2017 is shaping up to be a great year for videogames. There are long awaited sequels, exciting new franchises, and even a new Nintendo console launching this year. However, you never know how something will turn out until it’s in your hands. So for my 2017 preview I’m taking the 20 games that I am most looking forward to this year and talking about the best case scenario and the worst case scenario for each of them. These will basically be short paragraphs that could potentially appear at the end of either a positive or negative review of these games. Also, of course the worst case scenario for any game is that it’s broken, but I’m going to assume that isn’t the case unless the developer has a history of broken games.
Before I get to the games, I want to set up a few ground rules about what qualifies a game for this list.
- The game has to be officially slated for release this year. That doesn’t mean it has to have a date, but somebody at the developer or publisher has to have said it is coming out this year. Sorry God of War.
- There has to be some substantial amount of gameplay out there. Panning shots of in-engine environments aren’t enough, regardless of how pretty they are. Sorry Red Dead Redemption 2.
- What has been shown has to look good. A game with poor showings isn’t going to land on this list just because of pedigree or series history. Sorry Mass Effect Andromeda.
- It has to be a game I care about. These aren’t the biggest games of 2017, they are the ones that I am personally most interested in. Sorry Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.
- No Bethesda games.
Other than that, nothing is off limits. Expansions, new games, remakes, remasters if I find them worthy. If it is a videogame that meets the above criteria, it can make it on this list.
Best Case: Vampyr combines the storytelling strength Dontnod showed with Life is Strange with the promising world building shown in Remember Me to create a compelling character story set in an interesting vampire-filled world. They have also expanded on what they did in Life Is Strange when it comes to payer choice and have taken clear lessons from games like Bloodborne when it comes to melee combat. Vampyr is a hardcore, big budget Western RPG that feels unique in today’s market.
Worst Case: Vampyr is a game with a lot of heart that doesn’t quite come together. The world feels generic, the story is not strong enough to make your choices feel meaningful, and the gameplay is about as dull as it was in Remember Me. The game tries to be a deep RPG, but it crumbles under its own weight and becomes frustrating instead of fun.
Best Case: The Lost Legacy makes a good case for the continuation of Uncharted following A Thief’s End. Chloe is great as always, and the game gives Nadine much-needed characterization that Uncharted 4 was sorely lacking. The story is both fun and poignant, and it does a good job of fitting into the larger Uncharted fiction while also standing on its own.
Worst Case: The Lost Legacy has the great production values that one has come to expect from Naughty Dog, but that’s the best thing I can say about it. The story is frivolous and wastes these two characters with great potential. The shootouts that the series is known for are solid, but they are starting to get tired. Uncharted should have ended with A Thief’s End.
Best Case: Tokyo 42 follows the indie game tradition of fast, brutal, action focused gameplay mixed with an incredible amount of style. This isometric game is immediately visually striking, and the gameplay strikes a good balance when it comes to chaos. It’s not the most complex game in the world, but it is incredibly fun.
Worst Case: Tokyo 42 is a bad case of style over substance. The visual design is immediately incredible and remains so throughout the game. However, the pulled-back camera doesn’t allow for a good view of the action. Also, the focus on multiplayer feels misplaced. There are things to like about Tokyo 42, but playing the game is not one of them.
Best Case: Manifold Garden positions itself among the best modern puzzle games. This intricate, mind-bending world sucked me in, and I was anxious to keep discovering its secrets. The puzzle design is complex without being too complicated, and the interconnectedness of everything is honestly mind-blowing.
Worst Case: There is a great idea at the core of Manifold Garden, but it almost feels like it was too ambitious and too complex for its own good. The puzzle mechanics and the interconnected world never come together in a satisfying way, and everything is ultimately too obtuse to be any fun.
Best Case: Yooka-Laylee accomplishes everything it sets out for. It is a perfect modern rendition of games like Banjo-Kazooie. It manages to evoke the 3D platformers of the past without being held back by some of their shortcomings. Endearing characters and inventive level design are the core of what’s great about Yooka-Laylee, and the game rarely falters in these areas.
Worst Case: Yooka-Laylee is a perfect rendition of Nintendo 64 era 3D platformers. And while this is great in some regards, it also means that a lot of outdated mechanics are present here. The core issue is that too often the game reverts to being a collect-a-thon, a style that doesn’t work in 2017. Yooka-Laylee has a lot of charm that made me want to like it, but at the end of the day the game just wasn’t very engaging.
Best Case: Aside from just being an incredible looking pixel art game, The Last Night is a great modern take on games like Flashback and Another World. The story and world are both interesting, the animation is incredible, and the action and adventure game elements are strong too. The Last Night is a perfect addition to a world sorely lacking in games that look and feel like Blade Runner.
Worst Case: The Last Night looks great, but all of that visual splendor is squandered by an underwhelming story, clunky gameplay, and poor design choices. It’s a game that I wanted to love a lot more than I did, but the frustration of playing it made it impossible to enjoy the world Odd Tales created.
Best Case: Tekken 7 is an incredible fighting game at its core, offering up immediate fun for those with less experience alongside additional depth for those who want it. It also provides plenty of great content outside of the competitive multiplayer. The singleplayer story in particular is a great introduction to how the characters play and does a great job at telling a story in the ridiculous Tekken universe.
Worst Case: It’s possible that Tekken 7 is a great fighting game, but I wouldn’t know. For the casual fighting game fan, it is practically impenetrable. The fighting is complex, and there is no decent tutorial available to off-set this. And while there is a singleplayer campaign, it isn’t meaty enough or good enough to make the game worth it for somebody not interested in the competitive scene.
Best Case: The best game of 2014 just keeps getting better. Specter of Torment is another great add-on after the already fantastic Plague of Shadows. Specter Knight is a fun character to control who doesn’t play too much like Shovel or Plague Knight but at the same time retains their precise feel. Specter of Torment is the best so far of the three campaigns.
Worst Case: Specter of Torment is fun, but it falters in places that the previous two campaigns didn’t. The removal of the world map makes the overall experience feel cheap, and it lacks the charm that both the original game and Plague of Shadows had. In addition to this, the way Specter Knight controls is nowhere near as unique as it was for Plague Knight. As a free add-on it’s still worth playing, but it doesn’t clear the high bar that was set for it.
Best Case: Nioh takes clear inspiration from Dark Souls, but to say it is a clone of From Software’s games would be incredibly disingenuous. It mixes elements of those games with the character action that Team Ninja is known for, creating one of the most engaging modern combat systems. It also has a more traditional form of storytelling, and it tells a great samurai tale.
Worst Case: Difficult and punishing to a fault. Nioh is Team Ninja’s attempt at creating Dark Souls, but it doesn’t seem to understand what makes those games work. Dark Souls is incredibly punishing, but Nioh feels punishing for the sake of it. It rarely informs the way the game should be played and the result is a game that has all of the frustration with none of the payoff.
Best Case: As a newcomer to the series, Yakuza 0 felt like a natural starting point. Being a prequel, it isn’t shackled with five games worth of story. However, I also didn’t the sense that the game was pandering to me and other franchise newbies. Ultimately, it’s just a great game with likable characters, fun gameplay, and the perfect balance of melodrama and absurdity. It might be my first Yakuza game, but it sure as hell won’t be my last.
Worst Case: As a series newcomer, I was wrong in assuming that Yakuza 0 would be the right place for me to jump on. The game is a prequel, but it invokes the old games in a way that I was unable to follow. It’s also the concept of ludonarrative dissonance made manifest. The game wants me to throw bicycles at people one minute and cry the next, but it lacks the self-awareness to make this work. The game might be great for fans of the series, but it did very little for me personally.
Best Case: Zeboyd Games have been making RPGs for years, but Cosmic Star Heroine seems like their coming out party. This game takes elements from games like Phantasy Star, Suikoden, and Chrono Trigger, and those inspirations are clear. However, the game doesn’t feel like it’s just copying these classics for a play at nostalgia. Cosmic Star Heroine is a great RPG in its own right with a great cast of characters, an engaging battle system, and a story that I wanted to see through to conclusion.
Worst Case: Cosmic Star Heroine isn’t a bad game, but it is a lesser game than those it’s trying to imitate. It captures what made old school RPGs great, but only in superficial ways. In the end, the story and characters come off as very bland and generic. There’s some stuff to like in Cosmic Star Heroine, but it fails to do anything special.
Best Case: Horizon Zero Dawn overcomes every obstacle in its way to create a game that is truly special. An inspiring and beautiful world, a great protagonist, and a gripping story are all underlined by fantastic core gameplay. The game also does a good job of avoiding the traps a lot of other open-world games fall into, feeling more like a true RPG than your standard Ubisoft fare. For something Sony wants to be a big new franchise, Horizon Zero Dawn is a great first foot forward.
Worst Case: Horizon Zero Dawn is a perfect example of a bunch of great ideas that don’t come together properly. The world is inherently interesting, but the story told within it isn’t. The combat is a lot of fun, but the systems surrounding it are meaningless. The game is a failure as an RPG, and the open world feels generic for a game with such an inspiring concept. Sony wants Horizon to be a big new franchise and maybe it can be one day, but the series is off to a rough start.
Best Case: The original Ni No Kuni was the right game at the right time. It was a great JRPG at a time when the genre was sorely lacking. Now that there seems to be more and more of them propping up, Ni No Kuni II had to prove its relevance beyond being just a good JRPG. Thankfully it does so with an improved, action-heavy combat system and some of the most charming characters this medium has ever seen.
Worst Case: Ni No Kuni II obviously looks great and animates beautifully. However, behind this veneer lies a game that isn’t all that remarkable. In an attempt to be charming, the characters more often than not come off as grating instead. And while the switch to an action-based combat system isn’t conceptually a bad idea, it ends up being too shallow to remain engaging throughout the game’s long run time.
Best Case: Supergiant Games has now gone three for three with Pyre being another great game from the Bastion and Transistor developers. The cast and their journey are memorable, and the unusual gameplay contrivance proved to be quite fun over the course of the game. Pyre has all the trappings of a Supergiant game, but it manages to present them in new and interesting ways.
Worst Case: Pyre is a game held back by its gameplay. The idea of an RPG where a sport takes the place of battles is a novel one, but it proves to be nothing more than that in Pyre. It’s fun at first, but it fails to evolve and eventually becomes tedious due to a lack of depth. The game also has the same trappings found in both Bastion and Transistor that were great at one point but are now played out.
Best Case: This dream collaboration between Housemarque and Eugene Jarvis is everything one would expect and want it to be. Twin-stick shooting at its finest, Nex Machina is a beacon of great twitch-based gameplay that competes with the best games from both of these genre veterans. With an incredible style on top of this gameplay, Nex Machina is everything a twin-stick shooter in 2017 should be.
Worst Case: Nex Machina has no glaring faults or obvious oversights, but in a market full of twin-stick shooters, it does very little to stand out. Its style is fun but mostly supplementary, and the gameplay fails to rise above “good”. Housemarque’s best games have never been their top-down ones, and Nex Machina fails to buck this trend.
Best Case: Gravity Rush 2 is the perfect example of a sequel that takes everything the first game did right and expands upon it while fixing most of that game’s flaws. Kat is still a great character, the art and music are still incredible, and the gravity mechanics are still fun. Expanded combat and better mission design, along with the obvious technical advantages that come with being made for the PlayStation 4, are what elevate Gravity Rush 2 above its already great predecessor.
Worst Case: Gravity Rush 2 is an incredibly iterative sequel. The combat has gotten small additions that don’t do much to improve the gameplay, and the same mission design problems that plagued the first game return. The world is bigger, but it doesn’t really feel more ambitious. Gravity Rush 2 is far from being a bad game (the characters, gameplay, and style are all still good) but it doesn’t feel special the way its predecessor did.
Best Case: Nintendo has reinvented one of its greatest franchises. Zelda works great as an open-world title, and Breath of the Wild does a good job of learning the right lessons from open world games while not copying them wholesale. It’s a game that makes for either a great send-off for the Wii U or a great introduction to the Switch.
Worst Case: With Breath of the Wild, Nintendo has emulated the work of other open-world games without understanding what makes those games fun. Mechanics and systems are added to the game that serve no meaningful purpose, and the game has gotten too far away from what made the series great in the first place.
Best Case: Nier Automata manages to meld the emotional depth and absurdity of a Taro Yoko story with the finesse and equal absurdity of a Platinum game in a way that works perfectly. It’s a game driven equally by its story and gameplay, and it has a strong aesthetic to boot. Nier: Automata is a game that shouldn’t be missed
Worst Case: While there are shades of a great game within Nier: Automata, the package is not cohesive enough to hold together. The basic Platinum action is fun, but the bullet-hell bosses are nothing more than frustrating. The gameplay also detracts from the story which goes back and forth between being too cliché and too bizarre.
Best Case: Mario’s triumphant return on the Switch captures a level of wonder that the series has lacked since the original Super Mario Galaxy. The levels do a great job of mixing the exploration elements of Mario 64 with the platforming elements of the later games, and each area has a distinct and memorable style. Super Mario Odyssey is everything a 3D platformer should be.
Worst Case: A great example of a game spreading itself too thin, Super Mario Odyssey lacks a cohesive vision. The game doesn’t know if it wants to copy the Mario 64 template or the Mario 3D World template, and in trying to invoke both it ends up doing justice to neither. There is a level of polish and solid platforming that can’t be taken for granted, but outside of that the game fails to leave a mark on the genre.
Best Case: Persona 5 manages to have a cast of characters even more endearing than those in Persona 4 and a story that handles serious issues more adeptly than its predecessor. It manages to capture the best elements of that game while still forming an identity of its own. Combine this with stylish presentation and improved dungeons, and what you get is one of the best RPGs ever made.
Worst Case: Despite receiving high marks after its Japanese release, Persona 5 fails to live up to these expectations. The big city setting is not as compelling as the small town of Persona 4, and the localization falters at times. The game has a lot of style, but even that can sometimes get in the way. Persona 5 is a game with big ambitions that fails to deliver on them.