The best games of 2017 - the 25 games you should definitely play

15. NieR: Automata

Developer: Platinum Games  
Formats: PS4

What is it? A hack-and-slash romp through a post-apocalyptic Earth... with an existentialist twist

Why should you play it? Simply put, NieR Automata is the best game Hideo Kojima never made. Boasting a deceptively deep story and wonderfully winding twists and turns, the second entry in the NieR saga combines the meta-narrative kookiness of creator Yoko Taro and fuses it with the pulsating pace of Platinum’s unique blend of frenzied action. The end result? One of 2017’s best hidden gems. 2B and 9S’s journey is packed with the kind of emotional gravitas rarely seen in the medium, exposing the player to something far beyond the Philosophy 101 textbook utilised by most of its peers. But that accounts for nothing if the gameplay isn’t up to scratch. Thankfully, this is Bayonetta on steroids: every weighty blow, slash, and parry makes each enemy encounter feel utterly electric. If you haven’t played it already, what are you waiting for? If you have: play it again, and again, and again (there are 26 endings, you know). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry; you’ll want to blindfold yourself and start quoting Nietzsche. Not many games this year can make you do that now, can they? Bradley Russell

14. Friday the 13th

Developer: IllFonic
Formats:
PS4, Xbox One, PC

What is it? A winsome, giddy, multiplayer tribute to the essence of '80s slasher movies, with beheadings, betrayals, and bloody funny screw-ups aplenty.

Why should you play it? If ever there was a 'Little game that could' in 2017, it was IllFonic's Friday the 13th. An asymmetric survival game or tactical murder simulator (depending on whether you play a hapless teen or Jason himself), what the game might lack in AAA polish, it more than makes up for in love for both the source material and the human, player experience. Giving survivors just enough tools to scavenge and improvise all manner of hilariously desperate escape plans, and Jason a suite of satisfying, creative powers with which to recreate the authentic, supernatural slasher experience (variable depending on which movie's version of the hockey-masked teen-botherer you use), if you play with a group of friends, Friday the 13th delivers endlessly exciting, funny, and unpredictably dynamic fun, with replay value forever. The innovative, proximity-based chat system (which means you can only talk to other players when you find them, and Jason can overhear careless strategy chatter) is almost worth the price of entry alone. David Houghton 

13. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

Developer: Ubisoft Paris/Milan
Format:
Nintendo Switch

What is it? A turn-based, class-driven, tactical squad shooter, in which Mario, Luigi, and a bunch of Rabbids take out bad Rabbids in a whimsical, family-friendly way. Really. 

Why should you play it? Because, despite sounding like it was conceptualised from some weird, internet game-idea generator (‘It's XCOM, but set in the Mushroom Kingdom, and it's developed by Ubisoft!’), Battle Kingdom is one of the freshest, most surprising, and most coherently clever games of the year. Transposing XCOM's layered, strategic depth without compromise, via a delightfully friendly, slow-burn difficulty curve, the game delivers all the systemic meat you could desire, while being relentlessly light, zesty, and downright funny throughout. A perfect Nintendo game, just not made by Nintendo. David Houghton

12. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

Developer: Bluehole/PUBG Inc.  
Formats: PC, Xbox One

What is it? A hundred-player battle in which everyone starts with no weapons and no objective aside from ‘be the last one standing’. Find a gun and shoot straight.

Why should you play it? Maybe it sounds like a thin tweak on the usual ‘shoot at folks online’ formula, but PUBG feels worlds apart from anything else (aside from the mods it builds on, and other shooters emerging to imitate it). Watching the living player count tick down from the 90s into the teens as you implausibly survive - maybe you found a sniper rifle and dropped that count by a good portion yourself, maybe you stole said sniper's car and sped away under fire, or maybe you just hid in a bathtub for 15 minutes - is thrilling as it is anxiety producing. Inexplicable electric walls of death close in and PUBG transforms from scavenging-n-skirmishes to deadly hide and seek. Maybe you'll take that last shot and emerge with a "Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner". More likely you'll die. Either way, you'll queue right back up to try again. Connor Sheridan

11. Prey

Developer: Arkane  
Formats: PS4, Xbox One, PC

What is it? A spooky sci-fi FPS, set aboard a space station crawling with goopy, tar-black aliens called the Typhon who love to mimic objects and hide in plain sight.

Why should you play it? Ignore the ill-advised use of an existing, totally unrelated game name - this Prey has way more in common with the classic System Shock series (which paved the way for BioShock) and their palpable, stifling sense of you're-not-alone atmosphere. You can play your male or female version of Morgan Yu however you see fit; perhaps you'll roleplay the sneaky scientist who scavenges thoroughly and clings to their humanity, or succumb to the siren song of reality-bending, DNA-tainting alien abilities in the name of survival (and totally sweet powers). The Talos-1 space station might appear to be an expansive, tastefully art-deco-designed facility - but in practice, it's more like a giant playground where you can experiment with all your inventive weaponry (like the Elmers-blasting, enemy-encasing GLOO Cannon) and newfound abilities in the name of creative, often lethal problem-solving. When you first break through the looking glass (quite literally), the extraterrestrial invaders aboard the ship will have you doubting every ordinary object for fear of a sudden shadowy tendril to the face. But by the end of your seemingly impossible mission, you'll have left so many Typhon corpses in your wake that nothing in the infinite void of space could scare you. Maybe you'll even be able to morph into a coffee cup. Lucas Sullivan

10. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Developer: Naughty Dog   
Format: PS4

What is it? A brand new Uncharted story, without Nathan Drake, but with all the explosions and the action. 

Why should you play it? For something that started out life as a piece of story DLC for Uncharted 4, The Lost Legacy grew into something that was much, much more than that. Playing out like a perfect greatest hits album of everything Naughty Dog, The Lost Legacy quickly cemented itself as one of the best games of 2017. Previous villains Chloe and Nadine moved into the roles of dual heroines, bringing sarcasm and a little sensitivity to complement the legacy left by Nathan Drake. It offers the kind of storytelling that only Naughty Dog can deliver, with brilliant performances from Claudia Black and Laura Bailey, which - when combined with the usual explosive Uncharted action - makes for a gorgeous gaming experience of blockbuster proportions. Sam Loveridge

9. Cuphead

Developer: Studio MDHR   
Format: Xbox One, PC

What is it? A 2D platforming shooter with an authentically vintage cartoon presentation and the old-school challenge to match.

Why should you play it? Cuphead is right up there with Contra and Metal Slug in the pantheon of stellar co-op run-'n'-gun gauntlets, enchanting onlookers with its delightful style and engrossing players with demanding (but always defeatable) difficulty. The painstakingly hand-drawn animation, gorgeous watercolor backdrops, and peppy big band score make every level feel like a playable 1930s cartoon, and the emphasis on boss fights gets you into the white-knuckle, blistered-thumbs action straight away. Even if you seemingly hit a snag on your way to a date with The Devil, you'll feel your pattern recognition skills and twitch reflexes burgeoning with every battle - until finally, you taste sweet victory. Moments later, you'll jump back into the fray for the next fight and start the journey all over again. Even when a boss cleans your clock for the 12th straight time, Cuphead and Mugman's jolly tenacity is infectious, and serves as an encouraging reminder: you'll get 'em next time. Or the time after that. However long it takes, really - because it's all worth it for that deserved sense of satisfaction that comes with besting a challenge through sheer ability. Lucas Sullivan

8. Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus

Developer: Machine Games
Formats: Xbox One, PS4, PC

What is it? A Nazi-blasting, alternate universe FPS, with a sense of humour, a memorable cast, and a huge stack of violence. 

Why should you play it? Wolfenstein 2 is a slick shooter, sure, with some impressive set-pieces and a bunch of satisfyingly lethal weapons to fire. What sets it apart, however, is the bizarre, likeable cast of characters that populate its richly detailed world. This is exemplified by protagonist BJ Blazkowicz himself, who is given way more depth than his meat-headed one-man-army appearance suggests, thanks to a touching, brutal backstory and plenty of tender scenes with his partner and unborn child. In stark contrast, key antagonist Frau Engel is a near-perfectly played villain, with some truly foul scenes and an overt display of madness that makes her one of the most hateful figures in games. The supporting cast is full of real characters too, making it a pleasure to spend time in the moments when you’re not shooting the teeth out of comically malevolent Nazis. The campaign itself is very substantial, the shooting slick, and only the occasional difficulty spike spoils an otherwise excellent story-based FPS. Andy Hartup

7. Destiny 2

Developer: Bungie
Formats: PC, PS4, Xbox One

What is it? A streamlined return to Bungie's usually brilliant, occasionally broken world of online shooting. Not a reinvention of the Destiny formula, but still different enough to feel new.

Why should you play it? In the months since Destiny 2 arrived, it's collected enough negative PR to give a Fallen Champion a full set of black eyes. All of those odd and frustrating decisions - from consumable shaders to weird vault sorting to hidden XP scaling - are important, and Bungie should be held to account for them. But even with all that, Destiny 2 is still some of the most fun you can have playing an online shooter with friends. Years later it remains miraculous that Bungie managed to take the lessons it learned from redefining shooters with Halo and apply them to an incredibly polished and rewarding online RPG core. With the dawn of Destiny 2, the best elements of that experience are accessible for everyone, not just perk-balancing spreadsheet warriors who commit hours of their lives to grinding and reading forum posts about metas. Ideally you'll have a full fireteam to enjoy the challenge of the Raid and high-end PvP events like Trials of the Nine yourself, but even if you don't, the story campaign is worth playing all by itself. Connor Sheridan

6. Resident Evil 7

Developer: Capcom
Formats: PC, PS4, PSVR, Xbox One

What is it? A return to form for the classic survival horror series, taking its inspiration from the crazy redneck section of the horror movie canon. 

Why should you play it? The Resident Evil series might be more than 20 years old, but the latest instalment is a high point for Capcom's brutal behemoth. It's smartly light on the Resi lore and takes its cues instead from movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. As Ethan Winters, your classic gaming everyman, you're searching for your wife, Mia, but end up running into the batshit insane Baker family instead. Trapped on their property you have to make the most of the scattered weapons, limited ammo and hiding places nestled between piles of rotting meat, debris and broken down remainders of a family home. There are jumps, tough battles and plenty of secrets, and like any good horror it keeps up the pace to make sure you're never too comfortable. The Resi hardcore will love it, able to feel the old game's skeleton underneath the shiny new skin, and first timers will have the ride of their life in a game that feels totally up to date. The PSVR mode was a genius addition too, and there really isn't a better showcase for the technology on PlayStation. Rachel Weber