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  • Writer's pictureJulie Cooper

The VGG 2021 Game Awards

We're as ready as anyone to close the chapter on 2021 and set it aside. But we also want to shine a light on the year's more glittering moments before we do.

It was an amazing gaming year for us. In addition to the hustle and bustle of navigating VGG's first year, pandemic life offered (and frankly, sometimes necessitated) a whole lot more gaming downtime to unwind from the daily horrors, burnout, and fatigue. But personal gaming-as-an-emotional-crutch tendencies aside... games released this year were just so astoundingly good.

We've already shared our official Video Games are Good GOTY nominees, but there are so many others that offered much-needed levity in 2021. Before we reveal our ultimate GOTY winner, we simply can't go on without sharing them. We hope that these special games make it into a few more lives before we move on to the next onrush of never-ending titles.

And I'm sure we're not alone in this — we couldn't get our hands on every amazing game we wanted to play this year. Short on time. Short on money. Short on motivation. There are always going to be barriers that force us to put off even our most anticipated games for a while. So to keep them fresh on our own minds, and hopefully yours too, we're also highlighting some of the ones that got away in 2021.

We'll be sharing these GOTY Honorable Mentions the best way we know how. Together! Read on for 2021 gaming highlights from your VGG writing and editorial staff, Julie and Nate.


The ones that got away: Best games we didn't play (yet)

Nate | Psychonauts 2 and Metroid Dread

Key art for Psychonauts 2. Protagonist Razputin, a boy with thin limbs and bright pink goggles, poses with one hand in front of him while standing on a platform. Behind him are tree-lined cliffs and the background is swirled with a psychedelic green pattern with another character's face in it.

The two games that just missed me in 2021 are weirdly similar. Two franchises returning with a brand new take on fairly old-school core gameplay loops. One in a series near and dear to my heart, the other in a series I've always respected despite only REALLY playing a few of its titles.

Psychonauts 2 was one of my most anticipated games... since it was announced in 2015. The idea of reinhabiting the psychic goggles of Razputin and spending some more time in Double Fine's beautifully demented world is a dream, and it's honestly one of my greatest shames that I haven't already played this game.

Having mainly played the GBA Metroid releases and basically skipped the Prime series, Metroid Dread seemed like the best way possible for me to return to Samus's world. Since earning its status as a genre-definer, Metroid has been chasing after its glory days — and it sounds like Dread finally reinstated its place in the gaming landscape.

Julie | Lake and Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Games we cried to at 4 a.m.

Nate | Minute of Islands

A screenshot from Minute of Islands. The sky is streaked with shades of dark blues and puffy clouds. A small girl with dark hair and a yellow dress and boots stands on a cliff looking out over the sea and there are sparse pine trees behind her.

Minute of Islands tells the story of a person who puts everything on their shoulders, shuts out the world around them, and finds themselves incredibly overwhelmed emotionally as a result... I mean, I wish I could relate, but I only really cried at the end because of allergies or something.

Julie | Unpacking

Games that brought us together: Co-op faves

Nate | Splitgate

A promo image for Splitgate game. A first person shooter view shows hands holding a white gun on a space station-like map, with a blue platform that has a shiny purple portal open on it.

When I first started playing Splitgate with Julie, I saw it as a perfect way to wait and prepare for Halo Infinite. It'd be a charming diversion before the big guns hit at the end of the year. And then we kept playing. And then Halo came out and I dropped it just as quickly as I picked it up. And I kept playing Splitgate. And I want to keep playing Splitgate. Because it's so damn good.

Julie | Tribes of Midgard

Characters we most wanted to be friends with

Nate | Lipless from Guardians of the Galaxy

A screenshot from Guardians of the Galaxy video game. A light tan alien with red eyes, an anthropomorphic face, no lips covering his teeth, and a protruding collarbone and shoulders area, holds a gun.

Lipless is the kinda guy who is just good vibes. Sure.. he pulls a gun on you immediately. And double sure, if you mess up when singing his song you'll end up having to kill him. But he's just seeking companionship and I've never felt more reflected in a game.

Julie | Boundaries-enforcing coach from Say No! More

Curious where our Game of the Year 2021 reveal is? Well, as we shared above, stop by our Lake full playthrough stream at 3 p.m. PST and you just might get a little treat!

Thank you to all the developers who put in the time to craft these amazing games in truly unprecedented times. We don't exist without you.


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