It seems crazy that we’re already half way through 2017, but here we are in August, hurtling our way forward to 2018. If you’re anywhere near 30 or above, I’ll give you a minute to deal with the likely mini existential crisis that line may have caused.

Ok, ready? (Up, haha) Before we let the next 6 months roll by, lets take a look at some of the best games released in 2017 as far.

Best games of 2017 so far (that I managed to play)

Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn is the game that finally persuaded me to buy a PS4. The last console I had purchased was an Xbox 360, and since then I’ve moved to being primarily a PC gamer. And I don’t regret finally splurging the cash on this one, because this game has quickly became one of my all time favourites. Featuring an amazing cast of believable characters, a story line that is not only intriguing but that also ties itself up nicely (why is this such a rare thing these days?), as well as a combat system I’ve come to expect and enjoy from games like The Witcher 3 and Tomb Raider; Horizon Zero Dawn creates a perfect combination for a medium time scale entertainment experience. Being a completionist, I also really appreciated that although the game can be an open world kinda non-linear experience at points, it’s not so big that I lost 100s of hours playing it. As Goldilocks would say, it’s juuuussttt right. If you, like me, haven’t had enough of this amazing game, check out Verity’s article talking a bit about what to expect from the DLC on the way The Frozen Wilds.

Loot Rascals

I’m pretty big into my rogue like games – Binding of Issac, Rogue legacy and Crypt of the Necrodancer are examples of massive favourites in my library with 100s of hours stacked up between them. That’s why when Loot Rascals released in early access at the end of 2016 I snapped at the chance. Ignoring the beautiful art style, catchy music and insane story line, (which are all great, by the way) what I love about this game is how it’s completely different to any other roguelike I’ve ever played, but with an equal amount of replay value. It’s a card building strategy game that’s so easy to pick up and understand, but incredibly difficult to master, the mark of a well constructed game in my eyes. I spent a long time pinning down my techniques (and spending lots of weeks at the top of the leader board *humblebrag*), only to have it all crash down again with increasing difficulty levels and the devs contiuning to balance the game. And I love that; I love games I can pick up and set down easily but that have repeated playability that keeps me coming back. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

Nier: Automata

Welcome to existential crisis the game! I was terribly dubious about this game – having picked up and played the original Nier on a whim back in 2010 and enjoyed(?) the insanely weird and wonderful ride that it was, I didn’t think much when Neir: Automata came out; just Japan up to its usual crazy tricks and maybe I’d check it out eventually. Then I saw review after review talking about how amazing the game actually was and I thought, damn, maybe this one is different? So I checked it out and boy, I was not disappointed. I don’t want to give too much away because this is a game that’s best to go into blind, but I did not expect to feel so many feels. All I’ll tell you is this isn’t just a game that asks the question of what is existence, but one that jumps ass first into the gory meat of it in search of an answer.

Persona 5

I was late to the Persona series, having only played Persona 4 about 4 years ago (ha!). That being said, it was the first game since I was a teenager where I opened it up at Christmas and spent an entire week playing it until it was done, with 100s of hours gone in new game+ and wiki deep diving for info later. So when Persona 5 finally hit the shelves, I knew to book a week off work and good glob that was the right move. Persona 5 has held on to the same accessible but chillingly dark edge to it that the Persona series is known for, and did a great job of clearing up the majority of fans issues with the previous games. I found quite a lot of my fellow gaming friends who had never touched the Persona series, were able to pick up and play this entry with no issues and fell in love just as hard. Atlas did it again folks! For a more in-depth look at this, check out Adam’s highly spoilery article.

Night in the Woods

I remember picking up on Night in the Woods a good while before its release date because of its promotional website – it was beautifully made and I really loved the art style they were going for. Fast forward past its release date and I’d long since forgotten about it due to some of the massive releases this year. In almost the identical way I found Undertale,  a friend brought it to my attention and ensured I gave it a go and I’m so glad they did. I’m quite an existential creature (as you may have guessed already) and whilst I don’t usually go out of my way to visit those places, I’m glad I did with this game. Don’t let the cutsey animal characters fool you – with some of the best portrayals of friends and family, this game in its quiet, beautiful way, lays out a story that hit me incredibility deeply, that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Mr Shifty

This game could not be more different to Night in The Woods! Another game coming from the current powerhouse publisher Tiny Build, Mr Shifty is a bullet hell Hotline Miami style game which is basically ‘Nightcrawler the game’. Story-wise the game is quite simplistic but humorous script writing makes it all very tongue and cheek, and the game itself gets nail bitingly difficult at points. It’s only a few hours long but you may be whacking your controller across the room at points because you keep MESSING UP THE SAME BIT; but equally whooping and cheering when you finally get past it. I found this game to be very well put together and personally a lot smoother to play than Hotline Miami is – they’e definitely taken inspiration from the game but improved on its mistakes. Not one for people with slow reaction times, but great if you love a real challenge you could fit into a Sunday afternoon.

Playerunknown’s BattleGrounds

So, obviously, not technically released yet, but Playerunknown Battlegrounds (PUBG) has quickly became one of my favourite games this year. I bought it only a few weeks ago, but I’ve basically played it every day since. It really helps to have a group when playing this game, but with 10-40 minute matches that are both chill and blood pumping, it makes for a great combination that I’m genuinely shocked it’s taken this long to create. Sure, the graphics aren’t that great, the games buggy as hell and ultimately there’s not much to it when you boil it down to its essence; but the elements it gets right are so right it completely makes up for the parts it still needs to fix. And you could almost say that the issues the games have (that aren’t game breaking), add a charm to it that most AAA games have lost as time has gone on; whilst also proving your game doesn’t need to be perfect to be a breakout success. It still has a way to go before it’s officially released, but it’s already one of my favourite games out this year for sheer replay value and fun alone.

Other games I didn’t manage to play

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Unfortunately there were so many games I didn’t get to play that would be considered best games of the year by most people, but I feel like it would be foolish on my part to miss them out. One of them was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the wild; it came time to picking a console and a game, and instead of the Switch and Zelda, I went for PS4 and HZD! But I still think this game deserves a mention, so instead of pretending that I know what I’m talking about, I’ve asked my fellow Ready Upper for their thoughts! Here’s what our very own Scott had to say about The Legend of Zelda:

‘If you’ve been paying attention to gaming at all this year, then you’re probably well aware of the critical hype surrounding the latest Zelda title. A bold re-imagining of an already revered franchise, Breath of the Wild takes lessons learned from the out-of-order dungeon experiments in A Link Between Worlds, along with the equipment upgrade systems teased in Skyward Sword, and expands those concepts into a full open-world, channeling the spirit of the original Legend of Zelda all the way.

Gone is the “collect three McGuffins, grab the Master Sword, finish a few more dungeons, fight Ganondorf” formula of old; after a short, one-hour tutorial – which ingeniously provides you with all the base tools required to explore the world in any order – you’re free to (attempt to) head straight to Hyrule Castle and finish the game there and then. But this would do a huge disservice to a Hyrule just begging to be explored (and you’d likely die, anyway). Overflowing with the sort of detail normally reserved for more linear games, this gargantuan landmass is full of quirky NPCs, tricky puzzle shrines and an abundance of tough enemies, all underlined by layered physics and traversal gameplay systems which often interact in surprising ways. The new climbing mechanic alone is such a natural fit for a game of this type that it almost breaks all other open-world games by proxy.

In fact, my only real issues with Breath of the Wild stem from my love for the Zelda series as a whole; I wish it offered more traditional dungeons and a greater emphasis on the series mythology, for example. But these are minor nitpicks on an otherwise masterful exercise in breathing (hah!) new life into a 30-year-old staple of the industry. Onward to the Champions’ Balad DLC!’

Yakuza 0

Another notable game for 2017 that I haven’t got round to playing is Yakuza 0, so Ready Upper Adam is weighing in:

‘Having dabbled with the Yakuza series before, it’s a series I’ve always respected but never truly been captured by. With prequel Yakuza 0 I considered this a fresh start from the immense plot threads and recurring characters the sequels become. It hooked me right from the start. Splitting the game between two main protagonists, each with their own individual city to explore, it’s a game full of murder, mystery, violence and an astonishing amount of side content. Everything from managing a hostess club to taking part in fight clubs. There’s so much to do you’ll often find yourself leaving the main quest so you can build your real estate business (this is an actual thing you can do). Topped off with a great combat system and some of the best music this year, it’s a niche series that may be (hopefully) about to hit the mainstream.’

In Summary

I think we’ve been absolutely spoilt this year with so many great games. There are others that as a team we haven’t even been able to get around to yet, like Sexy Brutale, Pyre or The Darkside Detective (but they’re all in my steam library, I’m so excited!). I’m really looking forward to what the rest of 2017 is going to bring us (look out for another article on that coming soon!), and expect to see lots of heated debate for our Game of the Year Awards in December.

Over to you guys – Any games you’ve played this year so far that you really loved that didn’t make my list? Be sure to let us know! And keep an eye out for James incoming list – his handy lists let us know every month what’s about the hit the shelves!