The Prima Games team have joined forces to pick the nominees and winner for the 2021 Game of the Year in the AAA category. Similar to last year, we’ve separated our GOTY awards between AAA and indie because there were a wealth of incredible games that released this year, and we want to be able to highlight and celebrate all of them.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the nominees and our Game of the Year winner!
Prima Games | Game of the Year 2021 – AAA
Hitman 3 (Nominee)
Hitman 3 wrapped up the new trilogy created by IO Interactive. Even with its increased focus on story, the level design and playgrounds in this entry stand among giants. Globetrotting from Dubai to Berlin has never looked or felt better in a Hitman game.
Monster Hunter Rise (Nominee)
Monster Hunter Rise is the most streamlined and fast-paced game in the franchise. Offering new movement abilities with the Palimute and Wirebug, Rise gives new players and veterans alike a run for their money. RE Engine works its magic to make it a near-flawless experience on the Nintendo Switch, and one we keep coming back to.
Nier Replicant (Nominee)
Nobody expected NieR Automata to land the way it did. Yoko Taro’s unconventional narrative chops didn’t exactly translate to sales or accolades. But the gaming world changed, and Automata played a huge part and boosted Taro to cult hero status.
But how do you follow that up? Well, most people didn’t play the first game, and it wasn’t easy to play. NieR Replicant is a full facelift of the original, which helps fill in context for Automata while offering its own flavor. Taro famously suggested he’ll be using unsold Replicant discs as frisbees, but here we are with another set of year-end award nominations.
Guilty Gear Strive (Nominee)
Guilty Gear Strive arrived at the perfect time to shine. With the PS5 just barely arriving on the scene, there was no better way to drown in 4K videogame visuals in those early months. Following the likes of Dragon Ball FighterZ and Granblue Versus, Strive takes the animation tech Arc System Works was already praised for and took it to a new level.
Deathloop, the latest and greatest Arkane title is filled with intricately weaved levels that provide players the ultimate playground to explore and experiment. Even if the narrative doesn’t wrap up nicely with a bow on top, it’s still one of the most creative and innovative experiences we had this year.
Tales of Arise (Nominee)
The fact we’re sitting here talking about a new Tales Of game in our end of the year content is wild enough, but this game also walked out of The Game Awards with the Best RPG crown, over a new Shin Megami Tensei.
Arise not only brought Tales to the new generation, a massive leadership shift led to significant changes to the usual Tales formula. With stunning visuals and an intriguing story on top, it was a pleasant surprise to see this title gain traction with North American fans.
SMT V (Nominee)
Somewhat controversial due to its connection to Persona, Shin Megami Tensei has never fully arrived in this part of the world. Using the ridiculously popular Nintendo Switch as a vessel, more potential fans (or confused Persona 5 newbies) got a chance to experience the Atlus O.G. on a major platform.
This game is hard as nails, but is full of rewarding challenges, a cool open world/dungeon hybrid and the kind of contemplative, theme-heavy narrative structure the “core” Megami Tensei series is known for.
Halo Infinite (Nominee)
Halo Infinite makes it easy to dive back into Halo with its heartfelt, memorable campaign and fun as heck multiplayer that’ll make you say “just one more game” before you play ten more, and then ten more after that.
The campaign truly is a standout, with poignant moments between Chief and Weapon on the subject of trust, and on moving forward. There are also some wonderful callbacks in the campaign to previous Halo games for returning fans, and enough new notes and gripping battles to keep newcomers invested.
Truly the best Halo game we’ve seen in a while.
Psychonauts 2 (Runner Up)
Psychonauts 2 is an outstanding achievement in its narrative and direction. It handles mental health issues with a caring touch and adds its own interpretations of them, which adds a strong foundation to its level design.
Double Fine has crafted one of the most inventive and creative 3D platformers to exist in the last decade. Even in such a strong year of games, Psychonauts 2 is a special standout that deserves recognition.
Life is Strange: True Colors (Winner)
Life is Strange: True Colors took an already outstanding franchise to new emotional heights, and impacted us on a surprisingly deep level unrivaled by anything other than our indie GOTY, Before Your Eyes.
While empathy sounds like a boring power to have compared to Max Caulfield’s time travel powers in the first game, True Colors manages to expand upon the premise in clever ways, giving protagonist Alex Chen deeper insight into the world around her.
With this insight, players are able to better connect with characters in the game (including the thoughts of NPCs just hanging around Haven Springs), and make meaningful decisions based on these connections.
Not only that, but we each have a bit of this empathy power in all of us, we just have to do what Alex does in the game and learn the best ways to embrace it. And despite the characters in the game being fictional, you walk away feeling like you truly know them by the end, and feeling like the game’s setting of Haven Springs is home.
Overall, we adored where True Colors took the Life is Strange franchise, and can’t wait to see where the series goes from here.