2017 was a banner year for video games. Massive open-world adventures like Horizon Zero Dawn and Destiny 2 saw huge critical and commercial success. Megahit franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty received much-needed breaths of fresh air. And, we finally got that new South Park game. And of course, we got like, ten new ports of Skyrim.
And despite the hype all of these games got, I didn’t play any of them.
I’ve always been a gamer. But these days, I don’t have the same time to pour endlessly into video games as I used to. In high school, I would stay up until 2 or 3am (on school nights, even!) exploring alien worlds in Metroid Prime. I have multiple complete files in Ocarina of Time and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2. I am eternally grateful that Super Mario World didn’t have a gameplay timer like modern games.
But these days, I have to work. I have a wife that isn’t super into watching me play video games. I have other things I like to do. I can’t really sit in front of the TV all day pounding Hot Pockets and Mountain Dew as I ignore root canal signals (1/10, would not recommend, by the way).
These days, if I’m going to put the time into a video game, I generally have to care about the characters ahead of time. I can play through an Arkham game because, duh, Batman is awesome. But I don’t know anyone in Assassin’s Creed. I don’t have the time to get invested in this world.
But somehow, despite adulthood and my huge pile of commitments, one game this year managed to get over 200 hours out of me.
Breath of the Wild is not a controversial pick for game of the year. Its success reached far beyond the usual circle of die-hard Nintendo fans (I’d be included in that group). It even inspired thousands of people to buy their first Nintendo console since the Wii.
Its stunning open-world mechanics, brilliant art direction, and endless replayability are all universally acclaimed. Its massive gameplay map and nonlinear storyline make it a game that appeals to hardcore gamers and casual players alike. There are a number of quests tied into the main story, but none of them are actually essential to beat Ganon. You can spend 100 hours to go through all of the dungeons or run right off to the end castle and beat the game in 40 minutes.
Beyond the main story though, there’s an endless world to explore. There are 150 extra shrines, each with a puzzle to solve or opponent to best in combat. There are nine-hundred koroks hidden across the landscape. Some portions of the map offer rich world-building elements, but no in-game rewards, such as the abandoned military camps that litter the map. The huge variety of armor, weapons, and cookable items builds the most personalized Zelda experience ever. You can even dye clothing with different items, allowing you to make the game all your own. There are several potential solutions to solve puzzles and defeat enemies (my personal favorite is time-locking a rock, climbing on, and soaring across a chasm). Even the enemies have their own individual AI programming.
It isn’t enough that the world should be massive and immersive. Twilight Princess (my previous favorite entry to the franchise) also had a huge map, by the standards of its system. But after playing through the main storyline, there wasn’t too much to keep exploring. The game’s combat was brilliant, but most enemies stopped patrolling after you beat the dungeons they were scouring.
Breath of the Wild on the offers endless replayability. Enemy outposts litter the landscape. Several high-powered boss-level enemies patrol the map, including the savagely difficult lynels. And in case you manage to defeat every enemy in the game (unlikely), every few in-game days, the Blood Moon comes to revive them.
All of this is augmented by the DLC. Unlike most DLC packs, that might offer a few new skins or a new mission, the Breath of the Wild DLC introduces a new quest to boost the power of the famed Master Sword, several new armor packs, and hero mode, which I have too doubt been too cowardly to attempt.
The endless combat, in-game versatility, and stunning visuals create a game that is truly replayable. Even after completing the main storyline, finding every clothing set, and finding all 150 shrines, I still feel like there is plenty to do.