When it comes to Game of the Year, we often get caught up in talking about the games themselves, rather than the development teams who made them. As such, we think it's important to stop and appreciate the hard working people who make our favourite hobby a reality.

As chosen by the Push Square editorial team, these are the developers that stood out in 2021.

Bronze Trophy: Hazelight (It Takes Two)

It Takes Two

Spearheaded by the infectiously enthusiastic Josef Fares, Hazelight hit the bigtime in 2021 with It Takes Two — a delightful (and sometimes delightfully dark) co-op adventure game that actually ended up winning Game of the Year at The Game Awards. The thing is, it's quite easy to say that it was a well deserved victory. Hazelight has come such a long way in such a short amount of time, considering its last title, A Way Out, released in 2018. We can't wait to see what kind of crazy concept the team comes up with next.

Silver Trophy: Arc System Works (Guilty Gear Strive)

Guilty Gear Strive

Arc System Works didn't just make the best fighting game of 2021 with Guilty Gear Strive — it pushed the genre forward in a way that many would argue is absolutely necessary. Strive has the best online netcode of any console fighter we've ever played — and it must be the standard from here on out. Arc System Works listened to fighting game fans and delivered on a promise long since broken by other companies — all while creating one of the most satisfying fighters we've ever played.

Gold Trophy: Ember Lab (Kena: Bridge of Spirits)

Kena

Relatively speaking, it's ridiculous that Ember Lab's first game is Kena: Bridge of Spirits. An immensely charming action platformer, it's the kind of title that you'd expect from a team that's been around the block — at least for a bit. But no, Ember Lab started life over ten years ago as an animation studio, and now here it is giving us a gorgeous PS5 and PS4 adventure — an adventure that Sony used to help sell its current-gen console, no less. There's no getting around just how impressive Kena is as a first attempt, and it really makes you wonder just how far Ember Lab will leap forward with its next project.

Platinum Trophy: Housemarque (Returnal)

GOTY Best Developer

2021 was a year full of success stories — as highlighted by this very article — but we think that Housemarque's rise to glory is really quite incredible. The Finnish developer has been making awesome arcade games for years — regular readers will know that Resogun remained one of our go-to PS4 titles for the entire generation — but Returnal saw the studio push beyond its perceived limits. Without sacrificing its arcade roots, Housemarque crafted a shooter that can stand alongside Sony's biggest hits in terms of quality. A huge achievement.


Honourable Mentions

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Which developer made your 2021 special? Have your say in our poll, and then sing its praises in the comments section below.

What was your favourite PS5, PS4 developer of 2021?