Join us all month as our staff looks back at the most influential games of the past decade. This is not a list of our favourite games but rather a look back at the games that left the biggest impact in the last ten years on an artistic and cultural level. After careful consideration, we narrowed it down to ten games that have most defined, influenced and shaped the industry as we know it.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not only one of the greatest games of 2017, but it is also one of the greatest games of all-time. This is no small feat, as it’s created by one of the greatest game developers of all-time as a crowning achievement to one of the greatest series of all-time. That’s a whole lotta all-time greatness.
Breath of the Wild shook the Zelda formula to its core by returning to its roots. In the original 8-bit top-down Legend of Zelda (1986), you could go in any direction and discover anything – you don’t even have to pick up that wooden sword to get going. As sequels emerged, the series quickly found its true footing by presenting a more linear progression tied to the iconic items you’d find. From hook-shot to Dark World and on into 3D gaming space, with each new entry, its legion of fans could step into Link’s tunic and feel like they were returning home to Hyrule. While fans can and should debate over which of the many wonderful games in the long-running series were its greatest, by the time BotW arrived, the trajectory and formula of Zelda-gameplay was well worn and beloved.
In retrospect, it feels as if the evolution in gameplay that BotW introduced was inevitable, but it’s a testament to how wonderfully the innovations work that we can’t imagine a world without them. In essence, what BotW gave us was the same freedom we found in the very first Zelda: to go anywhere and do anything. In a daring move, Nintendo stripped out the familiar progression system tied to moving from dungeon-to-dungeon in favor of simply finding your own way, and the result is marvelous. BotW’s sprawling map is a work of art in itself, from the frigid hills of Snowpeak to the bustling shops of Kakariko Village, every corner and peak is not only beautiful, it almost always rewards exploration with an item, seed, or miraculous dragon encounter.
And this sense of exploration drills downward into items and gameplay. Drop a bomb from above or charge forward on a horse to kill that bokoblin encampment? Cook up some spicy food or find the right outfit to weather the snowy tundra? Multiple solutions to obstacles and enemies present themselves around every corner, and gamers around the globe are still finding new ways to experiment with the rich toolset inside this version of Hyrule.
The term masterpiece gets thrown around a lot, but BotW deserves the accolade. And in the best possible way, masterpiece doesn’t connote perfection. What’s fun is that, even in all of its all-time greatness, there is still room to grow for this latest evolution of Zelda, and Zelda’s legion of fans can’t wait to see what comes next.
Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the greatest video games not only of the decade, but of all time. Now hop onto your favorite horse and go find some more Korok seeds, it’s still fun, and it always will be.