The best video game stories in 2021 took us far and wide, whether it was to a sleepy Colorado town, outer space, the past, or the inside of some truly messed-up minds. And while we’ll be recounting all of these stories for years to come, one took us across the galaxy and captured our hearts (and Spotify playlists).
IGN’s best video game story of 2021 winner is…
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy manages to achieve something quite difficult – successfully reimagine an already beloved group of characters and arguably elevate them to new heights. Eidos Montreal took the humour synonymous with the ragtag team and injected a surprisingly healthy amount of heart into a story that delicately manages to balance a universe-ending event with the personal demons haunting each member. It’s a confidently told linear tale that feels like a playable six-issue comic book run and turns out just as fun and colorful as that sounds. Oh, and there’s a talking dog. That always makes a story better. – Simon Cardy
For more, check out IGN’s Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy review.
These are the rest of our nominations for the best video game story of 2021.
The original Psychonauts had a respectable story way back in 2005, but it largely served as an introductory chapter to a larger world and grander scheme, the full scope of which we never got to truly see. Until its sequel. Psychonauts 2 does a wonderful job at expanding its world by filling us in on its history – the creation of the Psychonauts, the secrets of its founding members, and the world both inside and outside the Psychonauts HQ – while also keeping the plot rooted in the mystery established at the very end of the first game: Who kidnapped Truman Zanotto? It’s a carefully crafted tale with surprising twists, big pay-offs, and a very satisfying conclusion. – Mitchell Saltzman
For more, check out IGN’s Psychonauts 2 review.
Like any great mystery, the best parts of Inscryption are its secrets – the things it doesn’t tell you outrightly on the screen but what it whispers between lines of code. Taking what can often become tired tropes if not executed properly, Inscryption weaves roguelike elements, metatextual threads, and even found-footage horror recordings into a twisting maze of intrigue. Around each of its corners lies a new nugget of information key to solving the mystery at hand. Never stepping over the line into becoming a full-on horror game, Inscryption seamlessly integrates its gameplay into the plot, making sure that whatever dread may be bubbling up inside you never stops you from uncovering those ever-enticing secrets. – Simon Cardy
For more, check out IGN’s Inscryption review.
The Forgotten City
While many of our favorite games have a penchant for huge, world-scale plots, there’s a whole lot to be said for small, intimate plots like that of The Forgotten City. It’s a time-loop game with a small cast of characters, a limited but secret-filled city space, and an intriguing moral mystery at its heart that prompts surprisingly deep discussions and questions reminiscent of an ancient philosophy course. The Forgotten City’s tight puzzle box of a world and infinite loops give the player space and time to get to know everyone’s personality, motives, secrets, wants, and worries, all while steadily uncovering the answers to a ‘whodunnit’ where even the crime itself starts off as a mystery, and your actions determine if and how the perpetrator is ultimately stopped. All this from what originated as a Skyrim mod! – Rebekah Valentine
For more, check out IGN’s The Forgotten City review.
Life is Strange: True Colors
As a series, story is by far Life is Strange’s greatest strength. Life is Strange: True Colors offers up a compelling mystery that maintains a compelling pace across all five episodes. Its characters are beautifully sketched, and big and small choices matter, the combination of which keeps you emotionally invested until the end. – Taylor Lyles
For more, check out IGN’s Life is Strange: True Colors review.
All IGN Best Of 2021 Gaming Categories
- Best Game of the Year 2021
- Best Console Exclusive of the Year 2021
- Best Action Game of the Year 2021
- Best Action-Adventure Game of the Year 2021
- Best Puzzle Game of the Year 2021
- Best Racing Game of the Year 2021
- Best RPG of the Year 2021
- Best Shooter of the Year 2021
- Best Strategy Game of the Year
- Most Accessible Game of the Year 2021
- Best Music in a Video Game of the Year 2021
- Best Ongoing Game of the Year
- Best Performance of the Year 2021
- Best Story of the Year 2021
- Best Video Game Art of the Year 2021
IGN’s Best of 2021 Awards were designed by:
Lead Design + Art Direction: Julia Rago
Motion Graphics: Will Batchelor