2017 was a very interesting year for video games. Perhaps the biggest success has been the Nintendo Switch catapulting the company back into the limelight and reinveting itself yet again with a unique system. The PS4 extended is dominance with loads of amazing exclusives and having the highest number of units sold this year. Microsoft, though lagging in estimated sales, did release the X-Box One X, this generations most technologically robust console.
Before going into it it should be noted that these choices reflect a mix of my personal views and the general consensus on what has been the best games. There was a lot to choose from and in particular those that didn’t make the cut for example: Wolfenstein 2, Injustice 2 and Destiny 2, are all fabulous games but, in the opinion of this writer, the ones listed below are just a touch above.
Cuphead (X-Box One, StudioMDHR)
One of the most visually unique games on the list Cuphead stands out because it looks like a living cartoon straight out of the 1930’s. One of the pleasures, or displeasures depending, is the incredible difficulty of the game; No level includes checkpoints and, barring one late-game match-up, there is no way to regain lost health. The main attraction, however, are the many boss fights along the way. So part of the beauty of Cuphead is discovering what weird and wonderful individual is going to show up next and thus makes you more determined to try harder. In one fight you battle an actress in her theatre and the fight takes you through the different stages of a play. The music also rounds out the experience with a mix of high-tempo ragtime, swing, big band, and jazz. From the backgrounds to the animations to the bold colours, Cuphead is a love letter both to classic cartoons and platform-shooters and is a must play if you’re looking for a fun time. For our more detailed review click here.
Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4, Guerilla Games)
This is the post-apocalypse like we have never seen it before in an open-world game. As the player runs or rides from one settlement to another, the landscape constantly shifts between distinct, gorgeously realized biomes. One minute, it’s a frozen tundra, with sun gleaming off enormous white, snow-covered cliffs, and ground covered in scraggly little bushes and errant branches. The next, it’s an orange sanded desert with towering red clay mesas jutting up into a perfectly clear blue sky. All the while robotic dinosaurs roam the land and with your own set of hybrid weapons Horizon makes for intriguing but often difficult fight sequences. The game is surprisingly touching at times, offering a hopeful look at how humanity copes in a crisis, layered in just enough mystery to keep tugging you on through until the post-credits scene.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch, Nintendo)
A masterclass in open-world design and a watershed game that reinvents a 30-year-old franchise Breath of the Wild is one of those rare games that is not only an instant classic but quite possibly one of the best games of all time. Breath has tremendous depth, with open exploration and a constant sense of discovery, the freedom it provides is impressive. You can just about get lost exploring Hyrule with the amount of things you can do that you’d be excused for forgetting there’s an actual story. The best part is that none of the exploration feels wasted. Even the combat got upgraded with the use of degradable weapons. On the surface this would seem cumbersome but in fact adds a level of variety that makes for an interesting challenge. Despite all the changes it is still unmistakably Zelda and however you play it there is something for everyone.
Nier Automata (PS4/ X-Box One/ PC, Square Enix)
Sequels are often tricky and especially when the first one was really good. Fortunately, this sequel checks all the boxes. The combat systems are a vast improvement over its predecessor, but Automata retains the level of introspective weirdness and genre-bending experimentation that made the first game so notable. The story should also get credit for being mature and sophisticated dealing with our priorities as a society and our continued relevance in an increasingly automated world. Be prepared to play a lot of this game however as the full story plays out over five different endings. Thankfully you’re never forced to repeat sections because of this though; each route offers significant differences. Despite it being a sequel its easily accessible to newcomers and is a must play if you’ve never experienced the franchise.
Night in the Woods (PS4/ X-Box One/ PC, Finji)
This game excels in that it has an ability to swerve from the amusing hijinks of its vibrant heroes into very real, and very serious subject matter without feeling forced or unnatural. Woods revolves around Mae, an unruly catgirl who drops out of college and moves back to her hometown. It’s a sad and serious tale of generational anxiety wrapped in a deceptively cute, funny exterior. The 2D platforming is a delight but mainly serves as a vehicle to explore all the hidden secrets and Mae’s general mischief seeking. Equal parts Scott Pilgrim and Blue Velvet there’s a depth here that’s handled with surprising clarity and makes the game a surprising hit.
Persona 5 (PS4, Atlus)
It’s not often that you see a cult hit make it mainstream but this latest entry to the Persona series may well just do that. Upon its release in North America it quickly shot to the top of the charts and has now been nominated for numerous awards. This JRPG takes you through a year at Tokyo’s Shujin High School, where the students moonlight as masked vigilantes locked in battle with supernatural forces. Persona 5 is a solid modern turn-based JRPG first and foremost, but its also a very good time management simulator. When you’re not saving the world, your time after school is your own. You’re able to visit hub districts within Tokyo for activities like training at the gym, fishing, working a part-time job, batting practice etc. However, the game only gives you a finite amount of time to do this all and with so many options every decision feels like it matters and thus adds weight to the overall story. Dark, compelling and gorgeous Persona 5 is easily the best JRPG we’ve seen in a very long time.
Player Unknown’s Battleground (PC/X-Box One)
The viral hit of this list, PUBG as its affectionately called stormed out of the gate as an early access title on Steam. This despite the fact that the game had (and still has) a lot going against it: no proper ad campaign, many bugs, the fact that its still an alpha, the lootcrates and it only has one map! The difference however, is that the game is wildly addictive. Up to 100 players play at a time in a battle royale contest. Simple and smartly designed we can only imagine what a full version will be like.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (PS4/ X-Box One/PC, Capcom)
The most famous survivor horror game of all time has had its fair share of ups and downs over the years. Biohazard represents a high and a stripping down of the bloatware that was RE6. The game centers on the Baker family estate and as a result its more focused, intimate and very detail oriented. It’s also first person which is different but the perspective suits the game. Resident Evil has always done environmental story telling well and that’s on full display here. It also excels in the horror department opting for less surprise and more slow building. Tense, unsettling and quite gory Biohazard is a fine edition to this venerable franchise.
Super Mario Odyssey (Switch, Nintendo)
The world’s most famous plumber is back in what is probably one of the best Mario games in the franchise. Odyssey is an overwhelming cornucopia of pure joy, full of the kind of freedom typically found in open world games but with a constant chain of clear objectives and attainable goals pulling you ever deeper into its roster of candy-colored kingdoms. Speaking of which, there’s just something wonderful about seeing Mario in city setting for once, its a wonder we’ve waited this long to experience it. The main innovation is that his new hat, Cappy, can inhabit a range of creatures throughout the worlds opening up a plethora of new possibilities. Put simply the game looks and feels terrific. For our more detailed review click here.
Yakuza 0 (PS4, Sega)
Another game that has learned from its past 0 strips away the multiple storylines of 5 and focuses on the two main characters Kazuma and Goro. And that’s really where this game shines: the story. Yes, its very fun with over the top street fights, loads of oddball side characters and plenty of diversions along the way but the story makes this game. Set in 1988 and thus a prequel the tale of betrayal and struggle for power has been done before in other games but this one is very fleshed out. The game has no problem with very long cut scenes but they never feel that long and all serve their purpose. The aesthetic is also quite beautiful almost matching GTA: Vice City in terms of nostalgia
And now we have the worst games of 2017. I won’t spend much time on these because to be honest they don’t deserve it. However, in case you planned on getting any of these titles then you have been given fair warning.
1-2-Switch (Switch, Nintendo)
The game that shows off the Switch’s capabilities does exactly that. However, its very short and the biggest problem is that it doesn’t come bundled with the Switch. You have to pay full price for a game that can take you no more than 2 hours to play. If it was bundled like the Wii’s Sports Resort before it then it would be forgivable but because it isn’t it makes it onto this list.
Old Time Hockey (PS4, X Box One, V7 Entertainment)
There’s usually nothing wrong with opting for a retro look in games except for this one. OTH is just terrible to look at and you’d be better of playing an old Sega or Nintendo NHL title. The game is also frustrating to play as your teammates often offer little to no resistance against the opposing side. You also can’t perform a one timer, one of the most fundamental hockey moves there is.
Syberia 3 (PS4, X Box One, Switch, Microids)
When its been 13 years since the last instalment you think you would get a recap no? Not here, the game continues where the last one left off without a moment of exposition. The game also looks very dated, as if it belongs in 2004. Plus with loads of bugs and cliche characters not even mildly interesting puzzles can save this game.
Troll and I (PS4, X Box One, Switch, Spiral House)
On paper this game looked promising with a half decent story and for the first 5 minutes of gameplay it kind of is. But things go downhill from there as the controls are very clunky and often non responsive. Everything about the game is repetitive from the puzzles to the combat to the music to even the voice acting which is all very dull.
Vroom in the Night Sky (Switch, Poisoft)
The lowest rated game on the Switch takes you on bike journey to collect stars…and that’s basically it. Add a very bad translation from Japanese to English and you have the definition of rushed launch title.
And Finally In a Category All on Its Own…
Star Wars Battlefront II (PS4, X Box One, EA)
Certainly not the best game but also not entirely the worst I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss SWB2 and the controversy that surrounds it. In some respects its an improvement on the last game with better blasters, more characters to choose from, gorgeous locations and half decent multiplayer. But in other respects it fails and boy does it ever. The progression system is perhaps the worst and most convoluted system ever. If your system needs a video to explain how ‘Star Cards’ works then you’re already in trouble. Basically, with the exception of new weapons, which are slowly unlocked by getting a certain number of kills with each class, all class levelling, ability customization, and upgrading is funneled through a randomized loot box system with tediously high in-game credit costs. You heard that right, not only does it take a very long time to build up the necessary Star Cards but even when you do, you’re not guaranteed a worthwhile upgrade (you might even get a duplicate). Early on you could have bought the upgrades but EA disabled that function over backlash but have said they would reintroduce it a later date. This of course still doesn’t solve the issue of tedious progression. Along with numerous potential court battles over the game’s purported gambling issue both domestically and abroad (Hawaii, Belgium and Singapore are monitoring the situation legally) the game has been nothing short of controversial. Which is a shame because the game really only had to do a few things to improve on the last instalment. It does a few of those things right but its all wrapped up in a labyrinth with no foreseeable exit.