It’s the Games of the Year 2021 Awards!
I forgot to do this last year to be honest, but it was 2020. Was 2020 even a real year for people? I feel like we all just took a mulligan on 2020.
Not that 2021 was a lot better from a global perspective, or really from an online one, but I at least tried to keep track of what day it was in 2021. I also played some video games. This list will contain no real surprises because it turns out I’m very basic in my old age and mostly liked the things everybody else liked. That said, hit the jump.
Best Indie Game – Light Mode: Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Look not to name drop-
Haha, just kidding, it’s one of my annoying traits and I do it constantly, I’m sorry-
But Greg Lobanov used to be part of the Philly Game Dev scene and hang out with us in the Philly game collective before he got cool and moved to Canada and directed the best game of 2021. Just sayin. Of course I backed the Kickstarter. I know what’s good.
What I liked about Chicory was that it’s a game which is about something, and that something is very specific and from the heart. Too often games are about the same things — commentary on violence, commentary on fatherhood — and that’s fine, but how do you make a game about art? Like this.
Best Indie Game – Dark Mode: Inscryption
I can’t say too much about this game because it would just amount to random flailing and the word “spoiler” a lot. Inscryption successfully made a pretty deep game out of those old creepypastas about “finding a weird game.” I think it starts stronger than it finishes but it’s definitely worth a go and then some.
Best Metroidvania that’s a Metroid: Metroid Dread
I’m on the fence about the term “Metroidvania” these days, but Metroid Dread was a Metroid! It also had a lot of really hard boss fights, so it was kind of the Cuphead of Metroids.
Metroid Dread has the best Samus portrayal I’ve seen since Super Metroid, even if the vibe of the level design is really different. Hail to the Queen. My oldest girlcrush.
Best Metroidvania that’s a Vania: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth
Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth was a Vania! It’s based on the old anime Record of Lodoss War which was in turn based on a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. I liked it a lot. This is in spite of never having played Symphony of the Night, the game that Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth basically, exactly, is. (So. I played Symphony of the Night! For the first time this year! Weird game, ya’ll.)
Best Metroidvania that I can beat in 20 minutes: Axiom Verge 2
I liked it better than the first one because: A) female protagonist B) super easy to break sequence and destroy.
This was the year I tried learning speed-running, you see, and it’s … uh, it’s going okay, but I sure do cuss a lot. Please come by my Twitch and watch me hate Super Metroid some time.
Oh hey all the platformer games I listed this year starred ladies. Is that weird? It’s pretty cool!
Game I Actually Played the Most: Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker
You can’t put Final Fantasy XIV on a list again!! Hey, it’s a new game now. They added more stuff. And I do what I want. This is also for real the game I’ve played and streamed the most. Its breaking of the entire internet was a year-defining moment for me and many gamers. I guess being into this game now is what being into WoW used to be like. I dunno. I’ve never been into WoW.
Looking back at my old writeup, I talked a lot about how the ARR cutscenes are boring. They are. A few Endwalker cutscenes are too. But for the most part, they’re really good now. The boring stuff is setup for good stuff that happens later, and so you must suffer the boring stuff for the good stuff. Everyone told me it would be worth it, and they were right.
Still can’t flirt enough with the characters, though. SquareEnix please patch.
Runner-Up Award for Game I Should’ve Written up in 2020 but I actually played it 2021 so it counts: Umurangi Generation
Sorry, I forgot to mention last year that a really important cyberpunk game came out in late 2020.
Game I would definitely put on this list for real if I had played more of it but I need beefier hardware and will buy it just to play this game: Deathloop
I played Deathloop for a couple hours, and thought:
Oh, fuck. I reeeeeallly like this, but I’m only seeing a small percent of it with my current graphics card. Gotta hold out for a PS5. Will report back.
I haven’t played Resident Evil at all yet I’m sorry but big mommy is indeed very hot.
Trend of the Year: Vtubing
In late 2020 I, like many, decided to abandon this sinful world of flesh and bone and become an anime.
Let’s all become animes.
Thing I Noticed About My Past Self Being Stupid, of the Year
Looking back at my 2016 roundup I made a joke that it was shocking to my old brain to see a game ask me for my “pronouns” instead of my “gender” but I guess I have in fact gotten used to it. Also I said good things about Overwatch that year so I really got egg on my face huh. It was good at the time! We all loved it! We didn’t knoooowwwwww
Josie, a mystery lovin cat named after a cartoon rockstar, and who only paid attention to the most avant garde adventure games, passed this year at the age of 18. Love you forever, sweetie.
Email the author of this post at aj@Tap-Repeatedly.com.
Great list AJ. A lot of things on there have intrigued me or I’ve at least heard about. Inscryption! This game seems wild and it’s the one 2021 game I feel like I’m truly missing out on by not having played. Maybe a soft year for competition, but this game seems like the only possible GOTY much like Outer Wilds felt like the only possible GOTY in 2019.
And Axiom Verge 2 better you say? Hmmmm, now I didn’t get too far into the first game. I wonder if 2 would speak to me. I’ve also bounced off of Metroid Dread pretty badly though. 🙁
Umurangi Generation sounded like a very vital game from last year. And Deathloop…boy I’m dying to try that one. Once that PS5 exclusivity wears off I’ll be jumping into that one for sure because I love Arkane!
If you don’t like Metroidvanias, you probably won’t like AV2, but I enjoy it as a speed game. I think the first AV is better in speedrun mode than playing it straight through too so that may be a personal taste thing.
Ooo, very interesting list!
Sorry to hear about Josie. The picture of her cracking mysteries in Return of the Obra Dinn was adorable!
Yeah, definitely agree with you on Inscryption but what a wild ride eh?
Ack, I have the demo of Metroid Dread on my Switch but keep forgetting about it! I have also never played Symphony of the Night despite owning and having it installed on my old Vita. I used to love Metroidvanias but in recent years they’ve just not drawn me in in quite the same way.
Chicory looks lovely–I missed Wandersong (but I have a cute t-shirt of it and everything). I don’t know a great deal about Umurangi Generations or Deathloop to be honest but all I know is they’re meant to be good. Deathloop seems quite divisive but they’re often the best games or at the very least interesting!
And I hear you on the beefier hardware. For Christmas I treated myself and replaced my 10 year old PC (got kind of lucky with a GPU) so its super weird knowing I can actually play modern high-end games again.
I bought Metroid Dread for a flight to California a few weeks ago. It’s a lot of fun, but there are annoying elements for sure — not least the fact that often advancement is hidden behind a wall that looks like other walls and only stops being a wall when hit by a rocket, and there’s no indication whatsoever that the wall that is not a wall is indeed not a wall. So you shoot at walls until they stop being walls. A LOT.
When we landed in Detroit and it was time to go home I was stuck on Chained Kraid, who’s gotten SO MUCH BIGGER than he was in the last Metroid I played, which was… Metroid.
In retrospect maybe I just should have stuck with Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which I have had for months but barely started. Hours on a plane might have been better spent that way.
AJ, this list was great. You always suggest new things I’ve either not heard of or meant to play and forgot about. Plenty of friends are talking about Inscryption especially. And I also always get a huge kick out of your Final Fantasy XIV experiences. Honestly, reading your words is better than playing the game, and I say that as someone who has some sense of how good the game is.
I am so sorry about Josie. 18 may be a lot of years, but it’s never enough. I’m glad she had some mysteries to enjoy, and applaud her preference for high art and innovation. Cats are, after all, not just inquisitive but aware of their next-level-ness. Thus through her enjoyment can we humans can grow. My owner is named Iris; she’s a little cross-eyed so anything that moves on a flat plane fascinates her because there’s so many of it. She lacks Josie’s refined taste, though, because she only has seven or eight neurons.
Tappers! Thanks for this great list AJ! Metroid Dread was crunchy, chewy goodness from start to finish. Steerpike doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I play few games on Switch (doesn’t help that it tries to re-wire my brain with the A/B buttons, which is wicked and cruel) but very glad I played this one. I know little about MercurySteam, other than that people say they make good but not great games. Whatever they did to change things up for Dread, it worked mightily.
I’ve been curious to try Deedlit of Longest Title Name Ever and may now based on your recommendation.
I’ve been playing a few games from last year. I played Umarangi Generation a couple weeks ago. Very cool little picture taking game!
Also the Forgotten City! Steerpike have you played this game? It’s right up your alley of Roman fun times! Also the game began its life as a Skyrim mod!
Also I’m here to recommend my first 2022 game! Citizen Sleeper. Table top rpg kinda thing. Great writing and characters. Highly recommend to anyone who likes games with tons of dialogue and intrigue!