What does it take to make something truly  innovative? For anyone who has played a video game, you know it's when you feel like you've never seen something before or experienced it in quite the same way. That's what sets these games apart--they create a new experience. Unlike the typical first-person shooter or a platformer, these games offer something brand new. They are my top picks for the most innovative games of 2017.

1. Little Nightmares

Platform tested: Xbox One

The most innovative games transport you into another realm of existence. Little Nightmares feels like it's own world, a bit charming at times but with a dark inner core (and a lot of creepy baddies). You play as Six, a raincoat-wearing girl who finds herself in a morbid version of an Escape Room on every level. The fun is in outsmarting the weirdly macabre enemies, sometimes by running really fast.

2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Platform tested: Nintendo Switch

The debut game for the Nintendo Switch is one of the best games ever made. What makes The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild so compelling? It's not just a role-playing game with lush cartoon-like graphics. Other characters seem to carry on in their day without you, sometimes hunting in the background as you stroll past. You can find, tame, and keep horses in a stable. The AI adjusts to how you play, often outsmarting you.

3. The Sexy Brutale

Platform tested: Nintendo Switch

The Sexy Brutale is a strange game that gets stranger as you play. You're trying to figure out why people are being murdered, all on the same day that repeats over and over again Groundhog Day-style. Often, you have to predict what the bad guys will do and thwart their plans. The rich game-world--all bright colors and detailed rooms set in a dimly lit mansion--helps with the creepy voyeuristic feeling.

4. What Remains of Edith Finch

Platform tested: PS4

The first game that really does feel like reading a novel, What Remains of Edith Finch tells a compelling narrative about a cursed family. You play as the only surviving member of the family as you uncover why every other family member ended up dying. Good story-telling, combined with a simple game mechanic where you click to move and read, makes for an unusually compelling game.

5. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Platform tested: PC

Can a game actually represent what it feels like go insane? Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is a good attempt. As you hack-and-slash your way through the rich game-world, voices start telling you what to do or why you made a mistake. As you progress, the "advice" becomes more disturbing. No game has ever quite captured the same feeling.

6. Lone Echo

Platform tested: Oculus Rift

The way the game mechanics work in Lone Echo is quite remarkable. On the  Oculus Rift virtual reality headset using the Touch controllers, you can reach out and grab objects and pull yourself through the game-world--often as you climb around on a spaceship. Unlike some VR games, the graphics and sense of "being there" is much more pronounced.

7. Farpoint

Platform tested: Sony PlayStation VR

Another brilliant virtual reality game, this one for the Sony PlayStation 4, Farpoint deserves credit as a technical marvel but also for being an enjoyable game on its own, apart from the VR. It's a shooter, but in a way that transports you. The new PlayStation Aim Controller uses more precise tracking to give you the sense that you're holding an actual laser gun.

8. Everything

Platform tested: PC

Everything is extremely hard to explain, and that's what makes it so innovative. It's really an exploration of what it means to exist in the universe. You can "zoom in" on plants and other creatures and become "one" with them, then create a group of animals. You can also zoom out and become the sun or zoom in and become an atom. Yes, it's a little weird.

9. Hidden Folks

Platform tested: Apple iPad

What's so amazing about Hidden Folks? That no one ever thought to create a game like this. On the iPad, your goal is to find objects and people, often by interacting with the environment--think slicing blades of grass or finding a snake. The maps are all hand-drawn; it's the first iPad game I've played that feels like it could work on pen and paper.

10. Gorogoa

Platform tested: PC

A fascinating exploration of how a game even works, Gorogoa uses four panels with gameplay elements inside them. To progress, you click on the panels, often moving one element over to the next (say, a door opening on top of a door). If that sounds odd, it is. The artwork is mesmerizing, based on thousands of drawings done by hand.

Published on: Dec 28, 2017