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In praise of short AAA games | Games of the Year

2021 saw a number of acclaimed games that didn't require taking a sabbatical to complete

I am not sure I'm cut out for Game of the Year lists.

Last year my 'Game of the Year' was a selection of remasters and remakes of games I had first played back in the late 1990s/early 2000s. It was a comment on the healing power of nostalgia during what was a nightmare year.

But it was also the result of the fact I hadn't played many of 2020's best games.

I'd played Spider-Man: Miles Morales (what a triumph that is), but not The Last of Us: Part 2 or Ghost of Tsushima or Hades or Final Fantasy VII: Remake.

As the industry becomes more accessible and inclusive, I hope it remembers the parents who simply can't take a sabbattical from their families to complete the new Assassin's Creed

It's the same story in previous years. These games look wonderful, but they're just too big. As the industry becomes more accessible and inclusive, I hope it remembers the parents who simply can't take a sabbattical from their families to complete the new Assassin's Creed.

This year, however... has been different. When I look around at the 'Best Games of 2021' lists, I realise I have played a lot of them. Even completed them. Bowser's Fury, Resident Evil: Village, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Deathloop, Metroid Dread... all tremendous games that I've enjoyed, and all under 20 hours long.

There are three of those that I think might be my GOTY.

Resident Evil: Village is a fantastic game from start to finish, but the first half is a masterpiece. It begins like a greatest hits package; there is the village segment that's clearly influenced by the opening of Resident Evil 4, then the castle, which could easily be the mansion or police station from Resident Evil 1 and 2. But it also has its own tricks, particularly the terrifying third area set in a house filled with dolls.

Resident Evil: Village, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Metroid Dread were contenders for my Game of the Year

Insomniac mastered the Ratchet & Clank concept years ago, but in Rift Apart it's augmented and enhanced that significantly through the PS5 technology. The series has always been one of the most satisfying to play, but the DualSense controller with all its fancy haptics makes for one of the best feeling games I've ever experienced. And then there's the SSD, allowing for fast transitions from one area to the next in the middle of combat. It's a showcase for the new consoles and the series' new high point.

And then Metroid Dread. The best Metroid game ever made, with the excellent combat from the recent 3DS title mixed with tremendous level design and frightening stealth challenges. It moves and looks glorious (can you believe, 16 years on from Xbox 360's launch, this is the first HD Metroid game?).

All of them memorable in their own way, and all of them I finished without rushing or missing anything significant. AAA games that respected my time and didn't outstay their welcome.

So which one is my game of the year?

Well, that's quite tough. How do you compare them? How do you compare hunting werewolves in long grass to skating at speed across an alien world to finally taking down an unstoppable robot? They're just so different and special in their own way.

You know, I really can't decide. How do critics even do this?

Maybe I'm still not cut out for these Game of the Year articles.

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Christopher Dring avatar
Christopher Dring: Chris is a 17-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who
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