It's February, so now the year is nine percent over, it's probably time to share our most anticipated games of it! At least my lateness does allow me to shorten the list somewhat: Gravity Rush 2 and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard are both out and by most accounts very good, and Nioh is just around the corner so I left it out as well. However, as you'll see, there is much potential goodness still to come this year.
The rules for this year's lists were fairly loose. Firstly, a game had to have a stated "2017" release window. This was a choice made for reasons of list length, but it was an agonizing one, as it meant amazing looking games like Pocketwatch Games' Tooth and Tail, Aurora44's Ashen (go Kiwi!), '50s sci-fi roguelike Beacon, and Housemarque shooter Matterfall had to be left off. And goddammit, will Capy's Below ever come out?
Secondly, I had to have seen more than just a cinematic of a game, and if not (as is the case with at least one game on the list), I needed to be really confident in the game – a sentence that you should interpret as "it's a direct sequel to something really kick-ass". So, no Destiny 2: , Need for Speed…. uh… 38?, Star Wars Battlefront 2, Crackdown 3, Spider-Man, or Agents of Mayhem. [Haha, imagine caring about Need For Speed, he says sobbing softly]
Thirdly – and this sounds a little obvious, but stay with me here – a game had to elicit more than just a "huh" out of me. That probably makes these lists more personal than some would like, but it has saved me from pretending to care about Telltale's Guardians of the Galaxy (FIX YOUR DAMN ENGINE TELLTALE), Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite, or Injustice 2. I'm sure all of those will be perfectly great, but I don't imagine I'll play any of 'em unless Mighty Ape ships me a free arcade stick, and the chances of that happening are about the same as the company CEO being an actual great ape (test results are inconclusive).
This rule also means Shenmue 3 ain't here I'm afraid. I never played Shenmue or its sequel 'cos it sounded too much like a miracle washcloth you'd been tricked into buying by an infomercial. Splatoon 2 I will play, but what is there to say beyond "it's more Splatoon"?
Lastly, I split my list into two: bigger and smaller games. There's no particularly persuasive argument as to why, it simply made them easier to tackle. Today is big stuff, Thursday is smaller, and later if I remember, I'll list some promising wildcards I stumbled across along the way.
Right! Enough preamble. Let's get started.
#25 State of Decay 2 PC XO
Genre: Co-op survival
Developer: Undead Labs
Release date: 2017
State of Decay was a little game that could. Not only was it well-received despite being yet another zombie survival title, it annoyed the Australian Classification Board because you could take drugs to boost your stats, and as we all know, this caused many people here to follow the game's example and accidentally get hooked on meth.
The sequel – a full-fledged big brother to the first's youngling arcade release – looks like it'll be a more polished blend of resource gathering, group morale juggling, zombie extermination, and base building, which are all things we love doing with up to four mates. Sorry fictional fifth mate, you're on your own – until we next play Dead of Winter, that is.
#24 Halo Wars 2 PC XO
Genre: Real-time strategy
Developer: Creative Assembly, 343 Industries
Release date: February 21
Yeah, yeah, we all know Halo lore is about as enticing as a weekend in bed with the flu, but there are so few RTS titles on console that this one squeaks in almost by default. And with Creative Assembly on board, chances are better than even that it will best the 2009 original, which itself wasn't too shabby by any stretch. A co-op campaign make us infinitely more interested, and the new Blitz mode sounds great for people that literally only have time to switch their console on then off again once per week. It also features a few enemy faction that might be half interesting… right guys? Right?
#23 Super Mario Odyssey WiiU Switch
Genre: Open world murder sim
Release date: Q4
Well done Nintendo for finally taking Mario in a brave new direction. I don't know why everyone is so fixed on his hat though, look at those rocket launchers!
#22 Arms Switch
Genre: Competitive fighting
Release date: Q2
Basically a game version of that old extendable boxing glove gag from cartoons, Arms looks somewhat unique at least. I have no desire to play it with motion controls, and I'm slightly worried that motion control support means it'll be the bad kind of simple. But hey, it's a new IP from Nintendo that features goofy characters, and that Splatoon game worked out alright.
#21 The Surge PC PS4 XO
Release date: May
The Surge is another Souls-like from Deck13, but at least this one is set in the future, and looks to distinguish itself more thoroughly than Lords of the Fallen. I like that you have to surgically graft an exo-suit onto yourself to get a job in its dystopian world, and I also love that the protagonist's name is simply 'Warren' rather than 'Cybo Edgehunter' or some such lame moniker studio heads usually rubber-stamp simply because they haven't slept in four years. It's also neat and rather disturbing that you can target specific limbs of your enemies and attach them to your own exo, but sometimes to beat the monsters you must become one I suppose. Go get 'em, Warren.
#20 John Wick Chronicles PC
Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Release date: Feb
This one requires a Vive, a play area of at least 2m x 1.5m, and a sharp suit, but I couldn't resist including it after watching people cower behind objects only they can see, and strike poses they imagined look badass that in reality just highlight how few push-ups they've done in the last decade. John Wick was basically a video game anyway, so I imagine this is just a cam pirate copy of the film with Keanu Photoshopped out. Catch it at a Vive arcade near you (they are actually a thing!)
#19 Sniper Elite 4 PC PS4 XO
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Release date: Feb 14
Speaking of gratuitous headshots, those recently scolded for wanting to punch Nazis will no doubt find solace in the fourth (!) Sniper Elite, which has Karl Fairburne – who by this stage has ruptured more kidneys from four hundred feet than you've had hot dinners – more or less singlehandedly defending the land of lasagne from recent history's greatest villains, the feminazis. It has a co-op campaign, mad complex bullet physics™, and levels bigger than entire prior games, so it's safe to say you'll be glassin' the horizon for days in this one. Chuck in a horde mode and the historical accuracy of being able to see enemy troop outlines by finding logbooks that detail their patrols, and we. Are. In. Time for some mighty cautious belly-down crawlin'.
#18 Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands PC PS4 XO
Genre: Open world tactical shooter
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Release date: March 7
Not gonna lie, the above playthrough makes Wildlands look boring as batshit, and I'm not completely convinced that this isn't just The Division wearing sunscreen and a UFC T-shirt. Even so, I'm still keen to check it out, because The Division is actually pretty sweet, and in case you haven't noticed, I'm a slight fan of co-op gaming. Also hype-worthy: prior to Wildlands, Ubisoft Paris was basically the Just Dance studio. Hellooooooo beefy merc dance emotes!
#17 Uncharted: The Lost Legacy PS4
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release date: 2017 or I'll eat my hat
Despite its immense popularity, Uncharted is a polarizing series, leaning hard on cinematics, characters, and set pieces, and living or dying on the strength of each. As 4 was Nathan Drake's swansong, we are now in uncharted waters, but for the series' many fans (of which I am one), The Lost Legacy is a no-brainer.
#16 Outlast 2 PC PS4 XO
Genre: Survival horror
Developer: Red Barrels
Release date: Q1
The Penumbra and Amnesia series' are generally credited with creating the influential first-person horror adventure subgenre, but in my opinion, Alien: Isolation and 2013's Outlast are the genre's best – even though I only saw a fraction of the latter between the gaps in my fingers. (I've read Resident Evil VII is up there too, I just haven't played it yet.)
Despite – or perhaps thanks to – several delays, Outlast 2 looks like it will once again boost the stocks of adult diaper companies everywhere, bringing back the camcorder night vision mechanic of the first, and shifting the scares to a remote village inhabited by a cult. Protagonist Blake Langermann's pregnant wife has gone missing (which is sure to end well), and in a nice nod to my own life, his glasses can fall off, limiting his vision.
There's also a new audio detection mechanic, so frankly, I'm sweating just thinking about getting this game's disc. In short, to paraphrase Gameplanet's Ben Allan "Oh god, why did they include a 'look back over your shoulder' button?"
#15 Nier: Automata PC PS4
Release date: March 10
One great thing about being so late with this list: some sweet-looking games are just around the corner. Case in point: Nier: Automata. Okay, so the first Nier wasn't amazing, parent Drakengard is worse, and the quality of PlatinumGames releases in the past couple of years has plummeted, the cancellation of Scalebound the latest indignity to befall the studio.
However, let's not forget that PlatinumGames is the studio that gave us Bayonetta, Vanquish, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Bayonetta 2, and Transformers: Devastation, so it can craft superb third-person action titles when it puts its mind to it. On top of that, all gameplay for Automata suggests it is a welcome return to form. So, android butthole or no (be pleased with yourself if you don't know what I'm referring to), this one has us excited.
#14 Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice PC PS4
Developer: Ninja Theory
Release date: 2016
Based on Celtic myth, Hellblade follows warrior Senua as she embarks on a very personal journey through a hellish underworld that is the psychotic manifestation of her own reality and mind.
DmC: Devil May Cry studio Ninja Theory knows how to make action games, and it's great to see myths that aren't Greek or Nordic get an airing. Here's hoping the game's treatment of mental illness is sensitive and nuanced too... hahaha sorry, forgot for a second this was a AAA game. Press X to decapitate your demons it is!
#13 For Honor PC PS4 XO
Genre: Hack and slash
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release date: February 14
At last year's E3, I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed For Honor, a third-person melee title with – yes – brutal close range combat. I have a bad feeling that in having to bring together knights, samurai, and vikings, the campaign's story is probably gonna be a little Cowboys Vs. Aliens, but I have a good feeling that it will be obscured by so much clanging, shouting and viscera, no-one will care.
It's also nice to see that in multiplayer, friendly fire can be set to 'on', preventing many-versus-one button-mash pile-ons, although teammate griefing might prove annoying. The best thing about For Honor, though, is definitely its release date: "Look honey, this year I got us a joint Valentines present…"
#12 Battletech PC
Genre: Turn-based strategy
Developer: Harebrained Schemes
Release date: 2017
Harebrained Schemes was co-founded in 2011 by Jordan Weisman and Mitch Gitelman. Prior to that, Weisman and Gitelman worked together on MechCommander at FASA – another company founded by Weisman. Oh, and Weisman is the creator of Battletech. Probably should have led with that. Anyway, that and a couple of acclaimed turn-based Shadowrun games from Harebrained mean one thing: there is no way this won't feel just like Battletech.
#11 South Park: The Fractured But Whole PC PS4 XO
Release date: 2017
Look at me, thinking about writing a description of this one, as if you don't know what South Park is. The only question is: will Trump be the final boss?
#10 Persona 5 PS4 PS3
Release date: April 4
Confession that might get me murdered: I think JRPGs are tedious pandering nonsense. Yes, even FFVII, Bravely Default, Ni No Kuni, and whatever else just popped into your outraged mind right now. So why then do I absolutely love the look of Persona 5? Could my blanket statements about an entire genre I've barely played actually be misguided and dumb? Could this be a rare moment of self-awareness and personal growth? Should I think harder before opening my mouth?
Nah, JRPGs are definitely for dorks and/or anime fans on prom night. This one looks cool, though. And it's the only game on this list coming to PS3!
#9 Vampyr PC PS4 XO
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Release date: Q4
Another game that impressed me at E3 2016 (despite being a hands-off demo), Vampyr is an action-RPG from Remember Me and Life Is Strange studio Dontnod Entertainment. Vampyr casts you as vampire (sp?) Jonathan E. Reid, who must balance his everyday doctorly duties with his insatiable hunger for blood, all while hiding his identity in early 20th century flu-ravaged London.
Your playstyle can lead to Reid battling vampire slayers with a variety of special powers, but I'm much more excited about attempting a no-kill run, or at least only killing the NPCs I've determined via dialogue trees and detective work are bastards anyway. And that's important, as every NPC death has a tangible effect on that person's community, and thus, Reid himself. That's a hell of a setup – here's hoping the end result doesn't [obvious dad joke redacted].
#8 Divinity: Original Sin 2 PC PS4 XO
Developer: Larian Studios
Release date: 2017
I'm cheating a bit with this one because it's already in Early Access where it has been very well-received cheersforasking. However, because I'm not stupid enough to buy a story-heavy game before it's unfinished (or any game, really), here it is, on the list because Larian has been making awesome Divinity games for donkey's years, and because Original Sin was pretty bloody fantastic. Better yet, RPG wizard Chris Avellone is on board, tuning up what was arguably Original Sin's biggest flaw: it's story.
I also included Original Sin 2 here because I wanted a platform on which to publicly denounce GP forums user Exis, who is a dialogue-skipping heathen that will stab the friendliest of NPCs at the slightest perceived provocation, forcing you to start the game over because all quest-givers can do when you reach them is bleed out on your fancy new moccasins.
#7 Sea of Thieves PC XO
Genre: Open world pirate-r
Release date: 2017
This one was easily the game I enjoyed playing the most at E3 last year, but there should be several obvious caveats: I was playing a vertical slice of gameplay on a LAN alongside a couple of good friends, and I only played for 20 minutes. That means it was tough to tell how deep SoT's systems were – something that's a definite concern given Rare's recent fascination with casual Kinect rubbish – and also how much fun it would be piratin' it up with randoms (my money is on "not very").
But for those who can pull together a crew and take to the high seas, oh man does this one have potential. The art direction is outstanding, the co-op systems appear entertaining, and you can drink beer and sing sea shanties with your mates. If this one turns out well, I've already agreed to transform my lounge into a LAN known as The Black Barnacle; a vessel full of the saltiest, drunkest seadogs you ever did see.
#6 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild WiiU Switch
Release date: March 3
Remember what I said about JRPGs? Well if that wasn't enough to get me fired, let me add this: I don't enjoy Zelda games, either. They're just too 'kiddie' for me, full of irritatingly cutesy animations, characters, and sounds. I don't hate 'em – I've watched all the Zelda episodes of Mark Brown's excellent Game Maker's Toolkit, and can appreciate the artistry – they are just not my thing.
And yet, Breath of the Wild has me in its thrall. Maybe it’s the art style and open world emphasis. Maybe it's the inclusion of a physics engine and voice acting. Maybe it's the Switch ads telling me I'll be playing it on a rooftop in the sunshine with some hip, attractive friends. Whatever it is, the Breath of the Wild has a certain subtle sweetness, as if the mouth it is escaping has just eaten a delicious fruity Mentos. Who doesn't want want a piece of that? (This preview brought to you by Mentos.)
#5 Torment: Tides of Numenera PC
Developer: inXile Entertainment
Release date: February 28
The isometric 'cRPG' genre has seen a resurgence since Kickstarter reminded studios that hey, people kinda like these games. This month, one of the games considered by many to be a hallmark for storytelling in computer RPGs (Planescape: Torment) is getting a spiritual sequel in the philosophically-minded Tides of Numenera. Developer inXile already resurrected another long-dormant cRPG with 2014's fantastic Wasteland 2 (and a third is now in development), but the main reason this game is on this list is that I now live in the same city as Gameplanet RPG specialist ChrisB, and he might legit slap me if I leave it off.
#4 Horizon Zero Dawn PS4
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Release date: March 1
Horizon Zero Dawn has a stupid name and gameplay-wise it looks to walk a well-trodden path, but good grief what a setting! Prehistoric tech versus mechanized creatures, a dynamic day-night cycle and weather system, no loading screens, trap setting, a forgotten civilization, and plenty of mystery. This one is a no-brainer, but you knew that already.
#3 Prey PC PS4 XO
Developer: Arkane Studios
Release date: May 5
"Arkane Studios" *ears perk up*
"FPS" *eyes widen*
"Weird creatures" *sweat appears on forehead*
"May 5" *drooling begins*
Prey is set in an alternate timeline where United States President John F. Kennedy survived the assassination attempt in 1963. Liberal propaganda, in other words. However, Arkane is promising a strong narrative affected by decisions made by the player, and we all know Dishonored 2 was true GOTY 2016, so this one is bound to be interesting at absolute worst.
#2 Mass Effect Andromeda PC PS4 XO
Release date: March 23
BioWare ain't what it used to be? EA is greedy and kills off studios? The ending of Mass Effect 3 was so terrible it resurrected Hitler?
Cool man, thoroughly original hot takes ya got there. How about you do you somewhere that isn't here, while I – in all likelihood – enjoy playing the shit out of Andromeda.
#1 Red Dead Redemption 2 PC PS4 XO
Genre: Open world action-adventure
Developer: Rockstar Studios
Release date: Q3/4
Red Dead Redemption, an action game about the decline of the Wild West, is widely considered one of the greatest video games of all time.
No pressure, Rockstar.