Nintendo Life Alternative Awards 2021

Ah yes, that idle final week in December where some people head back to work, and others relax until new year filling their days with what they love — video games, for example. Good choice!

We've already totted up our personal scores and bestowed our staff Game of the Year 2021 on a deserving candidate, and you Nintendo Life readers have had your say, too (it seems we're simpatico with our choices, which is nice). We've also looked at our favourite Switch Ports and Hidden Gems of the year — it's been a good 12 months! Well, games-wise, at least.

Today, though, it's time for some lighthearted awards that don't quite fit in anywhere else. Here we'll highlight games that might not get a shout in other fancy-pants categories but that we feel are deserving of praise nonetheless. Yes, it's time to get whimsical with the Nintendo Life Alternative Game Awards 2021!

We've done this the last couple of years, and what with the state of things in the world right now, we're all about injecting a little extra festive cheer into the last week of the year. So, let's dive right into our hodge-podge 2021 collection of five not-quite awards, shall we?

We begin with a great game which doesn't sit nicely in any one genre category...

Best 'Game That Doesn't Fit Neatly On Our Genre Lists' 2021

Winner: Astrologaster

This launched on Switch in February and follows in the footsteps of games like Part Time UFO and Hypnospace Outlaw in that Astrologaster doesn't fit nicely into any one category — at least not one that can be made into one of our Switch Essentials genre lists.

It's a great little comic musical narrative adventure from Nyamyam, the studio responsible for the Wii U's gorgeous Tengami. If you're looking for something a bit different from the 72,600 Metroidvanias that came to Switch in 2021, this is well worth checking out.

Further reading:

Best End-Of-Year Arrival That Dropped Too Late To Make Our GOTY 2021 List

Winner: Chicory: A Colorful Tale

Chicory A Colorful Tale
Image: Finji

That this game was a cracker was well-known, but the work that went into the Switch port in particular has made Finji's indie hit Chicory a delight to (re)visit on Nintendo's console. It just arrived too late to make a dent in our staff list, is all.

Remember, our reader-ranked Best Switch Games of 2021 article is dynamic, so if you've enjoyed Chicory over the holidays, head to its game page and rate it accordingly — it could well show up on the list if it gets enough ratings. It's not too late!

Except for our staff list, which is set in stone. Bah.

Best Worst Best Worst Game 2021

Winner: The Longing

The Longing Switch

Ah, The Longing — a game that more than any other this year defied traditional review score metrics. Stuart detested every long second of his time with it and we agonised over how it should be scored, taking into account our existing framework and remit to give readers as much context and useful information as possible.

Over time, The Longing earns your respect — however begrudgingly — and more than any other game in recent memory it seemed to intentionally make a mockery of everything: review scores and your time alike. Which was kind of the point.

A fine candidate for the year's best worst best worst game, then.

Best Non-2021 Switch Game of the Year

Winner: Blasphemous

Runners up: Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Smash Bros. and more

Image: Team17

We played plenty of Animal Crossing and Smash this year, thanks to final updates for each of those evergreens, and our backlog continues to grow with each passing eShop sale. For this writer, though, it was The Game Kitchen's Blasphemous that was most surprisingly impressive game of the year... just not this year. It was especially surprising considering Nintendo delivered a bona fide Metroidvania this year, as well — a bloody good one!

In fact, having dipped into Blasphemous mid-playthrough of Dread after picking it up on sale, this game delayed completion of Samus' adventure thanks to its gorgeously gory pixel art, old-school Spanish architectural style, and compulsive just-one-more combat loop. It's a really excellent Soulslike / Metroidvania that's definitely worth your time... if you can stand the unending gloom of Cvstodia, that is.

Others team members also enjoyed catching up with Bastion, The Mummy Demastered, Oxenfree, Golf Story and Sine Mora EX, too. Oldies-but-goodies, all.

Best Game We Keep Blathering On About That You Really Should Play

Winner: Toree 3D / Toree 2

Image: Diplodocus Games

A pair of super cheap-and-cheerful throwback 3D platformers that deliver more smiles and joy in their short runtime than many a game with a huge budget and a development team of dozens, both Toree titles have been delightful, undemanding nuggets that popped up between the hulking great games of year. We've mentioned them before, several times, but they're worth mentioning again.

Both games have been updated with a handful of new levels, too. If you're into 3D platformers, fun, or even fun 3D platformers, you really can't go wrong for a couple of quid.

Let us know your nominations for the 'alternative' categories above — and any other categories you'd add — in the comments below.