The Best Games Of 2017

Mario Kart 8

by Willow Green |
Published on

20. 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.

19. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Mario Rabbids

Rabbids: they're loud, irritating, and as far from funny as its possible to get. They're basically Ubisoft's answer to Minions, but with bigger ears. If Mario + Rabbids did one thing right, it's rehabilitating the obnoxious creatures and making them actually likeable. Well, four of them at least, who take on the exaggerated personae of Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi, while helping the real deals save the Mushroom Kingdom from their own chaotic brethren. Kingdom Battle was a surprise from start to finish, from its unlikely character mash-up to its genuinely challenging approach to turn-based strategic gameplay. It's pleasantly challenging too, serving up near-XCOM levels of toughness without ever losing the charm of Nintendo's best games. Unexpectedly brilliant.

18. Planescape: Torment - Enhanced Edition

Torment

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?

17. Splatoon 2

The original Splatoon is one of the best games barely anyone played – mainly because it was on the Wii U, which barely sold. Anyone who did experience its strange world of shapeshifting squid-people battling to mark their territory in neon ink loved it though. That positive reception might explain why the sequel on the far more successful Switch is barely changed, beyond a beefed up single player mode and a few new weapons. The core mechanics of teams of four trying to out-splat their rivals with an assortment of unusual weaponry remains compelling, and with rapid-fire matches it's a joy to dip in and out of. Splatoon 2's great success is in simply bringing the addictive mayhem to an even bigger audience – super fresh.

16. Total War: Warhammer II

Warhammer II

Warhammer and Total War always seemed like two great tastes that would taste great together, so it's surprising it took so long for the Games Workshop favourite to join forces with Sega's strategy titan. Now, with this second game in a planned trilogy, it's hard to imagine them being separate. With four factions – High Elves, Dark Elves, Lizardmen, and Skaven – battling it out on massive fields of engagement, plus incredible freedom in how you advance your attacks or manipulate the landscape, this provided one of the most intricate strategy games of the year. There's still no good reason why it's not called Total Warhammer though.

15. Arms

Arms

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.

14. 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.

13. 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.

12. Assassin’s Creed: Origins

A year off proved a good idea for Assassin's Creed franchise, allowing Ubisoft's historical murder sim to come back refreshed, recharged, and with a story to tell. Travelling back to Ancient Egypt to explore the birth of the Assassin Brotherhood and Templar Order revealed pivotal background info for long term players, while going back to the very beginning made it perfect for newcomers. Throw in a mixture of the series' classic stealth and parkour gameplay with new features like a symbiotic link with an avian familiar, and going even farther back in time turned out to be the best way to move the series forwards.

11. 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.

10. Xenoblade Chronicles 2

The Xeno series has almost seemed to deliberately dodge success, at least here in Europe. With key entries not released at all and others buried thanks to launching late on a console's life cycle, it's been a sleeper hit at best. Then came Xenoblade Chronicles 2, tapping into the massive Switch audience and delivering a JRPG of haunting brilliance. With a battle system that balances complexity for genre fans with real-time action for newcomers, a deep, emotionally powerful storyline (that thankfully requires no prior knowledge of the series), and a cast of engaging characters, this is the breakthrough the franchise has needed.

9. Persona 5

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.

8. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Uncharted 4 may have been Nathan Drake's swansong, but Lost Legacy proves there are still plenty of stories to be told in Naughty Dog's treasure-hunting universe. Switching focus to recurring supporting characters Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross helped redirect the series, exploring the complicated histories of both characters as they travelled across India. Beautifully realised and tightly focused thanks to a shorter run time – while still packing in multiplayer to keep you coming back - Lost Legacy was an unexpected treasure in its own right.

7. Divinity: Original Sin II

Divinity: Original Sin II

The term "role playing game" is often over-used – most games fit players into a set character and guide them through a scripted series of events. In that sense, Sonic the Hedgehog is as much RPG as Final Fantasy. Not so with Divinity: Original Sin II - although there are a handful of existing characters to choose from, you can create your own protagonist right down to the origin story. Then, you can choose to explore the world solo, or gather allies. Then factor in the nuanced and malleable game world and battle systems – drenching the ground in catalysts, then creating devastating chain reactions with magic, for instance – and Divinity proves itself one of the most versatile games in years, with true freedom to play your role how you choose. Simply divine.

6. X-Com 2: War Of The Chosen

An expansion, but one so crammed full of new content it demanded its own focus. Firaxis' sci-fi strategy game is one of the best in recent memory, with a near-perfectly balanced set of character classes, enemies, and skills. War of the Chosen's greatest accomplishment may simply be adding even more into the mix – three new major alien foes, rebel factions that can antagonise as much as they help, a 'bond' system building camaraderie between your soldiers, and much more – without the delicate house of cards collapsing. A fantastic addition to a brilliant series.

5. Horizon: Zero Dawn

Horizon

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.

4. 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!

3. What Remains Of Edith Finch

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.

2. Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

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.

1. Super Mario Odyssey

As frustrating as it was waiting four years for Zelda, it's been an even tougher seven years since the last proper 3D Super Mario game. Like Zelda, it was worth the wait though – there are few games that evoke a sense of pure joy as effortlessly as Super Mario Odyssey. Chasing Bowser around the world to prevent his marrying Peach took players on a tour of some of Nintendo's most imaginative settings yet, and coupled that spark of discovery with an ingenious new mechanic. A flick of Mario's new hat allows players to possess enemies and objects, then use their unique skills to solve an almost endless array of puzzles. The charm offensive comes from Odyssey's string of offbeat moments, such as tackling a motor-scooter assault course chased by a realistic T-rex, a city-wide musical number lead by Mario's ex-girlfriend Pauline, or an entire Tim Burton-esque world of shapeshifting ghost hats. An absolute delight from start to finish.

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