This year we decided to do something a little different for our Game of the Year. Since 2017 was such a big year in terms of the sheer quality and volume of video games coming out, we opted to do a Top 20 list, in addition to our personal top 10s that you found on the site all last week. So, all week long we're counting down our 20 favorite games of the year. Today we're listing off numbers 10 through 6. Enjoy!
10. Divinity: Original Sin 2
Available on: PC
The RPG genre within video games has its roots in the original Dungeons & Dragons pen-and-paper role-playing game. Most of the early games based their ideas on those established in D&D, like hit points, experience gain, and the colorful array of monsters that tend to pop up repeatedly. For a while, games did their best to get across that experience in a digital form. Over the past few years though, that fell by the wayside for grand epics delivered in high fidelity, with sprawling worlds and full voice acting. Now, I enjoy those games, but something was lost.
A number of games have gotten close to recapturing that original Dungeons & Dragons feeling. The revivals of early PC RPGs like Wasteland 2 and Pillars of Eternity. In that style, 2017 saw the release of a game that I feel has done the best so far at really making D&D in a digital form. That's Divinity: Original Sin 2.
Larian Studios was already working from a solid base, as Divinity: Original Sin and its following Enhanced Edition release already stood among the best in the genre. The sequel retained Original Sin's unique style of combat, which pushed the player to think of spells and skills in terms of combinations. As an example, let's say you have a target that's giving you trouble. You cast Decaying Touch, which gives them the Decay status, meaning healing hurts them. Then you cast Raining Blood, which covers the immediate battlefield in blood. Then you cast Blood Sucker on your target, which cause them to siphon up any blood in their immediate vicinity as healing. Since the Decaying Touch is active, this healing instead causes a ton of damage.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is full of combinations like that. Some are straight-forward, like using Rain and Winter Blast together, but veteran players have found some interesting effects that I'm sure the developer didn't intend. And that's part of the fun of the game. The spells interact with each other, the characters, and the battlefield itself. Everything comes together to create encounters that are truly random and novel at times. It's a game that encourages water cooler conversations.
Some of these skills extend to explorations and general interactions with NPCs. Solve a murder by talking to the ghost of the victim. Enter a location guarded by dogs by taking a perk to talk with animals and simply befriending them. There's a number of different ways to achieve your objectives and that freedom is why Divinity: Original Sin 2 and its predecessor work.
On top of this solid core is some great writing, good voice work, and a host of alternate gaming options. Sure you can play the game alone, but there's also a cooperative multiplayer mode with up to four-players. There's a PVP arena so you can try out those combos on your friends. There's even the all-new Game Master mode, which recalls Dungeons & Dragons in the best way, as one player becomes the Game Master, using tools to craft their own stories for friends to play through in real time.
Divinity: Original Sin was already great. The sequel builds upon that by tightening up things in certain areas, like the writing, and adding a host of options on top of that. That's why Divinity: Original Sin 2 belongs at the top of the heap in 2017. —Mike Williams
9. Night in the Woods
Even though this moody adventure game took me a weekend to clear, it's a weekend I won't forget any time soon. Night in the Woods' expressive visuals, atmospheric soundtrack, and weird-but-engaging story hooked me from moment one. Though I didn't grow up in a dying coal-mining town like the game's heroine, Mae, I had no trouble identifying with her problems and the problems plaguing her friends and family. I kept playing because I wanted to see how they'd all turn out. The answer is—well, you'll want to find out for yourself, really.
Night in the Woods perfectly portrays the troubles and anxieties of young Millenials, and it throws those struggles up against a chilly, damp backdrop for maximum effect. I'll remember my time with this indie adventure for years to come. Its chill is set in my bones. —Nadia Oxford
8. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Available on: PS4, Xbox One, PC
A few months ago I was talking with my roommate about what makes a perfect horror game. After two heated hours of shouting, we settled on the fact that P.T., the playable teaser for Hideo Kojima's cancelled game Silent Hills, was about as perfect a horror game as we'd ever get. Then came Resident Evil 7.
It's unfair to call Resident Evil 7 a return to form because Resident Evil has never been in this particular form. Replacing the series' traditional third-person camera with a first-person perspective, a la P.T., Capcom takes the brief Kojima teaser and runs away with its own unique take.
Resident Evil 7 replaces the psychological horror of P.T. with Capcom's own white-knuckle brand of horror games. The game is an old-school horror, as down and dirty as the swamp mansion residence of the mutated Baker family the player faces off against. Along the way, Capcom can't help but return to its bread-and-butter staples. There are hidden science labs, a growing arsenal of weapons, and a distinctly uninteresting brand of goo monsters. But through it all, Resident Evil 7 manages to restrain itself where it matters, and accelerate the action when necessary to craft a horror game that's more than the sum of its parts.
We might never get Silent Hills, but Capcom is still here to ruin our good night's sleep. —Matt Kim
7. Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus
Available on: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Everyone's afraid of B.J. Blazkowicz, as they should be. He's a not very lean (he's pretty buff), mean, killing machine. The Nazis even erected arcade cabinets of games with B.J. (or Terror-Billy) as the villain in his honor. Except, B.J.'s really not always that gruesome of a guy. In-between slaughtering Nazis, B.J. is tender. He cares for his lover Anya, who's pregnant with twins, and he worries for his crew of resistance fighters.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, being the brutal shooter it is, takes its time between missions, and sometimes in them too. It balances its violence with quiet. It balances its sorrow with unabashed joy. Wolfenstein 2 is at its best when it does the unexpected: whether it's a jaw-dropping, prolonged story beat in the midst of its tale, or a silly detour quest on his home base.
But the story of B.J. wrangling a ragtag group of resistance fighters across America together is where Wolfenstein 2 postures itself confidently. Wolfenstein 2 never minces its words, nor its sights. It also feels unsettlingly familiar in 2017 in how it examines how America would deal with a sudden Nazi takeover: that is, in being complicit to Nazi cruelty. While Wolfenstein 2 fumbles in comparison to its predecessor in its claustrophobic level design and half-baked stealth, it still feels damn good to wield two guns at once, blowing away any Nazi that crosses your path. As B.J. might say, if it's good enough to kill Nazis, it's good enough for me. —Caty McCarthy
6. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds
I can't help but think about Brendan "PlayerUnknown" Greene, the man behind arguably the year's biggest hit, when I think of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. He's a super normal dude, almost eerily so. He bounced from web design jobs to photography jobs before he helped usher in the most exciting multiplayer genre in possibly decades. He's lived in countries all across the world. He's a seasoned adult, not some random kid who got lucky. Then Greene started making mods, and then he made the Battle Royale mod, and now PUBG, at the time of writing this, far and away has the most concurrent players on Steam at around 1,550,000 players. For perspective, Valve's own popular MOBA Dota 2 lags behind in second place with around 560,000 players.
That statistic is astonishing for a game that spent most of the year in Early Access; perhaps even more so for a game from a once-modder. But PUBG isn't like most Early Access games that come and go on Steam. PUBG is a sensation.
That's because PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is a pure sort of experience. At its start, it was stitched together by one aesthetically-inconsistent map (and with its new 1.0 release, a better map joins it), a handful of weapons, and general clunkiness guiding you. But even as it's evolved to be a much smoother game since its Early Access debut, the core of it has remained untouched: 100 people on an island battling one another for victory, or rather, a chicken dinner. Sometimes these battles come to fruition in duos, sometimes in squads, sometimes solo. But the core has always been the same: survive by whatever means necessary.
The pure PUBG experience comes from where every time you play it, something new happens. Maybe you escaped a firefight on a motorcycle, only to flip off a hill and kill yourself in the frenzy. Maybe you holed up in a bathroom with a shotgun as you heard footsteps down below, lucking out with a few kills. PUBG has been forever-tense, that's part of its M.O., but it's also been the most consistently enjoyable multiplayer game over the past year since it's launched. There's good reason why over a million are playing the game at this very second, and there's a good reason why it's consistently one of the top streaming games on Twitch. Even with a rough Xbox One port that lags far behind its superior PC version, overall, PUBG is an unforgettable, lightning-in-a-bottle sort of game. —Caty McCarthy