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Game of the Year 2017 Day Four: Debut, New Characters, Story, and Styyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyle

We award the best debut, story, new character, and styyyyyyyyyle.

OK, yesterday was a whirlwind of emotions, but if you're here then that means it must be time for the fourth day of our proceedings. We've got another fresh batch of categories for you, available in the now-customary way. If you want audio, we've got a long podcast full of it. If you want video, we've broken that up into one video for each of the day's four categories. Here's that!

We also have a hot batch of lists from guests and the staff of Giant Bomb, as well as some video-based excitement, embedded below.

Holiday Specialtacular 2017: Winter Games
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OK, the winners are below these images, so don't scroll any further unless you want to read more about those! See ya tomorrow when we wrap this whole thing up!

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Best Debut

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

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PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds broke onto the scene and promptly broke out of its scene, attracting a gigantic audience seemingly overnight. It took most of us by storm, even in its early stages, making it a pretty easy choice for this year's Best Debut.

Many great debuts make you wonder about what'll happen next. Whether that's a sequel that continues a storyline, continued updates to further improve upon a sound concept, or even just wondering where the developers go from here. Will Battlegrounds maintain its strength in 2018? Will the growing popularity of the game translate into "esports success," whatever that means these days?

Anyway, predictions for this sort of thing can be all over the place, but regardless of how it goes, it's going to be fascinating to watch both the game and the genre that has sprung to prominence in its wake twist and turn into 2018 and beyond.

Runners-up: Cuphead, Night in the Woods

Best Styyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyle

Cuphead

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What is style? I don’t know. But I know what styyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyle is and it’s Cuphead. The game has a swagger and a rhythm that is manifested from its amazing visuals, outstanding soundtrack, and dedication to its source material. All the parts work in concert to the effect of making you feel cooler for being in its proximity. Even that damn pig shopkeeper has that special confidence that veers you clear of trying-too-hard road and straight onto styyyyyyyyyyle lane.

A lot of games try to wear their shirts inside out, or whatever kids do nowadays to be noticed, but Cuphead just stands out so effortlessly. I mean, you know you’re in for something special when the game opens with a musical number breaking down the main story beats from the menu screen. All that and you also feel like a total badass after you beat a boss. Now, that’s an investment in style that’s paying you dividends.

Runners-up: Persona 5, Yakuza 0

Best New Character

Bayek (Assassin's Creed: Origins)

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There's nothing special about a father who is out for vengeance. Couple that with the fact that, outside of Etzio, Assassin’s Creed hasn’t produced a memorable protagonist. That’s why expectations were low-to-nonexistant for Bayek, the Siwan Medjay and star of Assassin’s Creed Origins. But only a few hours into the game, you realize Bayek's depth as a character.

It’s when he’s with his wife that you see a romantic who wishes for peace in his land, but more importantly stability in his life. It is when he’s with other children that you see a father who can use humor to defuse tense situations while longing for what he's lost. And it’s when he’s with his assassination targets that you see a man who will not rest until he finds those responsible for destroying his life. Some of the best moments in the game feature Bayek conversing with those he recently dispatched in the Duat, Origins' take on the franchise's sort of "in-between" where souls are judged on if they are pure enough to pass into the afterlife. It's here that Bayek's almost Shakespearean monologues hold the most weight.

Bayek's relationships with other characters are engaging, but sometimes he really shines brightest as a character when he's out by himself exploring the world of ancient Egypt. The reverence in which he talks about the historic cities, the sacred tombs and monuments, and the gods that watch over them, make his actions as a defender of the people all the more believable. Hopefully Assassin's Creed Origins won't be the last we see of Bayek of Siwa.

Runners-up: Pascal (NieR:Automata), Damien (Dream Daddy)

Best Story

NieR:Automata

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On its face, NieR:Automata is a game about androids fighting robots on a ruined future Earth. The androids, who serve at the pleasure of the remnants of humanity, fight so that their creators might return to Earth, whereas the robots fight at the behest of an unseen alien invader. This kind of war is about as unremarkable a set-up as you'll ever find in a video game. We know apocalypses, we know about fights for humanity's survival, we know about churning through hundreds, if not thousands of generic enemies for the sake of glorious victory and also passing entertainment. None of this is special.

However, it doesn't take long for that premise to start to unravel into something far more fascinating. In NieR:Automata, director Yoko Taro and the developers at PlatinumGames have built something incredible and unusual, a slick, action-heavy game that delves deep into themes of consciousness, existentialism, and the cycles of violence and death that permeate so much of human history. Moreover, it's not content to simply acknowledge these concepts and move onto the next big setpiece battle. Every corner of NieR:Automata is drenched in its creators' notions of what life and death mean within the scheme of this universe.

Of course the story of the game's primary characters--elite soldier androids named 2B, 9S, and A2--takes center stage, and the journey of discovery these characters go through is as harrowing and heartfelt as any great story in video games. But the smaller stories peppered throughout the game's three acts--though the game refers to them as individual play-throughs, it's better to think of them as chapters in a larger story--are often the highlight. All throughout NieR's open world are other androids and enemy robots that are struggling with many of the same questions as the lead characters. Some have founded entire little societies designed to emulate governing structures learned about in the archives of human history. Others are utterly alone, forced to wrestle with questions they seem ill-designed to try and answer themselves.

Throughout that story, NieR constantly folds in on itself, recontextualizing what you think you know about this world and those who fight within it in ways that are as often surprising as they are crushing. Yoko Taro isn't afraid to break the player's heart, often at times when it feels like hope isn't too far off, but by the time the final endings come to fruition, NieR still finds a way to send the player off with a glimmer of hope amid the hardship and horror of it all. NieR:Automata is as complete a narrative as we've ever had the pleasure of experiencing in video games, and a highly deserving recipient of our best story award.

Runners-up: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Night in the Woods