Trevor Starkey is long time friend of Irrational Passions, once host of Trove Talk Podcast, and is proprietor of TrevorTrove.com. You can follow him on Twitter over @snarkystarkey, and see his daily videos on YouTube.
Man, 2017 was a hell of a year for games, huh? There was pretty much something for everybody out there and many of the mediums biggest franchises had brand new offerings that blew a ton of people away. I’ve been racking my brain for weeks over at TrevorTrove.com (not Treasure Trove…I apparently need to start clarifying that) for my own Game of the Year content, dividing up the 80 or so games I played in 2017 into a variety of categories and picking the best of the best. So I could just copy and paste a lot of the write-ups I’ve done for those games, send it over to Logan for a quick edit and call it a day. But where’s the fun in that?
Instead, I created my own new category exclusively for Irrational Passions, appropriately titled “The Games Trevor Starkey Was the Most Irrationally Passionate About in 2017” (I imagine Logan will edit down the actual headline title to “Trevor Starkey’s Top Ten of 2017” or something like that because I admit, it’s a bit unwieldy). (I did – Logan). These games represent the ten games that I held incredible passion for even if I couldn’t always explain why. Some of them are on my other top ten lists, as well (which you can find over at TrevorTrove.com) while some didn’t quite reach those heights when the dust settled but I still felt deserved recognition. I hope you enjoy.
In the grand tradition of Top Ten lists, here are the ones that didn’t make it. In this case, these are the games that made my normal top ten of 2017 list but aren’t highlighted here because I found my passion for them quite rational when all was said and done.
Super Mario Odyssey – I poured a ton of time into this one, collecting almost all of the objective-based 836 moons, all of the purple coins from every world, all the costumes, and then I kept playing to get enough coins to buy more moons and get me up to the 999 cap. So I definitely had the “passionate” part of this list down. But it’s Mario so I found it leaned to far to the rational side of the scale to count it here.
Night in the Woods – The mature themes told through an otherwise innocent-seeming animation style and art design helped elevate this game to my top ten of 2017 but since it was pretty much a “play it once and I’m done with it” experience, it doesn’t make the cut here.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus – Incredible story…for the bits I paid attention too. But the frustration gunplay and poor difficulty balancing meant I spent a lot of time at the beginning of cutscenes checking my phone so calling it a game I was irrationally passionate about would be a misnomer.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – I was absolutely irrationally passionate about this game. But I also recorded a whole podcast with Logan Wilkinson and Jack Kruse dedicated to why for this very site so I “sacrificed” (Ha. Hahaha. HahahahaHAHAHAHA!!!)( Jesus Christ – Logan) it’s spot so that another game could get its due.
Persona 5 – I got the Platinum in this game by going through two full playthroughs. Definitely meets the irrationally passionate requirements but I also can’t fathom anything I write about the game would do it any kind of justice compared to whatever Alex is going to write about it so I will leave to to him and just say that it was my #2 game of the year, coming in behind…
Horizon: Zero Dawn – Without a doubt, my Game of the Year. But another very rational choice. And if you want to know why… TrevorTrove.com is a thing that exists.
Alright, now for the actual list. In alphabetical order:
2064 Read Only Memories
I was drawn into 2064 Read Only Memories by the retro look and near-future cyberpunk setting. But I didn’t expect to be playing a game that would make me think so heavily about gender issues, human rights, the potential ramifications of our ever-increasing dependence on technology, etc. I played through it all the way back in January but it has lived with me all throughout the year.
Battle Chef Brigade
When I first played this at PAX West, I thought it was a cute idea but I didn’t really think an anime Iron Chef game with hack-and-slash elements and match three gameplay would really resonate with me. But I like what Adult Swim Games does so I gave it a shot when it came to Switch and holy hell is it fun and intense! I know there might be some people reading this who were sold on the phrase “anime Iron Chef game” but I’m still pretty new to the anime landscape and I haven’t really played a match three game since I spent hours upon hours with Bejeweled on a flip phone back in 2005 when I sold cell phones.
But damn if Battle Chef Brigade doesn’t make it work. As Mina, you are an aspiring Battle Chef Brigadeer. The Battle Chef Brigade hunt monsters across the land and then cook them into delicious artisanal meals for the people. In order to join the Brigade, she has to head to the capital city and complete the multi-tiered trials. Each trial plays out like an episode of Iron Chef, with a key special ingredient and one-to-three judges, each looking for dishes with their own preferences. You then have a limited amount of time to head out of the kitchen and gather ingredients (the hack-and-slash element of the game as you beat up monsters and carniverous plants and the like) and then cook them together (the match three element of the game). Add in an engrossing story and beautiful anime art direction and the game is a must-have in anybody’s Switch collection.
I love puzzle games. Portal is among my favorite franchises. The Witness was my game of the year for 2016 (feel free to link to my 2016 Game of the Year episode with Alex here, Logan ;-P). (Sigh fine – Logan) So Death Squared is something I’ve been keeping an eye on as it made the rounds through the PAX circuit. As a single-player (or two-player co-op) experience, you control two colored cubes and move them around small playing space to a matching colored button on the floor. When both cubes are in place, the level is complete. However, each level introduced a new obstacle tied to the movement of characters, the stepping on of buttons, etc. And many of these obstacles end in a sudden, brutal death (spikes, falling, lasers, that sort of thing). Realizing this had unlimited potential as a party game, they also added a series of four-player levels that require careful teamwork, problem-solving, patience, and communication. Ooooor…you can just get drunk and rack up the death count like Joey Noelle, Lauren Wilson, Ben Bellevue, and I did when I went out to visit them for a trip to Harry Potter land. Easily the most fun I had this year with a local multiplayer experience (which I guess isn’t saying much when pretty much the only other local multiplayer experience I had was Hot Pepper Nidhogg 2 at Irrational Passions Extra Life…)
Probably the game that best fits the games I have been irrationally passionate about this year. I didn’t really spent too much time with the original Destiny. Well, that’s a lie since it was over 100 hours but I bounced from the game pretty early in its life cycle. I had almost no online friends back then (in the days pre-Kinda Funny) and so I begrudged the fact that I was locked out of the “best content” in the raids. So much so that I didn’t come back when The Taken King launched.
But in large part due to knowing that I’d likely be able to play the raid content with friends like Alex O’Neill this time, I picked up Destiny 2. By the time we finally completed the raid as a team, I had three different characters who were all near the Power level cap. After the raid, I kept hopping into the game to get all three up to the initial cap of 305. And even though I haven’t played with anybody else in a month and a half, I have continued checking in with the game week-in and week-out, putting in the time toward the weekly Milestones in order to get those characters up to the new cap of 335 that came with the Curse of Osiris expansion. At the time of writing, I’ve put 248 hours into the game (including staying up until 3:30am playing the night before writing this), my Hunter is at 332, and my Titan and Warlock are both at 331 and given that all 15,000 experience points toward our clan level this week came from me continuing to rack up the 5,000 points on each character, I think it’s a pretty safe bet, I’m the only real active Farm to Tower member left on PS4.
But for whatever reason, it has sunk its teeth in me. I enjoy hopping around the different planets for public events and experience. With Curse of Osiris adding a weekly reward for Heroic Strikes, I hop in there for a bit. I’m even willing to jump into Crucible PvP, which I’m terrible at and usually hate, for a handful of matches each week. I do wish I was able to do the raid-level content more but most people I know have bounced from the game and I’m just not really interested in hopping on with random people, even though the Guided Games matchmaking is basically what I had wished for in the original Destiny. The game absolutely has problems and they’ve really botched a whole lot of the community engagement, but for a hardcore casual Guardian like myself, it has been a great way game to play as I unwind at the end of a long day or watch TV or catch up on podcasts.
I know I’m going alphabetically, but if I had ranked these, Destiny 2 would have been my most Irrationally Passionate game of 2017, by a country damn mile.
If you asked me prior to 2017, “Hey Trevor, when was the last time you were really into a golf game?” I probably would have said, “What a random question, hypothetical friend. Let me see, my family had Hole in One Golf on the Super Nintendo but I think that was more the kind of thing my dad played sooooo…I guess it was Golf on the original Nintendo.” So imagine my surprise when 2017 rolled around and not one, but two Golf games grabbed me. Everybody’s Golf was a ton of fun for me until I started sucking in the Rank 5 tournaments but I’m giving the spot on this list to Golf Story.
While the golfing in Golf Story is great, and kept me coming back for a round or two before bed every now and then, the real joy came from the humor and creativity of the game’s RPG-like Story Mode. As a washed up 30-something myself, I really related to the main character’s efforts to leave his dull past behind him and start fresh by pursuing his passion for golf. But I did not expect that pursuit to take him through a war with the undead, a werewolf murder-mystery, and a rap battle with the elderly. This game put a smile on my face in its opening moments and kept it there all the way through.
One of my biggest regrets of 2017 is that I’m not more of a PC player because I probably would have really played the hell out of Kingsway (alright probably not like my “biggest regrets” as there are, you know, girls I didn’t muster up the courage to ask out and stuff like that, but gaming wise, oh, just go with it). I got to play it at PAX East and was immediately sold on the game. It is effectively an old-school roguelike RPG crossing with a Windows 98 Simulator. Not a game simulator that you could play on Windows 98 like Flight Simulator or something. A simulator of the Windows 98 OS.
You travel around the world map in one window. You might have your inventory open in another window for easy access (right-click Sort by Type so you’re not having to scroll through skulls and weapons when you need a potion). In fact, you should probably have a health potion open in another window and ready to deploy because if your about to die your don’t want to have to double-click the Health Potion icon in your inventory and then click Use on the Health Potion pop-up. When enemies attack, they are each represented by their own (often moving) pop-up window. When the loading bar fills up you can attack and wait for the loading bar to fill up again. They might throw a bomb at you that will appear in the form of a faster moving pop-up that you will have to find and click Dodge on or lose a lot of HP. Managing the windows open on the desktop becomes as tactical as anything else in the game (if not moreso) and it was an absolute joy to explore.
As mentioned above, not regularly sitting at my PC to play games, I didn’t put too much time into it when it came out. It’s roguelike permadeath structure served as another deterrent for me personal, but if this had been a straightforward RPG a la old school Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, I would have made the damn time for my PC. As it was, I still had a ton of fun with this game and it’s unique approach to a Windows OS-based design.
LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 and 5-7
I’m a sucker for the LEGO games. Ever since the original LEGO Star Wars game (which was based on the Prequels, came out two months before Revenge of the Sith, and was way better than it had any right to be). But for whatever reason, I missed the LEGO Harry Potter games when they came out. As my sister is a huge Harry Potter fan and she and her husband occasionally like to play games together, I gave them the PS4 Remaster of the games that came out last year. I told them if they weren’t going to play it though, I would gladly borrow it to play through myself. Then I got too lazy to drive out to their place and pick it up so I eventually just grabbed it myself in a Flash sale.
Then in July, the mood struck and I felt the itch for the LEGO Collectathon grind. Between July 21st and the early morning hours of August 1st, I did everything there is to do in those games. I unlocked all 48 Red Bricks, saved all 110 Students in Peril, found all 367 characters, discovered all 400 Gold Bricks and got the Platinum trophy for both games. It was like I was Hermione Granger with the Time Turner but in reality, I just have an addiction and no social life. So thank goodness for easily attainable arbitrary objectives that help fill the void inside my soul! Plus, until they make the damn Quidditch VR game I’ve been pitching, these are the best Harry Potter games out there so heck yeah this Gryffindor/Ravenclaw is going to be irrationally passionate about them!
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
A lot of people enjoyed Mario Kart 8 Deluxe this year. Nothing irrational about that. But I spent probably 50 hours playing the Battle Mode. Against the AI. By myself. While tons of my friends were getting together across the country and enjoying their little makeshift tournaments and racing the cups and stuff. I would spend hours before bed in Bob-Omb Blast and Shine Thief against the AI. Fuck Renegade Roundup though. That one sucks.
Supergiant Games are always incredible in the way they combine beautiful art direction and soundtracks into their games. And it always impresses me how they basically reinvent the genre of game that make each time. Transistor was wildly different compared to Bastion and Pyre was unique compared to both. Pyre managed to combine an Oregon Trail-like choose your own adventure game with a brand new sport that plays out like like “fantasy NBA Jam.”
The risk-reward nature of the matches in Pyre (which is admittedly too convoluted to try and explain in this already too long post) is phenomenal. Not only in the matches themselves but as you progress through the story, you have to select which of your party members will be released from the purgatory you find yourself in. On the one hand, they are freed and get a happily ever after, but on the other hand, you lose a potentially valuable party member/player. And as the game progresses and it becomes apparent that you might not be able to save everyone, the game’s story and characters really shine through as a more melancholic tale about trying to find hope when there is none takes the forefront.
Brilliant dynamic storytelling and a phenomenal gameplay element that is just fun to hop in and play 1-on-1 matches here and there.
Super Rude Bear Resurrection
Last, but not least, we come to Super Rude Bear Resurrection. Amy Gilroy encouraged me to check this out at PAX East this year after she had played it at one of those United Kingdom conventions where they all run around screaming about tea and crumpets and Amy whacks people with shillelaghs.
Super Rude Bear Resurrection is a brutal fast-paced masocore platformer where you’re going to die. A lot. Like sooooo many times. But unlike something like Super Meat Boy, SRBR (that’s what the hip speedrunners call it…I think…I don’t know I was looking for an out to abbreviate it for the rest of the post) has the potential to get easier the more times you die. One-upping the idea that Super Meat Boy shows the gory meaty remains of your attempts until you beat a level, SRBR actually leaves your bear corpse where it fell. What that means is if you died jumping on spikes, your old body is now a new platform between you and said spikes so you can jump on your old body and progress through (screaming “fuck you spikes!” if you’re anything like me). It’s still possible to play through the entire game without dying and there are probably insane speedrunners out there who have and have done it faster than it would take me to get through a single level, but the idea that my failures are something both to learn from and make my next attempt easier helped me commit to SRBR in a way that Super Meat Boy never would.
So that’s my list. Thanks for reading! Thanks to Irrational Passions for inviting me over to write this up and just being a genuinely awesome group of people. Oh AND for giving me a haircut this year!
If you too, loved any of these games or just think I’m a crazy madman, you’re right and you’re right. So come chat with me about it on twitter @snarkystarkey.