Image from The Game Awards site.
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Game nerds across the globe gather together each December to watch the Game Awards recognize the skills and talents of developers, performers, athletes, teams, coaches, hosts, and more for their outstanding contributions to the gaming community in the past year. Last year’s Game Awards has come and gone, announcing over 20 winners across 30 categories from Best Score and Music to Content Creator of the Year to Best Community Support.
Gamers understand the power of gaming and know that the stories, music, art, and direction can immerse players in other worlds, introduce them to new people and characters, and change their lives for the better, just as readers know this of their favorite books. Whether you research the Game Awards to compile a list of titles to try in the new year or you watch on the edge of your seat, fingers cross for your favorite game, give these book recommendations a look! It could help you decide whether a game has the story for you, or you could find your next best read based on your favorite Game Awards winner.
Hades with the Myth-O-Mania series
Developed by indie studio Supergiant Games (known for other imaginative works like Bastion and Transistor), Hades was nominated for 8 categories for its music, art, narrative, direction, and performance, one of which was the Game of the Year award and two of which it won: Best Indie and Best Action. Hades follows not the lord of the dead himself, but his son Zagerus and his continual attempts to escape the Underworld. It’s a stylish dungeon crawler that allows the player to gain abilities the further they go into the dungeons and the more they interact with the gods and other Greek mythological beings. The inventive character designs and twists on the original tales make for a genuinely fun narrative for Greek myth fans—ones who may have already heard of the Percy Jackson series, but what about Kate McMullan’s Myth-O-Mania books? These ten middle grade books are told by a rather jaded, humorous, and endearing Hades, starting with how he ended up as the ruler of the Underworld and covering the myth of Medusa (she’s actually really nice), Pandora (not her fault!), and Hercules (him and the lion are buds). Although Zagerus doesn’t make an appearance, if you enjoy Zag’s snarky, kind, and persistent personality, you’ll love Hades’ voice in McMullan’s series.
Buy the 1st book:
Ghost of Tsushima with Musashi
Watch the story trailer for Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima, and there’s no wonder it earned 7 nominees, one of which was Game of the Year and others including narration, direction, and performance. The sakura petals falling, fields of red tsubaki blooming, and the sun setting on the cliff faces and across pond surfaces won it the award for Best Art Direction. It’s a beautiful, open-world action/adventure with a narrative like that of a classic samurai film, and if you’re itching for more Japanese samurai history, you’ll want to pick up Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa. Although Ghost of Tsushima is set in 1274 and focuses on the Mongol invasion of Tsushima while Musashi opens in 1600 and follows the historical samurai Miyamoto Musashi, the heart of both narratives is the way of the samurai. Both Musashi and Ghost’s protagonist, Jin, meet a colorful array of characters from rivals to protégées to thieves and blacksmiths, traverse the Japanese landscape to complete small and large quests, and explore what samurai means to them. Musashi may have a more traditional approach to the samurai ways and the story may be over 900 pages, but if your favorite part of Ghost of Tsushima was the historical setting and bushidō, Musashi follows one of Japan’s greatest samurai and is a classic read well worth your time.
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Phasmophobia with Horrorstör
Released only last September and developed by new indie studio Kinetic Games, Phasmophobia blew up with the help of game streamers during the spooky month of October. There’s so many notable things about this multiplayer, ghost-hunting experience that won it the Best Debut Game for 2020 from its sound design to the unique way it plays off one’s fear of ghosts more than the actual ghosts themselves. The gameplay follows a team of up to 4 players investigating haunted locations like a house, school, or asylum. Players use ghost hunting equipment from EMF readers to thermometers and collect clues to identify the ghost type from a list of twelve. If you end up getting picked off by the ghost before completing your job, you at least get to experience the game from a faded, blue realm, and watch as your teammates run around completely unaware of your presence. Really this is a game for anyone who can’t get enough of paranormal shows like Ghost Hunters or BuzzFeed Unsolved and books like Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstör. Instead of featuring professional ghost hunters in a standard haunted house, Hendrix has the readers follow the employees of a haunted IKEA-esque store called ORSK. What follows is a horror comedy with cruel ghosts, characters you can root for, and some sneaky social commentary, which makes for a great paranormal cocktail.
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Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate with the Scott Pilgrim series
This year the Game Awards pinned age old rivals Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat against one another for the title of 2020’s Best Fighting game, and Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate came out victorious. Developed by NetherRealm Studios, MK11 Ultimate features new challenges, the return of fan-favorite characters, and a new narrative, 25 years in the making. It’s a solid fighting game, but whether you prefer Street Fighter, Smash Bros, Tekken, anime-based fighting games, or something else entirely, what most fighting gamers can agree on is this niche of the gaming industry is pure fun, and a pure fun fighting comic to read alongside the latest Mortal Kombat installment is the Scott Pilgrim series by Bryan Lee O’Malley. This six volume series follows Scott Pilgrim as he falls for a hip, new rollerblading girl in town and must literally duke it out with her seven evil exes. There are robots, psychic vegan powers, kunoichi (like Mileena or Kitana), extra lives, power ups, and so much more for fighting game junkies to enjoy in this hilarious, entertaining, and surprisingly sincere story.
Buy the 1st volume:
Animal Crossing: New Horizons with Moomin
The Animal Crossing franchise has been dishing out good vibes for almost 20 years now since their first installment for the GameCube back in 2001. From flying to mystery islands to the new complexity of outfits to the addition of terraforming, Nintendo has added layers of gameplay to the AC experience in the form of New Horizons, earning it the Best Family award as well as a Game of the Year nomination. Another series that’s primary purpose has been to calm, enlighten, and humor is Tove Jansson’s beloved Moomin comic strips, which ran between 1945 and 1977. These strips feature the Moomin family (which resemble white hippos but are actually trolls) and the various humans, rodents, ghosts, and other creatures that inhabit Moominvalley. Weird little animals and weird little humans living in a weird little town together. Sound familiar? And like the hilarious and deeply relatable conversations you can have with the AC villagers, there are some iconic Moomin quotes, including: “It’s all right now, my dear. You see, I shall always know you whatever happens,” “There’s no need to imagine that you’re a wondrous beauty, because that’s what you are,” and “I don’t understand a thing.”
Buy the 1st collection:
Among Us with Ten Dead Comedians
Released in the summer of 2018 by the three-person-staffed indie developer InnerSloth but only recently gaining exposure in the last year, Among Us was nominated for two awards, Best Mobile Game and Best Multiplayer, and took home both as the winner. The online game is one of social deduction as 4-10 crewmates go about completing tasks, but at least one of the players is an impostor, working to kill off the crew, sabotage their tasks, and keep their own anonymity. It’s a quirky, funny game with a side order of adrenaline and mystery, and one that would pair well with a reading of Fred Van Lente’s Ten Dead Comedians. As a darker retelling of stories like And Then There Were None, Lente’s story follows 9 comedians who are invited to a legendary comic’s island, only to find that after their arrival, they are slowly picked off one by one. The deaths can be a bit dramatic and violent, in the way that an impostor punching you in the face and then shooting you point blank can be, and the tracking of who was where and who could have done what makes for an experience not unlike a round or two of Among Us.
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The Last of Us Part II with True Grit
Last of us but not least the least of us, coming in with nine nominations, seven total wins, and the title of Game of the Year is Naughty Dog’s highly anticipated The Last of Us Part II. Set five years after the events of the first game, the narrative follows 1) Ellie after she witnesses a tragedy and 2) a new playable character, Abby, and her involvement in a conflict between the militia group WLF and a cult called the Seraphites. When you get down to it, the story is very much about revenge, retribution, and what that means for both of the playable characters. There’s no Infected or dual perspectives, but in Charles Portis’s True Grit, there is a sensible, determined, and vengeful girl trekking across an expansive landscape to hunt down her father’s killer. The 1870s American atmosphere of True Grit is as much of the narrative as the post-apocalyptic one is of Part II, there are morally gray characters in both that bring up the question of “what’s justifiable in a lawless land?,” and for those who miss the Joel/Ellie relationship from the first game, there’s some protective and (eventually) supportive relationships between our leading lady and her traveling companions.
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This is just a select handful of the 20+ winners and 70+ nominees that could become your next game pick (like the Game for Impact winner Tell Me Why, the platform Metroidvania Ori and the Will of the Wisps, or the spooky Best VR/AR winner Half-Life: Alyx). Find the full list of nominees and winners here and the complete livestream on the Game Awards official YouTube channel here.