The Game Awards 2021 is premiering tomorrow on the 9th of December 2021. It’s basically the Oscars for the video game industry and on this night the best and brightest are celebrated. Not only do we get to see celebrities and live showcases of hot new games (and movies) coming in 2022. But we also can take a step back to vote for some of the best games of 2021. The most coveted prize being of course Game of the Year.
Some of the games that have one previously have been instant classics that are talked about and remembered until this day. Games such as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, God of War, The Last of Us all hold a special place in our hearts. But just like any award show, there are a couple of games I felt got a little snubbed this year. So we want to put together a list of other games we feel deserve a nomination for Game of the Year.
Game of the Year Official Nominations
If you haven’t been keeping up the official nominations for Game of the Year here’s the official list.
And as usual, I have a lot of comments and feelings about the lineup this year. I would say all previous GOTY award winners almost always had game-changing mechanics and/or storylines. Some of these in the list while fun and delightful definitely miss the mark on that.
For example, Deathloop is good but it’s far from a perfect game, mechanics and the story arc feels fairly short-lived. Same as It Takes Two that has great gameplay but with shallow storytelling. Which I feel is such a missed opportunity. I’d say similarly for Metroid Dread, Psychonauts 2, Ratchet & Clank, all the gameplay was good but it was more of the same? More remakes and for fans of the original but nothing game-changing.
This may be a little nit-picky for some, I’m not saying they’re back games. But they really don’t evoke the same feeling of awe and reverence as I’ve felt for previous Game of the Year winners.
Getting to our list as a disclaimer, I’m aware that some of the games are being nominated for other categories. But I feel that they should be in Game of the Year.
Hitman 3 has great reviews across the board and is an excellent instalment to IO Interactive’s World of Assassination trilogy. That’s saying a lot considering the popularity of the stealth genre. How does one make stealth games feel new again? Well, Hitman 3 should have this saying – the Devil’s in the details.
The game takes everything that you love from the first two Hitman games and gives you way more. In fact kudos to the developers for taking a leap in experimentation. The gameplay mechanics are fresh, complex and of course elaborate. Each of the story’s missions gives you a huge variety of ways to tackle them. Giving players a level of freedom that they haven’t normally enjoyed. Each of the levels that they introduce you to is rife with layered details that you don’t often see. Truly some great level building has gone on here and it’s a shame that it’s not on the list.
Deathloop is on the list but another game that sticks you in an eternal time loop that deserves attention is Returnal. Actually, I’m pretty confused why it’s not don’t the list in the first place as it executes this gameplay dare I say better than Deathloop.
Returnal is a location and time fluid masterpiece that has you drawn into its dark fantasy world from the get-go. And because of the ever-changing nature of the planet, you never know whether the chamber ahead contains something useful, or a crowd of enemies that you’re not strong enough to face yet. You never know whether your next run will last two hours or 10 minutes. It’s a game where the end isn’t the goal but the story and discovery is.
Tales of Arise
JRPGs never get as much love and acknowledgement in these award shows as they should. And if you’ve never played any of the Tales of… series but love action and deep story then you should definitely pick up Tales of Arise.
It’s a game you can get lost in, visuals are gorgeous, particularly compared to previous entries and combat is smooth and fluid. While no game-changing gameplay is present here the story is a good one that brings in two worlds and a deliciously cascading mystery. One that answers each question by raising two more that are far more intriguing than the first. And of course, there’s the cast of six characters—the main reason people play these games in the first place—which is, dare I say, the strongest it’s ever been. Tales of Arise’s characters grow and bond in ways that are genuinely moving, at times even tear-jerking. The game is a delight to play.
It’s unlikely that a game without any combat is going to make it to Game of the Year. But I thought it was with mentioning anyway. Sable is a sweeping, third-person open-world adventure set in a vast desert landscape where you play as a masked girl named Sable. Throughout the game, you’ll explore its world by climbing and gliding Breath of the Wild-style, as well as humming around on your hoverbike.
Sable isn’t your typical action-packed adventure, though — it’s a game whose beauty comes from the joys of slowing down and appreciating the current moment of life. It’s a game that basks in its own beauty and best of all gives us the permission to simply be and enjoy. A moment spent by yourself or with someone else. It would be a nice lesson for the pandemic that we’re currently in.
Monster Hunter Rise
Monster Hunter is a series classic that has just gotten better with each iteration. After the excellent Monster Hunter World previously, Capcom knocks it out of the park yet again with Monster Hunter Rise with accessible, innovative and enjoyable gameplay improvements and innovations.
For those new to the series, Monster Hunter is all about killing or capturing giant, spectacular monsters and turning them into gear. This time in an awesome feudal Japanese world. Each hunt is essentially an epic boss fight against a specific monster or two, all of which are incredibly diverse in both visual design and behaviour. While the storyline is paper-thin, action gameplay is not. And the locations, monsters and techniques to hunt monsters are varied and just work superbly.
The Artful Escape
Perhaps The Artful Escape is too ‘indie’ to be labelled as a Game of the Year nominee, but I’m going to put it here anyway. This story-driven platforming adventure is about Francis’ journey to rock stardom. In his quiet Colorado hometown, the community is expecting him to continue his Uncle’s musical legacy and have planned a debut show that will kick start his career. But on the night of the performance, he gets whisked away on a strange intergalactic adventure, one that helps him discover his new psychedelic stage persona.
The Artful Escape is a gorgeous kaleidoscope of music and colour but under the blockbuster casting, dazzling worlds, and awesome guitar wailing is a genuinely sincere story. Francis’ journey of self-discovery is universal—he just happens to be part of a spectacular, laser-powered light show.
Forza Horizon 5
Sports games don’t really make Game of the Year lists but Forza Horizon 5 has scored almost perfect ratings this year so I think it at least deserves an honourable mention.
Forza Horizon 5 as you may expect is car nirvana for revheads and auto geeks to endlessly collect, tinker, and experiment. It’s a long haul, MMO-inspired racer that’s exploding with more races, activities, and event types than can comfortably fit on some parts of the map – and yet it still always feels relaxed rather than daunting. It never locks you into something you don’t want to do and steadily rewards you for however you choose to play it. It looks beautiful, it sounds magnificent, and it is glorious to play. Forza Horizon 5 has set the standard for all open-world racing games from this moment on.
The Forgotten City
2021 is the year of the time loop and at its pinnacle sits The Forgotten City. Think of the game as an incredibly unique and self-aware adventure that explores complex ideas stemming from a basic question: “what is objectively good?”
The game traps you in an ancient, cavernous Roman city with a supernatural law that forbids sin. When a sin is committed (and it will be committed), everyone in the city turns to gold— everyone except you. You get to restart the day with all of your current knowledge and inventory in an attempt to catch that pesky sinner and avoid a golden apocalypse. Over the course of several permutations of the same day, the game weaves an intricately plotted mystery that doubles as a meditation on the repeating nature of civilizations. And without spoiling anything, there are moments where the writing is so good it’s practically leaping out of your screen, standing up there with some of the best moments in any RPG.