It’s going to be an incredible year for games.
We’re not complaining, 2016 was already a year overflowing with exciting games. New and surprising games like DOOM and Stardew Valley blew us away. Games like Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian were finally released, when —frankly— we weren’t sure they ever would. But 2017 could be one of the most jam-packed years in recent memory.
Things are just getting started. We’re only a few short months into 2017, and we’ve already had an influx of big AAA games like Resident Evil 7 and quiet indie ones like Night in the Woods. Nintendo just released a brand new system and, by the end of the year, Microsoft will have released a new Xbox of their own. We’re still in the months away from E3 and there’s already more than a game a month we’re excited to get our hands on. It’s beyond exciting.
There are so many games already scheduled for 2017 that we couldn’t include them all. Not only is this a list of the games we’re more excited to play, but the ones we think are most likely to actually release this year. With any luck, by this time next year, we’ll have played every game here and be raving about how much they met (or didn’t meet) our expectations. It’s impossible not to be looking forward to something here, there is just too much coming out.
15 Mass Effect Andromeda
It’s been five years since Commander Shepard closed the book on the Reapers. Even if Mass Effect 3’s ending left a bad taste in your mouth, there’s no arguing that the world of Mass Effect is one the most detailed and beloved science fiction universes in gaming. Helmed by Bioware Montreal, Mass Effect: Andromeda is set 600 years after the original Mass Effect trilogy and transitions us from the Milky Way Galaxy to Andromeda. The newest installment is poised to build on everything we loved about the dialogue systems and combat of Mass Effect 2/3. It also hopes to finally deliver on the exploration elements of the original Mass Effect game — taking cues from Dragon Age: Inquisition to build out its open world.
Originally unveiled in 2014, Cuphead’s unbelievably impressive art style immediately caught our attention. Inspired by 1930s cartoons like Swing You Sinners!, Cuphead’s style captures the jittery static of Rubber Hose Animation creating a fancy-free aesthetic for its surprisingly dark premise. When the game’s protagonists, Cuphead and Mugman, lose a bet with the devil they’re forced to do his wicked will. Mechanically, Cuphead is a run and gun game —think Contra or Gunstar Heroes— with a big emphasis on challenging boss battles. Releasing on Xbox One and Windows PC later this year, it’s no surprise Microsoft has been vigorously showing off Cuphead since its debut. The project was spearhead by two Canadian brothers and has all the makings of an indie gem. A labor of love made with blood sweat and tears.
Arkane Studios is here to save Prey. The talented developers behind Dishonored have rebooted Prey as a sci-fi horror first-person shooter set aboard a spaceship where humans have been turned into guinea pigs for experimentation. In the vein of Bioshock, Prey looks like a perfect blend of puzzles, plot, and powers, featuring a slew of interesting tools to play with. We’re just happy Bethesda rescued the series from the brink of cancellation. For years a mysterious behind-closed-doors demo of Prey 2 was a whisper on the wind. By all accounts, it was an awe-inspiring presentation to match the game’s impressive E3 2011 CG trailer. Sometimes bad things happen for a reason because this new incarnation of Prey looks absolutely fantastic.
12 South Park: The Fractured But Whole
South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut shocked movie theaters worldwide over 15 years ago. We’re happy to know Trey Parker and Matt Stone haven’t lost their passion for farcical pun titles. In South Park: The Fractured but Whole, the kids in town have quit playing make-believe as high fantasy adventurers and graduated to superheroes. We’re already sold on the premise, as the kids can’t agree on how to structure their cinematic universe, starting a civil war between them. Priceless. South Park: Fractured but Whole builds on the open-world exploration and classic role-playing combat of 2014’s South Park: The Stick of Truth, adding a wrinkle of tactical strategy to fights. With the series’ creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone coming back to work on another video game —bringing their wit and voice talent along with them— The Fractured but Whole is a sure bet.
11 Sea of Thieves
Inspired by mega-hit multiplayer experiences like DayZ, Sea of Thieves aims to bring a level of AAA polish to a persistent online adventure. Sea of Thieves has pirates working together to find treasure or steal it. The high seas quest is as much about hiding and protecting your booty from adversarial squally-wags as it is about using your trusty compass to find it. The first major project from veteran studio Rare in years, Sea of Thieves should be a return to form for the company responsible for games like Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie, and, of course, the original Donkey Kong Country games. Sea of Thieves is undoubtedly the most ambitious game the studio has ever worked on. With a great premise, excellent art style, and years of experience behind them, Sea of Thieves could be a real treasure.
10 Outlast 2
The Outlast games make you understand why you should be afraid. There are jump scares, the levels are tense, but more than any other horror game they let you confront evil before making you run away from it. In the tradition of phenomenal games born out of Montreal, the original Outlast was a surprise hit that oozes style. Like the first game, Outlast 2 puts you in control of a journalist investigating a derelict rural local, piecing together a larger mystery. Outlast 2 takes a lot of inspiration from classic horror movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and REC. The focus of the new game is a fanatic religious cult who believes the end is nye. Armed with your wit and a battery operated camera, you need to escape the Sonoran Desert in one piece.
9 Sonic Mania
We’ve been burned before. Ok… We’ve been burned over and over and over again for years. But'everything about Sonic Mania looks like it will be the best Sonic the Hedgehog game since the Genesis. During the Sonic 25th anniversary event, SEGA proudly presented Sonic Mania to Sonic fans young and old. They have earned the right to a certain amount of bravado since Sonic Mania looks like a dream follow-up to Sonic & Knuckles made by people who understand and love those original games. It remains to be seen if they tie everything together, but it’s been ages since we’ve seen a Sonic the Hedgehog game with so much style and presence. After years of being disappointed, it would be delightful to have such an iconic video game character emerge triumphantly.
8 God of War
A soft-reboot of the series, the new God of War drops most of what you’ve come to know about the franchise -- except for the protagonist Kratos. Swapping out Greek mythology for Norse, Kratos finds himself with a new family, fighting in a snow covered world. Even though visually the game’s Nordic art style will surely remind you of the snow covered hillsides of Skyrim, combat-wise the new God of War looks like it takes inspiration from the Dark Souls games. But don’t let that fool you, the latest from Sony Santa Monica is still a powerhouse of incredible visuals and cinematic violence. With God of War, Sony hopes you’ll beat the Kratos drum all over again, championing it as a new standard in character action.
Yooka-Laylee is a spiritual successor to the Nintendo 64 classic Banjo-Kazooie. The smash-hit Kickstarter campaign hit its funding goal in less than an hour and brought in over a million dollars faster than any video game campaign before it. The game stars a green chameleon named Yooka and a purple bat named Laylee who venture off exploring colourful 3D environments collecting dozens and dozens of items along the way. The game is being developed by ex-Rareware developers, with music being composed by the legendary Grant Kirkhope and David Wise (responsible for most your favourite tracks from Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country). Yooka-Laylee is launching simultaneously for almost every major console under the sun, showing a confidence rarely seen from indie crowdfunded projects.
6 Crackdown 3
There’s very little information out there about Crackdown 3, except that Microsoft wants it to be a ground-breaking technological showpiece. Crackdown 3 was announced as being the first major project from Microsoft to rely on Cloud Computing to power its visuals and destructible environments. Now, in 2017, we’ll likely see Crackdown 3 take advantage of Microsoft’s upcoming souped-up Xbox One successor codenamed Scorpio. Combine all that with the series’ creator’s ambitious online agenda, and Crackdown’s already solid gameplay foundation and this could be one of the year’s most jaw-dropping games. The original game was a surprise hit and one of the first non-licensed open-world superhero games (pre-dating games like Infamous). It was also a game that knew how to have fun, featuring weapons and cars that transformed and as you leveled-up, with explosions for days, and the ability to kick a car so hard it would flip down the road.
5 Persona 5
Very few games muster an ounce as much style as Persona. Over time the Japanese role-playing series developed from a cult hit to a full-blown phenomenon. Luckily, the Persona games are stand-alone (like Final Fantasy), so you won’t miss out if this is your first entry. Set in a high school in Tokyo, Persona 5 follows the misadventures of a group of teens who use their persona to battle evil at night and live out their lives as average students during the day. It’s a terrific blend of dungeon-crawling and a social sim, giving you ample time to build out your stats and relationships. If you are planning to play through Persona 5, be careful of spoilers! The game’s been out in Japan since Fall 2016, so plenty of players have already imported it and seen it through. It’s hard to blame them — if we spoke Japanese we’d have done the same!
4 Blackwood Crossing
Blackwood Crossing is the buzzy indie game to keep an eye on, as the coming of age story features two orphaned teenagers named Scarlet and Finn exploring a magical train. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot more than meets the eye aboard the transport and it quickly becomes the vehicle for an emotional journey exploring adolescence, love, and loss. The main conflict throughout the train has to do with the relationship between the sister and her brother, and how the two straddle the line between childlike glee and oncoming adulthood. The puzzle/exploration game is being developed in the UK by a group of ex-AAA developers reaching out to develop their own IP. The game is being made using the hugely popular Unity and is scheduled to release across PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC later this year.
3 NieR: Automate
Anyone who has played the demo is already in on the secret: the second Nier game seems amazing. Platinum Games, the developer, has a bit of a rocky track-record but has also developed some of the very best character action games ever made, including the Bayonetta games. Originally a spin-off of Square-Enix’s popular Drakenguard series, NieR is an action-roleplaying franchise. Despite poor critical reviews, the first NieR game was a cult hit, revered particularly for its layered plot. If Platinum Games can bring their A-game to the table and deliver on a gameplay front, NieR: Automate should have no trouble capturing people’s attention and being one of the first surprise hits of 2017.
2 Super Mario Odyssey
If there was any doubt Nintendo could still surprise us with a Super Mario game, Super Mario Odyssey squelches it. Nintendo outright claims Super Mario Odyssey is part of the Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine lineage. A ‘sandbox’ Mario game built around exploring 3D spaces and, presumably, solving puzzles therein. Here’s the kicker: Super Mario seems to have traveled to some variation of planet Earth because the citizens walking around New Donk City sure look like humans. Of course, we’ve also seen the adorable chubby plumber running through colourful candy coloured lands in Odyssey, but it remains to be seen how the realistic world makes its way into the full game. Super Mario Odyssey is also the debut Mario title for Nintendo’s new console the Switch.
1 Red Dead Redemption 2
A new Rockstar game is a significant event in gaming. Few companies pour as much time (and money) into building excruciatingly detailed open-worlds. Bare in mind when Rockstar released Grand Theft Auto V for next-gen consoles, they added a first-person mode so you could actually see all of the work they had put into each area. Now imagine that level of effort put into a new Western game, the sweeping vistas and the sun beating down on them. A sequel to Red Dead Redemption, the first exclusively next-generation game from Rockstar is coming. One of the most talked about games of the last generation, and one that unfortunately never made its way to Windows PC is finally set to arrive. We can’t wait to play it.