If you haven’t yet played these masterpieces, now is the time.
2017 is quickly coming to a close and the video game lineup for 2018 is rapidly being revealed. Before we set our sights on what’s coming next, let’s look back at the games that topped the charts (and won our geeky hearts) from the past year.
22. Little Nightmares
This side-scrolling platforming game is dark in more ways than one. First, it preys on childhood fears like we’ve never seen from a video game before. Second, it subjects you to many, many gruesome deaths as you trial and error your way through the game’s many different mechanics. If you’re up for a challenge and don’t mind your character being mangled along the way, Little Nightmares is an absolute must-own game from the past year.
21. Gran Turismo Sport
While Microsoft’s Forza 7 may look absolutely stunning, especially with its 4K+HDR graphics on Xbox One X, the pay-to-play elements that were shoehorned into that game were a major turn off. GT Sport inches its way into the lead this time around, building on a pedigree that the Gran Turismo team has preserved and delivering some of the finest damn racing simulation we’ve ever seen.
20. Halo Wars 2
The Halo franchise is first and foremost known as a first-person shooter but, with books, TV shows, short films and plenty of other elements rounding out the Halo universe, there’s no wonder Microsoft continues pursuing the strategy-based set of parallel Halo games. It doesn’t matter whether you’re just a Halo fan or a fan of strategy games, Halo Wars 2 serves up a polished experience that either faction would enjoy.
19. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
When Nintendo and Ubisoft announced their partnership at E3, coupling Mario and the Rabbids were pretty much the last thing we expected. A dark horse of this list, Kingdom Battle absolutely blew us away with the sheer joy we experienced playing through its nostalgic levels and mastering its turn-based-strategy gameplay. With a new, free PvP versus mode just introduced into the game, we expect to continue enjoying Kingdom Battle for a good, long time.
18. Assassin’s Creed: Origins
The recent decision to give the AC team more time in between releases definitely made AC: Origins a better game than recent entries into the series but it’s still not without its shortcomings. Set in an earlier era than any other AC game, Origins holds tight to the series’ historically-inspired plots while reinventing the XP and weapons systems to mixed results. Maybe we just hoped for more. The final product is a good-not-great game that definitely deserves a spot on this list but nowhere near a top ten of 2017.
17. Mariokart 8 Deluxe
Technically not a 2017 release, MK8 originally debuted as a Nintendo 3DS game all the way back in 2014. That said, the Deluxe version that made its way to the Nintendo Switch this year is an absolutely perfect iteration of the long-running Nintendo racer and worthy of inclusion here. Doesn’t matter if you’re playing solo, online or against other friends in your living room, MK8 will keep you entertained for hours and adds value to the Nintendo Switch ecosystem overall.
16. Destiny 2
At launch, Destiny 2 was a game that was a joy to play. Bungie’s signature gunplay and tight physics were true to their heritage of making shooters and the new variety of guns, abilities and enemies were a welcome change after we dumped hundreds of hours into the original Destiny. Playing through the campaign, pumping up our characters and eventually tackling all of the end-game content was an exciting and fun experience.
Sadly, D2 has not held our attention nearly as well as the original and missteps from Bungie and Activision in choosing how to continue pushing out new content has missed the mark in huge ways but we’ll always remember that first time through and we’ll keep a sidelong eye on the game to see if there’s anything worth revisiting if and when the game gets its act back together.
15. Middle Earth: Shadow of War
The only show in town if you’re a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, Shadow of War tries to recapture the magic of Shadow of Mordor by challenging you to survive and thrive in the world Tolkien created. Parlaying Tolkien’s popularity makes Shadow of War more accessible than many titles in the genre since the lore is well-established and more familiar than those games that ask you to start fresh. Gameplay remains challenging and fun for a title that piggybacks so hard on its predecessor.
It’s not 2007 anymore and the gimmick of motion controls lost its luster long ago. At least we thought it did until we picked up the joycons and played a few rounds of ARMS. Nintendo continues to surprise us with their innovation and the fighting gameplay found in ARMS feels wonderfully fresh, if a bit exhausting. Wisely, this is not the meaningless flurry punching that was expected back in the days of Wii boxing but a technical and purposeful reimagining of boxing that requires and rewards skill. And maybe a bit of cardio.
13. Injustice 2
We were happy knowing that the guys behind Mortal Kombat were working with DC to bring their fighting systems and roster of characters together for the fighting game Injustice. Injustice 2 takes that formula so much further, pumping up combat and combos in a logical way and simply blowing us away with a roster of characters that has grown past launch to include worlds we never would have expected like the Ninja Turtles.
12. Splatoon 2
Nintendo’s own take on the shooter genre forgoes the blood and guts you might expect for the slaphappy fun and chaos of paint. The gameplay remains just as competitive without the adult-themes and Splatoon has garnered a fervent worldwide audience as a result of it. Splatoon 2 continues to draw casual and competitive players alike and its new horde-mode is a great addition for those looking to compete as a team.
11. Call of Duty: WWII
Call of Duty’s return to its WWII roots hits most of the right notes that its fanbase requires of the shooter’s annual release. The campaign spans Europe and offers up some memorable moments to fight through. Online PvP play falls a bit flat for us this year, holding back too many maps for future release that likely should have been ready to go at the outset. Zombies return in all their glory and remain a draw that keeps us returning to the airtight gunplay inevitably found in COD games.
10. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Letting Uncharted’s usual main character, Nathan Drake, take a long overdue break, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy switches focus to characters who were previous in the peripheral. The two-female team doesn’t trot the globe quite as much as earlier entries, choosing to focus on the sandbox of an Indian jungle instead. It works and it delivers more of the adventuring that we love about the Uncharted games along with a great storyline of barely-legal questing and doublecross.
9. South Park: The Fractured But Whole
Finally making its way into our hands in 2017, the boys from South Park have proven again that they know their audience and they know how to make video games for us. The Fractured But Whole (read it quickly) absolutely nails the humor of the show, playing less like a video game and more like an interactive three-episode arc that we’d wait to watch on our DVRs. The jokes are dirty, the characters are insane and the gameplay is quite challenging, earning our interest even if it didn’t draw from the show’s built-in fanbase. Any loyal South Park fan owes it to themselves to play this game and, if you can pick it up as a combo with the previous game, Stick of Truth, you absolutely should.
8. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
If history has taught us anything it’s that killing nazis is the right thing to do no matter what era you’re in. Wolfenstein gives you more than enough nazis to kill in a gorefest of slaughter that’s reminiscent to the arcade days where shooting from cover was for pussies and the only thing that would stop you from raising the bodycount was a cramp in your trigger finger. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed Wolfenstein’s return as a series in the modern era of gaming and The New Colossus is no exception.
Dutifully drawn by hand, capturing an unprecedented video game style that harkens back to 1930s cartoons and difficult as fuck, Cuphead is a sidescrolling nightmare that will push you (and a friend if you’re into the co-op mode) to your wits end. It’s also one of the most visually stunning and rewarding experiences we’ve found in video games this year. Innovation and originality are taken to the max here, making your struggle through Cuphead’s many levels worthwhile from start to finish….if you can make it that far.
Perhaps one of the more niche games of the year, we were still wildly impressed by NieR:Automata’s dark stylings and robot dystopian world. Though the game is in the vein of the old Drakengard franchise, you didn’t need to play any other game in the series to understand or appreciate that action RPG gameplay and story found here and that was a blessing because we may have missed this one had it been hinged on those previous games. Instead, Nier:Automata was a great game in its own right.
Team Ninja was at it again, ironically invoking the feudal samurai for their latest adventure through monster-infested lands. The RPG elements found here don’t hinder any of the action as the main character plows through enemies with ever-more-powerful weapons and abilities, collecting upgrades and other items along his journey. The campaign was enjoyable from start to finish and rarely faltered in delivering the action or keeping us captivated.
4. Persona 5
Persona 5 is the game that was most out of character for our typical preferences this year but taking the plunge based on so many recommendations (one specifically from pornstar April O’Neil) proved especially rewarding. Even if you don’t typically dig slower paced games where the action takes a backseat to leveling and there’s a distinct Japanese style to the game, this one is so polished and addictive that it’s worth a second look, even with some of its strangers conventions and flavors that’ll have you balancing your life as a falsely incriminated high school student with super powers who explores dungeons. See what we mean? If any of that weirdness piqued your interest, Persona 5 is a worth a pickup.
3. Horizon Zero Dawn
Featuring a fiery redheaded protagonist shredding through the wilds of a world that’s somehow simultaneously ancient and riddled with ornery robots, Horizon Zero Dawn is a high point for the PS4. The game features gorgeous, sweeping environments to explore, fantastic combat against a variety of enemies, epic boss battles and loads of weapons to collect and customize along your way. The story and graphics that’ll keep you riveted to watching what happens next are icing on this awesome cake. With one DLC already released that brings an entirely new land to life in the game and more planned, expect Horizon and it’s hero, Aloy, to stick around for a long time.
2. Super Mario Odyssey
We always have high expectations when Nintendo releases a Super Mario game and the Japanese gaming giant has completely blown those expectations away with their first Mario game on the Switch, Super Mario Odyssey. Countless collectibles are hidden in over a dozen distinctly styled worlds with gameplay that calls for everything from simple exploration to mindfucking puzzles to technical feats that will test the limits of your skills of timing, patience and thumb control. This is a high point for the iconic plumber and we can only hope that Nintendo has the good sense to add on more to the excellence found in Super Mario Odyssey before they try to redo it all over again with a sequel.
1. The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild
It was extremely difficult to not giving top billing on this list to Super Mario Odyssey but the simple fact is that Breath of the Wild is as close to a perfect game as we’ve ever seen. After waiting years to join Link in his next adventure, we were presented with an experience that was unparalleled, both in the history of Zelda games and the history of video games overall. BotW is an on-point melding of exploration, combat, puzzles and story that have kept millions of gamers busy for hundreds of hours each. BotW is both fresh and familiar, dialing into a childhood love of Zelda games but creating something that feels completely new even by the most modern standards.
Unlike so many games lately, BotW never holds your hand or even attempts to explain anything to you. Instead, it’s on you to figure out what you’re doing and why, where things fit and how best to use the items you’ve collected along the way. Characters are weird and wonderful, earnest but also cryptic, topping off challenges with loads of personality along the way. The game is littered with moments of true accomplishments, approachable to everyone from first-time-gamers to even the oldest hands and fittest thumbs. Best of all, Nintendo is using Breath of the Wild as its first Zelda game to have DLC, meaning there is even more coming. With the adventure scheduled to continue as soon as later this month, we’re hoping to not have to wait long to get even more out of our game of the year.