Gaming Highlights 2017
Every new year brings with it the promise of astonishing video games, but what does 2017 have in store? Will this be a vintage year?
From returning legends to innovative new projects, there’s an impressive amount of fascinating stuff on the way – and we’ve tried to cram in everything, including big budget sequels, unexpected offshoots and tiny independent projects.
If we’ve somehow overlooked your highlight of the coming year, let us know in the comments section!
29 (Humble Grove; PC/Mac)
Described as a magical realist adventure, 29 is set within a single flat (actually owned by the game’s development team), and follows the lives of its inhabitants as they prepare to move out and move on with their lives. Beautiful visuals and atmosphere.
Release date: TBC
Below (Capybara; Xbox One/PC)
The latest project from Toronto-based studio Capybara Games (Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, Super Time Force), is an overhead-view adventure game, where players explore a mysterious island riddled with caves. The roguelike structure and sharp, minimalist visuals promise a haunting – and demanding – experience.
Release date: TBC
The Church in the Darkness (Paranoid Productions; PC/PS4, Xbox One)
A really fascinating stealth/infiltration game where the player has to sneak into a remote town occupied by a religious cult in an attempt to rescue a relative. The environment is procedurally generated so the challenge is different each time you play.
Release date: TBC
Crackdown 3 (Reagent; Xbox One/PC)
Developed by Reagent Games, the new studio from Dave Jones (Lemmings, Grand Theft Auto), this open-world city-based action romp is set to feature the most authentically destructible environments ever seen in a game, thanks to a cutting edge cloud-based physics engine. Should be a blast.
Release date: TBC
Cuphead (Studio MHDR; PC/Xbox One)
It feels like we’ve been waiting years for this beautiful side-scrolling shooter that takes its visual cues from 1930s American animation. Using hand-drawn characters, painted backgrounds and a vintage jazz soundtrack, it’s a remarkably faithful tribute to the era.
Release date: Mid-2017
Days Gone (Bend Studio; PS4)
Yes, it’s another apocalyptic zombie game, but this time, rather than a straightforward narrative adventure, players get a vast open world to explore and survive in, crafting tools and developing strategies to deal with vast swarms of intelligent monsters. It looks astonishing too.
Release date: TBC
Destiny 2 (Bungie; PS4/Xbox One/PC)
Everyone knows Bungie is working on a full sequel to its 2014 online shooter after a series of major expansion packs – but that’s essentially all we know. After the studio advertised a number of narrative designer roles last year, the expectation is for a major story overhaul, with regular plot updates added through the year. Luke Smith and Mark Noseworthy, the lead designers on The Taken King, are believed to be in charge. According to Eurogamer, social areas will now include an element of gunplay, breaking down the barriers between different facets of the game.
Detroit: Become Human (Quantic Dream; PS4)
French studio Quantic Dream (Heavy Rain, Beyond Two Souls) often draws criticism for its grandiloquent, highly intellectualised approach to game design, but its projects are always interesting and gorgeous to look at. This neo-noir tale of sentient androids on the loose in a near-future America is no exception.
Release: likely late 2017
For Honor (Ubisoft; PC/PS4/Xbox One)
Promising a new, much more tactical take on the hack-’n-slash genre, For Honor lets players select from a range of warrior archetypes including Knight, Viking and Samurai before taking part in multiplayer brawls. The clever anlogue controls give you precise control over your weapon and shield, allowing for a uniquely tactile combat experience.
Release: 14 February
Guardians of the Galaxy (Telltale PC/PS4/Xbox One/mobile devices)
Revealed as Telltale’s next episodic adventure in December, it’s not yet clear whether the game will follow the comic book or movie narratives. Due later this year however, it will segue nicely with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Players will switch between different members of the eccentric cast, flying through space and getting into trouble.
GNOG (Ko-Op Mode/Double Fine; PS4)
Originally conceived as a 2D puzzler, GNOG has since transformed into a delightfully surreal 3D puzzle adventure set within the heads of vast robotic monsters. Each cranium has its own rules, mechanics and visual style, and the whole thing is weirdly beautiful.
Release date: TBC
God of War (Sony Santa Monica; PS4)
Everyone’s favourite deity-crushing warrior Kratos is back in this “soft reboot” of the famed hack-’em-up series. This time he’s taking on the pantheon of Norse gods, accompanied by his son, who he must teach to hunt and fight. The footage shown at E3 last year has piqued the interest of newcomers in addition to confirmed god-battering mega fans.
Gravity Rush 2 (SIE Japan Studio/Project Siren; PS4)
The futuristic gravity-manipulating adventure is returning with a more detailed and interactive city and two new types of gravity power. Lead character Kat can now also tag-team with her ally Raven as they investigate the weird gravitational waves messing up Hekseville. The original was a trippy and visually arresting treat – let’s hope that’s not turned on its head with the sequel.
Hidden Folks (Adriaan de Jongh/Sylvain Tegroeg; PC/smartphone)
Imagine Where’s Wally set in a hand-drawn monochromatic and highly animated world filled with life and detail – that’s Hidden Folks. Each of the areas has a number of people and items to find, and players often have to open doors, or move objects to locate them, making this a beautifully tactile experience.
Home Free (Kevin Cancienne; PC/PS4)
Successfully Kickstarted in 2015, Home Free is effectively an open-world canine survival sim, in which you play as a stray dog lost in a big city. You can beg for food, socialise with other dogs and explore the procedurally generated environment that’s different every time you play. Dog lovers will doubtless sitand stay in front of this for hours.
Horizon: Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games, PS4)
Easily one of the most anticipated mainstream console titles of the year, Horizon sees nomadic hunter Aloy battling huge robot dinosaurs for survival amid the ruins of a wrecked civilisation. Fully supporting the 4K and HDR extras of PS4 Pro, this could be a landmark visual experience as well as a compelling combat adventure.
Release: 28 February
Knights and Bikes (Foam Sword, PC, PS4)
Young adventurers Nessa and Demelza must discover the secrets of a strange island while riding their bikes and recruiting weird new friends, including a pet goose. Created and successfully Kickstarted by Rex Crowle and Moo Yu who both worked on Little Big Planet, Knights and Bikes has a wonderful storybook aesthetic and loveable lead characters.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo, Wii U, Switch)
The game that will see out the Wii U and welcome in the Nintendo Switch is an epic rethinking of the Zelda recipe with an open world, a full physics engine and an intriguing survival element. Link will have to find food, items and weapons to progress through Hyrule and defeat the latest incarnation of series antagonist Ganon. Zelda arguably ruled last year’s E3 and it could be the critical hit of 2017.
Release: likely spring
Little Nightmares (Tarsier Studios, PC/PS4/Xbox One)
The distinctively yellow-coated young protagonist Six leads the first new IP from Tarsier Studios, a Swedish developer better known for working with Media Molecule on the LittleBigPlanet games and Tearaway Unfolded. Little Nightmares is a puzzle platformer set in a horrible world, asking players to guide Six through an oversized underwater lair called The Maw. People are saying “Tim Burton-esque” but don’t let that put you off.
Loot Rascals (Hollow Ponds; PC/PS4)
A clever combination of roguelike and collectible card game, Loot Rascals has you fighting monsters on a distant planet, earning loot cards from defeated foes. The twist is, losing fights will see one of your cards being stolen and warped into another player’s game – if they choose to keep it, a hologram version of your character can fight them to get it back. Imagine Dark Souls crossed with Nuclear Throne but in a visual universe inspired by a cool new Cartoon Network animation.
Mass Effect: Andromeda (EA/Bioware; PS4/Xbox One/PC)
The science fiction role-playing adventure returns, 600 years after Mass Effect 3, with a whole new cast of characters looking to find a home planet in a distant galaxy. Story details are thin, but the heritage of the series ensures this is a ‘game of the year’ contender before the year even begins.
Release: 23 March
Mineko’s Night Market (PC/iOS)
There’s no guarantee this luscious side-scrolling adventure game, created by a collective of developers and artists, will be out this year, but we’re hopeful. Mineko and Abe the Cat want to set up a stall in a magical night market but first they must spend their days searching the forest for valuable items to sell. Part retail sim, part Animal Crossing-style community experience, Mineko’s Night Market is like a warm-hearted modern translation of Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Forest.
Nidhogg 2 (Messhof Games; PC/PS4)
The original two-player sword-fighting game was a minimalist masterpiece, its sparse pixelated backdrops and pure fencing action providing a tense and exciting competition. The sequel amps up the graphical fidelity and combat options considerably, giving a new, almost cartoonish look. It’s been a controversial move, but the trailer promises a whole heap off frenzied fun.
Night in the Woods (Finji; PC/Mac/PS4)
College dropout Mae Borowski returns to the sleepy town she grew up in and finds a familiar collection of misfits, weirdos and old routines – but there is also something new hiding out there in the woods. This side-scrolling adventure is populated entirely by anthropomorphised animals, and the smart, funny dialogue makes it feel like Twin Peaks, Gilmore Girls and a really smart Pixar animation rolled into one interactive independent movie.
Overland (Finji; PC/Mac)
Another post-apocalyptic survival game, this time a turn-based strategy set in the aftermath of an alien invasion. Players must manage small groups of survivors as they travel across the country, looting burned out cars, fighting monsters and just keeping each other alive. The simple mechanics hide a tactically complex challenge filled with difficult decisions and horrible sacrifices. Incredibly engrossing.
Persona 5 (Atlus; PS4)
The Persona series from Atlus has always achieved cult success in the West, and finally the latest instalment is set for an international release after a successful launch in Japan last year. Once again, it’s a dark role-playing adventure set in a Tokyo school filled with super-powered students and supernatural enemies.
Release: 4 April
Prey (Arkane; PC/PS4/Xbox One)
Billed as a reboot of the acclaimed 2006 sci-fi shooter, Prey is a first-person adventure set aboard a space station seething with alien monsters. Created by the team behind the Dishonored titles it’s a similarly deep, highly systemic design, allowing players to choose their own tools and abilities to explore and defeat the hostile environment as they see fit.
Release: likely spring/summer
Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar; PS4, Xbox One)
Announced to mass global frenzy of excitement in October, little is yet known about this sequel to 2010’s masterful western adventure. Expect a huge open world populated by merciless gunslingers, and an interconnected multiplayer experience resembling GTA Online.
Release: autumn 2017
Rime (Tequila Works; Nintendo Switch/PC/PS4/Xbox One)
First announced in 2013 under the working title Echoes of Siren, Rime has certainly been through the development treadmill, swapping from Xbox to PlayStation development before resurfacing last year under a new publisher. A single-player puzzle adventure following a young boy stranded on a mysterious island, Rime has a lovely visual style and a minimalist approach to story-telling.
Sea of Thieves (Rare; PC/Xbox One)
Playing a demo of Rare’s multiplayer pirate game was a real highlight of the E3 video game event last year. Players board a ship with a handful of teammates before navigating the high seas and getting into battles with other buccaneers. There are islands to explore and treasures to dig up, and it’s all done with signature Rare design flare and graphical exuberance.
Shenmue 3 (Neilo/Ys Net; PC/PS4)
Sony almost broke the internet when this long-awaited close to Yu Suzuki’s adventure trilogy was announced at E3 in 2015. Following a total of $6m raised through crowdfunding, the game is hopefully on track for release late this year, following vengeful hero Ryo Hazuki to China where he continues the hunt for his father’s killer, Lan Di. But can it really live up to all that wild expectation?
Snake Pass (Sumo Digital; PC/PS4/Xbox One)
Developed for a studio game jam, the team at Sumo immediately saw the appeal of this slithery platform adventure game and put it into production. You control the eponymous serpent, getting to grips with a uniquely physical movement mechanic as it navigates a series of increasingly complex worlds. It’s immediately playable and will really remind veteran gamers of classic PlayStation-era action adventure titles, but given an inventive twist in the tail.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole (Ubisoft; PC/PS4/Xbox One)
South Park: The Stick of Truth surprised virtually everybody in 2014 by being a genuinely funny and good role-playing adventure. The Fractured But Whole has a lot to live up to then, and judging by its amusing Captain America: Civil War-inspired storyline, it should deliver.
Release: early 2017
Sunless Skies (Failbetter games; PC/Mac)
2015’s Sunless Sea was one of the most interesting narrative games of the year, a darkly compelling combination of ocean exploration, survival and roguelike jeopardy. The sequel promises to take that recipe into space, providing a sort of British Imperial slant on galactic colonisation.
Tacoma (Fullbright Company; PC/Xbox One)
The creators of award-winning narrative adventure Gone Home return with another subtle, story-focused project, this time set in the aftermath of a mysterious mass disappearance on an Earth-orbiting space station. Players must get to know the crew of the Tacoma base through virtual reality video replays before learning of their mysterious fate.
Thimbleweed Park (PC/Xbox One/smartphone)
If you loved all those old LucasArts point-and-click adventures, the latest project from Manic Mansion creators Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick is definitely for you. Set in the eponymous rural town, now virtually abandoned, the story follows two FBI agents showing up to investigate an apparent murder – only to discover a weird community of losers, ghosts and … cursed clowns. The interface and visual style take us right back to the era of Monkey Island and Full Throttle – why did we ever leave?
Release: early 2017
Tokyo 42 (SMAC/Mode 7, PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Billed as a cross between Syndicate and Grand Theft Auto, Tokyo 42 presents an isometric vision of Tokyo in the near future; a cyberpunk dreamscape of modular skyscrapers, flying cars and bloody shootouts. The player is an assassin, navigating the crowds and street gangs to take out a series of targets; but it’s the detailed tilt-shift environments that have really blown us away.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands (Ubisoft; PC/PS4/Xbox One)
Set in a Bolivia swamped with powerful drug cartels, the newest Ghost Recon sends its high-tech Ghost soldiers in to the open-world environment to restore order and shoot lots of people. Once again, the emphasis is on tactics and technology, with stealth, recon drones and day/night cycles all figuring into every mission. The four-player co-op mode adds team-based strategising to the tense and exciting mix.
Release: 7 March
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (Naughty Dog; PS4)
Oh you didn’t think we’d seen the last of this series did you? This side story follows ruthless treasure hunter (and Nathan Drake ex) Chloe Frazer as she teams up with Nadine Ross from Uncharted 4 to track down an ancient Indian artefact. We can expect the usual mix of cinematic narrative, puzzle solving and falling off narrow walkways.
Vampyr (Dontnod; PC/PS4/Xbox One)
A gothic vampire tale set in foggy London town just after the First World War, this action adventure is a far cry from Dontnod’s previous game, Life is Strange. Players take on the role of freshly turned blood sucker Jonathan Reid who must now stalk the streets of the city choosing fresh victims. The choices he makes have an effect on the story, and he must ensure he doesn’t bleed any areas of the city completely dry. Meanwhile, a battle rages between ultra violent vampire hunters and a mutated breed of the undead called the The Skulls.
Wattam (Funomena; PS4)
In which Journey producer Robin Hunicke and Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi team up and develop one of the strangest, most instantly loveable games of this year – or indeed any year. There is a weird landscape where characters hold hands, hug and transform into other things, and you’re the mayor – your job is to nurture life and solve puzzles. That may involve playing football with a toilet or dancing with mushrooms. You have to see it to believe it. It’s exquisite.
Yooka-Laylee (Playtonic ; PC/Mac /PS4 /Xbox One /Nintendo Switch)
In 2015, the creative leads behind classic Rare titles like Donkey Kong Country and Banjo-Kazooie set up their own studio and started planning a new character-based comic book adventure, with fresh heroes and modern visuals, but familiar game design ideas and principles. Yooka-Laylee is the heartwarming result. Vast worlds, fiendish puzzles, cute critters. Yes please.