It’s time for the big one. We’ve covered a long list of categories over the last fortnight, from individual categories like Best Racer and Best Shooter to honouring the fantastic work of actors, writers and sound designers and artists. However, it all comes down to this final choice for what we consider to be the best game of the year.
It was an unsurprisingly close vote, and while many of us on the writing team have personal favourites, a few games did stand out from the crowd. There can only be one winner though, and it’s slightly amusing to think is that our our overall winner is actually a Wii U game.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild deserves each and every award it gets. This is a landmark moment for the decades-old series and one that will define the games for decades to come, with Eiji Aonuma directing his team to take a bold step outside of the familiar form that Zelda games have had since the days of the N64.
It’s a game that’s full of sorrow for what has been lost in this world, with a poignant story that looks back on the travails of Zelda, Link and the four Guardians that stood alongside them against Ganon. Waking up a century after the fall of Hyrule, you’re free to explore in any direction you choose in this fully open world, finding Shrines all around you, tackling the four Divine Beasts, and finding adventure in all corners. There’s so many standout moments and puzzles to find.
While it takes on some elements of the hardened edge of Dark Souls combat, there’s also a distinct playfulness to be found in how various elements interact with one another, as the Sheikah Slate’s abilities let you play with gravity and magnetism in a world that’s built with physics and weather in mind.
To quote my own review, “It’s refreshingly new and familiar at the same time, making for both one of the greatest launch titles and the sweetest swan songs any console could wish for.”
Horizon Zero Dawn – Runner Up
I’m starting to run out of ways to describe and praise Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn. For a game studio that cut their teeth on first person shooters, a grand open world adventure was a bold new direction for the team to take, but they pulled it off with style.
The combat in particular is a real highlight in this post apocalyptic setting, as Aloy has to use primitive weaponry to take down machines of all sizes. Stealth comes into play as you analyse their movements and prepare your attack, before you try to execute your plan of attack. Whether it’s dealing with a herd of placid robotic creatures or the hulking great predators of this world, you’re always on the edge of success and failure. It’s gripping stuff.
Alongside that is a compelling and intriguing world to discover through Aloy’s eyes. Aloy’s own adventure of personal discover is cleverly dovetailed into the story of the world and how modern civilisation tumbled and fell back into the prehistoric form we see here. There’s a hard science fiction edge to it that leads you in several different directions and kept me guessing throughout.
Throughout our Game of the Year awards, Horizon Zero Dawn has remained the eternal bridesmaid. Denied on one side by Hellblade’s visceral portrayal of psychosis and on the other by Breath of the Wild’s own brilliance, Guerrilla Games could rightly feel that they could have walked to victory in other years.
Super Mario Odyssey – Runner Up
I almost feel bad for Mario. While Super Mario Odyssey is at least on a par with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it’s Link’s latest adventure that has garnered so many awards and sits first and foremost in the memories of Nintendo Switch owners.
Super Mario Odyssey is a truly glorious return to the open world sandbox style of game that Mario first embraced as he entered the third dimension, but it takes that to the extreme. Each of the many kingdoms you visit is stuffed full of dozens of Power Moons to collect, whether it’s from defeating a boss, beating mini-games, or simply looking in the right place. It’s the classic collect-a-thon game structure, brought back for the modern day in a brilliantly engaging, varied and joyous fashion.
Nintendo are constantly looking for new ideas and ways to reinvent their Mario games, and Odyssey is no different. The introduction of Cappy opens up the game to newcomers with his simplified attacks, but also open up new ways for advanced players to get around and explore every single corner of every world. Between the fun and often nonsensical way that you can capture and control other being and objects in the world and the many homages to previous Nintendo games, it’s a game that keeps on giving.
If it’s any consolation to Mario, Odyssey would be my personal pick for Game of the Year, but here we find it in third place. Sometimes life just isn’t fair – just ask Peach who seems to get kidnapped every other Sunday.
Honourable mentions (in alphabetical order)
- NieR: Automata
- Sonic Mania
- Yakuza 0