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Top 10 of 2021

While I would normally rank this list in order to get a true game of the year, I've turned against it this time around (and maybe for good) because my year was too heavily defined by both returning favorites and missed games that probably would have made the list, but that I just haven't gotten around to playing yet. So coming up with an order for ten games I did play felt almost disingenuous. I mean, my favorite single player studio Arkane released a game this year. And I still haven't played it! So while this list is conceptually, frustratingly incomplete, it is still representative of the games I did manage to get to.

Honorable Mentions - Old Favorites

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

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I did my first ever Extra Life stream this year, tackling the campaigns of Halo 1, 2, 3, and 4 in a single 17 hour session that was absolutely my personal highlight of the year. I had already played these campaigns a bunch over the years, but I think they're now going to forever be associated in my mind with that stream. It was so much fun, and I was thrilled to have passed my target donation goal during the stream. An amazing memory, and I'm already excited to do something again next year.

Apex Legends

I met one of my best friends TheShanpire this year thanks to Apex Legends, and she helped propel this game back into my multiplayer rotation. I've always loved Apex, but 2021 saw me playing more of the game than I had in quite some time. I'm still constantly impressed by how interesting and beautiful the maps are, especially Olympus, and how dynamic the combat can be with the numerous Legend abilities. The game continues to grate against me now and then with connection issues and tap-strafing TTV Wraith mains wielding 3-shot kill Wingmans, but I have yet to play a Battle Royale game that I like even half as much as Apex and I likely never will.

Destiny 2

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I am an extremely on-again off-again Destiny player. I fell back in love with the game when the Forsaken expansion released a few years ago, similarly to how The Taken King revitalized the first game. But as expected, I stepped away once I exhausted most of the existing content. A couple friends convinced me to jump back in this year and I'm so glad I did. Destiny 2 has always been a gorgeous sci-fi adventure, but I was really blown away by the visuals of the last couple expansions. The stark contrast between whites and reds on the Moon as part of the Shadowkeep expansion and the deep blues of Europa in the Beyond Light expansion provided some of my favorite destinations in games this year. The game feels more varied than it has ever felt to me, which is amusing considering that Bungie nuked a bunch of content to kick off 2021. I'm really excited for what the upcoming Witch Queen expansion will bring in February.


For the first time since probably 2012 or 2013 I've been having unplanned multi-hour sessions with Minecraft playing with friends. You already know what the deal is here, but I'll add that this game looks extraordinarily nice with texture mods and shaders.


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I play Skyrim pretty much every year, but 2021 saw me really diving into the PC version for the first time with a big ol' list of mods, and it has been transformative. Everything from added perks and spells to new weapons and gear and revamped visuals, it's all combined to offer one of the ultimate escapism games of the year for me. The Anniversary Update content is pretty cool too.

Alright, I think that covers the mentions. List time!


Resident Evil Village

Back 4 Blood

List items

  • Satisfactory does so many things right. It's approachable, player-friendly, beautiful, intelligently designed, and it makes me feel smart. It's the first factory-building game I've played, and it's still the only one I've played. I would like to dip into some others one of these days, but truthfully it's hard to resist the charms of the game that lets me sip coffee while laying conveyor belts to ferry nuclear waste into a cave where it can be forgotten about. It's also great about letting the player express themselves with their factory designs by not aggressively pushing back on their ideas. It's so cool, and so... satisfying.

  • The Ramp has so much flow. It arguably has more flow than any other game this year that might claim to have some amount of flow. It's described by its creator Paul as a digital toy, and yeah. That's what it is. The gameplay is simple; here are some bowls and ramps to skate on, and a decent handful of tricks to perform. The game looks really nice and plays just as well. It's $6 on Steam and well worth it.

  • What a massive step up this game is from previous titles just in the animation department alone. Life is Strange True Colors is gorgeous and has some of the best facial animation of the year. Its story of empathy and community weren't nearly as ham-fisted as I thought they could have been. There are some genuinely great story beats and character moments here that I'll remember for a long time. I wish the game were a bit longer, because I wasn't quite ready to leave the town of Haven Springs by the time credits rolled.

  • What a game! Capcom continues to crush it with their first-person Resident Evils, this time swapping the creepy haunted house for a romp through a whole new collection of horror tropes in a European village. The game feels more varied than 7, with no particular section striking me as a weak point. One specific late-game section offered one of the most surprisingly badass things I've ever seen in a horror game, or in any game this year. What I love so much about these last two Resident Evil games is how often I'm cheering for what's happening as I am recoiling in horror. Village continues that trend and then totally outdoes itself on more than one occasion.

  • Unpacking is a delight, managing to tell a narrative arc with just objects and places. It really nails the emotional baggage that our possessions can carry, be it a comforting stuffed animal, or another person's toothbrush taking up valuable cabinet space, or a memento we'd rather forget. What's really extraordinary is Unpacking's art style and how immediately recognizable most of the game's objects are despite being conjured up with just a few pixels.

  • They did it! 343 Industries has hit some snags during their tenure with the Halo franchise. Though I think Halo 4 perhaps holds up a bit better than expected, that game and Halo 5 did not have anywhere near the impact that is predecessors did. After a lengthy development cycle they've really come out swinging with Halo Infinite, a game that recaptures the synchronous, map-and-power-weapon-based multiplayer gameplay of the original Halo titles while making it feel modern with snappier controls and faster movement. And I haven't finished the campaign yet, but I've enjoyed what I've played of the studio's effort here. The campaign is basically a fully fleshed manifestation of how we all felt landing on the Halo ring for the first time in the series debut. It's really cool, and that grappling hook rocks.

  • Even in the realm of known quantities in games, the Forza Horizon series is one of the knownest of knowns. Any year that sees a Forza Horizon release is guaranteed to have a spot in the top 10 dedicated to it. I don't even need to defend this point, because these games are undeniably some of the greatest driving games of all time. Forza Horizon 5 feels like the most feature-complete entry thus far, with so many challenges and events that it's even more overwhelming than past entries, which themselves also felt overwhelming at times. I will say that Forza Horizon 5 lays it on a bit thick with constantly calling the player a "superstar" every chance it gets. It's actually a bit annoying, and detracts from how I prefer to view myself in that world, which is that of a competitor like any other, rather than the superstar who is such a superstar that everyone just can't get enough of the superstar, such that everything about the festival revolves around the superstar and their superstar antics. Let's dial it back a bit in the next one!

  • Kena: Bridge of Spirits went a long way for me just on visuals and animation alone. It's one of the closest examples of a game that may as well be a playable Pixar film. I especially love the bow and arrow animation; drawing the string and holding it, and seeing the bow do a little snap when it's fully charged. The gameplay and music are no slouches either; combat is punchy and filled with nice particle effects, and there are lots of little secrets to find in the world, most of which involve interacting with the environment in different ways. And I really dig the music and its heavy use of clunky, wooden percussion that fits with the game's mesmerizing forest setting.

  • I haven't finished Inscryption yet, but I've gotten pretty deep into its grimy cabin card adventure, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was seen as an absolute classic in the years to come. If I were to rank this list as I have in past years, Inscryption would undoubtedly be a number 1 contender. What an amazingly well-made game this is, with a wickedly clever card game as its set piece and numerous musical and visual dressings around the periphery that help conjure up unique characters and encounters over the course of the journey. It's an unforgettable experience, one that's likely going to top a lot of people's list of games they wish they could play again for the first time. The first time you use the pliers and realize what you're doing with them is an all-time great moment. Then you get the knife... oh boy, the knife. Play Inscryption.

  • Here's something funny: I was about to hit publish on this list, when I realized I only had 9 games listed. What had I missed? That's right... Back 4 Blood. Truth be told, Turtle Rock Studio's homecoming is not a perfect return to form. The game's difficulty was hilariously unforgiving at launch, but that's since been patched. It has a significant lack of personality, ditching the charm of the Left 4 Dead games for a way-too-serious attempt at story and an uninspired setting. But its gunplay is really sharp, and I like how varied a playthrough feels thanks to all the different weapons and attachments, not to mention the rather overwhelmingly deep card system that can dramatically alter how you play. I'm a fan of this game, and I'll happily return to it here and there throughout 2022 to see what the developer adds.