I’ve done a review of my gaming year, something which has been helpful in focusing my mind on what my Games of the Year are. As I’ve explained in my review of my past year, I’ve probably spent more time working through games from my backlog, or dipping in and out of titles to have played enough of this year’s top tier releases to do this list justice. Saying that, I wouldn’t be much of a games critic if I didn’t give it a go.
I’ve split this year’s edition into three parts. The unplayed looks at three titles which would have been fighting for top honours…if only I had played them! The contenders sees three wonderful games get highlighted, but small, self-imposed “rules” of what my Games of the Year should be prevent these making my Top 3. These are three games which I have been hugely impressed by and are worth anyone spending some time with, regardless of the order in which I’ve written about them.
I want to take a moment to ponder on those games that aren’t making my main list. We have something like Resident Evil Village, the latest tale of the undead from Capcom which Ross deemed worthy of a Red Mist. I didn’t even take the disc out of its case, primarily because I spent so many hours with its predecessor or the Resident Evil 3 remake. If I hadn’t enjoyed those, then I’m sure I would have made my way to Village and enjoyed it as much as Ross did.
The multiplayer portion of Halo Infinite that I have played so far has blown Battlefield 2042 out of the water when it comes to AAA multiplayer shooters. But Halo Infinite is more than just a multiplayer title; it comes with a massive singleplayer portion as well. I just haven’t played that side of things yet. Still, the online portion is good enough to warrant a mention here.
When it comes to Hitman 3, my PlayStation game time might show multiple hours spent with it. But that’s only because I bought Hitman 1 and 2 at the same time and did the necessary admin to import all of those levels into the Hitman 3 launcher. I hadn’t really played the series since Blood Money, and returning to series via the World of Assassination trilogy has been a lovely experience. I’m sure the latest levels match the quality of the first two games in the trilogy, but without playing it, I can’t justify truly ranking it in my Games of the Year.
Dorfromantik was an indie title that I thoroughly enjoyed in Early Access earlier this year, but I have stupidly failed to write about in any depth, or even return to since the spring. It’s a charming combination of puzzle, strategy, and city building as you build a landscape from a stack of randomly generated tiles. There are mini quests within each playthrough, challenges to complete, and as of September a creative mode was added which allows you to play without fear of running out of tiles. With the winter update, you now also get polar bears appearing in the game! The current roadmap from developer Toukana sees a 1.0 release coming in Sprint 2022, and I need to keep that in mind so I can do the game justice this time next year.
I love my racing games, and Forza Horizon 5 is one that I’ve enjoyed more than many others. Presented with a massive slice of Mexico, this is an open-world racer that continues to refine the Horizon formula. I think I’ve preferred this edition to Horizon 4 largely because of the location. Scotland was brilliant, but I’ve explored the roads of mid and north Wales enough to know what a great British road looks like. Horizon 5 is a great title, but after the first few weeks I could already tell that the seasonal rewards were going to annoy me. To get some of the cars which are exclusive to season progression requires a commitment that I can’t give. If I’d bought the game, rather than relying on Games Pass, it would have left a very bitter taste in my mouth. As it is, its an annoyance that just kicks it out of my top three games of 2021.
Looking at the venerable Switch, we have Bowser’s Fury, the new Mario adventure that came bundled with the re-release of Super Mario 3D World. I’ve played some of Bowser’s Fury, and a whole heap of Super Mario 3D World. I don’t feel like I’ve played quite enough of Bowser’s Fury for it to be ranked in the top three by itself. Saying that, the whole package is undoubtedly brilliant and is a must buy; it’s the self-imposed “rules” that keep this from appearing any higher.
The Top 3
The Forgotten City, a game born from a Skyrim mod, gave me plenty to think about back in November. It’s a tightly crafted tale and one that doesn’t throw unnecessary bloat at you, instead showing the confidence the developers had in the story they wanted to tell. Anything which gives me a chance to explore a Roman city is going to get my attention, but as the journey went along I was ever more enthralled. The fact that you can complete this in 5-6 hours shouldn’t be held against it in any way: it shows that games with a focus can be brilliant. It’s also a better time-loop game than the next one on my list, and if I had to choose just one title from the three to be my Game of the Year, this would be it. I wrote about The Forgotten City in depth here.
Deathloop isn’t necessarily a great time-loop game, but I struggle to put my finger on why it isn’t. What it is, though, is a fantastic example of the linear singleplayer shooter. Yes, I know there’s the asymmetric multiplayer component pitting Colt against human controlled invading Juliannas, but unlike many other critics, that aspect of the game didn’t do much for me. Instead I felt it took some of the shine off the relationship between these two key figures when I knew I was being invaded by another human. I don’t even think Deathloop is as good as the two primary Dishonored titles, but it is a great playground for wreaking havoc against goons and egomaniacal villains. I wrote about Deathloop in depth here.
I haven’t written about Guardians of the Galaxy yet, but then again I am only halfway through. I don’t have any background in the comics that tell the tales of the Guadians, and although I really enjoyed the movies, I’m not the Marvel buff that many others are. What I am is someone who appreciates very fine games, and this is one. The story has already packed more moments of humour and emotional depth than many other AAA titles do across twice the playtime. Combat isn’t ground-breaking, but serves to drive the story, and exploration of some exquisite environments, forward. I love this game, and I can’t wait to finish it. Give me more focused superhero games like this please; not everything needs to be open-world and never ending.
It’s been another outstanding year of games, and all I can say is that I wish I had played more indies. But the games I have written about here are all worthy of your attention. What have been your highlights of 2021?