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An end-of-year breakdown of the 10 best games to grace PC screens in 2017.
By Nathan Lawrence
Coming up with this list was oh so much harder than my Xbox One list. Why? Because while the Xbox One had limited choices for top 10 options, the PC has stacks. My shortlist was about 30 titles deep, which didn’t include the hundreds of contenders for the crown on my original list. What you will notice as you scroll through my top 10 is a distinct lack of AAA titles.
I’ve honestly never considered myself to be an indie gamer, but the quality of some of the releases that didn’t come from big-name publishers in 2017 is astounding. There’s also the reality that bad PC ports make for bad gameplay experiences. That’s why, for instance, you won’t find Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus below – I love it, but several patches in, it’s still sporadically crashing (across multiple PCs). NieR: Automata, alas, suffers a similar bad-PC-port fate, and the same is true of Nioh.
You also won’t find Full Throttle Remastered and not because I’ve decided to keep remasters out of this list (Turok 2: Seeds of Evil was on my shortlist). I never played the original game, and was eagerly waiting for the remastered release to play it for the first time, but it just didn’t live up to the high hopes I clearly had for it.
Similarly, even though I’m a fan of survival games and it’s been a long time simmering, the proper release of The Long Dark felt lacklustre. I much preferred Kona, and you’d better believe that The Forest would have been right up on my top 10 if it had exited Early Access this year. I would have loved to have put XCOM 2: War of the Chosen in here, too, but it’s DLC (not of the standalone variety, either), and that would open a whole other kettle of fish for considering core games that had been released before 2017.
So with that in mind, read on for my top 10 PC games of 2017.
I’m a freelance games critic who’s been working in the games industry for close to a decade. I specialise in PC gaming across multiple outlets – including IGN, PC PowerPlay, Hyper and anyone else who’ll pay me to rant about all things PC – and I’ve been in love with PC gaming since I first played Wolfenstein 3D on my family’s ancient IBM XT 286.
The truth is that while I love console gaming, I often find myself bemoaning the limitations that aren’t an issue on PC. For instance, aiming in a console first- or third-person shooter is incredibly frustrating for me because I know how much easier I can translate my movement intentions to actions with a mouse.
As an older gamer, it can be frustrating to experience online moments where my reaction speeds have clearly slowed. That’s why I’ve been painstakingly (mostly in terms of my bank balance) upgrading relevant PC peripherals and innards to snatch competitive edges measured in milliseconds. It’s worked, too. So, if you don’t like anything in my list, come tell me about it in Battlefield 1, Rainbow Six Siege or PUBG; you’ll find me on the other side of your kill-cam.
10. Divinity: Original Sin 2
- PLATFORMS: PC
- RELEASE DATE: 14 September 2017
- DEVELOPER: Larian Studios
- PUBLISHER: Larian Studios
For those upset that this is on the bottom of my list, take heart in the fact that even someone who’s usually intimidated by hardcore RPGs found it hard to ignore the appeal of Divinity: Original Sin 2. And I hadn’t even played the original. For newcomers like me, the learning curve is initially off-putting, but for those who persevere (and you really, really should), there’s a treasure trove of deep RPG gold to be found here.
You can play in a one-wizard wolf pack or chuck up to three other party members in your crew. Do the latter if you’re a newbie, or you can try to find a patient pal online to show you the RPG ropes. Because it’s a PC-exclusive game, it also means you can tap into the sweet, sweet magic of the Steam Workshop to make things easier (or harder) with mods. I could rave about the story, the characters, the world creation and the rewarding depth, but the thing that most impressed me about Original Sin 2 is how it’s a towering success story for crowd-funded games with community input.
9. Hollow Knight
- PLATFORMS: PC, Mac, Linux, Switch
- RELEASE DATE: 24 February 2017
- DEVELOPER: Team Cherry
- PUBLISHER: Team Cherry
One word, five syllables. Metroidvania (and it’s not the last time you’ll see that beautiful word in this list). That’s the real reason you want to play Hollow Knight: there’s so much to do and come back for in this game. Plenty of games have a glut of activities, but if you’re not digging the core gameplay, it means very little in terms of whether you’ll actually want to experience it.
There’s so much to do and come back for
Hollow Knight is not that game. This is one of those "just five more minutes" games where you know you’re lying to yourself as you say those cursed words, but you won’t care. You’re just having too much damn fun with this addictive 2D action adventure. Even though I dig Cuphead, this is the 2D hand-drawn game that haunts me. They’re both punishing games, but Hollow Knight has a mighty staying power and inherent first-run replayability (in terms of compelling reasons to revisit familiar locales) that makes it the better title for me.
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Hollow Knight is an epic action adventure through a vast ruined kingdom of insects and heroes. Buy it today and explore twisting caverns, battle tainted creatures and befriend bizarre bugs.View details
8. Sniper Elite 4
- PLATFORMS: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
- RELEASE DATE: 14 February 2017
- DEVELOPER: Rebellion Developments
- PUBLISHER: Sold Out
The Sniper Elite series has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. That’s not to say that previous entries have been terrible – far from it – but they have always felt like they’re lacking. Sniper Elite 4 is the culmination of everything the series has been building towards, which is punctuated in the fantastic design of each mission.
Where previous entries funnelled between semi-open sniping environments, Sniper Elite 4 fully opens up proceedings and invites the player to approach objectives however they fancy. The maps are so huge that you can "stuff up" a section, making too much noise or being spotted, and still feel like you can clear that part of the map before returning to your original stealthy ways.
Sniper Elite 4 elevates itself beyond niche sniping simulator
This kind of player empowerment is best matched in cooperative play, where the game’s ballistics system is at its best, either trading kills with your co-op partner or saving them from a naffed shot. Either way, Sniper Elite 4 elevates itself beyond niche sniping simulator and into full-fledged must-play territory for fans of shooting, sniping or World War II action games.
Click to buy Sniper Elite 4 PC from Humble Bundle
Sniper Elite 4 is a third-person tactical shooter stealth video game. The sequel to Sniper Elite III.View details
7. Heat Signature
- PLATFORMS: PC
- RELEASE DATE: 21 September 2017
- DEVELOPER: Suspicious Developments
- PUBLISHER: Suspicious Developments
There’s nothing more disappointing than a "hard fail" screen. All the beautiful immersion that had existed up until that point is tossed out the window in the ultimate fourth-wall-breaking reminder that you’re playing a game. Heat Signature takes the idea of failure as a teacher and encourages players to think on their toes and, more importantly, recover from their mistakes in spectacularly rewarding ways.
You could play it like Hotline Miami with a pause function.
The fact you’re tackling procedurally generated missions means it’s even more appealing to roll with the punches. It also helps that you’ve got a range of wacky gadgets which, despite the game’s 2D presentation, forces you to think outside the box. You could play it like Hotline Miami with a pause function. Or you could play it as cerebrally and invisibly as you like. Heat Signature’s best feature isn’t just player choice; it’s that these choices truly empower the player to play their own way and try new approaches. One thing’s for sure: no matter which way you play, you’ll have a blast.
Buy Heat Signature PC from Humble Bundle
Heat Signature is an action, stealth video game where you take a mission, fly to the target ship, sneak inside, and make clever use of your gadget to take out the crew.View details
6. SteamWorld Dig 2
- PLATFORMS: PC, Switch, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
- RELEASE DATE: 22 September 2017
- DEVELOPER: Image & Form
- PUBLISHER: Image & Form
These days, steampunk games are about as original as games with zombies. Yet developer Image & Form manages to make its steampunk Wild West action-adventure feel shiny and new. After some initial handholding, you’re thrown into the deep possibilities of yet another fantastic example of Metroidvania done right.
One of my favourite features is how you’ve got to be tactical if you want to dig up everything. When mining, you can foolhardily dig your way to your objective. But you’ll be missing out on a tonne of coin and secrets if you main-path it this way. Remember: you can’t dig up, stupid. The more sweet swag you find, the more upgrades you can get, and the deeper you can dig into the delicious game world.
SteamWorld Dig 2 is one of those games where you think you have all its gameplay mechanics sussed-out, and then you find something entirely new that unlocks completely new possibilities for sniffing out everything in the game world. The fact it’s beautifully presented with a great sense of humour is the icing on the cake of this addictive indie game.
Click for SteamWorld Dig 2 PC from Humble Bundle
Play the game as Dorothy and use a pickaxe to create paths through an underground world by mining cubes of ground away, today!View details
5. Nex Machina
- PLATFORMS: PC, PlayStation 4
- RELEASE DATE: 20 June 2017
- DEVELOPER: Housemarque
- PUBLISHER: Housemarque
When it comes to twin-stick shooters, Housemarque is pretty much the gold standard these days. This is usually a shame for PC gamers because the Finnish developer has been making a lot of PlayStation exclusives over the past few years. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case for Nex Machina.
This twin-stick shooter technically isn’t as deep as Housemarque’s Alienation or Dead Nation, both of which embrace more traditional RPG mechanics. But what Nex Machina lacks in this traditional RPG approach, it more than makes up for in a game that embraces that beautiful gaming mantra: "easy to learn, tricky to master".
Out of the gate, you immediately get what Nex Machina is selling, and it’s a cinch to wrap your head around the accessible controls and core mechanics. But don’t be fooled into thinking this makes it easy. Far from it. You’ll hit points where there’s so much happening on screen that it should be impossible to track. Yet Housemarque expertly tames the visual madness with clear art design, which means that every death feels deserved. Whether you’re after a five-minute blast or a five-hour score-chasing session, Nex Machina is accessible but challenging and rewarding the longer you play.
Buy Nex Machina PC from Humble Bundle
Nex Machina is the kind of game to make you shuffle forward a little in your seat, as you take a deep breath and prepare to dive in for another attempt. Get it today from Humble Bundle.View details
4. Nidhogg 2
- PLATFORMS: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4
- RELEASE DATE: 15 August 2017
- DEVELOPER: Messhof
- PUBLISHER: Messhof
“The original Nidhogg doesn’t really need a sequel.” That was my comment when I heard that Nidhogg 2 was announced. After all, outside of a new bizarro-world Simpsons art style, what could a sequel possibly add? A lot, as it turns out, and yet without adding too much.
Okay, so that Matrix-like philosophy might not make a whole lot of sense, but what I’m gunning at is the little additions to the near-perfect Nidhogg gameplay formula have big implications for how you play Nidhogg 2. That makes them very worthy of a sequel, and the admittedly creepy but less emo-scribblings art style warms on you very quickly.
Nidhogg 2 is all about the new weapons
Really, though, Nidhogg 2 is all about the new weapons. The bow, in particular, makes for fantastic moments. The stages that mix weapon types are particularly great, given the different tactics required for each one, more so when it’s asymmetrically paired with your foe’s weapon (for better or for worse). Basically, Nidhogg 2 is even more of a badass simulating power fantasy with the potential for even more epic comebacks than the preceding game. And the soundtrack is amazing.
Click to buy Nidhogg 2 PC from Humble Bundle
Be a sword-fighter and experience excellent sword-fighting game that at times has trouble remembering its brilliant roots.View details
3. Total War: Warhammer II
- PLATFORMS: PC
- RELEASE DATE: 28 September 2017
- DEVELOPER: Creative Assembly
- PUBLISHER: Sega
Jump in your DeLorean and visit the launch of Total War: Warhammer and you’ll find a lot of salty fans. There was an outcry that strategy gurus Creative Assembly had arbitrarily sliced their Warhammer strategy game into three, kind of like Peter Jackson’s take on The Hobbit. But Creative Assembly’s ambitious vision made so much more sense when Total War: Warhammer II launched.
Not only has Warhammer II improved on the minor quibbles of the original game, it’s also united the already epic campaign map of both games for some truly mammoth showdowns. For free. Even without the original game, Warhammer II offers thousands of hours of gameplay. The best bit, though, is that this is Total War at its best.
The new races – High Elves, Dark Elves, Lizardmen and Skaven – show that the Total War gameplay formula is at its best when the factions are at their most asymmetric. Assuming you’ve got the right rig, it’s a thing of beauty to watch the real-time battles play out, which might even tempt the strictest of turn-based-only players to play the better part of the Total War games.
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Total War: Warhammer II features turn-based strategy and real-time tactics gameplay similar to other games in the Total War series. Get it now from Ozgameshop!View details
- PLATFORMS: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
- RELEASE DATE: 5 May 2017
- DEVELOPER: Arkane Studios
- PUBLISHER: Bethesda Softworks
For those who read my intro, you will have noticed I mentioned particular great games that fell off my top 10 list because of bad PC ports. Prey could have been one of those, particularly when you consider that I encountered two game-breaking bugs towards the end. There was no objective marker for the penultimate mission, when my objective was "somewhere outside the space station" (yeah, good luck with that), and I started arbitrarily losing items from my inventory.
Hardly ideal. Yet such was my addiction to Prey that I persevered. So, yes, I spent hours finding that goddamn robot Military Operator. And I pressed on without my fully upgraded Q-Beam and a lot of other random items that made the combat less punishing. Prey is the best spiritual successor to System Shock since Deus Ex: and, yeah, I’m talking about the 2000 Deus Ex. This is player empowerment at its best, with a fully realised game world, compelling side missions and a unique threat that provides a constant tooth-ache-like sense of terror. It’s patched by now, too (and cheaper). If you haven’t played it, stop reading and go play Prey.
Click for Prey PC from Green Man Gaming
To know the tale of Morgan Yu who's being hunted by a mysterious alien force on board a futuristic spaceship buy Prey now!View details
1. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
- PLATFORMS: PC, Xbox One (Preview)
- RELEASE DATE: 20 December 2017
- DEVELOPER: PUBG Corporation
- PUBLISHER: PUBG Corporation / Microsoft Studios (on Xbox One)
Full disclosure: this is predominantly based on Early Access time with PUBG, but it’s (finally) officially out on 20 December, so I feel I can get away with it. My time with PUBG has been like a love/hate relationship from day dot, with bad netcode, terrible server lag, rampant cheaters and the worst optimisation since Dishonored II.
This is all important to note because none of these detractors have stopped me from coming back for yet another pursuit of the delicious chicken dinner. I’ve played a lot of shooters in my time, and never before has a game made me physically duck and inadvertently swear when a digital shot whizzes past my avatar or into its chest.
PUBG is a shooter that’ll make you think you’re lousy at shooters. It’ll make you forget how to perform basic actions when the brown stuff hits the fan. It may even make you incapable of speaking when you really need to tell your buddy there’s an enemy coming up on them. This may read like n00bery, but really it’s a testament to the fantastically immersive emotional experience of playing PUBG, which has such a diverse range of peaks and troughs, there’s nothing else quite like it.
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To play multiplayer online battle royale game buy PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds from Humble Bundle today!View details
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