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2021 GOTY & Giant Bomb Community Callbacks

Okay, I think everyone has been told "Man... 2021 sure was a helluva year, but at least there were some good videos game" more than enough. So, with my 2021 GOTY list I'd like to approach things slightly differently. First, there's no denying that real world events made this a tough year for the video game industry and hobby. Second, Giant Bomb has seen a massive shift during 2021 and there's no pretending that did not happen as well.

With that last point in consideration, I decided to pay tribute to users and friends of the site both new and old. If you manage to "get" every reference or tribute, then I tip my hat to you. If you don't feel free to drop a comment and I'd be more than happy to let you in on some Giant Bomb "lore."

Honorable Mentions:

Hitman 3 - HitmanAgent47's 2021 Game To Play On Ultra Settings - Look, I loved playing Hitman 3... for about two weeks. It provides all of the imaginative and riveting spy/murder hijinks the previous two games accomplished but with even more graphical fidelity. Likewise, Agent 47's "reboot" story arc concludes on a high note with plenty of exciting twists to boot. Nonetheless, I fell off this game harder than the last two and stopped completing Elusive Targets after the second scenario. My hunch is that both I and IO have moved on and are excited to jump head-first into something "different." Also, 2016 feels like it was twenty years ago.

Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind - The Giant Bomb Nintendo Defense Squad circa 2009 Contrarian Pick - When this was first announced during a Nintendo Direct, I could not help but whoop. FINALLY, one of Nintendo's more experimental endeavors was getting an official English localization. The gameplay is still crummy and frustrating, and Nintendo's pricing of both games is utterly ridiculous, but it's the thought that counts. Nonetheless, for those of you seeking a well-told visual novel experience, look no further.

Sable - 2021 Game I Can Imagine Putting As Much Time Into As Sweep Put into DOTA 2 - Sable almost made my 2021 GOTY list, and if it were not for its initial technical issues and its day-night cycle, it probably would have made the cut. The latter of those two issues is what rubbed me the wrong way the most. While I love playing the game while the sun is up, I abhorred how it looked and played during its nighttime cycle. The way the game graphically depicts shadows results in some environmental traversal sequences that feel like chores, and the ramped-up enemy encounters aren't any fun either.

List items

  • ArbitraryWater's 2021 Game That Allows Them To Write About How CRPGs Are BACK BAYBEE For 5,000+ Words

    Right, so, yes, this game is still a proud resident of "JANK CITY." That said, it might be one of the most "authentic" video game adaptations of a tabletop game. Besides handling major technical issues, Wrath of the Righteous addresses almost all primary complaints with 2018's Pathfinder: Kingmaker. It expands Kingmaker's ruleset by adding more character options and classes and, more importantly, introduces the Mythic Path mechanic. With the ten possible Mythic Paths, you finally have the ability to change your RPing experience leaps and bounds. For example, how a Trickster goes about the game's story will diverge massively from a Lich or Aeon. And for those that want to see the world burn, the game dares you to become the "Swarm-That-Walks." The ways you can fundamentally change your experience mechanically and narratively is simply outstanding.

    I will warn you; this is NOT a game for CRPG newcomers. The interface and messy UI are bound to intimidate and confuse people. While the turn-based combat is far more fluid and interactive than Kingmaker's, those that lack that baseline will likely still view Path of the Righteous as "clunky." And when it comes to the character sheets, Path of the Righteous definitely does a better job of guiding you through the process of leveling up a character and allocating skill points. However, that process can still take a shocking amount of time, with the initial character creation process at the start easily clocking in at the one-hour mark. A single playthrough will also last you about 80 to 100 hours. And unless you are willing to dedicate that amount of time for multiple playthroughs, you will not notice the small touches that show the care that has been put into this game. But should you put in the time, you will be rewarded with one of the most in-depth and comprehensive CRPG experiences made in the last ten years short of Original Sin 2 or Pillars of Eternity. And I know there are at least a few of you sickos, like me, where that is worth something.

  • Best Game To Play While Listening To Brad Muir Play Ska Music

    I was not a huge fan of the original Psychonauts. While I certainly appreciated a handful of the game's set pieces, I struggled to reconcile its controls and more frustrating bits. When the game expected a level of platforming precision it couldn't provide, it drove me up the wall. Correspondingly, Tim Schafer is a designer I have always found to have ideas that don't always fit the games he publishes. Like many, I found BrĂ¼tal Legend to be a game that crams too many mechanics into a single package, and I did not enjoy Broken Age at all. Hence, when Psychonauts 2 was first announced, I was not one of the many people lauding the series' return. Well, here we are, and Psychonauts 2 narrowly cracked the top position on my GOTY list.

    It seems odd to praise a Double Fine production for its writing, but in the case of Psychonauts 2, such flattery is well-earned. The improvement this time around is that the game's main narrative better ties into the set pieces and the locations Raz explores. Additionally, the progression from one level to the next is greatly improved, and the game avoids the trap of its environments feeling like a series of disparate vignettes. And the overall platforming, as well as the core mechanics, are flat out better this time around. I felt the customization and character progression systems were a bit too stingy at times, but that's a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things. It is one of the most memorable character explorations of the year and a pure visual treat from start to finish.

  • Trace/PsEG Presents We Are Race Night's 2021 GOTY

    Where's GTxForza when you need them? Forza Horizon 5 is the most fun I had with a video game all year. You can race around a beautiful rendition of Mexico at your own pace or with friends whizzing by you. The game also deserves credit for making a strong first impression and never letting up. I knew I was hooked from the moment I helped a bunch of goofball scientists explore a caldera. And when the game's customization options become available, you can dash around with whatever livery suits your fancy. Obviously, Forza Horizon 5 was always going to be a playground. Still, with the many multiplayer and solitaire options available to you, it's hard to imagine anyone not being able to make a racing game experience tailor-made in Forza Horizon 5 to their needs.

    Speaking of which, no commendation to Forza Horizon 5 should go without mentioning its accessibility options. While some features, like the ASL interpreter, are unfortunately siloed as a separate download, the game still deserves praise for its efforts to engender more people into the gaming fold. Some features in the game, like a slo-mo toggle and alternate subtitle fonts, should be included in virtually every major release. As someone with severe myopia, I would add the lack of larger fonts for the HUD and GPS is still a bummer, and I think it is time for all racing games to allow players to toggle off camera shake. These nitpicks aside, it is a giant leap forward for the franchise and hopefully games in general. While some continue to beat the old war drum that games are meant to "pose a challenge," Forza Horizon 5 allows you to do exactly that with sliders and toggles that can be flicked within seconds. Hopefully, what Forza Horizon 5 accomplished will be echoed in future releases, especially AAA budget games.

  • 2021 Game Mento And I Will Use To Get More People Into Visual Novels

    I like the Ace Attorney games regardless of what shape or form they take, and I'm not apologizing for shit! Are there repeating cast members who still need you to help them through the same false crime accusations as last time? YUP! Do these two games completely sand off Ace Attorney's darker and more meditative themes? YOU BET! Is the learning curve harsh if you haven't remained up to date on the series' latest mechanics? It sure is, and that might be one of the worst parts about it! But you know what? It's still more Ace Attorney, and that's a good thing in my book! Also, much like Tales of Arise, this game was masterfully localized when you consider it is far more reliant on puns and references to Japanese culture. The translation team here did a goddamn good job, and I will not hear any arguments to the contrary.

    With two games included in the package, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is one of the best value propositions you will find this year, especially on Switch. Both games showcase impeccable character designs and pleasing environments. The ensemble cast is a ton of fun, and the overall writing is an absolute riot. The new mechanics I warned about earlier are clever once you wrap your mind around them, and they add some much-needed variety to the Ace Attorney formula. Despite this being the umpteenth Ace Attorney game I have played, I did not feel like I was "running through the motions" once I got past the prologue. And the OST has some bops that are worth putting on your playlist. This is probably the 2021 title I'd recommend if you need a video game-based pick-me-up.

  • (Note: This is for Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury)

    Claude Presents The Best Game To Play On Your Goddamn Nintendo Console

    Is this a "new" game, is it a remaster, or is it DLC? That has been the heart of a month-long debate between Marino and me, your arbiters of Giant Bomb's wiki. Regardless of where you stand with that question, I think we can all agree Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is a must-play Switch experience. If all this involved was Super Mario 3D World, but on the Switch and with a few Switch-based mechanics, I'd still be down to clown. Super Mario 3D always felt like the better compromise between the franchise's 2D past and 3D ideals than New Super Mario Bros. Also, the game increasing the base speed of the characters is a game-changer. It makes this version the definitive 3D World experience, especially for those that missed it the first time around.

    And then there's Bowser's Fury, the subject of rampant fan speculation and YouTube video essayist navel-gazing. For what it is, I appreciated Nintendo trying something different with one of their Mario game templates. While at times sparse, the initial rush of exploring the game's hub and its surrounding world was dazzling. However, Bowser's Fury being the Mario franchise's first "true" open-world endeavor means there are expected missteps. Polygon called it an "improvisational rumpus room," and that's a pretty apt description. Likewise, I do not understand why the game has zero chill with announcements and interruptions, especially when you reach its end. I'm equally conflicted about the game constantly switching from day to night and you needing to worry about Bowser belching fire from a mountain. However, when taken at face value, which is to say it's an experimental toy box, there's some funning around to be had with Bowser's Fury.

  • Pepsiman And Bowl-of-Lentils Present The Best Localization of 2021

    I am of the controversial opinion that it is perfectly OKAY to place a game you started but did not finish in your GOTY list. Even if I were not, I would likely still make an exception for Tales of Arise this year. The game provides all of the in-depth JRPG hooks we all know and love about the Tales franchise with a handful of exciting additions. Arise's countering and dodge mechanics are welcomed augmentations to the franchise's legendary LMBS-based combat. And as suggested by the subtitle of this entry, its localization is highly laudable. The amount of text that has been seamlessly translated into eleven supported languages is nothing short of a miracle. Furthermore, the English and Japanese voice acting, while wonky in parts, quickly come to embrace the story as it starts to find its stride.

    More importantly, Tales of Arise has the visual upside and charm of Tales of Zestiria but with the pacing of Tales of Berseria. Yes, the game tasks you to control another intrepid group of misfits divided by a conflict, but it's another case of a story being "more than the sum of its parts." The game does not relent with its moment-to-moment action, which further feeds into its combat being buttery smooth. I had a ton of fun giving each member of my party their fair shake before settling on my "Final Four." Nonetheless, the game does a pretty good job of opting all of your characters into the fold as equal stakeholders both mechanically and narratively. It's hard to get upset at a Tales game handing audiences yet ANOTHER amnesiac protagonist when things look and play this well. And unlike in Berseria or Zestiria, I didn't hate 70% of the minigames. The finishing mechanic is still bullshit, but the cooking in this game is still a fun timesink.

  • Matt Rorie's Card Game of The Year

    To spare everyone the "I hate card games, and this was a tough sell" spiel that has been repeated a thousand times already, I will bring up a different point of contention. I HATED Inscryption's second act! I understand why it exists and why it resonated with other people. Contrariwise, it goes on way too long and lacks none of the environmental storytelling present in the first and third acts, which are my favorite aspects of the game. The game having a whole block with no escape room puzzles felt like a massive misstep in my mind. More fundamentally, despite the hours you spend slogging through that second act, it doesn't conclude all that well despite it building up to an epic conclusion. And its third act, while a partial return to form, doesn't quite reach the same heights of the first act, and that's party because it is contingent on your actions in the last two set-pieces.

    But HOT DAMN is the first part of this game AMAZING! Whether you are listening to cards beg for you to spare them or looking at misplaced body parts, Inscryption is visually discordant and disturbing when it is at its best. And trying to force the game to surface its ulterior motives is worth talking about as well. I did not invest as much time in the ARG as I would have liked, but I love what I have seen of it thus far. And much like Daniel Mullins' earlier works, when things start to congeal, you can't stop playing. Despite my earlier complaints and personal quibbles with card-based combat, I knew this was an experience I wanted to see to the end.

  • Game That Causes Gamer_152 To Talk To You About Their Favorite Eric Nylund Book And The Halo Anime For Two Hours Award

    Will you look at that? Yet another game on my 2021 GOTY list warrants a short paragraph in which I equivocate its weaknesses. At least with Halo Infinite, we, as a community, being on a website that is currently hosting the best review of the game on the entire internet, know what Halo Infinite's many faults might be. The single-player campaign doesn't quite come together despite the initial promise of its open-world format. Too many of the game's combat puzzles involve you moving from one side of a silver and grey corridor or bridge to the other. The multiplayer isn't without faults either, with the progression system and Battle Pass still not quite where they should be.

    Nonetheless, the game is an absolute romp online. The grappleshot, while not the most revolutionary idea, leads to a ton of chaos I think the past two Halo multiplayer experiences have been lacking. And everything in the game feels "good" as well as distinctly Halo. All of the viral Tweets and social media posts about the game show that Halo can still be itself while the rest of the industry stops trying to copy its form. Finally, with Halo Infinite, I feel 343 has finally made a game that isn't trying to chase after a popular FPS zeitgeist. And when it comes to the campaign, despite its inherent storytelling messiness, by the time thing finally wraps up, you get the sense 343 have found a logical spot to continue the franchise. My only hope is that the next time we see Master Chief, it will not be another soft reset.

  • Dalai's "Suck Shit Through A Lead Pipe Marked 'Shit Delivery System'" If You Don't Play This Game Award

    Okay, I will admit that this is far from the best WarioWare game available. Though there are many options, the single-player modes are way too short and occasionally unsatisfying. The many characters and their abilities are all over the place, which might fit the game's manic nature, but for me, it highlighted the most significant issue with Get It Together. Excluding Game & Wario, this might be the WarioWare game with the least amount of longevity. There simply isn't enough to unlock or discover in the game to allow it to punch at the same weight class as some of the better entries in this franchise.

    HOWEVER, it's still a goddamn good time. The variety of art styles and minigame gimmicks is impressive. Trying to nail the timing for the minigames in high score runs or endless modes requires practice and is as compelling as it was when the series first debuted. The boss battles alone are worth the price of entry and still plead the case of why the WarioWare series is the superior Nintendo party-game franchise compared to Mario Party. Its pick-up and play qualities make it one of the best "Family Game" experiences of 2021, and at least here, you don't have to listen to an asshole book for hours. It's just a plain old fun experience and an easy recommendation for those of you out there that have Smooth Moves in your "Top Five Best Wii Games" list, and, before you ask, I'm there with you.

  • Dave Snider Presents 2021's Eurojank Game of the Year

    I know. How in the world can someone rightfully justify placing Necromunda on their 2021 GOTY list instead of Metroid Dread or Hitman 3? For one thing, I am a broken husk of a man. Second, my tolerance for "Eurojank" is higher than that of a normal human being. Something about pulling up this game's tech tree and seeing a twisted mess of contradictory sub-mechanics and skills nodes gets my blood pumping. Much like any eurojank game, this thing shoots for the stars as if it were a BioWare or Bethesda joint, but with one-sixteenth of the budget. Hired Gun's dialogue ranges a colossal delta of quality, but you can tell they tried. That said, the story is pure schlock, and the process of playing the game is a nightmare at times.

    Oh, how I howled in agony whenever I died during a combat sequence because the game ties multiple inputs to the same button or key. And why any game with light RPG mechanics would fail to have an equipment menu boggles my mind. It is also worth mentioning how Necromunda is set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. And to be expected, it struggles to process the often incomprehensible mythos and worldbuilding of 40K. No matter, being able to slide around levels while punching and shooting fools like I'm playing a low-rent Vanquish is still a lot of fun. Similarly, even when the game falls flat on its face, you can't help but feel compelled to give it a participation button to clip on its shirt.