With 2021 gone, it’s time to reflect on the experiences it brought — especially as a gamer! I played 70 titles in 2021 (yes, I actually spent half an hour counting them for you!) and I’m here to introduce my top 10!
But first, I should take care of a couple of 2021 bonus awards. Since I am a simple man, I’ll keep it simple here:
Games that I will never forget:
It Takes two, Maneater, Resident Evil Village, Psychonauts 2
Games that I wish I could forget:
Halo Infinite, Battlefield 2042, GTA Trilogy: The Definitive Edition
And here goes the top 10. Please note that these are not listed in any particular order so, there is no ‘best’ of the bests here. They’re all great!
>The Artful Escape
If scientists ever wanted to prove that videogames have a soul, The Artful Escape would end that debate. It’s about a teenage musician living in the shadow of his late superstar folk singer uncle. He wants to become a rock star, but has a real “living in a small city where everyone expects you to live up to your family name” situation, so he goes on an intergalactic musical adventure. The Artful Escape is more of a visual novel than a traditional action-based videogame, but since almost every frame of looks like a painting done by Kurt Cobain on LSD, it’s impossible not to fall in love with it.
While most people consider Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson the most badass bald creature on Earth, gamers know who the real king of bare scalp is — for the past 21 years we’ve been traveling the world with the deadliest bald man on earth, Agent 47! The reboot of the Hitman franchise in 2016 brought the silent assassin back into the spotlight and the third and final chapter in 2021 was an epic conclusion to a five-year-long saga. Talking about the sheer complexity of Hitman 3 levels requires several in-depth articles but we don’t have the space for that here, I am content with adding it to this list and saving us lots of time
>Little Nightmares 2
Earlier in the year I covered this title in an UNHyPED video. The second part of this gloomy journey is an artistic take on how the media affects society and how terrifying it can get. Aside from the story, the game also packs a bunch of nicely crafted levels and a mind-blowing plot twist at the end.
>Forza Horizons 5
Since the Need for Speed series took a wrong turn and turned into the videogame version of The Fast & The Furious, Microsoft’s Forza Horizon was the only refuge for those of us too lazy to learn how to play racing sims and too depressed to enjoy Mario Kart. Since the last Forza Horizons was one of the best arcade racing titles in the last decade, Forza Horizon 5 repeats the success of its predecessor with a new entry set in Mexico.
>Age of Empires 4
A long time ago in a galaxy not too far away, real-time strategy titles were like today’s battle royales — every game studio had one! As a guy who grew up with Dune 2000, Command & Conquer: Generals and Stronghold: Crusader, the past couple of years were really sad, since almost every great RTS franchise has been forgotten by their makers. Age of Empires 4 breathed a new life into this genre by providing players with a lengthy and diverse campaign and adding educational historical info clips at end of each level. Finally, a great argument against parents who claim videogames have no educational value!
Remember what I said about how RTS games aren’t as popular as they used to be? Replace “RTS” with “Space Combat Simulations” and the same holds true. In my review of Chorus, I explained how happy I was to experience such a wonderful return to the genre, the best I’ve played since Freelancer in 2003. As Star Citizen’s development is taking so long that its release may coincide with Jesus’ second coming, I suggest we all cherish Chorus in the meantime.
>The Eternal Cylinder
Yes, a weird indie game that you may not have heard of! The Eternal Cylinder isn’t just a cute and deadly survival title. It’s a really sophisticated title about the beauty of diversity and cooperation. Although it seems that the game does not take itself seriously enough to have a colorblind mode and thus be appealing to a more “diverse” group of gamers, I will take a blind eye on the matter and praise it for its lively environments and multi-layered gameplay.
>It Takes Two
I know It Takes Two is on everyone’s top 10 list, but I liked this one for a very personal reason — my wife and I often play couch co-op titles. There are certain types of games that I really like, but my wife calls them ridiculous. However, we both enjoyed It Takes Two and a game that can offer a memorable experience for both hardcore and casual gamers alike deserves to be praised. So, I’m praising.
Why is Psychonauts 2 here? Because it has one of the best narrative designs I’ve ever seen — every single element in the gameplay served a purpose in the narrative and world-building, from enemies that represent a mental issue, to the player abilities which are different types of psychic powers. Psychonauts 2 is a game made with love, but also with a great deal of attention paid to the details.
>The Forgotten City
Did I say these were listed in no particular order? Sorry, I lied. The Forgotten City is the year’s best! It’s about uncovering the secret behind a magical rule that turns the people of a small town into golden statues. As a time-traveler, the player must endeavor to lift the curse and return to the present! Time travel plus mystery plus moral and philosophical ambiguity plus crazy plot twists equal a great game.