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Jan Ochoa's Top 10 Games of 2021

Jan has really gotten into overalls this year and overall the year has had its peaks and valleys. Somehow some pets, some Pokémon, and some group of misfits have helped get him through the year.

This has been a tough year for numerous reasons. I don't need to list the specific reasons, but I definitely felt like my tank was running on empty a lot of the year. Hell, a couple weeks ago I was even debating with myself whether or not I still enjoyed or liked video games anymore. I've been juggling feelings of inadequacy and general emptiness on and off constantly. Like I've had a weird underlying feeling of "survivor's guilt" bubbling under the surface. My sleep sucks. I have such a short fuse lately. The only thing consistent is that I feel like I'm constantly waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

Burnout? Great game.

Let's take a deep breath. Okay, let's take another. Did I have to tell y'all to exhale because that goes without saying I think. Sick - now it's time to look at the big picture we got going on and it turns out that there may be more highlights than I thought. I ran a race with my best friends, my partner got into grad school, met and then got to hire Jess, started a Power Ranger podcast with Matt, got to run it back and do a couple of podcasts with good ol' Benjie P, I even hosted the Bombcast a couple times, and shoot I even got promoted. I know that the year for Giant Bomb isn't what everyone expected, there's a lot of negativity online and everyone's feelings are valid. But yo dawg, put your TRUST in me. WE got this. Let's talk about some GAMES NOW HUH?!

Here’s a quick list of stuff in no particular order that ALMOST made my Top 10

  • Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
  • Fuga: Melodies of Steel
  • Loop Hero
  • Knockout City
  • Psychonauts 2
  • Shin Megami Tensei V
  • Wildermyth
  • Unpacking
  • Persona 5 Strikers

Actually I just wanted to shout out a couple more things

Favorite Movies: French Dispatch and Spider-Man: No Way Home

Favorite Shows: I Think You Should Leave, Starstruck, and Only Murders in the Building

Favorite Albums: Olivia Rodrigo's “Sour” and Vince Staples’ “Vince Staples”

Favorite Podcasts: Blank Check and Armed and Rangerous

Favorite Wrestling Moments: CM Punk returning and the Dark Order and Adam Page entrance at FFtF

Alright, now in everyone’s best Mark Henry voice

And now, it’s time for the MAIN EVENT!

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10. Hitman 3

Oh Hitman, you beautiful murder puzzle. I don’t know how IOI manages to do it each time, but they did it again! Hitman is such an amazing experience, whether you or someone else is piloting the ship, it is always a treat. Hell, the Dartmoor level alone is a better level/experience than whole ass games that I’ve played this year.

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9. Tales of Arise

I really enjoy early Migos. The clean version of “Fight Night” and “Versace” are still in my regular rotation when throwing music on because of how complicated it all sounds, there’s almost too much happening in the songs.

That’s what Tales of Arise is. Tales of Arise is the Migos of action JRPGs.

People are constantly talking, ESPECIALLY in battle. But somehow I just love it. I love entering a combat scenario only to hear everyone calling out their special moves, emoting on how the battle is going, and other cacophonous yelling. But the combat is so neat in how you can quickly pivot to another character and then switch back to pull off a flashy team maneuver. I found the story to be fantastic as well. If you’re looking for something that straddles the line between sweet and too anime tropey, then this is it. Like yo man, this game winds up having an Anime ass opening in the first hour and then HAS ANOTHER ONE SEVERAL HOURS LATER. THEY KIND OF SHIPPUDEN YOU.

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8. Super Auto Pets

Several members of the Giant Bomb community suggested I checked this out and I’m working hard to plot my revenge on them because I have sunk an ungodly amount of hours into this game. If you haven’t heard my nearly unintelligible rant on the game a couple bombcasts ago this is a stripped down auto chess with cute pets. It’s a grand time. I’ve had to uninstall this for my own sanity.

Shout outs to pulling off the elusive Snake-Chicken-Tiger combo.

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7. Back 4 Blood

I had zero interest in checking this out when it was first announced. I didn’t have the means to play the original Left 4 Dead when it was initially popping off so I had zero nostalgia for it or that style of game. If it wasn’t for the homies pushing to play some type of game together after training for the race I would have just skipped this too. But damn am I glad that they did because I loved my time with it. The card system took a while to get acclimated to, but once we got it up and running properly we were a well oiled machine. Due to the nature of the game, even if we failed a level we were bound to have a different and unique experience each time. It definitely got frustrating and felt like the deck was stacked against us, but we wound up narrowly turning it around each time. Maybe it was playing a game with some of my best friends but I genuinely loved failing because it meant more time together.

Two standout moments were detonating the bombs on the boat in Act 1 only to have the boys and I BARELY make it back to safety when the timer almost hit zero. The second was navigating a level near the end of the game in super tight corridors with wall to wall chain link fences. We had to watch our backs while we were constantly being taunted with the hordes on the other sides of the fences. By the end of that level we were just DUMPING rounds in front of us trying to clear a path. Even if the four player zombie shooter isn’t your typical bag, I insist that you try it out if you can manage to wrangle up three other friends. Oh also special shout out to Cristian from the community for being the site’s honorary 4th seat anytime we’ve streamed the game.

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6. Inscryption

I really like deck building games. I’ve plugged in a lot of hours into Slay the Spire so I knew that I’d click with the card aspect of Inscryption. The deathcards could really turn a whole run around if you manage to craft one with the right sigils that you want. I think I managed to craft a card with 10 damage in three lanes. But that was BEFORE I figured out how to use the Ringworm card and Ouroboros properly. I also enjoyed the creepy atmosphere and the squiggly creepy nature of Leshy. Unfortunately everything after Act 1 I kind of bounced off of. There were definite moments that I thought were neat, but it felt a little too long for me. If you can get over the cards there’s a neat story lying beneath the surface because there are some real ambitious stuff going on.

SPOILERS: There’s a duel disk in this game and that was tight.

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5. Pokemon Unite

I need to air some grievances. This really upsets me. Every year that I’ve worked here at Giant Bomb and there’s been a Pokémon game that drops you can guarantee that it will make it’s way onto my Top 10. Despite all the problems with SwSh, I still loved the crap out of it. Let’s go Pikachu and Eevee were fantastic gateways back into the series. And then we get Shining Pearl/Brilliant Diamond…I don’t want to get into it. But yo, they made a Pokémon DOTA and that shit was tiiiiiight. A lot of the problems I had with League of DOTA II weren’t present with Pokémon Unite. The super short matches have the perfect “Just one more!” quality to them. The initial pack of characters at launch all felt different and played well. I loved switching it up between matches and running actual circles around other teams playing as Cinderace or being a massive wall blocking everything with Snorlax. Blissey was absolutely lethal when it dropped. Yo, you could also solo a whole team AND steal Zapdos as Cramorant. With such a huge existing character pool I’m excited to see who else they could drop into rotation in the future. Having this also pop up on mobile has been perfect for the couple times I’m just waiting in my car.

#cramgang

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4. Metroid Dread

Do y’all like that feeling of being completely physically tired because of working out so hard? That is my experience with Metroid Dread. I would feel so mentally and physically drained after bashing my head against a wall because of an EMMI sequence or because of a boss, but that sweet release afterwards was just so good. I consider this my first full experience with a Metroid game, I’ve dabbled in the releases on the GBA and a little bit of Prime, but damn did this feel like a Metroid game! I think! I will normally bounce off of a game if I find it to be too difficult and I can’t adjust the difficulty. But with Metroid Dread I HAD to conquer each obstacle in my path and I’m pretty proud of myself for doing so. There were several times where I wanted to throw in the towel, but after some practice I could rinse through TEN CHOZO GUARDS if the game wanted to throw them at me.

And I believe it is a trait of the series, but the random ways you can kind of break the game accidentally felt amazing. Like I was pulling a fast one on the game, only to have it smack me back down to reality later on.

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3. Halo Infinite

I’m going to say this right off the bat. I have not finished the campaign to Halo Infinite, but regardless is still ranks as #3 on my list purely on the multiplayer. I don’t remember much of what happens in the story after 3 and ODST. I think it has something to do with trying to break up with your scary computer ex-girlfriend and also trying to get your stuff? Anyway, the multiplayer fits like a glove. A nice well made glove and that’s great because I played an obscene amount of Halo 3’s multiplayer. Whether it was grouping up with my friends or dropping into matches alone I would almost always walk away with some type of highlight. The familiar mouth feel of playing Halo combined with the speed of modern FPSs has been the best combination since peanut butter and chocolate.

This game has the unfair advantage of having two things that are immediate pushes to the top half of my top 10: grappling hooks and CTF modes. Who knew that all I needed to get interested in Halo was a damn grappling hook.

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2. Chicory

Fuck this game and I hope that the lovely team that made it are happy with themselves at such a lovely little gem of a game because they did a tremendous job. I didn’t expect to have an introspective experience where I deal with my own trauma of feeling creatively bankrupt and broken while playing as a little puppy that is just okay at painting. Nor did I expect to have this game help therapize me in a way where it helped silence the feeling of Imposter’s Syndrome while I douse the whole screen in a harsh shade of orange. Damn this game for being yet another example as to how games can be a fantastic medium of telling stories and dealing with trauma all the while being a cute experience of helping add color and art to the world.

Fuck this game. I love it so much.

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2B. NiER: Automata

You know I could have actually put another Nier game on this list, but I didn’t.

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1. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

There is a cool S in this game, automatic win homie.

But in reality I had very low expectations for this, I remember that it was such a slog of a showing when it was announced that I wrote it off. Even as a fan of Marvel comics and the movies, I felt super burned by the Avengers game and was ready for this to be bad. But then I sat in on the Quick Look with Bakalar and something about the game started speaking to me.

I was so wrong with those early impressions. Guardians wound up having one of the best stories of the year. Tackling really hard subjects of loss, faith, and that family isn't always blood. The performances by the voice actors is absolutely fantastic. And because it is a game there are so many opportunities to flesh out these characters. I got super invested in each member of the team and even some of the supporting cast. If we had a Best Dog category this year Cosmo would 10000% win it. Even the gameplay is pretty neat! A bit floaty for my taste at times but it feels like a distant cousin to the Mass Effects games.

I know that we're past the point of peak Marvel saturation and that it isn't some people's bag. But yooooo man, I insist that you give it a shot.