It’s been a fascinating year for video games. 2017 saw the release of a new Nintendo console, the return of multiple classics and the continued emergence of VR within mainstream gaming. Sony PlayStation continued to dominate while 4K enabled consoles became a mainstay. With so much change, it’s easy to forget about the video games that helped fuel that fire.
We here at Screen Critics wanted to honor those games that made this year special. From the indie breakouts to the returning stars – here are our selections for the best video games of 2017.
Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds: The single biggest game to emerge in 2017 has managed to create a whole new genre around itself. The sheer popularity of the title has propelled the game to previously unheard of heights while delivering an experience that brings people back over and over again. So why is it not in our top 15? Because the game hasn’t been released as a full title. For all its achievements, PUGB deserves the highest praise – but it’s not fair to put a game that’s still very much “in development” ahead of games that reached the finish line.
XCOM 2: War of the Chosen: I went back and forth heavily on whether to include this one. As a rule of thumb, I try to avoid expansion packs in these kinds of lists – if only because they’re more evolutions than grand steps. War of the Chosen is a huge step forward for XCOM 2. It makes the game so much more unpredictable, exciting and manages to keep the things that gamers loved from the base game. Is it perfect? No, but there’s a lot to love here and I certainly didn’t regret diving into this one.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: I always said Mario Kart 8 would fulfill its potential on a more lively platform. Releasing it so early in the Nintendo Switch’s lifespan was a stroke of genius, giving early adopters a hugely engaging multiplayer experience which is arguably the best in the series. The only reason I opted against putting it on the proper list is that it is an effective re-release. Yes, it changes the battle mode but a good 95% of the content was played to death in 2014. For that simple reason, it gets a high recommendation.
15. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Of all the games I thought I’d be excited to play in 2017, a Rabbids game didn’t even feature in the top 500. Yet somehow, Ubisoft and Nintendo came together to create a delightful game that not only takes Mario in an interesting new direction – it makes the Rabbids almost bearable.
The game owes a lot to the likes of XCOM – which Mario + Rabbids clearly takes inspiration from. The story itself is laughably thin on the ground, some of the most contrived garbage you’ll experience in 2017. But look beyond this and there’s a game here that’s every bit as fun as other outings.
The battle system forces you to think ahead – planning moves to take down your enemies. The characters on offer give you enough variety to change things up – while the graphics on Switch pop magnificently. The only qualm I have is that the game doesn’t do enough to warrant multiple playthroughs. The game seems content to hit a point then repeat.
14. Tekken 7
I’ve played every Tekken game to death and back. From the original on the PlayStation 1 through to the PlayStation 3’s bizarre pay-to-play experiment, Tekken 7 serves as a bookend to that journey while also pointing to the potential of the series moving forward.
The graphics are gorgeous while the core gameplay remains as enticing as ever. This feat, in particular, is worthy of note if only because the entire game now runs on Unreal Engine 4. It’s a shift that benefits the game aesthetically but sadly leads to some incredibly long load times. For this reason alone, I had to knock the game down a few places.
There are some areas I’d love to see improved – notably the way the story handles its threads. There’s plenty of times where details are left out, with the gamer expected to go and find the details themselves.
Luckily the overall package is a thrilling one for fans of the series. With so many modes, unlockables and the online mode proving to be fun – there’s a lot to enjoy here and it gets a fair amount of playtime – even all these months later.
13. Halo Wars 2
The original Halo Wars posed a very simple question, what if an RTS was designed for consoles? Halo Wars 2 takes that question a step further, asking can an RTS work on both platforms simultaneously. The answer is a solid yes.
While the core gameplay doesn’t expand on the original too much, there are enough variations in levels and units to keep you battling for many hours. The single-player story is well paced and manages to tow the line between over the top and exciting well. The game also looks great, whether you’re rocking up on Xbox or PC.
I feel bad for Halo Wars 2 really. It’s a brilliantly put together game that blends the series high brow cinematics with the RTS fun that made the original so interesting. It works incredibly well, telling a unique story that genuinely intrigues. It’s just a shame that it came at a point in Xbox One’s awkward existence where most people weren’t willing to give it a chance. It also doesn’t help that Microsoft slapped it in their Microsoft Store – effectively guaranteeing no sane PC gamer would touch it with a barge pole.
12. South Park: The Fractured But Whole
The sequel to the much loved Stick of Truth takes everything that game established and turns it up to 11. The end result is a more refined beast. One that’s arguably more enjoyable, better paced and more than warrants a play for those who enjoyed the original.
The shift in focus from Game of Thrones grandeur to superheroes is carried out with delightful enthusiasm. The humor is on point while the game delights in throwing you through the RPG elements that underpin it. Exploring South Park and taking in the attention to detail is hugely rewarding.
Perhaps the best change comes in the battle system, which adopts a more open approach than before. The end result are battles that are more engaging to take part in – one that really rewards you for experimenting.
It’s not the deepest game by any measure – but there’s a lot to like here if you’re a fan of South Park.
11. Injustice 2
Netherrealm may be more known for the Mortal Kombat series, but the Injustice series of video games have quickly emerged as a solid fighting contender within the marketplace.
What really pushes this ahead of Tekken 7 is the single player. The insanely dark storyline continues on from the original, opting to focus entirely on the dark world left behind when the “good” characters went home. Injustice 2 manages to offer up some of the tightest fighting mechanics around, with some gorgeous visuals to boot. It’s quite the gripping story and, while not as long as some gamers may like, matches the excitement of the source material with great delight.
The selection of characters on offer is huge while the game makes great use of its online mechanics. There’s a huge amount to do in this game, with plenty of modes and options for those looking to get the most out of the package.
2017 was a solid year for fighting games – Injustice 2 may very well have staked a strong claim to being the best of them all.
10. Sonic Mania
Before Sonic Forces reminded us that Team Sonic haven’t the faintest idea what they’re doing, Sonic Mania jumped on to the scene to kindly remind fans that the series can be a brilliant time under the right team.
Sonic Mania manages to escape the accusation of being a rerelease through clever twists in its logic. The novelty takes on much-loved levels from across all the Sonic games keep things fresh – while the game looks and plays exactly as gamers want it too. The game revels in its nostalgia and there isn’t a moment where the title isn’t working to get you on board.
Sprinkle in some memorable boss battles, a hugely delightful bank of catchy tunes and a heap of unlocks and multiplayer modes – and fans have very little to dislike here. It’s far and away the best Sonic game released in the last few years – and very much worthy of the praise fans heaped on it. Speaking of nostalgia…
9. Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy
2017 was a big year for comebacks. Perhaps none were felt more impressively than that of Crash Bandicoot – which roared its way back into the AAA-gaming sphere in the summer of 2017.
The game is an almost 1:1 HD remake of the original three games. Normally this would be enough for me to kick off the list but Crash manages to do enough with the parts it has to justify a second look. Three games are packed into this package, all of which brim with their own personality.
The core mechanics hold up well while the level design affords a huge amount of platforming potential. From levels that see you exploring forks in the road to the ones that put you on a moving object. There’s a heap to do and thanks to the decision to add time trials into all the games, there’s a lot of incentive to come back and master the game.
Not everything makes the translation perfectly sadly. Some of the vehicle levels are laughably bad to experience, while the lack of new levels may disappoint those who played these games back in the day. But certainly, there’s a lot to love in this hugely interesting package.