From fighting games like Injustice 2 to vast open-world RPGs like Assassin's Creed Origins; from brand new games in budding franchises like Hollow Knight or Horizon Zero Dawn to the latest in some of the most famous video game series of all time like Zelda, Mario and Resident Evil, 2017 was a good year to be a gamer. And it's been a real pleasure, as a video game critic, to cover these amazing titles.
We've played a lot of video games over the past year, and the team at Forbes Games has picked our favorites of the year. Rather than rank all 20 picks in a row, I've broken these out into four tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and GOTY. In past years I've limited this to around 10 picks, but this year I've doubled the count. There are 11 'Bronze' entries, 6 'Silver' entries, 3 'Gold' entries and, well, just one Game of the Year. I want to honor as many games as possible from 2017.
Let's start with...
It's pretty tough to decide which games get shuffled off into the Bronze category, but honestly, you shouldn't write them off simply because they're not Silver or Gold. These are all excellent video games and there's bound to be something in this category for everyone, from tactical turn-based games to horror titles to first-person shooters, these are some of the best games of 2017.
Prey - Arkane
An imperfect game, Prey still managed to capture something of that old-school PC single-player spirit that we've come to hope for from Arkane and Bethesda. It's a very clever sci-fi horror game that deserved far more attention than it received, in part due to Bethesda's failed review copy experiment. A game steeped in atmosphere and filled with great exploration and puzzle-solving, Prey pressed all the right buttons for me.
Injustice 2 - NetherRelm Studios
We were all surprised by just how excellent Injustice 2 turned out to be. An excellent story made the single-player campaign way more fun than I've had with a fighting game in ages, and the excellent combat made for great solo or multiplayer play. Easily one of the best fighting games of this console generation.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard - Capcom
Ditching the third-person perspective, Resident Evil 7 biohazard turned out to be one of the more frightening games of the year even as it took several rather large steps away from its franchise roots. A pretty excellent VR version makes this an even more attractive purchase. I thoroughly enjoyed the game from start to finish.
PUBG - Bluehole
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds was in early access for most of 2o17, only officially launching on PC this past week. Still, it ended up selling over 20 million copies, spawning copy-cats, and capturing the hearts and minds of players across the globe. The 'battle royale' game pits 100 players against one another in a last man standing high-stakes fight across a huge map. It's a blast. Go play it.
Mario Rabbids - Ubisoft
Marrio + Rabbids Battle Kingdom was one of the best surprises of 2017. The combination of XCOM-style turn-based combat and the zany worlds of Mario and Rabbids makes for a surprisingly engaging (and funny) video game. I confess, I enjoyed it more than the new XCOM 2 expansion, if only because I actually enjoyed my time with it rather than just feel stressed out the entire time.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy - Naughty Dog
The stand-alone expansion to Uncharted 4 ditched Nathan Drake, trading him in for two female leads. If nothing else, it proved that the series has legs even without its wise-cracking protagonist. I actually really enjoyed the game in part because of its brevity. The pacing didn't always hold up---a long open-world segment fell a little flat---but by and large this was a tremendous (and gorgeous) adventure game.
Sonic Mania - Sega
Retro Sonic returns in Sonic Mania and it's so great. The Sonic franchise has fallen on hard times, with a legacy of flops since its glory days. Sonic Mania is an addictive, incredibly fun return to form. It's also great to play a Sonic game on the Nintendo Switch---certainly the best-looking side-scrolling Sonic game on a portable device I've ever seen.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole - Ubisoft
The follow-up to The Stick Of Truth may not be quite as original or quite as funny as the first game, but it's less buggy, has a better combat system and trades in fantasy for superheros. All told, a great little South Park RPG with all the show's wit and satire.
Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice - Ninja Theory
Ninja Theory's dark exploration of the human psyche was as surprising as any game of 2017. The audio design alone is worth giving this game a shot, but combine that with the combat, the voice-acting and the fascinating world and what you come up with is a remarkably good AA game at half the price of most AAA releases. Well worth your time if you enjoy more experimental games.
Call Of Duty: WWII - Sledgehammer Games
The first Call of Duty in years that's historical rather than modern or futuristic, WWII has proven one of the year's more divisive releases. That's no surprise---Call of Duty is often both the best-selling game of the year and the most widely ridiculed. Still, for my part I've had more fun with WWII than I've had with any game in the series in many years. It's my guilty pleasure game of the year.
This year's Silver games are ones you may have missed but, if you have any love of gaming, should push to the top of your backlog immediately. From AAA smash hits to indie darlings, these are some of the absolute best games of 2o17.
Nioh - Team Ninja
Many games are compared to Dark Souls simply because they're tough. But it's an apt comparison for Nioh, which may as well be Samurai Dark Souls. The demonic action-RPG pits a Geralt of Rivia look-alike against hordes of enemies and it's both a harrowing and deeply satisfying experience. One of my personal favorites of the year.
Hollow Knight - Team Cherry
The charming, challenging side-scrolling action game is one 2017 indie title nobody should miss. The Metroidvania-style game is filled with exploration, combat and platforming, and boasts gorgeous graphics and a fantastic score. It's really an incredibly special game and Switch owners will be pleased to hear it's coming to Nintendo's new console in 2018.
Nier Automata - Platinum Games
Speaking of incredibly special games, Nier Automata is one of the most unique games I've played in ages. Excellent combat and world-building, really cool camera/perspective changes, and just an overall really amazing action game absolutely steeped in innovative design and fascinating storytelling. One of the few games this year that warranted a poster for my office wall.
Assassin's Creed: Origins - Ubisoft
Ubisoft's decision to give the Assassin's Creed brand a year hiatus paid off big time. Origins is the best game in the series, period. Set in classical Egypt, Origins tells the origin story of the Assassins and Templar, and does so by tossing out everything we'd come to expect out of the series, overhauling virtually every system in the process. It's a really wonderful, creative game in a franchise that had grown stale.
Divinity Original Sin 2 - Larian Studios
Divinity Original Sin is one of my favorite modern RPGs and Divinity Original Sin 2 just takes everything great about the first game and adds to it. A truly wonderful outing with a great story, great combat and plenty of humor to keep you smiling throughout. A game that clearly deserves all the accolades it's received this year, do yourself a favor if you have any love of the genre and pick this up ASAP.
Cuphead - Studio MDHR
Cuphead's blend of super-challenging platforming, vintage art-style and wacky music all make it one of the most striking games of the year. It's a polished, punishing experience that will have you swearing at your computer screen like a sailor. It's also the best game of the year on Xbox One. If you missed Cuphead, please do yourself a favor and go play it. Warning: You may have to 'git gud.' It's worth it, though.
The Gold tier is for games that are truly special, that just barely missed out on that coveted GOTY award. If this year's Game of the Year had released last year or next year, any one of these three games could have grabbed the Platinum trophy.
Horizon Zero Dawn - Guerrilla Games
Across almost all of our Forbes Game contributors picks, Horizon Zero Dawn kept popping up as one of our favorites of 2017. As Killzone developer Guerrilla Games' first foray into a third-person open-world action-RPG it's kind of mind-blowing what a good job they did. It's also a game with a surprisingly deep story, some great acting and beautiful world design. Not to mention the robot dinosaurs. You really can't go wrong with robot dinosaurs. One of a handful of PS4 exclusives this year that made this list, Horizon Zero Dawn is almost certainly just the first chapter in a massive franchise to come. Get ready for Horizon Zero Dawn: Dawn Of Horizons.
Super Mario Odyssey - Nintendo
I loved almost every minute of Super Mario Odyssey. Few games in 2017 packed so much creativity into so little space. Around every corner is a new puzzle, a new area to explore, a new challenge, a new hidden secret. Odyssey is easily one of the best Mario games ever made, and even though I know that's a bold statement I can't help but make it. It's really just that good. If it was the only game on the Nintendo Switch, I'd still say go buy Nintendo's new system.
Persona 5 - Atlus
Easily one of my personal favorites of the year, Persona 5 is yet another top-notch entry in Atlus's long-running JRPG series. If you've never played a Persona game, this is actually a really great entry point. It's slick, stylish, incredibly deep and just...unlike anything else out there. By day, go to school and hang out with friends, work a job, do homework and live a somewhat normal life. By night, invade the psychic palace of abusive grown-ups and try to stop them from preying on innocents. It's kind of hard to explain. You should just go play it!
PLATINUM TROPHY / GAME OF THE YEAR
Game of the Year at Forbes has gone to such wildly disparate games as Fallout 4, Hearthstone and Titanfall 2. We obviously draw from plenty of different genres and often pick somewhat controversial choices. But this year we have no choice but to jump on the bandwagon. It's not that we want to jump on any bandwagons, it's that this year's GOTY is just that good.
The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild - Nintendo
Yes, I know, it's almost too predictable at this point. Breath of the Wild is everyone's darling this year, but it's everyone's darling for a reason. It's just that good, that innovative, that different and new, changing everything we knew not only about Zelda, but about open-world games.
The game was also the Switch's big launch title, and certainly helped propel that system into the success it's become. And with good reason. I played Breath of the Wild with my jaw dropped almost the entire time, from the first time I realized I could just chop down a tree with that ax I just picked up, to the final boss fight. It's just a tremendous achievement in game design that will be one of this generation's most important games.
And once again, thanks to all our amazing readers for sticking with us through the years and thanks to all the amazing game developers out there who made these incredible games possible and brought us so much joy, fun, and challenge in 2o17. We appreciate it!
Erik Kain, Contributor