Guide to the games of 2017

2D Action

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Cuphead

Release date: September 29, 2017
Developer: Studio MDHR
Link: Official site

Cuphead's authentic 1920s-style 2D animation never stops being breathtaking to see in a modern video game, which makes its repeated delays bittersweet. It was meant to be out ages ago, but with Microsoft as publisher the developers have expanded Cuphead from a simple boss rush game to include platforming stages and horizontally scrolling shooter segments. The delay may have been wise: the first early glimpse of the platforming looked pretty barebones, but still gorgeously animated. Expect this one sometime in the middle of the year if it's not delayed again.

Death’s Gambit

Release Date: 2017
Developer: White Rabbit
Link: Official site

White Rabbit is looking to achieve more than ‘Dark Souls but 2D’ with Death’s Gambit. You play an agent of Death on medieval alien planet, and while you’ll need to memorize enemy attack patterns and pay close attention to the treacherous environments, you’ll also be scaling the backs of beasts bigger than a skyscraper with a grappling hook. Bringing the satisfying momentum of platformers to the Dark Souls formula could make for a hoppy, harrowing time.

Katana Zero

Release date: 2017
Developer: Askiisoft
Link: Official site

A "fast paced neo-noir action platformer," Katana Zero is one of those games that makes you say, OK, yeah, sold with a single gif. Actually, the trailer is better, since the hard-driving synths immediately lock in the cyberpunk vibe. Essentially a sidescroller with Hotline Miami's blood and brutality, but you're a ninja, so expect slow-mo reflecting bullets with your katana and dodging attacks in the dopest possible ways.

Streets of Rogue

Release date: March 2017 (Early Access)
Developer: Matt Dabrowski
Link: Official site

Streets of Rogue is 2D roguelike that takes inspiration from Deus Ex. As it currently exists in its free alpha, characters such as a comedian, a soldier, an investment banker, and a vampire run around in small sections of a procedurally-generated city completing missions with their wits or strength or both. We tried playing as a comedian, and managed to recruit a loyal gang of fans by telling jokes (by which we mean, hitting right click to tell a joke, and then being followed around by whoever thought it was funny) and using them to beat up guards in our way. 

Once it hits a certain threshold of complexity, there’s potential for a huge amount of systems-driven fun in Streets of Rogue. But its procedural-generation system will have to do a lot of work (and a better job than it does now based on our quick look) to make sure there are lots of fun ways to infiltrate its buildings and carry out missions.

Heat Signature

Release date: TBA
Developer: Suspicious Developments
Link: Official site

From Tom Francis, developer of the point-and-spring spy tinkerer Gunpoint (and, full disclosure, a former PC Gamer editor) comes Heat Signature, “a game where you can go inside the spaceships.” That’s the tagline at least, and it’s pretty accurate. You fly around galaxies in an abstract top down perspective, shifting in and out of different map scales, and can see every ship—enemy or not—in your system. From there, you can choose to dock the ship, at which point it turns into a 3rd person stealth-action game, like Hotline Miami with a few more bleeps and bloops.

Mages of Mystralia

Release date: 2017
Developer: Borealys
Link: Official Site

Mages of Mystralia is a magic-filled action game where you combine runes to craft different spells. Depending on why you combine and in what arrangement, you’ll get different effects to either help you fight enemies or cross difficult terrain. We haven’t seen too much of the spell-crafting system yet, but it’s a charming looking game with a big name attached. Ed Greenwood will be writing the story and world, creator of the Forgotten Realms game world.

Ruiner

Release date: 2017
Developer: Reikon Games
Link: Steam Page

Published by Devolver Digital, Ruiner is an isometric action game set in a cyberpunk world. We got a chance to play it as PAX, and it’s fast-paced and hard as hell. You are an assassin with a computer for a face, pit against a whole heck of a lot of criminals and gang members. It’s a game about finding a flow of attack, dodging, reloading, and repeating until you are the only one still standing. It's going to kill you quickly and often, but you’ll respawn and be handed a laser katana just as fast.

ToeJam and Earl: Back in the Groove

Release date: 2017
Developer: Humanature Studios
Link: Official Site

25 years after the first ToeJam and Earl game came out, a new entry in the series has made its way through Kickstarter and is coming out in 2017. Now being published by Adult Swim Games, ToeJam and Earl: Back in the Groove is a funky co-op roguelike adventure very similar to the original. You have to explore randomly generated maps looking for power ups and special items without getting taken out by the enemies within.

Radio the Universe

Release date: 2017
Developer: 6e6e6e
Link: Official site

A 2D action game in the vein of Nuclear Throne or Hyper Light Drifter, Radio the Universe has been on our radar since its successful Kickstarter. It’s got a certain neon-punk attitude that is extremely appealing, so we’re hopeful we’ll see it pop up again soon.

Tower 57

Release date: 2017
Developer: Pixwerk
Link: Steam page

What if BioShock were a twin-stick shooter? After a modestly successful Kickstarter in 2015, "dystopian, dieselpunk" Tower 57 is on track for release this year. The pulpy setting and 16-bit art are what's most compelling so far, but the promise of co-op and unique characters are promising too. A demo was distributed to backers in mid-January.

Sundered

Release date: July 2017
Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
Link: Steam page

Side-scrolling action in the illustration style of the developer’s other game, Jotun. Eldritch creatures and expansive boss fights await.

Dead Cells

Release date: May 10, 2017 (Early Access)
Developer: Motion Twin
Link: Steam Page

A combination of roguelike and Metroidvania that's made huge waves in Early Access. You might think Rogue Legacy, but some beautiful pixel art and combat help Dead Cells stand apart. As we wrote in our first look: "the first couple of hours spent playing Dead Cells feels like a grind—a grind with excellent combat—but once the world structure and how you’ll traverse it opens out, it turns into something potentially great."

Mr. Shifty

Release date: April 13, 2017 (Out now)
Developer: Team Shifty
Link: Steam Page

Mr. Shifty is a topdown action game that’s essentially like Hotline Miami if you were playing as Tracer from Overwatch. You can quickly blink around and through walls, but are also incredibly fragile, so avoiding damage and sneaking around enemies is key. The game also has some cool throwing and weapon mechanics that set it apart from other games like it. In our review, we called it "a blissfully fluid action game with a compelling twist, let down occasionally by tedious encounters." 

Hollow Knight

Release date: February 24, 2017 (Out now)
Developer: Team Cherry
Link: Official site

Hollow Knight is a 2D action platformer in a similar vein as Ori and the Blind Forest. It’s a wonderful looking game, with a dark, hand-drawn art style that looks like it’s straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon. But what really looks interesting is its combat, which has clearly been inspired by other recent action games. There’s lots of dashes and dodging between quick attacks when your enemy shows their weakness. We just love looking at it.

Flinthook

Release date: April 18, 2017 (Out now)
Developer: Tribute Games
Link: Steam Page

Flinthook is a 2D platformer roguelike with a fast and fluid hookshot to help you move around. We played it at PAX, and linking from hook to hook while fighting off enemies was a lot of fun. In our review, we wrote that it's "a satisfying, moreish take on the roguelike formula, and one that's most likely to appeal to genre naysayers."

Dimension Drive

Release date: February 16, 2017 (Out now)
Developer: 2Awesome Studio
Link: Steam page

Being the target of a horrific prank is a hard thing to be famous for, but that’s what happened to Dimension Drive. During their Kickstarter, a troll with a stolen credit card pledged enough money to fund the game, but by the time the fraud was discovered and the pledge was revoked, the funding window had ended.
 2Awesome rallied back with a new Kickstarter, and now their work is looking better and better. Playing two shoot-em-ups at once and hopping back and forth is going to be a real workout for the best of us.