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The 30 Best Games of 2017

Games Lists Best of 2017
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20. Stories Untold
Platform: PC

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Stories Untold is like the perfect snack: small, delicious and immensely satisfying. This horror game, inspired heavily by ‘80s text adventures, combines puzzle and point and click elements over four short chapters to deliver one of the more intriguing stories to emerge in narrative design this year. While the “big reveal” at the end dips slightly into some comfortable and well worn tropes, the writing features repeating elements woven through each episode that, in their bizarreness, beautifully heighten the suspense before reaching the game’s end. Go in blind, and play it in a single session for the best experience.—Holly Green


19. Old Man’s Journey
Platforms: PC, Mac, iOS, Android

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Old Man’s Journey is a small, quiet game that you can tell was a work of passion. Sometimes the best way to get someone to listen to you is to whisper. In a just world, this spare kaleidoscope of memories and manipulated hillsides will garner as much attention as bigger games beset with earth-shaking explosions. As we all learn in time, it’s often the smaller chance encounters that make the most impact on us. Especially when we look back.—Jon Irwin


18. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 

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Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of Wolfenstein II is its simplicity. Today’s first person shooters are all but bogged down by overstimulating user interfaces that distract from the experience. Wolfenstein II, keeping intact its legacy as one of the first proper shooting games, is almost minimalist by comparison. The end result is a fluid experience that encourages forward momentum and continually rewards the player for tackling conflict head-on and at high speed. This is not to say that the game’s stealth elements go underused or ignored. Those too are understated and generally unsaddled with the many tweaks and innovations made to its genre in the past two decades. Whatever method used to tackle a mission, the ensuing rush is completely satisfying.—Holly Green


17. Tacoma
Platforms: Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux

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Tacoma might present itself as science fiction. It’s set in a shiny, futuristic space station, with each window a beautiful vista of black and pinpricks of light. But like all good sci-fi, it’s focused squarely on the present. Its depiction of exploitative labor practices and the one-sided relationship between employers and employees, of the marginalization of the worker, might be set near the end of the century, but its message is as current as videogames get.—Garrett Martin


16. Fire Pro Wrestling World
Platform: PC

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The cult classic Japanese wrestling series returned in 2017, and although it’s still in early access, it’s so fundamentally strong and feature-rich that we have no reservations with putting it on this list. Its stamina and lock-up systems capture the rhythms of real-life pro wrestling, and its creation tools and Steam Workshop have opened up an almost limitless universe of wrestling potential. If you have any love for the one true art and its videogame adaptations, this could be your favorite game of the year.—Garrett Martin


15. Doki Doki Literature Club
Platforms: PC, Mac

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Doki Doki Literature Club violates the silent contract of dating sims, and almost all games everywhere: it acknowledges the nature of its existence. It’s dark, at times bleak, and dabbles in the surreal. Its premise is poised heavily on letting the player know they, the fictional girls of the titular literature club, are wise to your presence. In fact, they know their very being relies upon it. At any time you could stop playing, or even erase their character file altogether. But please don’t. They love you.—Holly Green


14. Gnog
Platforms: PlayStation 4 

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KO_OP’s candy-colored Gnog is as much of an interactive toy box as a game, especially in VR. It situates its puzzles in a series of three-dimensional boxes that have to be poked, prodded, turned and explored as you try to figure out the exact right way to interact with it. With its fanciful, lightly psychedelic images, and its warm electronic score, Gnog is a soothing multimedia treat.—Garrett Martin


13. Metroid: Samus Returns
Platform: 3DS

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This “reimagining” of Metroid II: Return of Samus bears some clear hallmarks of that Game Boy original, most notably in its focus on hunting down and killing a specific number of metroids. It’s so far removed from that game, though, in terms of both its structure and how you play it, that it feels unfair to call it a remake. Basically it takes a handful of ideas from a game released in 1991 and expands upon them to make something that feels fresh and vital in 2017. The most crucial addition is a parry counterstrike that feels nothing like you’ve ever done in a Metroid game before.—Garrett Martin

12. Battle Chef Brigade
Platform: Switch, PC

As a “match-three” game, Battle Chef Brigade goes above and beyond the call. Anime characters are superimposed on soft backgrounds featuring wet washes of paint pooled over textured paper, set to a lilting orchestral soundtrack not unlike a Miyazaki score. The combat segments, which from a distance may seem tacked-on, are not only well-incorporated mechanically, but also provide immense satisfaction with the fluidity and power of Mina’s attacks. Despite the time limit on each battle, the back and forth between two sources of panic—quickly cooking a dish to the judge’s specifications versus killing monsters for key ingredients—is actually pretty fun. The complexity of solving puzzles contrasts the no-brain hacking and slashing for a very welcome change of pace.—Holly Green


11. Horizon Zero Dawn
Platform: PlayStation 4 

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Guerilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn looks like a living nature painting. As the player runs or rides from one settlement to another, the landscape constantly shifts between distinct, gorgeously realized biomes. One minute, it’s a frozen tundra, with sun gleaming off enormous white, snow-covered cliffs, and ground covered in scraggly little bushes and errant branches. The next, it’s an orange sanded desert with towering red clay mesas jutting up into a perfectly clear blue sky. In each, birds and foxes, boar and rabbits frolic. (And, because Zero Dawn is science fiction, herds of robotic bulls, flocks of giant metal birds or a lone, lumbering cybernetic tyrannosaur.) The world is genuinely stunning, a place that wants simply to be soaked in—observed and inhabited. It is our planet in miniature. It’s the globe shrunk down and captured in a videogame console. Sweep the in-game camera around a landscape and it’s almost possible to smell the air or feel the warmth of the sun.—Reid McCarter


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