Having just crested the half-year mark of 2017, it’s the perfect time to play the best games of 2017. It’s been quite a year already!
After we had explored the massive, adventure-filled world of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and the massive, adventure-filled world of “Horizon Zero Dawn,” it became clear that 2017 was shaping up to be one of the best years in the history of video games.
Before we look ahead to the second half of 2017, let’s look back on all the excellent games that have already arrived this year. Here are the best video games of 2017 (so far), ranked:
11. “Persona 5”
Devotees of the “Persona” role-playing game series aren’t saying “Persona 5” is the best the series has to offer – that distinction tends to rest with the third game. Instead, fans are calling “Persona 5” a strong new entry in a beloved series. It’s not without its flaws, but there’s plenty to love.
As with previous games in the series, the story of “Persona 5” focuses on a Japanese teenager. Also like previous games in the series, there’s much more to the story of “Persona 5” than what’s on the surface. You’ll explore the confines of high-school life during the day, making friends and completing various tasks. When night comes, you’ll head into battle with those friends in a turn-based RPG format.
If you’ve enjoyed the “Final Fantasy” series or have a particular fondness for narrative-driven, quirky games, you’ll want to check out “Persona 5.”
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
10. “Tekken 7”
- Bandai Namco
In a surprising twist, there are several excellent fighting games competing for your attention in 2017 already. The most recent game to enter that fight is “Tekken 7,” the latest entry in the long-running “Tekken” fighting series.
Mainstays like Heihachi and Jin are back, as are fan favorites like Eddy Gordo and Panda (who is a literal panda). After months of playtesting in Japanese arcades, the version released for home consumption this year offers the most sophisticated gameplay of any “Tekken” game to date. The inclusion of a meaty – albeit silly – story mode makes “Tekken 7” a strong game for a larger audience than usual. If nothing else, it’s a killer weekend rental to play with friends.
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Arcade (really!)
- Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks
More than anything else, 2017 has been an incredible year for variety in gaming. “Prey” is an excellent example of that. It’s a game in the style of “BioShock,” mixing first-person gameplay with horror elements and environmental storytelling.
Beyond just being beautiful to gawk at, it’s a thrilling game to play. You’re not simply shooting enemies – you’re attempting to decipher them from the environment you’re in. The enemy aliens can take the form of everyday objects, thus making your task all the more suspense-filled. An ordinary jaunt through a rote office turns into a panic-inducing creep; “Prey” revels in fear of the unknown.
Though the story in “Prey” stumbles in places, as does the gameplay, it’s an overall worthwhile game to check out.
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
Gluttons for punishment will flock to “Nioh,” a gorgeous, fast-moving third-person action game that’s available only on the PlayStation 4. After over a decade of development hell, the game finally launched this year to critical acclaim.
In “Nioh,” you’re a samurai struggling to defeat an endless stream of monsters, during a fictionalized period of Japanese history (think: 1600s). Like the “Souls” series, “Nioh” demands practice and close attention if you’re going to survive (let alone progress). It’s the kind of game a perfectionist loves, built to reward mastery and brutally punish anything less.
Platforms: PlayStation 4
7. “NieR: Automata”
- Square Enix
To call “NieR: Automata” a strange game is to vastly undersell its bizarreness. It has a few dozen possible endings, features a cadre of robot protagonists, and is a rare open-world game developed by Japanese game makers.
It’s not a straightforward action game. Instead, it’s a mix of RPG elements and action gameplay. Forgive my lack of detail: To describe too much about “NieR: Automata” is to ruin it.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC
6. “Injustice 2”
There are few things as enjoyable as punching Batman square in the face, and “Injustice 2” is dead set on making that happen for you. As the title implies, “Injustice 2” is the second game in the “Injustice” series – a fighting-game franchise that is essentially “Mortal Kombat” with DC Comics heroes and villains. That comparison isn’t too reductive, as “Injustice 2” comes from the same Chicago-based NetherRealm Studios.
When you get tired of beating up Batman, there’s a delightfully silly campaign mode to blast through as well as a robust online multiplayer (where Bats will assuredly punch back).
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
5. “Resident Evil 7: BioHazard”
I’ve had few experiences as memorable as playing through the entirety of the first-person horror/survival game “Resident Evil 7: BioHazard.” If you have a PlayStation VR headset, the PlayStation 4 version of the game allows you to play the entire horrifying experience from within the confines of virtual reality. And so we did!
“Resident Evil 7” takes the series back to its roots: Exploring a massive, terrifying house with very little to protect yourself. There are few better ways to get terrified this summer than by turning the lights low and trying your best to get out of “Resident Evil 7” alive.
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (also available in PlayStation VR), PC
4. “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe”
On the opposite end of things, “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” is the best entry in the “Mario Kart” series. It takes the massive wealth of tracks, races, characters, and karts from the Wii U’s under-loved “Mario Kart 8,” adds a robust new “Battle Mode,” and puts it all on the brand new Nintendo Switch game console.
Not only is it a blast to play “Mario Kart” wherever you want, but it’s a blast of a game to play pretty much anywhere. Everyone loves “Mario Kart,” and the series’ latest is no exception. It’s a must-own if you’re a Switch owner.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
3. “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds”
- Bluehole Studios via SideArms4Reason/YouTube
“PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” – otherwise known as “PUBG” or simply “Battlegrounds” – is one of the best new games in years. It pits you against 100 people on a deserted island. You literally parachute to the island, unarmed, alongside 100 people. The goal is to be the last one alive.
As you land on the island, your first move is almost certainly to go indoors. You could bum-rush other players who land near you in an attempt to punch them to death, but you probably shouldn’t.
Instead, you likely will look for supplies – and those are indoors. This concept of looting for resources is a panic-inducing moment right off the bat.
Let’s say another player lands near you in a town. Here’s how that might play out:
-You both land around the same time, see each other, and head toward separate buildings.
-Maybe your building has a good weapon, or maybe it has a police vest for protection. Maybe it has nothing.
-But what about that other player? You’ve lost them, and they could have a killer weapon. Do you head out to another nearby building, hoping they aren’t in the same one? Do you wait near a window, keeping an eye on the building they’re in, waiting for them to leave? Do you take off running toward another nearby town, hoping for better supplies?
This is the central tension of “Battlegrounds,” and it starts immediately.
Platforms: PC, Xbox One “later this year”
2. “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”
Hyrule is an inhospitable place early on in “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.” There are monsters everywhere, you’ve got very little health, and the weapons keep breaking. You can die from being in too cold of an area, or from drowning.
From these early encounters, you’ll learn which enemies are strongest and how to defeat them. You’ll learn how to extend your meager health with food and armor. You’ll learn how to most effectively use the weapons at hand, in whatever circumstance. And, most crucially, you’ll learn how to survive in extreme temperatures.
All of these early lessons are taught through trial-and-error, and the solutions are often completely logical. That cycle is repeated throughout “Breath of the Wild,” and it’s part of what makes the game so magical. It’s the same sense of mystery, followed by discovery, that brought millions of people to the original “Legend of Zelda” so many years ago.
Though clearly not the case, “Breath of the Wild” gives you a sense of being the first person to discover its treasures. It’s a world full of puzzles hand-crafted to make you feel smart. And that’s just one of many reasons why “Breath of the Wild” is such an incredible game.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii U
1. “Horizon Zero Dawn”
- Guerrilla Games
In 10 years, people will still be talking about innovative things that “Horizon Zero Dawn” does. They’ll still be talking about how gorgeous it is, how smart and funny its main character is, how it succeeded commercially in the shadow of a new Nintendo console and a new “Legend of Zelda” game.
While playing games, I often experience a small handful of emotions: frustration, accomplishment, fear. While playing “Horizon Zero Dawn,” that list expanded dramatically – outside of delighting in the graceful, smart gameplay systems that underlie the game’s narrative focus, I often laughed out loud at Aloy’s smart quips (she’s the protagonist you see above). I found myself endlessly curious about the surprisingly deep lore of the game’s world, its people and religions, and the main character’s story arc. Perhaps most important of all, I actually cared about the main character, believed her motivations, and wanted her to succeed.
“Horizon Zero Dawn” is a magnificent accomplishment of a game that stands out among standouts. And I didn’t even mention the giant metal dinosaurs.
Platforms: PlayStation 4
BONUS: “Overwatch” is still getting huge updates for free, and it’s still an incredible game.
- Blizzard Entertainment
Yes, yes, “Overwatch” came out in May 2016 – over a year ago! But this is a game that has evolved dramatically in the last year. There are entirely new game modes, several new characters and maps, and smart rebalances of characters that needed rebalancing.
“Overwatch” feels like a smart investment, honestly – for me, it’s a game that I’m always playing. It exists as an ongoing din in the background of my weekly gaming diet, and that’s with good reason: It’s endlessly fun and fresh. Beyond the mess of additions in the last year (all of which are free, might I add), the base foundation of “Overwatch” remains as delightful as ever.
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC