The 10 best games of 2017
2017 was a great year to be a gamer. Nintendo's spunky new Switch console turned out to be a hit with a super strong first-year lineup, classic franchises like Zelda and Resident Evil got arguably their best iterations ever, and we were blown away by some surprisingly good newcomers like Horizon Zero Dawn. New Atlas runs through our top 10 games of 2017.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Resident Evil basically invented the survival horror genre, but over the years it mutated into just another mindless zombie shooter. Taking the series back to its roots, Resident Evil 7 is not just the best Resident Evil game in years (or maybe ever), it's one of the best horror games, period.
Players take control of everyman Ethan Winters, who winds up trapped in a derelict plantation house in Louisiana. There, you're stalked by the deranged Baker family, who are as relentless as they are immortal. Fighting back only slows them down long enough for you to run and hide, which is a great way to ramp up the terror factor and make you feel utterly powerless. The cower-in-a-corner gameplay calls to mind indie horror darlings like Outlast and Amnesia, and it's awesome to see that get the big-budget treatment.
To sweeten the deal, the game got a bumper crop of DLC, including two new story chapters released just last week. And if you're feeling particularly brave, the PS4 version is playable in PlayStation VR.
Horizon Zero Dawn
In an age when publishers shy away from new IPs and sequels dominate, it was nice to see a game released that bucked that trend and proved an immediate success. And rightfully so – Horizon Zero Dawn delivered addictive gameplay wrapped up in an engrossing story that followed the adventures of an interesting protagonist. Set in a future post-apocalyptic world populated with robot dinosaurs, the core gameplay of taking down these varied techno beasts never got old, while the story holds your interest throughout, thanks in large part to a lead character that is actually likeable.
A simple crafting system and logical leveling system also contributed to proceedings, and let's not forget the visuals, which were fantastic. The game just looked beautiful on screen, so much so it's one of the few games I've actually bothered playing around with the impressive photo mode that made it easy to create stunning screenshots. All in all, this PS4 exclusive was easily one of the best games of the year on any platform. We've already seen the release of the Frozen Wilds DLC and the game's success will probably spawn a string of sequels.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The crown jewel in the Switch's launch lineup (and probably its lifetime library as well), Breath of the Wild feels like the culmination of every other Zelda game that came before it. Rather than progressing through temples and dungeons in a set order, players are plopped into the middle of a huge open world and let loose with only the barest of directions.
This version of Hyrule is easily the biggest and most beautiful world Nintendo has ever created, and it's ridiculously easy to lose dozens of hours just poking around its countless nooks and crannies. But the best part is that most encounters are entirely unscripted, with events instead playing out according to an incredibly detailed physics system. You can take out an entire camp of monsters by starting a brush fire, or luring them into a pond and zapping them with electricity. These things happen randomly in the wild too thanks to the weather and day/night cycle, making the world feel almost as dynamic as something like Minecraft.
Even after about 100 hours in the game we're still discovering new things, and we have no plans to stop looking.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
The fourth entry in the Mass Effect franchise is a bit of a mixed bag. There's no doubt it was a little disappointing and didn't quite manage to reach the high bar set by the original trilogy, but it's probably worth sticking out on the strength of the characters you meet and worlds you explore.
Picking up 600 years after the last game, Andromeda places the player in charge of an initiative to find a new home for the human race – as well as the Asari, Turians and other species from the series. But the planets of the Andromeda galaxy aren't as habitable as scans suggested, and the locals don't really appreciate being invaded by aliens from the Milky Way.
Sure, the game has its problems. It's loaded with bugs and animation issues, the side quests get a bit dull and repetitive, the story isn't as emotionally engaging and your choices don't seem to matter as much as in the originals. But the huge, gorgeous planets are a pleasure to explore, the combat has been polished to perfection and you'll inevitably get really attached to your ragtag crew.
Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy
If you missed the boat back in the 90s, it might not seem like a remaster of a mascot platformer really belongs on a best-of-2017 list, but there's something really special about Crash Bandicoot. No other game has ever nailed the same fast-paced, rhythmic platforming that snakes so seamlessly between two and three dimensions.
After languishing in limbo for almost 10 years, we were clamoring for a new Crash Bandicoot game, even if it was just a remake. Luckily, the original PlayStation 1 games were amazing for their time, and they've been faithfully recreated in the N. Sane Trilogy with an HD spit-shine and a few modern upgrades. Gone is the terrible save system of the first game, and the time trial mode that was introduced in the third game has now been applied to all three.
Best of all, Activision said the remaster was released to test the waters for a potential Crash comeback, and with the N. Sane Trilogy smashing the anticipated sales a brand new game seems all but inevitable now.
Starting life as a mod-of-a-mod, the clumsily-titled PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds came into its own with an open beta in March this year, followed by a full release just this week.
The premise is simple: up to 100 players are dumped on an island, and have to duke it out until only one survives. To be the lucky last, you have to scavenge through buildings for weapons, armor, vehicles and other equipment, and as players are eliminated the map constantly shrinks, forcing the survivors into closer and closer quarters.
A favorite of eSports and Twitch streamers, PUBG captures the bloodthirsty player-vs-player tension that made DayZ so great, with one exception: it's actually finished. Easily the multiplayer game of the year.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
If you'd have told us a year ago that our best games of 2017 list would include a crossover between Mario and Ubisoft's uber-annoying minions, we wouldn't have believed you. But here we are. It sounds like a shameless money-grabbing exercise, but Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a far better game than it has any right to be.
Players recruit Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, and four Rabbids dressed up as those same characters, and send them through the Mushroom Kingdom to get rid of the invading Rabbids. Borrowing its strategy stylings from XCOM, the game's turn-based combat is surprisingly deep. Cover and placement are crucial on the battlefield, and every character has their own stats, weapons, and special abilities, so you need to assemble just the right squad for each job.
Experimenting with different loadouts keeps combat feeling fresh, there's a ton of collectibles to keep you coming back, and the bare-bones story is sprinkled with humor and just the right amount of fan-service. A must if you've grabbed a Switch and are looking for something else to play after Zelda.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
The South Park creators said they'd only just figured out how to make a game by the time they'd finished 2014's The Stick of Truth, so why not do a sequel? And true to their word, The Fractured But Whole improves on its predecessor in every way.
The kids have given up playing dragons and magic and have decided to be superheroes instead, adopting their alter-egos seen in a few episodes of the show. In true South Park fashion, the story starts off as kids being kids, but soon snowballs into a huge conspiracy that affects the entire town. And it's every bit as crass and hilarious as you'd expect from a game about a kid who can bend time with his farts.
Combat has been tuned up since the last game too, adding a far more strategic element. It now takes place on a grid, and positioning your characters is crucial to line up an attack or avoid your enemies. On top of that there's a deeper crafting system, and far more side quests that don't feel like filler.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
You might think that the series that invented the first-person shooter would get a bit stale by now, but Bethesda's reboots have been some of the best examples of the genre to date. And The New Colossus continues that.
Following on from 2014's The New Order, the sequel picks up in 1961, continuing the story of this alternate-history timeline where the Nazis won World War II. This time, BJ Blazkowicz is bringing the fight home to America, where he joins an underground resistance group to help "Make America Nazi-Free Again."
A game about shooting Nazis could easily fall into the trap of being a mindless run-and-gunner, but Wolfenstein II manages the same blend of fast-paced action and surprisingly-poignant, character-driven storytelling as its predecessor. Probably the best shooter of the year.
Super Mario Odyssey
Closing out the Switch's stellar first year, Super Mario Odyssey is the Breath of the Wild of the Mario franchise: bigger, denser, more beautiful and a perfect blend of old and new.
Following in the 3D sandbox footsteps of Super Mario 64 and Sunshine, Odyssey's levels are open-world playgrounds packed with collectibles, challenges and secrets. The game is basically a travelogue, as Mario leaves the familiar Mushroom Kingdom behind and stamps his passport at a host of strange new worlds, like a giant kitchen, a prehistoric mountain and a modern city.
Gone are the mushrooms and fire flowers of previous games, leaving Mario's hat as the only power-up in Odyssey, which can be thrown as a weapon, a platform or to take control of enemies. That opens up a huge amount of possibilities – you can fly as a Bullet Bill, shoot as a tank, or swim as a fish. Each of these new powers is fun and varied enough that they could almost sustain entire games on their own.
Super Mario Odyssey is an absolute delight to play, and with over 1,000 Power Moons to collect – not to mention countless coins and costumes – we'll be digging into this for months to come. Utterly essential for Switch owners, and a damn good reason to jump onboard if you haven't already.
As always, lists like these are hugely subjective, so be sure to let us know the games we've missed that made your list, or ones that made ours that you don't think make the grade.