The 20 Best Videogames of 2017 (So Far)

Games Lists Best of 2017
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The 20 Best Videogames of 2017 (So Far)

There are no good years for videogames, and no bad years. They’re all just years, with some really good games, some really bad ones, and a bunch of forgettable ones in-between. Those numbers fluctuate from year to year, but there’ll never be a shortage of stuff worth playing if you keep your mind (and wallet) open.

The first half of 2017 saw two games that would top lists like this in almost any year (scroll to the bottom of the next page if you want to spoil yourself), and several more worth seeking out and taking the time to learn. From console to PC to Nintendo’s new home/handheld hybrid, anybody with any system has had at least a handful of great games to play through so far this year. Here’s a look at our favorites so far.

20. For Honor

In an effort to capture the feel of weapon combat, Ubisoft created one of the most intense fighting games this generation, with a wrapper that finds a middle ground between Game of Thrones and Deadliest Warrior. You put yourself in the shoes of three factions—Samurai, Knights and Vikings—and pit the different character classes in each faction against each other. Players clang together swords of all types, offering far more diversity among fighting styles than one would expect from a limited toolset. The combat works on a foundation of roshambo, though trying to play without strategy will not get combatants very far. If a fighter is not reading what their opponent is thinking, then they will quickly find themselves outmatched and outpaced.—Imran Khan

19. Little Nightmares

Tarsier Studios’ Little Nightmares presents us with the third circle of Hell, wrapped into a Tim Burton-esque package comparable to PlayDead’s Limbo or Inside. In Little Nightmares, these nightmares are grotesque and terrifying. Tarsier Studios has crafted a hauntingly provocative story with its use of atmosphere, cultural themes, and fear of the unknown. Little Nightmares sends chills through your spins as you attempt to outrun people much larger—and thus, much faster—than you.—Jeremy Winslow

18. Nioh

[Nioh’s] combat is almost perfect, and I only hesitate to call it perfect because I don’t feel like I’ve mastered it. The Ki Pulse adds a dynamic feel to every battle, and even the simplicity of being able to see an enemy’s stamina bar as well as their health just makes it feel like every battle is a special, one on one encounter. Nioh’s combat feels fair; it feels balanced, and even tough battles feel surmountable.—Adam Cook

17. Tumbleseed

Tumbleseed is all about patience. Predicting the trajectory of the seed and adjusting the angle of the bar requires quick thinking, and steady fingers. The levels change every time the player restarts, and thus the layout cannot be memorized. They can only anticipate what types of enemies and obstacles may lay ahead based on the environment they’re playing in. The mountain has four separate ecosystems as the seed travels upward, and they offer a change of atmospheric pace as the game progresses. At a distance, the limited number of areas would suggest the game is short, but with the repetition the game’s difficulty demands, they’re actually quite long.—Holly Green

16. Torment: Tides of Numenera

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It is both a good thing and a bad thing that Torment: Tides of Numenera is novel-like in its ambitions and scope. It’s good in that I can say that the grand narrative payoff for the game is exquisite. It’s bad in that I cannot even give you one single plot point, because if I did I think it would ruin it. I would strongly suggest that you don’t read anything about the game’s story going in. Instead, just pay attention to what everyone tells you, and eventually you get to see these micro and macro story threads build up into a beautiful latticework of narrative. It really is wonderful.—Cameron Kunzelman

15. Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

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In a world of HD rehashing and the seemingly obligatory impulse to re-render old games with the latest in photorealistic graphics tech, it warms my heart to witness the stylistic human touch of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap. It’s a splendid homage, a playable history exercise, and an unexpected touchpoint for the expressive potential of hand-drawn animation in 2017.—Dan Solberg

14. Rain World

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It’s hard not to be charmed by Rain World. Trying to fit it into a traditional game genre (or even suggesting that it is a SomeGame-like) probably does it a disservice. It is wholly unique; that’s excellent in some ways and very, very frustrating in others.Rain World is a beautiful, forward-thinking game that points to a form of game design that I want to see more of. I just wish it made itself a little more accessible.—Cameron Kunzelman

13. Arms

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Arms is more than a game about fighting; it is a reminder of genre’s stagnation. Just like a bicep will atrophy in absence of exercise, so too will a category of game (“one-on-one-fighting game”, for example) become stunted by too many me-too attempts. There is both unlimited room and potential for videogames and yet the market is oversaturated with games that rely on stale conventions. Playing Arms feels both intuitive and strange. Stand in front of your TV with a Joy-con in each hand and you feel more connected to your character than in a typical 2D Street Fight. While Arms presents itself as a fighting game, in a way, it has become a sneaky demonstration of the limitations of the genre’s defining features.—Jon Irwin

12. Resident Evil 7

I enjoy a good horror game, and I’ve played through lots of horror titles in a variety of different genres. Nothing has bothered me as much as Resident Evil 7. There is something in the game’s specific combination of ambient sounds, level design, lack of soundtrack, and camera acceleration speed that ended up ticking all of the boxes for making me feel profoundly and disturbingly anxious while playing the game …Resident Evil 7 is so anxiety-inducing, I had to get someone to come play it with me. And I’m glad I did, because the game is probably best experienced in pairs. Its story is told in fits and starts, providing several opportunities to theorize about what is actually going on. Being a first-person horror game, there’s a lot of time spent avoiding enemies and slowly creeping down hallways, and we spent a lot of that time between story beats hollering about what the game’s story was even about at that point in time.—Cameron Kunzelman

11. Gnog

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KO_OP’s candy-colored Gnog is as much of an interactive toy box as a game, especially in VR. It situates its puzzles in a series of three-dimensional boxes that have to be poked, prodded, turned and explored as you try to figure out the exact right way to interact with it. With its fanciful, lightly psychedelic images, and its warm electronic score, Gnog is a soothing multimedia treat.—Garrett Martin