The Prima Games team have come together to select the nominees and winner of the 2021 Game of the Year in the indie game category. The reason why we've broken up the awards between AAA and indie is because there were so many incredible games released this year across both categories, and we want to be able to shine a spotlight on all of them.
With that out of the way, here are our nominees and Game of the Year winner!
Prima Games | Game of the Year 2021 - Indie
Inscryption is one of those games that hits different. You know, the type of indie game that, out of nowhere, envelops the whole gaming scene. Much like Loop Hero earlier in the year, Inscryption dominated social feeds like few games of its stature do.
And a lot of that was owed to just how striking this game’s early hours are. A seemingly-typical roguelike card game, twisted into gnarled, macabre form that drew players in from several angles. Inscryption goes on to be more than just that, however, showing that a clever hook doesn’t need to be the whole game, but rather a launching pad to creative depths.
Wildermyth is an RPG that creates some of the best moments of 2021. Pulling from a pool of interesting and quirky character moments, you’ll chug along with this turn-based RPG with memories unique to your own playthrough.
Maybe one of your party members turned into an ax-wielding raven, or maybe two of your party members fell in love and had a child that grew up to join your adventure. It’s a game of long-lasting memories and one that never lets you forget them.
The Forgotten City (Nominee)
Originally starting as a Skyrim mod before becoming a full experience all its own, The Forgotten City features a gripping time loop narrative that’s surprisingly complex and well-written, with believable characters and detailed Roman setting that you can’t help but want to explore.
The way you approach the game’s mystery is left up to you, and this freedom makes it even easier to get lost in the game’s impressive details. If you haven’t played it, The Forgotten City is definitely one you don’t want to miss out on!
Death’s Door (Nominee)
Death’s Door was one of the indie darlings this year and rightfully so. Sometimes a game’s art style can grab you from a mile away and it sticks into your brain immediately. Of course, the game also features stellar combat, puzzle-solving, and an excellent soundtrack to go along with the charming and sometimes dark visuals.
While the game might not be for everyone, it certainly left a strong impression on us.
Dreamscaper isn’t the most impressive-looking game right off the bat. Frankly, it looks like a pretentious Binding of Isaac clone. But quickly, playing Dreamscaper shows the player that sometimes tossing your ideas in a bucket and finding ways to use all of ‘em can work out.
Combining room-based roguelike gameplay with puzzles, crafting, and visual novel-like character stories, Dreamscaper crammed a lot of game into a little space, and built it all around a character trying one more time to fight a lifelong battle with a mental illness.
Gnosia, the murder mystery visual novel was one of our favorite experiences of 2021. In a never-ending loop of your crewmates being picked off one by one, you can choose the parameters of each round.
Do you want to be the killer of this match, or maybe you want to be the guardian angel? All of these choices will unlock different character moments and revelations as you continue to push through an exciting narrative that gripped us.
Ender Lilies (Nominee)
Somehow, the world hasn’t grown tired of Metroidvanias. Spreading across indie games like a virus, the action/exploration genre has only expanded and produced hit after hit. Ender Lilies is a fairly straightforward one of these, but the way it leans harder on storytelling than most of its peers helps it stand out.
It’s a bleak story, but one that takes its tone seriously, with an interest in showing you why everything is terrible rather than just revelling in the terribleness. Gorgeous visuals and haunting music tie up the package nicely, or horribly, but you know, successfully horribly.
Mundaun features incredible hand-drawn visuals and a chilling setting in the Swiss Alps that immediately pulls you in and puts you on edge, with that uneasiness a constant note throughout the game.
It’s rare for a horror game to be this effective at creating such an ominous, oppressive atmosphere, while also being one you can’t help but want to explore. Mundaun is truly art house horror at its absolute best, and we can’t wait to see what else developer Hidden Fields creates in the future.
Loop Hero (Runner Up)
Loop Hero came as a welcome surprise in 2021, expertly blending roguelike elements with deckbuilding, time management, RPG strategy, and more. It’s a game that’s easy to get lost in and spend hours upon hours playing, with rules approachable enough to draw anyone in.
Furthermore, the setting of its world is distinct and dark enough to pull you in deeper at every turn. If you’re looking for a game to get lost in, to pass the time with, or simply to have an endless amount of fun with, Loop Hero is absolutely worth your while.
Before Your Eyes (Winner)
Before Your Eyes is without a doubt 2021’s Game of the Year. It takes a concept as simple as blinking and turns it into a gameplay mechanic that perfectly complements the story of the game in a way that feels fresh and innovative. The game makes you uncomfortably aware of your blinking, with the average person blinking 5 to 20 times every minute.
Controlling this, fighting this urge to blink in order to stay in each moment, is hard. And that’s the point when it comes to the story of Before Your Eyes. Eventually, you will blink and move forward in the timeline of protagonist Benjamin Brynn’s life.
It’s the same in real life, where you can’t control time’s forward movement in your own life. As for the game’s story itself, it’s a powerful one, taking players on a journey about life and death, and our relationship with each of these concepts. By the end, it’s impossible to not cry at the outcome because you really do feel like you’ve lived Benny’s life through their eyes.
You end up thinking back to all the times you blinked, and what you might have missed in those moments. You think about your own life, and what you might have missed in the past, and the importance of living each day like it’s your last. You also never really know the impact you’ve had on the people in your life.
The line from the game, “And he was everything he needed to be. Just as he was.” resonates on a deep level.
We all need to hear those words from the people we love. That we’re everything we need to be in this life, just as we are. No matter when you pass away, young or old, your presence in the lives of others is often more cherished than you realize. You also never know how much time you have with someone you love, with the game reminding you to value each and every second with each and every blink.
For these reasons, and so many more, Before Your Eyes earns its spot as 2021’s GOTY. If you haven’t played it, you really should – just be sure to keep a box of tissues handy when you do.