With 2021 basically being over and done with, I have compiled a list of my favorite games of the year in 17 specific categories; with two of them being my Most Anticipated Games in 2022 so far, one of them being the Studio of the Year, and one of them being the Biggest Surprise & Best Value in Gaming for 2021. This is my personal opinion and does not mean it’s the same one as everyone else, nor should it be. I am not an Xbox or PC player as of right now so it’s only going to be PlayStation 4/5 games or Nintendo Switch games. This does not mean I do not like Xbox in anyway shape or form, but there are just not enough games that are exclusive that are tailored to my gaming taste but I am looking at it for the future when more comes out. Since I played a lot of games this year with a huge amount of them being absolutely incredible, I thought it was fair not have a game win multiple categories, rather each one will be its own. Except GOTY, which will be a repeat of one of them in the list.
Best Nintendo Switch Exclusive Game Overall – Metroid Dread
Metroid was one franchise I always wanted to dive into but never decided to take the plunge into this metroidvania franchise until this game. I always heard really good things about the Metroid franchise in terms of the main 2D games. I jumped head first into this game and I absolutely loved this game! It has such intense action moments in boss fights, very tense areas of being near the E.M.M.I machines, and then also creepy vibes while exploring the planet trying to find upgrades and every little secret. Every minute in my adventure in this game I loved and even through it is short, it was my favorite Nintendo Switch exclusive this year.
Best PlayStation Exclusive Game Overall – Returnal
This game I kind of took a shot on. Once I started to understand the gameplay, the combat systems, the RNG aspect of the game, started the story within the house on Atropos, finding every little collectable thing that I can, and managing all of the resources on hand; this game became something magical. Sure, you restart with almost nothing at all back in the beginning of the game, except for the permanent upgrades you get, but you learn how to navigate the different rooms and all of the aspects of the world. It wants you to learn as you die and most games do want you to grow over time, but this one doesn’t hold your hand whatsoever. Seriously, this game was so great.
Best Score and Music – Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
The story and the narrative in the game, visuals, art style, and everything about the game makes it absolutely feel like an absolute perfect take on the Guardians franchise. The game has a few issues with some small pacing points and sometimes have frame rate issues, but the whole entire experience combines so perfectly well. The music and score in the game combines the newly created tracks but also takes classic music from the 1900s- early 2000s and meshes them into the game perfectly. This game is absolutely a joy to play and sometimes when you are in battles, you can get rickrolled… I mean, come on that’s so the Guardians and I enjoyed every second when playing this game.
Best Audio Design – Little Nightmares 2
Little Nightmares 1 is such a fun game that is so creepy and so spooky that when they first announced Little Nightmares 2, I was ecstatic. The way in which this game balances the fine line of adventure and spooky is so well done and there is so much to this game that it really is one of my favorites from the year. It’s not the longest of games; however, the baked in story with all of the characters and the different big “bosses” and scenery that you encounter is just so spooky. The audio design is extremely well done from the hands coming from the walls or the footsteps of the kids around you, you are always going to be on your toes.
Biggest Surprise & Best Value in Gaming for 2021 – Xbox Game Pass
Okay, as I said above in the first article, I don’t currently have an Xbox or a PC to play games on, but I absolutely admire the push that Xbox is doing for Game Pass. I mean, the amount of AAA games that they grabbed for the service, including some of the launch day games like Outriders from Square Enix, MLB The Show which was developed by a Sony studio, and so many other titles, they are seriously putting a lot of value into the service. All of the backwards compatible games that can be played natively without streaming them (cough cough PlayStation), and the value of AAA and indie games they get throughout the year is absolutely stunning to me. They also added EA Play to Game Pass Ultimate in November 2020 on consoles and March this year on PC for subs at no extra cost. Deals happen all the time for the subs that add value in different forms of entertainment, not just games and that adds even more value. I know value and surprises when I see it, and this service has both. Great job to the Xbox and Game Pass teams for such a great value in gaming.
Most Unique Combat in a Game – Lost in Random
Ever since I saw this game, I knew I seriously wanted to play it. The Tim Burton art style that it has is super impressive, the voices in the different NPC characters and story within the game have that kind of magic that feels like its a new The Nightmare Before Christmas title but it has its own twist which makes it unique. The combat in this game I really haven’t ever seen before where its part strategy, part action, part RNG, and a lot of other combinations that make the combat feel super fluid but one style I never seen before. The way in which you have to think quickly but also have to plan out long term battles at the same time is unique.
Best Indie Game – Kena: Bridge of Spirits
Kena: Bridge of Spirits was the first game that Ember Lab created and but it actually doesn’t even feel like it is. There are issues within the game at some parts, but they are absolutely minor in terms of the overall experience. I completed the game 100% and would have loved to go and get the Platinum trophy but may not due to Master Mode. The game combines lots of different influences from games including God of War style combat, Zelda BotW inspirations in the exploration and navigation, and Pikmin with the rot, and a lot more; however, it does all of this so seamlessly that it works well. Really excited for Ember Lab’s next game as this was certainly a very thrilling experience and a great first game from a smaller studio.
Studio of the Year – Insomniac Games
Okay, they may have only released a total of 1 game this year, but they have seriously been on a huge role of recent times. Ever since SIE picked them up, the output that they have done in terms of not just quantity, but also in quality is astounding to me. I get there are multiple teams on studios, but they just put out Spider-Man Remastered and Miles Morales when the PS5 launched in November 2020, but also released Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart in June. They also recently announced that they are working on Marvel’s Wolverine and also Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. Who knows if that is all they are working on though, maybe there’s more. Insomniac use to be independent and they produced a lot of different games while being independent with most of the games that they made, were for PlayStation most of the time, so it was smart move that Sony picked them up and increased the ability of the teams at this wonderful studio and their work on Ratchet & Marvel properties and hopefully other things as well.
RPG of the Year – Shin Megami Tensei V
I don’t normally say praises for games a lot of times before I finish the full game, but Atlus has absolutely nailed the combat, visuals, storytelling, voice acting, and everything within this whole package from the 25 hours I have put into the game so far. I love a lot of Atlus games that I have played in the past and I always wanted to dive into SMT but never did. This game is hard but if you are cautious about your approach and you know how to plan correctly in a turn based RPG. Atlus has created many worlds and SMTV is an absolute killer of a game that is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch and should be played by any and all RPG fans.
Action Game of the Year – Hades on PS5
Okay, technically this one does count because it only released on Switch and PC last year with finally a release to PlayStation and Xbox this year. Honestly, I was very hesitant with this game at first since roguelikes and those kinds of games are not my favorite genre but I have learned to appreciate them a lot more. Hades has an insane voice cast, beautiful visuals and art, insane gameplay loop that is addicting beyond belief and so much fun baked into the package. I got the platinum on PS5 and I seriously felt like keep playing more and more since it was so enjoyable, even though the game is extremely frustrating hard at times.
Adventure Game of the Year – Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
I loved playing Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart this year and it truly feels like you are playing an actual Pixar movie which still completely surprises me still to this day, months after I got the Platinum trophy. The game is not the best in terms of its story, even though it is touching, but it is fairly simplistic like with most of the other Ratchet games. However, the experience of collecting every bolt, and getting every collectable in the game is just so fun it’s hard not to smile at it. The experience of playing the game in multiple perspectives of both Ratchet and Rivet and going through the planets that the game offers, both for exploration and combat, make this game such a fantastic adventure to play. This game has so much fun and adventure to it and it really should be able to be enjoyed by anyone who owns a PlayStation 5 where it is exclusive.
Action/Adventure Game of the Year – Persona 5 Strikers
Okay, so this one is a mixture of a lot of genres including action, rpg, adventure, and a lot more, however; this game overall shines in its story and its combat, in true Persona fashion. The game is a mushu style warriors game; however, when you are in combat, it doesn’t feel the basic feeling of a normal warriors game as you are summoning different personas to help you in the combat to make it feel that you have to think on your feet. The game has an insane RPG story like a mainline Persona game, but one of the main points of the game is the combat and that is action/adventure as you are exploring the different areas and also fighting alot.
Best DLC of the Year – Ghost of Tsushima: Iki Island Expansion
As much as I freaked out over the inclusion of Sora joining Super Smash Bros Ultimate, this one tops it in terms of the amount of content that the DLC offers. There is so much here that you can choose to do whether it just be the somewhat short 5ish hour story or going for it 100%. The overall expansions story isn’t necessarily the biggest in the world, but I wasn’t wanting another 30-40 hour game yet. A short expansion with loads of side things to collect or missions to do was very nice. I spent about 12 hours in the DLC getting everything from all of the trophies and just taking in the views on the island as the DLC is so beautiful.
Best Multiplayer Game – It Takes Two
Okay, granted this one is a multiplayer only game with other people, it still definitely deserves this one. There are a lot of games that either incorporate competitive or cooperative multiplayer, but this game actually does both in so much charm with how the characters interact with one another. Either when having to solve puzzles or trying to beat the other in minigames. The game may seem very kiddy in some aspects, but there are lots of different easter eggs to a wide variety of IPs and even nodes to others that the team at Hazelight have created. This game is good and if you have been passing on it, I just ask on question… Why?
My Game of the Year- Returnal
The one game that I personally wasn’t sure if I would get on day 1, turned out to be the best game that I played in the whole year. The story, audio design, voice acting in the little bits that were there, but mostly the combat all make this game so much fun to experience. Every time you die, you want to go back and just get a little further every single time. Eventually you will learn the patterns of the enemies and the way in which you have to adapt and you will eventually get to the bosses of each section on Atropos. I wasn’t really interested in roguelike games at the beginning of the year but thanks to Hades and Returnal, my mindset has definately changed about them. This game is seriously one of my favorite ones that I have played this year and it shocked me since I was cautious about this game at the beginning of the whole adventure.
Most Anticipated PlayStation Game – Horizon Forbidden West
Anyone who knows me or seen my top 10 list of PlayStation 4 games from the previous generation will know that I absolutely love Horizon Zero Dawn. Personally, out of a whole lot of games that we know are releasing next year, this is the one that I am most hyped on. We may not have seen a huge amount of content from the game overall just yet, Sony and Guerilla delivered very strong with the first one, and I have a strong feeling that the second one will be so much better than the first in a lot of ways since that was their first big open world adventure game for that studio and it was very good. I am excited for this one in February.
Most Anticipated Nintendo Switch Game – Triangle Strategy
This is actually seriously tough for me but if I actually had to choose one game, I think Triangle Strategy takes it just above some of the other ones. I loved Octopath Traveler and liked Bravely Default 2 which were both developed from the same studio, Team Asano. The demo that was released before I absolutely loved, even though it was challenging, but the way in which the story changed and the characters that you can gather and join your team also change based on your choice make the title fascinating. I want to see how much the story changes, if there are little changes of what happens or if the whole game is changed at the end.
Honestly, this year was absolutely insane for games. I also have a lot of games that I am currently working to get through next year which came out next year including Mass Effect Legendary Edition, Biomutant, Alan Wake Remastered, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, and a whole lot more. There are so many games coming out soon and backlogs are just gonna keep getting more and more insane with what games are coming out soon. Did you have some games that should be here but I may have missed? Leave a comment to this post to let me know some I may have missed this year. Hope everyone has had a good 2021 and played a lot of games. Now, let us look towards 2022 and beyond for more games in the future!