Google today announced the winners of its "Best of 2021" app awards, which highlight both the company's and users' picks for the best apps and games from the past year. This year, Google is expanding its awards lineup to include apps and games on tablets, Wear OS and Google TV, it says. Its U.S. winners included meditation app Balance as its app of the year and top game Pokémon UNITE. Meanwhile, Paramount+ and Garena Free Fire MAX won the user's choice awards.
In 2020, the award winners had reflected a world undergoing a pandemic, where stressed users had turned to apps and soothing games to relax -- like top sleep app Loóna, which was last year's "Best App," or escapist games like winner Genshin Impact.
With the early days of the pandemic now behind us, some of this year's award winners are apps that now focus on personal growth and creativity, instead of just relaxing or escaping. This, too, seems to reflect where we are as a society. Over this past year, we saw the "great resignation" where U.S. employees voluntarily quit their unfulfilling, underpaid jobs in search of something better, and the creator economy began to boom as people pursued their passions.
In addition to Best of 2021 app Balance, which offers personalized meditation, other personal development-styled winners include Moonly, an app for "harmonizing your life" with the lunar calendar; a "comedic relaxation" app, Laughscape; a hypnotherapy app for women, Clementine; better sleep app Sleep Cycle; mentorship community Mentor Spaces; habit tracker and planner Rabit; and an app for navigating grief from loss, Empathy.
In addition to winner Balance, the full lineup of app winners includes the following:
Best Apps for Good
Best Everyday Essentials
Best for Fun
Best Hidden Gems
Best for Personal Growth
Best for Tablets
Best for Wear
Popular on Google TV
The year's best games were led by top game Pokémon UNITE, which focused on cross-platform gaming.
"Pokémon Unite is Pokémon’s first strategic team battle game, co-developed by The Pokémon Company and TiMi Studio Group. We tried to distill the best parts of the MOBA genre to create a new kind of game, but I must admit that I was unsure if it would be well received by players around the world," noted Masaaki Hoshino, Producer, Pokémon UNITE, in a statement. T"his award shows that our game has been positively received by fans and the media, and while this is a great relief, at the same time it reaffirms our determination to continue doing our best to make Pokémon UNITE an even more exciting experience that meets our players’ expectations," he added.
The larger lineup also included indie experiences like the introspective Bird Alone, which challenges you to become friends with the "loneliest bird in the world." Annapurna Interactive's Donut County won for its physics-based puzzle game, among others.
The full list of game winners included:
Best Game Changers
Best Pick Up & Play
Best for Tablets
Each country will have its own list of winning apps and games which can be found in the new Best of 2021 section of the Play Store. The above are Google Play's U.S. winners.