DDNet Game of the Year Awards 2021! The Game of the Year

7 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!

It’s time to celebrate the big one! The last 16-odd days of awards have been leading to this one: the overall game of the year! All four of the winners here were pulled from a shortlist based on the other category winners, and they really are the finest of fine games that we’ve played in 2021. Overall this has been a great year for gaming, I think you can all agree. Enjoy, and thanks for following along with us on these awards this year!


The Caligula Effect 2
The Caligula Effect 2 deserves a lot of credit in three particular areas: Firstly, the developer did take on all the feedback from the original game, and while the game offers a very similar structure and gameplay system, it has been refined in such a way that it’s a much better game now. Similarly, the improved budget on the project is clear, with more detailed art and more interesting environments to explore. 

Most of all, though, The Caligula Effect 2 deserves credit for not forgetting itself. Despite the concept being clearly niche, the developers resisted any urge to compromise it to try and appeal to a more broad audience. Instead, they doubled down on the thematic intelligence and depth of the game, and in doing so, highlighted a level of artistic maturity and integrity that we rarely see in video games.
Lost Judgment

Lost Judgment is a blockbuster game in terms of its size and scale. It’s a full-on cinematic project, featuring real-world stars, a rich and vibrant open world, and dozens of hours worth of cutscenes, side quests, vignettes and locations to visit and explore. This game cuts no corners, and is as ambitious and large as any of the other big games of the year.

What sets Lost Judgment apart from those other big games released this year is that it is also interesting, with a noirish plot that is impossible to put down, and that unique blend of thriller for the main narrative, and oddball humour with the side quests. The original Judgment was an intriguing little project, as a different take on the same world and dramas of the Yakuza series. Playing as a detective that is nominally on the side of law was an interesting twist after spending so many years playing as gangsters. Lost Judgment builds on the vision of the first game to deliver something that is everything as good as the best of the Yakuza series.

Unpacking picked up the most awards of all in this year’s DDNet awards, and it did so for two reasons: firstly it’s an absolute delight to play, with the developers having crafted a unique puzzle experience that is engaging, encouraging people to think and puzzle through things, without being stressful or inaccessible – you don’t need to be good at puzzle games to enjoy this one.
Secondly, the game taps into an experience that almost all of us share – of moving house and reflecting on the possessions that are important to us over a period of years and through stages of our lives. It might not be a massive epic narrative, but the story that Unpacking shares has an emotional punch to it that helps to elevate it to one of the very best games of the year. Aussie-made, too. We do love seeing the Aussies top the world.

Blue Reflection: Second Light

We never thought we’d see another Blue Reflection. When Koei Tecmo announced it earlier this year we were then worried about whether it could possibly live up to the original, as one of our sentimental favourite games of all time. Then we played Blue Reflection: Second Light, and all our worries instantly washed away.

This game does absolutely everything right. It is gorgeous to look at, with Mel Kishida’s character designs being the standout, as they were with the original. The combat system is a nice improvement in most ways over the original, making the game easier to step into. And the story it shares is so sweet, wholesome and beautifully earnest. Blue Reflection might look like a fanservicey anime game set in a school, but that’s almost a bait-and-switch. Once you start playing it you realise that it’s an emotionally uplifting and sweet coming of age story, with a hugely positive LGBT theme behind it. It was always going to take a lot to eclipse the original Blue Reflection, but the team at Gust and Koei Tecmo absolutely leapfrogged it.

This is the bio under which all legacy DigitallyDownloaded.net articles are published (as in the 12,000-odd, before we moved to the new Website and platform). This is not a member of the DDNet Team. Please see the article's text for byline attribution.

Previous Story

24 Games Of Christmas! Day #23: Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle

Next Story

IN VIDEO: DDNet GOTY 2021: The Overall Games of 2021

Latest Articles