Best video games of 2017 (so far)

With big releases like DOOM, Overwatch, and Uncharted 4, 2016 was a great year for games—and 2017 should be even better. Nintendo is releasing a brand new console, the Switch, which looks like a return to form for the House of Mario after the Wii U's lackluster run. Microsoft has Project Scorpio, its souped-up Xbox One console, waiting in the wings. The PlayStation Pro is slowly growing into the machine everyone hoped it would be, while companies like Sony and Valve continue to push the limits of virtual reality.

And then, of course, there are the games themselves. From the latest installments in long-running series (we're looking at you, Mass Effect) to innovative experiments like Detroit: Being Human and quirky indie titles like Cuphead, the next year is absolutely packed with interesting and potentially ground-breaking games. But don't just take our word for it—instead, clear out an afternoon and try some of these, all of which have already contributed to making 2017's gaming lineup one of the best in recent memory.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild isn't just one of the best games of 2017, it's quite possibly one of the best video games of all time. Think that's an overstatement? Well, the numbers don't lie. Not only does Breath of the Wild have one of the highest Metacritic scores of all time (the only game that tops it? Why, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, of course), but it's also the best-selling standalone launch title in Nintendo history, beating the previous record holder, the game-changing platformer Super Mario 64.

Yes, Breath of the Wild really is that good. Try it, and you'll see why. Breath of the Wild takes everything you'd expect to find in a traditional Zelda title—fiendishly clever puzzles, lots of fun gadgets to play with, amusing mini-games, and a dark and moody plot tempered by a healthy sense of humor—and drops it in the middle of a sprawling open world that'll take hundreds of hours to fully explore.

If you can see it, you can travel there, and new mechanics like climbing and horse taming help make Breath of the Wild more explorer-friendly than practically any other game that came before it. Somehow, Nintendo's designers created an environment that's both meticulously hand-crafted and still gives players the freedom to do, well, anything they can think of. It feels like less of a game and more like a magic trick, and with so much to explore and discover, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild may not be the only game you'll want this year, but it's pretty much the only one you'll need.

Metascore: Critics – 97/100, Users – 8.4/10

Persona 5

Forget Final Fantasy. As far as Japanese role-playing games go, Persona is the new top dog. It's not just Persona 5's unmistakable sense of style, or that its newly handcrafted dungeons finally fix the franchise's biggest problem, the bland, procedurally generated levels that dominated Persona 3 and Persona 4. It isn't just the Persona series' addictive structure, which mixes a traditional turn-based RPG with visual-novel-esque social simulation. It isn't just that Persona 5's heist movie setup is the best in the series (which, after Persona 3's surreal Twin Peaks riff and Persona 4's murder mystery, is saying quite a bit), or the Pokémon-like hunting and gathering element, which rewards players for negotiating with Personas in hopes of collecting them all.

No, Persona 5's biggest strength is how it ties all of these seemingly disparate elements together, creating a game that has something for almost everyone. If you play games for the stories, then Persona 5 has a lengthy plot line with multiple endings and tons of interesting characters. If you play for the satisfaction of leveling up your character and maximizing your stats, Persona 5 offers a deep and extremely customizable combat system that'll take you hours and hours to master. Really, the only players who won't be absolutely thrilled by Persona 5 are multiplayer junkies—there are some social features, but that's about it. If that's you, well … even you should give it a try. You never know, you might find a new favorite.

Metascore: Critics – 93/100, Users – 9/10

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

If you've played any Wii U games, chances are, it's this one. Originally released in 2014, Mario Kart 8 was the best-selling game on Nintendo's plucky little system by a wide margin, as fans flocked to see what Mario Kart's fast and frantic action looked like in its first HD installment.

But there's also a good chance that you haven't played Mario Kart 8 or any other Wii U game—despite a number of quality first-party titles, the Wii U never caught on in the marketplace. If so, you're in for a treat. On its own, Mario Kart 8 is both the biggest and most polished version of Nintendo's mascot racer to date. It has the highest number of tracks, the biggest roster, and more kart parts to unlock than any other entry in the series. It has online multiplayer that works. (And it isn't ruined by cheaters.) In other words, it just doesn't get old.

And that's just the basic version. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe ups the value by adding all of Mario Kart 8's downloadable content into the base package and introduces six new characters to the game. Two Splatoon inklings, King Boo, Bowser Jr., and the skeletal Koopa Troopa known as Dry Bones are all available right from the start, while die-hard Mario Kart fans can unlock Gold Mario, too. (Just be warned: it'll take a while.) There are also a handful of new kart parts to earn, a completely revamped Battle Mode that's inspired by Mario Kart's Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 roots, and a few small tweaks to the game's racing controls. The tweaks include a steer assist function that's a huge help for younger or less talented players.

If you already own Mario Kart 8, you'll need to think about whether or not the new content is worth a double-dip, especially if you already bought all that DLC. If not, this one is a no-brainer.

Metascore: Critics – 92/100, Users – 8.4/10

Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove

Shovel Knight wears its influences on its sleeve. Its pogo-stick-like bouncing mechanic is ripped straight from DuckTales. Its themed stages, which all represent their final bosses' personality, feel like something copied out of Mega Man. Its town, where Shovel Knight can pick up hints or purchase upgrades, is reminiscent of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, while the chunky sprites and limited color palette (the same one that you'd find old NES games using) recall countless 8-bit adventures from days long past.

But Shovel Knight is more than the sum of its parts, and while its influences are obvious, the developers at Yacht Club Games took these familiar elements and spun them into something that feels both retro and brand new. Still, you could've said the same thing way back in 2014, when Shovel Knight first came out. So what makes Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove one of the best games of 2017? Quite simply, it's the characters. In addition to Shovel Knight himself, Treasure Trove lets you play through the campaign as Plague Knight and Specter Knight, two of the original game's villains.

The new characters don't just look different. They play different, too. Not only does this give you a lot more of Shovel Knight's expertly crafted 8-bit challenges—and when a game's as fun as Shovel Knight, more is always good—but both Plague Knight and Specter Knight radically change the game's overall feel, exposing just how clever Yacht Club Games' original design is. And another expansion, starring King Knight, is currently in development and will arrive in Treasure Trove free of charge.

Metascore: Critics – 91/100, Users – 7.9/10

What Remains of Edith Finch

It's hard to talk about What Remains of Edith Finch without spoiling everything that makes it special. Some games, like Tetris, are strictly mechanical exercises without any kind of plot, setting, or characters to prop them up. Others, like Firewatch, Gone Home, and Oxenfree are pure unadulterated story, in which "play" isn't so much about overcoming challenges as it is exploring the world and immersing yourself in the narrative. What Remains of Edith Finch is the latter, and that means that discussing the plot could unravel the entire experience.

The game has an intriguing premise, at least. Edith Finch, age 17, returns to her old family home for the first time in six years. The house belongs to Edith, but she doesn't care for it. When she was a child, many of its rooms were sealed up by her mother, while Edith's grandmother drilled peepholes into the walls to see what was inside. Why hide those rooms and their contents? What happened to the rest of Edith's family? We won't post any spoilers here, but the answers are (for the most part) just as satisfying as you'd expect.

What Remains of Edith Finch doesn't have combat or puzzles, and if you're expecting those things, you're going to be disappointed. It's also a very short game, although in cases like this, less is often more. Don't compare Edith Finch to other story-heavy games like The Witcher 3 or Bioshock—while those are episodic, much like a television show, What Remains of Edith Finch is more like a movie. Get in, tell the story, and take a bow while the audience still wants more.

Metascore: Critics – 89/100, Users – 8.1/10

Horizon Zero Dawn

There's not a whole lot that's new about Horizon Zero Dawn. The game's prep, track, and kill quest structure is lifted pretty much directly from The Witcher 3's monstrous hunts. Climbing is borrowed from Uncharted. Bow-based combat feels a whole lot like Crystal Dynamics' modern spin on Tomb Raider, while the icon-dotted map isn't any different from what we've seen in other open-world games like Grand Theft Auto, Assassin's Creed, Watch_Dogs, and Shadow of Mordor.

But you don't have to do something new if you do it well, and where Horizon Zero Dawn shines is in how it's able to learn from and correct its predecessors' mistakes, and how developer Guerrilla Games is able to take elements from all of those different games and mix it into something that feels cohesive and complete. Layer on a compelling lead character on top—seriously, Aloy cosplay is going to be a convention mainstay for years and years—and you have a pretty strong foundation for a new franchise. Mix in herds of robot dinosaurs (which are just as cool as they look), and you end up with the beginning of something special.

With Uncharted on its way out, Sony needs a new flagship franchise. If Sony plays its cards right, Horizon Zero Dawn could fill that role quite nicely.

Metascore: Critics – 89/100, Users – 8.3/10

NieR: Automata

Like Bayonetta, Platinum Games' first big hit, NieR: Automata mixes crunchy, deliberate combat with an overwhelming sense of style. Unlike Bayonetta, NieR: Automata hides its aggressive weirdness behind a more staid and contemplative exterior. Oh, sure, NieR: Automata's post-apocalyptic landscape, which has been ravaged by years of war between warring robot factions, isn't exactly normal, but where Bayonetta shoves its over-the-top sexuality and nonsensical plot in players' faces, NieR: Automata takes time to let its characters breathe—and it's all the better for it.

That doesn't mean NieR: Automata isn't playful. Combat—which has always been Platinum's strongest suit—can change on a whim, with perspective shifts that turn NieR into a 2D action title or a top-down shooter at the drop of a hat. Instead of earning PlayStation Network trophies through gameplay, you buy them using in-game cash. NieR: Automata isn't just a game that encourages multiple playthroughs, either—in NieR, beating the game a few times is practically a requirement. Three separate campaigns let you experience different permutations of the same story, forcing you to reevaluate your approach to combat as you go.

NieR: Automata isn't perfect—combat can get repetitive, the game's graphics engine isn't as sophisticated as the art design, and there are an awful lot of invisible walls that impede your progress—but it is fun. Sometimes, that's all you need.

Metascore: Critics – 88/100, Users – 8.7/10

Nioh

Nioh is a lot like Dark Souls. That's no accident. Over the course of its 12-year development cycle, Nioh took many forms—a Japanese role-playing game, a hack-and-slasher in the style of Dynasty Warriors, and other, less refined takes—but it wasn't until Ninja Gaiden's Team Ninja decided to reinvent Nioh as a Souls-inspired action title that series creator (and Keoi Tecmo CEO) Kou Shibusaw finally found the right direction for his long-gestating samurai project.

And while Nioh creative director Fumihiko Yasuda admits that Dark Souls "did have a big impact on the direction this project eventually took," don't write Nioh off as a simple copy-and-paste job. For one, Nioh's Ki system—which, like Dark Souls' stamina, determines whether or not your character has the energy to launch an attack—adds a whole new level of depth, as do Nioh's three different combat stances. Unlike Dark Souls, Nioh's main character can aim his ranged weapons, and there's certainly nothing as cute as Nioh's spirit guides, the Kodama, in Dark Souls' brooding and mysterious world.

Wrap all that up in a brighter, more colorful world and tack on a straightforward, lore-heavy storyline, and you end up with a very different experience. Sure, while both Nioh and Dark Souls are brutally hard, and both require players to pay close attention and deliberately plan their attacks if they want to survive, the small differences add up to something much larger. Nioh might've been inspired by Dark Souls, but it's its own game, and it's absolutely worth your time.

Metascore: Critics – 88/100, Users – 8.6/10

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

After three games that brought the atmospheric, deliberately-paced horror of George Romero's zombie flicks from cinemas to home consoles, Resident Evil 4 broke the mold by reinventing Capcom's classic franchise as a dark and moody shooter. Unfortunately, it also broke the series. While Resident Evil 4 achieved both critical and commercial success, Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6 pushed the franchise further and further away from its survival horror roots. The games were fine, but they weren't really Resident Evil, and they certainly weren't scary.

But Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is. Taking inspiration from modern American horror flicks like Saw and Hostel, RE 7 eschews the series' traditional third-person perspective for a much more intimate first-person view that immerses you in the thick of Ethan Winters' no-good very-bad day. As Ethan, a regular guy who's just looking for his long-lost wife, you'll explore an old plantation, where you'll find—well, saying anything more would spoil things.

Producer Masachika Kawata says that Capcom's goal was to "strip [Resident Evil] down to its core," returning to the horror that made the series famous to begin with—and boy, did the developer succeed. Like the movies that inspired it, Resident Evil 7 is gory, but its appeal goes much, much deeper than a smattering of blood and guts. With its masterful sound mix, expertly paced environments, and a design sense just dripping with atmosphere, Resident Evil 7 manages to deliver a tense, sometimes horrifying, experience—one that's even more intense if you're willing to shell out the extra cash for Sony's fully-immersive PlayStation VR system.

Metascore: Critics – 86/100, Users – 7.8/10

Yakuza 0

Like its predecessors, Yakuza 0 thrives on the small things. Sure, pummeling criminals to earn cash is a lot of fun, and the twisty storyline distills all the best elements of Japanese gangster films—and then some—into a pulpy epic, but it's what happens when the main story takes a back seat that really makes Yakuza 0 special.

Want to dazzle spectators with your moves at the Maharaja dance club? Go ahead. Feel like belting out some '80s power ballads at the local karaoke stop? You can do that too. You can also visit the batting cages to hit some dingers, bet on the outcome of women's wrestling matches, visit the arcade to enjoy some classic Sega games, play pool and blackjack, race slot cars, and even call up an adult hotline and engage in some phone sex. Yes, seriously.

Not only does Yakuza 0 have all that, but it's the perfect entry point for new players too. Over the course of 12 years, the Yakuza saga has grown incredibly complicated—but you won't need to worry about that when playing Yakuza 0. Unlike other Yakuza games, Yakuza 0 is a prequel, meaning that you can jump right in. It's the perfect way to see what the series is all about without worrying about six games' worth of baggage—and hey, if you want to know what happens next, the first four games just got a limited-edition reprint, which is a boon to anyone who still has a PlayStation 2 kicking around.

Metascore: Critics – 85/100, Users – 8.7/10

Dragon Quest VIII

Who would've guessed that one of 2017's best games would be one that came out in 2004? While Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King started life as a PlayStation 2 exclusive, the fan-favorite role-playing game got a fresh coat of paint and a brand new release on Nintendo's 3DS this January—and while Square Enix made some concessions in the move to a portable system, the bulk of the game holds up just fine.

In fact, in many ways, the new version of Dragon Quest VIII is better than the original. Textures look a little better, making the colorful and vibrant world even more compelling, while the ability to speed up battles and see monsters on the overworld map makes levelling up your characters go a lot faster. The game's newfound portability helps with that, too—it's easy to whip out the 3DS while watching television or riding the subway, making Dragon Quest's notorious grind a lot less tedious.

Even with those extra conveniences, however, at its heart this is still very much a Dragon Quest game, and Journey of the Cursed King sticks to the formula the series has followed for the past 30 years. If you're hankering for 70-plus hours of exploring dungeons, fighting monsters in turn-based battles, running quests for a full cast of colorful characters, and enjoying one of the best Japanese-to-English translations in the history of the series, Dragon Quest VIII is the game for you.

Metascore: Critics – 85/100, Users – 8.5/10

Snipperclips: Cut it out together!

Many of the Switch's quirky multiplayer games aren't actually that weird. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is full of content but is basically a remake of a 2014 title. Splatoon 2 oozes style, but at its core, it's still a third-person shooter. Arms might be the strangest-looking intellectual property Nintendo has ever dreamed up—and that's saying something—but it's got a lot of Wii Sports' boxing DNA, too.

Snipperclips, on the other hand, is wildly and fiercely original. Controlling Snip and Clip, pairs of players will team up to mold their bodies into unique shapes by chopping away parts of their characters. For example, if you need to dunk a basketball, you'll need to cut out an opening in order to hold the ball. If you need to turn a gear, you'll need to make holes to contain the teeth, then rotate your character, turning him or her into a makeshift cog. It gets more complicated from there.

Snipperclips' puzzles are complicated but straightforward, and once you've finished them, there isn't much of a reason to go back. Still, for $20, you'll get your money's worth. Just make sure you play with a friend. And pick someone you trust because Snipperclips can devolve into into gut-busting chaos if you aren't careful. As a single-player experience, Snipperclips is fine. As a co-op title, it's one of the Switch's first must-play experiences.

Metascore: Critics – 80/100, Users – 8.2/10

Everything

Sometimes, you need a break from headshots, killstreaks, leveling up, microtransactions, or whatever other nonsense gaming has decided to throw your way. In those instances, you have Everything. Designed by David OReilly, the artist who created Mountain and the fictional video game sequences in Spike Jonze's Her, Everything is a game in which you play as … everything. As you travel across procedurally generated levels, you can inhabit one of more than 3,000 unique characters. Want to be a frog, or a piece of paper, or a spoon, or the Moon? Go right ahead. Nothing's stopping you.

Everything doesn't have a story, voiced dialogue, or any epic quest to finish, and in that sense, it's more of a toy than a traditional game. It doesn't matter. As you explore Everything's serene landscapes, objects will talk about their past lives, share small insights, or muse about the nature of reality itself. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes not. If you want, you can find goals to achieve—everything that you transform into is cataloged, and if you want, you can try to fill out Everything's constantly updated database. But you don't have to. Everything is quiet and meditative, but it's never boring, and you've never played anything quite like it. Promise.

Metascore: Critics – 80/100, Users – 6.9/10

Gravity Rush 2

The original Gravity Rush is one of the very best games on the PS Vita, and that's the problem—because Gravity Rush was exclusive to Sony's struggling handheld, very few people played it. A PlayStation 4 remaster offered players better graphics and a home on a more established platform, but despite positive reviews, it failed to connect with consumers in a meaningful way.

Thankfully, in 2017, we got Gravity Rush 2, a brand-new Gravity Rush game built from the ground up for the PlayStation 4. By moving to a bigger screen, Gravity Rush 2 keeps everything that made the first game so good—mainly, the gravity-manipulating navigation, in which players can decide which direction their character will "fall" in, letting them set up attacks and special maneuvers—while significantly expanding the game's scope.

The graphics are better, the world map is over twice as large, there are almost three times as many quests to complete, and the original's wide open spaces have been filled with pedestrians, who run around busily living their daily lives. Despite a finicky camera (the only holdover that isn't so welcome), Gravity Rush 2 delivers on the first game's potential, and if you own a PlayStation 4, it shouldn't be missed.

Metascore: Critics – 80/100, Users – 8.4/10

For Honor

More than almost anything else, the Dark Souls series proved that many, many people are happy to invest the time, energy, and patience into mastering an exacting combat system, and that they're willing to fail repeatedly until they get things right. For Honor isn't Souls lite—it's most more heavily influenced by Mount & Blade, Chivalry, and fighting games than anything else—but it does share one similarity with From Software's moody RPG series: if you don't pay attention in For Honor, you're going to die.

Ubisoft's marketing spent a lot of time hyping up For Honor's setting—and, to be fair, a knight versus samurai versus viking battle is the dream that memes are made of—but it's really the detailed combat that's captured fans' imaginations. In For Honor, players can fight each other or high-end enemies by entering the "Art of Battle," in which they'll need to observe their opponents' movements, move their weapon into one of three positions (above, left, or right) accordingly, and then either defend or attack as necessary. That turns battles into a series of mind games much like upper-level Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat matches, as foes vie for the best decision, and are forced to wait until just the right moment to strike.

In two-man duels, For Honor is thrilling, and it's hard to imagine a more nuanced yet conceptually simple combat system coming along this year. In three-or-more person match-ups, For Honor doesn't work quite as well, and it remains to be seen whether or not For Honor's multiplayer mode has legs, especially compared to some of 2017's other big releases. For now, however? If you're hankering for some brutal one-on-one action, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better option than For Honor.

Metascore: Critics – 79/100, Users – 6.2/10

Fire Emblem Heroes

The third time's the charm for Nintendo. After the strange social networking experiment Miitomo and the fun-but-shallow Super Mario Run failed to make a long-term impact on the mobile marketplace, Nintendo and its partner DeNA hit it out of the park with Fire Emblem Heroes, the phone-based edition of Nintendo's long-running strategy series.

It isn't just that touchscreens provide the perfect interface for Fire Emblem's grid-based battlefields, or that the game's turn-based battles are ideal for short bursts of mobile gameplay. Like its predecessors, Fire Emblem is all about its characters—it says so right in the name. Trading in orbs to recruit one of over 500 heroes from different Fire Emblem titles is exciting in the same way as a slot machine (and potentially just as expensive), and while not every character is a keeper—sorry, Donnel—each one is a joy to uncover, thanks to Fire Emblem's vibrant art and personality-filled writing.

Compared to its 3DS cousins, Fire Emblem Heroes doesn't have much of a story, and like many free-to-play mobile games the grind sets in fairly early, but with Fire Emblem Heroes you'll barely notice. When a game is this much fun to play, repeating missions doesn't feel like work, and with so many different combinations of heroes to experiment with, there's enough here to keep strategy fans playing for a long, long time.

Metascore: Critics – 72/100, Users – 7.1/10

Prey

Don't be fooled: aside from the name, Bethesda and Arkane Studios' Prey has nothing to do with 2006's Prey or its abandoned sequel. According to Bethesda vice president Pete Hines, Arkane was hard at work on the game—which was inspired more by System Shock than Prey—well before it had an official title. In fact, Arkane only decided to make the game an official Prey reboot when the designers pointed out the similarities between the two titles (both take place on a space station, and both feature protagonists running from alien invaders).

But don't hold Prey's misleading title against it. Like System Shock and Dishonored, Prey is an excellent action-adventure game that gives players as much freedom as they need in order to overcome Talos I's numerous obstacles. As Morgan Yu—who can be either male or female—players can go anywhere they want on the alien-infested space station as they hunt for supplies, weapons, and upgrades. As in games like Deus Ex, each challenge has multiple solutions—including some even the designers didn't conceive of—while players can upgrade Morgan's skills and abilities as they see fit (keep in mind that the upgrades that you choose don't just affect the gameplay, however—your decisions also change the game's ending).

In fact, Prey gives players so much freedom that savvy fans are embarking on truly mind-boggling speed runs, using Prey's flexible systems to finish the game in a matter of minutes. Meanwhile, a fatal save-corrupting bug that plagued Prey's PC port (and led to some negative reviews) seems to be fixed, meaning you no longer have a good reason to put off your trip to Talos I. Just be warned: after encountering Prey's devious Mimic villain, you'll never look at a regular piece of furniture the same way.

Metascore: Critics – 84/100, Users – 7.7/10

Injustice 2

Everything Injustice: Gods Among Us did, Injustice 2 does even better. The story, which details the DC universe's struggle against Brainiac's invading army, is less convoluted (no dimension-hopping here) and carries a bigger emotional punch. The combat, which sees Superman, Batman, and the rest of DC's heroes and villains duke it out in wildly over-the-top Mortal Kombat-inspired battles, is as fast, frantic, and brutal as ever. Injustice 2 has just as many Easter eggs to excite discerning fans, but is accessible enough to sate players who only know DC from Arrow, Gotham, Batman v Superman, or Wonder Woman.

But the best thing about Injustice 2 is that it is absolutely packed with things to do, even if you're not a fan of competitive multiplayer. When Street Fighter V launched in 2016, it came in a remarkably bare-bones package, in which online battles were pretty much the only thing to do—meaning that players without advanced skills were in for a very frustrating experience. With Injustice 2, you can spend dozens of hours with the game without going online once. There's the story mode, of course, which also doubles as one of the best fighting game tutorials ever made. Every character has his or her own mini-campaign, too, which can be explored via the game's Multiverse section. The rest of the Multiverse is full of rotating challenges, which ask players to fight through different gauntlets of characters while adjusting to modifiers that drastically change the game's experience.

And then there's the loot. While playing, you'll earn Mother Boxes, which contain custom gear for all of Injustice 2's 28 characters. As you progress through the game, you'll be able to put together unique outfits, ultimately creating the superhero of your dreams. The quest for ever-better gear gives Injustice 2 an addictive pull that the first game lacked, and should keep it in your rotation for a long time. Even if you don't like the genre, Injustice 2 is worth trying out—maybe you'll discover that fighting games aren't so bad after all.

Metascore: Critics – 89/100, Users – 7.7/10

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

If you spend any time on Twitch or YouTube's gaming channels, you've probably heard about PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, which is shaping up to be the indie game of 2017. If you've seen The Hunger Games or Battle Royale, then you know how this one works: at the beginning of every Battlegrounds match, players (either playing solo, in two-man teams, or multi-person squads) parachute onto an abandoned island. Once they land, it's a mad dash to collect the weapons and resources scattered randomly across the map. Kill as many of your opponents as you can (or hide out and hope they don't find out), and pray you're the last man standing.

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is just as intense as its inspiration. Given just how savage firefights can be, and how fragile every individual competitor is, getting close to the top spot is one of modern gaming's most thrilling experiences. It's only getting better, too—the game, which has already sold over two million copies, is in Steam's Early Access program, meaning Battlegrounds is still in active development.

Battlegrounds' main designer, Brendan "PlayerUnknown" Greene, promises more Battlegrounds content is on the way, including new and better maps and a variety of weapons—and then, he says, he plans to open the game up to the modding community. In other words, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds will be around for a long, long time—and if you want to stay competitive, you'll want to get started as quickly as possible.

Metascore: N/A

Splatoon 2

Splatoon 2 is a lot like Splatoon, the original—and anyone who played the first Splatoon knows that that's a good thing. Nintendo's colorful take on the competitive third-person shooter doesn't miss a step in the transition from the Wii U to the Switch, and while the whole enterprise will feel familiar to existing fans, there's enough new content here to make Splatoon 2 a solid purchase for die-hard players and newbies alike.

It's that broad appeal that makes Splatoon 2 so appealing. At its core, Splatoon 2 is still all about its Turf War mode, in which two teams of four must cover as much of the level as possible in colored ink in order to win. It's like combining graffiti with a squirt gun fight, and it's genius. Sure, killing—or in this case, "splatting"—your opponents gives your team a brief advantage, but if you're no good at shooting, it's okay. You can still contribute to your team's victory by spreading your ink as far and wide as possible.

For more hardcore players, there's also an objective-focused Ranked Mode. The excellent cooperative mode known as Salmon Run, in which players must defeat increasingly difficult waves of enemies in order to collect golden eggs, is good enough to be its own, separate game. Throw in a breezy single-player campaign, upgradable gear, the ongoing special events known as Splatfests, and Nintendo's commitment to upgrading Splatoon 2 with new maps and weapons as time goes on, and Splatoon 2 becomes a stylish, near-irresistible package for Switch owners all over the globe.

Metascore: Critics – 83/100, Users – 8.6/10

Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood

Here's a secret: while Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn might look like a regular old MMORPG (or massively multiplayer online role-playing game, for those of you who aren't fluent in geek), it's actually one of the best Final Fantasy games of the past 20 years. Everything that you want from a classic Final Fantasy title is here—an epic storyline, a colorful and well-realized world that effortlessly blends fantasy and science fiction, a whole host of compelling and fun side characters—and you can play it with friends. What's not to love? (Okay, the monthly subscription fee is kind of a drag.)

It just gets better and better, too, although it's hard to imagine how Square Enix is going top Final Fantasy XIV's latest expansion, Stormblood. Yes, this is technically an add-on, and not a stand-alone game, but there's more content in Stormblood than most AAA releases—and, hey, it costs the same amount, too. With Stormblood, players can access a handful of new locations, including two new capital cities, and take part in a brand new series of raids, with a storyline written by Final Fantasy Tactics mastermind Yasumi Matsuno.

There are also two new jobs—the Samurai and the black and white-magic wielding Red Mage—and a fresh new storyline to play through, promising tens of hours of content. In short, if Final Fantasy XV didn't quite scratch your Final Fantasy itch, don't worry: Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood has what you're looking for.

Metascore: Critics – 90/100, Users – 8.0/10

Sonic Mania

Just when you thought you'd never see another great Sonic the Hedgehog game, along comes Sonic Mania. Sure, November's Sonic Forces—which teams up old and new Sonic with fan-made characters—is the little blue speedster's big-budget 2017 release, but it's Sonic's 16-bit throwback that's most likely to stand the test of time.

See, Sonic Mania isn't just a retro-skinned cash grab. It's a game made by fans, and for fans. Director Christian Whitehead landed a job at Sega, where he helped bring Sonic games to mobile devices, after creating a new gaming engine to pitch his own Sonic CD port. Simon Thomley, a well-known Sonic ROM hacker, helped get the physics and the feel right. Jared Kasl and Tom Fry, who collaborated on an unofficial Sonic 2 remake and made the Sonic-like Major Magnet, worked on level designs and art, respectively.

The end result is the Sonic follow-up you've been dreaming of for close to 30 years. Sonic Mania looks and feels just like the Sega Genesis originals, but with two-plus decades of polish, the slickest level designs in franchise history, and a whole slew of new features to keep things interesting. You don't have to be an experienced Sonic player to enjoy Sonic Mania, either. While the game is full of fan service and obscure Easter eggs, it's a solid platformer all on its own. If you've only played modern Sonic games and don't get what all the fuss is about, Sonic Mania has the answers you crave.

Metascore: Critics – 87/100, Users – 8.9/10

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle shouldn't work. There's nothing about the frantic, screaming, destructive Rabbids that makes them seem like a good fit for the Mushroom Kingdom. Given the Rabbids' history headlining mini-game collections, it's bizarre to see them star in a deep, X-Com-inspired strategy game. Over the years, Mario and his gang have proved to be more flexible, but this mashup still stretches the limits of what's acceptable. In Mario + Rabbids, Mario can't execute his signature move—jumping—without help. He wields guns instead of fire flowers. There are pipes and piranha plants, but most classic Mario foes—like, say, goombas and koopa troopas—only make cameo appearances.

But, somehow, it does work, and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle isn't just a good game; at times, it's great. Running, sliding, and jumping across the battlefield with Mario, Luigi, Peach, and their Rabbid doppelgängers is fun, and it opens up all kinds of interesting strategic options. The cover system adds a number of wrinkles to combat, but remains simple enough for newcomers to intuitively understand. A variety of different mission objectives keep combat fresh, and in true Mario fashion, the map is stuffed full of secrets, making between-fight exploring key. Heck, in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, even the Rabbids—which usually end up somewhere between mildly amusing and downright annoying—are laugh-out-loud funny.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle may not be a crossover that anybody asked for, but we got it anyway, and it's a good thing. While Mario + Rabbids may not be an instant classic like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, it's one of the best games on the Switch. Don't overlook it.

Metascore: Critics – 85/100, Users – 8.9/10