It's been a hell of a year. The Switch made everyone forget what a mess the Wii U was. Microsoft claimed the title of "world's most powerful console" with the One X. Debate raged over loot boxes. And of course, a ton of excellent games were released.
You've likely already seen the ones GP's volunteer writers were into. Now feast your eyes on the picks of the GP community. But first, here are the winners from past years:
5th – StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
4th – Battlefield: Bad Company 2
3rd – Call of Duty: Black Ops
2nd – Mass Effect 2
1st – Red Dead Redemption
5th – Tomb Raider
4th – Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
3rd – BioShock Infinite
2nd – The Last of Us
1st – Grand Theft Auto V
5th – South Park: The Stick of Truth
4th – Destiny
3rd – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
2nd – Far Cry 4
1st – Dragon Age: Inquisition
3rd – Rise of the Tomb Raider
2nd – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
1st – Fallout 4
5th (tie) – The Witcher 3: Blood & Wine
5th (tie) – Final Fantasy XV
4th – Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
3rd – Battlefield 1
2nd – Doom
1st – Overwatch
And now, 2017:
5th – Resident Evil 7
8.77 percent of the final votes
The Resident Evil series peaked more than a decade ago, and amid a torrent of remasters, actual new entries since have ranged from decent (Revelations) to utterly dire (Operation Racoon City, Umbrella Corp). The last numbered title, Resident Evil 6, took the series’ zombie virus plague worldwide, simultaneously stripping any remaining pretence that the series was about survival horror, while indulging its worst excesses to such a point that even action anime directors were heard muttering that it was too over-the-top. It looked as if the pioneering series had finally been buried by its own creators.
Then, in January, Resident Evil 7 clawed its way out of an unmarked grave and crept its way back into gamer consciousness. Capcom smartly discarded the silly plots and action emphasis of the game’s immediate forbearers, instead opting to riff on the very first Resident Evil game: there’s a creepy house and you are defenceless, now go see what’s making that weird groaning noise. Set in swampy Louisiana and resembling The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it brings back a lot of survival horror staples (inventory management, crafting, extremely low ammo counts), but most importantly: it’s scary as hell (and playable in VR if you are particularly brave).
4th – PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
19.30 percent of the final votes
It might not be number one on this list, but there’s no doubt PUBG had the biggest impact of any game this year. The stats say it all: with more than 25 million sold and millions of concurrent players, it eclipsed even Dota 2 this year to reign supreme on Steam.
PUBG’s battle royale setup isn’t an original idea, but it is a doozy: 100 players dive out of an airplane onto an island stocked with various weapons and vehicles, which they then use to murder each other. The play area shrinks as the match runs, forcing survivors into increasingly small areas, and the last man standing wins.
It’s simple, but the sheer amount of tactical variety available within that premise is staggering, and the stories the game generates are the stuff of legend. You might parachute out to the edge of the map to gear up unopposed, only to spend the majority of the next 30 minutes frantically searching in vain for a vehicle, before resigning yourself to a series of marathon runs to get inside the safe zone. You might spend the majority of the game inside the storm, surviving only thanks to the cache of healing items you found at the outset.
You might hide on the roof of an apartment, clutching a machete and trembling as the place is methodically ransacked by an assault-rifle wielding opponent who is unaware of the sweaty surprise that will greet him at the top. You might get to a supply drop first, and rack up kills with the powerful rifle inside. You might dance from side to side as you cross an open field, desperately trying to evade the crosshairs of an unseen sniper.
When Sid Meier said the best games are just a series of interesting decisions, he didn’t have PUBG in mind, but he might as well have. Do you take that noisy buggy to the safe zone, but have everyone know where you are? Do you make a run for that valuable supply drop, knowing everyone in the vicinity is doing the same? Do you enter that house, even though the front door is open and someone is likely inside? Do you investigate those footsteps upstairs, even though you only have a pistol? Do you take a potshot at that figure in the distance, or risk sneaking up on them for an easier kill? To the casual observer, PUBG is a game that appears to be 90 percent boredom and 10 percent action. To players, it’s real-time chess, a tense, agonising title that has redefined multiplayer gaming.
3rd – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
21.05 percent of the final votes
Breath of the Wild is another game that upended expectations, incorporating hunting and cooking, bastard mechanical Guardians, weapon durability, expressive enemies and much more into its scintillating open world. Debuting with the Switch, it was a true system seller – one that helped Nintendo’s hybrid cross 10m sales since March.
Here’s what GP writers thought of it:
I’ve enjoyed most of the Zelda games over the years (as proof I offer up the names of my two cats: Link and Zelda), with Twilight Princess the only recent exception, so I was certainly hoping Breath of the Wild would be executed with a modern version of the love and care that so clearly went into Ocarina of Time. What I hadn’t expected was to take delivery of the best game ever made and yet that’s exactly what it is. So much attention to detail, so much in-the-moment “presence” and some of the tightest gameplay of all time. Zelda = GOAT and I can’t wait to see what they do with the next game. (Alan Bell)
Not many games will likely ever come close to giving me the sense of wonder and possibility that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild did. A perfect game to kickstart the Switch’s hugely successful year, and one to bid farewell to the Wii U’s lacklustre run, Link’s adventure was a showcase of Nintendo at its very best. And though most of this year has been filled with controversy surrounding loot boxes and microtransactions, Breath of the Wild is a reminder that some developers and publishers still prioritise what matters most to gamers: the gameplay itself. Moreover, Breath of the Wild’s gameplay is as immersive as it is exciting, and throws traditional AAA conventions to the wayside. It’s a masterpiece. (Toby Berger)
I almost did not include this game, but if I am being honest, it is just as worthy as many of the games on this list, even if I feel it is a game that gets too many passes for too many minor but persistent niggles. That being said, this is one of the best open worlds I have ever explored, and that sense of exploration never dissipated. For all of the issues I have with the simplistic combat, annoying weapon degradation, and vacant story-telling, the world keeps drawing me in. There is a richness there that cannot be denied. (Chris Brown)
2nd – Divinity: Original Sin II
22.81 percent of the final votes
Divinity: Original Sin II, is the latest in a long line of traditional western RPGs from Larian Studios dating back to 2002, although perhaps 'traditional' is not quite accurate here. The Belgian developer has made a habit of removing the rote and rot from the old-school RPG template, while injecting more than a little quirk into the mix. All the while, the studio demonstrates a deep commitment to and adoration for the genre, and this shines through in all of its titles.
Divinity: Original Sin II demonstrates this commitment in every scene, every interaction, and every slightly off-kilter interpretation of a classic RPG trope. This is a team that loves the genre, but is not afraid to take it in an unexpected direction. Genre fans need not fear, however. Everything you love about RPGs is here – the conversations, the characters, the combat, the quests – and all are exceptional no matter how many developer cheeks had tongues firmly lodged within during the game's creation…
What Larian has achieved here cannot be overstated. This is the pinnacle of video game role playing. An epic story filled with personality, adventure, and depth. A combat system that is second to none. More ways to play and progress as you see fit than any RPG I can think of. All found in a world brimming with discovery, nuance, and freedom of choice. Divinity: Original Sin II sits peerless at the apex of the RPG genre.
1st – Horizon Zero Dawn
26.32 percent of the final votes
Zero Dawn's pacing is definitely sluggish at first, as once past the introduction everything stalls while the player traipses across the first area completing insignificant tasks that don’t seem to have much point. The truth is that the first few hours are a bit of a slog, but the game does eventually shift gears and get going as more areas and abilities are unlocked. The last half of the main story kicks things into overdrive, delivering an exhilarating narrative that really packs an emotional punch….
And what an incredible world it is. Skeletons of skyscrapers now green with moss loom over a land that has long since recovered from the apocalypse that tore it asunder. In many places, there is almost nothing left to show that our existing civilisation was ever there, with mother nature’s carpet steadily swallowing up what remains. It is without a doubt the most beautiful open world game I’ve played to date, and easily one of the best-looking games on the PlayStation 4. Time and again I would stop to take in the view ahead of me, or listen to the sound of the wind in the trees above...
Horizon: Zero Dawn is an incredibly ambitious title that meets or exceeds expectations at almost every turn, and is a joy to play. Gorgeous visuals and solid gameplay are woven into a story that deals with some surprisingly hard hitting themes, all wrapped up in a package that is highly polished. In short, it's a worthy addition to any PlayStation owner’s game collection.