As the games industry becomes increasingly aware of and concerned with ensuring games are accessible to as many people as possible, we’ve seen a number of exciting new advancements as to what exactly that looks like. This year was no exception. We assembled a group of accessibility experts to weigh in on what 2021 games deserve to be celebrated in particular for the attention and care they devoted to all kinds of accessibility.
From controller remapping to visual options, from games that let you skip certain kinds of content to games with inputs simple enough to be played with one hand, there were several great games we nominated this year, but our winner for noteworthy advancement in accessibility for 2021 is…
Forza Horizon 5
Forza Horizon 5 presented players with a seldom seen level of customization with options and presets allowing players abled and disabled alike to craft an experience exactly suited to their needs. Playground Games went all in with its avatar creation, allowing players to choose prosthetic limbs and their choice of pronouns. For some disabled players, Forza Horizon 5 is the first time they experienced the joy of getting behind the wheel of a super car and racing with their friends. Forza Horizon 5 is the embodiment of Microsoft’s belief in “Gaming for Everyone.”
Noteworthy Advancement in Accessibility for 2021
Back 4 Blood takes the traditional horde shooter formula and implements numerous features and options, as well as inclusive design choices to create an entertaining and accessible co-op zombie slayer. Features such as “All Weapons Full-Auto,” “Auto Switch Weapons on Depleted Ammo” and “Quick Use Offensive Item” not only reduce the physical strength needed to play, but also limit cognitive processing when attempting to keep track of ammo or consumables. Turtle Rock Studios pushes the overall accessibility further by allowing disabled individuals to fully customize their campaign experience through ability cards. If aiming poses an issue or if a player needs extra lives, they can create a deck with ability cards that dramatically alter the game to cater to their needs. As a co-op experience, Back 4 Blood demonstrates that even the zombie apocalypse can be accessible. -Grant Stoner
For more, check out IGN’s Back 4 Blood review.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was a surprise this year, not only because its unexpected announcement was so close to its release, but because of its accessibility. The first console game to offer full closed captions, Guardians of the Galaxy brought accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing players to a new level. It also features truly inclusive design in its “visor mode” which also functions as a high contrast mode similar to that of The Last of Us Part 2. With highly customizable difficulty settings allowing players to choose how much damage they deal and receive, how quickly their shields regenerate, and whether they always win QTEs or not, players can craft a gameplay experience tailored exactly to their needs. In another instance of inclusive design, subtle hints are available to all players upon scanning an object. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy puts players in control of a funny and accessible single player narrative without ever overburdening players with the sheer amount of accessibility options available. -Courtney Craven
For more, check out IGN’s Guardians of the Galaxy review.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Chicory was the cozy coloring game we all needed in 2021 and the developers made a real effort to have it be enjoyed by all; even color blind players. While many games have inundated players with the sheer volume of accessibility options, making them feel somewhat inaccessible, Chicory solves this by keeping things simple yet highly customizable. Players have unique options like toggling off slurping sounds and choosing a warmer filter to make the uncolored world significantly less jarring on the eyes. Chicory also allows players to control the paintbrush with either the PS5/4 touchpad or the right stick and has multiple toggles for level traversal. A standout feature for Chicory was its content warnings, allowing players to toggle on alerts for heavier topics like depression. Chicory was a standout indie experience in 2021 and its accessibility and inclusion made it all the more delightful. -Courtney Craven
For more, check out IGN’s Chicory: A Colorful Tale review.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart is part of a series of major hits for Insomniac within the first seven months of the PlayStation 5’s life-cycle, but what makes Rift Apart especially great is the concerted effort Insomniac has made to make it accessible. Here, you can see accessibility features that the studio introduced in Marvel’s Spider-Man and its spin-off Miles Morales, but also some pages taken out of The Last Of Us Part 2’s playbook, such as High Contrast Mode for Blind/Low Vision players. While features like auto-aim, auto-target, robust subtitles, camera shake etc are great, the Game Speed functionality should be particularly celebrated. It gives the ability to adjust Rift Apart’s speed to make it a bit slower to help players navigate the chaotic combat. Ratchet and Clank Rift Apart is a great example of a studio caring about accessibility to the point where it has given disabled players something they didn’t have before: an accessible platformer. -Steve Saylor
For more, check out IGN’s Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review.
Forza Horizon 5
Forza Horizon 5 instantly comes to mind when thinking about 2021 contenders for Game Of The Year, but beyond the stunning visuals lies the most accessible racing game ever and one of the most accessible games Xbox has produced to date. You can adjust almost every aspect of the gameplay to adjust to a player’s needs, from the super simple “I just want to hit the gas and let the game steer and brake for me while I go for a leisurely drive across the Mexican landscape”, to being able to customize where you adjust the suspension to accommodate for that one section where you will go off-road so you don’t spin out during that third turn. With improved subtitles, increased text size, and colorblind settings that you can customize for menus and HUD separately, this game really makes it legitimately fun to drive. Even if you legally can’t in real life. -Steve Saylor
For more, check out IGN’s Forza Horizon 5 review.
The panel of judges who nominated and voted in this category are Courtney Craven, Ian Hamilton, Stacey Jenkins, Steve Saylor, and Grant Stoner.
All IGN Best Of 2021 Gaming Categories
IGN’s Best of 2021 Awards were designed by:
Lead Design + Art Direction: Julia Rago
Motion Graphics: Will Batchelor