It Takes Two, a co-operative game about a family break-up, and action title Returnal lead the way in the race for this year’s Bafta Games Awards.
They have each been nominated for eight of the famous golden masks.
Bafta has been recognising the cultural impact of games since 2004 and the awards are arguably the most prestigious in the gaming industry.
Ratchet and Clank, Forza Horizon 5, Psychonauts 2 and Deathloop have also been nominated in multiple categories.
After two virtual ceremonies during the Covid pandemic, this year will see a return to an in-person event in London on 7 April.
Two different top contenders
In a sign of the variety that is now on offer in the ever-growing gaming industry, you could not pick two more different titles than It Takes Two and Returnal.
The former, which picked up the main prize at last year’s Game Awards, is a throwback to gaming in the mid-1990s with it’s bright cartoon aesthetic and emphasis on local co-operative play.
With the dominance of online multiplayer gaming in recent years, the success of this title is an example of how players are calling for more experiences that allow them to connect with people in the same room. Heightened, no doubt, by the pandemic and lockdowns.
In the game, Cody and May are planning a divorce and their daughter Rose tries to bring them back together. Players must work with each other to solve a series of engaging puzzles. So successful has it been that the title’s developers are working on a movie version.
It has been nominated in categories like best game, artistic achievement and the “game beyond entertainment” category.
Returnal, on the other hand, is a dark, futuristic, psychological horror experience that involves frantic bursts of action.
The Playstation 5 exclusive makes the most of new console technology and has struck a chord with players for its compelling and challenging gameplay.
It was named game of the year at the Develop: Star Awards and has now been nominated in categories like best game, game design and technical achievement.
Sony bosses will be happy
Alongside Returnal, PlayStation bosses will be happy that two of its other exclusive games are among those with the most nominations.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, a game that is seen by some reviewers as one of the few titles to have made the most of the latest generation of consoles, has seven nominations.
Deathloop has five nominations, including best game. It has just missed out on winning big at various other ceremonies and will be a strong contender for the main prize.
The Bafta Games Awards love throwing up a surprise result. Last year, ancient Greece-themed action title Hades walked away with the main prize for best game.
Gaming’s cultural impact
The games industry is often seen, in mainstream press outlets, through the prism of its financial impact – worth £7bn to the UK economy.
The Bafta Games Awards gives the industry the opportunity to focus on the cultural impact gaming has on people’s lives.
Most winners will be selected by a panel of judges from the industry, but the public can vote for the EE Game of the Year Award.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale, Deathloop, It Takes Two, Metroid Dread, The Forgotten City and Unpacking are the six titles competing for the award.