Game Night, Video Games

The Best Games of 2021

Man. This was my year. At least in terms of video games. Most other things were pretty shit. But that’s beside the point.

Before we get into it, let’s list off the honorable mentions. These are games that I haven’t finished yet, games I haven’t gotten around to playing that I’m reasonably sure I’d like, or games that I played but didn’t enjoy enough to put higher on the list. These are:

  • No More Heroes 3 (haven’t finished)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (haven’t played, but I’d probably like it)
  • Returnal (haven’t finished)
  • Tales of Arise (haven’t played, but I enjoy the Tales games)
  • Kena: Bridge of Spirits (not a bad game, but definitely disappointing)
  • Death’s Door (I’ll get around to this one soon; a friend of mine really likes it)
  • Shin Megami Tensei 5 (I love the SMT games, so this one is just a matter of time)
  • Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart (again, not bad, but I didn’t enjoy it all that much compared to the later entries on the list)
  • Resident Evil 8: Village (almost made the list, but given that I legitimately forgot it existed, let alone that I played it, I don’t feel it quite deserves it)

I’m sure there are a few more I missed, but those are the big ones. If I missed your favorite game, I’m sorry. But I don’t have the time of day to play everything.

Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker

Okay. This is technically an expansion to an already existing game. But screw you, I’m gonna do it anyways.

Final Fantasy XIV has been building its narrative for a long time now. Over the course of its many expansions, it has introduced and established so much that would pay off later. And now, we’re finally here at the dramatic climax.

And boy fucking howdy, what a climax that was! Endwalker left me off with the same feeling I get after finishing a fantastic book series. You know the one. The indescribable emptiness accompanied by a strong sense of satisfaction.

On top of that, this game has some of the coolest boss fights in any MMO I’ve ever played. Whether you’re fighting solo for a story mission or with a party in a dungeon, there isn’t a single boss that isn’t absolutely insane and fun to fight. Some of these were a genuine challenge!

In my mind, this is where Final Fantasy XIV truly ends. Sure, there’s still more to come! But this conclusion is so satisfying that I’d honestly be fine if it didn’t. This isn’t just one of the best Final Fantasy games ever made, but one of the best MMOs.

Guilty Gear: Strive

I’ve had a fondness for Guilty Gear for almost as long as I’ve been playing fighting games. But I’ve never put substantial time into them due to their mediocre online play. Now we’ve got one with phenomenal online play! My life is complete!

This game has everything I look for in a fighting game. A wild roster stuffed with variety. Mechanics that are easy to learn but hold a world of depth. Smooth online play. Amazing visuals. Kick-ass music. This is one of the most consistently enjoyable fighting games I have ever played.

If only the lobby system wasn’t the most fucking retarded thing I’ve ever experienced. Just make a normal lobby, god dammit! Stop making the players life harder and just let them play the game!

God damn ArcSys… They giveth, and they taketh away.

Halo Infinite

You saw this one coming.

I thought for so long that Halo had no hope of recovery after Halo 5. And I’m very happy to say that I was wrong. This game may not be fantastic, but it is damn good!

Yes, the multiplayer has some annoying microtransactions and the progression needs work. That, and you can’t even choose the mode yet. Yes, the campaign suffers from a sense of repetition and the open world, while not terrible, feels like it needs work. It isn’t a perfect game by any means.

But god damn it, this game has that spark! That spark that made Halo so damn lovable and fun in the first place! The music is incredible! The enemies have so much personality and they’re so fun to fight! The gunplay feels fantastic! This is just a really fun and satisfying game to play!

Halo may not be completely redeemed yet. But if each subsequent step is like this one, then it is on the right path.

Metroid Dread

You saw this one coming, too.

Stuck in the rumor mill for as long as it was, you’d be forgiven for not quite believing that Metroid Dread is real. Be assured, it is. And it is truly amazing. In fact, I’d argue it’s the only Metroid game that can actually hold a candle to the legendary Super Metroid! That is praise not to be given out lightly, people!

This game was just so damn satisfying to play. Exploration was rewarding, the boss fights challenging and engaging, even the story was interesting! It’s so damn polished, from its insanely minute animations to its refined controls and amazing level design!

Not to mention how addictive the damn thing is. Of all the games on this list, it’s the one I’ve replayed the most. Shaving down my time between runs was immensely satisfying, and overcoming bosses that gave me so much trouble the first time with ease made me feel like a god! This game knows how to sink its teeth in and not let go!

With this, I hope that Metroid is finally back and here to stay. If this leads to even more 2D Metroid games in the future, I’ll be singing a happy little tune.

Still, as much as I love it, there was one game I was anticipating far more.

Psychonauts 2

The first Psychonauts was my favorite video game growing up. In my mind, no game could ever top it. So imagine my surprise when the sequel wasn’t just worth the wait, but was actually better than the first one!

I love how much more mature this game feels than the first one. It handles delicate subjects of mental health with much more grace and kindness than was offered in the series’ first outing. That, combined with its themes of healing and forgiveness, made its story incredibly emotional, engaging, and even shocking at times! I can’t remember the last time a game has made me audibly gasp because of a plot twist!

On top of that, this game has some of the most varied, inspired, and fun levels in any game I’ve ever played! From casino-hospitals to a varied library to a lonely sea, no two levels are even remotely alike! Each one provides a whole new and interesting platforming experience unlike anything you could find in another video game. And did I mention that they’re all freaking gorgeous?!

Psychonauts 2 isn’t just my favorite game of the year. It’s my new favorite game of all time. The small child inside me that has waited all this time for this game couldn’t be happier with what we got. It is a true masterpiece that I couldn’t recommend vehemently enough.

Conclusion

Those were my favorite games of 2021. This year felt super stacked in my favor, with a lot of my personal dream games coming true. I haven’t been this happy with games in a long time. Which is saying a lot, considering how stacked the last few years have felt.

It’ll be tough for 2022 to follow that up. But it does have some heavy hitters! That new Pokémon Legends game looks good, KOF XV looks to be the next hype fighting game, Elden Ring looks absolutely incredible, a new Rune Factory is coming out, Bayonetta 3 is bound to be a great time, God of War: Ragnarok looks super good, the list goes on and on! There is a ton of stuff with a ton of potential!

But even if it doesn’t turn out great, I think I’ll be fine with it. This year was more than satisfying enough.

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