Returnal has been named Best Game at the Bafta Games Awards 2022, picking up four out of a possible nine awards on a night where 18 Baftas were shared among a dozen wildly diverse games.
Following a great night for Sony in 2021, PlayStation exclusive Returnal led the winners by also taking awards for Audio Achievement, Music, and Performer in a Leading Role, courtesy of veteran Jane Perry’s excellent portrayal of death-prone protagonist Selene Vassos. No other game took more than two accolades.
The 2022 Bafta Games Awards was the first time the event played out in front of a live audience for three years. Host Elle Osili-Wood was joined by countless industry figureheads to present awards–both virtually and in person–including Microsoft’s Phil Spencer, LucasArt’s Tim Schafer, Games Workshop co-founder Sir Ian Livingstone, and Sony Interactive Entertainment president Jim Ryan.
Forty games made up the nominations, and this diversity was reflected in the ceremony’s winners; Returnal aside, just three snatched more than one trophy; eight more took home a single iconic golden mask.
Deathloop and Guardians snubbed
Arkane’s Deathloop–which received seven nominations, and was easily among the best games of 2021–walked home with nothing, joining the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2 in the annals of massive Bafta snubs.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, despite getting five noms and arguably having some of the best responsive voice acting in gaming, also walked away empty-handed; Forza Horizon 5 and Psychonauts 2 only claimed one of their many potential gongs.
Another great night for indie gaming
After a fantastic year for indie games in 2021, small development studios once again had a strong showing at the Bafta Games Awards, starting at the very top of the show when Unpacking won the first award for Best Narrative, before impressively taking the public vote for EE Game of the Year, beating It Takes Two, Deathloop and Metroid Dread.
Before Your Eyes thoroughly deserved its award for Game Beyond Entertainment, while Chicory: A Colorful Tale and Toem also grabbed trophies for Best Family Game and Best Debut Game respectively.
The Artful Escape–my indie game of the year for 2021–snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by getting the final award from its three nominations, rightfully claiming Artistic Achievement after missing out on Audio Achievement and Debut Game.
However, there were a handful of notable games that lost out on well-deserved accolades: Death’s Door, despite being my third-favorite indie game of 2021, missed out on both Best British Game and Best Original Property; The Forgotten City, Genesis Noir, and Maquette all had a strong claim for Debut Game.
The It Takes Two guy stole the show
The two funniest moments of the night came from Hazelight Studios’ founder and creative director Josef Fares when he took to the stage, when It Takes Two literally took two awards. When accepting the Bafta for Best Original Property, Fares seemed surprised when the audience cheered EA for supporting its vision for It Takes Two, apparently because of EA’s reputation.
Later, when he picked up It Takes Two’s accolade for Multiplayer, he opened by saying: “This was expected, actually. […] But I don’t get a big head, don’t worry about it!” It’s hard not to admire his bravado.
No Man’s Sky finally got due credit
On a quick aside, it’s hard not to draw attention to one of the lesser-appreciated awards of the night. Finally and rightfully claiming its award for Best Evolving Game was No Man’s Sky, which completing its redemptive arc in the eyes of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts after losing out to Sea of Thieves in 2021.
While many may still remember it for its launch, Hello Games went on such a mission to deliver on its original promises–and then offered ten times more–which led to its fans not only crowdfunding a thank-you for the team, but raising so much money that they were able to give numerous consoles and games to children’s hospitals across Sydney, Australia. And that was 2019; the new content just keeps on coming.
2021 Bafta Games Awards winners in full (as announced):
Best Narrative: Unpacking
Best Evolving Game: No Man’s Sky
Best Original Property: It Takes Two
Audio Achievement: Returnal
Best British Game: Forza Horizon 5
EE Game of the Year (public vote): Unpacking
Technical Achievement: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Best Debut Game: Toem
Best Multiplayer Game: It Takes Two
Game Beyond Entertainment: Before Your Eyes
Best Performer in a Supporting Role: Kimberly Brooks (Hollis Forsythe, Psychonauts 2)
Best Family Game: Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Artistic Achievement: The Artful Escape
Best Game Design: Inscryption
Best Animation: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Best Performer in a Leading Role: Jane Perry (Selene Vassos, Returnal)
Best Game: Returnal
Games by Bafta Awards won
Four: Returnal (Audio Achievement, Music, Performer in a Leading Role, Best Game).
Two: Unpacking (Best Narrative, EE Game of the Year); It Takes Two (Best Original Property, Multiplayer); Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (Technical Achievement, Best Animation).
One: Forza Horizon 5 (Best British Game); Toem (Debut Game); No Man’s Sky (Best Evolving Game); Before Your Eyes (Game Beyond Entertainment); Psychonauts 2 (Performer in a Supporting Role); Chicory: A Colorful Tale (Best Family Game); The Artful Escape (Artistic Achievement); Inscryption (Best Game Design).