Indie games overshadow blockbusters at the 2021 GDC Awards

Independent games made a big impact at the GDC Awards 2021. Here are all the winners and nominees.
Hades from Supergiant Games took out Game of the Year at the GDC Awards 2021

The winners of the 2021 GDC Awards, part of the annual Game Developer’s Conference have been announced. Despite being a separate ceremony from the Independent Game Festival awards, independent games nonetheless took the bulk of the awards in a positive shift to recognising the quality of work presently being done in that space around the globe.  

Leading the charge of independent winners was Hades from Supergiant Games, which took out Game of the Year alongside Best Design and Best Audio. Multiplayer horror phenomenon Phasmophobia earned developer Kinetic Games Best Debut Developer, and Chinese developer miHoYo unsurprisingly took out Best Mobile Game with Genshin Impact, one of the most popular and profitable releases of 2020, mobile or otherwise. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Sony Interactive Entertainment and their big-budget teams from PlayStation Studios took out four awards. Best Narrative went to The Last of Us Part II, a title whose storytelling decisions became the focus of many conversations shortly after its release. Ghost of Tsushima won Best Visual Art for its heavily stylised depiction of Feudal Japan through the lens of classic samurai films, and also took out the Audience Choice Award. Dreams from Media Molecule (headed up by Australian BAFTA Fellow Siobhan Reddy) took the Innovation Award for its unique game creation tools.

Microsoft Flight Simulator from Asobo Studio rightly took out Best Technology, thanks to their game engine which attempts to accurately recreate the entire planet, down to each individual building and including real-time weather conditions, to create realistic environments for its aviation simulation. Half-Life: Alyx from Valve also rightly took out Best VR/AR game for the steps it took in pushing and refining the experiences in that space.

The Pioneer Award went to Tom Fulp, creator of historic Adobe Flash project depository Newgrounds, and the Lifetime Achievement Award was given to MARVEL’s Laralyn McWilliams.

The full list of nominations and winner for the 2021 GDC Awards are as follows:


GDC Awards 2021: Winners and Nominees

BEST AUDIO

  • Hades (Supergiant Games)
  • The Last of Us Part II (Naughty Dog / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Doom Eternal (id Software / Bethesda Softworks)
  • Final Fantasy VII: Remake (Square Enix)
  • Ghost of Tsushima (Sucker Punch Productions / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

WINNER: Hades (Supergiant Games)

Honorable Mentions: Half-Life: Alyx (Valve), Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintendo EPD/ Nintendo), Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Moon Studios / Xbox Game Studios / iam8bit), Fuser (Harmonix Music Systems / NCsoft)

READ: Hades will make you see death differently

BEST DEBUT

  • Phasmophobia (Kinetic Games)
  • Umurangi Generation (Origame Digital / Playism, Origame Digital)
  • Carrion (Phobia Game Studio / Devolver Digital)
  • Mortal Shell (Cold Symmetry / Playstack)
  • Raji: An Ancient Epic (Nodding Heads Games / Super!Com)

WINNER: Phasmophobia (Kinetic Games)

Honorable Mentions: Call of the Sea (Out of the Blue / Raw Fury), Röki (Polygon Treehouse / CI Games), If Found… (Dreamfeel / Annapurna Interactive)

BEST DESIGN

  • Ghost of Tsushima (Sucker Punch Productions / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • The Last of Us Part II (Naughty Dog / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Hades (Supergiant Games)
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintendo EPD/ Nintendo)
  • Half-Life: Alyx (Valve)

WINNER: Hades (Supergiant Games)

Honorable Mentions: Final Fantasy VII: Remake (Square Enix), Crusader Kings III (Paradox Development Studio / Paradox Interactive), Spelunky 2 (Blitworks, Mossmouth / Mossmouth), Dreams (Media Molecule / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

INNOVATION AWARD

  • Microsoft Flight Simulator (Asobo Studio / Xbox Game Studios)
  • Dreams (Media Molecule / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Half-Life: Alyx (Valve)
  • Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout (Mediatonic / Devolver Digital)
  • Hades (Supergiant Games)

WINNER: Dreams (Media Molecule / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Honorable Mentions: Astro’s Playroom (Sony Japan Studio/Team Asobi / Sony Interactive Entertainment), Ghost of Tsushima (Sucker Punch Productions / Sony Interactive Entertainment), The Last of Us Part II (Naughty Dog / Sony Interactive Entertainment), Watch Dogs: Legion (Ubisoft Toronto / Ubisoft)

BEST MOBILE GAME

  • The Pathless (Giant Squid / Annapurna Interactive)
  • Genshin Impact (miHoYo)
  • Legends of Runeterra (Riot Games)
  • Alba: A Wildlife Adventure (ustwo / PID Publishing)      
  • If Found… (Dreamfeel / Annapurna Interactive)

WINNER: Genshin Impact (miHoYo)

Honorable Mentions: Pokémon Café Mix (Genius Sonority / Nintendo / The Pokémon Company), Reigns: Beyond (Nerial / Devolver Digital)

BEST NARRATIVE

  • Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition (Cardboard Computer / Annapurna Interactive)
  • Final Fantasy VII: Remake (Square Enix)
  • Hades (Supergiant Games)
  • The Last of Us Part II (Naughty Dog / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Ghost of Tsushima (Sucker Punch Productions / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

WINNER: The Last of Us Part II 

Honorable Mentions: Spiritfarer (Thunder Lotus Games), Half-Life: Alyx (Valve), Cyberpunk 2077 (CD Projekt RED / CD Projekt), If Found… (Dreamfeel / Annapurna Interactive), Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales (Insomniac Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment), 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim (Vanillaware / Atlus)

BEST TECHNOLOGY

  • The Last of Us Part II (Naughty Dog / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Half-Life: Alyx (Valve)
  • Dreams (Media Molecule / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Ghost of Tsushima (Sucker Punch Productions / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator (Asobo Studio / Xbox Game Studios)

WINNER: Microsoft Flight Simulator (Asobo Studio / Xbox Game Studios)

Honorable Mentions: Final Fantasy VII: Remake (Square Enix), Astro’s Playroom (Sony Japan Studio/Team Asobi / Sony Interactive Entertainment), Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales (Insomniac Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

BEST VISUAL ART

  • Ghost of Tsushima (Sucker Punch Productions / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Hades (Supergiant Games)
  • The Last of Us Part II (Naughty Dog / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Moon Studios / Xbox Game Studios / iam8bit)
  • Cyberpunk 2077 (CD Projekt RED / CD Projekt)

WINNER: Ghost of Tsushima (Sucker Punch Productions / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Honorable Mentions: Final Fantasy VII: Remake (Square Enix), Spiritfarer (Thunder Lotus Games), Umurangi Generation (Origame Digital / Playism, Origame Digital), Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales (Insomniac Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

BEST VR/AR GAME

  • The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners (Skydance Interactive)
  • Paper Beast (Pixel Reef)
  • Dreams (Media Molecule / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Half-Life: Alyx (Valve)
  • Star Wars: Squadrons (Motive Studios / Electronic Arts)

WINNER: Half-Life: Alyx (Valve)

Honorable Mentions: Phasmophobia (Kinetic Games), The Room VR: A Dark Matter (Fireproof Games), Iron Man VR (Camouflaj / Sony Interactive Entertainment), Microsoft Flight Simulator (Asobo Studio / Xbox Game Studios), Until You Fall (Schell Games)

GAME OF THE YEAR

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintendo EPD/ Nintendo)
  • The Last of Us Part II (Naughty Dog / Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Half-Life: Alyx (Valve)
  • Hades (Supergiant Games)
  • Ghost of Tsushima (Sucker Punch Productions / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

WINNER: Hades (Supergiant Games)

READ: Hades’ Greg Kasavin breaks down Supergiant’s unique approach to narrative

Honorable Mentions: Spelunky 2 (Blitworks, Mossmouth / Mossmouth), Doom Eternal (id Software / Bethesda Softworks), Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales (Insomniac Games / Sony Interactive Entertainment), Microsoft Flight Simulator (Asobo Studio / Xbox Game Studios), Final Fantasy VII: Remake (Square Enix), Genshin impact (miHoYo)

AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD

  • Ghost of Tsushima (Sucker Punch Productions / Sony Interactive Entertainment)

GAME DEVELOPERS CHOICE PIONEER AWARD

  • Tom Fulp (Newgrounds)

GAME DEVELOPERS CHOICE AWARD FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

  • Laralyn McWilliams (MARVEL at Microsoft)

Edmond is the managing editor of ScreenHub. He has covered the video game industry for over 13 years, was the former Australian editor of GameSpot, and is an award-winning video producer. You can follow him on Twitter: @EdmondTran

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