Geiger's Culture Counter: Holiday Gift Guide 2017: Games

‘Tis the season to find a special gift for friends, family members and loved ones. As a young culture connoisseur I am frequently asked for recommendations on the latest and greatest things. For this final part in the series I recommend six video games and one board game that came out in 2017.

“Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” — This flagship series of Nintendo was known for linear gameplay, until now. Usually Link progresses from dungeon to dungeon, accumulating more gear to become strong enough to save Zelda from Gannon. This time the player can take Link to any dungeon they want whenever they want. They could head to the final battle immediately, albeit severely under equipped, if they so choose. This change of the mold, combined with a unique physics system and beautiful art style, means this is not only one of the best games of the year but one of the best in Zelda history.

“Super Mario Odyssey” — Take the iconic “Super Mario 64,” modernize it, and you have a game that’s both a return to form and a much needed upgrade. Mario is tasked to save Princess Peach again but this time he has Cappy to help him solve puzzles with its clever possession abilities. Can you believe that the world was graced with both a new Zelda game and a Mario one? 2017 may be remembered as one of the greatest years for video games since 2007 or 1998. If you held out on buying a Switch because you felt burned by the Wii or the WiiU, these two titles more than make up for it.

“Horizon Zero Dawn” — Guerrilla Games, best known for the first-person shooter franchise “Killzone,” opts for a change of scenery and camera perspective with this beautiful game. In a post-apocalyptic future Aloy hunts with a bow and arrow in a multitude of ways in order to survive the dangerous environment. Think, “Jurassic Park” but the dinosaurs are robots majestically roaming the landscape. It’s hard to get much cooler than that. Open-world games with mini-maps overrun by objectives are getting tiresome, but “Horizon” manages to add fresh life into the genre.

“Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus” — I don’t think even MachineGames knew how relevant their sequel to 2014’s hit Wolfenstein: The New Order would be in 2017. Not only does it teach the important lesson that fascism is bad, but it posits the revolutionary idea that women are just as strong and persistent as men. In the game, the war against Nazi Germany still isn’t over in 1961 and now the Fuhrer’s soldiers completely occupy America. The battle-scarred BJ Blazkowicz heads to Roswell, New York, New Orleans and more to fight back in style. It may be the game of the year, in more ways than one.

“Assassin’s Creed Origins” — Though Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed” franchise has been a commercial success since 2007, each installment hasn’t always been critically acclaimed. After taking two years off, the series has found its footing in the shifting sands of Ptolemaic Egypt. The breathtaking world is paired with the ability to use the protagonist’s eagle as a scout and soon players can explore the civilization sans combat to learn about real-world history. If you relapsed because the buggy worlds of “Unity” and “Syndicate” left you feeling homesick for the pirate ships in “Black Flag,” be reassured that 10th entry is up there in rank with the original trilogy.

“Pyre” — Supergiant Games has pulled off a hat trick. In 2011 we got the narrated hack-n-slash roleplaying game “Bastion.” Then three years later their sophomore release “Transistor” featured the same signature musical and artistic talent but with turn-based combat. Now the team created a sports game that’s also a visual novel. Everything it has in common with the others it also has something to set it apart. Each gem of a game oozes with heart and soul.

“Illimat” — Combine a great game designer, Keith Baker, with a great band, The Decemberists, and the result is a wonderful card game that feels both classic and fresh. Baker, known for the “Dungeons and Dragons” campaign setting Eberron and Gloom, gave life to a prop that was used to promote The Decemberists’ album “The Hazards of Love.” Using a 65-card deck, a cloth mat, eight tarot cards based on the album and the box itself, players collect cards laid in a field if it adds up to one in their hand. Yet, like in Hearts or Spades, certain suits are more desirable than others. The tarot cards, called Luminaries, add new wrinkles and every so often the box rotates to restrict certain moves in a specific region. It’s quick to learn and easy to get hooked.

This concludes the four-part holiday guide. I hope you found that gift you needed and have a good time with family and friends. Pick up older papers or go online if you missed the other installments in the series.