With the end of the year approaching faster than someone instalocking Genji at the start of an Overwatch competitive match, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was and celebrate the best games of 2017. So without further ado, let’s see what games have unlocked the year’s best achievement: being truly spectacular.
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Is it riddled with bugs? Yes. Is it endlessly frustrating? Yes. Are you likely to spawn into a server full of people in their underwear screaming racial slurs at you? Yes. But once you mute your fellow players, I’ll be damned if PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds isn’t one of the most addictive, tense, and thrilling shooters in ages. The 100-person battle royale shooter is filled with epic kills, unexpected encounters, and the most satisfying chicken dinner since the original horrifying ending in the director’s cut of Chicken Run. Platforms: PC, Xbox One (coming soon)
If you put Fleischer Studios’ animation, Contra, and old-school Mega Man games into a blender, then poured them into a nice mug, you would get Cuphead. The game is as difficult and devilishly challenging as it is gorgeously animated, which is to say: very. The years it spent in development hell were worth the unrelentingly adorable bullet hell that followed. Yet the best part may be what too many games lack nowadays: the feeling of fist-pumping accomplishment and satisfaction that comes with finally, finally beating that boss that brutally murdered you three thousand times in a row.
Platforms: PC, Xbox One
Image: Platinum Games
In a year of stellar action RPGs, NieR: Automata was one of the most unexpectedly rewarding. Platinum Games’ long-awaited sequel to the cult classic NieR, NieR: Automata is equal parts lovely and lugubrious, oozing with stylish world-building and killer, combo-based combat. The best part? There are 26 endings you can get, so you’ll have no shortage of reasons to keep playing and replaying this game long after you see the end of 2B and 9S’s melancholy tale. Oddly enough, there are also 26 endings to this episode, but you’ll have to watch it differently each time to unlock them.
Platforms: PC, PS4
What Remains of Edith Finch
Image: Giant Sparrow
Much like 2013’s Gone Home, What Remains of Edith Finch is an unexpected treat that will build you up and break you down with undulating waves of emotion. Its series of vignettes about a seemingly cursed family from Washington unfold in a first-person perspective in which you slowly learn the terrible truth of America’s most unfortunate family. What it lacks in interactivity, it makes up for in a deeply engrossing narrative that will make you laugh and cry, but mostly just make you glad that you gave this offbeat gem a shot.
Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, Xbox One
Take a trip down the neon-soaked streets of 1980s Tokyo in this epically weird and weirdly epic action adventure game that puts you in the shoes of two members of the Yakuza who are forced to become unlikely allies when they get caught up in a power struggle. Your heroes are Kazuma Kiryu, the series’ longtime protagonist, and the eyepatch-wearing Mad Dog of Shimano himself, Goro Majima. The game not only delivers a violent, grizzled crime drama, but it is packed to the gills with an oddball sense of humor, goofy side quests, and more ways to fritter away time than there are in actual Japan. In short, it’s cheaper than a vacation and it’ll make you feel almost as good.
Platforms: PS4, PS3
Night in the Woods
Image: Infinite Fall
Behind its cutesy cartoon animal aesthetic lies the beating heart of a game that will both entertain you and make you confront some deep-seated truths about yourself. As a feline college dropout named Mae Borowski, you experience a homecoming in all of its bittersweet glory. In your hometown of Possum Springs, you’re not just trying to reconnect with the people you left behind; you’re trying to figure out the kind of person you want to be. This is basically a simulation of what it’s like to visit your hometown after a long time away, rendered beautifully as one of the best adventure games in recent memory.
Platforms: Andoird, iOS, Linux, Mac, PC, PS4
Horizon Zero Dawn
Image: Guerilla Games
A game as jaw-droppingly gorgeous as it is expansive, Horizon: Zero Dawn was the breath of fresh air that open-world action-adventure fans needed. As Aloy, you stalked the plains using your bow and arrow to hunt down massive robotic dinosaurs and uncover. If you told me that the same people that made Killzone were going to make a game so good that Kyle Hill wouldn’t shut up about it for literal months, then I would have had you burned alive for being a bad witch. Now I’ll just have to burn you for being an actual witch.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Few games had more expectation attached to them than Breath of the Wild. Not only was it the first major new Zelda game since Skyward Sword, it was THE Nintendo Switch launch title, charged with making a risky new console a smash hit. The results are nothing short of breathtaking, offering a truly challenging open world experience, hearkening back to years of Zelda lore while introducing new wrinkles, bold gameplay innovations like weapon durability, and a dolphin prince that half of the internet wants to sleep with. In short, it’s everything we could have asked for. And if you didn’t like it, well…
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
One of the weirdest and most wonderfully addictive games I’ve ever played, Persona 5 puts you in the role of a bunch of disaffected high schoolers who basically incept adults into not being shitty people by altering their darkest impulses within their psyches. It’s a heady premise that is executed in wildest way possible. But that’s just half the fun of this sprawling JRPG. You’ll spend the other half working part-time jobs, trying to conquer hamburger challenges, and dating every living human you come in contact with. At least that’s how I played it… which can lead to a nasty surprise come Valentine’s Day.
Platforms: PS4, PS3
Super Mario Odyssey
An unemployed plumber seeks to ruin a wedding by stealing the free will of those around him using a parasitic alien life form masquerading as a hat. Such is the basic plot of Super Mario Odyssey, but the Mario games have never been about the plot; they’re showcases for exquisitely designed platforming gameplay. In what may be the greatest Mario game since Super Mario 64, Odyssey takes players to increasingly inventive levels and presents endless challenges, minigames, collectibles, and reasons to keep coming back to the wild worlds it presents. After all, it takes a special kind of game to let you not only possess a T. Rex AND hang out with a corgi wearing an Indiana Jones hat.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
And those are the very best video games of 2017. What are your favorites? What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.
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Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about Star Wars and the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter (@DanCasey).