Bafta Games Awards: best moments from the biggest night in gaming

All (gamers’) eyes were on the Southbank Centre on Thursday (March 30) as the Bafta Games Awards got underway.

With some of the biggest names in the industry in attendance, and a record number of games nominated for awards, the evening was always going to be dramatic — and so it proved, with shock wins, tearful acceptance speeches, and surprising losses.

We break down the biggest moments for you.

God of War won big — but Vampire Survivors won bigger

With a record-breaking 14 nominations, all eyes were on God of War: Ragnarök as the evening began. It didn’t disappoint, either, picking up awards for best animation, EE Game of the Year, audio achievement, and music before netting its stars, Christopher Judge and Laya DeLeon Hayes, the awards for best voice actor and best-supporting actor, respectively.

This wasn’t a surprise: God of War has been an awards juggernaut almost since the moment it was release (and richly deserved, too). But what was a surprise was the stealth success of Vampire Survivors, a cult hit game that managed to scoop not only best game design but also best game, the most prestigious award of the night.

Laya DeLeon Hayes with her Bafta (Suzan Moore / PA Wire)
Laya DeLeon Hayes with her Bafta (Suzan Moore / PA Wire)

The game’s developers, Poncle, seemed almost as shocked as the audience to find themselves up on the big stage. Instead of the multiple AAA games up for the nomination (including Plague Tale, Horizon Forbidden West, and indeed God of War), the prize had been scooped by a small, British indie title. “We did not expect this,” they said, picking up the prize - adding it was “insane”.

Who lost out at the Bafta Games Awards?

As Vampire Survivors rose to claim the crown, other games — inevitably — lost out. One of the biggest surprises was that hit game Stray (where players control a cat as it makes its way around a dystopian city) came away empty-handed, despite being up for eight nominations. Similarly, Horizon Forbidden West only came away with the award for best technical achievement, despite being nominated for several.

Elden Ring also lost out in comparison to God of War, picking up only two awards from a list of nine nominations. Interestingly, one of those was for best multiplayer game: a considerable upset, given that it was up against established multiplayers such as Call of Duty and Fifa 23.

On the other hand, it was considered a shoo-in for best game — to which it ultimately lost out to Vampire Survivors. The wheel turns.

Best of British

Though the Baftas is a British institution, most of the games up for awards were massive international titles. That said, Vampire Survivors’ runaway success has arguably lit a spark for the potential of British indie titles. There are around 1,500 gaming studios in the UK at the moment, the vast majority of which are indie developers.

Though that might sound like a lot, it really isn’t in comparison to countries such as Japan and the US. Hopefully, Vampire Survivors’ success will act as a spur for other studios to dream big and bring the UK gaming scene some long-overdue attention.

Bafta does also have a best British game category which, surprisingly, was the one surprise loss for Vampire Survivors: instead, action video game Rollerdrome clinched the prize.

The presenters

Awards night brought with it a bevy of celebrity presenters and industry icons. In addition to comedian Munya Chawawa and Inbetweeners star James Buckley, the most memorable presenter of the night has to be Troy Baker, who voiced Joel in hit game The Last of Us.

Baker was also joined via video link by the star of the TV show, Bella Ramsey, who made a pre-recorded appearance poking fun at Baker. “You’re not Joel!” she told him, adding that Joel (as played by Pedro Pascal) was “more rugged”. Ouch.

The best of the speeches

Speech of the night has to go to industry icon Christopher Judge who, stunningly, picked up only his first Bafta for his performance as Kratos in God of War: Ragnarök. If ever an award was predetermined, it was this: Judge’s Kratos has been magnificent in both his appearances for the long-running franchise and arguably got the biggest cheer of the night.

He touchingly, and humorously, thanked his family and colleagues.

“This is ours,” he told the cast of the game, adding, “it is not lost on me that I’m a Black man standing on a British stage accepting an award for playing a Spartan God killer, who in his heart only wants to be a father.

“It is the role of a lifetime. I’m going to live and breathe every moment of this great gift that I was given.”

He also called for more respect in the industry. “Thank you to the fans,” he said. “Be easier on each other. You all have more in common than what separates you.

“No matter what platform you love, no matter what game you love, you’re still part of the gaming community, and give each other a break.”

What does this mean for the industry?

Make no mistake: this was a night of indie gaming triumph. In addition to Vampire Survivors, American game Tunic also won big on the night, taking home two awards for its dystopian fantasy adventure, while many bigger games lost out.

If this seems like an upset, it’s worth noting that Bafta has form in this area. In 2017, Breath of the Wild lost out in best game to What Remains of Edith Finch — this organisation does seek to champion indie gaming.

It does also point to an interesting trend in the gaming industry: that is, as AAA games become ever bigger (and more expensive), smaller, more nimble (and more affordable) indie games are starting to take off.

Expect to see the UK indie games scene flourish in the next few years — the runaway success of Vampire Survivors proves that they’re just as capable of winning big as established studios.

With festivals such as the London Games Festival becoming established parts of the city’s cultural landscape, gaming is no longer a niche hobby: it’s a multi-billion pound industry.