There is this one episode of How I Met Your Mother where one of the characters, Marshall, randomly stumbled into a rickety burger joint with a bad health rating and a shifty looking chef. He ate a burger that was so good that it triggered some transcendental awakening within him and made his taste buds flutter with the purest joy you can experience on this Earth. A perfect burger, the likes of which he has never tasted before. After this heavenly meal of his, he couldn’t stomach eating another burger because it was just not the same as that one monumental burger he had that one time. The restaurant was nowhere to be found again and his dreams were crushed. His friends grew frustrated by this because he would constantly say “it’s not the same” and brush off any other burger he ate. A curse he now has to live with for his entire life. Always longing for that one perfect burger he ate within a fleeting moment of time that would sour any subsequent burgers he would eat from that day forward, always thinking that those burgers are inferior.
The Witcher 3 is my perfect burger. A game so immensely perfect that it causes me to think of other games as inferior. Since its release in 2015, nothing I have played since has come close to the greatness that is that game. The emotions it made me feel, the journeys I’ve been on and the characters I’ve invested myself into. Absolutely nothing has come close, and I’ve played some amazing games since that time. Not even my pick for 2016’s Game of the Year, Final Fantasy XV, got even remotely close. If it wasn’t an expansion, my Game of the Year would have been Blood and Wine and it would have deserved every bit of that award. CD Projekt RED has made something monumental and it contains absolutely everything I enjoy about gaming. If you’ll allow me, I’d like to give my reasons for why I think that The Witcher 3 is the best game ever.
Based on the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher 3 has lore coming out of every pore. The story is filled with deep concepts that would make any other dark fantasy shudder by the sheer scale of it. While the game could be played perfectly well without reading the supplementary material or even playing the previous games in the franchise, doing so will elevate your experience of the narrative exponentially. There’s a lot of missing context in The Witcher 3‘s story and once you learn the rich history behind significant events as well as the deep relationships that the characters have with each other, you gain a new appreciation for the story they have ultimately crafted. The narrative itself is one for the ages and it extends well past the main quest of the game. Every side-mission is its own self-contained story and it ranges from simple disputes to actions that will influence people’s lives for generations.
The characters are all wonderfully crafted, realised and, most importantly, developed as the game progresses. While Geralt is a deadpan warrior with little emotion, his character still retains a palpable charm and the events that he finds himself in shape him even more. The cast of supporting characters all have redeeming qualities and you will find that they become unforgettable when you finally finish the game. Once more, your choices can have either a dire or redeeming effect on these characters. It should be stressed just how important a player feels in this game. Many RPGs give you the illusion of choice and often presents it in a binary fashion relating to “good or evil”, yet The Witcher 3 is covered in shades of grey. Some choices are better than others, but those choices in particular are often the ones with the least disastrous outcome. You will struggle to use your morality because the correct moral choice often doesn’t exist.
These stories are also often heavier than Jupiter if it was made of lead. Stories that will genuinely shock you or have you finding yourself questioning your own life. The picture perfect definition of “dark fantasy” and all of the heavier themes carry so smoothly from the novels. A lot of it also allegorical to real life situations, even if this is a world of elves, dwarfs and sorcerers. Real struggles that real people in the world are struggling with only presented in a fantastical setting. A lot of it is stuff that we often turn our heads away from or choose to ignore because it reminds us of our fragile humanity, but The Witcher 3 doesn’t shy away from anything. It delivers stories and it delivers them hard, you are but a passenger on this train of enlightenment.
The thing that makes me love The Witcher 3 the most is the absolute love and care that was put into it. This game is a point of pride for CD Projekt RED and you can see it in every single tiny aspect of the game. The world is absolutely gigantic, but it’s also filled with worthwhile stuff to do at every hundred paces. The level of detail that went into everything from character interactions to the lore books that you pick up by the hundreds is something to marvel at. The environments, the random witty banter between characters, the card game that is supposed to be a nifty distraction that you just so happen to only play it for 20 hours because of how good it is, the thematic elements of the places you go to and the list goes on and on.
Even the combat and the RPG elements are wonderfully realised. They might not be entirely perfect, but there’s so much variation and involvement that it still feels like a joy to play even if you are over 300 hours in. There’s so many weapons, different skills and armour sets to try out that it will take you multiple playthroughs to fully experience it all. If you play on higher difficulties, there is a lot more strategy involved in how you conduct yourself in combat. It’s a deep RPG system, but it isn’t so intimidating that it feels suffocating, which is a big strength in its favour.
I can talk about The Witcher 3 all day and that is no exaggeration. It has so many little aspects contained within the bigger aspects and is such an amazing experience that you cannot find much wrong with any of it. I’ve gotten a platinum trophy for the game, I played on Death March difficulty and I’ve gotten all the trophies for both expansions that were also as or even more stellar than the base experience. Once everything was done, I didn’t know what to do with myself anymore. It was a sombre moment when I finally deleted the game off my PS4 in order to make space because I knew that this was the game I still wanted to play, even if I have done almost everything in it. That’s actually a lie, I still have a ton that I could still do. Even while I have combed the map for all side-quests and have done all I can, there’s still divergent paths I could follow, other gameplay styles to try out and more of the world left to explore. I know that I haven’t completely explored the area of Skellige either.
I’m also busy reading all of the novels and I plan to do a complete series playthrough once I am done with all of the reading. This will for sure elevate my experience with the game even more since it already has when I read the first few books. This is a mammoth undertaking, but one I so desperately want to do because there’s so much more to this world than initially meets the eye. Once you know all of the history and the context of a lot of the things that happen within the game, you get a much clearer and more powerful message out of it.
This is why The Witcher 3 is my best game ever. I’ve played a lot of amazing games in my life, but honestly, nothing has come close to the pure joy and fulfilment I felt while playing this game. It keeps getting better the more you play it and you will constantly find things that amaze you about it. Some gamers don’t have the time to fully invest in the Witcher and that is completely understandable since this is such a monumentally huge game, but the ones who do always come out of the other end with smiles on their faces and a desperate need to discuss everything about the game. While it has, in many ways, soured my experience with other games because they are just not as good, I’m still thankful that this game exists in my life and has enlightened me on the extent in which games can influence your life outside of just being transient entertainment. Some of you might disagree that The Witcher 3 is the best game ever, but I would urge you to read the first word in the title of this article. It is the game that is most important to me and will continue to be until something better comes along. And if something is better than The Witcher 3, it will be something for the ages.