Following on from our reader-voted Top 50 Games of the Decade, Nintendo Life staff members will be picking their personal favourite Nintendo games between the years 2010-2019. Today, Liam reminds us that sometimes, you have to keep trying to really find a gem...
Let’s make this clear, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is not only my game of the past decade, but it’s also easily one of the best games I’ve ever played in my life – dare I say the best. I got this title about a year or so after its initial release in 2015. By then, the game had received “over 200 awards” (according to the box art), and word had well and truly spread throughout the lands about it being a proper next-generation video game. In fact, my very own Xbox One copy featured a quote on the front of it from a certain outlet starting with ‘I’ and ending in ‘N’ saying how it “defines next-gen” and while I don’t always agree with the guys infamous for complaining about "too much water" in a Pokémon game, I couldn’t agree more in this particular case.
So, after reading many good things about it online and from a close friend of mine who had already completed this epic fantasy adventure on PC a few months beforehand, I booted up Witcher 3 and prepared myself for a “massive open-world adventure” like never before. Although I owned the previous games in the series on the digital platform GOG.com, I hadn’t really played much of either one. I’d also been reassured by this same friend that knowledge of the existing games or the original Polish novels by the author Andrzej Sapkowski wasn’t required, so I dived into CD Projekt Red’s third major Witcher outing cold turkey – like many other bandwagoners at the time.
Despite glowing reviews and a sense of excitement about experiencing something new beyond the usual land of Hyrule, I ended up losing interest in the game pretty quick. It was a combination of things, from memory. The confusing and overly-detailed menus, the sluggish movement of Geralt – including his horse Roach who would come to a complete halt at the mere sight of the slightest ledge – and even the story didn’t come across as anything special at first.
I ended up shelving the game, while at the same time promising myself I would one day return to it to experience this bleak but beautiful world everyone was raving about. I think it was about a month before I picked it back up and started a new save file. Again, I really tried to like it and had no luck. I made a little more progress this time around but had barely stepped foot in the first town before I dropped it again. Fast forward a few months and I decided to give it one final chance. It was at that point it all clicked and I never looked back.
For the remainder of the year, the majority of my spare time was spent playing The Witcher 3 and exploring the world as Geralt of Rivia. When I wasn’t playing it, I was thinking about it, and when I was playing it I would become immersed in this large and detailed fantasy universe for hours on end. I became more invested in the characters over time and lapped up the lore to the point I didn’t want Geralt’s adventure to ever end.
This truly was a “massive open-world adventure” that defined next-generation gaming. At the time, I had personally never seen such a vast and open game world like it and to this day even, there are few others I feel that can compete with its level of detail (keeping in mind, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild didn't exist at this point). Obviously, the characters played a big part in the adventure as well. Geralt, Yen, Triss, Ciri and even Dandelion all had such unique personalities and the more you got to know them, the more attached you grew to each one. The branching pathways only added to this, and the combat had some of the best sword-play I’d ever experienced in a video game, despite the initially awkward controls.
I think what is important to note here most of all is the fact I persevered and now I consider The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt to not only be one of the best releases of the past decade, but one of the greatest games of all time. I think if you’ve played this title from start to finish, you’ll understand why it’s so special, but for anyone reading this who hasn’t – it’s a game that’s done a beautiful job of adapting a series of books that were arguably underrepresented outside of their homeland in Poland. Heck, there’s even a Hollywood Netflix series now starring Henry Cavill, and whether the showrunner wants to admit it or not – it’s surely only been given the green light because of the incredible global success of the third game.
Of course, since then, the game has arrived on Switch, allowing fans to play this incredible adventure anywhere they like. I have to admit, I'm actually stunned that a world as dense and detailed as this one can be carried around in your backpack, but it pleases me immensely that Witcher 3 is now being experienced by a much wider audience – an audience which may never have played any of the previous games. Sure, the Switch version isn't quite as pretty as the Xbox One or PS4 offerings, but the main thing is that the core of the game remains totally and utterly intact.
All I’ll say at this point is that if you haven’t played The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, make it your top gaming priority right now and most of all – see it through to the end. It might not grab your attention early on, but Geralt’s third and final chapter will likely end up being one of your most memorable gaming experiences of all-time if you stay with it right up to the conclusion (the DLC is also incredible, it's worth noting). There’s probably a life lesson here as well; perhaps something about seeing things through to the end, because if you don’t, you might miss out on something special. I almost did.