#23 39 Days to Mars PC

Genre: Survival adventure
Developer: It's Anecdotal
Release date: 2017

No, not the shitty Jared Leto band. Rather, 39 Days to Mars is the debut title from Kiwi Philip Buchanan, and it appeals beyond pure patriotism. A co-operative (yuss) steampunk (YUSS) survival-adventure game, it puts awesomely-named protagonists Sir Albert Wickes and The Right Honourable Clarence Baxter on the HMS Fearful on a voyage to the Red Planet. The game appears to chronicle a meditative, lonely yet hopeful journey – moods bolstered by Chris Zabriskie's "The Temperature of the Air on the Bow of the Kaleetan" in the trailer, and moods that wash over me before I rage quit every puzzle game I play. I'm looking forward to rage quitting this one as well.

#22 The Escapists 2 PC PS4 XO

Genre: Escapin'
Developer: Mouldy Toof
Release date: 2017

No doubt you've heard of The Escapists, a playful take on prison life and departure. Well, consider yourself back in the slammer, which, despite a visual overhaul, appears to present you with more options for escape than ever before. What is with this prison management incompetence? Did Judith Collins pick up the virtual equivalent of her former gig?

#21 Desync PC

Genre: FPS
Developer: The Foregone Syndicate
Release date: February 28

Adult Swim's games division is really starting to ramp up both its production and publication of quirky titles that broadly align spiritually with its bonkers TV content. Its latest score is an FPS from
three "well-groomed, ruggedly handsome, yet oddly delicate-featured" devs from Melbourne, who are putting together a shooter that's about being creative as you destroy. That sounds like an oxymoron, but check out the trailer and you'll soon be as keen as we are for this one, yearning for your chance to work your way up its insanely granular leaderboard system.

#20 DeathSquared PC PS4 XO

Genre: Puzzle
Developer: SMG Studio
Release date: March 14

Another upcoming Aussie concoction – this time out of "the darkest jungles of Sydney" – DeathSquared is an intense-looking puzzle game for 2–4 players that according to developer SMG requires teamwork and reflexes to get the better of. It has been compared to Portal a fair bit too, which is never a bad thing until you remember that you got stuck on the last level of that stupid game and are then forced to eat a kilo of candy bananas so your plummeting self-esteem is snugly swaddled in a layer of sticky glucose. Thanks a lot, DeathSquared!

#19 Ruiner PC

Genre: Action
Developer: Reikon Games
Release date: 2017

Ever since it shifted its focus from Serious Sam to smaller games like Hotline Miami, Devolver Digital has been a champion of risky, gameplay-first titles that are seldom boring. It now has an enviable roster of killer titles under its banner, and Ruiner looks like it might be yet another. Its cyberpunk setting looks like a fun time, and the idea that you have a TV for a face that taunts your enemies before you make shish kebab out of their insides brings us a certain unsettling joy… Hang on, is Ruiner stealthing in a message about TV making people violent? Well played, Reikon OR SHOULD I SAY CENSORSHIP BOARD?

#18 Oxygen Not Included PC

Genre: Space colony simulation
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Release date: Early 2017

Klei is one of those developers that seems determined to not make the same game twice, unless that game is Shank, and that's allowed because Shank is love and/or life. Perhaps the this resistance to repetition is because everything the Canadian indie releases tends to be best-in-class – it's like a tiny version of Blizzard. So, having released amazing action (Shank) stealth (Mark of the Ninja), survival (Don't Starve), and tactical strategy (Invisible, Inc.) games, Klei has now looked to games like Dwarf Fortress, Prison Architect, and The Sims for inspiration, and Oxygen Not Included is the result. Am I patient enough to play any of the aforementioned influences? Hell no. But Klei has a knack of presenting complex systems in an easily digestible way, and despite its insane array of behind the scenes calculations, Oxygen Not Included looks like it will do the same.

#17 Tacoma PC XO

Genre: Narrative
Developer: Fullbright
Release date: 2017

Two words: space mystery. Six more words: from the makers of Gone Home. Another seventeen words: If hanging out with the projections of dead astronauts is weird, we don't want to be normal. A final eight words: I'll stop this now because it's super annoying.

#16 Cuphead PC XO

Genre: Action-platformer
Developer: Studio MDHR
Release date: 2017

If you've been reading these lists a while, you'll know that this is the third consecutive year Cuphead has appeared. To be honest, I'm starting to believe the game was finished ages ago, and that Xbox is just milking the free publicity and glory that comes with its inclusion on such a hallowed countdown. And they got us again, the goddamn weasels.

#15 Death's Gambit PC PS4 XO

Genre: Action-RPG
Developer: White Rabbit
Release date: 2017

This one looks a lot like a spunkier version of Slain, which we featured on last year's indie list. It is also being pitched as "Dark Souls meets Castlevania". That is in no way a bad thing at all.

#14 Hand of Fate 2 PC PS4 XO

Genre: Action-RPG
Developer: Defiant Development
Release date: February

Brisbane studio Defiant Development made a push from mobile to PC (and eventually, consoles) with 2015's action-RPG cum deck building roguelike Hand of Fate, and it was a game that we enjoyed, for the most part. The star was definitely its card-dealing antagonist, whose softly-delivered ridicule was always a delight. As such, the promise of a brand new meta-game has us eager to take a look at this sequel. There are also new combat styles and foes to slaughter, and companions show up that can lend a hand and possibly change the story. It sounds wonderful, and if the biffo has been tuned up a bit, this one could be a serious hit.

#13 GNOG PC PS4

Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Ko-op Mode
Release date: May 2

This one is a perfect fit for publisher Double Fine. A colourful, zany title with a heaping of character and charm, it feels like playing with an extremely advanced and tactile children's toy. As you progress, the dynamic soundtrack ramps up nicely, and the game supports VR but certainly doesn't require it. Yes, I loved the level I played at E3. No, I don't know what a GNOG is. Yes, I am going to jam this game.

#12 What Remains of Edith Finch PC PS4

Genre: Mystery
Developer: Giant Sparrow
Release date: Autumn

Thanks to a super-early reveal at E3 in 2014, it feels like What Remains of Edith Finch has been in development forever. Fortunately, soon we will no longer need to bother our loved ones by phrasing its title as a question they somehow know the answer to. Despite a grim premise (you are investigating the death of several children), What Remains looks full of joy and childlike wonder – alongside a fair number of truly surreal moments. It looks wholly unique, an experience only a game could provide.

#11 Nex Machina PS4

Genre: Twin-stick shooter
Developer: Housemarque
Release date: 2017

Housemarque has a history of producing polished arcade shooters, so its team-up with legendary designer Eugene Jarvis (Defender, Robotron and Smash TV) is like peanut butter teaming up with jam. It looks very much like a Jarvis game from the '80s, remade for modern times with the kind of modern sheen you'd expect from the studio behind Resogun and Alienation. I can't explain why, but I just want to lick it.

#10 Pyre PC PS4

Genre: RPG
Developer: Supergiant Games
Release date: 2017

Bastion was an awesome little action title with a melancholic yet lovely soundtrack. Transistor was a strong little action game propelled by haunting electro beats. Pyre is… party-based high fantasy RPG influenced by sports? I don't really know what to think either, but it was well-received at PAX, and Darren Korb and Ashley Barrett are back doing the music, which gives me an excuse to link to this. Besides, just because this genre is currently beyond my understanding, that doesn't mean it won't be awesome.

#9 Gorogoa PC

Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Jason Roberts
Release date: 2017

How often can you say that you see something completely novel these days? Not that often, right? So perhaps it's just that my allergy to puzzle games that has kept me from this image manipulation thing Gorogoa is doing, but it looks like some sweet new wizardry. Gorogoa's spiritual streak might be off-putting for some, but presumably they'll be appeased by the sudden appearance and even faster exit of a certain four-armed dude from Mortal Kombat. (Here's hoping that's the worst joke I write all year.)

#8 Loot Rascals PC PS4

Genre: Roguelike
Developer: Hollow Ponds
Release date: March 8

Firstly, great name. Secondly, great aesthetic. Good luck identifying anything here using an existing noun! (Hardly surprising as Loot Rascals is made by some Hohokum and Sportfriends devs, and features art from Swatpaz (Adventure Time, Cartoon Hangover). Anyway, it's not only trippy as a downtrou'd teenager, Loot Rascals is also turn-based roguelike with a fun twist: enemies who defeat you steal your gear and appear with your powers in another player's game. If that player defeats them, they decide whether to keep your stuff, or return it to you. I'll be returning everything, because I take any chance I can to virtual signal to strangers over the internet. Can you say the same? Hmm? Can you?

#7 Night in the Woods PC PS4

Genre: Adventure
Developer: Infinite Fall
Release date: February 21

Look how f*cking adorable this melancholic wee adventure is! Just look at its clean lines! A Kickstarter success, Night in the Woods looks to fool us all into tackling some heavy themes by letting us control an anthropomorphic cat with giant, dazzling eyes. Its official description captures the tone better than I ever could so here it is:

"College dropout Mae Borowski returns home to the crumbling former mining town of Possum Springs seeking to resume her aimless former life and reconnect with the friends she left behind. But things aren't the same. Home seems different now and her friends have grown and changed. Leaves are falling and the wind is growing colder. Strange things are happening as the light fades. And there's something in the woods."

Time for a trip to the dark side, then.

#6 Little Nightmares PC PS4 XO

Genre: Puzzle-platformer
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Release date: April 28

Finally, someone made a game about my kids! Haha, I jest I jest. I don't have any – it's clearly about your shitty kids. Anyway, with that out of my system… sometimes a trailer perfectly explains and sells a game, and you don't need or want to know more before you play. This is one such game I reckon. Tarsier has pedigree, too: it helped out on LittleBigPlanet, and led on Tearaway Unfolded for the PS4. Sold.

#5 Pit People PC XO

Genre: Action-RPG
Developer: The Behemoth
Release date: January 13

I would claim that I can predict the future and that Pit People is 100% guaranteed to be the nuts, but the fact is, it's from the team that brought us Castle Crashers and BattleBlock Theater, and it's already being lapped up on Early Access. So, I'll put down the crystal ball and drop the theatrics, but I'll give it a mention here anyway, just in case you were still on holiday when it released in mid-Jan.

#4 Tokyo 42 PC PS4 XO

Genre: Action
Developer: SMAC Games
Release date: Early 2017

At first blush, Tokyo 42's miniaturised world and shooty bangy play has it resemble middling 2016 shooter Party Hard. However, it is so much more than that: you can sneak as well! Okay, in all seriousness, this looks like a hell of a lot of fun, is deeper than it appears, and has the advantage of doubling as both a game and a eye test. Peace out, Spec Savers!

#3 Nidhogg 2 PC PS4 XO

Genre: Competitive fighting
Developer: Messhof
Release date: 2017

I don't know why, but the expressions on the characters' faces in Nidhogg 2 crack me the hell up. Yes, they're ugly, but god loves ugly, and finally we what we always suspected: in Nidhogg – as in life – it hurts to be alive.

#2 Absolver PC PS4

Genre: Action-RPG
Developer: Sloclap
Release date: 2017

For Honor's slick combat system has the attention of the gaming public right now, but an indie with similarly satisfying mechanics from former Ubisoft employees is just around the corner. Think of this one as Dark Souls vs Street Fighter and you'll be on the right track. Parisian developer Sloclap is aiming for fluid, dynamic movement that's similar to dance, with plenty of feints as well as feet to the face. One cool feature: you spar with others to add their skills to your arsenal. And sorry to keep banging on about my jetsetting lifestyle, but I loved what I played of it at E3 too. Jesus, what a skite.

#1 Frozen Synapse 2 PC

Genre: Turn-based strategy
Developer: Mode 7 Games
Release date: 2017

Fantastic turn-based tactics title Frozen Synapse has kept a cult following since its 2011 launch, despite spawning a number of imitators including Doorkickers and Breach & Clear. Mode 7 used mechanics from the game in less popular turn-based sports title Frozen Cortex, but a Synapse sequel is finally on the way this year. It's an ambitious one too: where the first was all about contained small-scale shootouts, Frozen Synapse 2 is aiming to be an open world grand strategy tactics title where you traverse a whole city looking for trouble. Inspired by XCOM Apocalypse and with nervous_testpilot back on soundtrack duties, this one is looking like a real gem.