Best of 2021

Note to the Reader: Much like my 2022 top albums list, I started writing this post back at the end of 2021, with intention of posting it in early 2022, but that didn’t happen. Notes from my future self are noted in italics.

This past year, I found myself doing most of my gaming on the couch in handheld mode, or at my PC. I was one of the lucky people who was able to get a new graphics card for my PC (RTX 3060) right as the shortages were starting, so I didn’t have to pay sky-high prices on my upgraded-but-still-lower-end card. My Nintendo Switch also got a lot of play – so much so that I ended up grabbing a new set of Joy-Cons since I was cursed with left joystick drift after all my Animal Crossing time last year. (This is as much as I wrote, so I’m just gonna leave it here.)

Green checkmark denotes games that I finished. Thumbs up for games I also recommend.

Top Games of 2021

Control (PC, 2020)

To say that I absolutely adored this game would be an understatement. Drawing heavily from things like Twin Peaks, LOST, survival horror games, and the weirdest supernatural shit the internet can come up with, Control created a world that I wanted to learn more and more about. The vibes of this game are incredible, with a sense of mystery surrounding everything coupled with supremely strong worldbuilding, I felt immersed in the environments every time I played. When I wasn’t playing it, I was thinking about playing it. The gameplay is excellent as well, with player character Jesse Faden getting just enough supernatural abilities to feel powerful, but still keeping her human enough to present a challenge. The visuals are incredible as well, with a wide variety of unique areas inspired by M.C. Escher, Lovecraftian lore, The Thing, and many other sci-fi classics. It looked incredible when played on my hot new 3060. This hit all the right marks for me, and I played every single bit of it, getting 100% on the main game and both DLC expansions. Loved it, and I highly recommend it. ✅💯👍

The Forgotten City (PC, 2021)

Much like the aforementioned Control, The Forgotten City is built around a mystery. You’re sent back in time seemingly to the Roman era, to a city with a twist. If anyone commits a sin, the gods will punish them. That punishment? Death, of course. Plus, you learn someone is about to commit a sin, so it’s up to you to stop it.

However, after death… you wake up again, right back where you started. This is a really clever time-looping game that lets you explore and interfere with the relationships of the city’s inhabitants, all while uncovering the truth of the city and what it means. It’s a fairly short experience, I finished it in a couple of sittings, but it’s worth playing and seeing through to the end. It started its life as a Skyrim mod, and that shows, with a lot of the Skyrim-esque stilted delivery, but the story is so creative and has such a good heart behind it the minor flaws are worth looking past. Another one I highly recommend. ✅💯👍

Inscryption (PC, 2021)

Ok, last time, I promise. Inscryption is a mysterious game based around an unreleased video game (how meta!) of a card game that actually existed in the game’s world, and a streamer who got his hands on it. Shit goes sideways from there. It’s like Hearthstone crossed with Stranger Things. The game goes through a few different art styles and gameplay modes as you move through it, effectively playing in three acts, with the “real world” elements as interstitials to tell its story. I’ve already mentioned, I’m a sucker for a good mystery, but also for a good card game. The card game portion of this was so good, in fact, they came out with an official mod to simply play the game outside of the story. If you like card games and weird shit, I highly recommend Inscryption. ✅👍

Hades (Switch/PC, 2021)

Another type of game I really love is a solid rogue-lite. Supergiant games, developer of Bastion and many others, has delivered on that with Hades. Give me some fun gameplay, along with some progression between runs, and you’re gonna hook me for a while. Hades goes one step further and layers on some story and relationship building to help give you a narrative hook between runs as well. As Zagreus, the son of the titular Hades, you’re looking to escape your father’s realm and find your mother. This simple plot is fleshed out with a cast of characters who are looking to either support you or impede you on your quest, as you run from room to room, floor to floor, trying to make your way to the surface. I managed to complete a full run, but never managed to finish the game’s story. However, I had a great time doing so, and may go back at some point to wrap it up. I also loved the PC/Switch cross-save compatibility, so I could either play a portable version at a consistent 30fps or move to PC for a bigger screen, better graphics, and 60fps gameplay. ✅👍

Assassin’s Creed: Origins (PC, 2017)

While I still love the gameplay of AC4: Black Flag the most, largely due to the phenomenal ship combat, AC: Origins is the best world and best story in the series that I have played, and second best in gameplay. I love the improvements to the game’s systems, and Bayek is probably their best protagonist in the series since Ezio. I have heard that AC: Odyssey has even better characters and stories, but I have to spread my AC games out because they’re exhausting. I got 100% in the main story on this one. I intended to go back and finish the DLC content, but I never did. ✅💯👍

Back 4 Blood (PC, 2021)

Some of my favorite gaming memories are the times spent in a party on Xbox Live, playing Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2. We still reference things like “pills!” or “buncha guns over here!” from those sessions to this day. Back 4 Blood, created by some of the developers of the original L4D games, aimed to recapture that gameplay. We had quite a few good, fun sessions of this game, but people just don’t have the time for it like they used to. It’s also a bit harder than the original games, with some new systems layered on top of it for a bit of rogue-lite progression, that sometimes got in the way of actually having fun with the game. I’m not sure if the L4D lightning can ever be recaptured in its bottle, because it was largely a product of its time and the amount of free time that we all had back then. It was still great to play this and feel that again, even for just a few hours. We never actually finished a full campaign, but I had a lot of fun along the way. 👍

Other Games Played in 2021

  • Unpacking (PC, 2021) ✅👍
  • Limbo (PC, 2011) ✅👍
  • Superliminal (PC, 2020) ✅👍
  • Factorio (PC, 2020) 👍
  • Loop Hero (PC, 2021) 👍
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Happy Home Paradise DLC (Switch, 2021)
  • Axiom Verge (Switch, 2015)
  • Final Fantasy X Remaster (Switch, 2019) 👎 (this port sucks)
  • Far Cry 4 (PC, 2014) 👎 (they need to stop making Far Cry games)
  • Resident Evil 7 (PC, 2017)
  • Spiritfarer (PC/Switch, 2020)
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order (Xbox One, 2014)