Games are sticking around longer than ever now, which comes with some good and some bad. Thankfully, there's a lot of good out there, which we want to highlight here. Here are our nominees and the winner of our Best Expansion/DLC Award for the best piece of additional content to an existing game.
Our nominees (all other award categories can be found here):
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Happy Home Paradise
- Bowser's Fury (Our Review)
- Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade
- Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker
- Ghost of Tsushima: Iki Island
Readers' Choice Winner - Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade
Developer: Square Enix | Release Date: June 10, 2021
If the base game wasn't evidence enough, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is all the confirmation you need that the current Final Fantasy gameplay formula just works. Fighting as Yuffie with all the other updates and graphical upgrades is a delight, leaving us all hoping the next part comes out soon.
Third Place - Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker
Developer: Square Enix | Release Date: December 7, 2021
Written By Joseph Allen
Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers was a high watermark not only for Final Fantasy XIV but for the long-running JRPG series as a whole. Emotionally complex, hugely rewarding, and shocking in places, Shadowbringers surpassed expectations, renewing interest in XIV after the somewhat underwhelming Stormblood. After the runaway success of that expansion, many worried that Endwalker, the new expansion serving as a conclusion to the ten-year saga of Final Fantasy XIV’s Hydaelyn arc, couldn’t possibly measure up. They needn’t have worried. Endwalker is a triumph from start to finish.
Nobody could accuse Endwalker of playing it safe, either. Familiar characters and elements, both from XIV and from the franchise in general, are placed into new and interesting settings and given the chance to shine one by one. Yoshida himself intimated that fans would be surprised at where Endwalker takes its story, and there are one or two new areas that feel genuinely shocking. It helps that the game is also beautiful; from the empty, snowy wastes of Garlemald through to the vibrant city of Radz-At-Han, Endwalker has plenty to see.
Gameplay-wise, things have been streamlined, too. The new Reaper and Sage jobs slot nicely into the existing class canon, giving healers a more complex job to wrap their heads around and letting melee DPS lovers let loose. A number of small changes have been made to equipment systems, the HUD, and combat, but the real joy is in experiencing the new ways in which Yoshida and company challenge you to use the tools at your disposal against bosses. Endwalker is every bit Shadowbringers’ equal, and while the superior expansion is down to personal preference, this is a rewarding, tear-jerking send-off for the Scions’ saga.
Second Place - Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Happy Home Paradise
Developer: Nintendo | November 5, 2021
Written By Brittni Finley
When Animal Crossing: Happy Home Paradise was first announced, it came as a huge surprise to fans who were anticipating only Brewster and his cafe inside the museum, The Roost. Following suit of Animal Crossing's Happy Home Designer spinoff, which downplays the social simulation elements and replaces them with additional house design mechanics, Happy Home Paradise takes players to a faraway island to design vacation homes for interested villagers. While doing so, players learn several new techniques such as polishing furniture, changing room sizes, and creating partition walls that they can eventually bring back to their base island.
Instead of paying the player in Bells for their service as a vacation home designer, they get paid in Poki, which allows them access to brand-new furniture items sold in the Happy Home office. The Happy Home Paradise DLC addresses a number of fan requests, including more furniture, more design freedom, and the ability to configure outdoor settings with ease, resulting in a major resurgence of players and a revival of interest.
Winner - Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade
Developer: Square Enix | Release Date: June 10, 2021
Written By Samuel Guglielmo
Final Fantasy VII Remake was easily one of my favorite things to come out of 2020. It's just such a fantastically amazing remake of a beloved classic that revitalized my interest in the game in a way no other really has managed to do. However, it's just the Midgar segment of the original game. There's so much more that I want to see. While we may be waiting some time for that, Square Enix held us over with Intergrade.
Broken into two parts, the majority of Intergrade is a new expansion chapter called Intermission, starring none other than famous badass ninja girl Yuffie. She has an entirely unique play style that is really fun to mess around with, having you combine rapid melee attacks with unique magic abilities. You also team up with the staff-wielding Sonon, doing team attacks against all-new enemies and bosses that make the combat system more fun than ever. The whole expansion is about seven hours, and I loved every second of it.
Even if you don't care about Yuffie's chapter, there's some extra new content for the base game. The biggest addition? Adding Weiss the Immaculate, the very dumb villain from the very dumb Dirge of Cerebus, as a bonus super boss. It's a great fight and worth the price of admission alone. However, there's also a new summon, upgraded graphics, the game runs at 60fps now, and the ending goes a little longer.
Also, Fort Condor is the best mini-game in the Final Fantasy series in a long time. I will take zero questions about that. I want to play more of it right now, and if a mobile game of just Fort Condor was released I would not be able to stop playing it.