Our personal favorites that just missed GOTY 2017

Lego Dimensions 

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360

Sadly, we're never going to see the third year of Lego: Dimensions that developers Traveller's Tales intended (with its rumoured Lord Vortech figure) - but let's appreciate what we have. This isn't ‘toys to life', but amazing-Lego-that-should-never-have-existed-to-life, giving us brick-perfect representations of cult characters such as E.T., The Powerpuff Girls, and Knight Rider. Most intoxicatingly, it's a universe where Superman can fly through Springfield and locate Mayor Quimby Easter eggs. I played it - and continue to play it - with my children (ages 4 and 9) for over two years, who obsess over its minutiae and enjoy just being in the world. There aren't many games that truly cater to younger players (try explaining even the most simple game ‘logic' to a small child), yet Lego Dimensions makes walking around and swapping figures off the ‘dimension portal' fun.

For adults, it's as layered an experience as the best Lego Star Wars or Marvel games, brimming with brisk one-liners. "Let's settle this once and for all!", Superman declares to Batman, "...coffee or tea?" The Portal level pack is inventive, faithful to source, and likely as close as we'll ever get to Portal 3 - but with better in-jokes and added Wonder Woman. Cost was always Lego Dimensions' achilles heel, with packs ranging from £14-£35, but this is testament to the quality of the figures, produced to highest Lego standards and the sheer love, wit, and depth of each character's world. The game's existence is a borderline miracle of licensing complexities, imagination, retail logistics and craft. Let's just be thankful it occurred in our reality, and not a parallel dimension. Dan Dawkins 

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm 

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC, iOS

Life Is Strange: Before The Storm had no right to be this touching. Despite knowing the fate of both lead characters, Chloe and Rachel, this prequel to Life Is Strange spins one of the most engaging, charming, and heartbreaking stories of the year. And it does so with understated style, from the beautiful soundtrack to the thoughtful camera angles to the little nods and references for the original game. Before The Storm makes us forget about the tragic end so we can focus on the wonderful journey. Dealing with themes of teenage love, bereavement, and fragmented families (to name a few of the bigger ones), this three-part game never feels overblown or melodramatic, reveling in the small, intimate moments that often speak louder about the subject matter than any of the clearly flagged moral choices you need to make along the way. The only reason Before The Storm didn't make our GOTY list is that the final chapter hadn't released before we'd finished the shortlisting process. It's a touching, slow-paced story that you should definitely make time to play… even if you know how it's all going to end. Andy Hartup

Monument Valley 2 

Platform(s): iOS and Android

If anyone dismisses mobile games as "not proper games", Monument Valley 2 is one that's proving them wrong. For anyone who hasn't played the original, the basic premise is that it's a puzzler where you've got to get a mute protagonist from one end of a level to the other - but each level is set out like an interactive M.C. Escher painting. Tap, slide, and gently prod the scenery and watch it contort and transform to reveal different pathways. There's an overriding narrative too, about a mother and daughter, and at times it can get seriously emotional. Combine the stunning gameplay with a score that does the same to your feelings as you do to the environment, and you've got an afternoon of gaming that will blow most other mobile games - and console games alike - out of the running. Sam Loveridge 

Nidhogg 2 

Platform(s): PC, PS4

Nidhogg's single-minded focus on fencing made it a damn-near-perfect fighting game. But how do you create a sequel to that? Developer Messhof wisely chose to expand upward and outward for Nidhogg 2, leaving the core swordfighting system almost untouched while adding in new weapons and an unexpected art style shift. Not everyone will appreciate cycling between fencing foils, broadswords, daggers, and bows in the sequel, nor will they enjoy the squishy cartoon aesthetic. For those folks, the original Nidhogg remains. For everyone else, Nidhogg 2 is a treat. Even if you just sit back and enjoy its soundtrack. Connor Sheridan 

PES 2018 

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC

The patchy licensing borders on unacceptable, but in high-level online play, there are few games that scale such dizzy tactical and emotional highs as PES 2018. On the pitch, your reflexes, bravery, and understanding of the higher level controls (using quick D-pad double taps to alter your attack level, for example) can make the difference - but the game is really won and lost in the tactics menus. Subtle formation shifts and player instructions allow you to mimic real-world strategies (Gegenpressing, Tiki-Taka, Long Ball, etc.) to negate or overpower your opponent - y'know, like football. Imagine playing speed chess, but each encounter plays out like a Street Fighter battle. It's possible to utterly control an online opponent or, equally, be humiliated by them. Emotions don't get rawer than that. Dan Dawkins 

Sonic Mania 

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

Hey, look, it's the best Sonic game in over 20 years. It turns out, all you needed to do to break the dreaded ‘Sonic cycle' of perpetual disappointment was hire a bunch of guys who have lived and breathed Sonic for the majority of their waking lives. The result? A vibrant reimagining of classic Sonic locales, coupled with some fantastically over-the-top new stages to create something wholly new and fresh, while still paying respect to its forebears. Sure, the game leans a little heavily on the past at points, but you'll also be humming the Studiopolis track for days, so it evens itself out. One only has to look at Sonic Mania, dripping with care and compassion at every loop-the-loop and corkscrew, (and not Sonic Forces, for the love of God) to see an icon finally speed into relevancy after so long in the wilderness, trapped in the thicket of mediocrity. Bradley Russell 

Stardew Valley  

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC

Look, I know it's not a 2017 game, but given that we're in the year of the Switch, you're going to have to cut me some slack for only catching up now. While it might on the surface feel like Farmville minus the microtransactions - still a reason enough to play in my book - Stardew Valley is astonishingly layered. Sure, you could just water your crops all summer and make sure you have enough hay to feed your comedically named chickens in winter, or you could finish all the community bundles, learn to speak Goblin, explore Skull Caverns, hatch dinosaurs, or investigate the sewers, and make friends with monsters. Hell, even having a baby and then turning it into a dove at a shrine is on the table. Start at your peril. The rabbit hole keeps on going. Oh, and invest in wine. You're welcome. Louise Blain 

Tales of Berseria 

Platform(s): PS4, PC

Tales of Berseria is not at all for everyone, and therein lies the appeal. The cast is made up of characters like a half-demon samurai, a cursed pirate, and a magician with a pint-size sidekick. Phrases like "What'll it take to make you go all out?" and "My spear can cut through anything!" get tossed about on the regular. The battle system is practically inscrutable, tossing around words like "Artes," "Blast Gauge," "Soul Gauge," "Break Soul," and "Switch Blast," and you'll still be getting tutorial pop-ups dozens of hours into the story. It is unashamedly an anime-inspired JRPG, with all the highs and lows that come with such a label. But good God, if you love anime and can smile or laugh along with its abundance of cliches and well-worn tropes, you'll have a wonderful time - and an exceptional opening theme to add to your J-rock playlist. Sam Prell 

Yakuza 0 

Platform(s): PS4

For years, I had barely glanced at Yakuza. A series renowned for being a little madcap and, let's face it, a hard sell to the West was never going to register on my radar. That all changed with Yakuza 0's eventual worldwide release. Now I understand what the hushed, reverent tones reserved for the series were all about. Serving as an origin tale of sorts for series protagonists Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima, the Yakuza prequel sets out to envelop the player in Japanese culture, as well as its seedy underbelly. The gripping main narrative will take up the bulk of your time, but there's enough here to please those who'd rather not forge their way through the closest thing we'll get to a gaming Sopranos. Retro SEGA games in their original forms, underwater fighting arenas, and a Tapper-style cabaret club minigame - it's all here, and it's all brilliant. Yakuza 0 might just be the beginning of a journey into the best franchise you've never played. You can thank me later. Bradley Russell