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The Witcher 3 turns 5: Celebrating the RPG of the decade

(Image credit: CD Project)

Geralt of Rivia is somewhere in the vicinity of a hundred years old, so the time that's passed since his final adventure, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, would barely register to him. What's five years to a spry centenarian? But Geralt does get sentimental now and then, so I like to imagine him sitting back on the porch of his vinyard in Toussaint, sipping some wine, and thinking about the good old days—defeating the Hunt, reuniting with Ciri, putting on a play, finding that lady's frying pan.

Five years already? Nekker's nethers, the time sure does fly.

The Witcher 3 turned out to be one of those games whose full shape, and impact, didn't come into view immediately. We knew it was great, writing in our review "for a game boasting all of the political treachery and turmoil common in the genre, The Witcher 3 succeeds because it puts people first. More compelling than Geralt’s lofty, heroic journey are the stories about the humdrum, circumstantial horrors of the helpless as they watch their world crumble." But in May 2015, in those first weeks, it was hard to see quite how big a deal it was.

Only with more time could we fully appreciate just how much was in there: how many great quests there were, the absurd detail put into the city of Novigrad, and so many other little touches. And then came the expansions, the first good, the second outstanding, capping off Geralt's adventure better than we could've hoped. (Blood & Wine didn't come out until May 2016, a year later, so we'll be back for another anniversary celebration in 2021, no doubt).

In hindsight, how the hell did we pick Metal Gear Solid 5 over The Witcher 3 for GOTY in 2015? It may be the best stealth sandbox ever, but c'mon: it's not The Witcher 3. Solid Snake never once gets in a tub. That alone should've been disqualifying.

Since 2015, The Witcher 3 has had incredible legs. A quick timeline of its life after release: 

Modders are still leaving their mark on The Witcher 3, endlessly reworking its combat and upscaling aging textures. It seems inevitable that CD Projekt will return to The Witcher one day, perhaps a few years after Cyberpunk 2077 is finished. Maybe even in time for The Witcher 3's 10th anniversary. Until then, we'll have new seasons of the Netflix show, new mods to play, and plenty more reminiscing to do.

Here are some of our best stories about The Witcher 3. Happy birthday, Geralt, ya big lug.

When he's not 50 hours into a JRPG or an opaque ASCII roguelike, Wes is probably playing the hottest games of three years ago. He oversees features, seeking out personal stories from PC gaming's niche communities. 50% pizza by volume.