By Josh Speer / September 19th, 2017
This year, I’m going to do something I don’t typically do for PAX West. Normally I demo all the games I can, write them up and maybe host an interview or two. This year, I decided to cull through all the games I played at the convention center and hand selected a diverse batch of titles that I considered the best of the best. It was a challenge to select only 10, as those games I left out felt like my own children I had left to starve on the street corner. That said, games not mentioned on this list are in no way inferior, but rather for a variety of reasons didn’t represent the same level of polish as those on the list. Basically, these games are all A+ games, and those not here might range from B to B+. Now that I’ve explained my rationale, here are my Top 10 games of PAX West 2017, presented in alphabetical order.
Top Game #1 – Battle Chef Brigade
Developer – Trinket Studios
I knew back when I backed it that Battle Chef Brigade had the potential to be incredible, but it’s rare to play a game and feel all that potential so well realized. This cooking action adventure is both beautiful and a blast to play. The lush art drew me to the project, but the cooking and combat systems keep me coming back for more and more helpings. I’m very happy I got the chance to play Battle Chef Brigade in person this year, and can’t wait to play my backer copy on my Nintendo Switch.
Top Game #2 – Children of Zodiarcs
Developer – Cardboard Utopia
Whereas I personally backed Battle Chef Brigade, I only found out that Children of Zodiarcs was a crowdfunded game when I demoed it at PAX West. I also discovered it was a part of the Square Enix Collective, but that wasn’t why I went to play it. I went because I love tactical RPGs done right, and Children of Zodiarcs looks to take all the elements that I love and embellish them in fun new ways. It’s unusual to find card and dice systems in digital RPGs, but they way they are implemented here was ingenious and delightful. While it’s true that Zodiarcs is out now on PS4, I wait with bated breath for it to release on Steam and maybe other consoles. If you like old school tactical fun, you shouldn’t miss this one.
Top Game #3 – Dead Cells
Developer – Motion Twin
Most of the games I played at PAX West 2017 I only visited their booths once, during my scheduled appointment. On multiple occasions I hung around staring in rapt attention at the screen outside the Dead Cells booth. Not only was it visually stunning, with dark and violent pixel art that reminded me of a 2D Soul Reaver, but it featured complex yet easy to pick up mechanics. Rougelikes have snared more and more of my attention of late, and this is one that I can see eating up hours and hours of my life. If you like Metroidvanias but want a bit more Dark Souls challenge, you need to check out Dead Cells.
Top Game #4 – Figment
Developer – Bedtime Digital Games
Pixel art fascinates me, but I also love other art styles. The soft, hand painted aesthetic in Figment revealed one aspect of a beautiful puzzle world. Playing as figments of a sleeping, conscious mind, your goal in Figment is to fend off nightmares that plague your human host. You do this through a combination of combat, puzzle solving and even boss fights. Any game where you are serenaded by the nightmare avatar of tooth decay gets my vote, and if it should get your vote as well.
Top Game #5 – Hidden Dragon Legend
Publisher – Oasis Games
Sometimes you just need to beat the living crap out of something, and when that desire hits, you need games like Hidden Dragon Legend. Set in ancient China, you play an amnesiac hero equipped with beyond human abilities, fighting to discover the truth of your past. Meanwhile, hordes of martial artists and monsters bar your path, so you’ll need to fight your way to victory. Playing much like a two dimensional God of War, I instantly picked up the controls of Hidden Dragon Legend. It’s fast, furious and highly enjoyable. If you want something with a bit more punch on your PS4, you owe it to yourself to check out this action packed adventure.
Top Game #6 – Just Shapes & Beats
Developer – Berzerk Studio
Rhythm games have always had their hooks in me, ever since I wasn’t afforded the chance play an instrument in middle school. But the lack of traditional training didn’t affect the rhythm in my bones and blood, and I have had a ton of fun playing various rhythm games over the years. Having said that, I have never played a rhythm game quite like Just Shapes & Beats. This multiplayer party game puts you in charge of a simple geometric avatar, and you must survive the beat of the songs played in each stage, including insane boss fights. It was a total blast playing Just Shapes & Beats, and I will not so patiently wait for a release date to be revealed.
Top Game #7 – Mulaka
Developer – Lienzo
I was aware of development studio Lienzo because of our coverage of Hunter’s Legacy. While that game was visually striking, the mechanics left some room for improvement, leading to a somewhat mixed reception. However, their latest game, Mulaka, looks to take the world by storm. Mulaka is a game steeped in rich history and graced by a fun cell shaded art style. The whole world breathes creativity and it looks to be a tribute to Zelda that is actually worthy, while still being very much its own unique vision. The game played quite well at PAX, and if the end product is a more polished version of what I played at the show, Mulaka will be a game many people are talking about for quite some time.
Top Game #8 – Necrobarista
Developer – Route 59
I have become more of a fan of Visual Novels in recent years, ever since I played 999 and Danganronpa, but I have never played one quite like Necrobarista. Set in a supernatural Australia populated with a host of strange characters, it proved wholly unique. Best of all, the writing is quite good, drawing you deeply into the minds of the varied cast. Combined with the dark and sultry art style, Necrobarista should provide a fascinating trip down under.
Top Game #9 – Runner3
Developer – Choice Provisions
At my very first PAX, before I even had started writing for oprainfall, I was utterly fascinated by Bit. Trip. Runner. I played Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien and spent countless lives trying to get through beachside mayhem. Then I was so captivated, I picked it up for my Wii U, as well as going back and getting the collection of the original games on my Vita. So you could say I’m a bit of a Choice Provisions fan. When I saw Runner3 was slated to be at PAX West, I was ecstatic, and the game more than met my high expectations. It’s vibrant, fun and challenging as hell, yet still offers mechanics to make the game more approachable for new players. This was by far my favorite platformer at the show, and I can’t wait to share more impressions once it finally releases on Nintendo Switch.
Top Game #10 – Way of the Passive Fist
Developer – Household Games
The last game on this list alphabetically might have been much earlier if I was ranking it according to level of enjoyment and sheer surprise. I didn’t really know what to expect from Way of the Passive Fist, and that’s just as well, since it blew all my expectations out of the water. It looks like an arcade game, but it plays like a rhythm game. It offers tons of customization options and lots of challenge. It features mild RPG elements, such as upgrading your hero. In other words, Way of the Passive Fist is a rare creature that defies standard categorization, and yet it somehow marries all its disparate elements with grace and panache. I can’t wait till you all get the chance to play it, to see what I got to experience firsthand.
That’s it for my Top 10 list. I would like to thank all the devs for the chance to play their incredible games this year. I had an utter blast at PAX West 2017, and hope to share even more fantastic games next year!
P.S. Many thanks to Brodie as well for the fantastic featured image!
Battle Chef BrigadeChildren of ZodiarcsDead CellsFigmentHidden Dragon LegendJoshJust Shapes & BeatsMulakaNecrobaristaoprainfallPAX West 2017runner3top 10Way of the Passive Fist