Game Of The Year 2021 – Nintendo Life Staff Awards

Image: Nintendo Life

As 2021 comes to an end there’s plenty of gaming to reflect upon. It was a relatively busy year from Nintendo as it kept up momentum for the Switch, which added the OLED model and continues to be a top-seller.

The year started with Nintendo’s first-party slate looking relatively quiet, but that was rapidly fixed with a steady flow of releases big and small, with some ports thrown in to fill gaps. All told we were kept busy and there were a few huge releases from the big N, while third-parties also did their bit. There were a few notable big ‘uns from Capcom, SEGA and Atlus, as examples, while the eShop continued to serve up a lot of the finest Indie games.

But which were the absolute best games of 2021? You had your say through user reviews, and now Team Nintendo Life will share our picks of the best Switch games of 2021. It wasn’t easy — the shortlist we drew up certainly wasn’t very short! — but after each nominating our personal top 10s with points assigned, we’ve whittled down the following ten Switch games that cumulatively represent our absolute favourites the year.

So let’s get into it, our team’s top 10 Switch games of the year.

New Pokémon Snap (Switch)New Pokémon Snap (Switch)

Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Bandai Namco

Release Date: 30th Apr 2021 (USA) / 30th Apr 2021 (UK/EU)

If, like us, you’ve been waiting a significant chunk of your life for a sequel to Pokémon Snap, then you’re in luck; New Pokémon Snap has almost everything that made the original special and fleshes it out into a much more elaborate game. This is something you can sink some serious time into and while there are some minor frustrations and pacing issues in the story, playing freely at your own pace is a pure joy. The original has gone down in history possibly as Pokémon’s greatest spinoff, and it may have been dethroned.

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Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind (Switch eShop)Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind (Switch eShop)

Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo

Release Date: 14th May 2021 (USA) / 14th May 2021 (UK/EU)

The Girl Who Stands Behind is just as appealing and upgraded as The Missing Heir (which is part of the mandatory purchase in Europe, for example), and we really can’t recommend one without the other, although you can play either separately. The story in The Girl Who Stands Behind is creepier, and the characters are more likeable, though they’re also a little more forgettable at the same time. You can’t go too far wrong with either, and we’d certainly suggest the double bill of Famicom Detective Club murder mysteries; they’re must-plays for anyone who loves the genre.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Happy Home Paradise DLC (Switch eShop)Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Happy Home Paradise DLC (Switch eShop)

Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo

Release Date: 5th Nov 2021 (USA) / 5th Nov 2021 (UK/EU)

Back in November Animal Crossing: New Horizons got a substantial (and long awaited) update, a lot of which was free. The free content was excellent, but the paid Happy Home Paradise DLC is well worth your investment if you’re already a fan of the base game. It integrates brilliant with the core experience and you can spend many, many hours doing your ‘work’ designing homes and buildings in paradise. It has surprising depth, too, and is too charming for words – just lovely gaming.

Death's Door (Switch eShop)Death's Door (Switch eShop)

Publisher: Devolver Digital / Developer: Acid Nerve

Release Date: 23rd Nov 2021 (USA) / 23rd Nov 2021 (UK/EU)

Death’s Door is a modern classic, utilizing old gameplay ideas in a new setting to make for a short and sweet experience you won’t want to miss. The snappy combat, rewarding exploration and relaxing music will stick with you once you’ve finished, and while it may not have anything ‘new’ to offer, Death’s Door delivers a familiar format but with true zest and beautifully refined quality. Acid Nerve crafted an experience that’s absolutely worth your time and money.

Axiom Verge 2 (Switch eShop)Axiom Verge 2 (Switch eShop)

Publisher: Thomas Happ Games / Developer: Thomas Happ Games

Release Date: 11th Aug 2021 (USA) / 11th Aug 2021 (UK/EU)

Axiom Verge is a remarkably tough act to follow, but Thomas Happ managed to do it again in producing a pitch perfect, excellently paced Metroidvania adventure. Axiom Verge 2 perfectly balances familiar elements that made the original great and trying out new ideas that give the sequel its own identity, and while lovers of the first game may take some time to adjust, everything comes together and makes for a potent experience that no fan of the genre will want to miss out on. The mysterious atmosphere, thrilling pace, and fantastic world design all come together to make for a worthy follow up that stands well on its own.

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