It’s Oscar month! This has no impact on games whatsoever, because games are not movies, but that doesn’t mean we can’t dip our toes into the discourse anyway.

One of the things I love most about awards season is getting irrationally angry about what gets awards and what doesn’t. This month, we’re going to channel that energy into our own slightly irritated awards show! We’ve nominated our choices for each given award below, but you can add any awards you think deserve discussing in the comments. Time is not a factor—you can nominate games from years past or current games!

Game That Won Too Many Damn Awards

Melissa Brinks: I am a certified hater, but literally every time I encounter a weird glitch in a game I reflexively say, “Game of the year,” out loud because of how annoyed I was that Skyrim swept GOTYs despite releasing the same year as Portal 2.

Cress: Fuck it, The Last of Us! Both of them for me. I know, I know, there’s a neat premise, good accessibility, and tons of people worked hard on it, but I don’t like the narrative. I get so tired of zombies with a twist games that boil down to humanity tearing itself apart.

A screenshot from The Last of Us Part II. Ellie holds a photograph of Joel and his late daughter Sarah that she found in Joel's home.

The Last of Us Part II, Naughty Dog, Sony Interactive Entertainment, 2020

Zainabb Hull: I honestly don’t pay much attention to game awards so I’m ill-equipped to answer this question, but I have to echo Cress: The Last of Us may have its merits but it’s also a series with an overly-pessimistic, western understanding of “humanity” and the apocalypse that super does not interest me.

Maddi Butler: I agree with The Last of Us, but I say specifically The Last of Us: Part II because it felt like it was both designed to make everyone playing it absolutely miserable and to dredge as many awards as possible. As someone who has written many thousands of words about the game, I recognize the hypocrisy of this statement, but I am so tired of hearing about it.

In the interest of adding another game to the mix: Horizon: Zero Dawn. When it first came out, I really appreciated the more limited scope of its open world, but it’s also pretty casually racist about its indigenous influences and in making a white woman the savior of the whole world. The real answer here is actually Horizon: Forbidden West, which is peak “more is more” game design, but, having had the great misfortune of coming out one week before Elden Ring, it actually didn’t receive much award recognition!

Game That Didn’t Win Enough Damn Awards

Melissa: As far as I know, A Bewitching Revolution hasn’t won any awards and that’s a shame. No game has done magic better, in my humble opinion!!

Cress: I feel like Inscryption should have won at least one of the Game Awards, it goes hard!

A screenshot from A Bewitching Revolition. Low-poly trees and flowers are the only spots of bright color on a gray city street. A Bewitching Revolution, Colestia, 2019.

A Bewitching Revolution, Colestia, 2019

Zainabb: Seconding A Bewitching Revolution for Most Socialist and Most Magical game of the year awards! I also think Cozy Grove should receive more awards along similar lines: it has satisfying gameplay and a story that surfaces the importance of community alongside the misery of life. It’s not as overt about theory as A Bewitching Revolution and, as a crafting sim, the gameplay is nowhere near as radical, but I think it fully deserves its dues.

Maddi: Betrayal at Club Low has actually won a few awards, but it deserves further recognition. Oh, what is Betrayal at Club Low, you ask? See, you might know this if it had won additional awards at mainstream awards events! It’s a game about a secret agent who goes undercover to infiltrate Club Low, a coffin factory turned nightclub, and rescue an old colleague from a flamingo stew-loving mob boss. You do so by rolling and upgrading your pizza dice. I will answer no further questions about this impeccable concept. If you have not been convinced to play it by now, I cannot help you.

Best Bad Voice Acting in a Video Game

Melissa: You know I have to say Tidus’s fucking laugh in Final Fantasy X.

Cress: The voice actor for Leon Kennedy in Dead by Daylight, Riley McShane, uh…knew what he was doing… (Editor’s Note: NSFW??? I guess??? Take a look at the top replayed sections and get ready for an Experience.)

Zainabb: Whoever voiced Ethan Mars in Heavy Rain (I googled it, his name is Pascal Langdale), purely for the “JAY-SOOOON” and “SHAUN” yells.

Maddi: I have nothing against Ashly Burch (truly) but having thought about Horizon: Forbidden West for the first time in two years, I am now also remembering that they had to add a patch that made Aloy talk less.

Prettiest, Worst Game

Melissa: I’m sorry to be this spicy but I think The Last of Us Part II‘s lush, overgrown Seattle is incredibly gorgeous, but the experience of the game itself—both in terms of gameplay and story, as I hate stealth and many of the story beats—is so deeply unpleasant to me.

Cress: I usually like the Tales of series as it has wonderful stories and some top-notch worldbuilding that some triple-A games could learn from. Tales of Zesteria, however, is gorgeous and not a whole lot else. (Editor’s note: Spoilers incoming!) The story boils down to a Jesus-like sacrifice of the main character for the world’s malevolence. And malevolence, in this case, can be vague at times. There’s a character who is an assassin and remains pure throughout. They also changed the battle system away from having regular attacks you could adjust with the directional buttons. Instead, every attack is an arte—a special skill you can assign. It made using an arte less interesting and I mostly just spammed one button throughout.

It was also the closest we got to a queer main couple in the Tales series, but it’s extremely muted and mostly subtext.

A screenshot from Uncharted 4. Nathan Drake looking dejected. He's leaning against a railing with foggy mountains in the distance.

Uncharted 4, Naughty Dog, Sony Interactive Entertainment, 2016

Zainabb: Like, any of the Uncharted games. Yes, yes, the environs are gorgeous but, like Melissa says about The Last of Us Part II, the gameplay and narrative are ugly, reveling in the wanton colonial and imperial destruction the player causes or contributes to as Nathan Drake. Truly, fuck those games, man.

Maddi: Horizon: Forbidden West, which is the most beautiful game I have ever played for basically 96 straight hours and then never thought about again (until now).

Ugliest, Best Game

Melissa: I think Baldur’s Gate 3 scratches the itch for a modern Dragon Age, but god damn if I don’t want to go back and play Origins sometimes. The only thing stopping me is how hideously brown it is! It’s not even that the graphics are dated, which is excusable—it’s old! It’s that it’s so fucking brown! I believe Ferelden is a muddy place, but why is everybody cast in a weird orange-ish light?

Cress: Games like Baldur’s Gate and Diablo aren’t ugly to me, I just don’t like the top down look when there’s so much detail put into the design. I see the beautiful sequins in the cloth when I’m talking to people, and then I watch them walk around from ten feet in the sky.

Zainabb: I’ve also had such an urge to replay Origins, Melissa! But, as I’ve argued on a future Postgame, I think my nomination goes to Facade, a truly hideous-looking game (by today’s standards) with assets that were, I assume, created in Microsoft Paint. But the hours of fun I’ve had tormenting Trip and Grace, a couple on the rocks who’ve invited the player character to dinner—well, it’s simply the best game ever.

Maddi: This actually might be a little unfair, since it does contain a lot of incredible pixel art, but Vampire Survivors. Vampire Survivors made me fall in love with games again. It’s the opposite of a bullet hell—a bullet heaven?—where the longer you survive, the more enemies you face and the more power-ups you receive, which means more projectiles flying every which way on the screen. Each round lasts a maximum of 30 minutes, so by minute 15 you’re like, “well, that sure is a lot of guys comin’ at me” and it’s getting harder to clear a path. By minute 29 your adrenaline has spiked and you’re vibrating in your seat because you can’t see the floor through the waves of enemies and projectiles, your health is constantly refilling as fast as it depletes, and you can barely tell what’s coming onscreen before it’s vaporized for coming within three feet of your character. My Steam Deck can barely handle the frame rate. It’s incredible.