Announcing the VGG Game of the Year Nominees!
During the 24-hour VGG Cozy Gamers Campout celebration stream, we debuted our inaugural Game of the Year nominees with a special announcement video.
We built it to honor our favorite games from 2021 properly, to showcase just how each game landed in our inaugural GOTY nomination pool, and to preview what VGG video content could look like moving forward.
We put a lot of work into making this a big deal (and it is! Our first ever GOTY Awards!) and we'd love for folks to share this far and wide, and of course to check out the amazing games that make up our nominee class.
The video is embedded below alongside its full transcript.
We hope you enjoy!
2021, much like its predecessor, was a strange year for gaming. Quarantine life never quite ended, anticipated games were delayed as a result, and more recently, we’re discovering that games industry leadership is increasingly lacking a moral compass.
But, even with everything against them, game developers around the world managed to release a crop of games so damn good, that it forced us to start video games are good just to make sure these works of art didn’t get lost in the conversation.
The games in our inaugural Game of the Year nominee class are pinnacles of art and design. They tell worthwhile stories, their systems and mechanics are deeply engaging, and they resonated with us long after we were finished playing. In short, these video games… are good. Really good.
Without further ado, we’re proud to present the 2021 Video Games are Good Game of the Year nominees...
Death’s Door - Developed by Acid Nerve
The best things in life really do come in small packages. Playing as gaming’s most adorable little bird, Death’s Door has you reaping souls and making friends in the afterlife like it’s nobody’s business. With high adrenaline dodge-rollin’ action gameplay and a surprisingly lively world, Acid Nerve managed to craft one of the year’s best action-adventure releases. Pair that with David Fenn’s soaring, moody soundtrack and a surprising amount of genuine humor and you’ve got all the ingredients for one of our favorite games of 2021. It’s easy to recommend spending some time knocking on Death’s Door.
Little Nightmares II - Developed by Tarsier Studios
You can keep all your zombies and ghosts. All I need is one stretchy necked lady in an abandoned school and I become a whimpering mess, sweating in all the wrong places. One of the hardest things to do in horror is to build a sequel that not only honors its roots but keeps the fear factor cranked to 11. Little Nightmares II accomplishes that in spades. No puzzle platformer has ever made us as tense to nail a jump. No horror game has made our skin crawl as much as Little Nightmares II’s freakos and fear-inducing stealth. And that is something worth celebrating… I think.
Before Your Eyes - Developed by Goodbyeworld Games
No thumbs needed for this emotional journey. Just your eyes. Utilizing an inventive webcam-based system, Before Your Eyes uses your actual real-life eye blinks to progress you through a bittersweet story about life, death, and what comes after. Choose to live in the moment or just blink... and you’ll miss it. Literally. This one mechanic fuels one of the most immersive gaming experiences we’ve ever had. You're placed behind someone’s eyes and asked what you’d do with their life. Before your eyes close for good, we wholly recommend you dive into this impactful story told in a series of dreamlike memories.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart - Developed by Insomniac Games
Insomniac Games is a studio of magicians. We’re convinced. All within the PS5’s first year of life, they remastered a game, released its sequel, announced two new games, and released our next nominee, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. This game stands as one of the only true next-gen releases of the year. Utilizing every single part of the PS5’s unique hardware, Rift Apart provides an experience that is equal parts nostalgic and cutting-edge. Wacky weapons, dimensional shenanigans, and painfully emotional robo-stories. Rift Apart has it all and if you somehow nabbed a PS5, you NEED to play this game.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale - Developed by Greg Lobanov, Alexis Dean-Jones, Lena Raine, Madeline Berger, A Shell in the Pit
Staring at a blank page is intimidating for artists of all forms. The potential for what your work could become and the looming stress of missing the mark. It’s overwhelming. But in its opening moments, staring at the partially blank pages of Chicory - A Colorful Tale, I felt no pause. I only felt a welcoming opportunity. And as I journeyed through the coloring book lands of Picnic Province, that feeling persisted. It’s cozy but not afraid to get into the emotional weeds. Its main painting mechanic is simple but utilized brilliantly all throughout. Chicory encourages you to engage with art in a brand new way and we encourage you to engage with Chicory as soon as possible.
Returnal - Developed by Housemarque
Live. Die. Repeat. Housemarque has spent a long time trying to find something to latch onto to bring them success. But with each new release dead in the water financially, they felt like giving up. Instead, though, they chose to take those experiences and head back into the mines to make something new. Eventually, they struck gold. And that gold was... Returnal. This cosmic horror shooter is unflinchingly difficult and deeply interesting. Its purposefully obscure story and hard-to-master gameplay systems are worth throwing yourself at over and over and over. You might not win, but you’ll certainly Live, Die, Repeat. And you’ll have a damn good time doing it.
The Forgotten City - Developed by Modern Storyteller
Born out of a Skyrim mod of old, The Forgotten City is for the charmers. For gamers who prefer to talk their way out of a situation over the more… hands-on approach. This murder mystery time-looping adventure has you traipsing about a cursed ancient city where even one sin means death for all of its inhabitants. As you progress, each new time loops layers on new mysteries and asks more questions. What results is a windy mess of a story that, when unraveled properly, leaves you with one thing and one thing only. An epic of a story, worthy of being told amongst Roman and Greek greats.
Inscryption - Developed by Daniel Mullins Games
In an industry that operates so heavily under tradition and expectations, every once in a while, games like Inscryption come along and shake you awake. This horror deck-building card battler is hard to nail down, thanks to the signature stylings of expectation destroyer Daniel Mullins. It bends genres to its will and tells stories of control, conspiracy, and card gaming fascination. And it’s constantly fighting against you. But at its core, it’s just a card game. And it's a damn good one. Its inky black darkness might frighten you with things hidden just out of sight, but take a chance and draw a card or two and we promise you’ll enjoy sitting at Inscryption’s unsettling table.
It Takes Two - Developed by Hazelight Studios
Nothing beats a good couch co-op game. Hazelight Studios and their… let’s say rambunctious director, Josef Fares, have fought HARD to keep the couch co-op genre alive for years. Only with It Takes Two have they found the perfect narrative and gameplay synergy needed to take the concept to the next level. By exploring the cracks in a relationship via co-op puzzles and platforming challenges that truly engage both players, they've stumbled upon a blueprint that all co-op games should follow from this point forward. With its constantly evolving gameplay elements, co-op hasn’t really been done better in our opinion. And that earns it a spot in our nominees.
Picking just one game out of these nine is a nearly impossible task. But only one shall prevail in VGG’s first-ever GOTY Awards! Check back in at videogamesgood.com in December to see who stands above the rest when the dust settles.