A new year, a new slate, a new list of games. This is going to be a long read (or scroll) so, without further ado, here are our 30 most anticipated releases for 2017:
Over the years, Capcom’s zombie franchise shifted its focus from survival horror to action, a move influenced by better shooting controls and Hollywood movie adaptations. Resident Evil 7 biohazard steps away from the escalating bio-terror plot and veteran characters to return to basics: disempowerment, mystery, and puzzles.
Armed with a first-person perspective – a first for the series – RE7 promises to take players on a harrowing, atmospheric journey through an “abandoned” estate in Louisiana, USA, as they search for the missing Mia Winters. It’s also one of the first AAA titles to adopt virtual reality.
- Watch: Resident Evil 7 biohazard TAPE-3 “Resident Evil”
- Further reading: Resident Evil 7 biohazard does get better in VR
A prequel to the first game, Yakuza 0 follows the stories of Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima in Tokyo and Osaka respectively. Just as Mafia III transported players to ‘60s New Orleans, Yakuza 0 will recreate 1988 Japan, right in the middle of the country’s economic bubble.
The open-world action-RPG (the protagonists do gain skills and level up) can be compared to Grand Theft Auto in scope, as players busy themselves with story missions, the characters’ side businesses, and the many mini-games – from arcades to cabarets – scattered throughout the area. Seeing how this kicks off the rest of the series, Yakuza 0 is reportedly a good starting point for newcomers.
- Watch: Yakuza 0 – Empty Lot Trailer
Dark Souls may be retiring but there’s already a promising successor in sight. Nioh takes the deeply satisfying stamina-based combat of the former and plants it in Sengoku-era Japan, where western samurai William Adams (who did exist) embarks on a series of missions against humans and demons (not so much). It’s an evolutionary take on Capcom’s dormant Onimusha, imbued with Team Ninja’s penchant for stylish action.
Nioh kicks things up a notch by having four different weapon stances that switch on-the-fly, combined with a wide variety of weapon types, combos, and skills. An equipment upgrade system and harder difficulties – new and tougher enemies rather than scaling hit points – affords plenty of replay value to this action-RPG. What’s more, Team Ninja has been genuinely listening to fan feedback since their alpha and beta demos, thus pushing the release to 2017.
Ubisoft’s For Honor will soon let us put to test the age-old playground question: who’d win in a knight versus samurai battle? And while we’re at it, why not throw some Vikings into the mix? The third-person hack-and-slash lets players represent one of the three groups in a seasonal, inter-faction war, the results of which are collected from and applied to all platforms.
Players share the battlefield with AI grunts that are quickly taken down. Up against enemy heroes, however, the game turns into a one-on-one duel using what Ubisoft calls the Art of Battle system, granting finer directional control over attacks and blocks. There’s a campaign that can be tackled either solo or in two-player online co-op, with a selection of multiplayer modes supported by a character progression system.
- Watch: For Honor – Story Trailer
Eight long years after the original, Microsoft once again dips into real-time-strategy with Halo Wars 2. A collaboration between Halo stewards 343 Industries and RTS experts Creative Assembly, the sequel (set 28 years later) puts familiar units such as Warthogs and Scorpions up against new enemies and situations.
The USNC faces the Banished, a Brute Covenant faction led by Atriox, in a battle for control of an ancient Forerunner site known as the Ark. While the story will tie into the larger series narrative, no prior knowledge is necessary. Online multiplayer supports up to six players, featuring established concepts such as deathmatch, point control, and good old co-op against AI. Yet the most notable addition is Blitz, a quick game mode that incorporates cards and deck-building.
It made our list last year and it’s making the list again – Guerilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn is one title we’d happily wait for. Thematically it’s reminiscent of the early Holocene period when humans lived in tribes and wooly mammoths walked the earth; it’s actually set a thousand years in the future, long after a post-apocalyptic event, all history lost to time.
Other than the stunning sights and sounds, Horizon Zero Dawn boasts an exciting combat system involving arrows, traps, and armor plating. While brute force does work on the mechanized creatures that now rule the earth, taking advantage of stealth, weak points, and the precision aiming system feels more like an actual hunt. Guerilla tease that hints behind civilization’s fall and more can be discovered in the story.
- Watch: Horizon Zero Dawn – PSX2 016: The Machines Trailer
- Further reading: Horizon Zero Dawn lets you hack nearly every machine in the game
The recent demo for NieR: Automata is the latest showcase of PlatinumGames’ skill with spectacle fighters. Mixing melee and ranged combat with a fluid movement system, it aptly reminds us why their games feel so damn good to play. The caveat here is that we’re not sure just how much role-playing has survived the change of studios.
The game follows the exploits of 2B (short for YoRHa No. 2 Model B), a combat android created to fight other machines in a proxy war between humans and off-world invaders. NieR is a spin-off series of Drakengard, both originally developed by the now-defunct Cavia. In keeping with tradition, Automata features a dark setting with branching narratives – the developers cite “struggle” as the game’s central theme, with Yoko Taro reprising his role as director.
Ghost Recon Wildlands aims to reimagine the franchise in the same way Siege did for Rainbow Six, distancing itself from military simulations to focus on entertaining tactical (mis)adventures. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it capitalizes Ubisoft’s strength of making large, open worlds, this time with dynamic weather and day-night cycles.
Up to four players get to squad up in the long war against a Bolivian drug cartel, undertaking various missions across mountains, forests, deserts, and other environments. The missions are usually preceded by surveillance and planning, at which point it’s up to the team to quietly slip in or make a loud entrance. Each Ghost can customize their appearance and loadout, with vehicles, side missions, and NPCs scattered across the map. As with MGS V: The Phantom Pain, players are free to choose how to get to their target destination.
Given the franchise’s success, we all knew that there would be more Mass Effect; it’s just hard to imagine it without the cast of the Shepard trilogy. Mass Effect: Andromeda begins a new story, propelling players into a different galaxy altogether. As a Pathfinder, we’re tasked to find humanity’s next home.
The journey is long (600 years of cryostasis!) and the destination perilous – uncharted territories can be home to hazardous environments and hostile wildlife. Aside from of all the planet scanning, exploration, and investigation, there’s going to be plenty of Mass Effect-style combat to remind everyone that this is frontier space. On the bright side, we won’t be tackling it alone.
Technically, Persona 5 is already out. Opinions on the Japanese release have been overwhelmingly positive, even compared to previous titles in the series. We’re still waiting for the English localization (as we have been since last year) but it certainly helps to know that Atlus have hit the mark once again.
Set in modern Tokyo, the student protagonist must lead a vigilante group to free a parallel realm – born from the hopes and dreams of people – from the corruption that plagues it. It sounds dreamy but Persona dives into the human psyche, sometimes in depressing ways. Amongst the many features the RPG has are an updated Social Link system to grow relationships, a social network to message both characters and other players, as well as the titular Personas that are now summoned via masks.
Not to be confused with MechWarrior 5 (although they do share the same universe), the crowdfunded BATTLETECH is all about turn-based combat. Players will lead a lance of BattleMechs through “a story-driven, Mercenaries-style campaign” set in 3025, the Succession Wars Era. By this point, the fighting has raged on for so long that technology actually regressed, making each ‘Mech a valuable asset.
Naturally, each ‘Mech can be heavily customized according to the player’s needs or preferences, affecting everything from weaponry to weight and turning radius. Being the towering machines that they are a cover system doesn’t exist, although line-of-sight still applies. Harebrained Schemes state that they’ll “adopt the spirit of the source material” without taking the literal rulesets, which is fine considering their co-founder is Jordan Weisman, BattleTech’s creator.
We’re finally getting a new, numbered entry in this combat flight simulator series, the first for current-gen consoles and with VR support to boot! Ace Combat 7 revisits the sprawling ‘Strangereal’ universe established in earlier games, a welcome break from the real-world settings they’ve toyed with lately. This time it’s a fight between Erusea and Osea, tackled with an entire arsenal of modern and experimental fighter aircraft – no helicopter missions.
We don’t know much else other than the fact that the trailer was rendered in real-time, clouds are now actual 3D objects you can fly into, and that the PSVR will be completely optional (though it has exclusive features). The team is working with Unreal Engine 4 and utilizing trueSky, the same dynamic tech used in Driveclub and Arma III.
Note: No official announcements yet but Ace Combat 7 may come to Xbox One.
After the wild ride that was Saints Row IV, developers Volition have shied away from a direct sequel to work on something different instead. Agents of Mayhem is a spin-off from one of the endings in Saints Row: Gat out of Hell, exploring “a ‘what if’ story where the Saints gang was never created.” While we’ll get to see familiar faces, the game will focus on an entirely new story and cast of characters.
Players can freely switch between three Super Agents at any time, selected from a larger pool of characters and kitted out with gadgets. So far, the only customization options announced are skins for the agents, weapons, and vehicles.
What started as a desire to get away from hyper-realistic and pixel art designs soon turned into a labor-intensive effort to recreate 1930s cartoons. Taking key inspiration from Fleischer Studios’ Swing You Sinners! and Bimbo’s Initiation, Cuphead has players taking on a gauntlet of bosses in an attempt to repay the devil.
Although the aesthetic is its most standout feature, Studio MDHR developed Cuphead with a gameplay-first philosophy, counting frames, tweaking hitboxes, and generally obsessing over the player experience. To help us with the bosses, Cuphead packs a parry ability and is blessed with infinite lives. There’s also extra firepower in the form of local co-op, allowing a second player to jump in as – who else? – Mugman.
- Watch: Cuphead Trailer E3 2015
One could play Divinity: Original Sin II right now but as early access games aren’t technically finished, we’re throwing this on the list. All that said, it’s clear from the Steam store page that the game is already on track to stellar reviews.
The first Original Sin is an excellent update to the CRPGs of old – games that made the party stop to think, argue over decisions, or even wander off in completely different directions. The puzzles and combat were challenging, conversations had unique dialogue options for each player, and the story and world-building were captivating. The sequel expands the number of players from two to four (an actual party!), with options for different races and much more.
Gran Turismo Sport is zooming straight to the PS4 Pro, allowing it to gear up for dynamic 4K and 60 FPS performance. Yet what GT creator Kazunori Yamauchi is most excited for is HDR and wide color support, allowing them to accurately represent colors such as Ferrari’s distinct red. There’s VR too but it’s limited to a specific tour mode and not the entire the game.
Other than technical improvements, GT Sport continues to bring the latest in auto racing, from new real-world cars and tracks to the studio’s own tasteful creations. To attract a new generation of racers, they’ve introduced a beginner’s school and other features to help players compete on a fair level. There’s plenty of room for players to grow too, topping out with two concurrent FIA-certified online championship series.
NetherRealm Studios follows up on the success of their last superhuman fighter with Injustice 2, retaining many past mechanics such as environmental interaction, character traits, and clashes. What’s new this time around is the ability to evade or escape by using up meter charge, as well as a loot drop system for costume pieces and gear.
To account for these character strengthening equipment, there will be matchmaking options and game modes that disable these upgrades for competitions. Injustice 2 will also adopt the netcode used in Mortal Kombat X. Featuring “the biggest DC roster ever offered in a fighting game,” it’ll pick up the story from where the first game ended, with Batman’s restoration efforts now hampered by remnants of Superman’s regime and a whole new threat.
[Update: Injustice 2 releases on May 16, 2017.]
A first-person RPG set in a medieval kingdom isn’t exactly ground-breaking, yet what makes Kingdom Come: Deliverance unique are features that could only have been greenlit thanks to crowdfunding. Warhorse Studios are striving for historical accuracy and realism, upending conventions such as character classes and linear quests for greater player freedom.
There’s honestly far too much to squeeze into two paragraphs, other than to say that Kingdom Come ticks many of the checkboxes that military history buffs have been waiting for, as well as having gameplay systems role-players might be curious about. The big question is whether Warhorse will be able to deliver on their Kickstarter promises and still hit a 2017 release.
Plenty of expectations are riding on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, from both sides of the equation. For the fans, it represents a brand new vision and future for the celebrated series. For Nintendo, it’s the strongest card in the Nintendo Switch lineup thus far, so much so that they’re still debating whether it should be a launch title in March or polished to perfection.
Regardless of when it releases, we do know that this is the start of a new chapter in the Zelda series, featuring a huge open-world where Link can now walk, jump, and climb absolutely anywhere – he’ll need it too, considering he slept for a century. Over 100 Shrines of Trials dot the map, with enemies of all shapes and sizes prowling the ruined kingdom. Breath of the Wild will also support amiibo figurines, each affecting the game in a unique way.
The sixth entry in the fighting game series, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite once again breaks canon for an inter-universe clash. Featuring new characters such as Captain Marvel and Mega Man X, the game brings back two-on-two partner battles for greater accessibility.
Replacing assist attacks is the ability to instantly switch characters, even mid-combo. Capcom is also adding an Infinity Stone mechanic that grants unique abilities such as increased strength or maneuverability. Players can expect a cinematic story to accompany the single-player modes, and an online multiplayer with global leaderboards, online lobbies, and options to spectate.
- Watch: Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite
The collaboration between Level-5 and Studio Ghibli gave us an award-winning RPG that looked and sounded magical. While Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom doesn’t see Ghibli making a return, we do get character artist Yoshiyuki Momose and composer Joe Hisaishi to ensure production remains top-notch.
Ni no Kuni II sees the young king Evan Pettywhisker embarking on an adventure to prove himself worthy of the crown. Accompanying him on his quest across the darkened kingdom is Roland, a visitor from another world, and the colorful cast of characters they meet along the way.
Red Barrels was one of the few studios leading the survival horror renaissance in recent years (a road paved by the timeless Amnesia: The Dark Descent). They’ve since crawled back into their barrels to work on Outlast 2, starring different characters and a new location.
Freelance journalist Blake Langermann and his wife were on the trail of a murder when their helicopter crashes in the Arizona desert. Now separated, the search for his spouse leads him to a village of cultists and, well, you can probably imagine the rest. As a cameraman, Langermann owns a camera that has clearer footage, zoom, and audio detection. The problem is that he has poor vision, which is reflected in the game should his glasses fall off. Expect lots of hiding and regret.
They also made a joke Kickstarter for Outlast 2 companion diapers.
- Watch: Outlast II Teaser
We asked and they listened. After years of genuine requests and off-hand remarks, Rockstar Studios are giving us Red Dead Redemption 2. They have the unenviable task of meeting (or surpassing) the ridiculously high bar set by the first game but, if anyone can do it, it’s Rockstar.
Unsurprisingly, details about the game are sparse. The official site simply tells us what we already know and that there’ll be a multiplayer component which presumably mimics GTA Online. At the core of the fan debate is whether RDR 2 is a sequel, a prequel, or follows entirely new protagonists – Rockstar hasn’t confirmed anything to that effect. Whichever it is, millions of gamers are eagerly waiting.
In a bit of creative challenge for PlatinumGames, Scalebound is a four player co-op action-RPG that emphasizes visual quality and accessibility. Directed by none other than Hideki Kamiya (Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, Ōkami), the Microsoft exclusive sees player character Drew pulled into the world of Draconis. There he meets and bonds with Thuban, the last dragon of his kind, and the two “must learn to fight as one to defeat the powerful enemies that threaten Draconis, Earth and a vast universe of parallel worlds.”
As a bonded pair, both go down if either character dies. Thuban is AI controlled but Drew can issue commands during battle or, at the risk of staying vulnerable, take full control of the dragon. Melee and ranged weapons are on a pick-up basis and can degrade, while Drew himself has access to skill points. The larger enemies can even be climbed on for a bit of close-quarters combat.
[Update: Scalebound has been canceled.]
It’s a pirate sandbox, what more could anybody possibly want? Rare’s Sea of Thieves entered public life on a vague note but recent developer podcasts and the technical alpha trailer have helped form a more concrete example of where the game is headed.
From treasure hunting to ship combat and plain old inebriation, Sea of Thieves presents itself as a roaring good time when played with friends. There’s potential for a player economy and roles to organically take hold – the same way the DayZ mod spawned a line of respected, volunteer medics – as long as Rare is able to provide enough content and variety for players to thrive on.
One of the best new projects to come out of Ubisoft’s offices was South Park: The Stick of Truth, so it’s only natural for South Park: The Fractured but Whole to exist. Taking place one day after, the kids begin role-playing superheroes before a disagreement over film franchising turns into civil war, with Freedom Pals (Kenny, Stan, Tweek, and Token) splitting from the original Coon and Friends group (Cartman, Kyle, Jimmy, Craig, and Clyde).
The New Kid (that’s us) can now get to pick a gender in addition to a superhero class, although unlocks later in the game allow for dual specialization and further customization. There are big changes to combat too, with status effects, covers, and knockbacks all influenced by the design team playing tabletop games. Most significant of all is the fact that it now uses The Division’s engine, which can import assets directly from South Park’s animation studios.
Good horror requires a manipulation of the senses and psyche, something that Stifled accomplishes. The indie game robs us of vision as we know it, forcing us to rely on sound as an active sonar of sorts. Footsteps, trickling water, shouts – all of it lights up the pitch black darkness before us. For better or worse.
The minimalist visual design works superbly in Stifled’s favor, and the experience is made even better by having a microphone plugged in. There’s a story too, which begins with a car crash and a missing person, though what we’ve seen so far truly lives up to the definition of “teaser” (mystery is always good). Gattai Games also happens to be a Singaporean studio, so we’ve got some high hopes for it.
- Watch: Stifled – Narrative Trailer
Lately, we’ve been treated to modern takes on Wolfenstein and Doom, both of which were excellent, but there hasn’t been anything that brings back the pixelated fury and gore of FPS’ early years. Along comes STRAFE by indie studio Pixel Titans, a “3D action experience where the player can pick up a gun and shoot hordes of things in the face.” It wears its Quake influence on its sleeve, at the same time bringing plenty of rogue-lite elements to build its own identity.
The maps themselves are procedurally-generated using pre-built rooms, populated by randomly placed enemies, merchants, and upgrades. Movement and shooting are unapologetically quick and familiar, bringing back bunny-hopping and mid-air adjustments while shotguns, rifles, and more leave a trail of gibs behind. Players can even slap on a Rift headset to experience it all in VR, should they feel particularly courageous that day. Credits to Pixel Titans for ardently sticking to the retro theme – not even their official site is spared.
After an arcade-exclusive run, TEKKEN 7 will soon make its way into our homes on PC and consoles. It’ll seek to provide answers about the mysterious Devil Gene and, amazingly, conclude the feud between Heihachi Mishima, his son Kazuya Mishima, and his grandson Jin Kazama – producer and director Katsuhiro Harada says the story will be “too dark.”
Some of the new characters include Kazumi Mishima, Josie, Gigas, and even Street Fighter’s Akuma, who actually has ties to the story. An Online Tournament Mode will allow players to manage and run their own online tournaments for in-game rewards, with support for spectators and chat. There still isn’t much information on the virtual reality aspect of it, other than it being separate from the fighting and a PSVR exclusive.
- Watch: Tekken 7 – E3 Trailer
The question of Dawn of War III even existing had long plagued fans after the collapse of THQ. Fortunately, those fears were unfounded as Sega has embraced the Warhammer license in both its fantasy and sci-fi forms for their real-time strategy portfolio.
Relic returns to the traditional base-building from the first game while keeping the hero units and squads from the second. New to the series are large combat walkers that bridge the gap between Dreadnought and Titan (which are still too massive to fit) as well as a capture-based cover mechanic. Unfortunately, only three races will be available at launch, down from the usual four its predecessors offered.
And there you have it, 30 games that’ll make the year simply fly by. That’s at least two games per month which, depending on how fast you play them, should be more than enough. It doesn’t even account for all the surprise releases and remasters that tend to get announced during shows. Or, you know, the backlog of games picked up over the holidays. We sure are spoilt for choice.
If you think we’ve missed out anything (how dare he!) then let us know in the comments.