Sometimes our favorite game of the year comes as a complete surprise. Not this year. We proudly declare The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as Pixelkin’s 2017 Game of the Year.
Breath of the Wild was one of the most anticipated games of the year. Not only was it the first 3D Zelda since 2011’s Skyward Sword on the Wii, but it was also a launch title for the Nintendo Switch, which has become a huge success for Nintendo.
The story reinforces themes of failure and redemption. Link wakes up to a bleak Hyrule where he was defeated a century ago, guided by the spirits and voices of the past. Monsters roam free, and a malevolent force, Ganon, swirls ominously around the ruins of Hyrule Castle. You could head there right after acquiring the glider and completing the wonderfully crafted opening hours atop the plateau, or strike off in any direction and explore.
Most open world games feature post-apocalyptic hellscapes, mature writing, and violent action. But this is Nintendo. Breath of the Wild features tropical beaches, staggering cliffs, dense jungles, and dangerous volcanoes. The world still feels like Hyrule, yet it reaches that perfect compromise between expansive and densely packed with hidden secrets and treasures.
Breath of the Wild boldly breaks many of the standard Zelda conventions, most notably the dungeon design. Instead of a steady progression of marquee dungeon crawls, Link can find over 100 shrines scattered around the world. These shrines cleverly employ challenging physics-based puzzles akin to levels in Portal using the several excellent tools you have at your disposal, such as magnetizing blocks and freezing water.
Completing shrines unlocks additional health and stamina, making it an important and fun side activity and a great excuse to explore a world stuffed with things to do. Shield surf down cliffs, hunt gigantic dragons, search for ingredients to upgrade your gear, discover hundreds (!) of Korok seeds to expand your inventory, take selfies in front of shooting stars, and tackle the mini-dungeons within the four Divine Beasts to weaken Ganon’s hold.
Breath of the Wild was the vanguard for one of Nintendo’s best years in recent memory. It’s not every year we get a new Nintendo console, new Mario, and new Zelda, not to mention well-received sequels for Splatoon and Xenoblade Chronicles.
After some very lackluster console cycles in the Wii and Wii U, Nintendo has come roaring back, and that’s good for gaming, and especially gaming families. Breath of the Wild is single-player only, but remains a wonderfully enjoyable game for the family to gather around, between the cartoony art and creature designs, the physical combat system, and the story of courage and perseverance. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is destined to enter the pantheon of all-time greatest games, and easily warrants our Game of the Year for 2017.