Every video game reporting outlet on the internet is heralding 2017 as one of the best years in video game releases, especially among AAA titles form the major publishers. Certainly Nintendo had one of its best years ever with the launch of the Switch, an insanely confident system that proves the Wii wasn't a fluke and the Wii U was nothing more than a proof-of-concept, the Switch was buoyed by two of the best first party games of the decade, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, as well as being supported by a seemingly endless supply of third party games like Sonic Mania and Darkest Dungeon.
Sony and Microsoft had terrific years too, though with not as many console exclusives, though Horizon: Zero Dawn and its DLC were absolutely revelations from the developers of Killzone, of all things, and I really believe Horizon would be even more fondly remembered if it hadn't come out four days before Zelda.The PC also had a very strong year, with Divinity: Original Sin 2 fast becoming regarded as one of the finest CRPGs ever made.
In a year so crowded with high profile, well-made software, there were lots of smaller titles that fell by the wayside or were forgotten by the time December rolled around. I expect some of these may have been scored a bit lower than I think they deserve due to the excellent year in which they were released and because many of them are indie games that have been released into a climate with a very high-quality standard for small-team games. There are some blockbusters on here too which I think deserve a second look and maybe be cut a bit of slack: you may have overlooked them because of their pedigree or less-than-stellar scores, but all of these deserve at least a look.
25 Ancient Egypt Edition
Taking a year off the punishing development cycle for Assassin's Creed paid off big time with Origins. While it may seem odd to lead off this list with one of the best received games of the year, I feel like so much of what has been said about Origins has been astonishment at how good it was. That's fair, it is really good, but I think it's unfair to the rest of the series to be so shocked at the quality of this installment.
The Assassin's Creed series has always been about historical tourism.
With some fun, light, stealth gameplay, an intuitive movement mechanic, and satisfying combat. Origins took all of that, plus the series' signature polish and attention to detail, and made a Witcher game. That's how I've been talking about Origins: it's The Witcher 3 in Ancient Egypt. If that's not exciting to you, I don't know what to tell you.
24 Despite What You've Heard, Battlefront II Is A Video Game Too
I know, I know, you're probably so sick of hearing about Battlefront II. Now that the dust has settled over its terrible microtransaction system and The Last Jedi is on its way out of theatres, maybe it's finally time for an objective look at what Battlefront II does right.
Like Assassin's Creed, I do love the digital tourism aspect fo Battlefront: there is so much money in this game and a lot of it went towards creating beloved locations from the movies for you to run around in. There's lots to see and it's easy to miss. The ground combat is functional and can have a lot of depth to it, but the space combat is where the game shines, giving a tantalizing glimpse of what a current-generation Rogue Squadron or X-Wing could be.
23 Multiplayer Sword Fighter Game Is Better Than The Sum Of Its Parts
I played the PC beta of For Honor TO DEATH. My friend and I downloaded it at the beginning of the weekend and essentially played it non-stop for 72 hours. As actors with stage combat experience, we were absolutely blown away by the way it translated sword combat to the controller. Considering how many games have edge or blunt melee weapons, it's astonishing how rare it is to see a game with a complex, well-thought-out sword-and-board combat system.
I never bought the full game but my friend did, because I felt like I saw everything in that weekend. I'm pretty confident the success of For Honor will lead to a sequel and hopefully, that sequel will include an actual single player story. The idea of a Dark Souls-like third-person RPG with For Honor's combat system is too exciting.
22 Dark Souls Kung Fu MMO
Absolver is a really notch on the belt of indie publisher superstars Devolver Digital, who catapulted to success with the amazing Hotline Miami and continue to have sharp eyes for unique, stylish games made by small teams. Most games that tackle hand-to-hand, martial arts combat are 2d fighting games like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, so it's a rare treat to see a free-roaming, fully 3d fighting game like Absolver.
Roaming through an open world with tons of secrets and hidden stories is awesome
The game has a Dark Souls flavor in its environmental storytelling and minimal tutorials that encourage players to explore, experiment, and learn to fail gracefully. A robust combo maker and MMo features that help rather than hinder the experience, make Absolver one of the most unique games of the year.
21 The Perfect Sequel
Okay, bear with me. I know Wolfenstein II is one of the best-reviewed games of the year. The reason it's on this list is that I don't think it's been reviewed highly enough. No one thought Machine Games could do it, but they absolutely nailed their sequel/reboot of Wolfenstein with The New Order a few years ago. By marrying amazingly tight shooter gameplay with competent storytelling told by incredibly deep characters, Machine Games made a huge splash.
The sequel is even better.
Technically perfect, visually stunning, with a larger scope and even better writing, pacing, and characters than the first, New Colossus is a perfect sequel: expanding and building upon everything that made the first special while constantly surprising the player with its maturity and respect for violence, hope, and tyranny. It's absolutely brilliant from start to finish and should not be missed.
20 Mass Effect: Underqualified Landlord Simulator
Woe betide dear, departed Mass Effect: a brilliant, iconic RPG series that was felled by the gift/curse of being published by EA. While I strongly believe the core Mass Effect games make up the finest RPG series ever made, and they never would have achieved the heights they did without BioWare being bought by EA, the publisher's notorious record for driving franchises into the ground was on full display with this year's Andromeda.
Andromeda's concept is so good on paper. Essentially the Star Trek: Voyager of the series, it could have been a bold reimagining of a deeply detailed and beloved universe, but an inexperienced development team and a gun-shy publisher relegated it to a deeply flawed experiment. Underneath the drama, Andromeda does some things right and can be a beautiful and relaxing experience but it could have been so much more.
2017 was a great year for the 3d platformer. Super Mario Odyssey absolutely shattered sky-high expectations and ended up being not only a worthy successor to Super Mario 64 but one of the best games of the year A Hat In Time coming out of nowhere with a charming, unique visual style and fun gameplay, to the Switch port of Yooka-Laylee.
Then there's Snake Pass, a truly unique game that takes the best lesson from Mario: the mechanics come first. Made by a single developer who was inspired by a rope falling from the sky while designing a level for an entirely different game, Snake Pass takes one for the core concepts of a platformer, jumping, and makes a game entirely without it. It's a brilliantly constructed game and well worth your attention.
18 Power Fantasy Or Powerless Fantasy
Asymmetrical multiplayer games have had a bit of renaissance recently, most famously in the big budget flame out Evolve. Considering the cult success of the Friday the 13th film series, despite being dormant for over 15 years, it's pretty surprising that there hasn't been a game based on the franchise since the NES title. (Which is still pretty scary today.)
The combination of these two ideas is a match made in heaven.
While the official Friday the 13th game is still a bit buggy and has some kinks to work out, it is obviously a labour of love with a ton of respect for the source material. Hiding from Jason is legitimately tense, even though evading him is pretty easy once you figure out the mechanics.
17 Found Footage Horror Masterpiece
If you've been following my columns the last few weeks, you'll probably have picked up that I'm a huge fan of scary video games. I love horror films, but there's something about being in control of your character's survival that makes horror games so much more impactful and visceral than horror film.
The original Outlast was a revelation.
It took the then-fresh concept of found footage horror films and translated it beautifully into a 3d game space. It was very well received and deservedly so, it tells a great story in a unique way and it is terrifying as all get up. Outlast II didn't get the same enthusiastic response and I can't understand why. It took the core concepts of the original, changed what didn't work and sharpened what did. If you're a fan of Resident Evil 7, you need to play Outlast II.
16 Saints Row 4.5
Agents of Mayhem is where Volition seemingly unbeatable Saints Row formula finally collapsed on itself. An extension of the SR world, spun off from one of the endings of Saints Row 4, Agents of Mayhem is a squad-based action game without the squad. You pick one of three agents and can switch between them on the fly, but you only have one in the world at a time. It's a relatively standard open-world action game with a cool art style: think Overwatch but with purple everywhere instead of orange.
Agents of Mayhem is a solid game made by a great team of people who have made some of the best action games in the last few years. The problem is that there just isn't that much there: after a few hours you've pretty much-seen everything, and then you just do the same over and over again.
15 Forget Snyder And Affleck, This Is Batman Done Right
I feel kinda bad for Telltale Games sometimes. Their story is a great example of growing too fast and burning out your audience, but they are still producing great content with amazing partners. From Walking Dead to Borderlands to Guardians of the Galaxy, Telltale's rebirth of the adventure game has become a genre of itself. Their latest game is Batman and it represents one of their most mature stories.
Pulling some inspiration for Scott Snyder's recent run on the Batman comic, Telltale's series allows you to choose how much you engage with Gotham as either Bruce Wayne or Batman. Go to a party as Bruce and talk to the right people, you can gather valuable information to make your nighttime mission as the Caped Crusader a little easier.
14 Live Your Childhood Dreams Of Breaking Into Your Neighbor's' House
Hello, Neighbor is on this list purely because I love its premise so, so much. As a little kid in a classic suburban neighborhood, you hear a scream from your normal-looking (Albeit creepily mustached) neighbor's house. What's he hiding in there? Hello, Neighbor tasks you with sneaking in and finding out.
Similar to the horror film Don't Breathe, Neighbor gives you a series of house layouts to sneak through while being stalked by your pudgy neighbor, all with the goal of finding out what's in the basement. The neighbor is like the Alien in Isolation, who adjusts his behavior and makes the house harder to navigate as the kid is caught. It's not perfect, the puzzle design is obtuse, and the controls aren't great, but it's a solid premise that will hopefully improve in time.
13 A Notorious Korean Horror Game
White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is an infamous PS2 game based on Korean horror tropes that was remastered last year for PS4. If you like movies like The Grudge or Audition, you'll love White Day.
One of my favourite games of all time is Alien: Isolation, which has an unbeatable combination of design, sense of place, and an unstoppable foe that constantly stalks you. White Day adds a supernatural layer to this combo, set in a Korean high school infested with ghosts and a murderous janitor that relentlessly hunts the player through the halls. You'll uncover the story by reading notes left behind and slowly piece together many mysteries as you solve puzzles that are randomised every time you start the game, giving you plenty of challenges to tackle.
12 Destiny 2: Curse Of Bad Storytelling
Destiny 2 has had a rough year. While it made a very strong impression at launch and maintained that momentum through the Leviathan raid, its attempts to keep the magic going through to the end of 2017 haven't fared as well. Curse of Osiris was an opportunity to tell a long-awaited story in the Destiny universe and finally give players free reign over Mercury, a planet on glimpsed in multiplayer in Destiny 1, but the story just wasn't compelling and the content was thin.
Except, it's still Destiny 2.
Bungie, for all its inconsistency in telling a coherent story, still makes the tightest first-person shooters in the business, and the added loot to Osiris is fun to use. As an excuse to jump back into one of the best shooters of 2017, Curse of Osiris was a fine addition to the Destiny family.
11 Minecraft With Lego
I'm surprised Lego Worlds isn't a bigger deal. Ever since I saw the first screenshots for Minecraft I've thought it was an excellent analog for playing and building with Lego, with a basic RPG/survival game bolted on top of everything. While Lego Worlds is a bit more of an MMORPG than Minecraft, it still accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: be an expansive, fun, creative sandbox using the world's most recognizable toy.
Unfortunately, Lego: Worlds isn't as polished as the movie game tie-in titles made by Traveler's Tales.
It also spends a bit too much time holding the player's hand, an unfortunately out-of-touch way to appeal to younger gamers which Minecraft has proved unequivocally is not necessary. A little more freedom would be appreciated but, if you love Lego, Lego Worlds is worth a look.
10 Almost The Martian: The Game
Speaking of survival games, they've also had a big year in the survival aspects of Breath of the Wild to pure survival games like The Long Dark. (Which is not only excellent but 100% Canadian and features the voices of both Cmdr. Shepards and Solid Snake.) The Solus Project finally left early access this year and I've been watching its progress for many months. It presents a more linear experience than most survival games which some may find limiting but I really appreciate, and gives you a survival experience on a totally alien planet that is simultaneously beautiful and terrifying.
While the challenge dissipates quite quickly, food is plentiful, crafting is trivial, and the puzzles are pretty basic, the game maintains a sense of extra-terrestrial mystery that bigger budget titles like Mass Effect: Andromeda can't hope to achieve.
9 Apology Accepted, Guys Who Made Lords Of The Fallen
I've wanted a sci-fi Dark Souls since forever. While I love Bloodborne's Dickens/Lovecraft world, and it was a welcome change form the perpetual Dark Medieval Fantasy of all other Souls-likes, there still wasn't much variety in the setting in the genre.
Until The Surge. While it doesn't quite nail what I'm looking for, the makers of painfully generic Lords of the Fallen did the impossible: they created a pretty unique sci-fi world and married it to tight gameplay and an addictive loop. In The Surge, you are encased in, and fight enemies also wearing, near-future exoskeletons like the battle suits in Edge Of Tomorrow. The loot system is Surge's biggest contribution to the genre: you can target individual limbs to slice off your enemies, adding their special weapon and armor pieces to your own rig.
8 A Stealth Game Where You Actually Have To Be Stealthy
I love the Thief series from dear, departed Looking Glass Studios. As much as I adore Arkane and their Dishonored franchise, those games are still more about empowering the player with new abilities and skills. Thief essentially gave you all the tools you'd need at the beginning- it was up to you to figure out how to use them to survive and, eventually, thrive.
Styx is a worthy heir to this kind of stealth-first gameplay.
In most modern games, stealth is used to get close to enemies so you can eliminate them. In Thief and Styx, stealth is used to avoid animals altogether. Coupled with an appealing dark fantasy world and a unique character, you play as a four-foot-tall Goblin, Styx is a fresh throwback to the best stealth games of all time. I can't be the only one excited about this franchise: they've made two in as many years.
7 Police Chief Simulator 2017
This Is The Police feels like a game out of time, a management sim about being the chief of police in a major city is something that would have been made by Maxis or Bullfrog in the nineties.
This Is The Police is an administration game: you're tasked with managing units like in XCOM and are faced with occasional binary moral choices that reflect the modern climate of policing in the US. While the handling of some of the moral quandaries is a bit clumsy, the game has a really unique approach and a good heart. The descent into corruption is reminiscent of stories like The Wire, where good cops are constantly at war with expectations from City Hall and the Press. The addition of organized crime is a cool wrinkle also, though again the game disappoints in its handling of complex issues like racism and police brutality.
6 The Best Game Starring A Kid In A Raincoat
Another indie horror game with a platforming twist, Little Nightmares looks like a twisted children's picture book through the lens of a French horror film, with a dash of Coraline, tossed in for style.
You play as a kid named Six trying to escape from a complex in the sea called The Maw with a disturbing purpose, and the story is told through environment and observation rather than through text and cutscenes. As you evade the adults trying to catch you, their grotesque features reaching out for you in the dark, the game evokes Inside and Limbo not only in their 'kids in danger' plot, but also in their atmosphere and heavily stylised look. Little Nightmares came and went without much fanfare but it's a terrifically unique spin on side-scrolling horror and an amazing debut from a new studio.
5 Groundhog Day In A Gothic Murder Mystery
There's an old Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where the crew gets caught in a time loop that ends with the Enterprise exploding. They slowly figure out what's happening and leave clues in the moment of destruction for themselves to solve in the next loop. Take that concept and apply it to a full Agatha Christie-style murder mystery and you've got The Sexy Brutale, maybe one of the best-named video games ever.
With a beautiful velvet painting art style and an intriguing premise, Brutale might be a little too weird at first glance. But its gameplay loop is excellent: looking for clues after a murder is committed and then trying to prevent it, is addictive. It's also on the Switch! Everything should be on the Switch!
4 The MGS Parody You Never Knew You Wanted
Never Stop Sneakin' is not only a terrific mantra with which to live one's life, but is also a recent release with a dynamite premise: this is literally Metal Gear Solid by way of Tropic Thunder.
Made by the guy who did Dust, an anime-styled metroidvania that took years to develop, neakin is completely different from that and strips MGS' stealth gameplay to its most basic elements. Patrolling guards, cones of vision, security cameras- it's all here. You don't even have to push a button to attack- you'll automatically kill enemies when you get close and, if you have a bullet, you'll automatically shoot whoever spotted you, if they're at a distance. It turns top-down stealth into a combo game, as you string together encounters to maximise your potential.
3 A Beautiful Love Letter To Nature
The Deer God looks and sounds better than it actually plays. Inspired by the developer's childhood playing in the woods, the game has a respect and reverence for nature and life that is sorely lacking in most video games, where animals are merely a source of food or experience points. Featuring a graphical style similar to the chunky pixel 3d look of Fez, The Deer God has quests and a story, but the real joy is in exploring this serene, ever-changing world and discovering the secrets that lie within.
I was consistently surprised with how much more there was to this game the more I played it- you can mate to get extra lives, you fight bosses, you level up, there's a karma system. Now, granted, none of it works particularly well, there's a sense of feature bloat for sure, but the core of the game is beautiful, relaxing, and quite unique.
2 Tom Cruise In: Metroidvania!
Put this in the "nobody saw this coming" pile: The Mummy Demastered is a downloadable game based on that Tom Cruise The Mummy movie that came out this summer and you've already forgotten about. Wait, don't go anywhere- this is a 2d side scrolling metroidvania action game made by WayForward, who made Ducktales Remastered and a slew of 2d action games for the GBA and DS.
The Mummy is way better than it has any right to be.
Featuring smooth graphics, great pixel art, the classic Metroid progression system of unlocking new abilities to access new areas, and a thumping, synthy soundtrack by Monomer that almost single-handedly elevates this game from good to great. It's cheap, it's fun, it looks and sounds great: this is an awesome pick up for anyone who likes these kinds of old-school action/adventure games. And seriously, the soundtrack is good enough on its own.
1 Outcast: Second Contact
Here's another throwback to my youth and a game that I think flew under a lot of people's radar not only this year, but when it was first released as well. A French game made by some of the same people who worked on Rayman and Beyond Good and Evil, Outcast borrows its basic plot from Stargate: A group of soldiers and scientists go through a portal to another world to find a way to save Earth.While the plot won't win any awards, the gameplay is so influential that it's a crime Outcast isn't held to the same esteem as Doom or Grand Theft Auto 3. Outcast was the first game to really nail the open world 3d action/adventure which is basically what all games are these days. While the combat is still a bit stiff, this remake is just as clever, colorful, and fun as the original.