GOTY: Horizon: Zero Dawn, hands down.
Beautiful game, excellent combat, a truly unique environment (with awesome robo-dinos), and a badass female character who puts more emphasis on the badass part than the female part. What’s not to love?
Best AAA Game: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Like Kieran and countless others, this one has to go to BotW, but it was a tough choice between it and Super Mario Odyssey. The latter is excellent in its own right, but with BotW, Nintendo managed to pull off a difficult task by creating a fantastic game that also happened to be a radical remaigining of a world-famous franchise. Despite being so different, it comes across as everything Zelda games always wanted to be. Hyrule is truly a living and breathing land, with areas that look and feel drastically different from each other and characters who are actually deeply connected to each other. The combat and weapon mechanics are spot-on, and there’s always something to make exploration worthwhile, even if it’s just standing on top of a mountain and admiring the gorgeous view. There is also a definite sense of progression, going from everything being a struggle to feeling capable of handling challenges like that Hinox that looked awfully intimidating when Link only had five hearts. Plus, it’s one of the only games (other than Xenoblade Chronicles) where my cat sits on my shoulder and watches. And that has to count for something.
Best Mid-Tier Game:Yooka-Laylee
Yooka-Laylee didn’t go over very well with many at first (although we did quite like it in our review). But even with the original issues — issues quickly fixed by the Spin ‘n’ Polish update — it managed to recapture everything that made gaming great over a decade ago: bright, colorful worlds, plenty of challenges and things to do, fun and quirky characters, tight platforming, and generally just being fun to play. Being the first major 3D platformer in forever, it carried a heavy burden, and it would have been easy for Playtonic to rely just on nostalgia and hope for the best. Luckily, they didn’t, and the end result is a quality experience.
Best Indie Game: Yono and the Celestial Elephants
Yono is definitely indie, since it’s the result of a one-man studio. On the surface, it’s a cute adventure game about an elephant trying to solve people’s problems, with some Zelda-esque puzzles and combat. But underneath that, there’s quite a bit more going on about the nature of life and death, reality, and the relationship between everything alive — and dead. It’s not going to tax your brain or skills, but it’s more than worth spending time with.
And there you have it — a host of games from across multiple genres, with enough quality and variety to satisfy almost anyone. But you, reader, are part of the community too, so sound off in the comments below and tell us what your GOTY picks are!