2017 was a great year for gaming. With so many deserving entries, this year turned out to be an interesting one for the Game Awards.
However, with so many amazing games, there were some commendable games that walked away empty handed.
- Horizon: Zero Dawn – An open-world action/adventure with robot dinosaurs.
- Hollow Knight – A cute, cartoonish adventure, inspired by the classic Metroid series, about a valiant little beetle.
- Night in the Woods – The dramatic, yet funny, coming-of-age story about holding on to the past… with furry animals.
- Sonic Mania – A return to the original formula and a love letter to all of the classic Sonic fans.
- Nier: Automata – This won an award… but one is not enough.
Nintendo had a strong presence at the awards, with Super Mario Odyssey, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Metroid: Samus Returns bringing home a total of five awards. Mario won the Best Family Game award merited with some of the most creative levels and mechanics of the year. It was surprising that this masterpiece was unable to pick up the Best Soundtrack award, but that didn’t stop Kate Higgins, the singer of Jump Up Superstar, from performing live on stage before the game of the year was announced.
Zelda brought home Best Action/Adventure Game, for perfecting an adventurous open-world design, and the coveted Game of the Year award. If you have read my review on Breath of the Wild, you would probably guess that I was rooting for this game the whole time.
One award that Nintendo did not earn was Best Handheld Game, which went to Metroid: Samus Returns. This was a remake of Metroid 2, one of the darker entries in the series, however, the team was unable to recapture what made the original so exceptional.
Nintendo also won the Best Studio of the year. Impressive for their first year at the Game Awards, but not surprising considering their library of the greatest games of all time.
Cuphead was incredibly successful at the awards show, winning Best Debut, Best Independent and Best Art Direction. This game won over the hearts of so many gamers across the world with its over-the-top, bombastic boss battles and a visual style inspired by classic cartoons from the classic Mickey Mouse and Looney Tunes era. This is the debut game that Studio MDHR needed to launch them to success.
Another successful game was Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, which walked away with three awards including Best Audio Design, Best Game for Impact and Best Performance by Melina Juergens. The player is placed in the boots of Senua, who suffers from Schizophrenia, as she must venture into hell to save the love of her life with only the hallucinations and voices in her head to guidance.
Despite this being Melina’s professional performance, she brings you into the experience and it is genuinely distressing to watch as she battles the physical and mental demons on her journey.
Overwatch, the winner of the Game of the Year award 2016, was back to claim the Best Esports Game and Best Ongoing Game.
With so many great nominees for the Best Narrative award, including Nier: Automata, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Horizon: Zero Dawn and Wolfenstein II, it was What Remains of Edith Finch that won. This game demonstrates how games can be used gameplay to push the narrative forward rather than cutscenes or dialogue. The added layer of interactivity engages the player better than some films or books could. The best example of this process at play is the fish factory scene, where a character’s mundane factory job is taken over by their escapist imagination.
Best Action Game had many worthy nominees, including Prey, Cuphead, Nioh and Destiny. However, Wolfenstein II, the gritty and gory sequel to the critically acclaimed reboot, was the winner. I have yet to play the new one, but the original astounded me with its electric combat and engaging moments of narrative. All of this, set in an alternate reality where the Nazis won the second world war.
The winner for Best Soundtrack goes to Nier: Automata, surpassing Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Cuphead, Persona 5 and Destiny 2. With a combination of fast-paced music, backing the exciting action set pieces, with choirs of sombre voices, emphasising the tragic narrative.
Nier: Automata was also nominated for Best Narrative and Best RPG, but did not win these awards even though it was one of the best games of the year.
The award for Best Multiplayer Game was an important one, considering that Overwatch, the winner of Game of the Year 2016, was the winner of Best Multiplayer last year. The nominees included Fortnite, Call of Duty: World War II, Splatoon 2, Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Destiny 2. However, it was Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), the most popular game of the year, that was voted the winner which highlights the problem with relying on the public to decide the winner.
Despite being released, PUBG still kept most of the bugs that unbalance the gameplay. The Xbox launch was a complete disaster, it makes it look like there was no QA testing. This is probably one of my least favourite games of the year, and there are games like Fortnite that use the same concept more effectively.
Resident Evil VII: Biohazard was a fantastic return to form for the series and, as a result, was awarded the Best VR/AR Game. Implementing VR support into the game immerses the player in the dark and horrifying setting of the best horror game of all year.
Every year, students who release their projects are entered into the Best Student Game category, or, as the presenter mistakenly referred to it as, Best Student Film. Games, like Impulsion, Meaning, Falling Sky, Hollowed and From Light, were gathered from universities around the world, with Level Squared winning the award. This award highlights some of the up and coming talents within the industry and rewards them for their creative passion and devotion to the craft.
The Last of Us: Part II, the sequel to the post-apocalyptic story, was voted the Most Anticipated Game of 2018. This is surprising, considering it was pitted against Red Dead Redemption 2, the sequel to the western open-world from the creators of Grand Theft Auto, and Monster Hunter World, the next entry in the fantastical monster combat series. The Last of Us was, however, considered to be one of the best narrative focused games from the industry giant Naughty Dog.
The Game Awards have one more category for Industry Icon, which was made for someone who has done remarkable work for the games industry. Last year it was awarded to Hideo Kojima, a game director who has worked on the Metal Gear Solid games who recently started his own studio.
This year, the award went to Carol Shaw, the first female game designer for two games released on the Atari 2600. The first was 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, released in 1980 as a version of Noughts and Crosses over three boards suspended above each other in orthographic, 3D space. The next was the 1982 hit, River Raid. A vertical-scrolling shooter set on a river that was procedurally generated, creating unique levels each time you played and increasing in difficulty as the player progressed.
Carol Shaw went on to inspire girls and women around the world to join the games industry and become engineers of their own futures. Now retired, she leaves behind a legacy that will continue to inspire generations to come.
It was a good year for Nintendo and the creators of Cuphead, but it is only natural that there will be choices that many people will not agree on, especially with so many award-worthy games in 2017. However, this turned out to be the best Game Awards show yet.
Let’s see what 2018 has in store.