2021 has been another wild year, with the world still mostly on fire and everything being terrible. But you know what hasn’t been terrible? Some of the games I’ve managed to play during the last 12 months. Whilst I haven’t played as much in my previous years due to the sheer scale of some of my choices — thank you very much Yakuza: Like A Dragon — I have got through some genuinely enjoyable ones. So here we are, with my five favourite games of the year!
But first, an honourable mention! Alan Wake Remastered was a game I couldn’t have been happier about due to how much I loved the original, but I felt a bit bad including a remaster over a new game, so I’ve relegated it to here. Alan Wake 2 is coming soon though. So that’s pretty nice. Onwards!
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to claim this as my game of the year due to how much fun I’ve had with it. A melee focussed, James Bond style, deck building rogue-like is something I didn’t know I wanted, even though deck building rogue-likes are very much my thing. You’ll need to construct your deck with great care to have any chance of making it to the end due to your positioning on the battlefield being as crucial as the damage you do. Take the tactical gameplay and mix in a gorgeous art style and you’ve got a tremendously well put together game.
Then there’s the fact it’s very accessible thanks to a slew of difficulty options and playstyles. You can set a run up to allow you to replay failed battles, or let you rewind a turn, which were options I was grateful for when I’d make a slip up as I learned the mechanics. Then there are loads of starting decks to take, as well as a card drafting option to give a heap of replayability resulting in good value for money. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend it as a first game to try in the genre, fans will find a lot to love.
I don’t want to typecast myself, but this is another deck building rogue-like in the vein of Slay The Spire, but where Fights in Tight Spaces focuses on pure gameplay, Inscryption brings in a wild story. Starting as someone trapped in a Saw-like scenario in which you’re forced to play a card game with your life at stake, things go off the rails once you win your first run.
Live action videos, cursed games, and broken genre conventions follow, with as much story as you’re willing to dig into. There are people on forums working on breaking apart all the secrets in the game as I type due to how fascinating this is. If you’ve ever played Pony Island or The Hex then you may have some clue of the madness that awaits you. If not, I implore you to dive into the insanity.
I’ve recently found myself getting really interested in Warhammer 40K, to the point that I’ve started reading the books and am looking to invest in an army. Whilst our Matt wasn’t a fan of it, I count myself fortunate to have played Warhammer 40K Battlesector around the same time I got into the universe, and it ticks so many boxes for me. Maybe not the card game box.
It’s a turn-based tactical battle game in which your Blood Angels take on the fearsome Tyranids through a twenty-mission campaign before you get to mix things up through a pretty versatile skirmish mode. The action is fun, with you always having more options you want to use than you can in a single turn, leading to some nerve wracking decisions. It’s not the prettiest game ever, but it’s very enjoyable, and was just the thing I needed having just played through a fast paced action game. Lots to love here, and I’d be happy for another entry in this series focusing on a different legion.
Whilst we love indie games around here, it’s hard not to be enamoured with Psychonauts 2, a sequel that I never thought would happen. I was a fan of the original back in the day — although the Meat Circus can go to hell — so I was very excited to get to play a new and modernised entry in the series. There’s just so much charm here. The visuals, the voice acting, the story, and the mostly sensitive ways in which mental illness is handled are wonderful, and the gameplay is slick thanks to tight controls and a fun world to use them in.
Every mind you enter feels utterly unique and has plenty to discover as you explore them, as well as lots of humour to find along the way. You’ll come away from this with levels that you’ll remember for a long time, which is a testament to the creativity of Tim Schaffer and his team. Hopefully we won’t have to wait so long for the next instalment.
First-person horror games have a pretty bad reputation due to the sheer volume of terrible ones that do the rounds on Steam, many of which can be seen on YouTube as the player screeches into the camera. I went into In Sound Mind with low expectations, but they were far more than exceeded. In Sound Mind is an enjoyable game, with an interesting story about surviving with mental illness and some neat mechanics surrounding the experiences of each character.
Whilst not genuinely scary most of the time, and more than a little janky in the combat department, there was a lot to enjoy here. The visual style and tremendous soundtrack do a lot of heavy lifting to create a solid atmosphere, alongside some really interesting enemy designs that personify the challenges you must face. You can also pet the cat, so that cements this is game of the year, doesn’t it?
Whilst there were other fun games this year that I’d like to include, such as the one-more-turn infused Dice Legacy and the utterly gorgeous The Room 4, the previous five I’ve mentioned represent the strongest of what I’ve played in 2021. There’s a lot to look forward to in the coming year too, so I’m expecting something a bit special for next year’s ultra-prestigious awards. But until then, let’s leave the madness of this year behind, and look towards a potentially brighter future. Happy new year!