As we prepare to consign 2021 to the history books, it’s finally time for us reveal our overall winner for Game of the Year 2021.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve highlighted and celebrated some of the very best games that have released through the past twelve months. We’ve branded Death’s Door as the Best Independent Game, held up It Takes Two as a rip-roaring multiplayer adventure, and praised Before Your Eyes for its innovative storytelling. There’s just one thing left to do, and that’s to crown the overall winner.
It’s been a strange old year without a clear favourite. Unlike last year, where The Last of Us Part II dominated the conversation, 2021 has been less straight forward. There’s been great games, but nothing that has universally stood out from the field. You could put this down to the myriad of hugely anticipated games that have been delayed from this year to next, but to only look at what 2021 could have been would be a disservice to what was still a fantastic year for gaming thanks to technical innovation and the blossoming of new game ideas.
Without further ado, our overall Game of the Year 2021 is…
Deathloop is a game that almost effortlessly combines substance, style and gameplay throughout. Arkane are no strangers to the immersive sim gameplay, having refined it through the Dishonored series and Prey, but Deathloop takes this even further and throws in some new twists and ideas as you explore all the possibilities that it presents to you.
Every area on the island of Blackreef has a distinct look that feeds into the personality of the target that resides in it, and each area allows you to approach the mission to take these leaders out in different ways using powers and knowledge gained from previous attempts to help. You can explore at your own pace to pick out the island’s secrets and discover ways to attack your targets, with each loop providing more information than the last. At first you may feel a bit lost, but as you go through each loop you become more confident and more able to exploit each enemy’s weaknesses.
What really makes Deathloop stand out though is protagonist Cole and antagonist Julianna. Their relationship and the way they interact with each other is absolutely brilliant with the writing being solid. It is easily one of the best conflicting relationships in a game. Cole’s own dialogue as he speaks to himself to figure things out is also entertaining and funny. Add this relationship to an already stylish and fun experience with an interesting story, and you have real Game of the Year material.
– Aran S
Monster Hunter Rise – Runner Up
After years of being stuck as a cult favourite trapped on Nintendo’s handhelds, Monster Hunter finally broke through to the mainstream with the release of the cross-platform Monster Hunter World in 2018. How to follow up such success? Well, to go back to the warm embrace of Big N and make Monster Hunter Rise a Switch exclusive, of course. Even so, Monster Hunter Rise released to huge critical acclaim and swiftly became a series favourite, and with good reason.
Following many of the tried and tested mechanics of the series and benefiting from the streamlining aspects introduced in World, Rise brought its own new ideas to the table. Canine mounts known as Palamutes were added that could join you in battle as well as speed up your navigation of the environment. Ease of navigation was also helped through the wirebugs – multi-functional grapple hooks – the verticality that these introduced making exploring and combat feel refreshing and opened up even more strategies for taking down the gigantic stars of the game – the monsters.
There are currently 72 different monster types to take down and that’s even before the first major expansion is released next year. All in all, Rise is a triumphant return to Nintendo consoles and a fantastic follow up to World. With the PC release coming early in 2022, it’s quite likely that we’ll be seeing Rise return in next year’s awards too.
– Steve C
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – Runner Up
If you needed proof of what the PlayStation 5 and new generation of consoles can do, then Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is it. We know pretty much what to expect from a Ratchet & Clank game – solid platforming, ostentatious weaponry and combat, a family friendly story with some knowing winks for older players – and wrapped it around a new adventure that took advantage of the PS5’s new tricks.
Ray tracing? Yes, Rift Apart can do that (or not, if you prefer a higher frame rate). DualSense controller? Well, let’s make the most of those haptics and adaptive triggers to add to the feel of all of the wild and wonderful weapons. Oh, and that super speed SSD will let levels load really, really, really quickly, right? Well… let’s make this an inter-dimensional adventure with show-stopping action set pieces that show what’s possible.
This is a fine game in its own right, but perhaps best thing is that this is just Insomniac’s first attempt at a PS5 exclusive. Just imagine what awaits a few years into this generation…
Halo Infinite – Runner Up
After the year-long delay and the rumours of development hell, Halo Infinite has no right to be as good as it is. Sure, there’s missing features like campaign co-op and Forge mode, the free to play multiplayer is mired by a few key technical issues and onerous monetisation, and yet… Halo Infinite is just a lot of fun!
343 Industries has finally found a good balance between the classic Bungie era of Halo and the pace and fluidity of modern first person shooters. The campaign introduces a broader open world form that works surprisingly well, while telling a story that welcomes players back without necessarily sending them to a Wiki recap of Halo 4 and Halo 5, and the feel of the core gameplay is just sublime. That last point transfers so well to the multiplayer as well, both with its arena modes and the Big Team Battle (when it isn’t suffering from incessant matchmaking errors).
There’s promises to be kept by 343 in 2022, but we’re looking forward to what comes next in this new 10 year voyage for the Halo franchise.
Hitman 3 – Runner Up
Putting the capstone on the World of Assassination trilogy, IO Interactive didn’t need to reinvent the wheel for Agent 47’s continuing story, but that didn’t stop them from finding new and unexpected ways to play with it. The fundamental foundations of Hitman 3’s gameplay remained the same and a seemingly straightforward set of six new levels awaited, but amongst them were some of the most inventive twists on the Hitman formula we’ve ever seen, flipping the script with the Dartmoor and Berlin levels in particular.
Of course, there’s also the way that previous content has been updated, Hitman 3 letting you import the previous two games’ levels and adding new weapons, outfits and gameplay to them. Oh, and the whole thing is playable in PSVR. Fantastic!
To catch up on the Game of the Year awards we’ve handed out so far, here’s a handy list!
- Best Ongoing Game
- Best Remake/Remaster
- Best Multiplayer Game
- Best Visual Design
- Best Original Soundtrack
- Best Independent Game
- Best Gameplay
- Best Narrative
- Best Single Player
- Best VR Game
- Best PC Game
- Best Nintendo Switch Game
- Best Xbox Game
- Best PlayStation Game
- Biggest Disappointment
And that’s a wrap. Do you agree with our many and varied awards and winners? What about the overall Game of the Year?