The Best Videogames Of 2017 (So Far)

The thumb-bruisers you need to know about

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Summer's over, and that can only mean one thing: it's time to staple your curtains shut, irreparably cancel any friendships you've got going on and get far too involved with some of the best video games 2017 has to offer:

Super Mario Odyssey

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(Nintendo Switch)

Bar some regrettable edutainment titles from the SNES days, Nintendo has never dropped the ball on a Mario platformer. In recent-ish years, Mario Galaxy (1 & 2) and various nostalgic side-scrollers have won critical-acclaim across the board, and the Italian plumber remains as Nintendo's go-to cash cow.

And yet, there's no avoiding the fact that every solo 3D Mario title has felt like a gimmick-driven extension of his N64 debut. Such was the genre (and era) defining brilliance of the pointy plumber's first outing that every iteration since has suffered by comparison (even when they matched up in quality).

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By now you probably know Super Mario Odyssey's 'gimmick' – a magic hat that, when thrown, transforms you into almost any item (or creature) around you. But thanks to the sheer quality and quantity of ideas crammed within his Switch debut, Odysseymanages to transcend its gizmo and maybe, whisper it, lay rightful claim to being his best adventure yet.

Zooming around the cosmos in a knackered spaceship, your job is to crash Bowser and Peach's shotgun wedding and collect hundreds of mini-moons that are scattered across the various lands. Granted, that would all be pretty par for the course, if it wasn't for the endless surprises that greet you at almost every jump, bounce and yahoo. If you ask us, Mario has finally broken free from his polygonal prison for good.

Alongside Breath of the Wild, Odyssey is further proof that the Switch is a genuine must-have, if the fact that you can play it on the toilet wasn't a big enough sell already.

FIFA 18

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(PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox One X, Nintendo Switch)

In the press conference after my first match on FIFA 18's 'Journey' mode, the game called me out for the shameless coward that I am. I'd just won six-nil, and the reporter shoved a mic in Alex Hunters' face and said something along the lines of: "An incredible display out there. Almost like watching someone play a video game on a difficulty level wildly below his actual ability. What do you have to say about that?"

And he was right. At this stage in my FIFA-filled life, I really shouldn't be settling for easy glory on 'semi-pro' mode. After all: if you got the hang of last year's edition then you won't have any trouble adjusting, despite the game's many significant upgrades. Through-balls are much, much better, and the new crowd animations lend a long-warranted measure of drama to your goals. A worthy successor to the best football sim yet.

Xbox One X

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(Yeah, we know: technically not a game. Stay with us)

Confidently named the most powerful home console of all time by the kind of people at Microsoft who know about these sorts of things, the Xbox One X is the all-singing-all-dancing 4k-streaming golden goose that MS is pinning its future hardware hopes on.

A super-charged upgrade of the original Xbox One, the One X is certainly a feat of engineering, a 4K and HDR-enabled beast with a 4K Blu-Ray player, custom eight-core CPU and 1TB of internal memory (it's very fast and powerful, basically).

One for the audio/visual perfectionists amongst you, the One X might not be cheap (£449), but when linked up with a 4K HDR TV (there's always a catch) its performance is a marvel, with games like AAA title Forza Motorsport 7 reaching almost photorealistic standards of screen quality. Up to four times the detail of regular 1080p in fact.

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If you're still saving for that 4K TV, don't fret; games will still look crisp on your regular 1080p set-up, while audio from Dolby Atmos creates incredible immersion, which, along with its 4K streaming and Blu-Ray player features, makes the One X as enticing a media player as it is a gaming machine.

Despite playing all the same games as the Xbox One (it's also fully backwards compatible with both the 360 and original Xbox), Microsoft and a number of third party developers are rolling out a series of patches to optimise games for its new flagship system, making the enhanced power more than just a marketing gimmick aimed at nerds who get caught up in internal specs (not us, obviously).

In terms of design, the One X is a far cry from the One. Its low, sleek build and minimal matte black shell expertly hiding the aforementioned very good technology that has MS and gaming experts so excited, creating minimal fuss in your living room.

It's true that Microsoft needs more first-class exclusives if it truly wants to dominate the 'Mid' generation of high-spec consoles. But seeing the Xbox One X in full flow, as you send a Porsche screaming around a sun-dappled corner in Forza or the silver of a blade as it sinks into an enemy in Assassin's Creed: Origins, makes you think that it's only a matter of time before the high-spec catalogue matches the power of the system.

- Finlay Renwick

Gran Turismo Sport

(PlayStation 4)

We're told that the Gran Turismo series is and has always been the most realistic racing simulator of all-time, but we can't really judge it on that basis. Your humble reviewer has no driving license and, alas, the closest he gets to "high octane thrills" is taking a window seat on the DLR.

But can we judge the game on how fun it is? Yes. And it is! As well as beautiful and immersive. Sometimes too immersive! Like when you're left with real-life responsibilities like fuel consumption and (this one we found particularly hard) not completely trashing your car by careering around the first bend you see.

Sonic Mania

(Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4)

Years ago I was invited to a market research group to talk about how rubbish Sonic the Hedgehog had become with a bunch of other kids. They plied us with crisps and Coke, asked us where they had been going wrong with the series and how to move forward. Almost everybody suggested that they should drop the gimmicks and just make it really, really fast again - like in the original games. Sega took the feedback on board, handed us all a crisp £20 note, and proceeded to do the polar opposite for twelve years.

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Kids could never fully grasp what it is that kids want, after all. So Sega gave Sonic a snood and a human girlfriend and a big sword, praying that something would stick. Nothing did. Not even the machine gun.

In 2017 they gave up, enlisting a team of famed fan-game creators to build a nostalgia-drenched tribute to the Mega Drive classics of old, called Sonic Mania. Needless to say, it's the best Sonic game in decades. No need to thank me. I spent the £20 on Skittles.

Buy on Amazon.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

(Nintendo Switch)

A turn-based title that mashes together the worlds of Mario and Rabbids, the Minions-esque Rayman spin-off that has become arguable more relevant than the floppy-haired cheese string himself.

It's way more tactical and mentally taxing than its childish appearance would have you believe, and the graphics are probably the best the Switch has to offer right now (yeah, including Zelda).

Buy on Amazon.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

(PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro)

Uncharted is back again, but not quite as we know it. This time around we play as two female protagonists, Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross, as they try to keep an ancient Indian artefact out of the grubby hands of an evil greedy war bastard.

As always the story is well-written and paced to perfection, and once again developers Naughty Dog have pushed the PlayStation 4's graphical capabilities to new heights. It's about half as big as its predecessor Uncharted 4, and you spend most of your time wandering around the same jungle setting, but for the budget price-tag it's a no-brainer.

Buy on Amazon.

Observer

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(PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)

A cyberpunk horror met with very little love or fan-fare – no, we're not describing your crusty old MySpace pictures, but the latest game from lauded developers Bloober Team.

Observer sees you working as a brain-hacking detective trapped in a dystopian world of war of plague, trying to infiltrate the minds of the criminally insane. As you can imagine it's pretty dark – but we had to stick at least one game in here that doesn't feature a friendly cartoon rabbit.

Buy on Amazon.

ARMS

(Nintendo Switch)

Full disclosure: for the first 2 hours of our Arms experience, we accidentally held our controllers in the wrong position and had zero clue what was going on. Just like with the early Wii games of yore, it just felt like an opportunity to doggy paddle in our front rooms and hope for the best. But then we actually read the instructions, and discovered how far Nintendo's motion control technology has come over the past 11 years.

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It works like this: you're placed inside an arena with a competitor, and must punch/lob various weapons at them from close or distant range, while constantly moving, weaving and jumping into better positions. Simple, fast-paced and well-executed, Arms is just about the only motion controlled boxing sim that's worth your money.

Buy on Amazon.

WipEout: Omega Collection

(PlayStation 4)

With its chaotic pace, neon race tracks and dread-inducing techno soundtrack, Sony's WipEout was a bit 'panic attack in CyberDog' for most people's tastes. Despite good reviews, the 1995 title's legacy has always paled in comparison with Nintendo's futuristic racing alternative, F-Zero.

That's not to say that this updated collection – featuring a remaster of Wipeout HD and Wipeout 2048 – isn't worth your time, especially given the fact that there are (seemingly) no plans for an F-Zero on the Switch. Technology has finally caught up with Wipeout's frenetic gameplay, making it one of the most action-packed racers on the market.

Buy on Amazon.

Tekken 7

(PlayStation 4)

Two years after it first appeared in Japanese arcades, Tekken 7 has finally found its way onto British consoles. It's not a bad plan, in fairness: by testing out the game on dedicated joystick wranglers first, developers Bandai Namco had enough time to gage reception and fine-tune the title.

And did it work? Yeah. It's the best Tekken yet. Samey, sure, but you shouldn't really expect anything ground-breaking from the seventh installment of an age-old fighting franchise. By perfecting the formula, it still manages to feel fresh and worthwhile.

Buy on Amazon.

Dead by Daylight

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(PlayStation 4, Xbox One)

You have only two options in Dead by Daylight: to play as a survivor, or a killer.

If you choose the first option, you need to escape an enclosed area with the help of up to four players, using the darkness and your environment tactically. As for the killer, you need to sneak up and murder them. It's ground-breaking stuff, as you can imagine.

There's a lot more to the mechanics than that, obviously, but at its heart Dead by Daylight really is that simple. It's been out on PC for a year, and has inspired a cult YouTube fanbase who have created their own horror movie-checking mods.

Buy on Amazon.

Ever Oasis

(Nintendo 3DS)

Sort of like a Zelda/Civilisation Revolution/Animal Crossing hybrid, Ever Oasis is the kind of game you had no idea you actually needed, until you play it.

Tying into the whole 'Oasis' name, players are tasked with venturing out into a dry and fearful landscape under constant threat of terror, with the aim of defeating the bad guys, recruiting the good ones and building and managing the best gosh darn oasis/utopia anyone has ever seen.

Buy on Amazon.

Prey

(PlayStation 4, Xbox One)

A complete reimagining of 2006's eponymous original, sci-fi shoot-em-up/RPG Prey takes place in an alternate timeline where John F. Kennedy survives his assassination attempt, leading the American President to pour more money into the country's space program and accelerate the global Space Race.

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This provokes an alien species called the Typhon into attacking Earth, forcing the US and U.S.S.R to band together to defeat their cosmic rivals. Then a load of other stuff happens and, long story short: you'll spend 50 solid hours shooting aliens in the face, and you'll have no regrets.

Buy onAmazon.

Injustice 2

(PlayStation 4, Xbox One)

All the best lycra-botherers from DC's multiverse are back to boot each other in the tonsils and show-off their MySpace-era haircuts. Now that the Batman Arkham series is taking a well-deserved rest, this follow-up to 2013's highly-rated Injustice: Gods Amongst Us is undoubtedly the greatest – and best looking - superhero game on the market.

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Having said that, the decision to base the story mode's Joker on Jared Leto's "twisted" portrayal in Suicide Squad is a baffling, cringeworthy decision that robs the character of any menace. Lucky then, that producers NetherRealm included loads of new gear and abilities to make up for it.

Buy on Amazon.

LocoRoco Remastered

(PlayStation 4)

Sony has always struggled for a first-party mascot, in the vain of Nintendo's Mario, Microsoft's Master Chief or Sega's Sonic. By 2006 they'd basically given up, and just opted for a space hopper for PSP launch title Loco Roco.

The platform-puzzler picked up a cult fan-base on Sony's first handheld and now, 11 years later, it's become the first PSP game to get adapted for the PS4 - and in these ultra-stressful times, it's easy to see why. The idea is simple: you grow bigger as you eat berries, and control your surroundings by tilting the controller, traversing different obstacles and just, chilling out a bit for once in your life? Nothing wrong with that, even if it is clearly for children and nobody can ever know you play it.

Tumbleseed

(Nintendo Switch)

Brilliant as Zelda and Mario Kart may be, the Nintendo Switch library is still looking pretty stark. Luckily there's a bunch of impressive indie titles available, and Tumbleseed is probably the best yet.

On first play, the game is nightmarish – and not just because everything has a giant, judgemental eye plastered onto it. The physics are aggravatingly tricky to get your palms around, which is especially annoying in a game based around motion control and balance. You move through an obstacle-cluttered course on a balance beam, defeating enemies and all that lark. If you manage to go long enough without putting your Switch into a can crusher, you'll learn to love it.

Little Nightmares

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(PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)

Ever played LittleBigPlanet? It's good fun, but a grown man can't leave the cutesy-wootsy experience with any sort of dignity intact.

Luckily, Swedish developers Tarsier Studios have gone much darker with their new puzzle-stealth-platformer, Little Nightmares. You play Six, a raincoated kid trapped in The Maw – a surreal, nightmarish resort from which you must escape by solving loads of brain-scratching obstacles.

As you've probably noticed, it's aesthetically and thematically similar to the groundbreaking Limbo, but it features richer level design and a stronger emphasis on story. Creepy music, too.

Buy on Amazon.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

(Nintendo Switch)

Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U was as close to perfection as a multiplayer game could possibly get, and a zenith for a series that has blown away all challengers and copycats since 1992. It just seemed un-improvable, so we were pretty skeptical about Nintendo's ability to deliver on the 'Deluxe' aspect of its Switch re-release.

But they've gone and bloody managed it, haven't they? With a selection of new characters, items, and a brand new multiplayer mode that'll transport you back to the balloon-popping days of N64 yore.

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Two tiny qualms: Nintendo have included a 'smart steering' mode to help newcomers to the series, a cowardly option for weak men that we simple can't countenance. There also seems to be an increased frequency of blue shells this time around, which is doing a number on our blood pressure. Apart from that, 10/10 stuff.

Buy on Amazon.

Starblood Arena

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(PlayStation VR)

EVE: Valkyrie was the stand-out game from PlayStation's VR launch catalogue - but considering the space shooter was available on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive too, it didn't provide Sony with the exclusive they needed to set their hardware apart.

So when Starblood Arena was announced, it was easy to spot the glaring similarities between the titles. But while EVE provided a relatively calm and dazzling fight'n'flight experience, Starblood ramps up the action and shrinks the maps to provide a very different game.

Sat in zipping space-ships, Starblood engages you in high-octane, gravity-defying grudge matches. It's not a game of great depth, but it doesn't need to be – in terms of pure fun, it's up there with Rocket League.

Buy on Amazon.

Yooka-Laylee

(Wii U, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)

Scottish developers Rare produced a number of era-defining titles for the N64 back in the nineties – including GoldenEye, Perfect Dark and Conker's Bad Fur Day – before being brought out by Microsoft in 2002.

What followed was a sharp decline in quality, and several key members of the team left Rare to form their own companies - one of which being Polytonic Games, who released their first title, Yooka-Laylee, earlier this month thanks to a crowd funding campaign.

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Seen as the spiritual successor to Rare's Banjo-Kazooie series, you play a ukulele-strumming chameleon named Yooka and a female bat named Laylee as they get up to the kind of stupid nonsense you'd expect of zany anthropomorphic musicians. Jumping. Collecting. A puzzle here and there. All that good shit.

Yooka-Laylee stands as a simple, nostalgia-tinged tribute to platformers past – and that includes the dodgy camera work.

Buy on Amazon.

Outlast 2

(PlayStation 4, Xbox One)

You play Blake Langermann, an investigative journalist searching for his wife after a crash-landing in the Supai region of North Arizona.

As you explore your surroundings, you come to find that - uh-oh, classic you - you're knee deep in death cult county, with no way out and a target on your head. You can't swing a cat for ritual sacrifices in this joint. It's really, really not very nice.

What follows is an ever-moving, panic-stricken search for safety as all manner of evildoers set their terrifying sights on you. One of the scariest horror games you'll ever play - and a big improvement on the original.

Buy on Amazon.

Horizon: Zero Dawn

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PlayStation 4

Not just beautiful, but single-solitary-tear-rolling-down-your-cheek-inducingly beautiful. In development since 2011 by the same team behind the glorious Kill Zone series, Horizon: Zero Dawn is set in a post-apocalyptic future in which the world has been overrun by killer robots after an unknown calamity left the human race ruing their technological ambition.

You play Alloy, a young orphan who is shunned by the tribe, who must prove her worth by demonstrating her abilities in the violent wild.It's one of the most immersive RPGs you'll ever play, and feels like a creative and technical zenith for the PS4.

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Buy on Amazon.

Kona

Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Linux, Windows, Mac

A psychological indie first-person thriller set in the blizzard-stricken Canadian village of Atamipek in the winter of 1970, in which you play a private eye hired by a wealthy copper magnate to investigate a mysterious vandalising of his property. Needless to say, it all gets unexpectedly messy.Sounds right up your street, that, doesn't it? Bit Twin Peaks-y. Full of puzzles, plot-twists and all that good stuff. What's more, this is just the first episode of four that are planned for release.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Nintendo Switch

It's Zelda, but not quite as you know it.Yeah, fine, you still play as the same flaxen-haired sword-waver "hurrghhya"-ing his way through the rambling plains of Hyrule, and you'll experience almost all of the familiar Zelda tropes you know and crave along the way.

But for once, the goliath boss battles aren't the most intimidating part of the game. This time around, it's the sheer freedom that you're offered to explore the game's world, and non-linear story, in any way you see fit. The expansive nature of the game is reminiscent of the first time we played GTA III - it's immediately awe-inspiring. You're even aided with the majority of your integral weapons within the first half an hour of the game.

It's being lorded as a genre-defining masterpiece and a perfect start for Nintendo's new console, but we'd be lying if we said we're even half-way through the game. It'll take you absolute ages, and that's no bad thing at all. It feels like the realisation of vision that the creators of Zelda had from the very start.

Buy on Amazon.

Lego Worlds

PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

On the back of Minecraft's unfathomable success, Lego have released the world-building sandbox game they were always destined to. There's not much to it. You have thousands of Lego bricks available to you, and the freedom to craft whatever you want and show it off to the internet. That's it. No story. No action. Just bricks. And it's everything we could have hoped for.

Buy on Amazon.