GameCentral tries to make sense of gaming’s greatest year by naming the 20 best titles of 2017, from NieR: Automata to Injustice 2.
Long before it even hit the halfway point, 2017 was being hailed as the best year for video games in several decades. And with good reason. It has seen an astonishing number of high quality games, with three that we gave a usually rare 10/10 score to (four if you count XCOM 2 expansion War Of The Chosen).
The top 20 below could easily have been a top 50, without any major drop in quality; with some of the notable games that just missed out including Sniper Elite 4, ARMS, Yakuza 0, Halo Wars 2, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn Of War III, Tekken 7, Detention, Snipperclips Plus, Thimbleweed Park, A Hat In Time, Night In the Woods Gravity Rush 2, For Honor, Hollow Knight, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, SteamWorld Dig 2, Destiny 2, Shadow Tactics, TumbleSeed, Monument Valley II, and Blaster Master Zero.
As usual we’ll give you the chance to vote for your own favourites at the end of January, after everyone has had a chance to play what they got for Christmas and in the new year sales. You can vote for whatever you like, but our list purposefully does not include remakes, remasters, re-releases, DLC expansions, compilations, games not yet released in the UK, or versions of games previously released on other formats.
1. The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild (Wii U/NS)
Perhaps the strangest thing about 2017’s embarrassment of riches is that despite so many great games there’s still absolutely no question as to which is the best. Breath Of The Wild doesn’t just reinvent Zelda but open world games in general, rebelling against all modern concepts of hand-holding and linear progression. It’s not just the best Zelda ever made, but a contender for the best video game of all time.
2. Super Mario Odyssey (NS)
The best proof of what an amazing year this has been is the simple fact that this isn’t our number one game of 2017. The first open world Mario for 15 years is a pure joy from beginning to end, with the perfect mix of platforming and exploration. The endless invention is capped of, as it were, by the wonderful gimmick of being able to turn into anything from a Tyrannosaurs Rex to a side of beef.
3. Divinity: Original Sin II (PC)
2017 was particularly good for role-playing games, but the very cream of the crop was also one of the more obscure entries. Original Sin II is so good it could well be the best Western style role-player ever made, with an unparalleled level of complexity and flexibility in both its gameplay and storytelling. And all while remaining surprisingly accessible and with a keen sense of humour.
4. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (XO/PC)
The most popular video game of the year started out as a scrappy-looking early access title but quickly transformed itself into a worldwide phenomenon, and one of the most important new multiplayer games of recent decades. The Xbox One version is still very much a work in progress but the PC version is now mature enough to be considered alongside the all-time multiplayer greats.
5. NieR: Automata (PS4/PC)
That Bayonetta creators PlatinumGames would finally find financial success with a sequel to obscure PS3 era action role-player NieR is one of the more unexpected success stories of 2017. But this wonderfully anarchic adventure has some of the best storytelling of the year, with thought-provoking themes and characters married to classic Platinum style arcade action.
6. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (XO/PS4/PC)
We were worried this sequel wouldn’t be able to live up to the excellent original, but it ended up an even more enjoyable mix of two-fisted first person shooter action, GoldenEye style stealth tactics, and some of the best storytelling ever seen in an action game – with engagingly human characters and the courage to tackle real world issues that have proven worryingly topical.
7. Nex Machina(PS4/PC)
One of the saddest pieces of news this year is that developer Housemarque, makers of Super Stardust and Resogun, are giving up on making old school arcade games – because not enough people are buying them. At least they went out on a high though, with this superb twin sticker shooter that was developed in conjunction with the Eugene Jarvis, who helped create the genre with Robotron: 2084.
8. Splatoon 2 (NS)
It may well be little changed from the original game, but Nintendo’s online shooter sequel is still one of the best, and most unique, multiplayer games of the year. The central idea of winning by shooting up the scenery still works fantastically well, and the new Salmon Run co-op mode is endlessly addictive. The post-launch support has been excellent too, with this month’s new Champagne Gun being very appropriate.
9. Sonic Mania (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
It’s been a long, long time since a Sonic The Hedgehog game has been named amongst the best of any year, but this glorious homage to the old Mega Drive games is almost note perfect. Although it’s worrying that it owes this fact to being created by fans, while Sonic Forces – which was developed by Sonic Team – ended up being just as disappointing as usual.
10. Persona 5 (PS3/PS4)
The Japanese role-player for people that don’t like Japanese role-players finally got a new sequel, and it was almost everything fans had been hoping for. Effortlessly stylish from the first second, its modern day setting and characters are used to tackle serious themes with an impressively light touch. And even if the combat is still rather ordinary the experience as a whole is still mesmerising.
11. Polybius (PS4)
There were many VR experiences this year that were interesting, but relatively few that were genuinely good games in their own right. But Jeff Minter’s new shooter was a revelation, mixing purposefully old-fashioned gameplay with state-of-the-art technology. The end result was dazzlingly surreal and endlessly addictive.
There was no new FromSoftware game this year, but the legacy of Dark Souls lived on in what is easily the best game to be inspired by the series. It’s by no means a straight clone though, with better combat than any similar title and some wonderfully bizarre enemies drawn from Japanese folklore. The PC version wasn’t as good on release but on PlayStation 4 it’s one of the format’s best exclusives.
13. The Sexy Brutale (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
One of the great hidden gems of the year, and a wonderful mix of Majora’s Mask style time travel and old school graphic adventures. The cleverness of the plot and puzzles immediately draws you into the bizarre tale of a mansion hosting a masked ball, where the masks possess the guests and staff with diabolical results. Unfortunately though the Switch version is half broken at the moment.
14. Resident Evil 7 (XO/PS4/PC)
Still the only triple-A multiformat game to have full VR support throughout, this is a fantastic reinvention of the series that manages to get the balance between old and new almost exactly right. It’s true it could do with a few extra enemy types, but it’s still a wonderfully scary and unpredictable experience from beginning to end, where even the DLC has been surprisingly good.
15. What Remains Of Edith Finch (PS4/PC)
Walking simulator is such a dismissive term, but if any game is going to rise above it, it’s this wonderfully crafted tale of a woman investigating her family’s mysterious past. There’s little in the way of traditional gameplay, and yet the whole experience is something that could only exist as a video game, with an assured mix of interactivity and gothic storytelling.
16. Cuphead (XO/PC)
Arguably the most visually stunning game of the year, the gameplay in this 2D shooter is almost as old-fashioned as the artwork and both are all the better for it. The near endless array of boss battles are some of the most inventive, and difficult, gaming has ever seen. But just like Dark Souls, what seems impossible on a first try becomes child’s play with enough effort and expertise.
17. Total War: Warhammer II (PC)
Even strategy games had a great year in 2017, but as good as Halo Wars and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn Of War III were the most impressive was the second Warhammer Total War game. The sequel not only introduced four impressively unique new races but created an entirely new context for them to fight in, turning what could’ve been little more than an expansion pack into one of the best strategy games of recent years.
18. Injustice 2 (XO/PS4)
There were plenty of high quality fighting games this year, including Tekken 7 and, despite some flaws, Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite. The best though was this superhero sequel from the makers of Mortal Kombat. The character roster is great, but what really impresses is how the game balances the depth of its gameplay mechanics with accessible controls and a genuinely helpful tutorial system.
19. Life Is Strange: Before The Storm (XO/PS4/PC)
The idea of a prequel exploring Chloe Price’s history before the first game sounded a terrible idea at first, especially as the original developers weren’t involved. But without any supernatural elements to lean on the end result was an impressively well-presented story of teenage love and rebellion. The voiceovers for the two female leads were also hella good.
20. Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4)
Probably the greatest technical achievement of the year, the open world environment and stunningly-designed robot creatures make Horizon Zero Dawn a feast for the senses. The gameplay and combat is also extremely solid, with a central heroine that already seems to have become a firm fan favourite.
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