I thought I was hallucinating when I saw that June was creeping to a close. We're officially half-way done with 2017, and it's been a pretty shitty year in the world.
But not in games. In the world of video games, there have been dozens upon dozens of solid games already released. On my personal list, I wonder if any of the year's upcoming games will have the weight to usher themselves into my top 10, because that's just how strong this year of games has already been.
We at USgamer have come together to write about some of our favorite games of the year so far. Maybe not definitive bests, per say, but the games that stick out on our mind when we think "2017 has been a good year for games." From the biggest games of the year to some notable indies, these are our favorite games of 2017, as of six months into the year.
Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood
PC, PlayStation 4 - Our Review
"Mike, this is an expansion," you say. It is. It's an expansion with 40+ hours of story and gameplay. It's an expansion which in some place tells a better story than some mainline Final Fantasy games. Full of great characters, of heroes and villains, of amazing moments and huge plot turns. Square Enix has some of its best people working on FFXIV and it shows.
Is it hard to get into? Very much so. You can't just jump in on the latest stuff like you can in some massively multiplayer games. Square Enix prizes the story highly in Final Fantasy XIV, meaning you have to start at the beginning. That's every story quest since the game launched back in 2013 in its A Realm Reborn format. But if you commit, if you walk up that very steep hill, the view at the end is simply amazing. Stormblood is worth the price of admission, in dollars and time. —Mike
PC - Our Impressions
Dead Cells is still in Early Access on Steam, but it's shaping up to be something amazing. That's not because it does anything wildly innovative. A procedurally-generated roguelike Metroidvania is something that's frankly a dime a dozen in indie circles these days. If I described the game in bullet point, you'd simply go, "Oh, another one."
Where Dead Cells excels is in the details, in the gameplay. It's one of the tightest playing side-scrollers I've played in a very long while. Movement and combat feel great, and with such precision in the play, when you fail, you know it's on your shoulders. Dead Cells moves at a brisk pace and once you pick up some weapons you dig and find your flow, the game just opens up to you immensely. I can't wait to see how the game improves as it heads towards a full launch. —Mike
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Nintendo Switch, Wii U - Our Review
Unf. What a beauty. Nintendo explicitly set out to make Breath of the Wild a game where you can go anywhere and do anything, and it delivers. There aren't many games out there that offer a world as open, interactive, and gorgeous as this one. Think Skyrim, but with fewer Dragonborn flying inexplicably into the sky after getting clubbed by a giant.
Hardcore Zelda fans rightfully point out that Breath of the Wild prioritizes overworld exploration over traditional dungeon puzzle-solving. That's true, and if dungeons are your main joy in Zelda games, I expect Breath of the Wild might not even rank amongst your very favorites. Me, though? Just give me some horses to ride, some mountains to climb, and some Moblins to mess up. I'm good. —Nadia
PlayStation 4, PC - Our Review
Every time I recommend Nier: Automata to a friend who isn't as closely tuned into game news, I always get a questioning gaze. Like a confused puppy turning their head to a 45 degree angle, as if to say, "That game? With the android in an impossibly short dress?" in a sarcastic tone. "Yes," I'd say. "That game." Nier: Automata, at a glance and unknowing of director Yoko Taro's history, might seem like just another PlatinumGames action game. But its power blossoms beyond that.
It's astoundingly rare for games to directly twist how we engage with them, whether on a tangible level in terms of how we play them, or on an emotional one. Nier: Automata is the rare game that does both. It arrests your focus at the start with how it bounces between playstyles, where in the blink of an eye you're in a top-down shooter and a second later throwing swords at machines on foot. And later, it grabs hold of your emotions, right down to its final quiet decision. Games like Nier: Automata don't come along often. —Caty
Night in the Woods
PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, Linux - Our Impressions
Night in the Woods is a game you can knock out in a weekend, but don't let that stop you from experiencing this beautiful and heartfelt adventure. Night in the Woods is a game about turning away from your future to double-back and face your demons. It also touches on deep friendships, the simmering resentment between generations, the decline of the American Dream, and bashing florescent lights with baseball bats.
Night in the Woods is a short game, but I enjoyed every minute I spent with it. I also added "Food Donkey," "Ham Panther," "Donut Wolf," and "Snack Falcon" to my vernacular. A win all around. —Nadia
PlayStation 4 - Our Review
Nioh exemplifies the very best traits of Dark Souls, taking a punishing combat system in a dark, dreary world and putting a unique spin on both. A different monster lurks around every corner in the world of Nioh, each presenting a different combat scenario to the next, with some being hulking demonic creatures and others coming in the form of rapid samurai warriors. Every mission and location is varied in their structure, as some maps have wide open spaces, while others are made up of interweaving corridors, with treasure items hiding well off the beaten path. Nioh features a punishing, frenetic combat system that challenges the player to master dodging and other skillful moves, all while providing the player with hours of varied locations and exciting enemies. —Hirun
PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 - Our Review
Like a lot of players, my first experience with the Persona series was with Persona 3 on the PlayStation 2. It was around there that Atlus’ teen drama RPG first flirted with mainstream popularity, before exploding onto the gaming zeitgeist with Persona 4 (and its many, many spinoffs). Persona 5 somehow manages to surpass all previous expectations, offering the most robust version of all of Persona’s various social mechanics.
Sure, the dungeon-crawling is better the fifth time around, but the social links are Persona’s bread-and-butter. Persona 5 lets you explore a huge, metropolitan city for the first time, discovering new and interesting places for you to invite your buds or potential love interests. At five entries, the seams of Persona 5’s writing begins to show (it might be too anime for its own good), but in regards to themes, gameplay, and visual design, Persona 5 is the best version of the Persona franchise to date and one of the year’s most compelling 100-hour RPGs. —Matt
PC - Our Impressions
A round of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, the wildly popular Battle Royale game, is like a three-act play. There's a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning is a frenzy: it could be a bloodbath, or it could be quiet preparation. If you're in a squad, you joke around, pass along items to share. This is the base of a match. The middle is when the tension truly sets in. You're well-stocked, you're ready to kill—but honestly, you'd rather not. The goal in Battlegrounds is to survive, not accumulate headshots. The middle is where the tension seeps into everything else, because you never know when the end is right around the corner. Whether returning fire in the top 10 as the circle encloses or a shotgun blast to the torso as you open a door, the end is what you fear the most. And that real, tangible fear is what makes Battlegrounds resonate. —Caty
Resident Evil 7
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC - Our Review
Yes, Resident Evil 7 going first-person is a bit shameless after P.T., but Resident Evil 7 was purely a Capcom joint. I’d even go as far as to say that Resident Evil 7 felt like the most traditional Resident Evil game in long time. The Baker House is an amazing setting for a horror game, trading in the sprawl of the Spencer Mansion for a claustrophobic nightmare house.
Although some reviewers had issues with the game’s sudden tonal shift in the latter half of the game, I found Resident Evil 7’s more modern, “action-y” end-game portions to be a welcome catharsis for the raw-nerve tension the game builds throughout its first half. Even if the next Resident Evil game isn’t in first-person, I hope Capcom keeps the spirit of experimentation that made Resident Evil 7 feel so alive for the first time in years. —Matt
PC, Xbox One - Our Review
I'm a sucker for cyberpunk bullshit. And in most cases, cyberpunk is so dreary. There's dark alleys and rain and grime; while nearly all cyberpunk cities don't look the same, they share the same vibe. The isometric open world game Tokyo 42 does not. It offers a cyberpunk city that shines bright with primary colors and pastel hues; its architecture is modern, pristine, with hard edges. Tokyo 42, right down to its anti-capitalist tale, is still cyberpunk though. It's just not afraid to have fun with it. It namedrops all the stylish cyberpunk skewing narratives in the book—from Akira to Blade Runner. It's a game that took me twice as long to complete as I expected it to. That wasn't solely because of its challenging campaign, but rather, the world surrounding it. The world of Tokyo 42 is so damn easy to get lost in. —Caty
What Remains of Edith Finch
PlayStation 4, PC - Our Review
The term "walking simulator" has always drawn ire. I dislike it because it relegates games with minimal interaction, typically about telling a story, to just the singular movement of motioning forward. Others use it to justify not giving the games of its ilk a chance. But even for the naysayers, What Remains of Edith Finch is essential playing, just as Gone Home once was. What Remains of Edith Finch pins you as the young Edith Finch, returning back to her decrepit childhood home to learn about the family she never knew. You see, the Finch family suffers from a curse (or just really terrible luck), something that's caused everyone in Edith's family to perish in one way or another.
The quirk in Edith Finch isn't that you're exploring the tomb-like home to learn about her family, it's that you directly enter the memories of her family all along the way. In one you're the little cousin she never knew. In another, you're a dad hunting with his daughter. The memories in Edith Finch are so varied, exciting, but they're always sobering. Because no matter what, you know it'll end in death. —Caty
PlayStation 4, PC - Our Impressions
Yakuza 0 is kind of a perfect storm: It's a standalone prequel, making it an ideal entry point for new fans; it's set in the 80s, so it's a great nostalgia piece, and it's hilarious. Its knack for putting hardened Yakuza thugs into ridiculous situations often makes for comedy gold. That last aspect has made Yakuza 0 a social media darling.
Yakuza 0 is game about violent criminals with eyepatches and hearts of gold. pic.twitter.com/S6L3zBKm12— Karla Kolumna (@sofakissen) June 23, 2017
With that, Yakuza has finally broken out of its tiny niche and into something resembling the mainstream, even if it's mostly still a cult hit. If you haven't played it, then now is the time to experience this delightful series for yourself. After all, punching thugs in the back alleys of Shinjuku never gets old. —Kat
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