The 10 best Xbox One games
of 2017

A top 10 countdown of the best games to grace the Xbox One in 2017.

By Nathan Lawrence

The Xbox One may have had a lack of exclusive releases this year – a disturbing trend, alas – but what it lacked in exclusivity, it more than made up for with a solid third-party line-up. Put simply, 2017 was a great year for gaming. Glancing over the list, you’ll notice an absence of exclusive titles because, yes, this year really did belong to third-party devs on Xbox One.

What you may also notice is an absence of games that’ll likely populate other "best of 2017" lists. Let’s talk about some of the bigger ones. You won’t find Destiny 2 here. Despite being improved at launch when compared to the lacklustre launch of the original Destiny, it made familiar mistakes and I ran out of steam a lot faster with it than with its predecessor.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard doesn’t make my list, either. The first half was fantastic, but the Saw-lite antics of the third main nemesis were a sign of the fledgling quality (with the exception of the "Happy Birthday" sequence) that bottomed-out with the truly awful ship level. Half an amazing game just doesn’t cut it here. Likewise, on the horror front, The Evil Within 2, while an improvement over the original, peaks in its incredible third mission, and never really regains that quality in the confined levels afterwards. Sorry-not-sorry, horror fans.

On the Ubisoft front, For Honor and Ghost Recon Wildlands miss out for different reasons. For Honor is off the list because the fantastic melee gameplay was let down by terrible netcode decisions and one of the year’s first big loot crate debacles (tied to pay-to-win incentives). Wildlands is a chore to play alone, but the absolute best co-op experience I’ve had this year (and in recent years), but then you’d expect that from a sandbox action game.

What follows is my eclectic list of games which, even as a lover of shooters, thankfully, isn’t just filled with single-genre action-packed titles.

Our justification

Despite more exclusives and most of my friends playing on PlayStation 4 in 2017 (and, truth be told, preceding years), I still love playing on my Xbox One. It’s the little things, like a better controller (especially if you fork out for the Xbox Elite Wireless) and better networking infrastructure, which make for a more pleasant gameplay experience. Despite the monumental success of the PlayStation 4, I still believe in the Xbox One, more so now that the Xbox One X is out in the wild.

More importantly, though, in terms of proper credentials, I’m the ex-editor of the unofficial (and sadly defunct) Australian 360 magazine: a publication that was dedicated to all things Xbox. In more recent years, I’ve handled reviews for games like Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, and I have been an exclusive Australian guest of Microsoft for games like Halo Wars 2 and consumer events like Gamescom. But that’s enough about me. Let’s dive into this list, so you can tell me how wrong I am in the comments.

10. Sonic Mania

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  • PLATFORMS: Xbox One, Switch, PlayStation 4, PC
  • RELEASE DATE: 15 August 2017
  • DEVELOPER: PagodaWest Games/Headcannon
  • PUBLISHER: Sega

I promise this is the only remaster in my list, but it’s a rare thing when a re-release actually lives up to the awesomeness of childhood memories.Sonic Mania is a blue-lightning blast. Growing up, I was a Sega kid, and I still maintain that Sonic of old had plumber-by-night, hero-by-day Mario whipped. Don’t get me wrong, those older Mario games are great, but they can’t compete with the frantic pace of the Sonic games of yesteryear.

The re-imagined classic stages of Sonic Mania are a hoot, and they demand a second run (jog?) where you actually take your time and sniff out all the secrets, nabbing all those coveted gold rings. Then there are the newer stages, which feel so at home amid the classic ones it’s sometimes hard to tell them apart. It also helps that the blistering pace at which Sonic tends to be played is complemented by 60fps gameplay, crisp presentation and a pitch-perfect soundtrack. While Sonic Forces disappoints in some key areas, Sonic Mania highlights what makes a Sonic game truly amazing.

Buy Sonic Mania Xbox One from Microsoft Store

Play multiple playable characters who give you the ability to go explosively fast as Sonic, soar as Tails, or power through tough obstacles with Knuckles’ brute strength! Grab it today!

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9. South Park: The Fractured But Whole

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  • PLATFORMS: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4
  • RELEASE DATE: 17 October 2017
  • DEVELOPER: Ubisoft San Francisco
  • PUBLISHER: Ubisoft

If the semi-sordid history of South Park games proves anything, it’s that you need more than just Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s patented sense of humour to make a great game. While South Park: The Stick of Truth had the LOLs, it didn’t have the true depth of gameplay you’d rightly expect from an RPG. Cue the entry of South Park: The Fractured But Whole to right this particular wrong.

The Fractured But Whole is funny, of course – it has to be; it’s a South Park game – but it’s more than just a game for fans, old and new, of the TV series. There’s added depth, in terms of combat, characters, quests and a fantastic sense of Metroidvania. But there’s also an incredibly addictive gameplay loop that keeps pushing you forward and distracting you from what you thought you wanted to do, all the while entertaining you with the Stone/Parker signature humour. The fact that the South Park creators continue to push the line with the kind of laughs that necessitate a shower afterwards is the icing on the cake of a compelling RPG.

Click to buy South Park: The Fractured But Whole Xbox One from Microsoft Store

Play and create your own superhero and unveil the darkest conspiracy South Park has ever faced!

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8. Sniper Elite 4

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  • PLATFORMS: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4
  • RELEASE DATE: 14 February 2017
  • DEVELOPER: Rebellion Developments
  • PUBLISHER: Sold Out

Popping Nazi skulls has never been so satisfying. The Sniper Elite series is one that’s incrementally improved with each outing, but it feels like it's been building towards this fourth entry. Where the older games favoured hub-style maps, which funnelled in parts, Sniper Elite 4 opens up the maps and, therefore, the possibilities for head-popping stealthy incursions.

Because of this open approach, Sniper Elite 4 also offers best-in-series cooperative play. You and a buddy can stalk close together or take the risk of splitting up and covering each other. At its best, it feels like a team-up between legendary Russian sniper Vasily Zaytsev and Saving Private Ryan’s resident marksman Daniel Jackson. It feels like there are more options to go loud, too, with plenty of budding-sniper training wheels for those more interested in kill count than inching their way to selective X-ray-viewed skull perforating.

The fact that a once-hardcore series can be as enjoyable for newcomers as it can for veteran snipers is testament to how well-crafted Sniper Elite 4 is.

Click for Sniper Elite 4 PS4 from ozgameshop.com

Discover unrivalled sniping freedom in the largest and most advanced World War 2 shooter ever built with Sniper Elite 4!

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7. Injustice 2

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  • PLATFORMS: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4, Android, iOS
  • RELEASE DATE: 17 May 2017
  • DEVELOPER: NetherRealm Studios
  • PUBLISHER: Warner Bros. Interactive

From NetherRealm Studios, one of the most renowned fighting-game devs around, comes the sequel to the nonsensically named Injustice: Gods Among Us. With a leaner title that still, paradoxically, in no way references the DC pedigree of its fighting roster, Injustice 2 is so much more than a mere one-two-punch sequel.

For starters, the decidedly last-gen visuals of the preceding title are greatly improved. The storytelling is also less reliant on the companion comic series and stands on its own as a worthy Battle Royale-like romp through some of DC’s biggest (and weirdest) characters. In terms of gameplay, it feels like you’re less reliant on stun locking opponents as there are more ways to recover from a flurry of attacks. It helps that the pace has been boosted for more frantic-feeling fights. The cherry on top of this, though, is the abundance of meaningful content, unlocked through a compelling random-drop system.

Buy Injustice 2 Xbox One from Microsoft Store

Play and enjoy this game with all your favourite superheroes, today!

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6. Forza Motorsport 7

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  • PLATFORMS: Xbox One, Windows 10
  • RELEASE DATE: 29 September 2017
  • DEVELOPER: Turn 10
  • PUBLISHER: Microsoft Game Studios

Whenever Sony and Microsoft square off against each other on the Gran Turismo/Forza front, you know there’s going to be more than just the smell of burnt rubber. As solid as Gran Turismo Sport is, it’s not up to speed when racing against Forza Motorsport 7.

Even non-racing fans can appreciate the sublime 4K 60fps presentation of Forza Motorsport 7 when it’s putting the Xbox One X through its paces. Given that Crackdown 3 was pushed to 2018, Forza Motorsport 7 is the go-to for showing off the power of Microsoft’s refreshed Xbox One. Thankfully, it’s not all style, and there’s plenty to admire beneath the hood.

Those non-racing fans may even be tempted to try Forza Motorsport 7, care of its bevy of training-wheel options that let you make it as accessible (or as realistic) as you like. Then there’s the mammoth garage of cars to unlock that would rival a post-Fast & Furious celebration impound lot. Whether you want to race for fun or for real, Forza Motorsport 7 has the grunt to back how you want to chase your need for speed.

Click for Forza Motorsport 7 Xbox One from ozgameshop.com

Again! Drive yourself crazy with Forza Motorsport 7.

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5. Cuphead

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  • PLATFORMS: Xbox One, PC
  • RELEASE DATE: 29 September 2017
  • DEVELOPER: Studio MDHR
  • PUBLISHER: Studio MDHR

Cuphead has been hyped for years. Since it was first unveiled at E3 2014, this little indie gem caught the attention of Xbox One fans. Little did we know, it was poised to rip those same hearts out and stomp all over them with a Dark Souls-like brand of punishing gameplay.

But Studio MDHR had a very clever trick up its sleeve to ensure audience retention, sublimely assaulting the player with pitch-perfect sights and sounds to entice us back for more punishment. The hand-drawn art is unmistakably iconic, merging 1930s-era propaganda cartoon aesthetics with Disney charm. All of this is backed by a thumping jazz soundtrack that’s the right match for the off-kilter tactics required to find success against waves of punishing foes.

The boss battles are as unique as they are infuriating. If you want a "breather", you can jump into one of the platforming levels, but you’ll find very little solace there. No matter how much it kicks you when you’re down, though, you know you’ll be loading it up again. Just one more time.

Purchase Cuphead for Xbox One from Microsoft Store

Play this cartoon game as Cuphead or Mugman and acquire new weapons, learn powerful super moves, and discover hidden secrets, today!

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4. Middle-earth: Shadow of War

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  • PLATFORMS: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4
  • RELEASE DATE: 10 October 2017
  • DEVELOPER: Monolith Productions

PUBLISHER: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Hooray! Finally, my first controversial inclusion. There was such a loud hullabaloo made about Shadow of War’s loot crates, it overshadowed what’s otherwise a fantastic game. Loot crates are part of the current gaming zeitgeist, unfortunately, and they have varying degrees of impact on a game’s playability. This ranges from Overwatch to Star Wars Battlefront II, and everything in between.

The easiest defence of Shadow of War’s loot crates is that you can disable them simply by rejecting the online terms of service. Simple. Do that, and you’re left with the real game, which is a beautifully sprawling open-world of gameplay distractions. You could play the story, but you’re better off letting the world drag you away from the main path and out into its many, many distractions.

As far as sequel escalation goes, it builds on the solid foundation set by Shadow of Mordor, adding greater depth to the Nemesis System, and actually delivering on the promise of where the last game was leading: war. Naturally, it also helps that it looks particularly stunning on the Xbox One X.

Click to buy Middle-earth: Shadow of War Xbox One from Microsoft Store

Take an adventure tour with Tailon with Middle-earth: Shadow of War, now!

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3. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

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  • PLATFORMS: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
  • RELEASE DATE: 27 October 2017
  • DEVELOPER: MachineGames
  • PUBLISHER: Bethesda Softworks

Popping Nazi skulls has never been so satisfying. Wait. I already said that for Sniper Elite 4. Hmm. Popping armoured, alternative-history Nazi skulls has never been so satisfying. Phew. MachineGames created the go-to example of the best splicing of old-school corridor shooting and contemporary mechanics with Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Then it raised the bar with Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. The moment-to-moment gameplay is fantastically immersive, whether you’re run-and-gunning or stalking through the shadows. The perk unlocks and weapon upgrades both complement your play style. It’s awesome that you have to embrace different gameplay tactics to unlock every perk and activating or disabling a weapon perk forces you to use that gun differently.

It means the comparatively smallish arsenal feels a whole lot bigger. On the topic of bigger, the larger-than-life characters are all pushed further into bizarre territory, yet MachineGames still manages to find grounding moments that resonate. The story is bonkers in the right kind of way, and the punishing difficulty, even on Normal, means you have to take the Nazi threat seriously. I recommend shotguns akimbo for taming fascists.

Buy Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Xbox One from Microsoft Store

Amazed yourself with Wolfenstein 2’s shocking opening scenes drive home the cruelty of its characters! Get it today!

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2. Assassin’s Creed Origins

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  • PLATFORMS: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4
  • RELEASE DATE: 27 October 2017
  • DEVELOPER: Ubisoft Montreal
  • PUBLISHER: Ubisoft

Assassin’s Creed had a run of great games, then started to suffer. If Black Flag hadn’t been two games in one – an amazing pirate sim that happened to be an Assassin’s Creed game – I would have abandoned the series a long time ago. Despite improvements in some areas, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate showed the yearly release cycle was hurting the series.

There was a lot of pressure on Assassin’s Creed Origins to deliver the goods after Origin took the first Assassin's Creed break since 2008. Origins is high up on my list, so you know I loved it, but here’s why you should, too. It looks incredible, especially on the Xbox One X. That massive game world is like the one from Red Dead Redemption: the right amount of sparseness, spliced with hives of compelling activity.

There’s a tonne of stuff to do in Origins. New assassin Bayek is a worthy successor to the protagonist crown, and there are stacks of supporting characters and little side stories that make the world feel incredibly well-realised. Then there’s the best-in-class Assassin’s Creed gameplay, buttressed by combat that, for the first time in the series, is actually challenging and makes you earn the right to call yourself assassin.

Click for Assassin’s Creed Origins Xbox One from Microsoft Store

Takes the role of a Medjay named Bayek and protect the people of the Ptolemaic Kingdom during a time of widespread upheaval. The game also features revised combat mechanics. Order it now from MS Store!

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1. Prey

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  • PLATFORMS: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4
  • RELEASE DATE: 5 May 2017
  • DEVELOPER: Arkane Studios
  • PUBLISHER: Bethesda Softworks

We all really need to stop calling Prey a shooter, because it’s not. Prey is an action-RPG that happens to be presented in a first-person perspective. It’s closer to System Shock or Deus Ex than BioShock (or any other shooter with RPG elements), and even if it does have solid shooting mechanics (dat upgraded shotty), it’s the other features that make it so damn memorable.

In truth, I’m not the biggest fan of the game’s epilogue, but that five-minute full stop isn’t enough to tarnish the rest of the storyline that I adored. The fact that fictional characters can compel me to perform human acts, big or small, when I’d already decided, early on, to doom everyone is testament to Arkane’s brilliant understanding of storytelling and characterisation.

Then there are those bastard Typhons, which turn even the breeziest of wanders through the most boring of offices into a place fraught with tension. You’re constantly searching for doubles of everything, wasting precious ammunition on what might ultimately just be a chair. Or it might be a face-nomming mimic. This is the most addicted I’ve been to a single-player game in years.

Buy Prey Xbox One from Microsoft Store

Takes the role of Morgan Yu, a human aboard a space station with numerous species of hostile aliens known collectively as the Typhon and play to survive using weapons and resources aboard the station to fend off and defeat the Typhon!

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