It’s that time of year again, everyone, where we celebrate the best games of the year. Despite being a heavily disrupted year thanks to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, 2021 produced some incredible games, almost from day one, and as a result, our awards this year has the most variety of games ever – almost 50 different titles got at least one award, and as you’ll see as we announce each category, it really is an endless stream of incredible experiences.
This year we had a special, expanded judging panel, with the entire DDNet team participating, but we also invited some prominent people from independent game publications outside the Website to participate, so we could get a broader range of insights and thoughts into the winners from each category. Our additional judges this year included Pete Davison from Rice Digital, Thomas Knight of Nook Gaming, Robert Allen of Tech-Gaming, Matt Ryan from Shindig, and academic and freelancer, @TsuChanJohnson on Twitter. The total judging pool for the awards was ten people this year around, and there was some heated discussion about the worthiest titles in each category indeed!
Today we’re looking at the best in free-to-play games. They’re often maligned as they are supported with microtransactions, loot boxes, and other malign commercial tricks to eke more money out of players, but when a free-to-play game is at its best, it is a wonderful thing, being both hugely entertaining and, generally, endlessly replayable. A good free-to-play game will entertain you for five minutes or engage you for five hours, and the very best, such as the four winners below, become hobbies in their own right.
Pokémon Unite could have so easily failed. While Pokémon is an enduring series, and MOBAs are a proven gameplay formula, there was a sense that combining the two was being done for no other reason to sucker people into throwing some money down. But then the game came out and anyone that doubted it had to quickly eat humble pie, because this has become one of the best MOBAs yet.