2017 is shaping up to be a pretty stellar year for games. Long-awaited, long-delayed games like The Legend of Zelda and Prey will finally (probably) launch, fan favorite Crash Bandicoot is back, and we get to return to the worlds of some of the biggest blockbusters ever released, like Red Dead Redemption and The Last of Us. New Atlas rounds up our most anticipated games for the coming year.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Due: January 24
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
It's not too controversial to say that there hasn't been a great game in this series since Resident Evil 4, and even then, it was beginning to mutate from survival horror to slightly-creepy action. But after playing Beginning Hour, the short downloadable demo for Resident Evil 7, our interest is piqued.
The game ditches the familiar over-the-shoulder camera for a series-first first-person view, and strips the experience back down to the tighter environment and tense atmosphere that made the original few entries so great. Capcom has clearly taken some cues from modern horror franchises like Outlast and Amnesia, and although hiding will be the preferred method of self-preservation, players will be able to fight back if need be.
But we're not mowing down hordes of zombies here. Instead, the main antagonists are the messed-up Baker family, who stalk players through the halls of their derelict mansion with semi-autonomy, like the terrifyingly-smart Xenomorph from Alien: Isolation.
The game is also playable in full in VR – albeit exclusively in PSVR. Judging by our past experiences, we aren't letting ourselves get too excited by that idea just yet.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Due: February 28
The only game on this list that isn't based on an existing franchise, Horizon Zero Dawn had us intrigued at first glance, for one reason: robot dinosaurs.
The game is set presumably in the far-flung future, in a world where robots have taken over and essentially "evolved" into huge, lumbering beasts. As one of the few remaining humans, the player must do what they can to survive, which usually involves hunting, climbing and bringing down the machines in a very Shadow of the Colossus-style way. Although felled robots can be looted for crafting parts, it might be more useful to hack them into helping you as a companion, bodyguard or vehicle.
It all takes place in an open world, navigated freely or through a branching quest structure, and capped off with a dynamic cycle of daylight and weather.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
Due: March 21
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Bioware is in a pretty good spot with the fourth Mass Effect game. By shifting the focus to the next galaxy over, the franchise can continue with familiar species and game mechanics, without messing up the neatly-wrapped package that was the original trilogy.
Andromeda is set 600 years after the events of Mass Effect 3, with the player character, Ryder, one of thousands of humans cryogenically frozen and sent on an intergalactic journey to find a new place to settle. Plot details are thin for now, but your Ryder follows in your father's footsteps to become an operative known as a Pathfinder, exploring an open-ended galaxy in the search for a new planet for humanity to call home. Throughout that, we'd expect the same type of branching narrative, interspecies politics and crew-building/romancing that the series is known for.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
Due: Quarter 1, 2017
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone once said that they'd only just learned how to make a video game by the end of developing The Stick of Truth, so hopefully The Fractured But Whole improves on some of the first game's shortcomings.
From our short hands-on demo a few months ago, that definitely feels like the case. The RPG-lite gameplay is slightly less "lite" this time around, with an expanded combat system and three times as many character classes to choose from.
Bored of their Game of Thrones-inspired fantasy dress-ups, the kids have traded magic for Marvel and decided they're playing superheroes now. But on their quest to start a billion-dollar movie franchise, a Civil War-esque rift divides the group and you, as the new kid, have to pick who to side with.
Friday the 13th
Due: Early 2017
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
This one's a bit of a wildcard. It hasn't gathered a whole lot of attention, but we're throwing it in because we're cautiously hopeful that it will live up to its own promise. It began development as a tribute to 80s slasher films, before Sean Cunningham, the creator of the Friday the 13th movies, apparently heard about it and excitedly offered the team the official license.
Friday the 13th is a 1 vs 7 asymmetric multiplayer game, in the vein of Evolve. Up to seven players take the roles of a hapless collection of camp counselors, divided into the usual archetypes of jocks, nerds and cheerleaders. The eighth player dons the iconic hockey mask of Jason Voorhees, and stalks the other players through the semi-open world of Camp Crystal Lake, with a host of supernatural powers at his disposal.
Obviously, Jason wins when he's slashed and murdered his way through all his teenage prey, but the counselors have a few options to escape. They can team up to take him down – no easy feat, according to the developers – repair a car or boat, or call the police and try to survive long enough for help to arrive. Essential items for each scenario are scattered randomly around the environment each time, to put an emphasis on teamwork and not just memorizing the map.
Due: First half of 2017
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Prey has a weird background. Beginning life as a sequel to the 2006 game of the same name, it's shifted hands several times, was suspended, canceled, and finally emerged again from Arkane Studios as a "reimagining" of the original game.
Apart from the title, the only thing this new Prey seems to have in common with the old one is the fact that the player fights aliens. None of the original Cherokee themes and gameplay elements have made it through, replaced instead with an alternate-timeline future where JFK wasn't assassinated and lived to funnel more money into the US space program. Fast forward to 2032, and aliens are attacking our advanced space stations.
As its own game, Prey sounds like an interesting first-person shooter-cross-RPG, and is apparently taking heavy influence from the studio's action-stealth series, Dishonored.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Due: Quarter 3, 2017
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One
Speculated about for years, Rockstar finally confirmed the existence of Red Dead Redemption 2 back in October, dropping a trailer and… not much else.
So far, all we know for sure about the Western epic is that it's set for release on PS4 and Xbox One in Fall (Northern hemisphere), and that it looks pretty as hell. If the rumor mill is to be believed, it's a prequel, and that would make sense: the original was about the decline of the West, and while we can't be sure, (spoiler alert for a six-year-old game) that looks an awful lot like John Marston in the trailer, alive and well.
Rockstar has also promised an online multiplayer experience, and if it's as comprehensive as Grand Theft Auto Online, we can't wait to ride out again.
Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy
Due: TBC 2017
When Mario met the third dimension for the first time, he turned in his precision platforming boots to explore more open worlds. The original Crash Bandicoot trilogy took up the mantle left behind, with tight, linear 3D platforming that still holds up today.
Well, almost. There are a couple of niggles that haven't aged well, but Vicarious Visions promises that those won't be carried across to the upcoming remake. The studio calls the N. Sane Trilogy a "remaster plus," which apparently involves taking the best features from each game and applying them to all three – so the truly horrendous save system of the first game will be replaced by a unified system, and later game modes like Time Trials will be playable across the board.
Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy looks and sounds gorgeous to boot, and will hopefully wash out the bitter taste left in our mouths after the marsupial's mutant-brawling adventures.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Due: TBC 2017
Platforms: Wii U, Switch
After years of holding our breath, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild should finally land in 2017. It's now slated for both the dying Wii U and the mysterious Switch simultaneously, although Nintendo has been coy about whether it'll be ready in time for the new console's March launch.
Breath of the Wild represents a bit of a departure from most of the series, with Link dropped into a huge open world that the developers like to brag can be explored freely. Dungeons and areas can be tackled in whatever order the player chooses, but you may be better off waiting until you find certain weapons or abilities before running straight to the hardest ones.
A sprinkling of survival elements shake things up as well, with food replenishing health, and a day/night cycle to contend with. If Jimmy Fallon's reaction is anything to go by, it'll be worth the wait.
The Last of Us Part II
Another hotly anticipated game we know next to nothing about, The Last of Us Part II was only confirmed a few weeks ago, with a cinematic trailer that was light on details.
It's pretty safe to assume that gameplay will follow much the same structure as the first game, and Ellie, now 19, has been promoted to primary playable character. Joel is also set to return, although what kind of role he'll play is still up in the air, given how ambiguous their relationship is, five years after the first game's harrowing ending.
Judging by creative director Neil Druckmann's comments at the PlayStation Experience, The Last of Us Part II is likely darker than the original. "If the first game was really about the love between these two characters, this story is the counter of that," he said. "This story is about hate."
Unfortunately, it's very early days, and while we're naively optimistic that the game will make 2017, we wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't hit stores in 2017 – but here's hoping.