Sony’s PS4 continued to deliver an array of fantastic experiences this year, amassing an extensive lineup of games that covered a wide range of genres. The library grew even stronger thanks to top-tier multiplatform games and a wealth of quality exclusives, like Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Gravity Rush 2, Nioh and Yakuza 0; timed-exclusives like What Remains of Edith Finch; and console exclusives like Nier: Automata and Pyre. And those are on the top of the best games for the console this year. In no particular order, here are our picks for the best PS4 games of 2017:
Through art, music, and the wings of rebellion, the Persona series continues to distinguish itself among JRPGs and push the genre forward with Persona 5. The game is split between social simulation in modern-day Tokyo and turn-based combat in lavish alternate realities. One day, you’re riding the Tokyo Metro to hang out with a friend in Shibuya after school. The next day, you’re fighting your way through a dungeon by casting elemental spells on shadowy monsters and interrogating them in order to wield their power; these two worlds constantly intersect and affect each other significantly.
As a Japanese high school student, you round up your crew of Phantom Thieves to right the wrongs of the world and change the worst of society by fighting in the Metaverse, a materialization of people’s subconscious. But the premise evolves, it becomes more nuanced, and often induces moments of self-reflection. The questions and conflicts presented in Persona 5 are oddly chilling given everything that’s happened in 2017, and this game does not shy away from making social and political statements.
The wildly stylish art direction carries momentum throughout its 100-plus hour adventure; from victory screens and battle animations to outfits and menu art, style becomes part of the narrative framing and character development. What’s just as important is the evocative soundtrack that effortlessly bounces between jazz-fusion, funk, metal, and downtempo. These songs aren’t just great in their own right; through their structure and lyrics, they become part of the story and perfectly encapsulate each moment. Persona 5 is empowering and endearing from start to finish, which makes it genuinely hard to say goodbye to the friends you make along the way.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
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Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice leverages the strengths of video games as a medium and delivers an experience that is unlike anything else released this year. It’s a bold game that explores mental health–specifically psychosis–through the lens of a character-action game wrapped in Norse mythology. At the same time, the game tackles an important and often misunderstood illness, and allows you to better understand through visual and aural presentation.
Developer Ninja Theory has a long history in developing action games that are fast and fluid in movement while also being mechanically deep and complex, but for Hellblade, the developer scaled this back somewhat. Playing Hellblade can feel rough and sluggish, but this feeds into the mind-state of its main character, Senua. Returning from self-imposed exile, the young Pict warrior grapples with her inner-demons as she attempts to save the soul of her lover, Dillon.
The act of fighting against demonic apparitions feels like a struggle, as Senua summons every ounce of energy in her body just to keep moving forward, one step at a time. And all the while voices in her head pull her in different directions, some guiding her, while others undermine and belittle her. The result is an experience that feels raw, unsettling, and often frustrating and disempowering. It can be difficult to play but, ultimately, it’s also a unique and enlightening experience.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
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Resident Evil 7: Biohazard marks a return to form for Capcom, which reconnected with its survival-horror roots in 2017 to deliver a Resident Evil that is both modern and faithful to the series’ legacy.
The game casts aside the third-person perspective for first-person, and in doing so, ratchets up the nerve-wracking tension throughout the campaign. Crucially, however, it leans on the genre pillars that it both established and popularised; bullets and healing items are in short supply, and enemies require strategy and a steady hand to take down.
From the early moments of breathlessly running around the Baker home, hoping and praying not to cross paths with Jack, the psychotic patriarch of the family, to the nail-biting cat-and-mouse game in Marguerite’s bug-infested cabin, and the intense fight for survival at the end, Resident Evil 7 is edge-of-your-seat gaming at its finest.
Its tension and scares are elevated on PS4 thanks to PlayStation VR support, which effectively envelops you in the horrors of the decrepit Baker estate. Resident Evil 7’s cycle of build and release is coupled with superb audio design, and with the PSVR headset on, it’s easy to lose yourself in the experience.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
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Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus never lets you forget who you’re fighting, and why. Nazi brutality is on full display, from the blown-out, irradiated remains of Manhattan to each of the characters, who all carry mental scars if not physical ones. The far-future technology of the Nazi regime is exhilarating to partake in–high-powered laser weapons are exciting to use, after all–but it’s also a grotesque display of their ruthless subjugation of all corners of the world.
That said, a tongue-in-cheek tone reminiscent of Inglourious Basterds strikes the right balance with the game’s incredibly heavy subject matter. The New Colossus has a completely bonkers storyline, and it’s elevated by satisfying Nazi-killing action and a self-awareness of its own dark humor. It also manages to make combat exciting without becoming a power fantasy–it’s straight-up difficult, and its mechanical, heavily armored enemies can seem impossible to take down at times. But regardless of whether you take a stealthy or guns-blazing approach, you’ll be rewarded with a thrilling fight once you do emerge victorious.
The most memorable thing about The New Colossus, though, is its direction. Carefully choreographed cutscenes give more gravity to an already great cast of characters, and the timing of specific moments (all spoilers) makes them all the more impactful. Wolfenstein’s tense gameplay elevates this further by giving you the power to truly resist–and come out of each battle ready for another fight.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
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Horizon: Zero Dawn presents a unique twist on the post-apocalypse, where technology and nature have evolved side-by-side. Next to familiar creatures like foxes and rabbits, formidable robotic beasts roam the land. They aren’t all violent–some are easily tamed and can be ridden–but many pose a serious threat.
One of the best things about navigating this world is controlling Aloy, the lead character who’s uniquely capable of standing her ground against mechanical monstrosities. She’s nimble and strong, and can craft arrows, roll out of harm’s way, and leap into a slow-motion draw-and-fire of her bow in a single breath. The intricacies of combat come together in an impressive and seamless manner, securing Horizon’s position as one of the year’s best action games.
Guiding Aloy through Horizon’s beautifully rendered world and fending off would-be killers proves to be the glue that holds Horizon together, connecting story beats involving tribal conflicts and sci-fi origin stories. And the revelations you uncover toward the end offer a new perspective on Aloy and her connection to the unusual state of her surroundings. It’s a fascinating tale that gets better as it develops, keeping step with Aloy’s growth as a warrior, leader, and peace keeper in a world out of control.
GameSpot will be unveiling its picks for the best games of the year throughout all of December. Check out our Best of 2017 hub for even more.