It’s been a damn good year for video games. The arrival of new consoles like the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One X has ushered in a slew of new games, from long-awaited sequels to stunning open world adventures. Here’s a look at TIME’s top picks of the year.
10. Destiny 2 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC)
The sequel that launched a thousand think pieces and podcast episodes, not to mention Reddit threads. To put it succinctly, developer Bungie managed to accomplish most of what it set out to do in Destiny with Destiny 2. This year’s take on the loot-based, massively multiplayer online shooter showed how rewarding that concept could be when fully realized. This time around, there was plenty to do at every level and the end-game material was challenging and ambitious (if a little buggy here and there.) Sure, most hardcore Destiny devotees blew through the game relatively quickly. (And true of those, a few Stockholm Syndrome-suffering devotees yearned for the relentless grind of the original.) But, the sequel managed to set itself up as something worth coming back to again and again as downloadable updates and expansions come out throughout the next year.
9. Horizon Zero Dawn (PlayStation 4)
A sci-fi roleplaying game set in a stunning post apocalyptic world stocked with secrets to spare. If you’re not already sold, did we mention that there are gargantuan robotic monsters roaming the land? Horizon Zero Dawn follows protagonist Aloy, an outcast huntress desperate to join society and learn about where she came from. The game’s breathtaking aesthetics are enough to make it noteworthy, especially when running on the PlayStation 4 Pro. But Guerrilla Games’ curiously-crafted world and satisfying, wide-ranging combat make it a must-play for PS4 owners.
8. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (Nintendo Switch)
You’ve just stepped out of Peach’s castle ready to embark on a new quest. You travel between worlds using magical pipes, crushing enemies and gathering coins along the way. Sound like a typical Super Mario Bros. game? Mario + Rabbids is a strategic roleplaying game that requires players masterfully maneuver their way through colorful chess-like levels, smiting enemies to reach their goal. It’s a bizarre, delightful and surprisingly difficult take on a Mario game. At its core, Mario + Rabbids involves turn-based battles of a piece with archetypal games like X-COM: UFO Defense and Jagged Alliance. Your party can consist of a mix of classic Mario characters working alongside Rabbids cosplaying familiar faces like Luigi and Peach. Like the best strategy games, Mario + Rabbids invites casual players to the party, then ratchets up its challenges.
7. PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds (PC, Xbox One)
Don’t write off PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds as just another multiplayer shooter. For starters, the complete game isn’t even finished. (It’s part of Steam’s Early Access program and will also be coming to the Xbox One). And with matches that usually last only 30 minutes, it’s easy to get into without sinking your entire evening away .The premise is equally straightforward yet intriguing: 100 players parachute down to a Battle Royale-style match on a remote island, where they must scavenge for weapons and vehicles. The map shrinks as time passes, forcing players to rush to the safe zone and putting them in closer proximity to one another. The pace keeps you on your toes while allowing you the space to employ wait-and-see strategies for stealthily timed attacks. But don’t let the simplicity of Battlegrounds (or PUBG as it’s more commonly known) fool you: It’s just as frustratingly difficult as it is fun.
6. Cuphead (Xbox One, PC)
Cuphead is Betty Boop meets a shoot ’em up meets…a design miracle. Studio MDHR’s 2D side-scroller has players do battle with giant carrots, boxing frogs, angry birds, queen bees and gambling contraptions. And all of it hand-sketched, inked and painted to resemble a 1930s Max Fleischer cartoon. This is one of those games that has to be seen in action to truly grasp the size of its achievement as a piece of visual art. It is also, as a game, incredibly difficult which, with its themes and setup, is just as it ought to be.
5. Persona 5 (PlayStation 4)
If my teenage years involved attending school by day and battling criminals by night, all set in a super stylish Tokyo backdrop, I’d probably never want to grow up. That’s the basic premise of Persona 5, the latest installment in the Japanese fantasy battle simulator series. Playing as the main character, a second-year high school student that just moved to the city, your time is split between typical high school shenanigans and fending off supernatural entities that are up to no good. As is the case with previous Persona games, you’ll engage in turn-based battle with enemies through your persona avatar, which inflicts damage using special abilities like lightning. The game is just as much about teaming up with friends to subdue their own internal battles as much as it’s about taking down villains.
4. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch)
It’s 2017, and a Wolfenstein game was one of the most well-written, provocative and batsh*t narratively groundbreaking games of the year. What is going on? That the original was as two-dimensional as games narratives come (Nazis = bad) only heightens the pleasure of experiencing the last two entries’ uber-stylish take on the tired “What if the Nazis had won?” trope. No spoilers, but The New Colossus commits to going places that had to look nuts on paper—and then gets there in a way that manages to balanced the game’s run-and-gun action with the nuances of a fully realized story. After launching for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in October, it will be coming to the Nintendo Switch next year.
3. What Remains of Edith Finch (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Giant Sparrow’s sophomore effort offers an interactive journey through the puzzling lives of a family beset by tragedy. Phantom memories lurk behind secret doors or at the ends of twisting passageways. The setting, a remote Pacific northwest home whose oblique additions sprawl like a stack of teetering favelas, becomes both a literal maze and a lineal metaphor. The upshot plays like an exceptional anthology of remembrances experienced through the eyes of each family member. The novelty lies in the telling, each vignette unfurling like a piece of gameplay snapped off from some other game, singular and fascinating.
2. Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch)
Super Mario Odyssey is Nintendo’s grandest reimagining of the Super Mario series in years. It builds on the open world concepts Nintendo initially introduced with 1996’s Super Mario 64 and 2002’s Super Mario Sunshine, but gives players even more to explore. Odyssey manages to turn the Super Mario series upside down while staying true to the franchise’s most beloved qualities — and dialing them up to 11. Mario’s companion Cappy enables the beloved plumber to take on the form of his enemies — including waddling Goombas and frying-pan-chucking Koopas—in order to progress through levels. It’s a game that rewards players for exploring every nook and cranny, which are filled with hidden puzzles and other surprises.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Switch)
Scrambling across the idyllic vistas of Nintendo’s vast new fantasy sandbox The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it’s easy to see the action-adventure’s sunken structures—plaintive artifacts of a vanished golden age waiting to be restored—as a metaphor for Nintendo itself. It’s like nothing else the company has made, an experience so simultaneously prodigious and accomplished that it feels like a mic drop to the sort of “open world” games (Grand Theft Auto V, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, The Witcher 3) the industry seems bent on proliferating. But what drives Breath of the Wild to soar comes down to essential Nintendo design principles.
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