By and large, this years has been loaded with some of the best games to come out in the last decade. Even more, some would consider many of these to be high on the list of ‘Best Games Ever’, if not sitting in the number one slot. Here at Gamer Professionals especially, the conversations (or sometimes arguments) over what game deserves the high praise of ‘Game of the Year’ have become very deep and occasionally heated. We were able to narrow our site-wide favorite games this year into a Top 5 list, with nominees that were interesting and exciting to disclose. Out of those Top 5, we are able to declare our pick for Game of the Year winner for 2017.

That game is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Game of the Year 2017

Our Senior Editor Ben Eberle puts it best:The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Game of the Year

“There are so many reasons why The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece. Its vast open-world demonstrates that there is still life in a genre that has become formulaic and stale. Breath of the Wild doesn’t seek to point the player in any particular direction, but rather trusts them with complete freedom. Video games often evoke feelings in me, and serve as a therapeutic escape. They can be a very personal experience and I often think about moments in my life in relation to what game I was playing at the time. What resonates most with me about Breath of the Wild is its sense of isolation and loneliness.

Breath of the Wild is unique in the trust that it places in the player. Without companions and time-sensitive quests dragging me down, my time is spent doing things that I want to do, rather than tasks that other open-world games tend to pile on the player. I am all alone in this world, free to explore and do as I please without any burdens. Upon completing the introductory segment, Link stands upon a cliff looking down at Central Hyrule, with Death Mountain and the Temple of Time in the distance. There is one prompt on the screen, which tells me my end goal: Defeat Ganon. Other than that, I am on my own.

The Legend of Zelda has reinvented itself several times in its 30 year franchise history, but it has never employed this sense of scale. It isn’t afraid to leave empty space in its world, as one might encounter when traversing the Gerudo Desert or hiking the snowy peaks of the Hebra Mountains. There is a constant reminder that Link, having slept for 100 years, is alone in a place that is only vaguely familiar.

Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Game of the Year
Image Credit: technobuffalo

When you do encounter other people in the world, whether it be interacting with other travelers on the road or in the stables scattered throughout the map, your time is brief. You have light conversations with people, where they often mention a tall tale or rumor about the land. Whether or not you want to pursue this is completely up to you. Players can choose to barter with nearby merchants, stay a night at the inn, or simply pass by the settlement completely. No game has made me feel like an insignificant traveler quite like Breath of the Wild, despite the fact that Link is actually a legendary warrior destined to save the world.

For the small settlements, my goal isn’t to stroll into town and make a positive impact like I might do in The Elder Scrolls or Red Dead Redemption. This world wasn’t built according to player choice like so many other open-world games, but is rather meant to be experienced passively. Link does not greatly impact the lives of every individual he encounters, but rather serves as a passerby in places that are already established. This lack of recognition only reinforces the idea that Link is on his own in a place where people largely mind their own business. Breath of the Wild holds firmly as my Game of the Year, not only for its beautifully realized world, but also because of the emotions it evokes within me.”

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Game of the Year

For me personally, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild truly reminds us the beauty of open-world games – which, at its core, is the joy of exploration. Lately, this genre has been filled mostly with missions and collectables that do nothing more than check of a completion box within their game. Breath of the Wild instead rewards you with discovering something unique within its world, and that encounter is far more gratifying that a mission reward, a(n) achievement/trophy, or most other boons given in other open-world titles. The game is so full of these experiences and discoveries that it is more enticing to explore the world than to chase after missions. The ability to set an expedition to, literally, any point in the world that you can see (aided by Link’s ability to climb nearly anything) will undoubtedly encourage developers to further open their games to unrestricted player exploration.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Game of the Year 2017Simply put: the impact that the original Legend of Zelda had on early game design has been recaptured with Breath of the Wild, and the series will have a renewed influence on the industry because of that. This is a key factor in its receiving of the Game of the Year award.  I believe The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to not only be the pinnacle of gaming this year, but also one of the best games to come out in a very long time. It has been very exciting for us here at Gamer Professionals to witness Nintendo reclaiming prestige in the industry, thanks to the release of the Switch and several great games, and Breath of the Wild has been indispensable in that movement.

Be sure to read our review of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as well as our review of the game’s first major story DLC, The Champion’s Ballad.

If you are still hungry for more Game of the Year discussion, be sure to check out our most recent episode of The Gamer Pros Show where we talk best games, characters, and more from 2017. Be sure to also check out why 2017 has been the best year for gaming. Of course, you can also read through our Top 5 games of 2017, and why we loved them.

Happy New Year to you and yours from Gamer Professionals! We look forward to bringing you exciting content and coverage in 2018!