I’m kicking off this series of articles with the best represented genre in 2017, action games, which indie developers knocked out of the park. Back in January when Resident Evil 7 surprised me with its excellent horror execution combined with some good old end game action I was hopeful, but I didn’t expect action games to have such a leading position. Hollow Knight surprised everyone with its metroidvania action-adventure style and the developer’s dedication that brought forth plenty of free content. Styx: Shards of Darkness followed up improving on almost every aspect of its predecessor. Even Middle-Earth: Shadow of War turned out to be an entertaining game, too bad is riddled with all kind of design problems and a business model that’s the epitome of greed. The Evil Within 2 was an enjoyable ride but too much of a hybrid for its own good. But the biggest surprise from the kingdom of AAAs was Assassin’s Creed: Origins which borrowed elements from Black Flag and The Witcher 3 to reinvent itself into one of the better titles of the series. However, the one action game that took the gaming world and peripheral devices by storm turned out to be Cuphead.
Cuphead is a run and gun platformer with an extreme focus on challenge. The plot is pretty simplistic: the two protagonists, Cuphead and Mugman, struck a deal for their souls after they lost a bet with the devil. This sets them on a track of recovering other poor souls that made the same mistake only that these souls are not so easy to take. Cuphead is all about boss battles which means that a nasty looking cartoon character has to be defeated for each soul. The gameplay follows the standard mechanics for the genre but with a customization option meant to add some flavor and diversify play styles. The attraction here is the challenge, but Cuphead wouldn’t be such a success without its lovely 40s cartoons thematic. The combination of simple gameplay fueled by tormenting challenge and an impeccable artistic direction gave life to an indie game against which most of the AAAs of 2017 stood no chance. It’s rather ironic that two developers put their lives on the line, to turn this game into reality, but the end result paid off. It was hard to choose between Hollow Knight and Cuphead, as both are great examples of quality games made with passion, but the latter’s style and artistic innovation made it come in front as the best action in 2017!