It’s December now, which usually means three things: snow (YMMV), trading in the Pumpkin Spice apocalypse for a more Peppermint Chocolaty variety, and a bunch of lists/awards highlighting the best stuff of the year. Because it’s not really Christmas until you put on a fancy award show or list and get into an argument online because none of your picks won, right?

Despite being free from Spike TV’s tentacles, I pretty much tuned off The Game Awards after the first show felt more like a continuation of what came before. To be fair, things were a whole lot worse under Spike’s banner, especially 2013's show which likely contributed to The Game Award’s creation. That being said, I haven’t bothered since the show debuted in 2014. I recall skipping (or most likely, forgetting) 2015's show and ended up spending the evening playing Metal Gear Solid V and watching the highlights the following morning. Barely even remembered last year’s show, though I heard some game that a bunch of you enjoyed ended up winning. Oh, and a certain reaper with opinions also liked it.

Taken as a whole, The Game Awards represents some of the best and worsts aspects of the gaming industry tailored to a mainstream audience, which I’ve always felt sometimes came at odds with what the event is supposed to be celebrating (more so in the Spike era). 2017 had such a strong selection of games on multiple platforms throughout the year, so this year, I thought it would be fun this year to predict 2017's winners. Reviewing the nominees, I can tell this will be a hot point of discussion (and controversy), so I am eager to see how my picks compare with the actual results and how the rest of the gaming community reacts.

I’ll be updating this article or post a new one sometime after the award show with the results to see how much they lined up with my picks. For reference, the full list is here.

And the nominees are....

Game of the Year

  • Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Persona 5 (Atlus)
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG Corp.)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

Aether’s pick: Nier: Automata Persona 5

Predicted winner: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

(Really? I’ve just started and already got a bone to pick!)

So, since Nier: Automata is out, my runner up/close tie goes to Persona 5 (I’m still finalizing my list too). Aside from having one of the most unique presentations and designs from the above list, it was one of the most entertaining and moving RPGs of the year.

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While I think all of these games have a strong shot of winning, my bet is Zelda ends up getting the best in show based on popularity (it’s Zelda!), with Mario coming in right behind it. Not that I think BOTW shouldn’t get it, of course (it has one of the most brilliant open world designs from any game this year), but my heart was clearly taken by Persona 5's cast and story (no pun intended). It also helped that the gameplay refined a lot of the previous game’s shortcomings.

Best Game Direction

  • Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games)
  • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD)
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (MachineGames / Bethesda)

Aether’s pick: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Predicted winner: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I’m gonna go with my gut on this one and say Zelda takes it. BOTW pretty much rewrote the open world design for games and I’m sure there will be plenty of new games attempting to replicate’s Zelda’s formula in the near future.

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Mario could also take it for much of the same reason as it reworked quite a bit of its open world, albeit in a smaller form. My dark horse entry says RE7 could potentially pull an upset given its change to first person from the series third person view, but I’m thinking Horizon or Wolfenstein would fare better in this category.

Best Narrative

  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Tameem Antoniades, Elizabeth Ashman-Rowe / Ninja Theory)
  • Horizon Zero Dawn (John Gonzalez / Ninja Theory)
  • Nier: Automata (Yoko Taro, Hana Kikuchi, Yoshiho Akabane / Platinum Games)
  • What Remains of Edith Finch (Ian Dallas / Giant Sparrow)
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (Jen Matthies, Tommy Tordsson Bjork / MachineGames)

Aether’s pick: Nier: Automata

Predicted winner: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Nier: Automata is one of most beautifully depressing games of 2017, in a good way. Honestly, I nearly teared up during the final credits; a feat that very few games manage to do for me. Seeing as it was excluded from the GOTY award, my actual prediction is Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.

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I’ve been playing quite a bit of Wolfenstein II since last week, and while the plot follows your typical “what if” story where the bad guys won and a small resistance must rise up and fight back, it gets its mileage from the cast. BJ in particular, surprised me the most. What could have been your average Joe running and gunning Nazis (okay, he’s still pretty much that), is instead portrayed as a broken hero both physically in the opening level and mentally while reflecting heavily on his unhappy childhood and his current predicament. It’s one of the few games that actually shows the heavy price of war through its main heroes and why I predict it’s the favorite in the narrative department.

(It probably helps it came out not too long ago.)

Best Art Direction

  • Cuphead (Studio MDHR Entertainment)
  • Destiny 2 (Bungie / Activision)
  • Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Persona 5 (Atlus)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

Aether’s pick: Persona 5

Predicted winner: Persona 5

I’m gonna go out on a huge limb and say my pick will line up with the actual winner. All right, my bias may be showing, but be honest. How many other games pulled off an art style like this in the past year (or several)? From the game menus, to the dialog and world map, everything oozes with style and personality to give it an identity not found in very many games; even within other games that look like something out of an Anime.

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Runner up if Persona doesn’t win: Cuphead most likely for the same reason. It’s got some of the sweetest animations during gameplay.

Best Score / Music

  • Cuphead (Kristofer Maddigan)
  • Destiny 2 (Mike Salvatori, Skye Lewin, C Paul Johnson)
  • NieR: Automata (Keiichi Okabe, Keigo Hoashi)
  • Persona 5 (Shoji Meguro)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Naoto Kubo, Shiho Fujii, Koji Kondo)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Manaka Kataoka, Yasuaki Iwata)

Aether’s pick: Nier: Automata

Predicted winner: Super Mario Odyssey

This one was a tough call, but I think Nier narrowly edges out my personal pick. As much as I loved Persona 5's music, I kind of wish they mixed up the battle themes a bit. Last Surprise is good, but spread over 80+ hours...

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Zelda has a very huge pedigree when it comes to music, but I felt BOTW was the weakest score. For a series known for some of the most memorable tunes in gaming, BOTW went for a more subtle, quieter approach. Gone are the huge set pieces and heavy orchestra for most of the game (with a few exceptions), replaced by more simple or minimalist sounds. I went through a lot of the game without picking up on some of the remixed tunes from previous games. Not saying it was bad as it suited the game’s design well, but I didn’t find it as memorable as other games this year.

Mario,on the other hand, went in the opposite direction. They even wrote a song! Outside of that, from the grand main theme in the Cascade Kingdom to the more Jazz inspired theme of the Metro Kingdom, Super Mario Odyssey score was always up and center. Even the sound effects were placed with great attention to detail; particularly the sound effect that plays when using a power line. Nintendo pulled all the stops for Mario’s Switch debut, so I predict it will be a strong contender for best music, if not overall winner.

Best Audio Design

  • Destiny 2 (Bungie)
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory)
  • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

Aether’s pick: Super Mario Odyssey

Predicted winner: Super Mario Odyssey

I mentioned this earlier, but Nintendo placed a great deal of care in implementing the sound of Odyssey. Everything from the familiar hitting a block sound to switching from 3D to 2D stages (and the transition to 8-bit music!) had a purpose in complementing what the player was doing at any given time.

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Zelda also had a bit of this, but in a more subtler approach. As stated earlier, music took a step back, but it was largely intentional so the player could make out the environment and subtle sound effects.

The lack of Nier is disappointing once more as I quite enjoyed the 8-bit remixes of the soundtrack, but I think Mario nailed it in this department.

Best Performance

  • Ashly Burch, Horizon: Zero Dawn (As Aloy)
  • Brian Bloom, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (as BJ Blazkowicz)
  • Claudia Black, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (as Chloe Frazer)
  • Laura Bailey, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (as Nadine Ross)
  • Melina Juergens, Hellblade (as Senua)

Aether’s pick: Brian Bloom or Ashly Burch

Predicted winner: Laura Bailey

My gut pick is Laura Bailey wins this one, as she has made something of a name for herself in the video game world (way too many to list here). I don’t have much to add to this since I’ve only played the first two games on this list, so I’ll stick to that.

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BJ could have easily been given the stereotypical generic male soldier voice, but Brian Bloom absolutely nailed giving BJ the voice of a man who has been through hell and back, but his many battles have taken a toll. Even when BJ remarks on the first Zitadelle in the game with a witty remark, there is a certain amount of uncertainty in his voice that its obvious his odds of survival are low given his current condition.

Didn’t get very far in Horizon, but I enjoyed Ashly Burch’s performance as Aloy. For a game set in a post apocalyptic world, Burch manages to give Aloy one of the few upbeat, yet strong voices who is not afraid to speak up in the face of injustice or even in direct contrast to tribe rules and traditions (Aloy is an exile at the start of the game). Despite the game using dialog trees, I found Aloy had quite a bit of personality from witty remarks to calling other characters out as needed. One of my favorite scenes towards the beginning of the game gives you an option to give a rebuttal to a bully from years ago. Since I had selected the “clever” option back then to toss a rock indirectly, I chose the “pity” option in the present day which led to a sick burn about omitting the part about the rock unarming him before.

Games for Impact

  • Bury Me, My Love (The Pixel Hunt / Figs / ARTE / Playdius)
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory)
  • Life is Strange: Before the Storm (Deck Nine / Square Enix)
  • Night in the Woods (Infinite Fall)
  • Please Knock on My Door (Levall Games AB)
  • What Remains of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow / Annapurna Interactive)

Aether’s pick: Night in the Woods

Predicted winner: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Haven’t played any of these games :(

Heard Night in the Woods was good though.

My guess is Hellblade wins due to its take on mental health and the whole “controversy” about the game data deleting itself if you die too much.

Best Ongoing Game

  • Destiny 2 (Bungie / Activision)
  • Grand Theft Auto Online (Rockstar Games)
  • Overwatch (Blizzard)
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG. Corp)
  • Rainbow Six: Siege (Ubisoft Montreal / Ubisoft)
  • Warframe (Digital Extremes)

Aether’s pick: Overwatch

Predicted winner: Overwatch

Overwatch took the world by storm last year sweeping up last year’s GOTY at The Game Awards, and its momentum hardly slowed down this year with more characters, stages, and other updates that have continued to keep the game going.

Also, esports.

Best Independent Game

  • Cuphead (Studio MDHR Entertainment)
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Ninja Theory)
  • Night in the Woods (Infinite Fall)
  • Pyre (Supergiant Games)
  • What Remains of Edith Finch (Giant Sparrow / Annapurna Interactive)

Aether’s pick: N/A

Predicted winner: Cuphead

Best Mobile Game

  • Fire Emblem Heroes (Intelligent Systems / Nintendo)
  • Hidden Folks (Adriaan de Jongh / Sylvain Tegroeg)
  • Monument Valley 2 (ustwo games)
  • Old Man’s Journey (Broken Rules)
  • Super Mario Run (Nintendo)

Aether’s pick: Fire Emblem Heroes

Predicted winner: Fire Emblem Heroes

Arguably the most profitable mobile game for Nintendo (largely due to micro-transactions, of course), Fire Emblem Heroes quickly carved a foothold in the mobile department. Though I initially found the game rough around the edges, I felt it kept the spirit of the series in its gameplay in a more compact experience and the game has been repeatedly updated with new features and due to fan feedback.

Best Handheld Game

  • Ever Oasis (Grezzo / Nintendo)
  • Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia (Intelligent Systems / Nintendo)
  • Metroid: Samus Returns (MercurySteam / Nintendo)
  • Monster Hunter Stories (Marvelous / Capcom / Nintendo)
  • Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World (Good-Feel / Nintendo)

Aether’s pick: Metroid: Samus Returns

Predicted winner: Metroid: Samus Returns

Someone apparently got the memo last year and decided to split mobile and handheld departments this time. No offense to Pokemon Go, but Fire Emblem Fates was the better game. I’ll fight you on this!

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So my 3DS was largely neglected this year up until Metroid was announced in a stunning surprise return of the franchise at E3 this year with not one, but two games. While Metroid Prime 4 might have been the show stealer, the handheld title was released this year going back to its 2D roots with a full blown remake of Metroid II. I thought it was a fun, but safe title overall, but given the large gap between Metroid games (unless you count Fedaration Force), it was an adventure worth revisiting.

Best VR/AR Game

  • Farpoint (Impulse Gear / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Lone Echo (Ready at Dawn / Oculus Studios)
  • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom)
  • Star Trek: Bridge Crew (Red Storm Entertainment / Ubisoft)
  • Superhot VR (Superhot Team)

Aether’s pick: N/A

Predicted winner: Resident Evil 7

Best Action Game

  • Cuphead (Studio MDHR Entertainment)
  • Destiny 2 (Bungie / Activision)
  • Nioh (Team Ninja / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Prey (Arkane Studios / Bethesda)
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (MachineGames / Bethesda)

Aether’s pick: Wolfenstein II

Predicted winner: Destiny 2

I got this nagging feeling that Destiny wins this one based on player base.

Best Action/Adventure Game

  • Assassin’s Creed: Origins (Ubisoft Montreal / Ubisoft)
  • Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (Naughty Dog / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Aether’s pick: Zelda

Predicted winner: Horizon

Given Horizon’s buzz, I expect it to win at least in one category.

Best Role-Playing Game

  • Divinity: Original Sin II (Larian Studios)
  • Final Fantasy XV (Square Enix Business Division 2 / Square Enix)
  • NieR: Automata (Platinum Games / Square Enix)
  • Persona 5 (Atlus)
  • South Park: The Fractured But Whole (Ubisoft San Francisco / Ubisoft)

Aether’s pick: Persona 5

Predicted winner: Persona 5

Oh FFXV, we hardly knew you :(

Given it came out at the tail end of last year and did not manage to qualify for last year’s show, I’d be very surprised if it manages to get a mention.

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Anyways, if Persona 5 doesn’t grab the GOTY, I predict it will at least take the award for best RPG.

Best Fighting Game

  • Arms (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
  • Injustice 2 (NetherRealm Studios / Warner Bros. Interactive Ent)
  • Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (Capcom)
  • Nidhogg 2 (Messhof Games)
  • Tekken 7 (Bandai Namco Studios / Bandai Namco Entertainment)

Aether’s pick: Injustice 2

Predicted winner: Tekken 7

While the gameplay might hold up, Marvel vs. Capcom has drawn quite a bit of criticism from fans over everything from horrible character faces to the lack of X Men and other Marvel favorites.

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Netherealm, on the other hand, continues to excel at giving us a full fighting game package with a well written campaign as well as other fun extras and Easter eggs that pay homage to DC’s rich legacy. For that, I vote for Injustice 2.

The award will likely go to Tekken 7 though. Tekken 7 has gotten quite a bit of buzz both in and out of the fighting game community, and doesn’t mind extending an olive branch to other fighting game characters including Akuma (Street Fighter), Geese Howard (Fatal Fury), and..... Noctis (Final Fantasy XV)?!

Best Family Game

  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo EAD / Nintendo)
  • Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Ubisoft Paris + Milan / Ubisoft)
  • Sonic Mania (PagodaWest Games, Headcannon / Sega)
  • Splatoon 2 (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo EAD / Nintendo)

Aether’s pick: Sonic Mania

Predicted winner: Splatoon 2

Sonic Mania’s only nomination, it’d be a shame if it didn’t walk home with at least one award.

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However, the award is for best Family Game, which in my book sounds like multiplayer game. So with that in mind, my predicted winner is Splatoon 2 as it is the only game here with a competitive multiplayer component and wasn’t a full port of the previous game.

Best Strategy Game

  • Halo Wars 2 (Creative Assembly, 343 Industries / Microsoft Studios)
  • Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Ubisoft Paris + Milan / Ubisoft)
  • Total War: Warhammer II (Creative Assembly / Sega)
  • Tooth and Tail (Pocketwatch Games)
  • XCOM 2: War of the Chosen (Firaxis Games / 2K)

Aether’s pick: XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

Predicted winner: Total War: Warhammer II

Full disclosure: I’ve only played a portion of XCOM 2's original campaign, which is still somewhere in my backlog, so I’m largely basing my pick from that.

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As for actual winner, I did a quick comparison via Metacritic as I don’t have much to base a prediction on here. Although XCOM 2 is currently standing 88% at this time of writing and Total War: Warhammer II is at 86%, I’m giving the edge to Total War as this is a newer entry as opposed to XCOM’s expansion pack which the base game has been out in the wild for at least a year now.

Best Sports/Racing Game

  • FIFA 18 (EA Vancouver / EA)
  • Forza Motorsport 7 (Turn 10 Studios / Microsoft Studios)
  • Gran Turismo Sport (Polyphony Digital / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • NBA 2K18 (Visual Concepts / 2K Sports)
  • Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (PES Productions / Konami)
  • Project Cars 2 (Slightly Mad Studios / Bandai Namco Entertainment)

No.

Best Multiplayer

  • Call of Duty: WWII (Sledgehammer Games / Activision)
  • Destiny 2 (Bungie / Activision)
  • Fortnite (Epic Games)
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo EAD / Nintendo)
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG Corp.)
  • Splatoon 2 (Nintendo EPD / Nintendo)

Aether’s pick: N/A

Predicted winner: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds or Destiny 2

Huh, I’ve been seriously out of touch with my multiplayer games.

So with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on the GOTY nomination list, I predict it has a stronger chance of coming out on top in this category. However, as I mentioned with the Action category, I think it will come down to player base and what’s hot. While Destiny 2 is fairly recent, I know more than a few friends having a blast with it, so I’ll place my faith in their judgment.

Most Anticipated Game

  • God of War (Santa Monica Studio / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man (Insomniac Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Monster Hunter World (Capcom)
  • Red Dead Redemption II (Rockstar Games)
  • The Last of Us Part II (Naughty Dog / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Finally! A category I can comment on again!

Aether’s pick: God of War

Predicted winner: Marvel’s Spider-Man

I’m pretty stocked about all these games (a bit mixed on Monster Hunter based on the 3DS games), but I’ve always had a soft spot for God of War. God of War III still remains one of my favorite games last gen, and the new Norse setting and heavy emphasis on narrative seems to imply we’re getting a very different Kratos come next year.

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Apart from Monster Hunter, Spider-Man is currently the only game we’ve gotten a very good look at the gameplay, so it may actually release next year on time. With the other games still a ways off, I think Spider-Man wins this one easily.

Plus, its Spider-Man.


Okay, there are actually a few more categories and I have no strong opinions on them, so I’ll just wrap this up here. Apologies for the rushed writing and any grammatical errors, as I was pressed for time when I began writing.

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So with the show starting (well, now!), I’ll leave it at that and say my work is done for today. I’ll be posting my own GOTY awards list towards the end of the year. Later!