The Vooks Awards – The Best of Switch, Indies, the highs and lows of Nintendo in 2021
The Nintendo Switch had a tremendous year, we saw the return of big names, nostalgia driven decade late driven sequels and tremendous games from independent developers. We’ve seen some real highs, some disappointing lows and more than a few surprises.
Here’s the team’s picks for the year. Starting with the big one…
Metroid Dread – MercurySteam & Nintendo EPD
After nearly two decades, we finally got an entirely brand new Samus Aran mission, and it was everything everyone was asking for and more. The story of how Metroid Dread came to be made is almost as exciting as the game itself, with Nintendo giving the reigns to developers Mercury Steam after their success with the Samus Returns remake on the Nintendo 3DS.
While in our review, we said, “It’s a cliché, but Metroid Dread won’t be a game for everyone.”, it’s the next bit that’s more important. “If you like a game that doesn’t hold your hand at all, is brutally difficult, requires precision from every movement and busts your back, you’ll love Samus’ latest mission.”
Metroid Dread isn’t for everyone, but because it’s so good, it’ll be for even more people than ever before. 2D Metroid was almost folklore and a ghost story more told in the game’s that bears its namesake of a genre.
With Dread’s success, it should be less than 17 years before we get another one of these. – VOOK
New Pokémon Snap – Bandai Namco Studios
New Pokémon Snap made me realise I’m now in the prime age where everything marketed at me is all the things that I enjoyed as a kid, and I don’t even care anymore.
I unashamedly know that this game is a nostalgia trip – and you know – tough crap, I needed it. Like Unpacking and other relaxing games this year, New Pokémon Snap hit at the right time, a time where everything is so busy. In our review, we said, “New Pokémon Snap manages to defy the odds and live up to the original game, despite being released so much later. It’s not just for those with nostalgia for the originals either; this is a way better game than the original and should get newcomers excited too. The only thing that gets in the way is the game’s progression system, which is at odds with the mood of the rest of the game.”
Hopefully, we don’t have to wait 20 years for another one, but I’d be up for that again, even if we do. – VOOK
Unpacking – Witch Beam
There is always something cathartic about putting things in their place — it’s why Tetris is still such a popular game some 30 years later. Doing that after moving to a new house is another level of satisfaction entirely, and that is what Unpacking offers. The difference of course is that you are not unpacking your own life, but that of someone else, and as you play removalist over the course of their life, you get to see how they are growing and changing, all the while trying to put things where they need to be.
The game also does something that very few other games even attempt these days, it removes any form of pressure. Sure, you need to get things into their right place, but there are no timers, no high score to aim for, you just need to take your time and unpack at the pace you want. This results in a game that offers some super charming visuals, coupled with an almost zen like progression path, to provide a gaming experience that feels so out of place in the modern gaming scene, that it found its own little slice of it when it released. If you have not given Unpacking a look, you are doing yourself a disservice, it is an utterly charming game that you simply have to play. – Luke
Death’s Door – Acid Nerve
The folks at Acid Nerve delivered a stunning hit with Titan Souls, but their next title is one to crow about, because Death’s Door, you play as a crow, who is also working in the department of Death. Sounds a little macabre I know, but once you venture out of the office and into the larger world, things become far more engaging than you might think. Part old school Zelda and part Dark Souls, the game manages to blend the two together, to give you a world worth exploring, but at the same time one filled with dangerous foes to face. These foes are not simple enemies, they all have attack patterns that you need to watch and learn from and while Death is not the end of your journey, no one wants to do paperwork on why you died.
Assuming that you can master the games intricate and demanding combat, there is a rich story to discover and while your first solo outing won’t go as planned, pushing forward will reveal new mysteries and shadowy players, all working their own angle. You might be a reaper in this world, but skipping this one is not something I would suggest, purely due to the satisfaction you will reap, once you discover what lies behind Death’s Door. – Luke
Kirby and the Forgotten Land – HAL Laboratory
The Kirby series has been a beloved part of Nintendo’s first-party lineup for close to three decades now, spanning over thirty games and selling over 38 million units across its lifetime. During that time, the side-scrolling pink puffball has experimented with a frankly gargantuan series of spin-offs and shake-ups — including a golf game, a racing game, a Breakout clone, and even a Smash-style party brawler. Still, the “main series”, if you can even call it that in a series that’s spanned so many different styles, has always stuck to what it does best: 2D, side-scrolling, platforming, enemy-chomping goodness.
The past few years have been notably devoid of any major Kirby releases — the most recent new game in the side-scrolling series was Star Allies back in 2018 — and up until very recently, there’d been hints and rumours swirling that the next game in the series is going to be its big glow-up, but nothing particularly firm had come to light. That is, until September, when Nintendo held its final Direct of the year, and blew us all away with the reveal of the biggest Kirby game to date: Kirby and the Forgotten Land. After three decades, Kirby is finally going to take their first steps in true 3D, with gameplay and aesthetics that seem to line up very closely with Switch darling Super Mario Odyssey, with a fascinating post-apocalyptic twist. The jury’s still out on whether or not the pink puff’s poyos will make the transition to 3D smoothly, but after thirty years of a well-defined and well-loved style seemingly set in stone, seeing the series leap forward into the third direction was not only a big surprise, but a very welcome and exciting one at that. Here’s hoping it sticks the landing in 2022. – Ollie
Grand Theft Auto: Trilogy Definitive Edition – Rockstar
Like many people, I was excited to see the Grand Theft Auto trilogy come to a Nintendo console after 20 years of waiting, and it couldn’t have gone any more wrong.
In my review, I said, “what we really have is an insult to the legacy of these games, to fans of the series and the word Remastered. These ports should be avoided unless you’re a diehard fan, because these games always had a level of jank that you could put up with, and those fun games are still here if you fight through the pain. But for anyone else, trust that GTA 3, Vice City, and San Andreas were terrific games and play their legacy in everything else they inspired instead.
I don’t think I can say much more about it without using some naughty words. – VOOK
Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Nintendo
Let’s be clear about this one, the content in the Happy Home Paradise expansion for Animal Crossing: New Horizons is excellent — it’s just how the DLC rollout for the game has been handled.
There are two factors to this: firstly, how long it took to get this content. Not just the Happy Home Paradise expansion, but all of the quality of life changes we got alongside that DLC. These are changes that should have been implemented much earlier in the game’s lifecycle. Sure, we’ve had that pesky virus around, but New Horizons came out in March 2020 – not 2021.
The slowness of this DLC and updates could be forgiven if it wasn’t for the second point — there’s no more content coming at all. The game has sold more than 30 million copies, and that’s it. They’re leaving it as it is. There will be no new events, no more returning characters or features, and no more DLC.
Unless a sequel to New Horizons has been greenlit already, we’re not sure what they’re thinking. Nearly every other developer would kill for a game that could be monetized and improved with an install base of 30 million.
Then again, maybe really no one is playing it anymore. – VOOK
It Takes Two – Hazelight Studios
Games that offer co-op experiences are nothing new, they have been around for as long as gaming has been, but It Takes Two flips the experience by making it a requirement. This, of course could, have been a massive failure but Hazelight made it work by creating a game that has interesting characters, along with an array of gaming concepts that keep the action feeling fresh and you wanting to play more and more.
The entire experience requiring someone else to play with does make for some fun times, especially if your partner is not on the same gaming level as you, but even with that, you can get some really fun moments, much like Nintendo’s own Snipperclips. The game also manages to tackle some intense emotions and themes, and while it does use humour to explain some situations, there is no denying that underneath it all is a story that will relate to a number of players, for many reasons. Given that the entire game will have you wanting to play it more and more, the run time can be a little short, but this is one of the most unique and introspective games in a long time and well worth checking out. – Luke
Runner up: Guardians of the Galaxy – Eidos-Montréal
*Technically this is on the Switch with a the cloud version, but it’s not available in Australia.
The Sequel to the The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Nintendo
Come on, what else were you expecting? Despite us only getting a tiny little trailer this year it was enough to make us still want this game above all others. We just hope that we actually get the game in 2022. Otherwise guess who is going to win this award next year?
Runner up: Kirby and the Forgotten Land
Thanks for reading this article, and all our work in 2021.
The Vooks Team