What a great year the gaming industry had in 2017 — perhaps its strongest year since 2007, when we were treated to Bioshock, Super Mario Galaxy, Portal, Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
Nintendo’s mobile/home console hybrid, the Switch, hit the ground running with an amazing selection of first-year games. Meanwhile, major publishers and indies alike delivered fantastic games for every platform, ranging from adrenalin-pumping shooters to quirky RPGs to thrilling racers to thoughtful slices of narrative fiction.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
MachineGames brings BJ Blazkowicz back for some more Nazi-hunting action in its rollicking sequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order and Wolfenstein: The Old Blood. The pulpy, B-movie inspired game — set in an alternate history 1960s where the Nazis won and rule the US — is packed with memorable characters, great combat encounters and secrets to uncover. With its irreverent tone, destructive arsenal and taut gunplay, The New Colossus offers the finest first-person shooter (FPS) single-player campaign of the year. Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One; Nintendo Switch follows in 2018
What Remains of Edith Finch
Giant Sparrow’s unforgettable first-person exploration game takes a morbid theme and weaves a tale out of it that is, by turns, darkly funny, quietly devastating and strangely life-affirming. You take the role of the Edith Finch of the title — a young woman who returns to her family home to learn why most of her clan seem to die young and often in horrific circumstances. As she explores the house, the game chronicles the deaths as a series of short cinematics and minigames — ranging in tone and presentation from whimsical parable to gruesome horror to magical realism to gothic grandeur. MacOS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
This indie darling has been in development for ages, but the final product was worth the wait. The magnificent presentation — inspired by the cartoons of the 1930s — is worth the price alone. But look beyond the visuals and you’ll find a punishing and exciting boss-rush game that takes inspiration from old-school run-and-gun sidescrollers like Contra and Mega Man. Microsoft Windows, Xbox
Pyre throws elements of role-playing games (RPGs), tactical sports games and visual novels into the blender, then serves them with the subtle worldbuilding, stylish visuals and elegant music you’d expect from developer Supergiant. The game tracks a group of misfits as they compete in a series of ritualistic games to earn their freedom from the Downside — a state of purgatory. The gameplay can get a little repetitive, but the characters and worldbuilding are fantastic. Linux, MacOS, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows
Forza Motorsport 7
Forza 7 is the best motorsport game of in a year where racing fans have been spoilt for choice, with strong releases such as Gran Turismo Sport, Project Cars 2 and F1 2017. Designed as a technical showcase for the Xbox One X, Forza 7 features breath-taking 4K visuals running at a crisp 60 frames per second on Microsoft’s premium console. Forza 7 offers the most complete package of single and multiplayer racing content on the market today, as well as the superb handling for which the franchise is famous. Microsoft Windows, Xbox One
Super Mario Odyssey
Nintendo’s first 3D Mario game for the Switch is as fresh, fun and delightful as the best titles in the franchise. The game features an inventive gameplay twist where Mario can toss his hat onto another character’s head to take control of it and use its abilities. It’s a little easy compared to some of the classic Mario games, but it’s crammed with secrets to uncover and challenges to complete. Nintendo Switch
Horizon Zero Dawn
Guerrilla Games — developer of the Killzone games — finally delivers a game where the gameplay and storytelling are as impressive as the visuals. Given the studio’s technical prowess, it’s no surprise that Horizon: Zero Dawn is one of the most incredible-looking open-world games available on the PlayStation 4, but there’s some depth behind the looks, too.
The setup — tribal humans fighting off robotic dinosaurs — sounds like the setup for a 1980s Saturday morning cartoon, but the worldbuilding is confident enough to sell the silly premise. The challenging combat and the mission design are extremely satisfying. And flame-haired protagonist, Aloy, looks set to become as much as of PlayStation icon as Nathan Drake. PlayStation 4
The creative minds behind the cult hit NieR — producer Yosuke Saito and creator Yoko Taro — team up with Platinum Games for a sequel that keeps the thematic weirdness of the original while fixing the lacklustre gameplay. The results are as bizarre and compelling as one would expect. The core game is an action-RPG hybrid, with Platinum delivering the sublime melee and shooting combat on which it built its formidable reputation. There are also bullet-hell, platforming and mini-game segments to give the game a bit of variety, and it all hangs together far better than it should. It’s not for everyone, but it is stylish, off-the-wall, and unique. Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4
Divinity: Original Sin II
With its isometric perspective and deep, turn-based gameplay, Divinity: Original Sin II is a challenging modernisation of CRPG greats like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment. It throws you into a treacherous but fascinating high-fantasy world, provides you with an extensive choice of powers and tools you can use to solve quests and combat encounters, and gives you the freedom to make your way as you see fit.
The writing is strong and often witty, the quests are interesting and varied, and the attention to detail is consistently impressive. Though there have been several attempts to reive this subgenre in recent years — including titles like Pillars of Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numenera — Divinity: Original Sin II and its predecessor are the ones that will be as fondly remembered as the classics that set the template. Microsoft Windows
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
What a fantastic first year the Nintendo Switch had, delivering the two highest-rated games of 2017 on Metacritic — this and Mario: Odyssey. The new Zelda game not only reinvents the franchise, but also rejuvenates the open-world genre with its open-ended, physics-driven gameplay. Breath of Wild throws the player into an expansive, mysterious open world that begs for exploration and provides a dazzling toybox of options with which to experiment.
The game’s version of Hyrule brims with life and detail, with intriguing puzzles to crack, wondrous vistas to behold and engrossing dungeons to master. There’s an addictive gameplay loop, focused on hunting and scavenging to find gear and provisions needed to survive the wilds, as well as combat that seems at simple at first blush, yet reveals layers of depth as you master it. The Zelda series has, over 30 years, delivered some of the greatest games of all time — The Wind Waker, The Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask — and Breath of the Wild can stand proudly alongside those classics. Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii-U
Also worth a mention
Assassin’s Creed Origins: After taking a break for a year, Ubisoft’s historical open-world franchise returns with a stunning setting in Ptolemaic Egypt and a much-refined combat system. Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Destiny 2: Bungie’s shared world shooter addresses the criticisms of the original game in the series, with sharper quest design, a more engaging campaign and a much more entertaining end-game. Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Gorogoa: A blend of clever puzzles and whimsical storytelling, meshed together through beautifully handcrafted visuals. Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice: Inspired by Norse mythology, Ninja Theory’s Hellblade is a moody concoction of simple puzzle-solving, melee combat and cinematic storytelling. Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4
Nex Machina: Death Machine: This excellent twin-stick shoot-em-up from genre masters, Housemarque has incredible presentation and frantic, addictive gameplay. Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4
Nioh: Team Ninja’s samurai game will satisfy Darks Souls fans looking for a gruelling but satisfying blend of action and role-playing. Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4
Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds: Buggy, unpolished and unfinished it may be, but PUBG is reinventing the competitive shooter with its tense, large-scale “battle royale” matches — and it’s doing so before it leaves early access. Microsoft Windows, Xbox One
Prey: The underrated Prey has struggled to find an audience, which is a pity since the game is a terrific first-person RPG/shooter hybrid in the mould of System Shock, Bioshock and Dishonored. Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
SteamWorld Dig 2: An enchanting little Metroidvania that builds on the fantastic digging and platforming of its predecessor. Linux, MacOS, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Thimbleweed Park: Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick’s love letter to Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island is a pitch-perfect slice of nostalgia as well as the best adventure game of the year. Android, iOS, Linux, MacOS, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One — (c) 2017 NewsCentral Media