So we are half way through 2017 and we decide to find out what are the best games of 2017 so far, there could be better games coming out later on during the year but for now these are 18 of the best video games in 2017.
18. Ghost Recon: Wildlands
Wildlands feels like Ubisoft doing a whip-round of all their development studios’ favourite gameplay mechanics, blending the lot together into something that feels very cut n’ paste, yet somehow still succeeds as a fantastically fun multiplayer experience.
Barely recommendable offline, grab up to three other friends and you’ll get completely lost in Ghost Recon’s endless rollout of side-missions, OTT story revelations and physics-abusing stuntwork.
From nighttime infiltrations with synchronised headshots to tactical room-clearing drug-busts and vehicular convoy mayhem, Wildlands is only ever the dumbest of big dumb fun, but executed in a very satisfying way.
17. NBA Playgrounds
To this day I lament the loss of NBA Street after its lacklustre third instalment, but at least we have Playgrounds; Mad Dog Games’ more NBA Jam-inspired take as a tide over.
Staged as a two-on-two match setup, the focus here is on meticulous stat tracking and constant momentum-swings, matching steal stats with oppositional defence, long range three-pointer shots with fearsome sky-leaping blocks.
Amidst all this is an art direction and animation style that makes for some gloriously OTT slams and court-leaping dunks – enough to scratch the age-old NBA Street/Jam itch, whilst also adding a layer of tactility and depth that differentiates Playgrounds as a worthwhile investment.
16. The Surge
Leave it to a more fan-minded dev studio to play with a genre’s tropes and really shake them up. The Surge is the second ‘Souls-like’ effort from Deck13, their first being Lords of the Fallen, a game that was severely underrated, coming with some pretty innovative mechanics regarding the accruing of the Souls themselves.
Onto The Surge, and Deck13 have taken all the Dark Souls-style mechanics into outer space, force-fitting your hapless protagonist with some biotic augments before forcing him to survive against waves of mechanised enemies. Is it just ‘Dark Souls in space’? Sure, but what a fantastic concept – one that’s most welcome after eight years of fantasy being the genre’s go-to backdrop.
The Surge bolsters its approach with more depth in how you block, limb-targeting, an actual narrative thrust with easily digestible lore and side missions, and an art style that really gives a macabre brutality to every clash of flesh and steel.
Destined to be one of this year’s overlooked gems, The Surge is just as feature-packed as its exo-suit equipped hero.
15. Mass Effect Andromeda
Controversial for sure, though Andromeda was never the torches n’ pitchfork-deserved disaster we all like to think of. Yes, its day one animations were atrocious and yes, its villain is about as cookie cutter as they come, but as a wealth of content, things to see, do and interact with, Bioware’s latest Mass Effect could still be an enthralling experience.
Oh, and all those animations and facial animations we pointed and laughed at? They’ve been completely overhauled and replaced since launch, meaning if you hop back in now, that godawful surface layer is far more appealing.
Back to the game, and being this is Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer team stepping up to bat for a full release, combat is the most fluid and seamless part of the whole thing. Nailing this core component encourages you to seek out side missions and alien camps to clear out, the narrative thrust being that you’re carving a path for humanity to thrive amidst this new Andromeda galaxy.
Was it disappointing? Oh, hell yeah. But does it actually play pretty damn well, have some gorgeous planets and an overall value for money through depth of content alone? That’s the more important takeaway at this point, and the answer to that is a resounding yes.
14. For Honor
It’s had one HELL of a rocky life, For Honor, but at this current point in time, Ubisoft appear to have listened to the fans and reverse-fixed a number of balance and microtransaction-based issues that arose post-launch.
Focused on refining one-on-one duelling mechanics, the core of For Honor is the beating heart and constantly-electrified brain of a tactician. Ubi have made a game where every step you make towards an opponent, every attack, defensive stance, counter and meter-burn matters. Winning forces you to look your foe dead in the eye and read their animations, it challenges you to stand toe-to-toe with other warriors in a manner that very few games ever get right. In doing so, emerging victorious feels like a personal accomplishment, and that’s before the lashings of in-game currency come pouring in.
For Honor is by far their most original set of game mechanics since Assassin’s Creed revolutionised open-world action, and though its learning curve is a steep hill to climb, truly mastering a character can feel fantastic.
13. Sniper Elite 4
It’s very easy to dismiss a franchise like Sniper Elite. Four instalments in, one random zombified spin-off… it’s easy to think Volition’s homegrown headshot-fetishist is destined for the cancellation pile.
However, four instalments don’t happen without solid mechanics and loyal fans, and in Sniper Elite 4’s case, that’s evolved into an incredibly fun open-world game in the vein of Metal Gear Solid V.
Given a series of objectives and weapons/items to complete them, you’re then left to your own devices. Of course, the sniping itself is still the big money shot – one where time slows to a crawl and the camera follows your bullet from muzzle to cranium, the resulting explosion of pulped brain matter/shattered teeth/popped testicles being a consistent highlight.
Overall, there’s a feeling of confidence exuded across all of Sniper Elite 4, one that only comes from a studio flexing their muscles within a comfortable framework, whilst also knowing exactly what action fans and franchise devotees want to see.
12. Yakuza 0
Speaking of things people want to see, Yakuza 0 finally managed to make its mark on the charts of western shores, thanks to many thousands of fans repeatedly berating Sega and Sony for more releases outside of Japan.
And for good reason. Yakuza’s unique blend of supremely brutal brawler combat, off-kilter eastern humour and Metal Gear-esque monologue cutscenes is one for the ages. Fans have known the series’ charms for years at this point, but 0 – being a prequel to all the other numbered instalments – is the perfect place to start.
Any given Yakuza gameplay session is a mix of face-smashing battles, minigames like karaoke or pool, and more often than not, a wide-eyed “X character was your brother/father/dead/alive/in the same room the whole time!”-style twist.
What a weird release cycle and level of interest Prey had. Never really rising about “Huh, they’re doing another Prey. That’s… neat?”, the final product had a number of really slick innovations that I guarantee many other developers will take and run with.
Core amongst things like the GLOO Cannon that lets you makeshift ladders and objects to traverse the environment, is the genius enemy designs of the Mimics. These oily fiends remind you of every epic duel you’ve ever had with a spider in real life, their animations reminiscent of chasing the thing around a living room or swearing you just saw it dart out the corner of your eye. Then there’s living up to their namesake, as Mimics can also perfectly replicate any object in a given space.
So, say you’re chasing one down and lose it around a corner, you’re going to have to think real hard about whether or not there were always two coffee mugs/chairs/pieces of fruit on that table last time you were there. The creatures will burst forth from their camouflaged positions at a moment’s notice, giving Prey one of the most essential components of any console generation: An original idea.
I can’t say enough positive, heartwarming and downright lovely things about Kamiko (but I’ll damn well try).
First up, it’s only £5, which is insane, given the level of polish applied. Its soundtrack is an immaculate 80s throwback, with a theme that would’ve gone down in history had it appeared a few decades earlier, and gameplay is a potent, simple mix of Zelda and Diablo, with Hyper Light Drifter aesthetics.
Played entirely from the top-down perspective, there’s a real sense of focus and confidence from developers SKIPMORE, rolling together four half hour-to-an hour long levels and three very different characters, with light puzzle elements and progression that’s contingent on killing a certain number of enemies.
It feels like the perfect length with a great set of game mechanics and a presentation that’s just loveable. Kamiko’s subtle charms deserve a spot on any Switch owner’s library, it really is just that well-meaning.
9. NieR: Automata
Although for a time, NieR was the highest-rated video game of the year next to Zelda, one incredibly genius fourth wall-shattering trick does not an outright phenomenal game make. Though, let’s stick to the positives.
Once again, Platinum prove why they’re the absolute masters of third-person action, putting you in the shoes of 2B, an android with an array of badass weapons, a companion and a mission to cleanse the Earth of a robotic force that’s set up shop whilst humanity fled to the moon.
As you do.
Thing is, NieR is actually shooting to be far deeper than its aesthetics and sensibilities would let on, delving into some fantastic subject matter surrounding what it means to be human, how and why we act the way we do – all wrapped up in this more surface-level tale of two robots kicking the holy crap out of everything.
It’s this deeper layer that shows up in multiple playthroughs to an astonishing degree, climaxes with the aforementioned moment after you know the full story, and even lets you ‘unplug’ various parts of the game HUD as though you were customising 2B’s vision.
Yes, it’s that level of special and unique, and for those who really get lost in its philosophical charms, you can bump this up far higher.
8. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Sometimes you just want a veteran franchise to knock their latest instalment out the park, and though Mario Kart 8 initially appeared back in 2014, this latest Switch-only Deluxe Edition is by far the definitive package.
Comprising the original release with all DLC tracks, six new characters – including the loveable Splatoon Inklings – a completely reworked Battle Mode and the best visuals/frame rate of the franchise so far, this could’ve been “Just more Mario Kart”, but actually feels like a legitimately essential purchase.
As far as gameplay goes, this ranks rather high as one of the best in the franchise’s history, its blend of three-tier boosts, Blue Shell-blocks and roster balancing ensuring the more you play, the deeper the reward.
Also, being on Switch, the ease of access for local multiplayer (just pass one half of the controller) and free online (which Nintendo have just extended into 2018) gives it one hell of an edge over any other racers. Here’s to kart racing making something of a comeback, as Mario Kart 8 proves, the genre is just too damn fun.
7. Persona 5
This closing race for the top spot is an incredibly tightly-packed jostle for pole position – one that may change towards the close of the year, but for now, see how much you agree.
Persona 5 is easily one of the most visually impressive video games of all time. A supremely polished blend of animation, menu transitions and traditional JRPG tropes, playing through the whole thing will take you upwards of 80 hours, though they’ll be some of the most characterful, memorable and poignant in gaming.
Telling the tale of a thief caught stealing from a high-end casino, you’ll find out about how people in the Persona games conjure up ‘mind palaces’ of their deepest, darkest fears or intents – places you and your fellow thieves will pilfer, changing their hearts and minds in the process.
Think Inception by way of Japanese quirk and the sleekest of anime opening title sequences – THAT is Persona, and it takes hold like nothing else.
6. Tekken 7
The legendary, the mighty, the all-round ‘showing the young’ns how it’s done’ power of Tekken came thundering back into our lives in 2017, as Tekken 7 is everything fans, newcomers, hardcores and casuals have grown to adore over the last 23 years.
First up, it’s supremely easy to pick up and play – such has always been Tekken’s charm – but Namco and Creative Director Katsuhiro Harada went one further, fleshing out the backstory of Heihachi and Kazuya Mishima for the franchise’s first proper story mode, tying in Street Fighter’s Akuma. Yes, Akuma is now canon in the Tekken lore, and that ridiculous statement is by all means the tip of the insanity iceberg, as T7’s campaign is one of the barmiest and enjoyable of them all.
Also introduced are stock countering options for all characters, arena transitions and – best of all – ‘Rage Arts’; Tekken’s version of Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat special moves. Trigger-able when you’re down to one third of health, these Arts are eye-popping fireworks displays of pure power, letting you snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in spectacular fashion – providing you can nail the timing.
Oh, and as some nostalgic icing on the cake, Tekken 7 lets you watch ALL the cutscenes and trailers for the entire franchise’s worth of entries in its Gallery mode, alongside changing the music to reflect each instalment, too. Want to play with the whole game’s menus and character themes sounding like Tekken 3 or Tekken Tag? You can, and it feels wonderful.
Talk about the ultimate package.