Knight vs Plumber: GOTY 2017

I got my Nintendo Switch in December of last year. Technically I bought it in November but I didn’t open it until Christmas. I was always going to buy one but I had been waiting till the right time. Up until that point I didn’t see the value in buying one yet. But it was Super Mario Odyssey that finally pushed me over the edge. From the very first E3 reveal trailer, I couldn’t wait to play that game. I no joke was on the brink of shedding tears watching those trailers leading up to the release. So it should be no surprise that Odyssey was the first game I played when I finally opened my Switch. But it wasn’t the only game I purchased when I picked up the console. I actually bought several games at the same time and the other one that I was most excited about was of course The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

In 2017, Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild duked it out for Game of the Year. Both won high profile awards. But even the creators of Odyssey stated publicly that they thought BotW was the better game. Both games were highly praised and both games also had haters in the form of trolls and keyboard warriors. And of course because so many people don’t buy Nintendo, there was a lot of noise about how neither game mattered enough to warrant being GOTY. But I wanted to decide for myself which game was actually the best. So I played them back to back with BotW going second.

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For me it was important to find out which game is actually better from both subjective and objective standpoints. I wanted to get the full experience of each game and be able to make an informed final decision about not only which game I liked more but which game is actually better based on the objective standards that all games are compared by. This meant pursuing 100% completion in both games.

I of course started out with Super Mario Odyssey. As I said, this was the game that made me finally buy a Switch and it came out first so it was the same experience that everyone else had when judging between the two games. It took me 60 hours to get a full 100% completion in Odyssey. That’s 1000 power moons, all costumes, all possessions, all souvenirs, all collectibles, and time spent playing Balloon World after the fact. I have a full understanding of the game and everything it currently has to offer. I can say without hesitation that this is the best 3D Mario platformer they ever made. It was perfect. Challenging at times, but totally doable, including the final challenge level. The lite open world aspect running as a singular continuous experience rather than pulling you out every time you got a power moon was a vast improvement over the classic system. The graphics are beautiful. The sound effects are great. I wasn’t super impressed by the music, but I can’t really remember a Mario game where I particularly was outside of the original Super Mario Bros. for SNES so that’s no real detractor for me with this specific franchise. There actually was a bit of story in this one that went past save the princess. It really is a glorious game that’s the culmination of the hopes and dreams of all Mario fans who have been playing since the original Super Mario Bros. more than 30 years ago.

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What I especially appreciated about Odyssey was that it was the perfect length. It wasn’t a game that’s too short where at the end you think that was amazing but I wish there was more to do. It also wasn’t a game that felt like it dragged on and just wouldn’t end. When I finished it I felt perfectly content. I didn’t want to play anymore and I didn’t feel like I hadn’t played enough. I have always subscribed to the $1 should equal around 1 hour of play theory and I think the fact that game took me 60 hours is very perfect because games cost about $60 today. Super Mario Odyssey Is objectively an excellent game, which we can see from the reviews and many awards it won. But it was also a great game in my personal opinion. I had a blast playing it and I truly hope they just make a sequel instead of milking it to death with paid DLC.

I ultimately did not get a 100% completion in Breath of the Wild. I wanted to and I spent most of my time playing it under the impression that I would. But eventually I just burned out. I put 160 hours into that game. It is a magnificent gaming experience from start to finish. Beautiful scenery, different gameplay then we’ve ever had in a Zelda game before, actual character development, more than three main characters, a much more robust economy, tons of gameplay variation, way too many armor sets, and more puzzles of various types and sizes than I can remember seeing in any console adventure game ever. But it gets to be too much. 900 korok seeds to find, 120 shrines, 16 full armor sets, 18 single armor pieces, most of which need to be leveled up, and fairly challenging and lengthy DLC, which I also completed.

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Breath of the Wild is the kind of game I would have loved as a kid. Back when maybe one game a quarter came out that I genuinely had to have. Back when I couldn’t afford to buy games so I had to wait till my birthday and Christmas to get games. A game this long and epic would have been amazing. I would have played it forever and did every single little thing. But today who has the time? I don’t personally know a single person who got all the seeds. Most people online say they didn’t get that far. I didn’t get all the armor sets. I only maxed out four complete sets and a few single piece items. It’s just too much. Especially with the ridiculous and ever growing backlog I already have. I started the game on February 27th. I played it multiple days a week up until April 19th when I finally went and defeated Ganon because God of War was coming out the next day and I wasn’t going to delay playing that.

The Legend of Zelda - Breath of the Wild Screenshot 2018-04-20 02-42-17

I don’t have too many complaints about Breath of the Wild. And a game being too long is the best complaint a game can get in 2018. The issue comes down to the fact that the length is often padded with monotony and collecting, the worst type of padding. You spend so much of the game trying to find resources rather than new things. Once you have all the shrines, which takes quite a lot of time, you spend most of your time trying to find materials to level up armor and korok seeds. Both of these tasks are not really fun. They’re enjoyable the first few times because you’re learning and discovering things. But by the end of the game you’re just warping to map points waiting for minerals to respawn and setting up campfires waiting for star pieces to fall out of the sky and dragons to pass by, since you can only get one of four types of materials from a dragon a day. And there are three different dragons to deal with . . . It’s just a lot of tedious work in the late game. And that is a turn off when you have plenty of other games to play, as most do in the current gaming landscape. That’s not to say that the game’s not worth the money. It absolutely is. I got way more than 60 hours of enjoyable organic gameplay. Even if I had never taken the time to beat Ganon, it would still have been worth the money. But it begs the question of how am I supposed to grade the game? Do I say that because I got more hours of great gameplay than in Odyssey that it’s length is better even if I ultimately felt like it was too long? Or do I say that the length wasn’t balanced enough and because I left the game feeling like I hadn’t finished it that took away from my overall enjoyment? Hard to say. But I can say that I most likely won’t ever dive back into the game. I wouldn’t say that about Odyssey if they added more free content though. I’ve already taken the time to go back in to get added costumes by playing Balloon World for quick coins.

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It’s very difficult for me to ultimately decide which of the two games I liked more. Super Mario Odyssey was so fulfilling in every way. I’m also more of a Mario fan than a Zelda fan in general to begin with. Breath of the Wild was more than fulfilling. It was overwhelming. And it was overwhelmingly good. Super Mario Odyssey impressed me for a Nintendo game. Breath of the Wild impressed me for a video game. And that’s why it won Game of the Year. It might not be my favorite game ever, but it absolutely does everything at the highest caliber of quality.

So after playing both games for a combined total of more than 200 hours of gameplay, I have to conclude that Breath of the Wild is the better of the two games and was the correct decision as Game of the Year 2017. But in any other year that would have gone to Super Mario Odyssey easily. I highly recommend both games and I’m glad to have taken the time to play them. I’ve actually put more hours into my Switch this year than any other platform so far.

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