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Drew Scanlon's Top 10 Games of 2021

Drew Scanlon ranks the games!

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HELLO YES THIS IS DREW. Cranking out retro games and F1 podcasts doesn’t always leave a lot of time to play stuff these days, but I still managed to put together a list of things I played that came out this year! So stay awhile, and read.

10. Pokémon Unite

I’m really just putting this on here because it’s the closest substitute I’ve found for Fates Forever–the one (mobile) MOBA I ever got into–which was BRUTALLY ERASED FROM EXISTENCE so its developers could focus on some other project called “Discord.”

9. The Forgotten City

I love mysteries, especially ones that are set in a Roman village that is also in some kind of time warp. You know the kind. I haven’t finished it yet, but an inventive premise, clever puzzles, and strong writing and voice acting make The Forgotten City one to remember.

8. Inscryption

I’m a big fan of run-based card battlers (shouts out to Solitarica and Meteorfall), so I got pretty excited when Inscryption started doing all kinds of weird stuff with the formula. Every five minutes I found myself thinking “why didn’t anyone try that before?” or “wait, you can just DO that?” I just wish I had had time to play more of it!

7. 12 Minutes

Adventure games are usually hit-or-miss for me since I don’t find getting stuck (a common occurrence when I play them) to be particularly fun. But I gave 12 Minutes a solid effort because I found the “inch wide and a mile deep” format so compelling (and because I gave myself permission to use a walkthrough). For the most part, I think the idea works. But what doesn’t work here REALLY doesn’t. Yikes.

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6. The Ascent

I find it impressive when game creators can take a stale genre–the twin-stick shooter, in this case–and make it feel fresh. Developer Neon Giant accomplished this with loot, an innovative targeting system, and some truly stunning visuals. WOW, what a pretty game.

5. Hell Let Loose

Hell Let Loose is the dream game for High School Drew. It’s like somebody took Day of Defeat and applied every tool in the modern game development toolkit to make it the Platonic ideal of a first-person WWII multiplayer game. Learning to take full advantage of the game takes more of a time investment than I can give these days, but I am so glad it exists.

4. Diablo II: Resurrected

As one who is sometimes in the business of creating video game remasters, I have to commend the team formerly known as Vicarious Visions for absolutely nailing this one. Resurrected is the textbook example of creating a version of an old game that is “how you remember it, not how it actually was.” Toggling the graphics back to the old version (Master Chief Collection-style) reveals just how faithful the team was to D2’s original dark and moody tone. It’s too bad this game wasn’t the only dark thing to come out of Blizzard this year.

3. Halo Infinite

Halo fans like me are impossible to satisfy. We all want something different, and, at the same time, something the same. 343 Industries has made some valiant efforts over the years given their unenviable task, but Halo 4 and 5 never really felt like Halo to me. They both had too many things going on in a series where all that matters is you and a weird planet.

With Infinite, however, 343 somehow split the difference, providing that same old feeling of being alone on a ringworld and adding a whole bunch of new, fun stuff (hello, grappleshot, which I never knew I needed but now cannot live without), all without detracting from that rare and elusive Halo-ness of it all. Well done!

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2. Loop Hero

I’ve tried explaining Loop Hero in a sentence to a few different people and I can never get it right. “Run-based tower defense with loot” doesn’t really do it justice, so I usually default to “just play it.” If pressed, I’d say it’s the distillation of all the fun parts of those genres, rolled into one entity that somehow gels magnificently. I haven’t yet played it on the Switch, but if you’re looking to give it a try, that might be the ideal way to go.

1. Unpacking

Seeing as we’re still in the throes of a pandemic, a relaxing game like Unpacking is just what the plague doctor ordered. The game is a joy to play, from the cozy-looking pixel art to the meticulously crafted sound effects, and tickles a very specific part of my brain that few games ever touch. Okay, MAYBE organizing my loot in Diablo II is similar, but creating a whole game out of that is impressive, and adding a narrative to a game about taking items out of boxes is downright unbelievable.

But the best part of this game, to me, was getting to play it with my girlfriend, who thoroughly enjoyed it despite not having much experience with games. As it turns out, stacking bowls neatly on top of other bowls is one gameplay mechanic everyone can get behind.