In any given year, there's a likely one or two, maybe three, games that are going to easily take up most awards. The one big consensus pick or two among pretty much all media. This year, winners are all over the place, which makes watching it unfold exciting. It's not wide open due to a lack of stellar games either, as there are some definite strong contenders. Here are our nominees and the winner of Game of the Year, given to the best game of the year, whose sum of its parts is greater than any other.
Our nominees (all other award categories can be found here):
- Deathloop (Our Review)
- The Forgotten City (Our Review)
- Halo Infinite (Our Review)
- It Takes Two
- Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy (Our Review)
- Metroid Dread (Our Review)
- Psychonauts 2 (Our Review)
- Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (Our Review)
- Resident Evil Village (Our Review)
- Shin Megami Tensei V (Our Review)
Readers' Choice Winner - Halo Infinite
Developer: 343 Industries | Release Date: December 8, 2021
It's been a while since Halo fans have had a big win, but they finally do with Halo Infinite. The biggest reason why? Well, Halo, by most people's estimation, feels like Halo again. Even with some stumbles with multiplayer progression and the story needs some work, the gameplay more than makes up for it. The gunplay is as fantastic as ever and the new additions to the Halo arsenal are fun as hell.
Fifth Place - Deathloop
Developer: Arkane Studios | Release Date: September 14, 2021
Written by Austin Suther
Arkane is a developer that takes risks. They create games that may not appeal to everyone (the immersive sim genre can be a hard sell), but every risk pays off. This is no different for Deathloop.
Where I believe Deathloop excels the most is in its gameplay. Admittedly, it takes several hours of play before you get into the groove of things, but once you’re given a nice set of weapons and supernatural powers, the fun factor multiplies tenfold. With a huge variety of different powers and a nice selection of weapons, there’s a massive degree of freedom to tackle Blackreef’s challenges, so it’s hard to find some sort of build that doesn’t resonate with you.
All these powers are used in order to unravel a mystery with a lot of depth, humor, and intrigue. Top-notch dialogue and voice acting combined with incredible visual design and thrilling gameplay makes Deathloop a blast to play.
Fourth Place - Resident Evil Village
Developer: Capcom | Release Date: May 1, 2021
Written by Jackson Wery
The ninth mainline game in the Resident Evil series, Resident Evil Village captivated millions ahead of its release. We must address the elephant-sized woman in the room. Despite Lady Dimitrescu's ultimately minor role in the story, she eclipsed the cast in popularity and became a massive Internet phenomenon. Coupled with gorgeous visuals and much-improved enemy variety over its predecessor, Resident Evil Village was a strong contender for our Game of the Year pick.
Resident Evil Village also wraps up the series arc begun in the previous game, making them something of a duology. Antagonist Mother Miranda's lore ties nicely back into the origins of the series. Chris Redfield's crusade against bioterrorism still has a long way to go, and we're here waiting to see where the series takes us next.
Third Place - It Takes Two
Developer: Hazelight Studios | Release Date: March 26, 2021
Written By Lee Mehr
Following the success of Hazelight's first mandatory cooperative game, A Way Out, Josef Fares and crew stuck to that fascinating concept in TechRaptor's 2nd runner-up for Game of the Year. From beginning to end, It Takes Two feels like a full-course meal of fun ideas and none of them overstay their welcome. Although some are played up more for fun's sake, several settings also explore the dual protagonists' ambitions, hobbies, and past feelings for each other too. Everything has a purpose to keep you engaged with the world and these characters.
Cody and May aren't exactly popular choices for player-characters either; in fact, a few other critics I follow have reservations about the story – especially its tone at some points. But when you reach the end credits and internalize the full scope of this journey, there's much more than you'd expect. Two distant people at the beginning preparing for divorce and child custody schedules will have well-defined flaws not typical for a "Best Family Game" Nominee/Winner on The Game Awards' list. It takes creative confidence to bet all of your chips on the long game with such characters, and it paid off incredibly well.
Tied with creative gameplay and storytelling ambitions is a presentational expertise that punches above its weight too. From this to Kena: Bridge of Spirits, 2021 continues to show that talented artists can find ways for middle-market titles to stick out just as well as any big blockbuster. With fun ideas, creative solutions, and a stalwart confidence to carry them out, It Takes Two earns its place among other prestigious games of this year.
Second Place - Halo Infinite
Developer: 343 Industries | Release Date: December 8, 2021
Written By Andrew Stretch
Chief is back and in fine fighting form. With the Halo story leaving us in such a questionable place, Halo Infinite had a big fight ahead of it. With boots on the surface of a new Halo ring and a revamp of gameplay allowing Chief to explore a sizeable open world, Halo Infinite did not disappoint fans. Multiplayer becoming free-to-play has also given a huge shot of adrenaline to the community as players dive into competitive battles across a variety of locations.
Whether on controller, or keyboard and mouse, what's overall important about Halo in the campaign or multiplayer is that it feels good. Halo Infinite hasn't managed to nail every aspect at launch as some strange campaign choices or battle pass decisions have fans scratching their heads, but 343 Industries has also showed us in the few short weeks since launch how adaptable they are. The future looks bright for Halo Infinite.
Winner - Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy
Developer: Eidos-Montréal | Release Date: October 26, 2021
Written By Andrew Otton
No other game in recent memory has been as big of a surprise as Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. The trailers made it look like this would be fairly standard AAA fare that would be enjoyable but not overly remarkable, which was my initial impression. Good for some laughs but not much more. Not only is Guardians constantly hilarious, Eidos-Montreal took it a step further, offering up one of the most careful, mature, and realistic explorations of themes like loss, trauma, family, and so much more in gaming.
The Guardians are funny, capable, and wholesome, while also being flawed, selfish, and arrogant. Guardians spends a lot of time exploring why the characters are who they are, often going beyond a trite backstory explained in a quick dialogue cutscene. Some of the game's biggest obstacles aren't all about blasting your way through some adrenaline-filled explosionfest (though there's definitely that too), but helping a character through an emotional introspective moment as a core belief or pillar of their personality is challenged. Learning what makes this band of misfits tick and how they come to form their own family with one another is one of gaming's best stories.
Of course, there's more to Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy than the fantastic writing. Playing through the game is a constant delight with awesome character moments, gorgeous set pieces, and a ton of mayhem. The combat's enjoyment may taper off towards the end, but with just how much great stuff is going on around you, there's a good chance you won't notice.
I said it in my review, and I want to expand it some here: Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is the best Marvel game to date, and I think there's a fair argument it outshines almost any other project in this new era of Marvel.