Shacknews Best of E3 2021 Awards

E3 2021 has concluded and all that's left is for the Shacknews staff to give our Best of E3 2021 Awards.


E3 2021 has concluded and it's been a long show. The Shacknews staff has been here throughout the show and we've seen almost everything that was revealed, starting from Geoff Keighley's Summer Game Fest all the way to Tuesday's Nintendo Direct. If you missed it earlier, the team jumped on the Shacknews Twitch channel to discuss everything shown this year and to give our "Best of E3" awards.

Before we dive into the bigger awards, the staff discussed some smaller awards to give out. Traditionally, we would give these awards out on the E3 show floor, giving out categories like "Best Carpet." However, with everybody home this year, we took the discussion to Twitch instead. Here are some of the smaller honors:

  • Best Game Now in Production: Homeworld 3 - Did you know that Homeworld 3 is now in production? The Gearbox show on Saturday made sure to let you know that no less than three times.
  • Best Leak: Nintendo eShop - Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope was a big surprise during Saturday's Ubisoft Forward. Too bad the Nintendo eShop accidentally leaked the store listing before the show. Oops!
  • Leave 'Em Hanging Award: Kevin Hart - There weren't a lot of good things to say about Saturday's Gearbox show, but we're not going to lie. We all got a big laugh out of Kevin Hart leaving Randy Pitchford hanging. Kevin Hart was having none of this.
  • Tweet of the Show: Belinda Garcia - A round of applause to Sledgehammer's Belinda Garcia for this tweet expressing love for her partner, Ubisoft's Youssef Maguid. Her total confidence combined with impeccable timing made this the absolute best thing we saw on Twitter during this E3 year. It was made all that much better by Maguid bringing everything full circle just a few days later in the wake of a certain... ahem... Bat-controversy. Garcia recently worked on Stonefly, so be sure to give that a look!

  • Best Strand Game of Show: Death Stranding Director's Cut - For our latest award in the Strand category, the winner is once again Death Stranding!
  • Best Typo: KeeWee - KeyWe is on our list for most anticipated indie games, which is why we were confused when we saw that the trailer that went up after the Future Games Show spelled the game's name "KeyWee." In many cases, indie developers need any help they can get. At least spell their name right! (This category's all in good fun and we're not throwing any malice towards GamesRadar, who did a great job with this year's Future Games Show.)
  • Best Song Featured in a Trailer: "Holding Out for a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler - Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy looks pretty good, but it wouldn't be Peter Quill if he didn't have a full vintage soundtrack at the ready. And, for this particular trailer, Bonnie Tyler's classic was a perfect fit.

  • Best Space Game: Starfield - There are a lot of games that are taking players into the cosmos, but we feel pretty confident projecting that none will be better than Starfield. Even if it turns out to be just "Skyrim in space," Skyrim was pretty awesome, so we'd be happy to see that.
  • Cutest Cat: Pekoe - Friendly felines also looked to be plentiful at E3 2021, but none of them stood out above Pekoe. This lovable kitty will help convey the game's relaxing tone and help players chill with a nice cup of tea.
  • Sweetest Cupcake: BattleCakes - It took a moment to clearly define what a cupcake was, but after everything was clarified, nothing says "cupcake" more than BattleCakes. Players will journey across Pasteleria and endeavor to bring joy to the world, either by defeating or befriending monsters. Customize your cupcake however you want, just like you would at your local Sprinkles!

  • Best Game Based in Chernobyl: Atomic Heart - We've been seeing good things about this action RPG from the team at Mundfish. It would have been enough if they had simply told people it was coming to Xbox Game Pass. On top of that, the team put together a wild trailer showcasing robots, metahuman powers, time stoppages, and a ladle-wielding grandma. What's not to love about this?
  • Best Hosts: Wholesome Direct - We thought this would be Geoff Keighley's award to lose, so we're as surprised as anybody else. However, we were so charmed by Jenny Windom, Derek Fields, and Victoria Tran and their infectious enthusiasm for everything being shown at the inaugural Wholesome Direct that we had to give them this award by the time it was over. They expressed the kind of joy that makes video games such a fun hobby and we look forward to seeing them again next year.

Now let's get into the bigger awards of the show.

Best Trailer: The Outer Worlds 2

Perhaps it's because Obsidian already has two other games its working on with Grounded and the upcoming Avowed, but I don't think anybody expected them to already have The Outer Worlds 2 in the works. To be fair, they don't, but that's what makes this trailer such a piece of genius.

Look at this trailer less as a game reveal and more as a commentary on reveal trailers, period. They nail some of the biggest tropes, going into monsters that are never seen in the final version, slow motion shots that mean nothing, lens flare, and unfinished assets galore! It was a hilarious piece of work, reminiscent of the humor of The Outer Worlds itself.

We're not kidding ourselves into thinking this is going to be ready anytime soon, but at least it has our attention.

Best Hardware: Game & Watch The Legend of Zelda

When one normally thinks of Game & Watch, the first ideas that pop up are micro-sized games that can be done in a single sitting, not a multi-hour epic. For all the young kids reading this, when The Legend of Zelda first released, it revolutionized the industry for packing a battery backup for save files. Now that innovation comes in a small Game & Watch-sized package with Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda.

For packing in three of the series' retro classics into the Game & Watch hardware, alongside the interactive clock and timer functions, we give this our Best Hardware award. We love the old-school Zelda games, but never could have expected that we'd be playing them like this.

Biggest Surprise: Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp

There are certain first-party franchises that fans are resigned to just sitting in the Nintendo graveyard forever. For a long time, Advance Wars looked to be on that list, especially with Intelligent Systems having moved on to other franchises like Paper Mario and WarioWare. That's why it was such a surprise to not only see the name "Advance Wars" again, but see it with a fresh coat of paint with Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp.

The Game Boy Advance just celebrated its 20th anniversary, just to give an indicator of how long it's been since an Advance Wars game graced a Nintendo platform of any kind. Seeing it with fresh 3D visuals is not only a treat for this year, but should also give fans hope that a new chapter might be possible in the future.

Best Art Style: Replaced

Dystopian settings are nothing new, but Replaced has dazzled us with its mixture of a 2D action game set alongside dark and gritty 3D environments. Post-apocalyptic settings are increasingly becoming a dime a dozen, but there's something about Replaced's landscape that truly evokes the spirit of a movie like Blade Runner.

The blend of 2D action with vibrant 3D landscapes feel reminiscent of a game like Katana Zero. We certainly hope the action can hold up its end, but for now, this is one gorgeous game to behold.

Best Console Exclusive: Halo Infinite

What we've seen out of Halo between 2020 and 2021 feels like night and day. There was a lot of uncertainty about 343's latest coming out of last year's campaign reveal. The whole thing felt uninspired, derivative, and samey. What we saw of the campaign this year feels... less so, though there's still a lot of cautious optimism regarding the story.

What made Halo Infinite stand out this year was the multiplayer reveal. The frenetic action, the moment-to-moment gameplay loop, the all-out vehicular carnage, the close-quarters arena shooting, and the full-blown open world warfare made Halo Infinite feel like a must-have game. It's the first time Halo Infinite has felt truly essential, which 343 hasn't been able to convey to this point with the campaign.

On top of all of that, it looks like 343 has been taking notes on how to refine certain free-to-play elements to feel less exploitative (goodbye, loot boxes) and much friendlier to both the casual and hardcore player. The new stuff, like the Razorback vehicle, is icing on the cake. As fun as the Master Chief Collection has been, we've been hungry for a new multiplayer Halo experience here at Shacknews and we can say that it feels good to be looking forward to a Halo game again.

Best Presentation: Devolver MaxPass+

After this many years of doing... whatever it is they're doing, it's hard to imagine how Devolver Digital can continue to find new ways to subvert the typical E3 falderal. Somehow, they keep finding ways to do it, but this year's presentation, titled Devolver MaxPass+, had more of a special feeling to it.

More than previous years, Devolver's presentation felt theatrical. There was choreography, there were musical numbers, there were high production values. There's always an air of hokeyness to the Devolver stuff, some of it bordering on cringe. There wasn't really any cringe here. Everybody was on their game, while still managing to deliver exciting game announcements.

Speaking of which, Nina Struthers gave out the link to the Devolver MaxPass+ early in the show with the presentation's announcements already available in advance, as if to tell its audience, "We know this E3 stuff can be a drag. We're not going to waste anybody's time. If you don't want to sit through this, here's what we have." Respecting the audience's time shouldn't be a bold idea, but this felt novel. It felt admirable. Devoler's commitment to entertaining fans while also respecting their time are admirable traits.

Don't ever change, Devolver Digital. Can't wait for next year.

Best Indie Game of Show: Twelve Minutes

This was a big weekend for indie games. Over a hundred of them got the spotlight across the Guerrilla Collection, IGN Expo, and Wholesome Direct, so it was hard to narrow down which single game had the biggest impact on us. Ultimately, we decided on the upcoming Twelve Minutes from Annapurna Interactive and Luis Antonio.

Twelve Minutes' approach to the idea of being stuck in a time loop is a strong one, making every moment count since there are few precious moments to react to what's happening. Plus, the idea that the main character can get an instant reaction to interacting with anything puts a wrinkle in the typical adventure game formula.

If you want an idea of what you're in for with Twelve Minutes, we recently posted a hands-on preview that you can peruse at your convenience. We look forward to this game when it releases on August 19.

Game of Show: Redfall

If you're Xbox and Bethesda and you're holding a presentation that features Halo Infinite, Starfield, and Forza Horizon 5, you had better have one heck of a title lined up for your "one more thing." They nailed that, and then some, with the latest from Arkane Studios.

Redfall looks like it will combine the co-op shooting of a title like Left 4 Dead with supernatural dark magic. We're already enthralled with the game's main cast of characters, we're stoked to see the level of hellbound adversaries that they're up against, and we're curious to see what sorts of powers we can combine with our firearms.

We said this many times during our deliberations on Twitch, but zombies are played out. Give us this, where we can be vampire hunters. We anxiously await the first chance to learn more about these characters, as well as the setting of Redfall, Massachusetts. For now, we're in love with what we've seen of Redfall and we're happy to give it our Game of Show honors.

Winner of E3 2021: Nintendo

On Monday night, there was a consensus in online circles that this year's E3 was a dud, more than usual. Presentations dragged, there was a lot of hype over nothing, in the case of one or two shows there were some outright baffling announcements, and there wasn't anything that really blew anybody away. Everybody looked to Nintendo to save this show. It wasn't the first time. It won't be the last. The reason is because they did it again.

There were a few noteworthy omissions, but Nintendo brought some incredible surprises, like the upcoming Metroid Dread, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp, the Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda, WarioWare: Get It Together, and many more.

That would have been more than enough for this Nintendo Direct to be considered a success, but Nintendo offering an update on the current state of the sequel to Breath of the Wild managed to generate new excitement and also raise some wild (pardon the phrasing) new questions. The main question is, why are Link and Zelda in the sky? Are players not exploring the lands of Hyrule anymore? Was the re-release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword some kind of 4D chess marketing for the next Breath of the Wild? There are no answers to these questions right now, but it feels good to ask them. It feels good to be excited and that's what Nintendo gave anyone who was still watching E3 streams. It gave them something to be excited about.

For us here at Shacknews, we declare Nintendo the undisputed Winner of E3 2021.

Those are our big winners for E3 2021. Do you agree or disagree with our picks? Join the conversation and let us know what you loved from this year's show. Plus, be sure to catch up with all of our E3 2021 coverage.

Shack Staff stories are a collective effort with multiple staff members contributing. Many of our lists often involve entires from several editors, and our weekly Shack Chat is something we all contribute to as a group. 

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