TFP's Top 10 Games of 2021
|1. Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars|
Number 10 It is very weird to call a game directed by Yoko Taro “comfy”, but Voice of Cards fits that description. An old school turn-based RPG with a fun, card based aesthetic, Voice of Cards doesn’t reinvent… really anything about the genre, but its interesting characters, great soundtrack, and great presentation go a long way.
|2. Fights in Tight Spaces|
Number 9 While last year’s Hades proved that I could actually play and enjoy a rogue-like, as long as that rogue-like had great writing and Supergiant’s fantastic art and music, Fights in Tight Spaces proves that I can enjoy a card focused rogue-like as long as it’s got amazing style and occasional hilarious interactions with simple mechanics. Despite being a card game, the combat’s flow and animations pack some real weight behind the moves you play, and setting up enemies to get shoved around the board to attack their allies is so satisfying to pull off.
|3. Monster Hunter Rise|
Number 8 As someone who was familiar with what could be charitably called “The bad old days” of Monster Hunter, the newer entries’ streamlining and increased accessibility has been pretty exciting to witness. What started with Monster Hunter World continues with Monster Hunter Rise, adding a bunch of cool new mobility options, fun Palico and new Palamute mechanics, and just making the experience of hunting monsters easier to get into. I do wish that modern Monster Hunter endgames of “Just grind constantly while fighting monsters that will kill you in around three hits” were a bit more designed though. Especially the case in this game, where you have to grind so many hunter ranks just to unlock additional late game monsters that instead kill you in two hits
|4. No More Heroes III|
Number 7 Suda51’s gonzo conclusion to the No More Heroes series manages to pull together so many disparate parts from Grasshopper’s entire oeuvre that it seems like the game could fall apart under its own weight at any moment. It probably does at times, but the end result, if you have any enjoyment of any Grasshopper game, is incredible. Where the previous game, Travis Strikes Again, felt like an explanation of the how’s and why’s of Suda51’s directorial style, No More Heroes 3 feels like it’s saying “Okay, you learned the how and why. Let’s crank everything to the max and hold on for the ride.”
|5. Cruis'n Blast|
Number 6 This game and another, Hot Wheels Unleashed, could honestly probably be co-number 6’s. They’re both amazing arcade-style racers that provide exhilarating speed and fun, with a bunch of unlockables and style. The reason I chose Cruis’n Blast as the representative for the list is that I think its strengths in track design, bombastic style and presentation, and raucous 90’s arcade soundtrack give it the edge over Hot Wheels Unleashed’s tighter driving mechanics and more expansive single player mode. Both games, however, are just pure fun and it’s great to have such great options for non-open world racing games in a year.
|6. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart|
Number 5 Easily one of the greatest technical showpieces for new hardware, Rift Apart just goes to show that in terms of fun to use imaginative sci-fi weaponry, tight platforming, and Saturday morning cartoon-style action-adventure, it’s very hard to top Insomniac Games. The new planets Ratchet and Rivet explore teem with life and detail around every corner, which makes exploring them so much fun to do. The Dualsense controller’s adaptive triggers make using the various new weapons so much more reactive and interesting to use. I could go on, but I suppose the easiest way to compress this is that the game feels like one of the first truly “next generation” experiences compared to what was available on PS4 and Xbox One.
|7. It Takes Two|
Number 4 I feel like Josef Fares and his team at Hazelight’s greatest strength is their versatility. Not just in going from a solely single player, somber fairy tale of a game where you control two characters simultaneously to a solely multiplayer game that’s a two-fisted crime tale to It Takes Two, another solely multiplayer game that’s equal parts family drama and absurdist comedy. But the fact that over the course of It Takes Two there are so many different mechanics over each area that are so wildly different that the game never feels like it gets old. It juggles so many emotions, from triumph and humor to abject horror and despair, without feeling cheap or inappropriate. It Takes Two manages to balance everything nearly perfectly, and going through it with a friend just makes the experience that much more worthwhile.
|8. Life is Strange: True Colors|
Number 3 Freed from having to work their story in as a prequel, Deck Nine’s second attempt at the Life is Strange series’s stands head and shoulders above their previous outing, and also manages to be the best entry in the series since the original. It combines an eminently likable main cast in an interesting locale with a deeply compelling mystery, that outside of one fairly contrived coincidence that doesn’t particularly add anything manages to be both emotionally resonant and intelligently unfurled over the course of the game. New protagonist Alex Chen’s supernatural empathic powers are also interestingly presented and utilized in unique and fun ways to solve problems for the townspeople. As a final note, while Deck Nine’s last game, Before the Storm, introduced me to the band Daughter, I was already well aware of Angus & Julia Stone, the musicians they chose to provide most of the soundtrack for this game. That person, who keeps picking the bands to do their soundtracks, still needs a raise, because their album is the best video game soundtrack of the year.
|9. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy|
Number 2 Extremely poignant and a beautiful examination of multiple kinds of grief are probably not the descriptors most people would think of looking at the cover art for this game. And yet that’s exactly what this game is. Sure, it’s also got solid action, some incredible humor in parts, and all the graphical bells and whistles you want for a big, bombastic, expensive comic book adaptation in the year 2021. But in reality, all of that is a bit of a fake out. A false promise, if you will. Much like director James Gunn’s excellent versions of these characters on film, Eidos Montreal uses their humor, their outcast nature, and their, at least before the MCU happened, minor status in Marvel history to transform Star-Lord and the other Guardians into something more than just “cool space people.” One of the rare games that feels like choices actually matter, the central conflict between the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Universal Church of Truth can have drastic consequences depending on the player’s choices. Finally, as stated above, the game is extremely poignant, and a beautiful examination of multiple kinds of grief. Seriously.
|10. Lost Judgment|
Number 1 Look. I’ve done these lists for ten years now. In three prior lists, a game from RGG Studio is number one, with an additional two lists having an RGG Studio game at number two. I think, by now, you should understand that I enjoy these games. But I don’t really go for the 100% completion, at least, not before Lost Judgment. This is the first RGG Studio game I got every Trophy in. Every town mission. Every god-forsaken victory in Fighting Vipers, or Cho-han. Because this game is truly outstanding. And I mean, sure, you can say there’s a certain amount of “playing to my interests” at play here. I love detective fiction. A decent chunk of this game’s mystery revolves around the death of a high school teacher, where when you investigate the high school there’s a precocious student who leads a “mystery research” club. A high school detective, which, again, if you have read any of these lists you would know is another thing that points to “For some reason Sega decided to make a game exclusively for TFP, and I guess if other people like it too that’s nice.” But it’s also so much more than that. If it wasn’t impeccably written, if the new additions to the combat weren’t extremely fun to play with, if the trademark Yakuza series “We are starting with a small crime but that small crime was done to cover up something that literally affects the entire country of Japan as we know it” didn’t escalate just right, I don’t think I would’ve felt compelled to complete everything in the game. All those things were true, however, and that’s why it’s my game of the year. Thanks for reading!