The seven best things of 2017

Age of the Geek Column: It's that time again.

The time when we look back at the year and think about all that has happened over the last twelve months. The time where writers everywhere make lots of lists because everybody is on early deadlines and there's not much else happening.

2017 won't be going down in history as the best year ever, but let's end on a positive note, giving special recognition to the distractions that went above and beyond in making 2017 enjoyable.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I love the Legend of Zelda series, but it's hard to ignore that Nintendo has been bunting with their second most successful franchise for the better part of a decade. Each new entry in the series has been a little safer than the last, holding the player's hand as the game guides them through Hyrule, rather than allowing them to explore on their own.

"The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" is a most welcome reversal of that trend. Instead of leading the player through a linear sequence of events, the game offers unprecedented levels of freedom to explore the world on your own terms.

Sure, the game took its sweet time getting here. Originally developed for a 2015 release on the Wii-U, the game was delayed so many times that it became a launch title for the next-generation Nintendo Switch. But it was worth the wait. Breath of the Wild has truly been a, pun intended, breath of fresh air for the franchise.

Wonder Woman

It's no secret that Warner Bros. has faced difficulty catching up to Marvel Studios in the superhero movie genre. "Man of Steel" and "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" were divisive at best and "Suicide Squad" was as schizophrenic as its leading character.

But then, called down from upon high, comes Wonder Woman to save the day.

It's not a groundbreaker, but we're grading on a curve here. "Wonder Woman" compares favorably with the better Marvel Studios entries, proving that Warner Bros. is capable of putting out a good super hero film when they get the right people involved.

Goodwill generated by the movie has given a badly needed lifeline to the DC Cinematic Universe. Here's hoping Warner Bros. can course correct from here.

Atomic Blonde Also technically a comic book adaptation, Atomic Blonde might just be my favorite movie of the year. Definitely the best spy movie.

It's an enthralling tale of espionage with brutal action scenes and a killer soundtrack. That the movie ends with my favorite Queen song is just icing to top an already awesome cake.

DuckTales

Woo-oo!

Rebooting beloved franchises for a new generation is a risky affair. Done without care or reverence for the source material, you get a soulless cash grab that appeals to nobody. Done correctly, you get "DuckTales."

Combining the nostalgia of the 80s cartoon with the art style of Carl Barks and modern serialized storylines, "DuckTales" gets everything right and then some. David Tennant is perfectly cast as the voice of Scrooge McDuck. Donald Duck, largely absent in the 80s cartoon, is a main character. Huey, Dewey, and Louie have their own personalities. Webby isn't terrible. Even the updated opening theme song is arguably better than the original.

It's just that good.

Sonic Mania

I've already written plenty about "Sonic Mania," but it's still going on the list.

While Sonic Team has spent the better part of the last two decades bogging the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise down with gimmicks, a team of fans-turned-pros delivered the game fans have been waiting for.

Sonic Mania's throwback levels put neat twists on old classics while the new stages are as well developed as anything from the glorious days of the Sega Genesis. More importantly though, the pixel perfect physics of the 2D platformer make for a better gameplay experience than any 3D incarnation has ever managed.

For a brief few months, before the lackluster release of "Sonic Forces," the blue blur was back on top in a way he hadn't been since the 90s.

Cuphead

This was definitely a good year for 2D retro games. A wholly original property, though heavily influenced by cartoons from the 1930s, "Cuphead" was in development for even longer than Breath of the Wild. Thankfully, all that time paid off.

Animated almost entirely by hand, the game's distinctive visual style has drawn attention from gamers for years. Generally speaking, that much time combined with that much anticipation is a recipe for disappointment. Fortunately, "Cuphead" met its expectations and then some. The game looks amazing, plays well, and has enough content to provide a satisfying experience without overstaying its welcome.

In a year marred with games artificially extended or left incomplete to encourage microtransactions, "Cuphead" is a pleasant reminder that there are still games out there that offer a complete experience for an upfront price.

Super Mario Odyssey

It has been a good year for Nintendo.

After kicking off the launch of the Switch with Zelda, Nintendo finished out their year with an equally impressive title.

"Super Mario Odyssey" doesn't redefine its franchise in the way Breath of the Wild did, but it certainly went a long way towards perfecting it. I haven't been a fan of the 3D style Mario collect-athons since Nintendo created the genre in 1996, but even I got sucked in to Mario's latest adventure. With interesting worlds to explore, tight mechanics, genuinely difficult puzzles, and even a decent story (for a Mario game), "Super Mario Odyssey" is the new gold standard.

Honorable Mention: Thrawn

The original Thrawn trilogy was among the most revered stories of the Star Wars Extended Universe before Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm wiped it all away.

Fan favorite character Thrawn, the cunning Imperial Grand Admiral, was thought to be lost to the old continuity. However, this year saw his re-introduction with a new novel by his creator, Timothy Zahn.

I doubtlessly would have put it on the list had I read it, but unfortunately the paperback doesn't come out until January.

Still, if you are looking for more Star Wars in your life after the release of Episode VIII, I feel safe recommending this as a blind buy.

Travis Fischer is a news writer for Mid-America Publishing and hopes 2018 goes even better. Happy New Year!