It was the best of times, it was the … no, really, it was the best of times. With a near-constant drip of amazing games, 2017 will go down as one of the finest years in the history of the medium.
That was great news for gamers, but it’s causing serious headaches for those of us tasked with narrowing down that awesomeness into a concise Game of the Year list. As professional headache havers, however, we knew what to do: take a few Advil, drink some Gatorade and throw darts at a big board with a bunch of game names tacked on it. Blindfolded.
The result? A dozen outstanding games, one of which takes home Yahoo’s Game of the Year honor. Our hats (and blindfolds) off to the winners!
*Only games released in 2017 were eligible for consideration.
Xbox One, PC | Microsoft/MDHR
First shown to gamers in 2014, the gorgeous, aggravating and inspirational “Cuphead” was worth the wait. Handcrafted by brothers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer, this throwback pairs grueling side-scrolling shooting with jaw-dropping animation influenced by 1930’s cartoon great Max Fleischer. The result is one of the prettiest games ever conceived — and one of the year’s best.
“Lone Echo” / “Echo Arena”
Oculus Rift | Ready At Dawn
Virtual reality is taking a lot longer to catch on than most fans had hoped, but if developers keep making games like “Lone Echo,” the VR tide will turn sooner rather than later. Set aboard a malfunctioning space station, developer Ready At Dawn’s adventure game solves one of VR’s biggest issues — locomotion — by letting players grab and push off any surface. It also happens to tell a compelling tale, though the real story here is the game’s now standalone multiplayer mode, “Echo Arena.” Essentially a team-based take on the training sequences in the sci-fi classic “Ender’s Game” (throw the ball in the hole, in zero-G), it’s the best use of VR touch controls yet.
PS4, Xbox One, PC | Activision/Bungie
Often lost in the conversation about Bungie’s immensely popular “Destiny 2” is just how good the thing plays. Yes, it’s got bigger environments, a vastly improved single-player campaign and a seemingly endless bucket of sweet new loot to acquire, but it also happens to boast just about the best shooter engine in the business. Put it all together and you get our favorite multiplayer first-person shooter of 2017.
“What Remains of Edith Finch”
PS4, Xbox One, PC | Annapurna/Giant Sparrow
In a year packed with action-packed blockbusters, this creepy, reflective game takes a more thoughtful path to our Game of the Year awards. Edith Finch is the last surviving member of her family; it’s up to you to wander through the labyrinthine Finch manor to find out why. Well-written and beautifully crafted, it’s a surprisingly moving game about love, family and fate.
“Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus”
PS4, Xbox One, PC | Bethesda/MachineGames
When MachineGames started working on the sequel to 2014’s excellent “Wolfenstein: The New Order” a few years back, they probably figured a game about an alternate timeline in which Nazis openly roam the streets of America was a safe bet as far as fantasies go. There was no such thing as a safe bet in 2017, however, and “The New Colossus” wound up catching lightning in a bottle. But while its political relevance was a total accident, its wild, outlandish plot (Hitler directs a play on Venus?), buttery smooth gameplay and sublime delivery were very much by design.
“Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle”
Switch | Ubisoft
How good was 2017? Good enough to land two different Mario games on our GOTY list. This turn-based strategy mascot mash-up might not make much sense on paper, but “Mario + Rabbids” is as smart as it is playful. Lovingly crafted by longtime Nintendo fan Davide Soliani (he’s the guy who wept when Mario maker Shigeru Miyamoto introduced the game at E3), it’s a challenging game that transforms classic Mario moves into the building blocks of a fresh franchise.
“Resident Evil 7”
PS4, Xbox One, PC | Capcom
After beheading it with the disappointing “Resident Evil 6,” Capcom resurrected its legendary zombie franchise with this delightfully dreadful survival horror game. Players explore a derelict house in search of their missing wife. Standing between the two? Just a family of chemically-enhanced maniacs, deadly traps and killer bacteria thingies. Tense, personal and all kinds of creepy, “Resident Evil 7” also marked the franchise’s first trip into VR, though it was almost too scary to play with a headset.
PS4, PS3 | Atlus
High school is stressful, what with the classes, tests, peer pressure and a supernatural metaverse teeming with shadow creatures guarding the corrupted hearts of adults. And the ambitious and ridiculous “Persona 5” brings all of those concepts together with memorable characters, excellent combat and amazing visuals. It’s an exceptional role-playing game brimming with heart, depth and style. And a talking cat.
PC | Brenden Greene/PUBG Corporation/Bluehole Studios
There’s a reason why this unlikely online shooter is so popular: it’s brutal, addictive and just crazy enough to be brilliant. Based on mods for games like “ARMA” and “H1Z1,” “PlayerUknown’s Battlegrounds” tosses 100 players on an island and lets them scavenge weapons and items as they hunt each other down, “Battle Royale” style. It’s pretty rough around the edges (technically it’s still in Early Access), but with record-setting player numbers and an anticipated port to the Xbox One, “PUBG” is a bona fide phenomenon that very nearly took home a chicken dinner in our Game of the Year voting.
“Horizon: Zero Dawn”
PS4 | Sony/Guerilla Games
The minds behind the “Killzone” shooter series took a pretty big gamble building a brand-new third-person open-world action game. But it paid off big time. Featuring a likable heroine, a gripping sci-fi tale, tight controls and roving packs of robotic dinosaurs, “Horizon: Zero Dawn” is the rare open-world game with a story as compelling as its gameplay.
“Super Mario Odyssey”
Switch | Nintendo
If Nintendo systems are partially defined by the quality of their Mario games, the Switch is off to a stellar start, indeed. “Super Mario Odyssey” isn’t just an outstanding return to the sandbox-style platforming of all-time greats like “Super Mario 64” and “Super Mario Galaxy” — it’s in the conversation as the best Mario game ever, period. Each level is a design masterclass densely packed with hidden moons, nostalgic callbacks and inventive mechanics. It’s a love letter to everything Mario and a flat-out joy for Nintendo fans young and old.
GAME OF THE YEAR
“The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”
Switch | Nintendo
In 2017, Nintendo struck back. And in an impossibly tight race between the company’s two biggest franchises, Link struck just a tiny bit harder than Mario to nab Yahoo’s overall Game of the Year honor.
Back when the Nintendo Switch launched in March, critics and consumers (including us) weren’t fully sold on Nintendo’s potent portable. They were, however, most certainly sold on “Breath of the Wild,” (especially us) one of the greatest launch games of all time.
The fresh open-world take on Hyrule is a stunning pivot for the classic franchise, introducing a host of new features (Cooking! Gliding! Makeshift fidget spinners!) in a land without boundaries. Like “Skyrim” before it, “Breath of the Wild” encourages exploration and improvisation, filling each play session with unforeseen twists and memorable moments.
It set the tone for 2017 and stands next to “Ocarina of Time” and” A Link to the Past” as the greatest Zelda games ever made.
More games coverage:
- ‘Resident Evil Revelations Collection’ review: Fear the past
- Microsoft Xbox One X review: A beast of a console at a steep price
- ‘Wolfenstein II’ review: Great fun if you’re into punching Nazis
- ‘Super Mario Odyssey’ review: Nintendo tips its cap to the past