The 2017 RPG of the Year
What a year it has been for RPGs.
2017 gave us some of the highest-rated role playing games of this console generation. From completely new IPs, resurrections of old franchises, sequels, spinoffs, and experimental indie hits, 2017 had something for every RPG fan.
With such a huge amount of quality games to choose from it wasn’t easy, but these are our choices for RPG of the year.
Innovation was the word of the year for RPGs and RPG-alikes. Some of the greatest RPGs of the year challenged our very notion of what a RPG is. On one end of the spectrum we had retro throwbacks like Divinity: Original Sin II, which was exceptionally well regarded. On the other side, we had hugely experimental releases like Golf Story, and demos for indie games like Heartbound.
Of course, you can’t talk about RPGs without talking about the Nintendo Juggernaut that that is Pokemon, and it too had a new release in Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. The best RPGs of the year touched all corners of the genre, bringing together elements of tangential mechanics in new and interesting ways. If this is what the future of the RPG looks like, the genre has bright and interesting things in store.
Runner-up: Torment: Tides of Numenera
For children of the nineties, Torment: Tides of Numenera was a trip back to a darker time of American RPGs. A spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment, Tides of Numenera shared quite a bit in common with its predecessor. From its immense six million word script, its diverse cast of characters, its insanely large world, or its holistic take on dialogue and skill checks, Tides of Numenera felt less like a game and more like a living, breathing world. It competed with other open world franchises like The Witcher and Dragon Age even though it was graphically a throwback to the age of Baldur’s Gate, as did the excellent Divinity: Original Sin II.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of Tides of Numenera was how it approached its narrative. You played a character with basically no memory of yourself or the world, and the game accurately translated that feeling to the player who frequently felt lost, but never aimless. It’s an old school formula that may not be for everyone, but this is certainly one of the most sprawling and unique RPG experiences of the year.
Pyre is definitely the most experimental title on our list. It’s a fusion of a dark themed RPG about exiles escaping a supernatural underworld, and a three on three sports title… with magic! If that pitch wasn’t enough to draw you in, maybe you’d be enthralled by the narrative that forces you to make the heartrending decision to grant your most valuable party members freedom or force them to stay in exile for the strength they give your team. Still not convinced? What about the fantastic soundtrack that is on par with Supergiant’s other titles: Bastion and Transistor?
Pyre was a game that had me crying at the end, crying because of the choices I made, the actions I chose, and any roleplaying game that can make you cry has to be a contender for RPG of the year. If you want to try out an RPG that is truly like nothing else we have seen in the genre before, then check out Pyre.
Runner-up: Tales of Berseria
If you are a fan of Bandai Namco’s Tales series, then you owe it to yourself to play Tales of Berseria. It is a fantastic step in the right direction for the series, after a few years of mediocre releases. Its plotline is darker and more mature. Its battle system is streamlined action goodness and finally allows for four player multiplayer again. This game also had its fair share of tear jerking moments, along with a heaping helping of pure anime wackiness. This was a game so good it made Tales of Zestiria, a much less spectacular Tales game, good by association.
If there was any game that scratched that traditional JRPG itch this year, it was Tales of Berseria.
Runner-up: South Park: The Fractured But Whole
I’m going to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of South Park, but despite my opinion on the show it’s hard to deny that South Park: The Fractured But Whole is an amazing game. Its grid based battle system combines the best aspects of the previous South Park RPG, The Stick of Truth, with just a tad more complexity to make battles more engaging. Its non-stop referential comedy was a great change of pace from the grim swords and sorcery landscape of the modern RPG. It is, essentially, a 12 hour episode of South Park, which may or may not be up your alley, but even if you find some of this humor distasteful the solid gameplay more than makes up for it.
Winner: Persona 5
Persona 5 is an RPG whose excellence is hard to describe, because it’s so complete. It’s the first game we ever gave a perfect score. It’s a 150 hour gameplay experience that never once drags or hangs. It’s a fully fleshed out social, dating, and time management game filled with characters you genuinely care about. It’s a faithful recreation of Tokyo life and culture from arcades to batting cages, dicey bars to coffee shops, book-stores to mass transit. It’s an incredibly strategic turn based battle system, monster catching and fusion system, and dungeon roaming system with elements of stealth gameplay. It has crafting. It has anime cut-scenes. It has a talking cat that can turn into a bus. It’s an RPG that does everything and does it well.
The Megaten series has always been a divisive series, but Persona 5 seems to have made it go mainstream. Anyone can enjoy this game. Relative newbies can play a completely cinematic experience without even the threat of death. Hardcore veterans can play a version of the game where every random battle is a serious threat. Completionists can focus on filling out the persona compendium, completing every Mementos quest, and raising every confidant to rank 10. Speedrunners can focus on the game’s intricate weakness and strength system and exploit the fusion chart to gain power in leaps and bounds. The presentation is second to none, sporting a jazzy soundtrack that can be listened to for fun, and graphics that look current gen even on last-gen hardware. Heck, even the menu design is so top notch that just scrolling through menus is a delightfully fun experience.
If you haven’t played Persona 5 before, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking I was over-exaggerating, but trust me when I say this is a game that every RPG lover should experience. Persona 5 dragged me deep into a world of murder, intrigue, magic, and government conspiracies, as I piloted the Phantom Thieves through local school scandals, criminal rings, and even a biblical apocalypse. It is one of the single greatest RPGs to come out this year, or even this decade, a one of a kind experience that will be hard to top, even by Atlus themselves. This is a game that will be remembered for years to come.
Congratulations to Persona 5, GameCrate’s 2017 RPG of the Year!
Check out our full 2017 award list for more.