2016 brought us amazing titles and new hardware like the PlayStation 4 Pro, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation VR, but 2017, somehow, was even better. Indie titles like Cuphead proved creativity is alive and well, while titles we expected to be good, like Destiny 2, somehow still managed to exceed expectations. Sprinkle in the most powerful console to date, the Xbox One X, and you’ll see why 2017 defied all expectations.
It was difficult, but we somehow narrowed the list down to these games, which we believe to be the best-of-the-best in 20117. Feel free to argue with us in the comments.
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Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild racked up so much hardware this year that we almost started feeling bad for our runners-up, which really didn’t stand a chance.
Link is back, and this time the pint-sized hero brings with him an open world that’s so immense and full of things to discover, it’s almost difficult to stop wandering around and actually play the game. Packed into a diverse map full of desert, wetlands, and lush forest, BotW has a non-linear quest structure that finds you solving puzzles, fighting baddies, and discovering new weapons to take on ever-more difficult foes.
While easily the weakest graphically of the three major consoles, Nintendo still managed to pull a stunner out of its hat, graphically-speaking, when it came to the newest Legend of Zelda title to grace our screens.
If you’re lucky, and you’ve got over 100 hours to spend on the game, you may just end up saving Hyrule, again.
Runners up: Nioh, Bayonetta (PC port)
Destiny 2 is the rare sequel that’s better than the original in almost every way. Weapons are epic, quests are engaging, and the story is actually worth watching. Campaign mode is where it’s at. It offers truly engaging dialogue, a well-thought out storyline, and some fierce battles to keep things exciting.
Mulitplayer though, is meh… at least at first. Low-level players are lumped into matches with nearly unbeatable higher level players who can generally lay your level 10 warlock to rest before you can ever get a shot off. It’s not just better weapons, but significantly better armor and special abilities to boot. In a word, it’s unfair.
Runners up: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
Sports was another difficult category, as most titles just didn’t bring a lot to the table from last year’s already stellar lineup. That’s not to say any of these selections are bad, it’s just that 2016 was such a good year for sports gaming that the colossal leaps we saw last year were nowhere to be found in 2017. Even the spectacular NBA 2K18 seems to have stagnated somewhat this year.
But, we have to award a winner. We’re going to begrudgingly give it to FIFA 18, which carried over a solid 2017 game into an even better 2018 version.
Sadly, it’s arguably not even the best soccer game in existence — that would be PES 2018 — but offers much more graphically, as well as licensed teams, players, tournaments, and leagues that its competitor can’t. While superior when it comes to gameplay, even that’s starting to feel a bit stale in PES 2018, which didn’t make our list this year.
Runners-up: NBA 2k18, MLB The Show 17
Forza Motorsport 7
What can we say about Forza that Tristan didn’t already say when he dubbed it the best looking video game ever created?
To sum it up, Forza did what Forza does: nailed the look, the feel, and the adrenaline that comes with racing some of the hottest cars on the planet. In yet another stellar offering, Forza really dials up the detail a notch and delivers perhaps the best racing game ever made… again.
Runners-up: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, F1 2017
Total War: Warhammer II
When it comes to strategy and tactics games, Total War: Warhammer may have been the best of its kind to date. Well, until its sequel came along anyway.
All the best parts of the original are still here: sprawling maps, great-looking artwork, and often chaotic full-scale scenes of some of the biggest battles you’ll ever see. This year’s game, however, offers all of this bundled with a great campaign mode and some new management tools that really helps to pass the time between all-out war.
Runners-up: Civilization 6, The Escapists 2
We’re going to get roasted for this one as Mario Odyssey certainly deserves the top spot just as much as our choice, Cuphead. Can we call it a tie? No? Okay… taking nothing away from Super Mario Odyssey, Cuphead was the best platformer of the year.
What really sets Cuphead apart from other platformers is just how unique the game is. With over-the-top stylings from 1930s cartoons (and music to match), the game left a lot of room to go wrong. It took big risks, and was rewarded for taking them. In a word, this game is a masterpiece. But it’s not for the faint of heart.
The game is outright hard. Beautiful level design and truly spectacular bosses mingled with an often chaotic number of things going on at once makes this one a game that’s certain to make you rage quit at least once. But, that shouldn’t stop you from playing it.
Runners-up: Mario Odyssey, Sonic Mania
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
While our runners-up are certainly no slouches, there’s no game in existence quite like our winner. Calling it a game, however, may be a tad inaccurate. This is really more of a play along cinematic experience, although that too may be underselling it.
Throughout the game our mentally ill protagonist, Senua — a Celtic warrior attempting to penetrate the depths of hell — has to deal not only with the typical bad guys and puzzles, but also a fight against herself, or at least her perception of the world. Hellblade leaves you unable to trust anything you see and hear as all sense are delicately weaved in and out of reality throughout the game.
It’s the first game in years that made me genuinely uncomfortable while playing.
Runners-up: Night in the Woods, What Remains of Edith Finch
Horror, this year, is the land of sequels — which is often horrific enough on its own. But this year we had quality offerings from several franchises we know and love. As for our pick, we’re going to go a little against the grain here in picking Outlast 2 over the obvious choice, Resident Evil 7.
Outlast 2 was a scare-a-minute treat that has you, Blake Langermann — a photojournalist on a quest to find his missing wife after a helicopter crash — unarmed and completely terrified throughout. While hunting for your wife, you’ll contend with a host of religious nutjobs hell-bent on chopping you limb-from-limb. Worse, you’re unarmed and your three options are: run, hide, or die.
What makes Outlast 2 so good though, is both its pacing and story line. The narrative is chilling — seriously, I walked through a pile of burnt babies minutes in. It grips you like no other game has (at least for me) and never leaves you feeling truly comfortable.
Runners-up: Resident Evil 7, The Evil Within 2
Horizon Zero Dawn
We reviewed this one before its release, so we’ll go light on words and just leave a strong recommendation to read the initial review, and then go play it.
The game is a bit Zelda-esque, but with a far more graphically rich environment that’s ripe for exploring, hunting, and just generally enjoying the scenery of this open world gem — especially in 4k with HDR. If you’re a fan of engaging stories, lots of customization options, and games you can easily sink 50 hours into, HZD is a must-play.
Runners-up: Assassin’s Creed Origins, Divinity Original Sin 2
Chock-full of your favorite heroes, Injustice’s return follows a really stellar showing from the first offering, Injustice: Gods Among Us. Picking up right where the PS3 title left off, the sequel brings you multiple heroes (and villains) from the DC Universe, all of which look better than they’ve looked in any game to date.
It’s a fighting game, so it’s still a bit of a button masher, but the ability to move in all directions and it’s top-notch combo system leaves the fighting just a little less repetitive than titles like, say, anything in the Street Fighter series.
As an added bonus, the game offers a ton of single-player content, more than any I’ve ever seen in a fighting game. It’s not exactly going to be remembered for amazing storylines, but if you ever feel like stepping out of head-to-head combat and just soaking it all in, the campaign mode is strong.
Runners-up: Arms, Tekken 7