For the past two years, I have compiled a listing of major outlets’ Game of the Year awards and seen if any consensus arises (see 2015 and 2016). Once again, I have done so this year. While I knew that one certain game was going to be well represented, I honestly did not anticipate the unanimity of the awards this year.
For context, in 2015, Witcher 3 took home the most awards, competing closely with Bloodborne and Metal Gear Solid 5. In 2016, Overwatch had a commanding consensus over Uncharted 4. This year, there was only one second place, and it was the only vote for any other game. 2017 has been the year of the Switch, and its opening title absolutely crushed the awards this season:
Gamespot: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
It’s a romantic take, but one that holds true if you open yourself up to it. Nintendo’s beautiful and challenging masterpiece deserves more words than we can commit to it here. Like the most meaningful and landmark games of the past, Breath of the Wild is a game that will be discussed and analyzed for years to come. Everyone agrees that 2017 was an amazing year for games, but none other than Breath of the Wild can be considered a milestone for the medium at large.
Polygon: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild did so much so improbably well that it became the new standard by which I measure success. Eventually, I had to admit it: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild isn’t just the best game of 2017. It’s one of the best games I’ve ever played.
Game Informer: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Nintendo could have kept riding the Zelda formula to success with Breath of the Wild, but they didn’t. Instead, they broke that mold open and fulfilled the series’ promise of creating a rich world you could explore on your own terms. Along the way, Nintendo made its own mark on open-world games, letting players plan and carve their own path across Hyrule without dozens of icons goading them to explore. As such, each new discovery feels like a surprise rather than an expected treat. In a year packed with landmark titles, our Game of the Year debate was intense and difficult, but Breath of the Wild’s reimagining of how we explore video game worlds won out.
Eurogamer: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild is magnificent in scope and detail. It’s remorseless in the way interrogates, breaks down and rebuilds afresh all the building blocks of several genres of game, including open-word adventures, role-playing games, survival games and sims. It’s unprecedented in the solidity and craftsmanship with which it fits all these moving parts back together into a whole that offers tremendous freedom, but never breaks down or breaks its own rules. Yes, it owes a lot to Bethesda and Rockstar and Valve and Bungie and the rest, but it also schools them on their own turf.
Gamesradar: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Best of all, it encourages a rambling, nostalgic, feel where you’re rewarded for letting adventure find you, rather than plotting urgent ley lines between objectives. It’s moral, too; unafraid to tell you off (like the family at Lurelin Beach who – politely – refuse to cook when you turn up later for dinner), or reward your hard work: we defy anyone not to feel misty-eyed when attending Hudson’s wedding in Tarrey Town, a settlement built *with your own hands* after tens of hours of side-quests. Breath of the wild delivers what its subtitle suggests: an invigorating reminder of why we play, and the spirited adventure of youth.
Destructoid: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I shared my own level of trials and tribulations, many of which were experienced in a vacuum pre-launch. Although there were some annoyances that would crop up every now and then, most of my time with the game was spent going “I can’t wait until people try this.” Everywhere you walk a puzzle is waiting to be solved, or some diversion is ready to be messed with. And even still, nine months after launch, players are discovering new nuances.
Giant Bomb: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
It’s a fantastic game that generates wild moments and the type of player-created stories that make games different from other mediums. Every story is your own, and every kill feels either like a hard-fought victory or, in the cases where you catch some poor fool slipping, a gift from above. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds brings all of this together under one roof, and it’s a tremendous computer game.
TIME: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Scrambling across the idyllic vistas of Nintendo’s vast new fantasy sandbox The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it’s easy to see the action-adventure’s sunken structures—plaintive artifacts of a vanished golden age waiting to be restored—as a metaphor for Nintendo itself. It’s like nothing else the company has made, an experience so simultaneously prodigious and accomplished that it feels like a mic drop to the sort of “open world” games (Grand Theft Auto V, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, The Witcher 3) the industry seems bent on proliferating. But what drives Breath of the Wild to soar comes down to essential Nintendo design principles.
Metacritic: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Easily one of the greatest launch titles in gaming history, the first new console Zelda game since 2011’s Skyward Sword (and the first Zelda game to debut in HD) introduces new features like a massive open-world Hyrule, nonlinear gameplay (go anywhere and solve challenges—or goof off—in any order), and some voice acting. (The latter wasn’t necessarily a positive development, however.) Only a simultaneous Wii U release (where it will likely stand as the last great game released for that console) prevented Breath of the Wild from also being the Switch’s top 2017 exclusive.
IGN: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is evocative, exhilarating, and a masterclass in open-world design, and a watershed game that reinvents a 30-year-old franchise. It presents a wonderful sandbox full of mystery, dangling dozens upon dozens of tantalizing things in front of you that just beg to be explored.
The Game Awards: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
USGamer: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
In setting out to freshen up a franchise that was in danger of becoming stale, Nintendo accomplished much more: they not only redefined Zelda, but open-world games at large. And in so doing, they put the Switch on a fast track to success not seen since the release of the Wii more than a decade ago.
Yahoo!: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The fresh open-world take on Hyrule is a stunning pivot for the classic franchise, introducing a host of new features (Cooking! Gliding! Makeshift fidget spinners!) in a land without boundaries. Like “Skyrim” before it, “Breath of the Wild” encourages exploration and improvisation, filling each play session with unforeseen twists and memorable moments.
Now to just tally up the results:
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (13)
- PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (1)
Wow. I’m not too surprised that Zelda is receiving so much praise, but I am a bit taken aback at the sheer consensus of its dominance. I would’ve thought that Super Mario Odyssey would’ve shown up in some shape or form.
Granted, it often was mentioned as a second place within many lists. I also believe that its release might have hurt its ability to get Game of the Year level praise. Normally games released earlier in the year are at a disadvantage, but Zelda released alongside the much heralded Switch. Further, I think Odyssey was a great game, but I think Zelda really hit with the WOW factor in redefining the series, compared to Mario’s solid all around return to home console.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds managed its one vote, and that was from Giant Bomb who are known to pick some different Games of the Year during their end-of-year round-the-clock debates (that are part of their podcast which I talked about two weeks ago here). While PUBG has not been my cup of tea, its release on Xbox was somewhat controversial, given its “Early Access” label. Regardless, it has managed to take the PC and Steam market by force, and thus has left a mark over 2017.
So, this year, the champion is clearly The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Switch.
Do you agree with the consensus of the major outlets? What was your favorite release of 2017? Comment below!