Monday, 20 December 2021

2021 in Review: Top 10 Video Games

It's that time once again when I take a look back and examine the past year and all the great things and memories it gave to us. And as usual, I'll be starting this week-long series of posts with a rundown of my Top 10 video games released during the year. We received some truly stellar video games in 2021 although I must note that I was unable to get my hands on a fair amount of them, owing to the PS5 still being scarce as it is, and scalpers still having a field day with jacked up prices.

It is also worth mentioning that we also truly started to feel the impact of the pandemic on the gaming release schedule this past year, with 2020's lockdowns and work from home mandates resulting in big profile delays. As such, some of the games that were on my most anticipated list for the year have been moved into 2022. This would also result in some half-baked releases from big studios, like the recent Grand Theft Auto remastered trilogy, which you also won't be finding on this list. So with all that out of the way, here are my Top 10 video games for 2021.

10. Eastward


Eastward managed to hit me in the nostalgia feels this past year, with its beautiful pixel art visuals that were immediately reminiscent of some of my favorite action-adventure RPGS from the Super Nintendo era. Add to that a memorable retro-inspired new wave soundtrack and you have one of the indie standouts of 2021.

9. Death's Door


Speaking of standout indie titles in 2021, we can't really have any kind of countdown without including Death's Door. Developed by Acid Nerve and published by Devolver Digital, the action-adventure game is often likened to both classic The Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls, with its item-based puzzle solving and challenging difficulty.

8. Resident Evil Village


Capcom continued its current winning streak in 2021 with the release of Resident Evil Village, their follow-up to the brilliant Resident Evil 7 and the latest entry in the long-running series. For the new title, the Japanese developer sought to draw inspiration from the much-beloved RE4 which can seen from its Eastern Europe village setting as well as its focus on combat and gunplay.

7. Psychonauts 2


After nearly two decades, fans of Tim Schafer and Double Fine's Psychonauts finally got the sequel they've been dreaming of in 2021. This was following a very successful crowdfunding campaign, as well as Microsoft's eventual acquisition of the studio, the latter of which would prove instrumental to the finished game's overall quality.

6. Kena: Bridge of Spirits


Kena: Bridge of Spirits was yet another indie title that managed to exceed expectations in 2021. The game was first unveiled last year during a PlayStation 5 showcase, where it immediately stood out with its Pixar-grade animation. That really shouldn't come as a surprise though, given its first-time developer's prior work on the beautiful The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask short film, Terrible Fate.

5. Little Nightmares 2


There was certainly no shortage of beautiful visuals on display in 2021 and Little Nightmares 2 had some of the very best I had seen all year. The follow-up to the 2017 title by Tarsier Studios is every bit as haunting as its predecessor, expanding upon the previous game with even more gorgeous locales for players to platform through while solving its various puzzles and uncovering its central mystery.

4. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury


Super Mario 3D World made a return this past year in the form of Super Mario 3D + Bowser's Fury on the Nintendo Switch. And the Bowser's Fury portion of the game offered us our first glimpse at what a potential open-world Mario game could look and play like. Leave it to Nintendo to take what could have been yet another cash-grab Wii-U port and make it into one of the most impressive evolutions for the Super Mario series thus far.

3. Metroid Dread


While we are on the topic of long-running Nintendo franchises, one that doesn't seem to get nearly enough love is Metroid. Well, all that changed in 2021 with the surprise reveal and subsequent release of Metroid Dread, a 2D action-adventure game that was first rumored all the way back in 2005. That the game itself was as brilliant as it was only shows that we need more of these games. Thankfully, fans still have the currently-in-development Metroid Prime 4, as well as the rumored Metroid Prime 1 remake to look forward to.

2. Monster Hunter Rise


I'd never really been into the Monster Hunter games to be honest, nor been able to see their appeal for that matter. But something about Monster Hunter Rise on the Nintendo Switch resonated with me like no other game in the series. Long-time fans would probably attribute that to the new game's accessibility, but I think it runs deeper than that. There's just something about teaming up with a party of complete strangers to hunt down its various hulking beasts that feels endlessly satisfying.

1. Halo Infinite


Following a not-so-great first showing last summer, the eagerly-anticipated Halo Infinite was unceremoniously delayed into 2021. Which is a big deal, considering how willing most big studios are to ship half-baked games just to cash-in on holiday sales. That the Xbox Series X was able to have a successful launch without Microsoft's flagship title was a feat in and of itself.

So the fact that Halo Infinite is this superb is cause for celebration. The additional year of development has been used to fine-tune its killer multiplayer formula, as well as spruce up its visuals across the vast number of machines it runs on. This is the classic Halo we all know and love, but with a current-generation facelift worthy of the Master Chief himself.

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