Highly anticipated: The gaming industry has plenty of annual events for players to get excited over, including E3, PAX, Gamescom, and more. However, The Game Awards are easily one of the best. Thousands of fans and developers flock to the physical event or just their computer monitors to see which games and individuals will take the crown in each respective award category. Today, we're bringing you the most notable results from The Game Awards 2021.
We specify 'most notable' because, frankly, there are a lot of categories at the event, and most of them -- such as "Best eSports Coach" -- probably won't interest you at all. We still wish those winners all the best, but we'll leave that coverage to other, more appropriate outlets.
As a quick aside, there is always more to The Game Awards than the awards themselves. As per usual, this year's event brought dozens of new game premieres and announcements; some smaller indie projects and some bigger AAA spectacles. We won't be covering them here, but skim your way through the official TGA VOD if you can find the time. You'll find it embedded below.
At any rate, on to the biggest winners!
Game of the Year: It Takes Two
Josef Fares' latest project explored the importance of family and communication between loved ones. It follows the journey of soon-to-be-divorced parents May and Cody, who are one day turned into dolls after a particularly heated disagreement. Invisible to their distraught daughter Rose, May and Cody must traverse various different Toy Story-like environments and levels, each more fantastical than the last, as they try to transform themselves back.
However, their journey is frequently impeded (and, in a sense, aided) by a relationship advice-spewing book called "Dr. Hakim." Hakim tends to sabotage Cody and May's progress until he feels they've learned their lesson for a given chapter -- learning to communicate, for example, or respect the sacrifices the other person has made to keep the relationship afloat.
It's a cute experience with gameplay that never seems to get stale. Every level seems to shift the genre entirely! One moment you're playing a traditional, co-op 3D platformer, and the next you're third-person shooting your way to victory or undergoing a wild, Diablo-like dungeon delve.
Player's Voice: Halo Infinite
This category seeks to give gamers themselves a say in The Game Awards. This is notable because most of the other winners are decided by a team of behind-the-scenes judges composed of 103 independent journalist and influencer outlets across the globe. This practice typically ensures that no one culture or country's opinion is overrepresented at The Game Awards, even if their gaming populations might be larger than others.
Preamble out of the way, this year's Player's Choice winner was the newly-released Halo Infinite. This is somewhat surprising since the game's campaign mode just launched a couple days ago, but it seems fans are overall appreciative of what developer 343 Industries has achieved. While some accuse the solo campaign's open world of being a bit dull, the gameplay is almost universally applauded for being outrageously fun. That, coupled with Infinite's entertaining multiplayer mode, likely carried the game to a win here.
Obviously, gaming is a subjective hobby but Infinite was up against some solid competition. The critically-acclaimed Resident Evil Village, It Takes Two, and Forza Horizon 5 were all nominees, too. However, it seems oversized vampire ladies weren't enough to net Capcom a victory -- at least, not in this category.
Best Art Direction: Deathloop
Arkane's latest time looping adventure was as intriguing as it was well-received. Barring a few early performance problems, Deathloop players have become enamored with the game's tight shooting mechanics, its unique cast of characters, and the freedom of gameplay it offers.
However, one of the more underrated strengths of Deathloop is its art style. The game is cartoony, but that complements its often-vibrant color palette perfectly. Splashes of blood contrast against bright yellow walls and pure-white snow, while neon graffiti covers both clean and filthy surfaces alike. These colors sit alongside crisp, believable textures for weapons, outfits, and mundane objects like tables and chairs.
With that said, Deathloop is a varied game, so the artistic choices mentioned above aren't present in every one of the game's four areas (which dramatically change depending on the time of day). Some spaces are gritty and run-down, whereas others are clean and almost utopian. Yet others go full retro Americana or even take inspiration from gothic mansions. Despite these disparate designs, Deathloop never lacks cohesion. Everything just fits together, and it seems The Game Awards' judges agree.
Best Narrative: Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy
This victory may surprise many, but probably not those who have actually played the game. While It Takes Two and Life is Strange -- two of GotG's competitors in this category -- might have more intense and emotionally-gripping stories, the quality of Guardians of the Galaxy's narrative shouldn't be dismissed just because its tone is deceptively lighthearted. In the game, you take on the role of Peter Quill, also known as "Starlord" (by pretty much nobody, much to Quill's chagrin) as he tries to keep his rag-tag team of mercenaries alive and on the straight-and-narrow. Sort of.
That might sound like a better setup for a goofy comedy than a well-written, galaxy-spanning adventure, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. GotG has humor, sure; plenty of it, but it also has heart. There are countless small moments in which Quill bonds with his teammates, learning more about their struggles and even helping them overcome some of their greatest fears. At the start of the game, it feels like the entire crew hates each other, but by the end, they feel like a proper unit: strong, tight-knit, and loyal to a fault.
It helps that the game's facial mocap and dialogue are exceptionally good and arguably far better than they had any business being. It's much easier to immerse yourself in a good narrative when the characters look and feel believable.
Best Score and Music: Nier Replicant
Also known as NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139, so named because it's technically a remaster of the original Replicant, first released way back in 2010. Though Game Awards judges don't typically clarify why they selected a specific game to win a category, it's not difficult to see how Nier Replicant won this one.
The game itself might be just as bizarre as its sequel, Nier Automata, but the soundtrack is just as beautiful. It's grand and, more importantly, varied. Some songs are lyrical and melodic with a soothing yet sorrowful tone, while others are epic and intense, with a clear intent to get your blood pumping and your neurons firing.
As is the case with most games, you can find the entire soundtrack on YouTube (though, of course, we encourage you to purchase the game to experience it in its full context) if you want to get a feel for it yourself. It's beautiful, and composer Keiichi Okabe is well-deserving of this award.
Best Performance: Maggie Robertson as Lady Dimitrescu
This award is another non-surprise. At least, to anyone who's been following internet gaming culture over the past year. From the moment Robertson's on-screen avatar, affectionately known as "Lady D," first showed up in a trailer for Resident Evil Village, the internet was in love. She was tall, imposing, and attractive in equal measure. Her intimidating stature earned her a place in many pieces of fan art, but it isn't her appearance that won her this award.
Robertson's fantastic voice acting skills, coupled with her brilliant motion-capture performance, are what led her and Lady D to victory. Robertson was able to play this character with ferocity and elegance, which can't be an easy balance to strike -- push too far in one direction or the other, and you risk ruining the performance outright.
Some credit, perhaps even a sizable portion of it, should, of course, always go to the directors and team members at Capcom that helped guide Robertson. But this category is about the end result, and judging by those Robertson was up against -- including the legendary actor Giancarlo Esposito as Anton Castillo in Far Cry 6 -- it's clear that the judges thought she deserved the award.
Most Anticipated Game: Elden Ring
FromSoftware's newest title, developed with early collaboration from fantasy writer and Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin, took the award for Most Anticipated Game. Starfield, Breath of the Wild's sequel, Horizon Forbidden West, and God of War Ragnarok were all tough contenders, but Elden Ring came out on top.
Given the sheer popularity of FromSoftware's games and the consistent quality the studio delivers with each release, this outcome is perhaps unsurprising to many gamers. Even if you aren't a fan of the studio's work, or you simply can't get into it, there's no denying that the hype for Elden Ring has reached outrageous proportions. The game's limited-time technical alpha test released earlier this year and was excellent by most accounts. Its release only fueled the fire, and the game's hype train continues to pick up speed every month.
Unfortunately, thanks to past launch disasters like Cyberpunk 2077 and Fallout 76, we now know that hype trains can crash and burn just as easily as they can roll to a smooth stop. For FromSoftware's sake, as well as its fans', we hope Elden Ring follows the latter route when it releases in February next year.
And that's all we'll cover for today. If you want to see the winners of the rest of The Game Awards' 30 categories, take a trip over to the official website, where they're all neatly organized onto a single page.
Once you've done that, feel free to come back here and leave your thoughts on the gaming industry's latest winners and losers. Do you think a particular game was robbed in one of the above categories or any others? If so, which game? Which category? Let us know in the comments below.