2017 may very well have been the best year in video games since 1998 saw the release of several landmark titles like Half-Life, Star Craft, and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. While the year likely won’t go down in history as influential as 1998, for hobbyists who have grown accustomed to wading through a mire of re-hashed titles and broken promises, 2017 felt like everything came together. While there were some titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn and Cuphead that sprang up as new properties, the majority of the year’s big releases were simply excellently executed revisions of classics. So with that in mind, this year’s best excellently executed revision of a classic was:
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD
Regardless of what you thought of Skyward Sword (I personally take every opportunity to remind people that I really, really hated it), the Legend of Zelda can easily be seen as a series that lost its luster. It has, for years, been stuck spinning its tires on the same conventions and traditions that were developed with Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time. Breath of the Wild demolishes a lot of these traditions and rebuilds on a new foundation, creating something that pays its dues to the titles that came before while presenting an entirely new experience.
Nintendo games commonly feel as though they were developed in a vacuum without the influence of others in the industry, and while Breath of the Wild‘s many facets can be traced back to other contemporaries, the overall experience feels entirely its own. Diverging from the series tradition of shackling you to a disruptive support character, the game hands players the tools needed to explore the world, then steps away to let them do as they please. There are few limitations and the game rarely tries to funnel you through set pieces or narrative moments.
There’s a lot to do, a great deal to see, and it’s all made worthwhile. The world is varied, the characters that inhabit it are interesting, and even the sparse dialogue has a creative dash of flavour. There are a few missteps along the way, a few design choices that won’t appeal to everyone, but the only question that lingers on my mind after the time spent with it is “how is Nintendo ever going to top this?”
RUNNER UP: SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY
It has been a huge year for Nintendo. Not only is the Switch showing signs that they’re on the rebound after the Wii U, but two of their biggest franchises have launched new core games, and both of them more than live up to their pedigree. Super Mario Odyssey was the other big title and it wound up delivering all the fun and wonder that the core Mario series is known for.
While its adherence to the Mario formula is why it’s been relegated to runner up status, it’s hard to be disappointed by it. Mario Odyssey takes the framework laid down way back with Super Mario 64 and once again runs with it in every direction. It maintains the excellent sense of experiment and provides a varied and wonderful experience. A comfortable old sweater that still provides warmth, Mario Odyssey is yet another example of Nintendo at their best.
HERE’S TO ANOTHER GREAT YEAR
Of course, Nintendo isn’t the only publisher that had a great year, nor is the Switch the only platform that got peppered with quality titles. There have been great releases from all over. When I think back, it leaves me with warm feelings. Hopefully 2018 will be even better, but that’s hard to fathom.
Those are our picks. How’d we do? Did we go with the obvious choices or are we just fanboys/girls?
Picks are based only on what the staff played this year, and we can’t play everything. There has been no contact between staff and publishers, however, we attended a Switch preview event at the beginning of the year. The staff paid for travel and accommodations and received no special considerations.