It’s that wonderful time of year again, when the shadowy cabal that forms the jury of The Game Awards gets together to definitively decide which games are Good, and which games simply Are. This year, however, there’s an elephant-shaped hole in that hallowed room: A near-perfect Forza game, and no Game Of The Year nomination.
To be clear, I’m not the first person to bring this up. GameRant said Horizon 5 was “snubbed”, and Windows Central did too. The newly-revived G4 network even had a full panel discussion about the game’s omission, and came to the conclusion that it deserved a chance at the title belt. To quote G4 host Froskurinn, “I definitely think it should have been nominated. It is so good.”
Windows Central’s article does a good job detailing the timeline of Game Awards submissions, and when jury members are allowed to submit, edit, and re-submit their nominations. From that piece:
[The Game Awards producer and host] Geoff Keighley has stated on Twitter that Forza Horizon 5 was indeed eligible for this year’s awards, with the cut-off date being set for Nov. 19. However, game journalists were told they had to submit their picks by Nov. 4. Forza Horizon 5's early access period didn’t begin until Nov. 5, which calls into question just how much eligibility it had in real terms.
In Keighley’s defense, they do include additional information in the email pack to jury members, informing them that ballots can be altered up until Nov. 11. However, I was told that this information isn’t highlighted clearly enough, and not enough time was given in general.
That timing made Forza Horizon 5 difficult to fairly include, particularly in the face of an incredible selection of competitors. For the unfamiliar, the games nominated for Game of the Year are:
- Deathloop (Developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda)
- It Takes Two (Developed by Hazelight Studios and published by EA)
- Metroid Dread (Developed by Mercury Steam and published by Nintendo)
- Psychonauts 2 (Developed by Double Fine and published by Xbox Game Studios)
- Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (Developed by Insomniac Games and published by SIE)
- Resident Evil Village (Developed and published by Capcom)
These are some truly fantastic games. Ratchet and Clank not only made me buy a PlayStation 5, simply out of a desire to recapture that feeling of playing Up Your Arsenal, it made the console worth it. Each game in this list truly deserves its spot, so it’s difficult to say Forza was an intentional snub.
Check the history of The Game Awards nominations, however, and you do start to wonder. Forza Horizon 5 has a Metacritic score of 92, comparable to Horizon 4 at 92 and Horizon 3 at 91. Those two came out in 2018 and 2016 respectively, and each could have has a spot in their year’s Game Awards. Horizon 3, in particular, had an excellent shot: it tied or exceeded the Metacritic scores of every contender that ear except Uncharted 4, which didn’t win.
I know Metacritic scores are far from the end-all-be-all of game quality, but they’re a benchmark: Journalists, at the time, enjoyed Horizon 3 as much as any game that was nominated. Horizon 4 and 5 were improvements, getting better with each successive entry. And yet no racing game has ever been nominated for Game of the Year at The Game Awards.
Racing games have a reputation for being just for car enthusiasts, but they can be one of the hardest parts of car enthusiasm to gatekeep. No one can get down on you for having a cheap car in a game that constantly throws money and vehicles your way. Any “git gud” you hear isn’t the voice of car enthusiasm — that’s gaming as a whole.
Welcoming a Forza game into Game of the Year contention means broadening the scope of what The Game Awards jury must consider. But if Hades, Celeste, and Super Mario Maker are within the scope, why not the fifth-most-searched video game in the US?
Forza Horizon 5 is imperfect. Its networking is frustratingly buggy, its servers are unreliable, and the Drivatar AI still feels too much like it’s rubber-banding. But if glitches can keep a game out of contention, then Cyberpunk 2077 should be disqualified for Best RPG — a move I don’t support, because I think Cyberpunk 2077 really was the best RPG.
With The Game Awards coming up tonight, I know there’s little point in arguing for the inclusion of another game in the list. The selections have all been made, judgements passed down, and Geoff Keighley has practiced his lines in the mirror. I just wonder when racing games will get their turn in the spotlight — when the games industry will finally take some of the most fun you can have with a controller seriously.