DDNet Game of the Year Awards 2021! Best on PC

8 mins read

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!

These days the cross-overs between console and PC are such that there aren’t many games that aren’t available on both (aside from Nintendo). Even Sony drops all its games on PC. Nonetheless there are games that do work better (or at least feel more natural) on one or the other, and today we celebrate the games we’ve enjoyed the most as PC experiences. 


Boyfriend Dungeon
The general presentation of Boyfriend Dungeon would suggest that you’re in for a better experience if you use a controller. However, we found that the game works just as well, if not slightly better, with a mouse and keyboard. The game is a dungeon crawler, but there aren’t typical dungeons: they’re set in the basements of places like a nightclub and a mall. The battles are fast and ferocious, and sometimes hordes of enemies can come on at once. In these dungeons, the player can find new weapons to use in battle, but there aren’t ordinary weapons: they can transform into people and back into weapons as they wish. 

It’s a weird concept, but it really works when tied to the gameplay. Enemies are based on the current dungeon, and get more difficult the lower you go until there is a boss battle and the dungeon is completed. The farther the protagonist gets, the more experience they earn, and the more they level up. Clothing and equipment can also be purchased to upgrade the character’s abilities. The protagonist can make connections and even date the weapons (as humans) in a gameplay style that reflects visual novels. So Boyfriend Dungeon ends up being this dungeon crawler slash visual novel about fighting with and befriending weapon-people.
Idol Manager

Idol Manager is the last game you’d expect to be great. Just the title of it suggests something that will preference fan service over any kind of deep gameplay, but when you play it… this thing is really quite magnificent, and a nuanced simulator that will really test your abilities, no matter how familiar you are with the genre. 

You’ll start out with a tiny office and just enough resources to hire a couple of rank amateur idols. From there, you need to build an empire that rivals AKB-48, while at the same time dealing with the many dramas that occur within the idol industry. The narrative is lighthearted, but makes the exploitation and darker side of this industry quite clear, and it is so easy to find yourself very bankrupt if you’re not very careful. Idol Manager is one of those rare games that wouldn’t work on console at all, we think. There’s just far too much mouse work involved. 

A-Train: All Aboard! Tourism
A-Train is excellent on console, but as a simulator, it has a more natural home on PC, and All Aboard! Tourism is one of the finest entries in this nearly overwhelmingly complex series. It seems like such a simple concept at first: set up tracks and watch trains go choo! But then you start digging into the many financial and timetable elements of the game and A-Train will test you like running a real train business will. 
Not only is this game better suited to PC because of the mouse control, but it’s also the kind of thing that you can sit and stare at for hours, and hours, and hours at a time. Long after your Nintendo Switch battery has run out, or your controller needs recharging. This is a game for marathon sessions, and the PC is still the device of choice for the really marathon gaming experience.

Age of Empires IV
It’s hard to believe, but it has been a decade since Microsoft last took a crack at Age of Empires. With this a return to form for one of the most beloved PC strategy games of all, and the developers went all out to ensure that they were delivering the classic Age of Empires experience, with the initial release civilizations; the Chinese, the Mongols, the Delhi Sultanate, the Abbasid Dynasty, the Rus, the English, the French, and the Holy Roman Empire all allowing for exactly the kinds of dynamics that Age of Empires fans have come to love.

What is really impressive is that Microsoft seems to have gone classic with the gameplay, too, with the systems and flow feeling more like Age of Empires II than the increasingly-controversial later efforts. This is an RTS title for people who like their RTSes traditional, and it’s great to see that there is still a market for that kind of thing.

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