Once the presents are unwrapped, it’s time to play with them. And if you’re one of the expected millions who received a video game console this holiday season, you’ve got a lot of choices staring you in the face.
Forget legacy titles like Grand Theft Auto V or The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, the sheer number of incredible video game that hit the streets in 2017 are enough to make even the most dedicated gamer lock up with indecision. If you’re eager to break in that new controller and just don’t know where to start, here are a few suggestions.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus – Wolfenstein is one of the oldest action franchises around, which makes it all the more incredible that the last few games have all set new high bars for the series and the genre. In this alternative history, the Nazis have conquered America and you’ll lead the resistance effort to dislodge them. The action is fast-paced and well-designed and the story is a captivating one (something you rarely expect in a shooter).
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Injustice 2 – Fighting games have been stuck in a rut for a while. This DC Comics title, though, makes things interesting once more. Want to pit Batman vs. Superman? Or Wonder Woman vs. Catwoman? Every conceivable match up can happen here — and the single player story is one comic book fans will enjoy thoroughly. The game’s about multiplayer, though — whether online or against a friend on the other side of the couch. And it welcomes any skill level.
Horizon Zero Dawn – There are a lot of moving parts in this open world game, which encourages exploration. You’ll regularly take down robot-dinosaur hybrids, but you’ll have to study the behaviors and designs of each to do so. Driving this all is a mystery, with a reveal at the end of the game that is entirely satisfying (and moving). This is a franchise that will be around for years to come — and you’ll want to be immersed in it from the very beginning.
Super Mario Odyssey – Any new Mario game is an event, but Super Mario Odyssey is something more. Shaking up the formula that has worked so well for so long was risky, but Nintendo knocks it out of the park, mixing an open world feel with classic Mario levels and introducing a new gameplay mechanic that blends wonderfully with the series. It is literally a game the whole family will love — and play — together.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – The winner of dozens of “2017 Game of the Year” awards, Zelda earned every one. Even if you’re not a fan of this series, it will completely captivate you. It’s a complete reinvention of the franchise and its sandbox style of play (letting you explore at will, with no time restrictions) makes it one of the best open world games to come out in the past 30 years. This is, arguably, one of the easiest game choices of 2017.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle – If you’ve already picked up the above titles for your Switch, take a chance with something a bit different. A turn-based strategy game with Mario and Ubisoft’s Rabbids characters is a head-scratcher on paper, but the execution is done with aplomb. It’s funny. It’s engaging. And it’s a candidate for dark horse game of the year.
Xbox One (or Xbox One X)
Cuphead – This indie game isn’t for novice players. It makes no apologies for incredibly challenging gameplay. But it’s a feast for the eyes, using the artistic style of 1930s cartoons. You won’t have anything handed to you here. You’ll have to earn every advancement (and you’ll die countless times in the process). It’s frustrating and occasionally infuriating, but when you finish a level, the satisfaction you’ll feel is immense.
Forza Motorsport 7 – No game shows off the processing power of the Xbox One X better than this racing title. It’s everything you expect in a new Forza, with tight handling and gorgeous graphics — and it fills a void in a year where the industry took a breather from fast and furious-style driving titles.
Destiny 2 – The second entry in this series from Halo creators Bungie gets right what its predecessor got wrong. It’s a massively multiplayer shooter with a whole lot to do and a finale that didn’t feel cheap. Bungie and Activision have been regularly adding downloadable content, too, meaning there are plenty of reasons to come back after you finish the primary missions.