The middle of the year saw the insane pace of massive worlds to explore slow down a little - but in it’s place, an extremely solid group of mostly single player focused experiences ranging from AAA down to tiny development teams and budgets. Every game listed below is worth exploring for its own rather niche reasons, be it space stations gone wrong, indie darlings long in the making or gripping experiences for the tactically inclined - with a few remasters thrown in for good measure.
Immersive sims have had a bit of a renaissance in the last couple years, culminating in Prey, a game that allows you to tackle the creatures of the Talos 1 space station in any way you choose. Go from a scared human with a wrench to a master of the station with an array of abilities and tools at your disposal, following clever story twists and turns along the way.
Yet another genre having a renaissance of its own, Injustice 2 is a fighting game worthy of its title. The concerns over balance regarding the modularity of characters subsided to show a fun and accessible yet deep and complex fighting game that will no doubt be a fixture in the scene for years to come.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
A full do-over remake of the second Fire Emblem game, Gaiden, which never saw a release in the west. Solid tactical battles meet new mechanics in dungeon exploration, with an interesting story focused around 2 young heroes.
While comparisons to The Witness are valid with this game, Rime stands on it’s own with it’s integrated puzzles and clever world exploration. Initial reactions were lower than expected due to the overwhelming expectations set on this game from years back, but Rime still manages to be a worthwhile puzzle game in it’s own right for the people who like that sort of thing.
A stylistic isometric open world shooter full of assassination and intrigue. Reminiscent of the original GTA.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
While this isn’t necessarily a new game, this remaster is probably one of the most anticipated collections for this generation of consoles. Crash has never looked so good, while a few additions such as having Coco playable in all 3 games are welcome. Turns out the games are still actually pretty hard!
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
FFXII is kind of a dark sheep for the series, having quite a different combat design that’s built around extreme micromanagement of your party. The few extra touches - such as a fast forward button - really pull this game together to make it worthwhile checking out in 2017.
Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles
Explore a gorgeous land without a care in the world in this cute adventure where death is impossible. No monsters will attack you, there’s no falling from great heights. Yonder is a peaceful space in a world of chaos.
The most common thing that is said with this game is “it’s more Splatoon”, which is true, and also exactly what it should be. The multiplayer is as awesome as ever, there’s a new single player portion to tackle, there’s new content dropping frequently and even a new horde style mode. Now that this is on Switch, more people than ever are being exposed to the weird wonderland that is Inkopolis.
Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator
We’re still on the precipice of games really getting representation right, but this visual novel takes the genre often attributed to one male dating multiple anime girls and creates a wholesome, feel-good game about a single dad managing his relationship with his daughter while dating other dads.
The developers behind Bastion & Transistor continued their trend of excellent game design with Pyre, a basketball cross visual novel hybrid game with a fascinating story. It’s the kind of game that’s hard to explain, but there’s a good reason why it’s on so many top 10 lists.
West of Loathing
Few games do comedy right, but West of Loathing takes a stick figure aesthetic in the wild west and injects humour by the truckload. Ultimately an adventure role playing game, slapstick comedy and clever narrative conceits are the key to making West of Loathing shine.
Fullbright’s sophomore work post Gone Home was always going to get attention, and Tacoma is a worthy successor to the game that brought walking sims mainstream. Another space station gone wrong romp, Tacoma builds on the genre mechanically to help flesh out an interesting futuristic story regarding the 6 (7?) occupants of the titular Tacoma station.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
The small to mid sized team at Ninja Theory have been creating fantastic adventures for years now, and with Hellblade the studio proves that jaw dropping visuals meeting a tight game are possible without blowout budgets. Hellblade’s exploration of mental illness through a Norse/Celtic mythology is definitely an experience worth having, preferably with headphones.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Expanding upon it’s initial plan of DLC for Uncharted 4, The Lost Legacy takes 2 of the series’ excellent characters and puts them in a slightly shorter adventure that feels tight and well directed. Potentially the best Uncharted game of the series, and at a cheaper price to boot.
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
When the leaks to this game dropped prior to E3, the gaming world lost their minds. "This is ridiculous" they said. "They’re ruining Mario!” they said. Turns out this Mario and Rabbids crossover works perfectly, with an XCOM style game built around the characters of Nintendo and Ubisofts library.
The Shrouded Isle
Finding the right balance between leading a good cult and sacrificing the right members to your blood god is always tricky. This text adventure is full of brilliant writing and difficult designs, with a cool aesthetic to go along with it.
Last Day of June
Without saying a single word, Last Day of June pulls on the heart strings in ways reminiscent of That Dragon, Cancer. Dealing with loss is a difficult, especially when it comes to someone you are so deeply in love with.
An interesting take on the text adventure format, Subsurface Circular a story of a detective searching for answers. From the creature of Thomas Was Alone and Volume.
XCOM 2: War of the Chosen
XCOM 2 was an alright game, but the expansion War of the Chosen is almost like the sequel Firaxis may not get to make. Expanding on the original game in a bunch of excellent ways, we see (among other things) the introduction of 3 procedurally generated hero enemies with their own random strengths and weaknesses to come and mess up your plans. Of all the XCOM from recent years, this is easily the best.
In the interest of keeping records, here are a bunch of other games of importance, for one reason or another, to be released this year, part 2: The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the Third, Birthdays The Beginning, Strafe, Akiba’s Beat, The Surge, Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception, Danger Zone, Tekken 7, Nex Machina, God Wars: Future Past, Ever Oasis, Get Even, Lone Echo, Miitopia, Sundered, Lawbreakers, Agents of Mayhem, Matterfall, Nidhogg 2, Absolver, Yakuza Kiwami, ARMS, Old Man’s Journey, Black The Fall, Aporia: Beyond the Valley, Kingdoms and Castles, Everybody’s Golf, Fortnite, Sonic Mania, Butterfly Soup, Monument Valley 2, Thimbleweed Park, Universal Paperclips, Dead Cells, Echo, Endless Space 2
See you tomorrow for the final third of the greatest games of 2017!