s other 2017 game, Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, the mind behind viral hits like QWOP and GIRP quietly lent his talents to another game last year. A parody of ‘clicker games’ like Cookie Clicker, Universal Paper Clips puts players in the role of an artificial intelligence designed to maximize the production of paper clips — at any cost. While its jabs at other clicker games are obvious, Universal Paper Clips also serves as a pointed commentary on capitalism and the idea of infinite growth. Universal Paper Clips is also the most accessible game on this list — it can be played on your browser while doing other work and can be accessed for free at decisionproblem.com/paperclips.

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