I like to consider myself a patient gamer. I don’t really buy new games, which means I often don’t have a lot to contribute to the Game of the Year conversations. I am however, an avid list keeper and would love to write about the top 10 games that I experienced this year! I am going to go in a descending(ish) order, but frankly, I really struggle to rank things so just remember that I loved every experience on this list!
10. Psychonauts 2
Oh hey, I am already contradicting what I said in the opening paragraph! Generally I am a patient gamer. BUT, when you have Game Pass and an anticipated game like this comes out it would be rude not to.. right? I was introduced to Psychonauts by The Left Behind Game Club Podcast and played it for the first time in 2020 (last year). Whilst I don’t have the nostalgia that some may have for a game of its age, it managed to charm its way into my soul and I loved my time with it. Needless to say, the prospect of a modern sequel was pretty hype for me and the fact that it was released day one on Game Pass was perfect.
The game was wonderful. Some of the levels felt more grand at the time, but others have stuck with me for their underlying messages. Overall, the psychedelic visuals, the fun platforming, the attention to detail and the thoughtful messages provided me with a lovely experience that I got to share with everyone. There are certain things that I think the game could have done to be higher up on my list, but they are personal preferences and I am going to try to keep this list positive. Perhaps I will write a post about it some day!
2021 unexpectedly became the year of the roguelike for me. This is not the first one that I played this year but it is the latest. Hades is so universally praised, both critically and within my social circles. However, whenever I tried to watch anyone playing I never had any idea what was happening and just decided it was not going to be a game for me. Fast forward to November with a little bit of experience, who could have guessed I would be getting my first clear? Certainly not me! I streamed my entire time from my first moments in Tartarus, to the many failures on the way. There were some absolutely nail-biting runs. Not only down to the game but my.. should we say.. chaotic style? There was progress, then there wasn’t. Every time I thought I was near the game would throw something new into the mix. It was stressful and adrenaline fuelled while also being a great, funny time. Every new milestone felt like a huge achievement, leaping yet creeping ever so closer to the goal of whatever the heck was going to happen when we finally escaped.
Did it take me a while to pluck up the commitment to play this game? Yes. Did I love it very much? Yes. I feel like sharing the game with the community helped give me a higher appreciation, especially for the art. The music and entire vibe were cool. Every time I dropped into a new run my head would start bobbing. But is this game difficult? Yes. Have I played much since my first clear? No. Am I going to put it on God Mode (a sort of adaptive difficulty) because I find the later levels a bit tedious? Yes. Because despite the difficulties, I have really really enjoyed getting to know the Greek gods. Even with every failure there more story, and I feel pretty invested in it.
8. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
I almost didn’t get round to this one this year. Thankfully my Game Pass coming to an end forced me to make some priorities, and this felt like a good December game. I played Ori and the Blind Forest earlier in the year. I really enjoyed my time with it, but I find myself struggling to remember anything too specific about the game. I know that I may have some recency bias for Will of the Wisps, but contrary to Blind Forest, I feel like there are many things from this game that are going to stay with me for a long time. In a strange way, it almost feels like they took the first game, but then tailored it specifically more to me. I think the main change that suits me is that there is a very forgiving checkpoint system which makes exploring so much less of a daunting task and much more freeing.
As well as 2021 being the year of roguelikes for me, it has also been the year of the platformer. During the year I have played Unravel, Limbo, Inside and more. And do you know what? I am so grateful that I did. I feel like all of this experience that I didn’t have last year really elevated my overall experience, to fully embrace everything about the game. The art is breathtaking. The music evokes so much emotion. The movement is very precise and extremely fun. The metroidvania aspects really release that dopamine when you get a new ability. The sidequests bring so much life to the world. And finally, the emotions. Gosh the emotions. I have never cried on stream before. This game made me cry twice. If I think ‘beauty’, I think of this game.
7. It Takes Two
The official Game of the Year! And the second none patient game on my list. Oops. It Takes Two is available on Game Pass via EA Play, and it also comes with a Friend Pass so only one person needs to have it! That is a pretty sweet deal for one of the weirdest, hectic, annoying yet smooth, heartfelt and creative co-op games I’ve ever seen. This game was made by the developers of A Way Out, and while I haven’t played that one, I have seen enough playthroughs to know that I would have had a blast playing it blind. Based on that, I knew I wanted to play what they made next. And It Takes Two did not disappoint.
This game has a totally different tone to the other games by the devs, but still contains the fun, co-op mischief that they are starting to be known for. It was great playing a split screen game for the first time in a long time, it felt nostalgic but still very current. I think the game is longer and has a lot more to it than anyone could have expected, and while it may look like a family game.. I would not recommend it for kids! I played with my good friend Brox. We had so many laughs, the game feels very designed for that. Plenty of ways to kill each other as well as innuendos left, right and centre. Particularly in the first couple of levels, I feel like we were close to dying laughing. Despite it being longer than expected it never gets stale. Every chapter gives you new environments with new abilities which provide new puzzle solving techniques. All I can say is, if you are looking for a co-op game, play it!
6. Disco Elysium
A game I was slightly intimidated by before starting – and infinitely more so after. Disco Elysium was a game that I was frightened that I wouldn’t be smart enough for, but instead it beautifully presented an insight into things that do go on in the world. When thinking back to this game I think sombre. I think gloomy. I almost think of hopelessness. But then I hear the music in the Whirling-in-Rags and feel at home. I think of Kim – one of my favourite characters in a game ever – a ray of the realest sunshine. I think of our different systems talking to us, but us ultimately deciding who to listen to. I think of those times we messed up but then carried on. I think of the times we shouldn’t have got by but did. I remember what we achieved in a world where everything was against us. Nothing, and yet something. I feel comfort. And I think that is all I want to say.
Time is going so quickly and yet so slowly, to think that it has been nearly a year since we played Bugsnax! After not being too hyped by the trailer and the memeness of the entire thing, my interest was slightly piqued at the fact that it was going to be on Ps Plus. Little did I know I would be completely sucked into this strange adventure. It has become pretty clear to me this year that I am an exploration girl. Give me a map to explore and I am in my element. The other thing that I like more than a lot of folk is collectibles. If you strip this game down to its very core, it’s about exploring for collectables. But then when you look at the full picture it gets so much better. There is a seemingly surprisingly dark mystery on the Island. You are a journalist interviewing all of the characters. You get to customise characters with the collectables you gather. Every collectible is a puzzle to solve, some getting quite difficult towards the end. And one of the best parts of it is that you absolutely don’t have to catch them all if you do not want to. Based on my expectations, this game blew me away. We recently coined the term ‘compulsionist’ in the community. Sometimes I like to be completionist, but there are only a rare few games where I can’t stop, and this was one of them. We could have ended the game, but instead we spent a few hours catching them all and you know what? It was very worth it. I enjoyed every second.
4. Resident Evil Village
I have to start with a disclaimer for this one. This is not a game that I have played myself. However, I do sort of consider myself a RE fan. They are not games I would play myself but I enjoy watching playthroughs, and Village is no exception. Before the game came out it earned a place in my heart. If you were watching at the time then you may know where I am coming from with this. I believe it was the PS5 reveal event. The trailer premiered and it was my favourite moment in any game event I have ever witnessed. “It looks a little like RE7 in the graphics department.”. “Probably not, what is this weird story?”. “That looks like a puzzely statue.”. “Oh never mind werewolves.”. “This mansion looking place with a nice staircase looks very RE.”. “Na these frames are awful.”. “Was that an Umbrella logo? Could it be?”. Then the title ‘Village’ appeared. “Oh, I guess not then.” Then eventually the 8 appears over the Village logo and it all makes sense. Mannnn so many goose bumps just thinking back to it. That hype I was feeling put this game into a pretty bad position for me. I don’t get high expectations very often, but I was very much looking forward to watching the game. When I am that excited there is a lot of room to feel let down, but thankfully, it was even better than I hoped it would be.
I personally think it could be the best paced RE game to date. I was really excited to see how they were going to make RE7 but in an outdoors environment as my brain could not understand what that would look like. Exploring that village for the first time? That felt special. Then every time after coming back? Also felt special. The opening was so intense, followed by some completely new territory with no idea what to expect, I was horrified! I find the Lycans terrifying and I really do think the opening few hours of the game are a masterpiece. The game continues with new environments and themes, while still always feeling like a Resident Evil game. The idea that they were going to cross RE4 with RE7 (based on the trailer) left me excited. In reality they also threw in some RE2Make and in my opinion they delivered. If it isnt obvious this was my pick for Game of the Year.
3. 428 Shibuya Scramble
A game that I feel like no one has played! 428 Shibuya Scramble is a visual novel, where the artwork is photography and the characters are played by real actors. Unfortunately it isnt voice acted, and it is a long game which would be a heck of an undertaking for anyone recording or streaming it. Playing/reading it yourself though is so very worth it. A girl has been kidnapped, and throughout the game you will play as 5 different people, some more involved than others but their stories intertwined none the less. The story is full of twists and turns and I HAD to know what was going to happen next. Each character has their own visual and music style which gives them each their personality.
The game is played in 1 hour in-game chunks. You choose a character and read their novel, making choices as you go. You may get a bad end, which means you made a bad choice somewhere in that hour, but not necessarily on that character. Its a really fun way to add a puzzle element into a visual novel and some of the outcomes are fantastic. If you like visual novels, if you like creative games, if you like fun but dramatic/thrilling stories it is a must play.
2. Virtues Last Reward
Virtues Last Reward is the second game in the Nonary Games Series and I believe is the last big game that I recorded purely for YouTube. I had the most amazing time recording this series. It was hilarious, it was confusing, it was dramatic, and every time I thought I might have had it figured out I didn’t. Every time one question was answered three more arose. I enjoy all of the updates from its predecessor 999. It feels like it does a lot of the same, with a cool story, suspense and plot twists, but better. At the same time, it has less of the caveats. The way the Nonary Game changed from the first one opened up a whole new level of mistrust and difficult decisions. It’s not something I would have thought of myself but the second I learned the new rules I was entirely on board and it lived up to my hype.
I feel like the routes you take in this game are a little less random than the first game, which is a welcome change. But other than that the gameplay is the same. Make some choices and do some escape rooms. Some of which I found very difficult. The gameplay loop was enjoyable and the cliff hangers are killers, but it all comes together in a very satisfying way leaving me very excited to play Zero Time Dilemma. (Disclaimer: Zero Time Dilemma is coming at some point. I promise. I’m sorry for the delay)
1. The Binding of Isaac
Never in a million years would I expect my favourite game I’ve played this year to be a game like Isaac. I didnt even think I liked games like Isaac! It turns out there is so much to love about it and I haven’t even gotten to Repentance yet! The Binding of Isaac is a roguelike game where you play as a young boy, escaping from his abusive mother. You descend into the basement and beyond, fighting monsters with your tears. It is full of nasty things like abusive themes, infant death, suicide, religious extremism and poop. Lots of poop. I am very aware that I am not selling the game well and the problem is, the game has so much depth that I cannot do it justice in a paragraph or two. All I can do is try to point out why it clicked with me.
I feel like one of the things that makes Isaac special are the synergies. You pick up two or more items per floor of the game. Some of them are basic stat ups, but some can be game changing. Change your tears into scythes that do more damage. Get homing tears. Get tears that go through the walls. Get bomb tears. Get different status effects that each give every tear an individual look. Almost all of the items also give Isaac cosmetic changes. Another point I love is that every consumable can be used as a currency in one way or another. This means that you don’t always necessarily have to be good at the game to do well. There are ways you can game the game to ultimately get an insane run if you are so inclined, and I’ve got to tell you, it is a blast.
This is definitely the kind of game that benefits having a friend to share experiences with. It would be easy to believe that you have beaten the game pretty quickly, but at that point you have barely scratched the surface. I was lucky to have a friend to show me the game and tell me everything I wanted to know to get the most out of my experience. Once you know that the game isnt over when you win, it could then very suddenly seem overwhelming or intimidating. All I can say is if you are slightly interested you should give it a chance. You will learn as you go and although it is not an easy game, there are multiple ways to win. If I can do it, anyone can!
I hate that some games that I loved didn’t make the cut! I wanted to add them but I have to stop, otherwise I’ll just be writing a list of most of the games I have played this year. I do want to give a special shout out though to some multiplayer games as I don’t really feel like they fit well in the ranking lists.
Sea of Thieves might be my favourite game to just jump in and find some random adventures. Navigating and driving the boat is so satisfying. The slight added threat that there are other people out there is enough to keep you on your toes, but not enough to stop the grog and sea shanties. It’s really good for simulating the vibe of hanging out, and giving you something to do together.
Astroneer is the first game of its kind that I have really played (gather resources to make more machines to gather more resources etc) and it was a delight. I feel very grateful to have had friends there to show me the ropes. We completed the game but not for lack of mishaps!
Satisfactory is the second game of its kind I have played after Astroneer. There are glaring differences, but I would at least put them in the same genre. The game truly is satisfactory. It is dangerously addictive so I am going to have to limit my time playing, but it is very fun having the freedom to make not only functional but beautiful factories.
What were your favourite games you played this year? If you struggle to keep track you could keep a twitter thread starting now! I love looking back on my list throughout the year 🙂
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