The end of the year is upon us and that means we all get to look back and wonder about the games we played and, in some cases, the games we didn’t have time to play.
For me, there are more in the latter category than the former, but that doesn’t meant that I don’t have a fair number of games to celebrate this year. Some of these are games that came out in previous years that I only got around to playing this year — because time is the most precious resource. (Preach – Ed.)
We’ve got a lot to get through, so lets just dive right into my Top Ten Best Games of 2021!
Persona 5 Strikers
It is hard to imagine a Persona game not making my list, especially with a game that is a proper sequel to one of the best games in the series. This game might not have been in the same vein or even the same genre as Persona 5, but it was a welcome return of the characters and a plot that felt perfectly in place with the original. Definitely worth playing if you’re a Persona fan — though it is, sadly, missing some of the game’s best girls. It was obviously going to make it onto my 10 best games of 2021 list.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales
This one came out last year, but I didn’t get a chance to play it because of the global PS5 shortages that continue to plague us all – partly thanks to crypto-bros – but this was the first game I grabbed when I finally secured one. It felt like a complete sequel to the original, with all the same fun of swinging around New York City but from a new point of view. It is highly worth picking up if you get the chance. It isn’t the normal fare for what we cover here at Rice Digital –but our boy Miles deserves some love too.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
This was my first introduction to the Yakuza franchise and what a wonderful introduction. Ichiban is a delight, the plot is fun and has the right kind of twists and turns I was hoping for. This was another game that I grabbed on the PS5 when I finally got my hands on it and it was absolutely worth the wait. This is a great way to get started on one of the best JRPG series around and an obvious choice for one of my 10 best games of 2021.
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus
My game of the year for 2017 was, without a doubt, Doki Doki Literature Club. As a fan of dating sims from the early days of the Internet, this was such a creative take on the genre that I couldn’t sing its praises highly enough. When the game came to consoles this year, it was an immediate physical release purchase for me. It isn’t a perfect port, with some of the magic of the original impacted in ways I can’t describe without talking spoilers, but it is still one of the best written and executed games I have ever played.
Not only was it my favourite game of 2017, beating out some great competition that year, but the remake makes its way to my 10 best games of 2021 as well.
Blue Reflection: Second Light
I never played the original Blue Reflection beyond a few hours a few months ago, but I have always loved the look and feel to the game. So, I picked up the sequel with high expectations that it certainly surpassed. This is an incredibly cute, fun game to play, with lots of fun character interactions, and great writing that gives these girls a great chance to breathe and build organic, believable relationships. Highly recommend it just for the writing alone, but the improved combat and movement mechanics make it an easy one for my 10 best games of the year list.
This game had been on Steam for a long time but I picked it up on the Switch, because I like to take my dating sims on the go. It is a fairly standard and straightforward dating sim/visual novel, but the voice cast is absolutely top tier. In fact, getting a voice cast for a game like this is impressive enough. There are some fun moments, depending on who you romance and the story, while simple, does the job of making me want to hang out with the girls more. If a sequel to Love Esquire comes out, count me in.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
As someone who wasn’t a huge fan of the original Final Fantasy VII, it is tough to compare this game to it. The plot, combat, and characters are all very different, improved upon in the best possible way. With fantastic graphics that clearly pushed the PS4 to its absolute limit, this is a game that I am looking forward to playing more of. I don’t even discount it for being the first part of a larger game because there is just so much content here that it doesn’t feel like part one until the very end.
Plus, I will live a thousand lifetimes and not see anything as glorious as Cloud dancing in the Honeybee.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD
Did you know that I love the Legend of Zelda series? Cause I definitely haven’t been subtle about it over the years. I even love Skyward Sword, which is sometimes a hot take among fans. So a chance to replay it on the Switch, with updated visuals was a no-brainer. While I think it still suffers from being married to the motion controls of the Wii, there is so much to enjoy from this game. Especially if you love himbos with a redemption arc like our boy Groose. This one was always going to make its way onto my 10 best games of 2021.
Call me late to the party, but this year was the first time I actually got a chance to play this meme-factory of a game. Much like most games that need to be played in a group, the biggest struggle I had was getting enough of my friends online at the same time to play it with me. Once we finally did – always a struggle once you turn 30 (Even worse when you’re 40 – Ed.) – I finally understood what all the hype was about.
Everything about this game works, from the simple animations to the almost Flash-era style of the movements, and it is easy to see why it captured the imagination of the Internet so fully. Will I play it much in the future? Probably not. Does it belong on my 10 best games of 2021 list? Absolutely.
This is one of the more unusual games in my 10 best games of 2021 list. When it came to the west earlier this year, I was a bit on the fence about it. There was a lot of hype around it, particularly with how it compared to Among Us. What we got was Among Us, but with a story. I am a sucker for games that surprise me, which is why Doki Doki Literature Club gets so much love from me.
Gnosia takes the mechanics of the “impostor” game and makes it part of the story. In doing so, it provides so much more depth than I expected. Highly recommended for people who enjoy simple, repetitive gameplay wrapped up in an imaginative setting and plot.
Do I have a game of the year? Probably not — but sometimes we don’t need to choose our favourite. It was such a great year for gaming, despite some notable delays into 2022, so picking my 10 best games of the year was a tough task. We got there, though — together!
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