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2021 Game of the Year

2021 sure was a weird year. While a lot of people ended up with more time to play games, I actually had a lot less. I would have loved to play more new games this year, and I am sure some of those would have been on this list, but I didn't play them.

Overall I enjoyed the new games I played in 2021 more than I did in 2020, a couple of which are probably high on my list from the past few years combined.

Most of the games on the list I played on an Xbox Series X, with a couple on PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

List items

  • Psychonauts 2 was EASILY my top game of the year. Between the style of the game and the 3D platforming goodness, this game was perfect for me. I had my reservations before the game finally came out with all it went through in its development, but I was SO happy with how it turned out. The first game has really fond memories for me as it was one of the first games I played with my wife on the original Xbox. It was pretty rad to get to now, so many years later, get to do the same with the sequel.

  • The Forza Horizon series continues to be a series so good that I actually put a huge amount of hours in to a racing game, which is a genre I don't typically dive too much in to. The graphics and setting are super nice, and really help carry the game. However, the best part of this for me is playing it on the Series X with the fast loading. I have seen this game run on an Xbox One and the load times are BRUTAL, which makes me appreciate this one even more.

    The thing I always appreciate about this series is the way I have so much control over the difficulty. I do not possess the skills to play a realistic simulation racing game, but with this game I can control each individual aspect where maybe I want some things to be a little more difficult or realistic, while still for instance using the driving line.

  • This one really came out of nowhere for me. I had no expectations what so ever, and pretty much ignored the game before it released. Then I started to see and hear lots of rumblings about how actually good this game was, so around Christmas time I figured I would get it on a discount.

    Once I started playing it I was immediately impressed with the look and style of this game, it really looks and feels like Guardians of the Galaxy, but still distinct from the movies. While the gameplay may be fairly simple, I really enjoy the combat and using the other Guardians for big moves. Throughout the game there is a lot of banter between the characters which actually seems to be well written and entertaining.

    I am still in the process of finishing this as of writing this, but honestly the time is flying by.

  • Not as much to say about this as it is another Hitman game, but that was exactly what I wanted. The new levels, especially the one everyone talks about were really inventive and fun, and I love the fact that I can play through the levels of all three games in this single game.

    I think this one may be forgotten by a lot of people since it came out so early, but it is still a blast and deserves to be high on the list.

  • This one is another game that I had my expectations set pretty middling before it launched, but I was cautiously optimistic. Well as soon as the multiplayer was released I was impressed. It worked fairly well at launch with only a few small issues and felt a lot like classic Halo with some quality of life improvements.

    This game actually ended up being my first game finished in 2022, after trying to finish it as my last game of 2021. The campaign ended up being a ton of fun, with both a mix of classic Halo style missions with the new open world style. While the open world part of the game seems to fly by pretty quickly, I think that is actually a plus. I am tired of open world games that have TOO much to do in them. The grappling hook added a ton of fun, and I hope they include that in these games going forward.

  • It Takes Two finally feels like what they were going for in A Way Out. Any game I can get my wife to play with me is a win in my book too. While I wasn't blown away by the story, it was still engaging and entertaining, but the game play is where this one really shines. I really enjoyed figuring out puzzles, platforming, and fighting bosses along side my wife.

  • Age of Empires II is probably one of my most played games of all time. I did enjoy and play quite a bit of Age of Empires III as well, but almost no game can top Age 2 for me. In comes Age of Empires IV and it really brought me back. While I have not really put enough time in to compare it to the older games, I am still really enjoying it and am super happy Microsoft put this out.

    Who knows, maybe after playing it more I could change my mind, but as of this point I am loving this.

  • Here is another game that seemed to get a bunch of buzz that I had not even heard of. It looked right up my alley, and the price point made me pull the trigger right away.

    I ended up hooked and played it for quite a few hours. I never did finish the game, but I plan on going back to it and putting some more hours in to it for sure.

    I really enjoyed the game play loop of planning, running, finishing, and starting again in this one, which can be hit or miss in other similar games.

  • I am not super far in to Kena, but it made a big impression on me pretty quickly. This has to be one of the best looking games I have played, with a combination of the fidelity with the art style that I absolutely love. I had actually forgotten about this one from the launch of the PlayStation 5, but then received it for Christmas and was so glad I did.

  • Another game I did not finish, but really enjoyed what I have played thus far. I absolutely love these 2D throwback games when done well, and this one plays extremely well. There are a lot of other 2D retro style games that just don't feel good to play, but this one actually feels like it could have been an evolution of a game had they not moved in to 3D.

  • This is probably the game I have put the least amount of time in so far on this list, but I am really enjoying what I have played so far. Crash Bandicoot is really a nostalgia trip for me, but this one really still plays well and has much needed improvements. The difficulty is still Crash Bandicoot levels for sure, and this feels like a real love letter to those original games.

  • I had been wanting a new Pokémon Snap for so long. The original on the Nintendo 64 is a game that go back to every once in a while to this day. I do feel like this one doesn't really hold up to the original, but it is still pretty fun on its own.

    I am not super high on the progression in the game, and I don't have nearly the connection to most of the newer Pokémon as I did those originals.

    The visuals are super nice on this, and it fits really well on the Nintendo Switch.

  • This game came as a COMPLETE surprise to me as I generally stay away from horror games as they rarely ever pull me in. It is funny that one that a lot of people seem to have not enjoyed very much is the one that hooked me in. I don't know if it was the fact that it was the first new console exclusive I played or what.

    I thought the story in the game was really interesting, and the actual game play was fun, although pretty simple. I actually thought the dual reality hook was really cool and interesting.