It has been hard not to look over at Nintendo Switch owners and rue the exclusivity of Mario and Zelda this year. But 2017 has been an impeccable year for PC releases, too. Sure, we have been graced with the usual triple-A fare, so much so that we have already forgotten the likes of Ghost Recon Wildlands and Mass Effect: Andromeda, but it is the breadth and variety of this year’s release schedule that has made it the best year for PC games in well over a decade.
Sure, but what about last year? Here are the best PC games of 2016.
The PC release schedule this year has had it all: ports of decade-old action games, inventive indies, new genres exploding into the mainstream, resurrected series, low-budget marvels, and retro throwbacks. Sure, not everything has lived up to expectations, but the sheer diversity of titles that have made it to our fair platform this year has left no gamer wanting.
Look back over the PC gaming highlights of the past few years and you will struggle to pool together a top ten list that could rival one drawn from this year. Better still, some of the best games from 2015 and 2016 are increasingly relevant this year thanks to the growing trend towards games as a service. Rainbow Six Siege would not have made many GOTY roundups in 2015, but two years later and it is constantly buzzing around the top five games on Steam by concurrent players.
Perhaps the best way to parcel this argument is by looking at the games we left behind this year. LawBreakers’ failure to launch despite being one of the best multiplayer shooters of 2017 is a testament to how tough the competition has been this year. Had it not been for the arrival of Quake Champions on the Early Access scene, swooping in to satisfy the appetites of arena shooter fans, then perhaps LawBreakers would have had a better shot at capturing and maintaining an audience.
Similarly, a number of triple-A releases fell off the radar almost immediately after release. Some were great, others at the very least good, but the speed with which some of the most anticipated games of the year – Mass Effect: Andromeda, Ghost Recon Wildlands, and Prey – ceased to be relevant speaks volumes about what they were up against. It is not just that those games came out early in the year as neither Nier: Automata nor Resident Evil 7 have lost any of the impact they had upon release.
Resident Evil 7 deserves special mention this year for reviving a beloved but wearisome series. Resi could not survive many more missteps before fans lost faith in the IP altogether, but Resi 7 managed to deliver the overhaul the series needed, literally changing our perspective on a survival horror classic, while managing to be as scary and unsettling as the early games were when they came out.
Call of Duty: WWII managed a similar feat, following up the poor sales and reception of Infinite Warfare by stripping away all the bonkers space nonsense in favour of a more classic feel. Sure, it is still easy to scoff at loot boxes dropping over Normandy, but this is the happiest COD fans have been since the release of Modern Warfare: a multiplayer that lets the series’ snappy, razor-sharp gunplay and speedy movement shine, and a campaign that is not only worth checking out, but that merits a second playthrough.
2017 has also been a great year for old games, with PC releases of Okami, Vanquish, and Bayonetta, as well as a long-awaited successor to Planescape: Torment in the form of Torment: Tides of Numenera. Let us not forget Titan Quest: Ragnarök either, which is a story expansion for an 11-year-old ARPG. We even got a brand new ScummVM-esque, point-and-click adventure game from Ron Gilbert and a new 2D Sonic game.
New genres have been born, too. The battle royale format might have been done before, but the rise of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has led to innumerable clones, both in the form of reskinned copycats and hastily implemented multiplayer modes – some good, many not. PUBG laid the groundwork for a new wave of multiplayer shooters that blend last man standing modes with elements from the survival genre to form a middle ground: crushing odds, some luck, long-game tactics, mechanical skill, and an almighty rush if you can make it to the final few players.
Despite the (supposedly) final Dark Souls game releasing last year, 2017 has seen others carry the torch forward for its combination of RPG mechanics, complex character builds, and hard-as-nails boss fights. The Surge and Nioh are worthy Soulslike games, borrowing the vast bulk of their mechanics from FromSoftware’s flagship series, but the essence of those games has bled further still into indies like Immortal Planet, Davyria: Heroes of Eternity, Absolver, and Shrouded in Sanity. Those six games should prove more than enough to slake even the most ardent Souls fan’s thirst for more brutally difficult combat.
We have even been graced with creative indies of every shape and size, from the audacious animation style of Cuphead, to the DIY mocap of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Two eagerly awaited sophomore titles in the form of Giant Sparrow’s What Remains of Edith Finch and Fullbright’s Tacoma supplied some of this year’s best narrative moments, letting us leaf through memories and lives like galleries of the human experience. Better yet, 2017 gave us Divinity: Original Sin II, a game that belies its indie status in how fully formed, deep, and professionally produced it is – not just the best RPG of the year, but possibly the best RPG since Baldur’s Gate 2.
There was also Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Destiny 2, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Total War: Warhammer 2, and The Evil Within 2 – you know, just in case there were any genres left behind. Nevermind that the PC didn’t get Mario Odyssey or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, this has been the richest and most varied year of PC releases in recent memory. The quality has never been this high, either. Sure, Battlefront II and Mass Effect: Andromeda might have let the side down, but as a platform, with all the diversity, reach, and scope that entails, we have never had it so good.