Game of the Year
Our ten favourite games of 2017. Ninja Theory / Nintendo / PUBG Corp / Square Enix / Sony / Activision / Infinite Falls / Atlus / Annapurna Interactive

We're nearing the end of a legendary year for video game releases, one sure to be in contention whenever conversation turns to the best of all time. There has been a great bounty of quality releases, offering a variety of experiences and tackling a multitude of subjects, which have been the product of this console cycle hitting its stride.

Not only has it been a year of brilliance, but one of consistent brilliance too. From the release of Resident Evil 7 in January, through Nintendo's output of regular reasons to buy its new Switch console, through a busy October and November all the way to slapstick multiplayer favourite Gang Beasts finally getting a console release in December, we've never had to wait long for something worth playing.

Below we've selected our ten favourite video games of the past 12 months, culminating with our overall game of the year.

GOTY PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds PUBG
PUBG Corporation

10) PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

Undoubtedly 2017's greatest success story has been that of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. This mod born of another mod was released in an rough, early access state with practically no expectations and quickly became a bona fide global phenomenon. It's not even finished yet.

For the uninitiated, PUBG is the definitive 'Battle Royale' game, in which players (100 in this case) parachute onto a huge map to find the resources and weapons they'll need to survive. As the game progresses, a randomised safe area of play shrinks, forcing players closer together until one person or one squad remains.

I have sunk some serious time into the game, despite never having played the PC version. Initially it was through Let's Play videos online, then finally through the Xbox One release in December. It's laden with performance issues, it's not exactly a looker and I've encountered two infuriating crashes as I was in the final ten players - but it's a tense and exhilarating experience like few others, and one I won't soon stop playing.

GOTY Night in the Woods
Infinite Falls

9) Night in the Woods

A few hours into A Night in the Woods I wondered where Infinite Falls' adventure game was going. I wanted a stronger narrative drive, but the rest of the game benefits from a deliberately slow start that establishes its cast of characters and their relationships over the mystery that propels the later game.

That mystery is worth the wait because when it pays off, it does so in unexpected, shocking ways. For all the twists of the second half however, it's the character work that shines through in this story about growing up, fearing the future, and attempts to recapture a precious but unobtainable past.

From Mae - the witty but troubled protagonist of this coming of age tale - to her parents and group of friends - the excitable Gregg, his buttoned-up boyfriend Angus and world-weary Bea - each character benefits from some exceptionally smart and charming writing.

GOTY Life is Strange Before The Storm
Square Enix

8) Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Life is Strange was our game of the year two years ago, so new developer Deck Nine had a lot to live up to with its prequel series delving into the story behind the story Dontnod told so well in 2015. The relationship between rebellious teen Chloe Price and Rachel Amber - the missing girl central to the first game's plot - was always ill-defined, and here players get to experience it across three episodes that both flesh out a fan-favourite character in Chloe and enrich the original series.

It's at times awkward, and tries a little hard, but that's oddly befitting a story about confused, overly dramatic teenagers figuring out who they are. Before the Storm excels when we see behind the defence mechanisms of its characters, when Chloe and Rachel are honest and genuine, but also in its more inventive scenes, such as when Chloe plays a quick game of Dungeons and Dragons or is coaxed at short notice into taking part in a school production of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

The mark of a great prequel or sequel is that it justifies its own existence while enriching the stories that came before it. Before the Storm does this, while also bearing the quality of its predecessor. Dontnod had little to do with this new entry in its cherished series, but you'd be hard pressed to tell.

GOTY Persona 5
Atlus

7) Persona 5

Persona 5 was seven years in the making when it launched in its native Japan in 2016, with an additional, excruciating seven month wait for fans of Atlus's hit series elsewhere around the world.

It was worth every second. Persona 5 doesn't just rank among Japan's many game of the year contenders in 2017, it's a blistering RPG masterpiece that cements itself among the all-time greats. Tagging along with the Phantom Thieves of Hearts on their psychedelic capers triggers a contact high of dazzling sights and sounds, with enough thematic depth to match its relentless swagger.

It's a game that'll try to steal your own heart, and you'll willingly oblige.

GOTY Horizon Zero Dawn
Sony

6) Horizon: Zero Dawn

Prior to its release, I was more interested how Horizon: Zero Dawn would play than the story it would endeavour to tell. I wasn't fussed about how Guerrilla Games would explain this world of robot dinosaurs, I just wanted to explore it and best the mechanical beasts.

There's a beautiful open world in Horizon, a vibrant arena for intense battles with the dangerous wildlife, but the game ended up flipping my expectations regarding its story. Not only does writer John Gonzalez provide satisfying answers to the many questions protagonist Aloy has, the answers are fascinating too.

Zero Dawn is an incredible feat of world-building that cements Horizon as a franchise with a promising future. Given also that it's only Guerrilla's first crack at such a game, I can't wait to see where they take Aloy next.

GOTY Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice
Ninja Theory

5) Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Hellblade opens with a lengthy credits sequence that begins not with the game's director or its design leads, but with the two people that advised British developer Ninja Theory on historical accuracy and issues of mental health.

Both are fundamental to what Hellblade is, so initially these credits feel like a large signal of intent, telling players what the game is about rather than showing them. Those concerns don't take long to evaporate however, as Senua's journey unfolds.

Hellblade is light on mechanics, but rich in just about every other regard. Its story of bereavement and psychosis is an obvious but effective metaphor for conquering one's demons, brought to life with spectacular visuals, great writing and a wonderful performance from actor Melina Juergens.

GOTY Destiny 2
Bungie

4) Destiny 2

It feels as though I'm the only person writing anything positive about Destiny 2. It's true that Bungie has its work cut out improving the endgame of its expansive shared-world shooter, but discussion around the game often feels like it's about the next 20 hours and the 20 after that, rather than the significant time already spent playing it.

Destiny 2 got its hooks into me in a way the first game never did thanks initially to its much more engaging story, then, later, everything Bungie is regarded for: sound design, artistic direction and exemplary shooter mechanics.

The reason the game ranks so high on this list though is simply that it's with this sequel that I enjoyed the full Destiny experience that had so far alluded me.

It's a great shooter on its own, but with friends it stands apart. This is a social game - perhaps not one that begs to be played daily, but one that's easy to pick up and play in bursts as when you feel, with friends that enrich the experience no end.

GOTY Super Mario Odyssey
Nintendo

3) Super Mario Odyssey

At the end of your first run through New Donk City, Mayor Pauline invites Mario to a city-wide festival celebrating the history of this great metropolis. As it transpires, it's also the history of our plump protagonist, and what unfolds is a joy only matched in 2017 by moments yet to come in Nintendo's instant classic.

Odyssey is the first Mario adventure in 15 years to feature large open levels, and had its development spanned that time it's hard to imagine how the result could have been improved, save for a few dozen more worlds to bound through.

It's the little things that make Odyssey. The noises uproots and pokios make as you spring and boing as them, the pitter patter of Mario's bare feet on wet sand, the flourishes of a masterful soundtrack and a host of nods and winks. It might not reinvent the wheel, but Odyssey is a triumph of design and delight.

GOTY What Remains of Edith Finch
Annapurna Interactive

2) What Remains of Edith Finch

Giant Sparrow's What Remains of Edith Finch is bursting with ideas weaved beautifully into an engaging story about family and loss. Ostensibly a first-person adventure game in the mould of Firewatch and Dear Esther, Edith Finch is less straightforward than those examples, playing more like an collection of interactive short stories.

Early on, as the player makes their way up to the huge house that belonged to generations of the Finch family, there are clear echoes of Gone Home - the game that pioneered this particular genre. When Edith Finch first shows its hand however, it reveals itself to be much richer and more inventive than first impressions suggest.

Inside the great, gangly house are the rooms belonging to Finch family members that fell to an apparent "family curse". Each room has been enshrined in their memory, preserved and untouched save for when the player sneaks in to discover each relative's story.

Each of these stories is built around a selection of unique gameplay mechanics. You play as a bird hunting rabbits in an early sequence, later you're flying a kite and rocking yourself back and forth on a swing. These sequences are compelling, ingenious and extraordinary, creating one of the most effectively told stories I can recall from this medium.

GOTY Zelda Breath of the Wild
Nintendo

IBTimes UK's Game of the Year 2017 - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Nintendo knew The Legend of Zelda needed to change. To shake up the 30-year-old series, producer Eiji Aonuma and director Hidemaro Fujibayashi looked to the past, finding in Shigeru Miyamoto's NES original what Zelda has always been about: exploration, discovery and survival. These elements feed into every aspect of Breath of the Wild; from those early steps into the enormous, daunting kingdom of Hyrule to crossing the threshold into the castle at its centre as Link enters into a final battle with Ganon.

After an hour or so learning the ropes in a gated area, that end goal of vanquishing Ganon is laid out and the game opens up. Players are free to go where they please, do what they want, all in the service of that one key objective. Every improved weapon or piece of armour found, every tough enemy encounter overcome and every Divine Beast freed aids that one confrontation. There are distractions along the way, but that sense of preparing for a single, world-defining fight creates in Nintendo's latest opus a slow-burning sense of the epic.

Epic is an overused word, but in the case of Breath of the Wild it's warranted. The game, in many ways, plays like a lengthy montage sequence as Link gathers the strength, knowledge and allies needed to expel an evil that has hung over Hyrule for 100 years.

The grandeur of the player's journey is reflected in the sheer scope of the land itself. With its very first crack at a modern open world game, Nintendo created a setting of ingenious design that readily offers up new landmarks, nooks and crannies to explore. A truly astonishing sense of freedom means it is an open world in the truest sense.

A staggering feat of design, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is our favourite video game of 2017, one of the greatest of all time and for our money the best open world video game ever made.