This past year was a solid one for video game releases. Every major genre had respectable entries, with original ideas and sequels both coming out strong. Anyone who likes gaming in any capacity, casual, hobbyists, professionals, noobs, or any level in between, will find a lot to love in 2017’s offerings. For us, these were the ten best games we played this year.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

We know this article is supposed to be a roundup, and you’ll find other recommendations here, but understand this. For us, there was no better game than Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus this year. It’s a ton of fun and looks great, yes, but the real triumph here is in the storytelling. If Wolfenstein: The New Order suprised us with the sincerity and stakes in its narrative, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus blew our minds with how intense, visceral, emotional, and harrowing its story is. Once again, we marveled at the fact that it was B.J. Blazkowicz who was leading us through a compelling story about an alternate history’s ultimate oppression and we loved every second of it. All Platforms


The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild did more to convince people the Nintendo Switch was a worthwhile purchase than any publicity Nintendo drummed up. The diehards bought the game as soon as it was released, while the more cautious players held off until they knew it wasn’t going to be a disaster of a Zelda game. What both were rewarded with was a game that redefines open world exploration games. Where players have traditionally been told games have open worlds, but then the developer sneaks in some linear limitations, Breath of the Wild offered about as much freedom as you can currently program. And it did it in a colorful, engaging, rewarding experience that reminded people why they loved The Legend of Zelda franchise, just in case they’d forgotten. Switch


Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

As long as Naughty Dog keeps doing what it’s doing, an Uncharted title is going to show up on our Best of Gaming lists (special emphasis on the PS4 versions). The Lost Legacy doesn’t feature the familiar face of Nathan Drake, but there’s no love lost there. Chloe and Nadine are just as entertaining and engaging as Drake ever was, though the scale may tip in their favor easily. Everything you could want from an Uncharted game makes an appearance, including gorgeous visuals, challenging puzzles, and excellent writing. This is one of those games that could have easily fallen into the classic spin-off trap of feeling cheaper, rushed, and underwhelming. Instead, it showed the Uncharted series is strong enough to sustain multiple main characters and its success isn’t dependent on a single guy. PS4


Cuphead

Cuphead came out of nowhere. At least, that’s what it feels like. Everything was normal on most gaming sites one day, then the next YouTube was full of clips of a weird 1930s looking game and gaming journalism was all atwitter about the same thing. What really draws us in, beyond the distinctive art style and the excellent soundtrack, is the uncompromising difficulty of the game. We’re in an era where most games won’t let you open a door without a twelve slide tutorial on what doors are, how they work, and how you should interact with them. As a result, handholding has become a huge issue, where we don’t even get to play the games we bought. Cuphead is very different. You have to get good at it yourself, figuring out what techniques or powers work best for the situation. You really have to think your way through this immensely difficult game, which is something more developers need to get comfortable with. Xbox/PC


Outlast II

Horror/suspense games always run the risk of being cheesy or relying too much on jump scares, but the people in charge of Outlast and its sequel seem to understand how to avoid those risks. They know if you’re going to make a horror game with legs, you need to shape a believable world, full of tension and fear. Maybe more than other genres immersion is key. If players get bored with your game or find they can easily predict your next moves, you’re not going to find much success. But Outlast II keeps players on their toes with a compelling story, horrifying environment, deadly enemies, and simple mechanics. Just like the first, there’s no combat system. You have to either run or hide, and there’s no guarantee either one will work. Consoles | PC


Nier: Automata

Nier: Automata might be a little alienating for those gamers who aren’t fans of Japanese RPGs, though those players are going to lose out on one of the weirdest, most interesting games of the year. It’s a shooting, hacking, roleplaying game so out of this world (literally too, as the game takes place on the moon), that anything that looks or feels like it will inevitably seem like a cheap knockoff. If you haven’t played it and you’re looking for something to bring you into the JRPG world, or just want something totally unlike anything else you’ve played, Nier: Automata is your next gaming purchase. PS4/PC


Tacoma

Tight, polished writing is the backbone of any good story, and Tacoma makes excellent use of it. Set aboard an abandoned spaceship, you get to know the eight person crew intimately, following them through group discussions and private moments. No one’s a caricature, everyone has something to say, and there weren’t any glaring plot holes or extra loose ends that we noticed. The game’s also visually distinct. Instead of the standard audio diary pickups in a lonesome setting, you get to follow brilliantly colored holograms through their daily lives, rewinding, fast forwarding, pausing, and watching their faceless avatars interact. It’s short, and you could probably knock it out in an afternoon, two if you wanted to take it extra slow, but it’s a satisfying story that will stick with you. Xbox | PC


Night in the Woods

Besides Nier: Automata, Night in the Woods is probably the most unusual pick on this list. Topically, it’s straightforward. Someone drops out of college and returns home to find things have changed while she’s gone. But then things get experimental. All the people are animals, the art style is far from straightforward, and apparently the apocalypse is imminent. There’s plenty to interact with throughout your hometown and you’re not boxed in the way some indie games force you to do what they want you to do. There’s plenty of freedom and activity here, all done in an aesthetic that will keep you engaged. PS4 | PC


Middle-Earth: Shadow of War

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor was pretty much murderous Tolkien Batman, which obviously meant it was going to get a sequel. Microtransactions notwithstanding (which are coming under some righteous scrutiny lately), the sequel, Shadow of War, lived up to expectations. It kept and expanded upon the excellent combat and nemesis system from the first game, and added a few new game modes to improve player choice and personalization. There are a lot more orc characters this time around, so you could probably play through the main campaign twice and never meet the same orcs. Which also means you’re getting a fresh experience with each attempt. As long as you can avoid getting frustrated with the liberties the game takes with Tolkien’s world, Shadow of War offers some of the best replay value currently on the market. All Platforms


Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds

The thing we hear most often about Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds is how stressful its battle royale format is. You only get one life, have to scrounge weapons from the arena, and, if you’re like us, spend most of the match sitting in the corner in a bathroom with your gun trained on the door. Minute after agonizing minute passes while you wait, until someone finally runs through the door, you freak out and miss, and they shoot you in the face. Then you play again. It’s an addictive cycle, evidenced by how popular the game has gotten, all while it’s still only in its beta. Plenty of respectable gaming channels have episodes devoted to their exploits, both funny and tense, and the impending release is only going to boost player numbers. It’s a surprise hit that seems to have some staying power to it, so expect these servers to be populated for quite some time. Xbox | PC

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