It had just turned April when we declared that 2017 was a great year for video games. The post-holiday quarter is usually fairly quiet for new releases, but in 2017 it brought us legitimate contenders for game of the year in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn and Persona 5 -- and that's not to mention Resident Evil 7's return to form. Now the year is almost over, and we've had a stunning Mario game, another great Wolfenstein title and even an Assassin's Creed game that exceeded all expectations.
Getting an entire editorial team to agree on just one game is tough, and ultimately not that fun, so we didn't try. Instead, we each picked the one game that stood out to us the most -- avoiding duplicates -- and then named the title we're most looking forward to for 2018.
Assassin's Creed Origins
I never expected that an Assassin's Creed game would end up being one of my favorite games this year. But yes, Origins really is that good. Thanks to strong writing, a compelling lead and a gorgeous rendition of ancient Egypt in 4K and HDR, it's easily the best game in the series.
I didn't think I'd have patience for yet another massive open-world game, let alone one in a franchise that's embodied the worst elements of big-budget game development. But once I moved beyond the (admittedly clunky) opening sequence, I had a hard time putting it down. While the game starts out as a revenge story, I was more compelled by simply helping out the people of Egypt. Throughout its missions and side quests, it's hard not to feel the same sense of duty that drives Bayek, Origin's noble main character. Perhaps that's why, in this age of antiheroes and misfits, he feels like a breath of fresh air.
Runner-up: Life Is Strange: Before the Storm
Somehow, a Life Is Strange prequel without any time-travel powers is actually more compelling than the original. I didn't expect much from Before the Storm, especially with its new cast, but it ended up being a heartbreaking portrait of teenage angst.
2018: Red Dead Redemption 2
The first Red Dead Redemption is as close to perfect as a game can be. So who needs a sequel? While I have my concerns, I still can't wait to see what else Rockstar does with that world. As a developer, its narrative strengths are often overshadowed by the wackier and raunchier elements from Grand Theft Auto. If this next game manages to capture a fraction of the original's magic, it will be worth it.
Senior Editor, Database
Dream Daddy isn't the first to break from the heteronormative conventions of traditional dating sims, and it's easy to dismiss its quirks as mere gimmicks. But unlike titles that turn the genre on its head, like Hatoful Boyfriend and Doki Doki Literature Club, Dream Daddy shines in how it treats its relationships thoughtfully, and how the romance isn't necessarily the be-all and end-all of the game. The characters aren't just machines you drop niceness tokens into until a happy ending falls out. The game cares more about the time you spend together than where the relationship ends up. Sometimes you won't get the good ending, and Dream Daddy wants you to know that's okay: You'll always have your quirky daughter Amanda and your terrible dad jokes. Terrible, terrible dad jokes.
Runner-up: Doki Doki Literature Club
If Dream Daddy is a love letter to the frivolity of dating sims, Doki Doki wants you to know that they're complete bullshit. The choices are unsatisfying and the emotional content is empty. So the game strips away your choices and in the process hits you right in the gut. You can't save her, but God dammit you will try.
2018: Pokémon for Nintendo Switch
2016 was a pretty solid anniversary year for Pokémon, thanks to the solid 1-2 punch of Pokémon Go during the summer and Pokémon Sun and Moon in the fall. However, 2017 has been the year of Switch, with franchises like Zelda and Mario rightfully dominating the headlines. While this year's Ultra Sun and Moon were somewhat underwhelming, next year may bring us a Pokémon game for Switch. It's not just that the Switch is looking like it will be Nintendo's most popular console of all time or that Pokémon is a popular franchise: This will be the first core Pokémon game on a home console. The fact that the Switch is also portable probably factored into the decision to put it there, as it won't stray too far from the series' roots. Face-to-face interaction has always been a hallmark of Pokémon, and the Switch's early marketing played up the social aspect of the system. Pokémon Switch might be the title that truly realizes that potential.
Horizon Zero Dawn
One of the oldest tropes in video games is the premise of the lone hero, imbued with unique powers, who must set out on an impossible quest to save the world. It's the rare gem of a game that demands you save a world you never knew existed, centuries after it was destroyed. In Horizon Zero Dawn, you play as Aloy, a skilled hunter and an outcast from her village, for reasons she must discover for herself by unlocking the secrets of where she and her people came from.
As you battle and hunt your way across a primitive landscape infested with hostile robotic animals (and dinosaurs!), you must carefully navigate treacherous terrain and use a combination of guile, stealth and brute force to stay alive. The game takes around 60 hours to fully complete, while the Frozen Wilds DLC adds another 15 hours. Offering a top-flight mix of original storytelling and voice acting with buttery-smooth controls, Horizon Zero Dawn is well worth beating -- and then immediately replaying with New Game+.
Runner-up: Into the Dead 2
If there's one thing I like more than shooting robots with a bow and arrow, it's blasting zombies in the face with a double-barrel. Into the Dead 2 is a mobile-based action game that combines the gameplay of survival horror shooters with infinity runners. It's free to play and a great way to sharpen your zombie-hunting reflexes.
2018: Monster Hunter: World
Taking down robotic T. rexes with naught more than a bow and spear is all well and good, but what if I want to stalk real monsters with a ginormous sword? Luckily, that's where Monster Hunter: World will come in. In 2018, the storied Japanese franchise will finally make its way back to home consoles for the first time since 2010. A simultaneous worldwide release -- a first for the series -- will also allow every player, anywhere, to team up and take down their multistory prey. Can. Not. Wait.
Bureau Chief, UK
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Half of the Engadget team wanted to write about Zelda -- and it's not just because it was the flagship launch title for Nintendo's Switch. It's also because Breath of the Wild signaled the biggest shift in the series since the N64's Ocarina of Time. That was 20 years ago. But hey, Zelda: BotW isn't just the best game of 2017. It might well be the best game of the past ten years. It pulls the long-running series into modern gaming, and does it with a perfectly pitched difficulty curve. There's crafting, weapons that degrade, almost too much to collect and do, as well as magical rune "skills" that make each battle, area and dungeon a toy chest of physics and explosive effects.
That's paired with an incredible degree of navigational freedom. Yes, there are four champions who can (should!) help you with your quest against Ganondorf. Or you can just go right up to the castle, armed with a branch, and try to best the end-of-game boss right from the outset. (Don't do that.) Without even touching the DLC content that's equal parts fan service and new challenge, there's so much to do here -- it's easier to compare BotW to a GTA game in terms of completionist scale.
We're still playing it.
Because multiplayer games never die. Even if you're a year late to them.
2018: More Switch ports!
Nothing huge is particularly getting me hyped for 2018. That said, I'm hoping Nintendo continues to deliver remakes to the Switch. I'm in the midst of LA Noire, and I might even pick up Skyrim. These are games I never got into when they were originally released, but they fit perfectly on Nintendo's hybrid console. Already coming up is the chance to play through the Bayonetta back catalog. That should prime me for entry number three.
It's hard to adequately recommend Nier: Automata. With every attempt, I end up spewing out a never-ending stream of superlatives without ever really saying why it's so special to me. I talk about the narrative, which defies expectations at every turn; I talk about the gameplay, which is every bit as good as you'd expect from a Platinum Games title, and even more varied. Then there's the soundtrack, which mirrors and enhances the shifts, twists and turns of the story. But then, what of the world Yoko Taro has built, in all its splendor? Instead I'll just say that I know no one who's finished Nier: Automata and not loved it. It pushes the boundaries of everything it touches, and it's one of the best games I've ever played.
Runner-up: Fire Emblem Heroes
If it was difficult to define my love for Nier: Automata, it's almost impossible to explain why I'd recommend a free-to-play game that's cost me close to $1,000 this year. I adore the Fire Emblem series, and Fire Emblem Heroes is a perfect mobile adaptation of its core mechanics. Nintendo and developer Intelligent Systems have done a great job of making a title that's fun to pick up and play for a few minutes at a time, but with the depth and reward to keep idiots like me spending money every month.
2018: Fire Emblem for Nintendo Switch
It's been a decade since we've had a Fire Emblem game on a home console, but next year Nintendo promises that'll change with the launch of Fire Emblem for Nintendo Switch. After the somewhat disappointing Fire Emblem Fates for 3DS, I'm excited to see how Intelligent Systems takes advantage of the Switch's power for what will be the thirteenth game in the series.
Reporter, Engadget UK
Persona 5 is a game dripping with style. Its colorful, anime-inspired depiction of Tokyo blends with a jazzy, upbeat soundtrack and a kaleidoscopic set of menus. The gorgeous presentation is paired with an immersive RPG structure that's part high school simulator, part mind-bending dungeon crawler. One minute, you're hanging out with friends and working at the local convenience store; the next, you're inside a mobster's psyche, or "palace," fighting shadowy monsters as a member of the Phantom Thieves.
It's an addictive combination. Everything you do in the real world has a direct impact on your Persona-wielding combat skills. Do you hang out with Ryuji and unlock his ultimate Persona? Or earn the money required to buy some new weapons and body armor? Persona 5's calendar system means that every morning and afternoon matters. Choosing what to do can be stressful, but that's the point. At the end of the game, you really feel like you've spent a year in Tokyo. A unique one filled with mystery, laughs and adventure. I can think of few other games that capture a place and passage of time so well.
I'm obsessed with Prey's alternate history. I won't go into detail -- doing so would spoil the story -- but it's tied to the game's alien threat and the beautiful, decadent Talos I spaceship. It serves as the perfect backdrop for an immersive sim that includes shape-shifting, shotguns and a multi-purpose "Gloo Cannon."
2018: Kingdom Hearts 3
Kingdom Hearts 2 is one of my favorite games from the PlayStation 2 era. It was a dazzling action RPG mixing the colorful innocence of Disney with the complexity and scale of Final Fantasy. The spin-offs that followed were fun but failed to recapture the scale and visual flair of the original games. I'm ready for Kingdom Hearts 3. All of the worlds we've seen so far -- Tangled, Toy Story and Hercules -- look incredible. If Square Enix can nail the combat and simplify the story (the lore gets out of hand in later games), it could be truly special.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a pivotal game for the franchise. Resident Evil is beloved, with entries spanning decades and including some of the best, most commercially successful horror titles of all time. Sometimes it feels like Resident Evil has just always been there, waiting to scare the pants off of us with every new console generation. But over the past few years, the series lost its luster -- recent games focused more on action than horror or puzzle-solving, to middling results (and sales).
And then Resident Evil 7 landed in January. This game changes the series in a major way, taking the action from a third-person view to first-person, and offering the entire experience in virtual reality via PlayStation VR. Otherwise, Biohazard marks a triumphant return to the series' bloody, cockroach-encrusted, mildewing roots. Resident Evil 7 is a tense, dramatic game, guiding players through a compound of violent decay and unspeakable government experiments. There are riddles to solve, derelict rooms to explore and monsters to hunt -- and never, ever enough ammo. Resident Evil 7 not only is a fantastic and terrifying game, but it quietly salvaged one of the industry's most cherished franchises.
Runner-up: What Remains of Edith Finch
There's a reason this macabre, independent title beat out Horizon, Wolfenstein II, Nier: Automata and Hellblade to win Best Narrative at this year's Game Awards. What Remains of Edith Finch is a testament to the power of video games as a storytelling platform -- and as an emotional syringe.
2018: Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
A train gushing black smog rolls through a red-stained canyon dotted with saguaros. The air hangs heavy and humid on the banks of an Alabama swamp. A man sits alone by a fire before transforming into a massive bird, and a wolf in business attire tells your fortune in a small wood shack. These are the scenes of Where the Water Tastes Like Wine -- hand-drawn, backed by twangy folk music and from a creator of Gone Home, the game is set to be an unpredictable journey through the heart of American history and legend.
Timothy J. Seppala
Super Mario Odyssey
Super Mario Odyssey makes me smile. I've been waiting for an awesome Super Mario 64 sequel since Super Mario Sunshine left me feeling pretty flat. Fifteen years later, I finally got it. Everything about this game radiates happiness, from the way the Italian plumber sleep-talks about ziti and tortellini to his delightful waddle/run and a recurring, mustached T. rex.
Every vibrant kingdom feels wildly different from the last, and there's no shortage of reasons to revisit them as you progress, either. Two months later and the music still feels fresh as ever too, with a strong mix of original songs and a handful of rearranged favorites.
One night well past my bedtime, my parents came home and excitedly unboxed an NES Power Pad bundle. They didn't start with Duck Hunt or World Class Track Meet; they picked the original Super Mario Bros. I couldn't see the TV from my vantage point, but their laughs and that music left an indelible mark on my memory. When I turn on Odyssey, it hearkens back to the moment when I finally got to play. Odyssey has captured my heart like no other game has in a very, very long time.
Runner-up: Wolfenstein: The New Colossus
If Wolfenstein were simply a shooting gallery filled with cardboard cut-out fascists, its catharsis would wear thin after a few minutes. But thanks to impressive characterization and world-building, The New Colossus became one of my favorite games this year. Oh, and yeah, it feels great to kill Nazis again.
It only takes me a few hours to drive to the real Detroit, but what I've seen and played of David Cage's version so far has me excited to explore a virtual Motor City. How allegorical will it be for Motown's real stories of oppression and the disadvantaged? I can't wait to find out. If there's a worry, it's that I've played Cage's games before and they can be heavy-handed and a bit wooden. Describing his last game, Beyond: Two Souls, as "over-ambitious" would be an understatement as well. Let's hope Cage can stay out of his own way.
At the ripe old age of 28, the Atari Lynx doesn't get a lot of new games. While other retro consoles have thriving communities keeping them alive, the Lynx has a handful of dedicated fans. And, in turn, perhaps almost a single-digit number of people still making games for it. In that context, it's been a bumper year for the Lynx, with a bevy of boxed releases, thanks to Atari-Age forum member Der-luchs, whose Luch-soft imprint has released (or re-released) five titles for the Lynx over the past year. Best of all: Weltenschlächter.
Weltenschlächter is a straight-up, no-nonsense arcade shooter. As with many games of the arcade era, the objective is simple: achieve the highest score. You play a budding intergalactic hero, fighting off an endless army of evolving evil aliens. The trick is that they hide behind protective walls, which you need to shoot down first. It's basically Space Invaders at 90 degrees, with more complex enemies. A bonus round every few levels sees you switch to avoiding oncoming adversaries, presumably as you fly to the next galaxy full of angry pixelated extraterrestrials. It's fast, fun and addictive, and the music's pretty good too.
Runner-up: Alpine Games
Alpine Games (2004) was re-released this year, putting it in many middle-aged hands for the first time. If you imagine Epyx's California Games in the snow, then you've just imagined Winter Games (also by Epyx). But you could also be imagining Alpine Games. Pick from among sports like snowboarding, slalom and bobsleigh for instant pick-up-and-play fun.
2018: Wyvern Tales
The Atari Lynx doesn't have any real RPG games (although, weirdly, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is pretty close). Wyvern Tales -- an homage to early Zelda/Final Fantasy–style games -- will rectify that. The usual ingredients of weapons, level-up battles, puzzles and magic are here, with towns to explore and shopkeepers full of wisdom.
Wyvern Tales has been in production for seven years, but it finally looks like it will get released in 2018. The cartridges should be able to save progress (unheard of in original Lynx games), which, if nothing else, means there should be plenty of hours of gameplay.
Wolfenstein: The New Colossus
Single-player shooters that tell a compelling, nuanced story are few and far between. But those that also confront a serious cultural anxiety while leading players into gleeful carnage are even rarer. Wolfenstein: The New Colossus may have stumbled into the zeitgeist, but its alt-history tale of vengeful resistance fighters prying the world from Nazi rule is delivered with solid writing and fantastic voicework. The sequel to 2014's The New Order one-ups its predecessor in many (but not all) ways: The upgrade system fades into irrelevance, and the levels aren't nearly as friendly to stealthy playstyles, but the game soars with its characters and set pieces.
That alone isn't GOTY material. What's crucial, and what games usually fail to pull off, is showcasing very uncomfortable realities In The New Colossus' case, it's a hideously evil regime supported by a complicit America. Nazis are easy to hate, but what about the people in our country -- our fellow Americans -- who, today, permit and enable bigotry-fueled power? Who willingly vote for it? Genre stories mask truth in exaggeration. Wolfenstein: The New Colossus might be one of the pulpiest games out there, but it isn't afraid to pummel our misplaced assumptions about who we think we are.
Runner-up: PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds
Since my colleagues have named all the best titles of the year, I'll pick a game that gets more notice than praise: PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. It wasn't the first battle royale–type game, but it's single-handedly brought the subgenre into the mainstream and (for better or worse) turned it into eSports material. PUBG deserves recognition for widening a niche mode into a bona fide game category and maintaining around 2.5 million players a day -- even though it only left Early Access on December 20th.
2018: The Last of Us: Part 2
The last zombie game to grace anyone's most-anticipated list might have been Valve's 2009 classic Left 4 Dead 2. And while The Last of Us: Part 2 technically fits that subgenre, if it lives up to its predecessor, TLOU 2 will be so much more. The original told a heartbreaking story about fatherhood and sacrifice amid the ashes of civilization, with a chilling ending that cemented its place in the gaming canon. The sequel has a lot to live up to. But assuming Naughty Dog gives it the same treatment as Uncharted 4, TLOU 2 could be another iconic title to pull off your shelf when you need an emotional sucker punch.