The best games of 2017 (so far)

Here's a funny coincidence: our two Game of the Month picks for May 2017 both have one-word, four-letter titles. Before you try to puzzle out what they could be (or just scroll down for all to be revealed), let's consider how May was an amazing month for fighting game fans, with the strong showings from the DC Universe brawls of Injustice 2, the pleasantly familiar fisticuffs of Tekken 7, and the hyper-polished anime bouts of Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2. Meanwhile, Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is a nice blend of the tactics series' older mechanics with new-school design, and Star Trek: Bridge Crew is a stellar take on space travel (but is only at its best with four VR-enabled players working in unison). 

At the end of every month, we comb through all our recent reviews to find the two games that qualify as must-plays. Consider these games to be the highlights of the year thus far - and if you're looking for something to play while you wait for all the new games of 2017, you really can't go wrong with these standout titles.

Game of the Month - May (Runner-up): Rime 

Format(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch (coming soon)

Lost children trapped in beautiful environments have become something of a cliche in the indie games scene, but Rime wears the trope well. It wears everything well, really. From the word go, you're swept up in this drop-dead gorgeous games' wordless story, eagerly exploring every nook and cranny of the strange lands you find yourself in. You'll assemble and activate strange robots, feed piglets to bypass their protective parents, shift the time of day to unlock hidden doors, and more. Rime even makes the obligatory water level a pleasant experience! The visuals, soundtrack, gameplay, and story all come together to form something that is, in a word, magical. Sam Prell

Game of the Month - May (Winner): Prey 

Format(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC

I’ve been a coffee cup. A roll of toilet paper. And after each transformation I’ve felt my humanity slipping away in the face of awesomely powerful Typhon abilities, hurling skittering Mimics across deserted hallways and getting my revenge on the Phantoms loping around Talos 1. Think of the main quest like a path that directs you to Prey’s stellar sidequests: Prey shines when you're unlocking the essence of the staff who wandered around the space station. Being centered on ordinary fears and activities means they ground every experience you have with the Typhon, because for each one you kill, there’s always another body lying on the ground. This might sound morbid, but it’s actually a good thing that each one is named, so you realise the human cost of all the powers you’re now playing with. You’ll believe that for many people, Talos 1 used to be home, scattered with audio tapes and the remnants of daily life. Now it’s a battleground, and the more alien powers you use, the more you’re becoming just like the enemy. Zoe Delahunty-Light

Game of the Month - Apr. (Runner-up): Mario Kart 8 Deluxe 

Format(s): Switch

Take Nintendo's prettiest, most polished racing game to date, bundle in all its sizable DLC offerings, then add in a few more characters and modes atop all the existing content. That's Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in a red shell, and it's an absolute must-buy for anyone who owns a Nintendo Switch. Being able to take Mario Kart 8 on the go is a treat, with the kind of accessible, pick-up-and-play multiplayer that the twin Joy-Cons were made for. Splatoon's Inkling squid-kids are the standout picks from the newly updated roster, but the overhauled Battle mode is the best addition to the Deluxe package, with the chaotic kart combat of classic Balloon Battle or fresh modes like the cops-vs-robbers excitement of Renegade Roundup. Whether you've already earned a heap of trophies in the Wii U original or you've been holding out for this inevitable bundle, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a necessity for anyone with even the slightest affinity for arcade racing. Lucas Sullivan

Game of the Month - Apr. (Winner): Persona 5 

Format(s): PS4, PS3

Persona 5 is perhaps one of the most important pieces of pop fiction in the 21st century. It's not a claim I make lightly, but its tale of millennials raging against a social machine rigged by shitty teachers, corrupt politicians, and dirty CEOs feels especially prescient these days, considering the current circumstances of the world. Its narrative weaves in and out of its simulation of modern day-to-day Japanese living and its deep and rewarding combat systems, where making friends and smashing demons are so inextricably linked that every single one of its mechanics exists together in perfect harmony. It's also effortlessly cool, where even simple menu screens explode with pop art chic. Persona 5 is the rare 100+ hour game that feels like it doesn't waste a moment of your time; a game where nearly every moment feels handcrafted and expertly placed. It's not simply one of the best JRPGs ever made, it's one of the best games ever made, full stop. David Roberts

Game of the Month - Mar. (Runner-up) - Nier: Automata 

Format(s): PS4, PC

I never played the original Nier. Hell, before Nier: Automata, I'd never played any game designed or directed by Yoko Taro. And even when Automata was announced, my reaction was an unenthusiastic shrug. But now, I can't stop thinking about it and the Drakengard series. Its gorgeous and distinctive character designs. Its smooth and satisfying combat that manages to make every fight a rush of adrenaline. Its strange, sometimes confusing storytelling that's always poignant and emotionally resonant regardless. Every time I think I'm done or I've seen everything, a new surprise pops its head up. Nier: Automata was a pleasure that I didn't see coming - but I'm so glad I gave it a shot. Its firmly imprinted itself onto my brain and it won't soon be forgotten. Sam Prell

Game of the Month - Mar. (Winner) - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 

Format(s): Switch, Wii U

You could totally disregard every plea to destroy Ganon and restore the Kingdom of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You could ignore the villagers and ancient elders and handsome fish-princes and just spend the entire game hang-gliding from one puzzle-filled mini-dungeon to the next. You could even dedicate an evening to discovering every different kind of status buff you can imbue into an omelet. Breath of the Wild rejoices in deconstructing every element of the Zelda series, disposing of anything that doesn't enhance its broad yet remarkably unified sense of adventure. It was a massive risk for a series that could've kept coasting on old glories for years to come, and its payoff is one of the best games that Nintendo has ever created. Connor Sheridan

Game of the Month - Feb. (Runner-up) - For Honor

Format(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC

Live by the sword, die by the sword, repeat with fervid excitement. For Honor has perfected the art of weighty melee combat, pitting history's most distinguished warriors - Knights, Vikings, and Samurai - against each other in large- and small-scale conflicts. Its team-based and one-on-one duels match the depth of a full-on fighting game, where mastering your favorite class and learning their best combos and matchups is essential to your PvP success. You might need a little while to come to grips with the somewhat overwhelming UI, gear system, and online metagame, but it's all worth it when you're savagely executing a foe you've handily slashed to ribbons. Competitive multiplayer is absolutely For Honor's focus, but its single-player campaign boasts some awe-inspiring battles and actually tells a halfway decent story. If melee duels are your thing, be they honorable clashes or comically chaotic scraps, For Honor was made just for you. Lucas Sullivan        

Game of the Month - Feb. (Winner) - Horizon: Zero Dawn

Format(s): PS4

Somehow when I’m playing Horizon: Zero Dawn, I don’t mind getting ripped to shreds by a giant robotic crocodile. Its white scales shimmering in the sun, light glinting off the solar panels jutting out from its back, the fluid animation taken straight from nature documentaries - its careful, considered design is the perfect metaphor for Horizon’s impeccable world. Saturated with lore, quests, and (above all) robots, there’s plenty to keep you busy. Try your hand at some detective work using your Focus by taking Aloy into settlements, uncovering how humans are surprisingly familiar despite the time gap. If the sight of those mechanical animals gets your arrow-hand itching, timed hunting challenges await in the wilderness. There you can pick apart each machine using tactics you’ve learnt over your travels, turning the previously chaotic scramble for survival into a strategic dismemberment. A must-own for anyone with a PS4 and a strong incentive to buy the console, Horizon is gobsmackingly good. Buy it. Play it. Love it. Zoe Delahunty-Light

Game of the Month - Jan. (Runner-up) - Yakuza 0

Format(s): PS4

Like the economic boom of 1980s Japan, Yakuza 0 is absolutely overflowing with riches. It's a massive game, filled with so many different things to see and do. Digital recreations of actual Japanese cities burst at the seams with crowds and gaudy neon lights. Citizens provide a variety of highly entertaining and completely off-the-wall side quests. Arcades provide emulated versions of Sega classics. Entire businesses can be managed to provide you with additional wealth. It's also as strange as it is massive, wearing its cultural origins on its sleeve as a badge of pride, but at its heart lies a truly gripping and emotional crime drama that explores the origins of the series' two most popular characters. If you've heard tales of Yakuza's intoxicating brew of absurdist humor and melodrama and haven't taken the plunge yet, there's no better place to start than Yakuza 0. David Roberts

Game of the Month - Jan. (Winner) - Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Format(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC

Even without that Resident Evil name attached, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a great game. Alone that should be recommendation enough. It's a fantastic piece of gaming horror, with a perfect blend of gore and scares, troubling quiet and all the screaming. Not only does it use its first person perspective to great, claustrophobic effect, making every corner a nightmare-inducing ordeal, it's a great change of pace tonally from the previous game's over the top action - focusing instead on smaller spaces and a more intimate cast as you explore the Bakers’ house in search of your missing wife. With its less extravagant scale, it exudes character as you avoid Jack, Marguerite and Lucas' unwanted attention and creep through rotting corridors. It still feels like Resident Evil as you juggle your inventory, or back away from hideous shuffling abominations, but modern films and games like PT have clearly made their mark on the series. It's also amazing in PSVR if you can stomach it, using virtual reality to unleash a whole new kind of terror only the brave will see through to the end. Leon Hurley