Splash Damage GOTY 2021

December is a month of traditions; from the ‘normal’ ones like shopping, eating and drinking, to the weirder ones like arguing over whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not (Our opinion? Whichever will cause the most chaos around the dinner table).

For most of us here at Splash Damage, though, we’ve spent the last couple of weeks choosing our Game Of The Year and we thought we’d let you in on the fun. Albeit in a quieter and calmer format than the heated discussions over Slack or in our canteen.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of our picks…

Megan, Lead UI Artist – The Forgotten City

I remember vaguely hearing about this game when it was still a Skyrim mod, since then the idea’s been fleshed out to an incredible degree. This relatively short but sweet gem sees you suddenly hurled back in time 2000 years to relive the same day over and over until you can solve the mystery and escape. Gorgeous environments, intriguing story, and some excellent horror moments when you realise what’s up with those statues…

Dan Harrison, Associate Game Designer – Unpacking

Unpacking moved me in ways I didn’t realise I could be by a videogame. For a game that features a limited set of actions you can perform and no dialogue, I was completely enthralled. I cared about the main character and her journey; a character I never even saw. I implore everyone to give this beautiful and touching game a few hours of their time.

Egas Pinto Basto, Lead UI Programmer – New Pokémon Snap

This was the only game this year that my wife and I spent week after week playing together. It doesn’t even have a co-op mode! It’s well made enough to allow casual and hardcore play and was a perfect nostalgia trip. It’s deep if you want it to be, it’s casual fun if you want it to be, and it doesn’t judge you (only your photos!).

Rebecca McCarthy, Narrative Designer – Nerts!

A multiplayer variant of solitaire by Zachtronics and released for free in early January, Nerts! became a mainstay of many of my late gaming sessions. Players have a small pile of cards they need to release, by playing solitaire with a shared pool of Aces. It’s fast, frantic, and ferociously competitive. A friend was playing with people across several Discord Servers and I joked that we should hold a contest. We did, and I made some really great friends in the process.

Richard Perrin, Senior Development Manager – Inscryption

It starts out as a bizarre combination of deckbuilding, horror and escape rooms that seems like it wants to subvert your expectations of how roguelike deckbuilders can play. However, as you get further in, you find a much deeper exploration of card gaming in various forms and rulesets along with experimentations in video game meta storytelling. It’s a game that always finds new ways to surprise you up to the very end credits. It’s also rare to see a game that doesn’t try to perfectly balance its mechanics, instead encouraging you to find your own ways to completely break them with incredibly powerful cards and combos.

Jacob Simpson, Assistant Level Designer – Loop Hero

This game consumed my life from the first time I played it. The story is gripping and it has one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard. The fact that the quality of this game is so high for just £12 is mind-blowing.

Cinzia Musio, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor – It Takes Two

I really loved how you got to explore so many different game mechanics, all done so well! The co-op was really well built, and I loved that there were very few achievements so they were all the more rewarding when you did find them!

Jack Porter, Associate Gameplay Programmer – Metroid Dread

It’s been 19 years since we last had an original 2D Metroid, and what an experience this was. The game’s controls are incredibly tight, the art and animation are gorgeous, and the environments feel alive and very eerie at times. While the story isn’t going to win any awards, I was engaged right until the very end, and there were some great hints at the end reveal if you’ve played Metroid Fusion. I’ve also found myself watching speedruns of the game since I beat it, seeing all the cool ways people are exploiting the movement tech and bugs to sequence break the game and finish without any armour upgrades. Oh, and the audio! How could I forget?! Every time I heard those EMMIs it would immediately put me on edge! 

Sam Dark, Senior Gameplay Programmer – The Riftbreaker

I’ve got one that I would imagine no one else will go for: The Riftbreaker. It’s is a great mix of Factorio without the conveyor juggling, ARPG and tower defence. It mixes a bunch of genres seamlessly and is very well put together and polished. Also there’s a demo which is always great!

Sarah D, Community Manager – Death’s Door

This is tied with Inscryption for my GOTY (GG Devolver) but as that’s spoken for, let’s talk Death’s Door. Take the Dark Souls formula of challenging-but-fair and melancholy world-building, sprinkle in some Zelda-style dungeons and overworld exploration, then make it all isometric and condense it all into a 8-15 hour chunk of perfection. It’s beautiful, it’s emotional, the combat is razor-sharp, and it’s also… kinda cute?

Jon Murphy, Lead Technical Artist – Sable

This came at the right time for me: a world to explore with no combat and no world-ending disaster to avert. Just yourself, your hoverbike and the dunes to explore as you go out into the world to answer the question ‘Who do I want to be?’. The Moebius-inspired art direction and the wonderful Japanese Breakfast soundtrack tie this all together to create a world that was wonderful to just exist in for a moment.

So what do you think of our picks for GOTY 2021? Agree with us? Disagree? Think we’ve made some glaring omissions? Let us know your pics over on Twitter, Facebook or our Discord!