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
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
Lake was love at first sight for me. I had the most euphoric time with the demo for this mail-carrying walking sim, and trust me when I say you cannot fathom the number of times I've listened to the soundtrack just to feel something. I haven't even played it yet and I'm already so grateful to the Gamious team that put it together. I know it's going to be special to play, and I can't wait to hop in my mail truck and explore this familiar virtual rendition of my home state. You'll be delighted (I hope) to know that I finally get to play this game and share it with you all at 3 p.m. TODAY, Saturday, Jan. 29! Join the full playthrough stream at twitch.tv/Naetoid.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits was another day one interest for both Nate and I. It comes from Ember Lab, a team with an animation background — and it shows. I have such high hopes for this cinematic-looking game, and I'm a sucker for anything dealing in forest spirits and healing corrupted worlds. Keep an eye out for a full playthrough stream of Kena later in February as well!
Games we cried to at 4 a.m.
Nate | Minute of Islands
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
Unpacking explores the sacredness of the mundane. It tells a person's story through the process of unpacking the accumulated items that make up a life, and an exploration of the spaces that we fit ourselves into and seek to belong in. It was a reminder that commonplace objects can hold so much history, just by traveling with us and sitting on a shelf or in a drawer. My playthrough in the middle of a sleep-deprived 24-hour livestream had me MISTY, I tell ya.
Games that brought us together: Co-op faves
Nate | Splitgate
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
We were spoiled with games that let us go a-viking in 2021, spending lots of late night sessions in Valheim, and most recently, satisfying runs in Tribes of Midgard. Tribes has such a great gameplay loop. I love the tower defense elements: upgrading your village's strongholds and collecting souls for the seed of Yggdrasil, slamming through Helthings and gargantuan Jötnar. I find this game challenging... in a way that I like. Kind of like when I play Don't Starve Together, I never expect for things to go too well, and we still haven't even tackled the season bosses. But even just the grind to survive is entertaining (much moreso than in real life).
Characters we most wanted to be friends with
Nate | Lipless from Guardians of the Galaxy
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
He's my friend. He's my coach. He rocks a sweatband. He encourages me to say "no" to bullshit requests and bulldozer bosses. We can all use a pal like that.
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.