There’s been a bit of discourse (a small one albeit) that 2021 was a “dry year” for video game releases. I couldn’t disagree with this notion more considering how busy I’ve been with game reviews from the start of the year to the end. If you look at massive AAA games, 2022 is no doubt the bigger year in terms of scheduled releases. Still, 2021 has been a great year for video games between AAA and indie and I’d like to write some brief words on my favorite games of the year. There are a few critically acclaimed games I haven’t played yet such as Deathloop, Metroid Dread, & Forza Horizon, but with 2021 now up, it was now or never to write this. Enjoy!
10. Life is Strange: True Colors
I’ve had a soft spot for the Life is Strange series for a few years now. For the most part, I enjoyed my time with the original Life is Strange with Max & Chloe. I have mixed feelings on Life is Strange 2 but it had its moments. Unlike previous Life is Strange installments, True Colors released all 5 episodes at once and I enjoyed every single episode. Alex Chen was extremely relatable as a protagonist and I was pleasantly surprised by the overall narrative. The only negative I can give the game is that I wasn’t overly fond of the majority of the supporting cast besides a few exceptions such as Gabe, Ryan, and Steph. Other than that, I felt this was a nice outing from Deck Nine in the Life is Strange franchise.
9. Chivalry 2
I had been waiting for this game for so long before its release. Chivalry: Medieval Warfare was released back in 2012 for PC and for almost 9 years I’ve been waiting for its sequel. Torn Banner did everything right with this game from the gore, combat, and the wildly entertaining battle-crys.
8. Death’s Door
Death’s Door is unique in almost everything it does and it’s made even more impressive by the fact that the game was primarily made by a two-person studio. Fantastic combat, music, and level design are a staple at every juncture in this game and it takes the spot as my second favorite indie game of the year.
7. It Takes Two
Josef Fares went from saying “F**k the Oscars” at Geoff Keighley’s Game Awards in 2017 to winning GOTY at the show 4 years later. While It Takes Two isn’t my personal GOTY, I couldn’t not include it on this list. A co-op experience that left an impact because of one key aspect, variety. A game like It Takes Two personifies fun, while it may be a couple of hours too long, it’s still a worthy winner of GOTY and deserves all the praise it’s gotten.
My first ever Housemarque game is also my first ever roguelike (or rougelite) game in general. I didn’t know what to expect from Returnal before release, I wasn’t particularly hyped for the game and the fact I wasn’t all that familiar with the studio played a hand in that.
Housemarque went from being relatively unknown to me to getting me hooked on their gameplay loop for the entirety of Returnal. The mechanics behind Returnal always kept me on the edge of my seat to ensure I didn’t die and restart. As if this writing, I’ve heard some rumblings that there may be DLC coming to Returnal in the future. All I’ll say is if that’s true, sign me up because I’ll be there on Day 1.
5. Halo Infinite
After the unfavorable first gameplay impressions of Halo Infinite back in 2020, 343 Industries was able to turn around their luck. I don’t even want to know what state Halo Infinite would’ve launched in had it released in 2020 as was originally planned. Unfortunately, co-op campaign and forge won’t be in the game for a few more months, but as for what’s in the game as we speak, for the most part, I’ve been pleased.
I enjoyed the campaign a lot and that’s coming from someone who isn’t a long-time Halo player. Out of the big three multiplayer experiences in Call of Duty: Vanguard, Battlefield 2042, & Halo Infinite, Infinite is the only one I’m playing consistently and probably still will be for months to come.
4. Psychonauts 2
If Psychonauts 2 is any indication, Double Fine has proven to be an underrated studio. There have been claims that the purchase of Double Fine for Xbox wasn’t necessary and seems out of left field with no real reason for the acquisition. I disagree completely as I feel they were obviously acquired to diversify Xbox Game Studios.
Psychonauts 2 is available on every major gaming platform aside from the Nintendo Switch. Do yourself a favor and experience the greatness that is this yard of creativity. From psychedelic levels to preparing delicious meals, Psychonauts 2 always changes it up in some shape or form, and it makes the game all the better for it.
3. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
I don’t know how Insomniac pumps these quality games out like candy but I appreciate them for it. Besides it being a bit shorter than expected, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart ticks off every box that makes a video game fun. The addition of Rivet is a welcome one and she became my favorite character in the entire game. Spider-Man 2 & Wolverine are on the way and based on Insomniac’s track record, those games should be nothing short of great.
2. Kena: Bridge of Spirits
From the very first trailer, I knew Kena: Bridge of Spirits was an instant get. Ember Lab delivered exactly what I wanted with this game. Gameplay is fairly simplistic but incredibly addicting, the story surprised me with how engaging it was and how relatable and likable Kena was, not to mention the stunning visuals. Ember Lab had an absolute smash hit with their first title and I hope Sony continues to support them in the future if they need it.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy
The initial public perception of Guardians of the Galaxy was that it would wind up to be mediocre. For the longest time, I was one of the few who felt this game had the potential to surprise a ton of people after its initial reveal at E3. It turns out I was right as the game received unanimous praise from everyone I saw.
Guardians of the Galaxy is one of my favorite IPs under the Marvel banner. Square Enix didn’t have a lot of luck when it came to the success of Marvel’s Avengers due to a variety of reasons. They were able to turn it around with Guardians and word of mouth on this game went around like wildfire.
This game has a fantastic narrative, excellent and funny dialogue, as well stunning visuals and animations. Playing as only Star-lord was a choice that even I was skeptical of at first but it works fluently when you know how the mechanics work. If Marvel’s Avengers put a bad taste on your outlook of Square Enix Marvel Games, Eidos-Montreal cleanses that image and will leave you wanting more in the future!
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