The Honest Gamer Awards – 2021

2021 has been an incredible year for gaming, with so many high quality releases from AAA to Indie alike. I’ve managed to play even more games in 2021 than in 2020. Just like last year, I wanted to acknowledge and shine light on the best of the best in a number of categories to form my own awards, The Honest Gamer Awards. But first, let’s give a list of of all the games released this year that I’ve managed to complete.

1.) The Pillar: Puzzle Escape18.) Boyfriend Dungeon
2.) Maquette19.) Hermitage: Strange Case Files
3.) Bravely Default 220.) Echo Generation
4.) Chess Knights: Viking Lands21.) Kena: Bridge of Spirits
5.) Paradise Lost22.) Unpacking
6.) NieR Replicant23.) The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes
7.) Returnal24.) Forza Horizon 5
8.) Resident Evil Village25.) Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars
9.) Alba: A Wildlife Adventure26.) Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl
10.) ESO: Blackwood27.) Townscaper
11.) Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury28.) Exo One
12.) Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart29.) Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
13.) The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles30.) Halo Infinite
14.) The Medium31.) Archvale
15.) Tales of Arise32.) The Gunk
16.) Merek’s Market33.) Psychonauts 2
17.) Life is Strange: True Colors34.) Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One

As you can see, I’ve managed to experience a wide array of titles, so without further ado, let’s get started with the awards!

Best Narrative – Life is Strange: True Colors

So many of the winners this year were difficult to narrow down and pick, and Best Narrative was no exception. Psychonauts 2 weaves a smart tale with themes of mental health, while Tales of Arise tells an epic story that spans worlds. However, if there is one narrative that left the biggest impact on me, it would have to be Life is Strange: True Colors. The series is known for crafting emotional stories with relatable protagonists, and that shines in the latest entry. It’s beautiful, tackles some really tough subject matter, as well as stuff that hit home for me. It’s an emotional roller coaster to say the least.

Other Nominees:

  • Tales of Arise
  • NieR Replicant
  • Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Psychonauts 2
  • The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

Best Music – NieR Replicant

We have had some breathtaking soundtracks this year from video games. I went back and forth so much on who I thought deserved the award for Best Music, but it ends up going to NieR Replicant. Keiichi Okabe always delivers such hauntingly beautiful scores in games, including the Drakengard and NieR series. That legacy continues in this remake. Okabe is able to capture the tone of each scene and setting perfectly, ranging from uplifting songs, to unnerving melodies.

Other Nominees:

  • Bravely Default 2
  • Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl (Pokemon is heavily underrated when it comes to music)
  • Halo Infinite
  • Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Tales of Arise

Best Audio Design – Resident Evil Village

Best Audio just had to go to a horror game, as it’s always pivotal to the whole experience. Resident Evil Village is a masterclass in audio design. Whether you’re wondering the dungeons of Castle Dimitrescu, scouring the ruined village, or edging in fear through House Beneviento, the audio is designed perfectly to create the intended atmosphere, which is mostly dread and unease. Village is one of the best in the series, and it’s audio design is part of the reason.

Other Nominees:

  • Returnal
  • Unpacking
  • The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes
  • Forza Horizon 5
  • Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart

Best RPG – Tales of Arise

2021 has been incredible for JRPGs in particular. But while there have been plenty of great ones, there has really only been a single phenomenal release, that is Tales of Arise. Its story is absolutely epic, with a brilliant cast of characters. The combat is highly addictive, and it rarely got boring, even after 40-50 hours of play. The music and visuals are also standouts. In my review, I said it was one of the best JRPGs in over a decade, and I stand by that comment.

Other Nominees:

  • Bravely Default 2
  • NieR Replicant
  • Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl
  • Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars

Best Combat – Halo Infinite

One word – Grappleshot. Whoever made the decision to include this in the game deserves a raise. Not only does this massively improve traversal, but it also gives combat a significant boost and greater depth. There’s so much to fights in this latest entry of the iconic franchise. With a variety of weapons and abilities you can use, vehicles to control, this alone makes combat versatile. But the grapeshot provides a huge amount of verticality to combat, as well as being able to pull things like weapons, explosive canisters, and enemies around. It’s insanely fun and satisfying.

Other Nominees:

  • Tales of Arise
  • Returnal
  • Bravely Default 2
  • NieR Replicant

Best Art Direction – Psychonauts 2

From the photo-realism of Forza Horizon 5, to stunning art-style of Kena: Bridge of Spirits, there has been so much amazing visuals in games this year. However, it’s Psychonauts 2 that stands out from the rest with its genius level design and bizarre visual-style. Character models remind me a lot of the sculpted look from stop-motion films like Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline. It’s a very unique style that fits the wacky tone. The varied and memorable level design is similarly brilliant.

Other Nominees:

  • Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
  • Tales of Arise
  • Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Forza Horizon 5
  • Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Best Puzzle/Casual Game – The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is one unforgettable mystery adventure. Not only are the stories for each individual case thrilling, but they fit into the overarching narrative with such ease. The characters you meet are so brilliantly written, even the hilarious Herlock Sholmes is much more than the comical surface. In addition, the gameplay and puzzles are designed in such a way that it really makes the player feel smart when you figure out certain mysteries and discrepancies, sometimes much earlier than needed. It all works together to create an engaging experience from start to finish, and what an emotional and riveting finish it is.

Other Nominees:

  • Maquette
  • Unpacking
  • Paradise Lost
  • Alba: A Wildlife Adventure
  • Life is Strange: True Colors

Best Indie Game – Unpacking

Unpacking is a game that completely came out of nowhere. I thought that Kena would be a shoe-in for Best Indie Game, but the former came from under to clinch the win. This a charming and heartfelt experience that not only provides deeply satisfying gameplay, but a subtle story and message that will stick with you long after. The puzzle-like nature of unpacking various boxes and placing countless objects in their right place is oddly fun. The audio design and zen soundtrack accompanies this addictive gameplay loop for a relaxing 3-5 hours. You can read my full review here!

Other Nominees:

  • Kena Bridge of Spirits
  • Maquette
  • Alba: A Wildlife Adventure
  • Echo Generation

Most Anticipated Game – Elden Ring

There are so many incredible games on the horizon (pun intended), but my most anticipated has to go to Elden Ring. The latest title from the critically acclaimed studio, FromSoftware, Elden Ring looks to be yet another huge success. With lore/world-building written by George R.R. Martin, it’s looking to be an epic fantasy adventure with all the challenge FromSoftware games are known for. I just cannot wait to get stuck in and get lost in the open world and see everything it has to offer. Just thinking of what unbelievable bosses could be lying in wait has me excited. Bring on February 25th!

Other Nominees:

  • Hogwarts Legacy
  • Horizon Forbidden West
  • Final Fantasy XVI
  • LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  • God of War: Ragnarok

Best Action/Adventure – Psychonauts 2

Psychonauts 2 really did surprise me a lot. I hadn’t played the first game, so this title wasn’t on my radar at all. It was only after hearing all the praise it was getting did I decide to try it out as it was on Game Pass. I am so glad that I did. With a compelling story, genius writing, excellent level design, and visuals that stand out from the crowd, Psychonauts 2 is everything you want in a video game.

Other Nominees:

  • Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart
  • Resident Evil Village
  • Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Halo Infinite
  • Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Game of the Year – Psychonauts 2

I mentioned earlier that picking winners for the different awards was incredibly difficult. That isn’t more apparent than with GOTY. Unlike last year where Ori and the Will of the Wisps was the clear winner by a mile, deciding this year was a real struggle. But in the end, Psychonauts 2 just edges ahead to be The Honest Gamer GOTY. There’s not much else I can add to what I’ve already said, other than play this game for yourself. It might just surprise you as much as it did me!

Other Nominees:

  • Tales of Arise
  • Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
  • Resident Evil Village
  • The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
  • Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

That’s it folks! I’ll say it again, 2021 has been a brilliant year for gaming, one of the best for a while. Psychonauts 2 really came out of nowhere and stood out, but it had incredibly tough competition. Now 2021 was incredible, but 2022 is already looking to be even better, and I cannot wait for the countless exciting releases that are in store.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed gaming in 2021 as much as I did!

4 thoughts on “The Honest Gamer Awards – 2021

Add yours

  1. Infinitely more interesting than the game awards part of the actual Game Awards show. 🙂 I already thought so, but… I *really* need to give Psychonauts 2 a go at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

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