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The Best of 2021: Videogames


RedRooster
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On the back of @Devon Malcolm's excellent Film thread, I thought I'd try my hand at a videogames equivalent, if only to spout on about the overlooked, slightly obscure indie wank I've played this year, to encourage more of you to try it. I'm going to be sharing my top 10 games, but don't feel obliged to take the same format when it comes to your list. In terms of criteria, I've decided to include games provided the version I played released this year (meaning it may have released for a different system before 2021) - ultimately these threads, for me, are about finding recommendations, so I don't want to get too pedantic about that. 

In reverse order...

10. Eastward

Eastward review | PC Gamer

I'm not sure why, but Eastward seems to have slipped under the radar for a lot of people in 2021. The best way I can describe it, is "it's a bit like Earthbound, if Earthbound was more like Zelda". First of all, the game has an excellent story. You may be a silent protagonist, but it doesn't really matter, the animation and game art is so vibrant, it never really feels like that's the case. The gameplay is a lot of fun - if you like RPGs, or Zelda-like games, I can't imagine that you won't have a good time with this. If you like good stories, ditto. 

 

9. Toem: A Photo Adventure

Save 20% on TOEM on Steam

Look at those graphics. I'm not one for emoji use, but 😍!

If you enjoy games like A Short Hike, you'll love this. You're tasked with taking photos for people, to earn enough stamps to get a free bus ticket to the next town. It's a simple concept, but thanks to the creativity of the tasks you're given, it never feels repetitious. It's a very relaxing game to play, yet there's still a level of challenge to it. While no game is "for everyone", I'd argue that this comes pretty close. It's a very joyful game, and, frankly, we all need a bit of that right now. 
 

8. Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! (Switch)

Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! | Download and Buy Today - Epic Games Store

This game has been out on PC for some time, but I played the Switch version, that was released in the summer. If you haven't played this game, despite the cheery visuals, it's actually a horror game, and an incredibly disturbing one at that. It's best played knowing as little about it as possible going it, although I will say, if you've dealt with mental health issues, thoughts of self-harm, or suicide, approach this one with caution. It's a strong, visual-novel style game, but it comes, quite literally, with a trigger warning slapped firmly on the title screen. 

 

7. There is No Game: Wrong Dimension (Switch)

There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension for Nintendo Switch - Nintendo Game  Details

Another game best experienced blind. I played the Switch version of this, and absolutely loved the creativity on show. It's an adventure game...kind of. When you load up the game, you're told there is no game, and to go away. It's on you to find the game, through a series of creative puzzles. And then you find the game, and it gets even more creative. I don't want to say much more - but trust me on this, it's worth your time. 

6. Littlewood

Littlewood Review - Big Heart - GameSpot

You're a hero, who has just defeated the Dark Lord, and saved the world. It's now your job to rebuild it. It does the game a bit of a disservice to say it's "like Stardew Valley", but at the same time, it kind of is; if Stardew had an obvious end point. You rebuild the village, attract new villagers, adventure a little bit and build relationships with your community. The better you do, the more the world around you opens up. It took me around 25-hours to complete the game, and I loved every minute of it. If you're looking for a Stardew-like game without the time commitment, this one's for you. 

5. Picross S: Mega Drive & Master System Edition

Sega Mega Drive and Master System themed 'Picross' is coming to Switch

This kind of is what it says on the tin. It's Picross, with Sega characters. There are loads of puzzles to solve, all based around Mega Drive and Master System games, and it balances a hefty dose of nostalgia, with Picross. Lovely stuff!

 

4. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy (multi-format)

Guardians of the Galaxy beginner's guide, tips, and tricks - Polygon

It's an action-adventure game, but really, you're playing this one for the Telltale Games level-story. The gameplay is perfectly fine, but the plot pisses all over most recent Marvel films. It's surprisingly strong, and kept me gripped right till the end. You can pick up this game relatively cheaply now, given how recently it was released, and I'd highly recommend that you give it a go. 

 

3. Unmetal 

Save 35% on UnMetal - Big Boom-Box Soundtrack on Steam

A parody of the Metal Gear games that manages to nail both the gameplay, and the humour that you'd want in a parody game. I had fun sneaking my way around the game world, and laughed out loud at almost every cut scene. 

 

2. Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars

Hands On: Don't Sleep on Voice of Cards - It Could Be a Special RPG - Push  Square

In 2021, Square Enix released a number of slightly experimental, download-only RPGs. Voice of Cards was one of them. If you're looking for a deck-building game, this isn't it. It's essentially a standard RPG told through a world made out of cards; and in being so, manages to be quite unique. The story is compelling, and the gameplay loop is very addictive. It's also fairly short, which is a big selling point for me, these days. I enjoyed the hell out of it. 

 

1. The House in Fata Morgana (Switch)

REVIEW] The Wrath of the Wronged — The House in Fata Morgana | by Dawn  Davis | Medium

This visual novel is packed with odd Japanese tropes, and means it'll lose some people quite quickly. I urge you to persist with it, because if you do, you'll experience one of the best videogame stories ever written. Again, it's best experienced relatively blind; but in short, you wake up in a mysterious mansion, unsure of your own identity. You attempt to discover this, by hearing the story of the mansion throughout the years from an equally mysterious maid. There's little in the way of gameplay here, it's a visual novel after all, but the story is incredible. It's moving, disturbing, gripping and horrific all at the same time. It's also quite bold, and explores issues that you might not expect it to.

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Probably the wrong forum for this, I can’t imagine most will have finished playing Peggle Nights and CM 01/02 yet.

Despite buying  a fair bit more than 10 games this year I doubt I’ve finished more than 5 and of them I think only Deathloop is new. What a great game though. I think my favourite trait in a game is being able to dip in and out for a run or sit down for a few hours and finish a satisfying chunk. Deathloop allows me to do either. I think that’s why I loved Bloodborne so much, some sessions would be back and forth loops grinding up and others would be run throughs to a boss. Lack of pauses is a real kick in the nuts for a gaming dad though.

Like I said I’ve not played many games but the bangers I did play would be

5. Inside

4. Control

3. Peggle Nights

2. Deathloop

1. Bloodborne if 6 year old games you started a couple years ago but only finished this year count.

Might try and do 1 game a month this year and see how I get on as long as it doesn’t interfere with my Peggle play.

Edited by Mr_Danger
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8 minutes ago, Mr_Danger said:

Probably the wrong forum for this, I can’t imagine most will have finished playing Peggle Nights and CM 01/02 yet.

I still haven't cracked Peggle Nights. Took me long enough to conquer the bloody first one.

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Aside from putting in far too many hours into Slay the Spire, FM21 and FM22, I've played a fair few great games this year. 

 

Started off the year playing Paradise Killer on the Switch. It is a murder mystery game set in a futuristic world, with bits of platforming. It was a lot of fun trying to unravel the mystery and generally find out what all the different bits meant, and I didn't even need a guide!

 

I then treated myself to Persona 5 Royal - I finished the original Persona 5 when it came out 2016, but was interested to see what the expansion added - I enjoyed the new characters and additional story - was a massive timesink but I really enjoyed it. It's also incredible graphically and the soundtrack is excellent. 

 

I then downloaded the demo of Inscryption after the Besties podcast recommended it, and was hooked. I then bought the full version and it was so much fun. A good card builder with an interesting thing after the first act - I highly recommend it.

 

I then played Unpacking, which was a chill placement game where you go through someone's life unpacking their houses - it tells a narrative just via the gameplay - you unpack certain things and realise how shitty a relationship they are. 

 

Finally, Wildermyth is like D&D but done well on the computer. Really good mix of the gameplay and storytelling. 

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21 minutes ago, Nexus said:

I then played Unpacking, which was a chill placement game where you go through someone's life unpacking their houses - it tells a narrative just via the gameplay - you unpack certain things and realise how shitty a relationship they are. 

I was very close to including this in my top 10, it’s such a unique way of telling a story. I’m not sure I’ve ever played a game before that leaves you feeling, at the end of it, that you know the main character well, without ever actually showing you that character. 

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I got the Mr X Nightmare DLC for Streets Of Rage 4 and it's breathed so much life into it, the extra characters, the survival mode that turns it into a rogue lite beat em up, the alternate movesets, and some of the rebalancing of the main game as well, it came along at a great time. 

Forza Horizon 5 had plenty to keep me busy, but I made it to the hall of fame last night, so it may get a little rest until the add-on islands etc turn up. Driving through a sandstorm was pretty spectacular, though. 

I had a good giggle smashing through Say No! More when I picked that up in a sale a few months back. Look out for it in a sale because it's not a very long game, and if you keep an eye out you can unlock all hidden stuff in one playthrough. 

I picked up Part Time UFO as well this year, although it's from late 2020. It's a little grabby claw game, fun distraction, stuff to unlock as well to keep you coming back for more. 

Wario Ware Get It Together was an interesting new take on the usual formula. The simultaneous co-op Multiplayer could be fun as well. There's a little more though involved over previous entries, but it's a fun distraction all the same. 

I really like the look of Unpacking and all the little details that go into it. I've got it on my wishlist, and might give it a look in the new year because I like the way it tells the story and the little details with the dvd/bluray/game cases. 

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Top marks to @RedRoosterfor (a) starting the thread and (b) picking obscurities (a few of which have just gone straight on the wishlists) and not going for the obvious Resident Evil Village, Forza, Battlefield etc. lists of which are ten a penny elsewhere.

I can't add much myself because as a skinflint I play very little on release and wait for sales. I just bought Inscryption on Steam sale and am doing my darndest not to read anything about it. 

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