What are the best PC games of 2017? It is a year of change and uncertainty, which means it is also a great time to retreat to the world of videogames and wait for the real world to sort itself out. Speaking of which, we hear reality’s patch 2.3.9001 is nearly ready for release any day now. Until Earth’s gameplay designers roll out the latest balance changes, here are a selection of the best PC games of 2017.
Feeling impatient? How about you get all excited about the best upcoming PC games in 2017 and beyond.
Resident Evil 7
Within the first hour of Resi’s comeback title (the Resinaissance, some are calling it) you are punched, kicked, stabbed with a screwdriver, attacked with a chainsaw, and force-fed a decidedly unappetising dinner. Things only get nastier from there in one of the best PC games of 2017.
Bringing the horror closer with a perspective change to first-person turned out to be a bit of a masterstroke for Capcom, enabling the developers to breathe life into an ailing series while also allowing space to hark back to its survival horror roots via its level design and mechanics. The dilapidated house you find yourself in during Resident Evil 7 is not much like the very first game's now-famous mansion aesthetically, but as you tread and retread the same corridors you recognise that its architect is ‘90s survival horror level design, and its mise-en-scene is made up of the familiar herbs and storage lockers that gave the series its quiddity over 20 years ago.
The essence of the fighting game, distilled and then applied to an entirely unexpected genre and setting. For Honor might look like a triple-A developer’s take on Mount & Blade, but under its armour lies a complex and demanding combat system that would do Street Fighter proud.
It is a very modern game release: beta tested within an inch of its life, and thusly pretty stable from release day onwards. Ubisoft have had to step in and address some imbalances, along with - and you will be shocked to hear this - banning some players who were using the multiplayer game to basically be dicks, but broadly, For Honor has been a contender for one of the best games of 2017 from day one.
Do not go into it expecting a solo experience with meat and substance, though - this is really all about meeting people in the online servers and trying to cleave them in half before you run out of breath.
Want more? Here's our For Honor review.
Torment: Tides of Numenera
Curiousity killed the cat, or so the less-outlandish proverbs of our own dimension tell us. But once death becomes a mere bump in the road, what is to stop you from embracing curiosity and the strange and dangerous devices the Ninth World has to offer?
Tides of Numenera takes the immortal shtick from its namesake, the fondly remembered Planescape: Torment, but at the centre of its universe are the Numenera themselves - powerful objects left behind by far more advanced civilisations. They are what you are driven to find and understand, in an unusually talky take on RPG questing. And they are the tools you rely on to get yourself out of a sticky situation: either detonating a chemical oddity, or coating your teeth in a strange paste to achieve a persuasive rictus grin that will get you through a diplomatic nightmare without raising a Galvanic Hammer.
Just like those Numenera, Torment’s story is about legacy - the eight worlds that came before, the good and bad done by a mysterious and elusive Changing God, and the damage you might do with your own words and actions. Lots of games promise choice and consequence; Torment really, really means it, becoming one of the best games of 2017 in the process.
Want more? Here's our Torment: Tides of Numenera review.
Sniper Elite 4
Ever wonder what it would be like if there was an Oscars for videogames? For one thing, you would probably be playing a lot of social realist games about injustice and historical tragedy around February ever year. For another, Sniper Elite 4 would never get near a gong.
And in many ways, it is that fundamental silliness that gives Rebellion’s long-range shooter its greatest strength. It is an unashamed B-movie of a game, full of exuberant animated shattering skulls and googly eyes in X-ray vision watching slow-mo bullets about to enter them.
Developers Rebellion are getting better at open-world design, and at disguising the fact that this is effectively an indie game doing a very good impression of a triple-A, polish and all. World War II slapstick at its most likeable.
Want more? Here's our Sniper Elite 4 review.
Night in the Woods
The cast of doe-eyed animals and faintly cheerful cartoon art style will only throw you off the scent - Night in the Woods is a sombre and mature piece of storytelling and character study. If you got your kicks with Always Sometimes Monsters, Life is Strange, et al, you will recognise and appreciate the social realist tone - that being a relative term in the world of videogames, of course.
Still, a game in which cartoon cats, birds, and bears battle low self-esteem, mental health issues, being outsiders, and managing difficult relationships is at the very least a refreshing experiment in form conventions, if not quite a Ken Loach screenplay. It is a surprisingly meaty adventure too, running much longer than its indie credentials might initially suggest.
Taro Yoko and Platinum Games' collaboration in the open-world action game space is, against all odds, a complete success. Nier: Automata eschews genre conventions and boundaries, telling a story about death and friendship via two cyborg ninjas.
It is not much like the Ubisoft open worlds of trinkets and upgradeable wallets we have become used to lately, mind. Nier: Automata takes more inspiration from latter day Zelda than anything else, and that is a nice treat for us on PC. Oh, and it is absolutely bonkers. Did we mention that yet? No? Oh, well yeah - it is. Unpredictable in the most entertaining way you can imagine, and well worth the three playthroughs that most would consider a bare minimum to enjoy the game proper. There are 26 total endings...
Want more? Here's our Nier: Automata review.
Dark Souls III may have ruled the hardcore action-RPG roost in 2016, but with that series at an official end it’s time for a new contender to the throne. Step forward, The Surge. Developed by the same team that made that other notable Dark Souls clone - Lords of the Fallen - The Surge takes the brutally challenging combat of the Souls franchise and places it in a near-future apocalypse replete with shuffling, exosuit-clad zombies and sentient smelting robots.
All of FromSoftware’s now essential mechanics and features are there: basic mobs that can kill you with a single hit, ruthless boss fights, environmental storytelling, losing all of your currency if you die, and losing it permanently if you fail to reclaim it before dying again. But The Surge layers plenty of its own ideas over that established formula. Foremost among them is its disturbingly compelling crafting system, that has you acquire, build, and upgrade new gear by dismembering its enemies. It also has a proper story outside of the clues strewn about its environments (put your pitchforks down, Dark Souls fans), one that is told through cinematics, audiologs, and NPCs.
You will go in expecting a sci-fi Souls-like, and while that goes some way to describing The Surge, it is not quite the full story.
Want more? here’s our full The Surge review.
Arkane have recently proved themselves to be the masters of immersive sims with their Dishonored series, and the developers show no sign of slowing down with Prey. A dense, detailed, and loving homage to the likes of System Shock 2 and Deus Ex, it asks you to investigate the dark secrets of the Talos-1 space station.
Discovering the station’s history will lead you from sector to sector; a maze of laboratories, living quarters, reactors, and even gardens. How they interlink is one of Arkane’s greatest triumphs, with twisting air vents and a multitude of corridors allowing various approaches into each of the station’s zones. You will want to explore every inch of them, since not only does each room hold new items and audio logs detailing the lives of the recently deceased crew, but you will also need to vary up your approach to the enemies inside.
You see, Talos-1 has been infected. The Typhon, a race of shadow-like aliens, are everywhere. And the worst bit? More often than not, you will not even know they are there. The mimic Typhon can take the form of pretty much any object in the game. Coffee mugs, chairs, and even that health pack that you thought would save your life could actually be a Typhon in disguise. It makes exploring every area an exercise in controlling your own paranoia, and that is something that really sets Prey apart from its collection of inspirations and rivals.
Want more? here’s our full Prey review.
What Remains of Edith Finch
We have reached a point where we all feel confident that we know what a ‘walking simulator’ is, and that is what makes What Remains of Edith Finch such a triumph: it proves we do not. The setup could not be more familiar: playing Edith, you have quite literally gone home to investigate the tragic storied history of your family. But rather than have you rifling through cupboards and reading diary entries, developers Giant Sparrow instead crack open a vein of pure creativity.
The tales are told via a series of fantastical vignettes, each completely different from the others in terms of concept, tone, and execution. You will inhabit a toddler splashing about in a bath, control a carnivorous sea monster living under a bed, sail across foreign lands as a beloved monarch, and much more.
Multiple generations of the Finch family are explored in the game’s tight two-hour running time. By its conclusion you will be emotionally exhausted, but feel refreshed in having witnessed a real progressive stepping stone in videogame narratives, and one of the best PC games of 2017.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm
Before the Storm is not just one of the best PC games of 2017. It acts as a prequel to Dontnod’s 2015 Life is Strange, but for the majority of its three-episode journey it does not feel like a simple ‘previously on…’ story. This labour of love explores the relationship of punkish rogue Chloe, and the enigmatic target of her affections, Rachel Amber. Together they navigate through thoughts, feelings, and themes that so few videogames have previously touched upon, and do so with assured confidence.
Easter eggs and fan service exist peacefully alongside a fantastic new narrative filled with characters you will wish you could spend even more time with. Its story fills all the gaps it needs to while never feeling as though it steps on the toes of what is yet to come, and still manages to carve out its own space. In some ways, Before the Storm is only the start of the Life is Strange journey, but in many others it is a joyous adventure in its own right.
Want more? Here’s our full Life is Strange: Before the Storm review.
Ubisoft Reflections’ Ode is a music game, but is a world away from plastic guitars and rubberised toy drums. Each level is essentially a dormant song, waiting to be woken up. As Joy, Ode’s delicious squidge of a protagonist, you bop about that level brushing up against the flora - skinny-stemmed succulents, brightly-coloured mushrooms, and tall flowers topped by bells that resemble jellyfish big enough to smother you. These plants are the song’s instruments: drums, cymbals, bass, synths, guitar, and - in the case of an explosive blob that rolls towards you with the needy refrain of “just one kiss” - vocals.
Ode feels like the logical evolution of the carefree platforming of Grow Home and Grow Up - a tactile world that puts you right inside a soundscape. You are not so much trying to get home in Ode though; you are already there, it just needs a few extra notes to make it where the heart is.
Want more? Here are more thoughts about Ode.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
It is pretty safe to say that, despite its small Kickstarter origins, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is not just one of the best PC games of 2017, but the most ambitious RPG of the decade. The weird, offbeat world of Rivellon acts less as a container for a series of story threads, but as an expansive sandbox dense with paths and possibilities. You can engage in battles where entire map zones are razed to the ground in cursed fire, and graffiti buildings with human-spun spider webs. You may even have to force an undead skeleton to wear a bucket on his head, lest he be attacked by terrified citizens. It is even perfectly possible to defeat the first major boss by repeatedly hitting him with his own portrait.
And that is just in the story campaign. Beyond Original Sin 2’s expansive epic tale is a XCOM-style PvP arena that is as deep as the game’s incredible combat system will allow, and a game master mode that allows the complete freedom of tabletop Dungeons & Dragons with the added bonus of fancy graphics and sound. It is an astonishing package, and one that will remain in the mind and on the hard drive for many years to come.
Want more? Here’s our full Divinity: Original Sin 2 review.
Every puzzle of Opus Magnum requires you to build a machine of interlocking parts. For most of the game you and your contraption coincide in a state of malfunction, and it is all your fault. The arms that pick up reagents are moving out of sync, overlap, and the machine breaks. Rather than two arms neatly passing an element, they both try to grab the same one and pull it in different directions at once, and the machine breaks. A revolver action cog is picking up elements faster than it can pass them off, becomes overloaded, and the machine breaks.
Breaks. Breaks. Breaks. But then comes a moment where the machine does not break. Where, for a split second, the clockwork smoothly slides into place. Small adjustments allow the machine to progress a little further to your final goal, working for longer before the next break. And even when you do hit the eureka moment, you will keep going; this is a game that encourages you to stay with a puzzle even after you have a solution, tempting you to refine it. By design, Opus Magnum is a game that pulls you into the mindset of trying to build your own opus magnum.
Call of Duty: WWII
For those who remember the earliest days of the series, it will not come as a huge surprise that Call of Duty could reinvigorate itself by returning to the era that established it. COD: WWII’s campaign serves as a greatest hits compilation of the Allied advance to Berlin: storm the beaches of Normandy, liberate Paris, freeze your arse off in the Ardennes, and cross the Rhine. Foregoing lumping famous faces at you in an effort to make you care about its campaign, it instead turns the dial back from 11, offering players a limited perspective on the war among a squad of five persistent, grounded men.
The boldest changes have been saved for multiplayer. War Mode is without a doubt the highlight. For the first time in a COD game, teams are actually playing the objective, throwing themselves into doomed, last-ditch attacks without giving a second thought to their K/D ratio. Pushing up the Normandy beaches, frantically popping smoke grenades to cover you as you dash between anti-tank fortifications, the unmistakable buzz of MG42 fire dominating the soundscape - War brings a touch of Battlefield to COD: WWII, a sense of scale and spectacle that has always been absent in the series’ multiplayer. That is what makes it one of the best PC games of 2017.
Want more? Here’s our full Call of Duty: WWII review.
It might look a little rough around the edges, but PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ real beauty lies in its simplicity. Whether you know the concept from The Hunger Games, noughties Japanese cinema, or a humble game of hide-and-seek in the school playground, everyone knows what to do as soon as you are dropped from the plane: be the last player standing.
This simple premise holds together what is a surprisingly deep military sim of the ilk some of its players might usually ignore. Whatever strategy you adopt, a standard match demands that you make dozens of risk/reward choices, all of existential importance. It is 30 minutes of insidious stress and paranoia. PUBG is one of the best PC games of 2017 because it allows you to play a multiplayer shooter however you want - solo or with a squad, all guns blazing or cowering in a barn - with every choice having a clear, decisive consequence.
Want more? Here’s our full PUBG review.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
What if we told you that, when it comes to writing, the best PC game of 2017 was about a man with a crewcut slamming a hatchet into the faces of Nazi soldiers? A guy who runs around like he is on skates, hoovering up helmets, armour, med packs, and ammo like a meaty Dyson. A fella who can take on an entire U-boat filled with enemies while wheeling himself around on a wheelchair and pissing through a tube. Yup, we are talking about Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and its oddly affecting characters and story.
It is incredible that, despite this gung-ho premise, Wolfenstein II delivers one of the most human stories ever presented in a videogame. It delivers a fistful of unforgettable sequences - some make you laugh at their absurdity, others make you think, and some even bring a tear to my eye. It is a game that defies expectation at every single turn.
Oh, and it has got great guns. Did we mention the guns? And the gore? And how you skip from one violent set-piece to another through the whole campaign? Yeah, that makes it one of the best PC games of 2017, too
Want more? Here’s our full Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus review.
The Evil Within 2
The Evil Within 2 is entirely its own horror experience - part open-world survival game, part psychological horror. It is a bold, bloody evolution of the survival horror genre. Moreover, like its centipedal monstrosities, this is a game that excels at defying expectations. Scenery, gameplay, and pacing shift gears constantly, keeping you guessing nearly every minute of the 20 hours it takes to reach the end of its story.
It is also a game that is at odds with its predecessor, implying the bulk of its horrors rather than showing them to you, opting more often for open design over confined corridor chases. But at its core, The Evil Within 2 is still a survival horror experience, a modern take on the time-honoured suspense of having only one round but two deranged enemies lurching towards you. That means two of the best PC games of 2017 are horror games that reinvented themselves. It was a pretty good year for big-budget spooks.
Want more? Here’s our full The Evil Within 2 review.