2017 was a really incredible year for video games. Some big surprising indie hits joined a resurgence from Nintendo. Brand new AAA games came out from beloved studios taking a risk on new franchises, and long-running series saw new entries that were almost total overhauls of what came before.
Here are the seven most important video games of 2017.
1. PlayerUnkown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) – Bluehole
Perhaps the most important game of 2017 was one that nobody saw coming. PUBG took a lot of ideas from the PC survival genre and created an incredibly accessible, fun ‘battle royale’ game that’s already seeing some copycats in the market. (Since it copied quite a bit of ideas from games that came before it, it’s hard to feel very badly about PUBG’s ideas being copied in turn.)
In any case, the game only comes out of Early Access on Steam this December, but it’s sold over 20 million copies before launching—a staggering figure. Beyond sales, I have no doubt that this game will spawn many more in the battle royale genre. Its closest competitor, the free-to-play Fortnite from Epic Games is evidence enough of this. I’d like to see a bunch more games follow suit and bring their own innovations to the table.
2. The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild – Nintendo
Breath of the Wild wasn’t just a great game, it was an important game for two reasons. First, it proved that the open world genre hasn’t even been tapped yet. Nintendo’s first big open-world game was simply brimming with new and innovative ideas and a level of creativity we rarely see in AAA games.
Second, it was the perfect launch title for the Nintendo Switch. Not only was it a great game, it was a great game that came out alongside Nintendo’s new console and got people excited to buy it, kicking off a year that was the best Nintendo has seen in a very long time. I don’t think gamers would have been nearly as excited for the Switch if the new Zelda hadn’t launched alongside it—an important lesson for console manufacturers to remember in the future.
3. Horizon Zero Dawn – Guerrilla Games
Horizon Zero Dawn released just before Breath of the Wild and the Switch, and I think it suffered in some ways because of that proximity. On the other hand, it was the only major, AAA game that released in 2017 that was a wholly new IP. It was a major risk for a studio like Guerrilla Games—previously the developers of the first-person shooter series Killzone—to make the leap into a major, open-world narrative-driven game. And while I did have some issues with HZD (too many plants to pick up all the time!) I also really admired the world-building and story. Also giant robot dinosaurs are pretty cool. If nothing else, I hope this proves that new major franchises are possible. And I hope that this game (as well as BotW and AC:O) remind publishers that the single-player market is still strong.
4. Assassin’s Creed: Origins – Ubisoft
In some ways, Origins was the opposite of Horizon Zero Dawn. Far from new, it’s just the latest in a very long string of Assassin’s Creed games. Still, it completely upended all our expectations of Ubisoft’s flagship series, changing all the parts that didn’t work in previous games and breathing new life into what had become a pretty stale IP.
This was important for two reasons. First, it showed that taking a bit of extra time with a game and not just releasing a new Assassin’s Creed every year could yield impressive and worthwhile results. And second, that it’s good to change the formula sometimes. It’s risky, sure, but especially these long-running series need to be shaken up once and a while, and that’s what Origins did.
5. Call Of Duty: World War II – Sledgehammer Games
Call Of Duty: WWII was the first game in the series in several years to return to the historical roots of the Call of Duty franchise. Fans of the series had been growing increasingly tired of the futuristic setting in the annual best-selling series, and Activision made the smart decision to break with that trend and go back in time.
Already that’s proven to be the right move. Call of Duty: WWII is selling much better than last year’s Infinite Warfare with far more favorable feedback from press and gamers alike. It’s certainly my favorite entry in the series since at least Black Ops II. If nothing else, hopefully this convinces Activision to let their three CoD developer studios cycle through different time periods—futuristic included, but also modern and historical and maybe even wackier stuff like the zombie apocalypse or steam-punk. As I said in #4, sometimes these big annual franchises just need more variety and change, however risky that may be. It can really pay off.
6. Star Wars: Battlefront II – DICE
Unfortunately for EA and DICE, and for the Star Wars brand, the reason Star Wars: Battlefront II is important is because of what it got wrong. Ditching the season pass, EA decided that loot boxes would be a better and more profitable revenue model for BFII. This might have been fine if the contents had been cosmetic only, but EA took it too far, including a complicated Star Card system that allowed gamers to essentially pay real world money for in-game advantages. Unsurprisingly, gamers were not happy with this pay-to-win scenario. This alone wouldn’t be all that important to the industry except that the backlash was so fierce and so widespread, EA actually decided to remove the paid loot boxes from the game entirely. That was a good outcome, but Star Wars: Battlefront II still suffered from bad word-of-mouth and its sales were underwhelming compared to its 2015 predecessor.
7. Destiny 2 – Bungie
Destiny 2 is in the same camp as Star Wars: Battlefront II. It’s an important game mainly because of all the mishaps Bungie has made during its launch and post-launch, including tinkering with XP in order to encourage micro-transactions and locking players out of vanilla activities once the first DLC pack launched. If nothing else, Bungie’s handling of Destiny 2 is a lesson in what not to do with a “games-as-service” model. Granted, the loot boxes in the game aren’t anywhere near as egregious as those in BF2, but they’re still problematic given all the game’s other controversies.
8. Persona 5 – Atlus
I’m adding in Persona 5 not because it’s a great game (it is) but because it’s a more niche Japanese RPG that did very well in the West. Despite being from a lesser-known series that hasn’t had a new game since the PS Vita’s Persona 4 Golden, and despite being a single-platform exclusive, Persona 5 sold over 2 million copies. Hopefully this sends the right message to Japanese game makers. I’d add that Nioh and Nier: Automata also did quite well, and these and other Japanese games had an incredibly strong year. Let’s hope that continues.
That’s all folks.
What other games do you think will have an important impact on the industry and the gaming community? Sometimes it’s hard to just keep up with all the releases, and I’m sure I’ve left out some very important titles especially in the indie scene.
Let me know on Twitter or Facebook.
I’d love it if you followed me on Twitter and Facebook and subscribed to my channel on YouTube. Also feel free to subscribe to my posts by email. Thanks for reading.