GameCentral tries to make sense of gaming’s greatest year by naming the 20 best titles of 2017, from NieR: Automata to Injustice 2.
Long before it even hit the halfway point, 2017 was being hailed as the best year for video games in several decades. And with good reason. It has seen an astonishing number of high quality games, with three that we gave a usually rare 10/10 score to (four if you count XCOM 2 expansion War Of The Chosen).
The top 20 below could easily have been a top 50, without any major drop in quality; with some of the notable games that just missed out including Sniper Elite 4, ARMS, Yakuza 0, Halo Wars 2, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn Of War III, Tekken 7, Detention, Snipperclips Plus, Thimbleweed Park, A Hat In Time, Night In the Woods Gravity Rush 2, For Honor, Hollow Knight, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, SteamWorld Dig 2, Destiny 2, Shadow Tactics, TumbleSeed, Monument Valley II, and Blaster Master Zero.
As usual we’ll give you the chance to vote for your own favourites at the end of January, after everyone has had a chance to play what they got for Christmas and in the new year sales. You can vote for whatever you like, but our list purposefully does not include remakes, remasters, re-releases, DLC expansions, compilations, games not yet released in the UK, or versions of games previously released on other formats.
1. The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild (Wii U/NS)
Perhaps the strangest thing about 2017’s embarrassment of riches is that despite so many great games there’s still absolutely no question as to which is the best. Breath Of The Wild doesn’t just reinvent Zelda but open world games in general, rebelling against all modern concepts of hand-holding and linear progression. It’s not just the best Zelda ever made, but a contender for the best video game of all time.
2. Super Mario Odyssey (NS)
The best proof of what an amazing year this has been is the simple fact that this isn’t our number one game of 2017. The first open world Mario for 15 years is a pure joy from beginning to end, with the perfect mix of platforming and exploration. The endless invention is capped of, as it were, by the wonderful gimmick of being able to turn into anything from a Tyrannosaurs Rex to a side of beef.
3. Divinity: Original Sin II (PC)
2017 was particularly good for role-playing games, but the very cream of the crop was also one of the more obscure entries. Original Sin II is so good it could well be the best Western style role-player ever made, with an unparalleled level of complexity and flexibility in both its gameplay and storytelling. And all while remaining surprisingly accessible and with a keen sense of humour.
4. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (XO/PC)
The most popular video game of the year started out as a scrappy-looking early access title but quickly transformed itself into a worldwide phenomenon, and one of the most important new multiplayer games of recent decades. The Xbox One version is still very much a work in progress but the PC version is now mature enough to be considered alongside the all-time multiplayer greats.
5. NieR: Automata (PS4/PC)
That Bayonetta creators PlatinumGames would finally find financial success with a sequel to obscure PS3 era action role-player NieR is one of the more unexpected success stories of 2017. But this wonderfully anarchic adventure has some of the best storytelling of the year, with thought-provoking themes and characters married to classic Platinum style arcade action.
6. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (XO/PS4/PC)
We were worried this sequel wouldn’t be able to live up to the excellent original, but it ended up an even more enjoyable mix of two-fisted first person shooter action, GoldenEye style stealth tactics, and some of the best storytelling ever seen in an action game – with engagingly human characters and the courage to tackle real world issues that have proven worryingly topical.
7. Nex Machina(PS4/PC)
One of the saddest pieces of news this year is that developer Housemarque, makers of Super Stardust and Resogun, are giving up on making old school arcade games – because not enough people are buying them. At least they went out on a high though, with this superb twin sticker shooter that was developed in conjunction with the Eugene Jarvis, who helped create the genre with Robotron: 2084.
8. Splatoon 2 (NS)
It may well be little changed from the original game, but Nintendo’s online shooter sequel is still one of the best, and most unique, multiplayer games of the year. The central idea of winning by shooting up the scenery still works fantastically well, and the new Salmon Run co-op mode is endlessly addictive. The post-launch support has been excellent too, with this month’s new Champagne Gun being very appropriate.
9. Sonic Mania (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
It’s been a long, long time since a Sonic The Hedgehog game has been named amongst the best of any year, but this glorious homage to the old Mega Drive games is almost note perfect. Although it’s worrying that it owes this fact to being created by fans, while Sonic Forces – which was developed by Sonic Team – ended up being just as disappointing as usual.
10. Persona 5 (PS3/PS4)
The Japanese role-player for people that don’t like Japanese role-players finally got a new sequel, and it was almost everything fans had been hoping for. Effortlessly stylish from the first second, its modern day setting and characters are used to tackle serious themes with an impressively light touch. And even if the combat is still rather ordinary the experience as a whole is still mesmerising.
11. Polybius (PS4)
There were many VR experiences this year that were interesting, but relatively few that were genuinely good games in their own right. But Jeff Minter’s new shooter was a revelation, mixing purposefully old-fashioned gameplay with state-of-the-art technology. The end result was dazzlingly surreal and endlessly addictive.
There was no new FromSoftware game this year, but the legacy of Dark Souls lived on in what is easily the best game to be inspired by the series. It’s by no means a straight clone though, with better combat than any similar title and some wonderfully bizarre enemies drawn from Japanese folklore. The PC version wasn’t as good on release but on PlayStation 4 it’s one of the format’s best exclusives.