Christmas seems almost yesterday but 2017 is already halfway done and what a year it's been thus far. Kicking off our half-year review, we being you the 15 best games of the year to-date...
15. Thimbleweed Park
Ron Gilbert’s paen to the point-and-click adventures he became famous for in the eighties is an orgy of warm and fuzzy nostalgia painted with 16-bit graphics. Set in 1987, this (mainly) places you in the government-issue shoes of a pair of Mulder and Scully-alikes, sent to the eponymous town to investigate a mysterious death. Cue many fun-filled hours of interrogating freaks and misfits, while applying dubious logic to combine inventory items with your surroundings. A pixelated love letter, not just to the era but to the adventure game medium as a whole, poking affectionate fun at both, while managing to be an absorbing adventure in its own right.
If you ever wondered what would happen if the team behind Ninja Gaiden tried their hands at Dark Souls, Nioh is the answer. As unforgiving as FromSoftware’s RPG but without the oppressive nihilism, Nioh expects much from its players but gives generous rewards in return. It's a blend of the fantastic and the historic; an astoundingly deep RPG experience that tests the boundaries of muscle memory and fills your pockets with an embarrassing amount of loot in the process. Light on story but heavy on complex combat, this is a beautifully-crafted action RPG that, while Souls-inspired, is very much its own game.
13. WipEout: Omega Collection
With the closure of Studio Liverpool in 2012, players feared they’d seen the last of this pell mell, vertiginous racing series. Then, like a trio of rockets fired from the back of the pack, this surprise redux detonated in our faces. A combination of Wipeouts HD (plus its Fury expansion) and 2048, this bumper release makes the most of PS4 hardware to deliver a super smooth, blisteringly-fast future racer. It might not be the all-new PS4 Wipeout we've dreamed of, but this is the next best thing.
12. Planescape: Torment - Enhanced Edition
It’s telling that in a year when Planescape: Torment’s spiritual successor, Tides of Numenera (itself a very worthy RPG), arrives, it’s this remastered version of the original that turns the most heads. Long regarded as one of the greatest story-driven RPGs of all time, Torment places you in the scarred, tattooed skin of The Nameless One: an immortal amnesiac trying to discover the secret of his past. As engaging as it is darkly comic (the game starts with a necrophilia gag delivered by a floating skull), Torment is as impressive now as it was in 1999 — the Nameles One’s quest through the City Of Doors and beyond having been rarely equaled before or since. It also features voice talent from Assistant Director Skinner, Q, Homer Simpson and eighties popster Sheena Easton. What's not to love?
11. For Honor
Most modern fighting games are complex beasts, but few are as punishing or thrilling to master as For Honor. Less a beat-em-up than a medieval combat simulator, this suits you up in armour, places a broadsword in your mailed hand and directs you at the enemy. The parry, riposte, guard-break system, while initially daunting, is transformational in practice and leads to some epic and hugely rewarding multiplayer bouts as armies clash in the theatre of war. It requires both patience and practice, and you’ll leave a several dozen badly dented helmets on castle floors along the way, but once you’ve cracked it, For Honor delivers an exhilarating clash of steel on steel.
A boy wakes up on an island, with no idea where he got there and little clue where he’s going — thus begins the curious fantasy that is Rime. Exploring the island is the crux of the game and abstract puzzles are the means to do it but this is far more than a gorgeously-rendered brain teaser. The gentle story unfolds gradually, revealed through the puzzles, which themselves deliver an unfading feeling of awe and discovery. Far more than the sum of its parts, Rime is a stunning, Beautifully-scored story of loss and revelation that will ring tears from even the most hardened of souls.
9. What Remains Of Edith Finch
Call them ‘narrative adventures’ or ‘walking simulators’, but titles like Gone Home or Dear Esther have enamoured themselves to patient gamers with a thirst for deep, well-written stories. What Remains Of Edith Finch may be the genre's highest point thus far as our titular heroine explores her ancestral home, drinking in the lives of three generations of forbears, all of whom have died before their time. Unlike many of its contemporaries, Edith is rich with variety, catapulting the player into the viewpoint of each unfortunate relative. More thoughtful and far less frantic than your average console fare, this is a short-lived tale but you’ll savour every eye-opening minute of it.
A cutesy, rainbow-hued beat-em-up in which pugilists boast telescopic arms might not seem like a transformative gaming experience (let alone a nascent e-sports hit) but Nintendo’s ARMS is, if you’ll forgive us, a knockout. Much like Splatoon’s approach to shooters, ARMS hides a core of surprising complexity behind its friendly, highly accessible exterior. Sure, you’ll start by flailing Joy-Cons wildly and hoping punches will connect but perseverance reveals an incredibly versatile combat system that will see you curving blows behind guards, teleporting through the air and mixing up the hot-swappable ‘fists’ for maximum advantage. An absolute riot, both online and off.
7. Injustice 2
With Wonder Woman, the DC movies are finally getting their act together, but on consoles the comic giant continues to go from strength to strength thanks to NetherRealm’s Injustice series. This far more polished second instalment features the single best story mode in any fighting game to date, one in which Superman is not only the villain but so spectacularly douch-like that you’ll rejoice in pounding his Kryptonian arse with a well-placed batarang. Environmental hazards, destructible stages and huge, cinematic special moves make this one of the best-looking brawlers to date and, thanks to the ability to customise your fighters with unlockable gear that actually affects their abilities, it’s one with near-infinite replay value.
6. NieR: Automata
Just so there’s no ambiguity, we should state upfront that NieR: Automata is bonkers — albeit gloriously, ingeniously so. A melange of genres (platformer, shooter, slash-em-up) all duking it out for supremacy, this bizarre adventure is as ambitious as it is dazzlingly creative. The game is awash with customisation options and graced with a well-told (if demented) story with numerous possible endings. Most impressive of all, though, is the frenetic combat, which grants this mechanical fable a solid engine with which to drive the action. A word to the wise, though: stick around after the ending. There’s far more than just a post-credit sting waiting for you.
5. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Having long since strayed from its survival horror roots into incomprehensible nonsense, the Resident Evil franchise makes a stunning return to form with its seventh instalment. Taking players back to the derelict house setup of the 1996 original, Biohazard places you at an old plantation in the heart of the Louisiana swamps, searching for your missing wife. Owing as much to Konami’s Silent Hill games (the ill-fated P.T. teaser in particular) as it does the Resident Evil back catalogue, this is a twisted, terrifying adventure that rewards caution and cowardice over gung-ho assaults. The ‘Happy Birthday’ puzzle alone is of 2017’s gaming high points.
4. Horizon: Zero Dawn
Anyone old enough to remember Zoids from the 1980s will have done an internal somersault upon first glimpsing Horizon’s towering mechanical dinos. But there’s far more to this sprawling open-world adventure than the ability to hunt titanium megasaurs. A compelling post-apocalyptic narrative takes protagonist Aloy from the highest peaks to the deepest caverns, uncovering a mystery that proves well worth the time investment. The story is supported by a fine mix of stealth and exploration, crowned with desperately intense combat, all of which combines to make this the best PS4 exclusive to date.
3. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
It’s saying something when a port of a three-year-old game manages to trounce the majority of this year’s crop but such is power of this most magnificent of racing experiences. Essentially the 2014 Wii U title with the DLC included (plus extra drivers, weapons and new double item boxes), this is the definitive iteration of the best group-play game around. Not only is it perfectly suited to the Switch hardware (link consoles or split up Joy-Cons for easy local multiplayer), but this Deluxe version's crowning glory is the return of the fiendishly addictive Battle Mode. To hell with racing, just crush your enemies and let those red shells fly!
2. Persona 5
If a truly great RPG lives or dies by story and characters, then it's easy to see why Persona 5 has become a genre standout. The fifth instalment in the venerated JRPG franchise, this is a glossy-looking, super slick production that sucks you into the saga of adolescent school life like no amount of Saved By The Bell or The OC episodes ever could. Don’t be put off by the setting, either: Persona 5 deals with such ‘routine’ teenage issues as sexual assault and child slavery as it unspools its tale, punctuated by metaphysical ‘dungeons’ that represent the twisted psyches of adult enemies. Gorgeously designed, effortlessly cool and with characters that feel as rich and fleshed-out as anything big screen fiction can provide, this is a high point for JRPGs and one of the most sublime gaming experiences currently available.
1. Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
We had to wait four long years for it but Breath Of The Wild was definitely worth it. In spite of the delays and an unexpected platform shift, Link’s latest outing is not just a masterpiece, it has also managed to unseat The Ocarina Of Time as the best Hyrulian adventure thus far. Gloriously rendered in pseudo-Ghibli style, Zelda’s homeland has never been this beautiful or vast: it’s rolling plains and craggy peaks yours to roam whenever and however you wish. As a platform launch title, this is among the very best, no doubt accounting for much of the Switch’s success. This is a vast, compelling adventure that grants players absolute freedom to tackle the game on their own terms, exploring Link’s world as never before. A near faultless adventure and an essential purchase, whatever your genre proclivities.