Don’t let anyone tell you that 2017 wasn’t a great year for games. Any year when Nintendo launches a new console plus new Mario and Zelda games is going to be a biggie, but this one also saw some brilliant new IPs and some of gaming’s biggest franchises back on form.
Whether you wanted to play hard-as-nails action games, high-speed racers or soulful indie gems, 2017 had you covered. In fact, the problem this year wasn’t the games, but simply finding the time to play them in.
That quality is reflected in the games that haven’t made it into the TR top ten. Nex Machina, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and FIFA 18 were all near misses. The year saw three amazing racers – Project Cars 2, F1 2017 and Forza Motorsport 7 – plus the slightly controversial Gran Turismo: Sport, yet none of them quite made the cut.
In Nioh, Team Ninja put out its strongest game in years, yet the bastard-hard Souls-a-like didn’t break our top ten. Nor could the Middle Earth epic, Shadow of War or Destiny 2. And while Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Call of Duty: World War 2 showed the two mega franchises revitalised, they still couldn’t crack our list. What did? Read on to discover our games of the year for 2017.
1 of 10
On paper, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe shouldn’t be here. It’s just Mario Kart 8 with all the Wii U version’s DLC bundled, plus the return of the 200cc tournaments and Battle Mode. In the flesh, however, it’s a different proposition; the best Mario Kart ever running on its ideal platform.
It’s stupidly fast, crazily fun and packed out with Nintendo stars and legendary tracks. Smart assists give kids (and less-skilled players) a chance to compete, and it looks gorgeous both on your telly and on the go. Split the switch Joy-Cons and you’re ready for multiplayer wherever you go, while the online action is every bit as good. Like Arms and Splatoon 2, it’s a perfect Switch social game, but also compelling on your tod. Just try and put it down.
2 of 10
Rime wears its inspirations on its sleeve – a little Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker here, a little Ico there, a little Journey. Yet its triumph is that it’s more than just an homage. It’s a stunning piece of work on a visual level, with its simple cel-shaded graphics elevated by the use of light and colour, and it’s blessed with a beautiful score. And while the platforming isn’t that challenging, Rime makes up for it through the way you explore mysterious environments and solve ingenious puzzles, the game teaching you basic principles then pushing you to take the next step. Yet what really earns Rime its top-ten position is the way it uses all this stuff to tell an affecting story that couldn’t be experienced any other way. We’ve seen dozens of arthouse games trying to be the next Journey. Rime’s the only one to come close.
3 of 10
Let’s just put it out there: the best fighting games of this console generation haven’t come from Capcom or Namco, but from a team of Midway and WB Games veterans that many wrote off years ago. In Mortal Kombat, Injustice and Mortal Kombat X, that team showed a new style of beat-em-up, embracing cinematic visuals, cool character design and slick mechanics, along with a great, story-based approach to the single-player campaign.
Injustice 2 takes that even further, with an RPG-style Gear System and the greatest roster of heroes and villains in any superhero brawler. Forget Dawn of Justice; Injustice 2 is the real Batman Vs Superman, not to mention the real Wonder Woman vs Harley Quinn, Deadshot vs Cyborg and Green Lantern vs Darkseid. It’s a game that appeals to hardcore beat-em-up fans, comic geeks and casual players alike. Want a deep fighting game? You’ve got it, but if you just want to prove that Scarecrow can take Joker, that’s great too.
4 of 10
FIFA was back on form this year and PES 2018 gave it strong competition, yet 2017’s best sports game wasn’t played out on the world’s greatest pitches but on the polished courts of North America. Like the real thing, NBA 2K18 is demanding, aggressive and tactical, pushing you to out-think your opponents as much as out-shoot them. The rendering of the players and arenas is now damn-near photorealistic, while the animation is superbly lifelike. The pre- and post-match presentation blows just about everything else away.
Yet NBA 2K18 makes its incredible on-court play the focus of a huge range of modes and mini-games, including a superb career mode and solid online and offline multiplayer. If you love basketball it’s a no-brainer. Even if you don’t. it’s a mighty game.
5 of 10
Resident Evil 6 was a low-point for the series; a game so lacking in direction that its three parts felt like three different crap horror games. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 was a big improvement, but also a step backwards into Resi’s comfort zone. There’s nothing easy or comfortable at all about Resident Evil 7, which reframes the series as grungy, claustrophobic, first-person survival horror, heavy on the terror, light on the Scooby Doo villains and baroque over-plotting.
Sneaking around the Baker farmhouse, avoiding the monstrous family gave us the kind of tension, release and sudden shocks that we haven’t had since the glory days of RE4 and Silent Hill 2, making Resi something it hasn’t been in years: scary. Lord knows how Capcom will follow it, but Resident Evil is back on its feet once more, and striding purposefully towards a gore-stained future.
6 of 10
OK, so the notion of an Uncharted without Nathan Drake sounded about as appealing as a Sonic game starring Tails and Knuckles. Yet The Lost Legacy is more than just a spin-off – it might be a little shorter, but it’s still very much the real deal. For one thing, it gives Naughty Dog another chance to explore the kind of freeform, open-world adventuring it tried out in Uncharted 4. For another, it polishes the platforming, puzzle-solving and gunplay to a flawless sheen.
In its India setting, Naughty Dog conjured verdant jungles and sun-drenched ruins to die for, looking spectacular on checkerboard 4K and HDR on PS4 Pro. Yet in Chloe Fraser and Nadine Ross, it also found two protagonists you could connect with and root for. Uncharted doesn’t need Nathan Drake after all – just heroes you grow to love and a ripping yarn to spin around them.
7 of 10
Here’s what we expected from a Wolfenstein sequel: ultra-violent Nazi-blasting, gruesome body horror, weird dieselpunk technology and the most despicable and deranged villains outside a Metal Gear. The New Colossus gave us all of this and then some, with classic old-school shooter action through Nazi airships and the streets of Nazi-occupied America rendered in the most spectacular visual style.
If you want to tackle hordes of Stormtroopers, stomping mechs and armoured Panzerhunds, this is very much your bag. Yet MachineGames also went deeper, pivoting from gung-ho carnage and black humour to something sadder and angrier, confronting the real-world horrors of intolerance and a bigoted, bullying, might-is-right world view. Sometimes the mix is uncomfortable, but this wasn’t just the best shooter of 2017 but the right shooter for 2017.
8 of 10
After four episodes of Killzone, Guerrilla Games must have longed to escape the restrictions of its sci-fi shooter series; its sombre colour palette, its scripted levels, its unremitting action and grim world view. Horizon: Zero Dawn feels like the product of a studio set free, combining open-world exploration with RPG elements in a beautiful post-apocalyptic landscape.
It’s a game where you scavenge and battle your way through hostile territory, fighting astounding mechanical beasts, but it’s held together by a powerful setting and what might be the most amazing, jaw-dropping visuals of any modern console game. The landscapes come straight from a fantasy painting, while their denizens defy belief. Not every studio can create an epic to match The Witcher 3, but if Guerrilla sometimes faltered on the gameplay front, it made up for it with 4K HDR graphics to die for.
9 of 10
You could argue that recent Super Mario games have played it safe, either finding new twists on the classic 2D formula (Hi, New Super Mario Bros U) or going for multiplayer laughs and brilliant level design at the expense of innovation (Hello, Super Mario 3D World). With Super Mario Odyssey, however, Nintendo is back pushing boundaries and coming up with crazy ideas, just like in the Mario Galaxy era or the ground-breaking Super Mario 64.
Cappy the hat is more than just a FLUDD-style gimmick, giving Mario cool new abilities and the power to possess iconic baddies. The different worlds, like the urban Metro Kingdom or the Mediterranean Seaside Kingdom, are some of the most beautiful and magical that Nintendo has ever produced, but there’s also a new freedom to the structure, rewarding your desire to go everywhere, try everything. Looking incredible and oozing fun from every pore, Odyssey is a real contender for the best-ever Mario.
Nintendo has had an amazing year, but Breath of the Wild is something else; a Zelda so good that we might start comparing subsequent games to it, not Ocarina of Time. Nintendo is often accused of working in a bubble and of recycling the same old formulas with minor twists, giving fans just what they expected. Breath of the Wild blows both arguments out of the water, taking ideas from Western fantasy RPG – with a unique Nintendo twist – while ripping up the Zelda playbook.
Every Zelda has its own sense of adventure and discovery, but Breath of the Wild put it right at the heart of the game, always leaving you wondering what you’ll find when you reach that mountain peak or delve into that half-glimpsed shrine. As Brett says in his review, it’s a game of ‘wonderful lightbulb moments’ where everything from the cooking to the combat to some brilliantly silly side-quests feels rewarding. In a year with several classics, it still stands out.