It's crazy to think that another year has flow by, but here we are at the end of 2021. Several notable games released this year included some serious hits for Nintendo Switch, Apple Arcade, and iOS gaming.
It was also a big year for hardware. The new Switch OLED console launched this year, providing a far improved, OLED screen for better visuals in handheld mode. While it wasn't the Switch Pro with faster processing power many wanted it's still proven to be a popular pick that really does make images look crisper and more vibrant.
So much has happened this year with big releases and record breaking games. This is our round up the very best Nintendo Switch games and best iPhone games as chosen by our dedicated and passionate group of writers and editors. Interested in other areas of tech as well? Make sure to also look at our iMore Awards, which delves into services and hardware outside of gaming.
These are the iMore Game Awards for 2021.
Best Games of 2021
Game of the Year
Metroid Dread broke records for the Metroid series, selling more than any other entry at launch and ushering in rave reviews. The fast-paced Metroidvania brought in new mechanics while balancing familiar gameplay to create something truly unique and challenging. Samus is constantly on alert for dangerous E.M.M.I. robots, which keeps players on their toes from start to finish.
Best Switch RPG
The latest Pokémon RPGs to get the remake treatment, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, proved to be a magnificent bestseller that sold around the same as Sword and Shield at launch. Players revisit Gen IV's Sinnoh region from the DS era but with improved visuals and updated mechanics that make the adventure fit in on Switch. Plus, a large amount of post-game content can keep players entertained for hours.
Best Switch Multiplayer/Co-Op
Mario Party has long been the go-to Nintendo party game over the years, but Superstars is by far the best one yet since it took popular game boards and 100 classic minigames from past entries and remade them into this new collection. Get competitive with friends and family as you work to acquire the most Stars while going around a digital board game. The silly minigames will have you all hooting and hollering in no time.
Best Independent Switch Game
Combining an RPG with a dating simulator might seem questionable, but things reach extra special levels of awesome with Boyfriend Dungeon since you actually get to date your weapons. Players hack and slash their way into dungeons and acquire new weapons. Then the dating elements of the game come through in the form of a visual novel. Characters are surprising complex and diverse. The result is a sexy but also serious adventure that tackles both fun and darker themes within dating.
Best Free Game (Switch & iOS)
Pikachu and friends made their first foray into MOBAs this year with Pokémon Unite. Players engage in 5v5 battles attempting to defeat wild Pokémon and opponents before scoring goals to add to their overall team points. Each Pokémon species has it's own special attacks and stats that helps it specialize in different tasks. While the game is free to play, microtransactions are available but aren't necessary for winning and leveling up. Since rounds only last 5-10 minutes, it makes for a great game to pick up and stop whenever you want. Plus it's cross platform, so you can play it on Switch and then pick up your same account later on iPhone.
Best Switch Expansion/DLC
Animal Crossing: New Horizons's first and only paid DLC came in the form of Happy Home Paradise. Here, players get to indulge their decorating inclinations far more easily than in the main game with access to additonal items and functions. Best of all, no money or crafting is necessary within the DLC to grab things from the catalog and place them where you want since you now work as an interior decorator. Once you've beaten the main story, you can take the skills you've learned back to your home island and redecorate villagers' home the way you want. It's an expansion that gives players what they want but also boosts up the main game, too!
Best Switch Port/Remaster
Super Mario 3D World was one of the very best Wii U games due to how it allows for either competitive or co-operative four-person play. But when it came to the Switch version also adding Bowser's Fury, the internet went a little Bowser crazy. The Godzilla-sized Koopa King breathes fire relentlessly and creates a significant challenge for Mario as he scrambles about a new set of islands collecting items and powerups. It's a fun experience for the whole family.
Best Super Smash Bros. DLC Fighter
For the past few years, Masahiro Sakurai has surprised us with new DLC fighters pulled from a number of games and franchises. With Sora from Kingdom Hearts as his final addition, he managed a towering feat that must have involved hours of discussion between Disney, Square Enix, and Nintendo. It was all worth it though. Sora's fighting mechanics and skin variations closely resemble those of the first two Kingdom Hearts games. Not to mention, Sora handles incredibly well with both melee and ranged attacks and is an easy character for any player to control.
Best Indie Game You Missed
Each year thousands of indie games release, making it hard to give them all the attention they deserve. One that flew under the radar for many players was Unbound Creations' Rain on Your Parade, a game where you take on the role of a mischievious cloud out to ruin everyone's day. Gameplay is simple, starting with ruining a wedding by raining on all attendees, but you acquire additional skills and get to play through plenty of parody levels, which makes this one of the most fun games to release in 2021. Check it out if you haven't already.
Best Apple Arcade/iOS Game
Comfortable life simulators have been all the rage over the past couple of years and one of the very best ones to release this year was Cozy Grove. You play as a Spirit Scout out to appease animal ghosts in their afterlives. There are plenty of items to collect, fish to catch, and storylines to uncover. Not to mention, you acquire adorable furniture and can decorate your own spot on the island to your liking. The game is only meant to be played for about 20 minutes a day, so you don't have to feel like it's a huge time commitment.
Editor's Choice Game Award
Monster Hunter has long been a hit in Japan, but it's only been more recently that the series has flourished with Western audiences. Monster Hunter Rise was created specifically with the Switch in mind and made the familiar multiplayer monster battles far more accessible to a wider audience. Players master whichever of the 12 weapons they want and then work together to strategically eliminate huge creatures. The multiplayer makes it a fun game to play with friends or other players online.
Most Anticipated Switch Game
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an incredible game that has inspired several copycats and influenced the gaming industry in numerous ways thanks to its open-world exploration and intensive physics. As such, this 2017 Game of the Year winner's sequel is by far the most anticipated. We've only seen a couple official videos (and we don't even know what the name will be) but we can't wait to see what new mechanics, tools, and locations await us.
Best Gaming Hardware and Accessories of 2021
Banjo and Kazooie were one of the best additions to the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate roster last year, but it was only in 2021 that we finally got their amiibo. The bear and bird duo hold a special place in Nintendo fans' hearts as it was a classic on the N64 and continues to be one today. As such, this makes the perfect collectible for Nintendo fans.
Best Switch Accessory
The official Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is, by far, the one thing that enhance gaming sessions most. With its ergonomic grips and traditional design that mimics Xbox controllers, its far easier to hold than Joy-Cons. The internal motors and gyroscope provide balance rumble and responsive motion controls. Not to mention, the ability to scan amiibo when you want to unlock additional game features. With all of its conveniences, it is the Switch accessory to get.
Best Switch Gaming Headset
Razer Kraken X is one of the most popular and comfortable headsets on the market today. Its lightweight design, combined with soft headband and earpads, makes for a comfortable fit whether you're playing games for 10 minutes or several hours. The bendable microphone and integrated audio controls make for very convenient interactions with friends for any Switch games that support voice chat.
Best Mobile Accessory
The Backbone One was specifically designed for iPhones and there currently isn't even an Android version available. It basically turns your iPhone into a Nintendo-Switch-like device with controllers on either side of the display. Perhaps the most impressive part is the iOS integration, including an app that works well with Xbox Cloud Gaming, helps you interact with friends, and find the perfect games for your current mood.
Best Switch Hardware
Nintendo suprised us this year by releasing the Switch OLED, a new console in the lineup with a larger OLED display, improved kickstand, and upgraded dock. While it might not have been the Switch Pro many had hoped for, it shows off game visuals in a spectacular new way and really makes a difference when viewing it against the original Switch side-by-side. Darker hues come through more vibrantly and black is true black rather than a murky gray.
Best Non-Switch Nintendo Hardware
As part of celebrating The Legend of Zelda's 35th anniversary this year, Nintendo released the Game & Watch: Legend of Zelda. It holds three classic Zelda games and also functions as a stop watch, timer, and clock. The LED display makes colors come through vividly and makes this a great collectible for any Nintendo fan.
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Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.
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