GeeksVsGeeks 2021 GOTY AWARDS- Results

  As we draw 2021 to a close, we reflect on the year from a gaming perspective. There were a lot of ups and downs this year and also many su...


As we draw 2021 to a close, we reflect on the year from a gaming perspective. There were a lot of ups and downs this year and also many surprises. Big games did not live up to expectations, consoles were still very hard to get as well as GPU's. But there were also a lot of releases this year and if you sat back a moment and not get swept up in the hype there has been some golden gaming moments for almost everyone. Our choices this year do not encompass all the games we liked across many different systems or even ones we necessarily wrote about, but we went what came to us first because they impression the game left on us, for better or worse. This is not to say that games such as Rachet & Clank, Resident Evil:Village or Metroid:Dread worth not worth candidates. As I said from the start 2021 had games for every taste and every age. That said here are out picks for this year. 

Best Coop game

Winner: It Takes Two

Why did it win?

As controversial as its creator Josef Fares can be it is undeniable that his talent for game design, and especially coop game design is top tier. After earlier success with another coop game, A way out in which you played two criminals breaking out from prison, the studio focused on the complications of family relationships and divorce. With an inviting artstyle that resembles an animated movie and fantastic voice acting the game might look all cutesy and light hearted but it does not shy away from the gravity of divorce and broken people. And there is plenty to unpack as you go through the story. 

From a gameplay perspective the game delivers an almost immaculate experience, easy controls, and some unique cooperative puzzles and challenges. It is often hard to get a good coop game where it is not a half-baked add-on or within the (action) RPG realm, so to be served up a tailored coop experience that works so well is a treat. Add to that the bonus that your friend can play with you for free if you own the game and therefore eliminating the need to buy two copies and the game was a bonafide first class experience this year.

Other nominations:

Operation tango

Another unique game where co-op is built in from the top. Operation is an espionage-themed cooperative adventure challenging you and a friend to complete dangerous missions across the globe in a high-tech near-future world. As an exclusive team of two, you and your partner will become AGENT and HACKER, working in tandem to bring a high-tech global menace to its knees. Though unique and different, there were some moments of frustrations where the goal just was not clear, and we failed due to trial and error. Once a level was solved it was too easy to repeat so there was not as much replayability beyond switching roles. Combined with a short campaign this game was a fun experience you should check out, but not enough to take the top spot. 

Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance

Dark alliance came out with a mix of high as well as low expectations and ended up largely criticized for many things from presentation, lore, gameplay and performance. A good portion of its criticism was well founded and some of those issues have been addressed. We even recently saw some new content released. The lack of communication of the developer on what is happening with the game, lack of promised cross play and problematic online network issues many people passed on by or moved on. However, for us we stuck it out and despite its problems we became big fans of the game and we put hundreds of hours in it because at its core it is a fun hack and slash/shooter. It will forever be impossible to get a full party but if you have a coop buddy it is worth a few run throughs.

Best Adventure (Single Player) game

Winner: Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

Why did it win?

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy (MGotG) was a game viewed with some skepticism after the Game as a service release of Marvel's Avengers. With the same publisher behind this game worries were that a similar approach was going to be taken, add to that the fact the license did not cover the movie universe (MCU) and would not have resemblance to the actors in the movies and people were understandable careful. But what we got is a first class single player adventure with an interesting cast, a fun story line and great gameplay action. 

GOTG is a third person action-adventure game in which you take control of Star-Lord, aka Peter Quill, a space pirate, conman, and womanizer with a heart of gold covered in sarcasm. At this point he already established the Guardians with Rocket, Drax, Gamora and Groot but they are still early in their adventures and Peter still has to grow into his role as a front man and leader.  Quickly you run into trouble with the law but before you can wrestle your way out of the paperwork, legalities and perhaps some hard time in a cold cell you get thrown head-on into a full out threat to all of the universe.

Though GOTG is a group game you only control Star-lord, while the rest of your party mostly act by themselves. You can ask them to execute certain special abilities or use their powers in puzzles though and it is easy to do and works well for the majority of the time. Combining all their powers and yours in battle can create powerful combos and is visually pleasing action eye candy. The game is fairly long too and has an incredible amount of polish from the visuals and animations to the voice acting from a strong cast. The characters bicker and sneer at each other throughout the game really building their relationships. Complimented by a great soundtrack of 80's rock and even a unique album for the fake band "star-lord" peter quill's inspiration for the pseudonym. It was a surprise hit for us and enough to take this year's top spot as best adventure single player game.

Other nominations:

The Forgotten City

The Forgotten City is a game that was spawned from a Skyrim-mod with over 3 million downloads. Heavily driven by narrative, the city operates with one rule - the Golden Rule;  “The many shall suffer for the sins of the one”. If anyone in the city commits a crime; be it theft, philandering, murder… even something as simple as harmful intent - everyone will die. Your goal is to meet and converse with each of the 23 characters, help them with their issues, maybe even find a way to escape. With an intriguing story and the love the mod received this standalone version aimed to tailor a better experience to a larger audience. But issues such as no map, random load screen interrupting the flow of the game, confusing menus and issues if you veered away too much from the intended game path keep an otherwise interesting story and game experience from greatness.

Kena, Bridge of spirits

Kena, a young Spirit Guide, travels to an abandoned village in search of the sacred mountain shrine.  She struggles to uncover the secrets of this forgotten community hidden in an overgrown forest where wandering spirits are trapped. The game plays in a 3rd person perspective and is the first game made by Ember Lab. Their previous experience has been in animation, and it shows. The entire game is gorgeous, has cool designed characters and world. The story is interesting too, though at times feels a bit fractured but it still is engaging and drives the game forward. Overall, the game is not too hard until you fight any mid or end bosses who end up being insanely difficult, even on normal. Some people have put the difficulty on or above Souls games in comparison. Lucky you can change the difficulty down at any time if you get stuck, that is if your pride lets you. The game is fantastic and deserves a sequel so go check it out on the epic store on PlayStation. It even was a likely candidate to win this category until GOTG edged passed in last minute.

Best Indie game

Winner: Loop Hero

Why did it win?

In between the many copycats and games that are build on the same gameplay foundations Loop Hero brings a unique game with a rogue lite element to it but in a whole unique way. The game starts with an almost blank slate and a simple path you see from top down. Almost like a boardgame sitting on a table. Along the path your hero marches on. You see The lich has thrown the world into a timeless loop and plunged its inhabitants into never ending chaos. Wield an expanding deck of mystical cards to place enemies, buildings, and terrain along each unique expedition loop for the brave hero. As you remember things of the world you bring them back into reality but with it often some dark entities as well. It is up to you to balance the randomness of the game with tactical decisions in order to send your hero on a successful run. The walking and fighting largely plays out automatically but the decisions you make along the way will influence your success. After each loop you get to decide to pack it in and "permanently" remember things and keep what you earned, but it means the next time you start back from the beginning. Or you can push on deeper and find that lich at the end in an attempt to take him down. 

Much like FTL (Faster Than Light) Loop hero has simple mechanics with deep gameplay and an addictive gameplay loop (pun not intended). Despite its simple look it can suck you in for hours with both its lore and gameplay. The innovative approach to a new game combined with great execution and deep lore earned Loop Hero the top spot this year in our book.

Other nominations:

Hindsight 20/20

Hindsight 20/20: Wrath of the Raakshasa is an action RPG created by a small team of videogame veterans including BioWare and Sucker Punch veterans. In the game play the character Jehan who returns to his hometown of Champaner to make amends for his earlier mistakes only to find it ravaged by a virus and at war with a new nation and itself. Can you find a way to restore sanity while also redeeming yourself and deal with your fathers killing years earlier?  Armed with the power to turn back time and make different decisions you try to reclaim your destiny as well as that of your people.

The decisions you make on the way will determine the ultimate outcome. Each action has a reaction and bares its own consequences. 

The big selling point of Hindsight 20/20 is the morality system and how the story and the characters play out based on your actions. At one point I had an entire town chase me down, while I was trying to save them, they just did not agree with my methods. Another time I thought I did everything right, just to get informed my actions caused an entire other civilization to be wiped out. Actions have consequences and Hindsight 20/20 makes this abundantly clear.

Skul The Hero Slayer

One of the early fun surprises of 2021, Skul is not an easy game but it has great gameplay and as often seen brings a roguelike element to the hero genre but with a twist. You are the monster, or so it has been told.  Skul: Hero slayer is a game about Skul, a small insignificant skeleton who lives in with other skeletons and all sorts of other monsters and demons in their own carved out piece of habitat in the evil underworld. You wake as you suffered a particular brutal attack from the humans. The imperial army led by the hero of Caerleon has over run the Demon Kinds castle and imprisoned everyone save for Skul. With the help of a mysterious Witch and a cast of monster allies, it is now Skul's task to make those heroes pay for their mistake in overlooking him and to rid his home world of its occupiers. But it will take time and a lot of tries, over and over and over again. 

Best Role Playing game

Winner: Tales of Arise

Why did it win?

Challenge the Fate That Binds You. On the planet Dahna, reverence has always been given to Rena, the planet in the sky, as a land of the righteous and divine. Stories handed down for generations became truth and masked reality for the people of Dahna. For 300 years, Rena has ruled over Dahna, pillaging the planet of its resources and stripping people of their dignity and freedom.

With a deep story, great voice acting and an entire world of lore, Tales of Arise comes already packed with everything you need in a solid JRPG. But it also comes with great art direction, solid controls, action-packed real-time battles and amazing boss fights and special attacks called Artes. Using these arts and dodges with good timing fills a meter to put your character in an overdrive state that awards you with a killer finishing move. Much as in guardians of the galaxy you can also do combo attacks with members of your party for some devastating damage. Combined with a solid camera it is easy to keep an eye on all the action and not get lost. Besides this action-packed gameplay, the game also offers the normal JRPG fair, potions, cooking, crafting, spells etc. The story unfolds at key points but also throughout your travels where you can react to an on-screen prompt that activates dialog between the characters and fleshes out their part of the story. At the many campfires you can reflect on the adventure and get even more insight as well.  This was our first entry in the Tales series, but it made a big impression and offered a lot of enjoyment. The boss battles are out of this world and beating them is certainly a highlight. 

Other nominations:


CrisTales is a JRPG or Role-Playing game, with turn-based combat gameplay.It was presented as a love letter to the classic JRPG's such as final fantasy, Chrono Trigger and Dragon quest from times gone bye. 

In ChrisTales you play the part of Chrisbell a girl who lives a fairly peaceful and uneventful life in an orphanage. When one day she discovers she has strange magic powers that allow her to peer into the past and the future and can manipulate them with the help of a magic talking frog. It turns out the Crisbell is a time mage and soon she has to learn to control her powers in order to stop the time empress from taking over the kingdom. By using her newfound abilities Chrisbell can find weakness of her foes and exploit them as well as help the towns folk to get handed a better deal in life. However, she will also quickly learn that she has to make tough choices in who she helps and who will be left to fend for themselves. Can she live with the choices she makes along the way, or will she regret meddling in the first place?

Where much of ChrisTales might feel familiar there is a lot to make it stand out from the crowd. The beauty of the game combined with its time mechanic gameplay brings life to a tried-and-true genre that after so long seems to be stale copycats of the classics of the past. 

Due to the effort and love poured over the game it is able to withstand most but not all of the downsides of the classic JPRG genre and bring an adventure that is suitable for both casual and experienced players.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition

Maybe it is not right to put a remake in this category, but the legendary edition of Mass Effect was just too good to ignore. Mass Effect is set within the Milky Way galaxy in the year 2183 where interstellar travel is possible through the use of mass transit devices called Mass Relays, a technology believed to have been built by an extinct alien race known as the Protheans. You play as Commander Sheppard, a graduate of the Systems Alliance special forces program and a candidate to become the first human member of the Special Tactics and Reconnaissance (Spectre) force, agents given broad authority by the Citadel Council to protect the galaxy. Along the way you built a team of experts to help you on your journey and you work to build meaningful relationships with each of them. The complex relationship system and story will offer you choices that determine what your team members feel about you. Some might fall in love with you, while other end up hating you for the decision you took in certain situations. Will you play a balanced Sheppard, an all-out "good guy" or take a dark and violent path? The updated graphics and gameplay tweaks, especially on mass effect 2 and 3 really make this release the version to play for the first time or to revisit and experience the story again.

Best Shooter

Winner: Halo Infinite

Why did it win?

2021 saw the return of some big-name shooters and other highly anticipated franchises only for most of them to under deliver on promises or completely miss the mark. That is not to say that they were all bad, but they did not live up to expectations often set by their own previous iterations. In case of HALO there had been a lot of delays causing worry and even a preview last year that received lack luster response. Was Master Chief in trouble? In November we got a small sneak peak in the form of available online multiplayer and even though tweaks were definitely needed, such as a slayer only map and the way experience points and leveling works it felt like a good step in the right the direction.   December 8 followed the campaign and we finally got to set foot on HALO Zeta. With a departure of the story telling pace of previous HALO's we now got somewhat of an open world to explore interconnected by story elements. The story has a hap hazard start and introduces a new nemesis in a way you wonder if you missed or forgot something in the last HALO and the ending leave a lot of questions unanswered. But the delivery and presentation felt classic HALO and were a lot improvement over the last 2 releases. The grappling hook addition is a game changer and the world exploration, even though at first I was skeptical, offers up tons of game play value and new ways to explore take on combat and level up your skills and weapons.  With tons of collectibles, it feels a bit like  Ubisoft game but it actually out-UBI'ed Ubisoft.

There are still some issues such as no campaign co-op and you cannot replay missions other than from the very start under a new save game. But as the intent of this game is to act as more of a service game we hope to see those additions soon. 

Either way HALO felt like it is supposed to in many ways and the most balanced content of other shooters we saw released this year. Maybe it is just nostalgia talking but even so HALO earned the top spot for us this year.

Other nominations:

Battlefield 2024

Confession, I am a big, big Battlefield fan. And I looked forward to the game going a bit back to its modern combat since it departed for a world war 1 and then world war 2 setting.In the months leading up to its release we saw footage that invoked nostalgia of Davamant Peak, Arica and other big moments from Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3 and 4. Including full on destruction and a game built to compliment the gamers who did some really groundbreaking stuff in the previous games. 

What we got was a bit more limited. Most of the nostalgia was offered through the Portal, a virtual Battlefield playground with tons of custom modes, outside of the main game. The main game looks and sounds fantastic but does suffer at times from performance issues and the introduction of classes does sit well with everyone who was looking for the old Battlefield feel. A Santa Claus character that seemed more fitting in FortNite was quickly cancelled and it seems EA and DICE are reassessing how they want to move forward with the franchise. That said the game does offer a great gameplay experience. 64 vs 64 on giant maps with vehicle flying and driving by explosions everywhere can be almost overwhelming, but it also brings some epic battles moments within the larger fight. There is a lot of content and potential for BF2042 to last for years.


Not a first person shooter, but a great 3rd person  looter-shooter with a cool story, decent graphics and an epic campaign that feels like Avatar and FernGully meets Gears of War. Fleeing a dying Earth on a big campaign to find a new habitable planet you are part of the outriders a recon mission to prep the planet for landing of the colony. Something goes horrible wrong and you end up in cryo for years. When you wake again the hopeful colony turned to a dystopian hellscape where some people got weird mutant powers and factions fight over resources. Seems destroying Earth alone was not enough. 

What follows is a campaign that can be played in coop with a group of up to 3 people in a looter shooter style, kill loot, upgrade continue fashion. While a series of knee high walls seem to being gears of war style gameplay it turns out those are more for the enemy then you. In fact staying in one spot to long is an invitation of a flank and a few grenades on your head. The AI in Outriders is very aggressive, and it will take the full use of your power and flanking maneuvers to make it through the game. After the main campaign there is tons of "raid" content to keep going on gear hunts. A recent update has balanced the game considerably and more content made it more attractive to keep playing. All in all not bad for a game that for once is not advertised as a Service game. No micro transactions, no push for always buying the next gamepass. The game was not perfect, but it was nice to see the approach taken with the release of this game.

Best GOTY 

Chosen from all the games in the above categories

Winner: It Takes Two.

We covered all we can say in the Co-op category. It takes two came out early in 2021 and set an incredible high bar to compete with. Great graphics, sound, music, voice acting, Solid Gameplay, a unique story and a strong emotional impact has put far ahead of the rest and remained alone at the top. If you have just one game to pick from all that we saw in the past year, then It Takes Two should be one of your top considerations.

And that brings us to the very end of the year. In a few hours the champagne and fireworks will pop and we move into 2022. We wish you all a great gaming year in good health with great company. Remember a family that games together, stays together. Stay safe ,Stay Geek and See you next year.

Rob /GeeksVsGeeks


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