In case you missed it, catch up with the entire Gamer Crash Awards!
The next award we’re taking a look at today is the biggest surprise. These can be games that were completely off my radar when they launched or were way better than I assumed they’d be. It’s always a fun surprise when a game comes out of no where.
Naturally, in a world so plugged in to the internet, surprises are still kind of hard to come by these days. We’re inundated with social media, videos, streaming, and pre-release information so most of the time, we’re already aware of everything well in advance. Thankfully, there are still a few games that, for better or worse, fly under the radar and then seemingly launch out of nowhere.
This list below is comprised of many games that did just that for me as well as a few that I kinda expected to hate but actually turned out better than I thought. In the end, these games not only completely flew past my expectations, but they made me a believer in them.
And with that said, here are the nominees:
The main reason why I’ve placed this game here is because of how ROUGH it looked last year. Granted, the community backlash and endless “Craig” memes helped Microsoft delay Halo Infinite into 2021, effectively removing its big Xbox Series X/S system seller in the process. Kudos to Microsoft for thinking more about the brand than lost sales.
I think ultimately, that line of thinking paid off majorly. While there has been plenty of reports about the rough development cycle, Halo Infinite turned out much better than it likely should have. The multiplayer is fun and frantic, fitting in with the series’ classic style. The campaign has been a real treat so far as well and I have to be honest, the open world segments feel real good. I like the mix of classic linear levels that feed back into this open space where there are things to find and side missions to tackle if you want. Plus, being upgrade Master Chief just feels right as well, as limited as it may be.
Generally speaking, I love Arkane games. They really know how to create these interesting sandbox style spaces, whether that be in Dishonored or Prey, letting you accomplish your goals how you want. However, I couldn’t get a read on Deathloop at all. As we all know, the game was HEAVILY marketed for the PS5, getting tons of trailers, marketing promotions, and even a dedicated Sony Presentation. However, through all of that, I found it impossible to understand how this game would work considering that you’re constantly looping through the same day over and over.
Needless to say, when the game finally launched this year, I was stunned to see universal praise and ridiculously high review scores, with a bunch of outlets giving it a perfect score. This strong word of mouth pushed me to get it and I am so glad I did. Deathloop is stylish and extremely fun to play. It’s a shame marketing had such trouble describing it, but the gameplay loop is extremely strong and borrows a lot from Dishonored, while also adding in its own fun twists. The story is interesting, the gameplay is addictive, and the mechanics are really well done.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Considering that Square Enix was coming off of the bomb that was Marvel’s Avengers, expectations were decidedly low for Guardians of the Galaxy. However, the marketing campaign at E3 managed to say all the correct things: no microtransactions, no DLC, single player story experience, and all unlockables can be earned by playing.
Lo and behold, it wasn’t all just talk. Guardians of the Galaxy is one of my favorite games of 2021 and really blew me away with how much care and attention to detail Eidos Montreal was able to infuse. They stayed true to what makes the Guardians who they are: sarcastic, off the wall characters with a little heart mixed in for good measure. The characters were all well written, and the game had a Mass Effect style vibe to it with being in control of Star-Lord, but being able to control your teammates. Definitely check this game out if you initially passed on it.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Alright, fine, this is technically a 2020 game. So why is it here? I jumped in relatively blind to it this year. While I generally know the story as the game originally launched for the PS1 and is still revered by many, I really don’t play Final Fantasy games at all so this was my first true experience with it. Thanks to a sale and an open gap in my schedule, I figured I’d give this game a shot.
Well, I now know why people speak in such reverence of the game as it was pretty fantastic. I know that longtime fans may have gotten more out of it, with added details and fleshed out bits, but for someone completely new to the game, I found it both interesting and compelling. It also helped that the combat was snappy and the world building was outrageously good. Seeing Sector 7 for the first time and where it was positioned in Midgar, as well as the outlandish area of Wall Market were extremely memorable experiences.
While I’ve had my fair share of MMO experiences in my life (WoW, Guild Wars, and Dark Age of Camelot to name a few), I’ve pretty much left that side of me behind. I just don’t have the time to devote to these games and with many of them requiring a monthly subscription, I’d feel bad if I didn’t log in to “get my money’s worth.” It’s because of that, numerous delays, and Amazon’s track record with games being so poor that New World really wasn’t on my radar.
As we all know, New World got off to an incredible start, so much so that the population of players attempting to log in killed their servers. With so much positive word of mouth, and the fact that there wasn’t a required monthly subscription, I dove in. Sure, the game has some shortcomings, but I’m finding the moment to moment gameplay to be pretty fun. The focus on crafting and weapon improvement also feels very Skyrim-ish, in that you’re constantly improving the more you do something. It’s certainly addicting.
Steep was fun for a while but it never stuck with me for some reason. The freedom of just shredding down a mountain on this massive map was appealing, but I think I was expecting something a little more arcadey in nature. Riders Republic, while similar, seems to embrace more of that wild and anything goes style. It certainly launched to a ton of fan fair which helped it catch my attention.
What I really appreciate about Riders Republic is its gameplay and that it wants you to play how you want. There’s a billion things to do, sure, it is a Ubisoft game after all, but the game gives you the tools to let you go off and do your own thing. Want to explore? Here’s a rocket pack or skimobile. Want to perform tricks? There’s a dedicated space to do just that. Feel like taking on 60+ players in a massive race? Sure, you can! The map is massive and the game covers tons of extreme sports like BMX, Skiing/Snowboarding, to even more obscure and outlandish stuff like rocket packs, paragliding, wingsuits, and more. Riders Republic wants to make sure you’re never bored.
And my biggest surprise of 2021 is….
I absolutely have to give it to Deathloop because that game went from 0 to 100 in the matter of like 1 day.
I spend the entire year plus ignoring it and generally poking fun at how confusing the premise and gameplay sounded. The game’s marketing didn’t help that at all. However, on release, just being generally surprised at the reception that I just had to experience it for myself. Going from apathy to being complete smitten with in such a short period of time is generally unheard of and was shocking to me.