2017 was an unprecedented year for the industry of video gaming. Release after release managed to capture the global interest, challenge our expectations, and remind us why we love gaming. Brand new stories made waves across our culture. Classic franchises revitalized their old glory. Cooperative stories and shared experiences brought people together. From platforming to adventure, from horror to roleplaying, there’s a little something for everyone on this list. There were so many joy-inducing titles that we couldn’t even settle for ten.
We’re happy we were along for the ride. Here are our top eleven games of 2017.
11: Sonic Mania
Sonic Mania is a great example of how to revitalize a franchise that is 25 years old. The entire experience is a blast of classic nostalgic 2D action with old and new features. The stages are longer and encourage exploration. The music is upbeat and reminiscent of the 90’s. All three characters offer unique styles of gameplay ensuring that no playthrough gets stale. Although most of the stages are from previous Sonic games, the brand new stages bring new mechanics that feel fresh. Most important of all however, is the fact that Sonic Mania is just fun to play. Everything is enjoyable: the stages, boss battles, music, and platforming. Sonic Mania is more than just a game made by Sonic fans, it’s the magnum opus of the Sonic series.
10: Divinity: Original Sin II
Become a god in Divinity: Original Sin 2, the latest installment in the Divinity franchise by Larian Studios. Gather your party, defeat evil, and save Rivellon from the Void while experiencing the game’s fantastic story. Coupled with a witty sense of humor and tactical turn-based combat, this game will keep you enthralled throughout your entire playthrough. Not only that, but when it comes to replayability, this game delivers. Custom campaign editor? Check. Community mods? Check. Up to four-player co-op (online and local)? Hell yes! Divinity: Original Sin 2 is everything that an RPG should be and more; for that, it deserves its spot on our list.
9: Injustice 2
When the world needed heroes, NetherRealm delivered. Despite a shaky first outing, Injustice has blossomed into a hard-hitting fighting game series. Crisp mechanics make combo chains feel more satisfying than ever before, and the ambitious customization system is surprisingly rewarding. The game’s longevity is bolstered due to a competitive online community and gameplay content that updates daily. Beloved DC characters become fully realized thanks to legendary voice actors and loyal story beats. In a plot overflowing with complicated concepts, Injustice 2 manages to show us both the light and the darkness of modern superhero stories. It’s not a perfect experience, but it’s still the best fighting game of 2017.
8: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
What I look for in horror games is a balance between shock scares and prolonged scares. Both can be terrifying, but they need to provide an ebb and flow, a rising and falling sensation that, while intense, allows for recuperation. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard captures that dynamic to a T. By emphasising chase elements found in modern indie horror games like Amnesia and Outlast, Resident Evil 7 manages to keep its foes feeling dangerous while still providing a meaningful progression in power and player agency. With Resident Evil 7, Capcom has created an experience that I hope sets the bar for horror games yet to come.
7: Middle Earth: Shadow of War
The fight for Middle Earth continues in a new and improved fantasy hack-and-slash on a much greater scale. You, the player, are none other than Talion/Celebrimbor, AKA The Bright Lord. With your own army of orcs you must conquer the many forts in Mordor to take back the power from the Dark himself. With thousands of different and unique types of orcs to encounter no two playthroughs will be the same. The nemesis system is back with a vengeance, making sure that every orc will remember who you are and what you have done. Tolkien’s legendary fantasy world is brought to life yet again with a blend of stellar performances, chilling plot twists, and a sprawling army of orcs ripe for the slaying. Nothing will be forgotten, so it is up to you to take back this monstrous hellscape and bring glory and power to the Bright Lord.
6: Rising Storm 2: Vietnam
Rising Storm 2: Vietnam is a new game in the FPS series released by Tripwire Interactive that brings the hardcore gameplay from WWII into a more modern setting. This new release throws you into the jungles and urban areas of the Vietnam war as a US or North Vietnamese fighter. It adds a whole new level of intensity and fright to the series with the presence of automatic fire everywhere and screen-shaking artillery that will make you feel as if you were on the front lines. While frustratingly difficult at times, it can be incredibly rewarding when played with your team. It’s sure to immerse you in its digital landscape from your first steps to even after you turn it off.
Cuphead is a run-and-gun style indie game developed and published by Studio MDHR. Players take control of the titular character Cuphead who–with help from his pal Mugman–takes on a series of bosses in their effort to save their souls from the Devil. Studio MDHR makes good use of the simple controls with each boss fight being a different experience from the last, as well as giving the game a surprising level of difficulty even for veteran gamers. The art style is deeply inspired by classic 1930’s cartoons, and and the scenes are lovingly hand-drawn. This elegant design combined with the amazing soundtrack makes Cuphead one of the best titles of 2017 to see and hear.
4: Super Mario Odyssey
Mario Odyssey returns to the 3d world hopping, collectathon style seen in games like Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy while blending together some of the best aspects seen in previous titles. Setting out to rescue his beloved (TOTALLY just a friend) princess from the clutches of Bowser, Mario must team up with a new ally known as Cappy who takes on a familiar shape to lend his power to our hero. The returning 3d platforming mechanics are fairly standard for any fan of the series, while Cappy’s abilities provide exciting new mechanics through possessing creatures throughout the world with their own abilities ranging from performing special jumps to revealing hidden platforms. Players can even become a literal tank. The gameplay is simple in a way that makes it easy to learn new abilities, and it’s easy to enjoy the beautiful and unique visuals of each world. Super Mario Odyssey has power jumped its way to the top four games of 2017. Can’t wait to see Super Mario Iliad!
3: Horizon Zero Dawn
At every level of its development, Horizon Zero Dawn is an underdog story. This is a brand new IP from a company known best for its work with first-person shooters, yet the third-person action game we got was glorious. The gameplay is smart, the environment is lavish, and the decision to put a feminist heroine at its forefront is a choice that speaks volumes. Above all, the narrative of Horizon is an immersive experience, one that can touch your soul if you choose to bare it. It’s not just a sci-fi romp about robot dinosaurs and bow-hunting; it’s a complex tale of mystery and tragedy that can leave you in awe.
2: Persona 5
Since its release in the spring, Persona 5 has dazzled many gamers with its distinct look, stellar cast, voice acting (both subbed and dubbed), and soundtrack. Mechanically, it returned and polished some of the more interesting strategic aspects from earlier games in the Shin Megami Tensei series. But as the sixth installment in the Persona franchise, it’s blown away all doubt that sequels can’t make a name for themselves. While much of that can be attributed to its design, the underlying story of corrupted authority, passive society, and challenging the status quo tackles larger societal issues that have yet to be handled so effectively. The game also took a step away from the previous titles’ small town scenery by showcasing a big, beautiful representation of Tokyo – from the Shibuya Underground, Akihabara, Odaiba Seaside Park, “Destinyland” Tokyo, and various other locations. The attention to environmental detail, loveable and complex characters, and overflowing style makes Persona 5 feel like a love letter to JRPG fans.
The Elder Scrolls: Legends
Total War: Warhammer II
The Evil Within 2
Star Wars: Battlefront II
Call of Duty: WWII
1: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The most recent entry in one of gaming’s most revered franchises, Breath of the Wild has completely revolutionized what an open-world game can be. The world is a massive, living thing that reveals itself slowly over time. There are secrets to be found and adventures to be had around every corner. Story takes a backseat to the exploration of this expansive wilderness, but this freedom never feels overwhelming. The gameplay is masterful and the game boasts a physics engine that is both fun and realistic. The game’s amazing musical score does not consist of static themes that loop endlessly, but instead creeps in and changes based on player movement and action. Breath of the Wild is everything an open-world fantasy game should be; engrossing, mysterious and vast. It is a game that is deserving of every accolade it has received, and it is likely to change the way you look at gaming forever.