It’s already that time again to kick off our Game of the Year awards, diving once more into over a dozen different categories and celebrate the best video games of 2021.
As much as we love to look forward to new games, developers and publishers have also cottoned on to the fact that they can very often mine for the sparkly gems of nostalgia from video game history. We’ve seen it countless times over the last decade, whether it’s 90s classics like Crash Bandicoot (our 2017 winner), Resident Evil 2 (our 2019 winner) and Final Fantasy VII Remake (last year’s winner), or sprucing up more modern games from the 2000s and 2010s.
It’s the younger generation that wins out here, with our winner seeking to reach a wider audience than it managed the first time round.
The original NieR was perhaps the very definition of a cult title. Released in 2010 and met with middling reviews and sales, it nevertheless caught the imagination of enough gamers to become a sleeper hit. Some of these fans were already familiar with director Yoko Taro’s eclectic mix of genres and complex storytelling whilst others went on to seek out his earlier Drakengard titles. The breakthrough success of NieR Automata in 2017 brought a whole new audience to the series and lead to this year’s remastered version.
Nier Replicant Ver.1.22474487139 took the original and made it more palatable for our current times. While it refused to change the core aspects of combat or the need for repeated playthroughs, the whole experience has been tightened up with a ton of quality of life improvements, a rerecorded and remixed version of the greatest soundtrack in the history of gaming (don’t @ me on that one, it’s the stone cold truth). Add in an extra chapter that delves into the events following the original game and you have a remaster that makes the original redundant.
– Steve C
Mass Effect Legendary Edition – Runner Up
Mass Effect Legendary Edition repackages an iconic trilogy into an updated bundle that takes advantage of current tech. The visuals look modern with character models improved, 4K resolution, better environment textures, and the Mako handling being less janky. Everything from the original releases is here (aside from multiplayer and Pinnacle station) so you get near enough the full and excellent story experience. Improvements to gameplay and consistency of mechanics across the three games makes the whole experience much smoother compared to the original versions of the game too. Mass Effect Legendary Edition brings the series to a modern time, and is all the better for it.
– Aran S
Resident Evil 4 VR – Runner Up
There had been rumours and suggestions of a remake of Resident Evil 4 circling around for years now (despite it being available on every system under the sun), but there was genuine surprise when it was announced as a system exclusive for the Quest 2 VR headset.
Early videos were promising but even the most optimistic of fans was blown away by how the game was adapted into VR. The classic storyline and gameplay remain imperious, but it’s the sense of immersion and action created by being ‘in’ the game that makes this an unparalleled experience in gaming this year. To be inside the shoes of Leon S Kennedy and explore the levels of what is often held up as one of the greatest games of all time is a genuine revelation. The over the top wackiness and graphics suit the format perfectly and the ability to mess around in the game world adds so much. Whether it’s throwing eggs at plagas then throwing your gun from one hand to another before blasting them in the face or even typing on the iconic savegame typewriters, there are just so many moments that stand out. That being said, having to endure the item box snakes in VR can get in the bin!
– Steve C
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
What was your personal favourite of the year? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to stick with us through the rest of this month as we tick our categories off one by one.