(Before I get into the article, the amazing featured image for this article was done by EternalLegend on DeviantArt. Always want to give credit where credit is due)
It’s almost that time of year again where countless fans, journalists, and experts begin one of the most hotly contested discussions in all of gaming: In the year 2017, which newly released game went above and beyond all expectations? Which game dominated the landscape and was a groundbreaking concept? Which game stole the hearts, minds, and hours of millions with an enthralling story, visuals, or what have you? The concept of calling something a Game of the Year is one that can often be met with criticism and backlash. In truth, it’s hard to name a concrete Game of the Year that all people will be unified by. We all have different tastes, different things that ignite our passion and enthrall us. While we still have at least one whole calendar month to consider of releases, I know, personally, that I’ve already played and fallen in love with my Game of the Year.
If it wasn’t plainly obvious by looking at my Twitter, the things I’ve written in the past for Player Advantage, or even just by the featured image on this article, allow me to put it out plainly. In my opinion, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is miles and leagues above the rest for my personal pick for Game of the Year. Part of my reasoning is because the game is an absolute masterpiece, part of it is the emotional investment I have in the series as a life long Legend of Zelda fan. That being said, I’d like to make my case for why it’s Game of the Year. People may disagree with me, and that’s OK. As I said, we all have different tastes and different things that appeal to us. I don’t expect anyone to agree completely with me, nor would I be upset if someone disagreed with me. Now, where do we start?
Perhaps the best place to start is the fact that Breath of the Wild reinvented the series. For anyone who doesn’t follow the Legend of Zelda series, this may seem like an odd statement. As someone who is played almost every single game available in the series, though, Breath of the Wild is a completely different animal from it’s brethren. A “traditional” Zelda game would have you follow a linear path of progression through dungeons, trials, temples, and what have you. Every single thing would be laid out in front of you and you’re told where to go, who to meet, and what it is you’re looking for. Breath of the Wild, however, throws the rule book out the window and gives you the wide open landscape of Hyrule as your personal playground. All you’re given is the penultimate goal: defeat Ganon and bring peace to Hyrule. How do you accomplish that goal, however? Do you start by going to the tumultuous Death Mountain and aiding the Goron race in their plight against Vah Rudania? Perhaps you travel to the sandy wastelands of the Gerudo Desert, infiltrate the heavily guarded and strictly female Gerudo Town to aid them against the destruction wrought by Vah Naboris? The decision is entirely up to you. Braver souls could directly charge into the heart of Hyrule Castle and attempt to fell the manifestation of evil known as Ganon, likely to meet their end in a swift and brutal fashion. Whatever path you chose, Breath of the Wild will aid you on your way and keep you going, but it never once yanks your arm in one direction or the other. The game is simply there to guide you, it’s up to you to put the pen to the paper and write the story of your adventure in Hyrule. Open world games aren’t a particularly new concept, but they are a popular one and one that many thought would not translate well to such a stalwart series as The Legend of Zelda. After three different playthroughs of the game, I can say with a straight face that it may have just breathed new life into the series.
Even though the massiveness of the landscape can be intimidating, brutal, and unforgiving, there’s another thing that separates Breath of the Wild from the rest of the pack. One of the most important things in this day in age to most people is how a game functions graphically. Breath of the Wild has beautiful landscapes that translate every emotion you’re meant to feel perfectly and seamlessly. Whether it’s the rolling hills and lush mountain breeze of the Tabnatha region in the northwest corner of Hyrule, the perilous and towering mountaintops of the Dueling Peaks, or the scalding, dry, and vicious heat of Death Mountain, no detail is spared on creating these landscapes in the game. Every single landscape pops out at you, just as the enemies and characters of the game do. It’s hard to not find yourself immersed in the beauty of this game.
What is a beautiful landscape without a beautiful soundtrack to go with it? As much as this may be an overdose of Zora’s Domain, I can think of no better example of how well suited this soundtrack is for this game than the soundtrack there. It perfectly matches the aesthetic of Zora’s Domain and, without overpowering it, adds just a touch of whimsicality and wonder to it. In addition to the beautiful soundtrack, the game handles incredibly well in terms of controls on both the Switch version and the Wii U version. Overall, it’s something that you need to play to believe is as good as it is. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed by doing so. In truth, it’s much like my friend Garrett said. It’s fitting that this is the last supported release for the Wii U, in multiple ways. I can think of no better game to convince players that the Switch will be a great investment of their time as was the Wii U. As someone who has had a Switch, and Breath of the Wild, since day one, I feel like my investment has been completely rewarded. Not only is the Switch becoming an impressive console in it’s own right, but Breath of the Wild is a game I can come back to time and time again and be fulfilled by it. Emotionally, it’s a roller coaster and features perhaps some of the darker points in the series aside from Majora’s Mask. There’s just a certain joy I feel when I’ve helped to rid a Divine Beast of the blight of Ganon and I see the immediate affects. You can never truly be 100% finished with the game, as there is so much more to do including various downloadable content that adds gems from the past such as the Mask of Twilight held by Midna, or even Majora’s Mask itself.
Game of the Year season is upon us once again, but I don’t need to wait another month or two to make up my mind. Breath of the Wild has had my firm attention since day one, and it’s hard to imagine anything else one-upping it. Even Super Mario Odyssey, which I adored, still doesn’t come close to Breath of the Wild for me. As a fan of Nintendo and the Zelda series, I can hardly wait to see what future investments Nintendo wheels out for the Switch and for the Zelda series. If Breath of the Wild provides any inkling, it will be an amazing time to be a fan, and supporter, of Nintendo.