2021 was a pretty solid year for gaming. With the release of next-gen consoles came a slew of incredible games. Add to that the incredible contributions from both AAA and indie studios alike, then there’s a lot to celebrate from last year in the gaming sphere. Sure, there have been a few disappointments along the way, but today on the Otaku Rabbit Hole, we’ll be taking look through what we feel are the 10 best games from 2021 (with a few of my personal favourites thrown in too for good measure). Now without further ado, let’s get into celebrating our favourite games of 2021!
- Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack
I suppose we’ll start the list off with the one game that’s technically not originally from 2021, but this deluxe bundle had to make this list because of the absolute joy it brought to me this year. The Atelier series, for those who don’t know, follows a new alchemist with each entry as they set out to become better alchemists, and sometimes that involves saving the world or helping a mysterious book become human again. Most importantly is that the Atelier series is one that holds a dear place in my heart, with each game having its own unique relaxing charm that, quite honestly, few games can hope to replicate.
The Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack collects the three entries that make up the Mysterious Trilogy, those being Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Book DX, Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey DX and Atelier Lydie and Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings DX. This deluxe package is an incredible collection and has one of my favourite entries in the series with Atelier Firis, so if you’re interested in checking out the Atelier series, then you could do worse than picking up the Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack.
Inscryption is one of those games that crawls under your skin and sinks its claws into you, drawing you back again and again. Employing a near-perfect blend of horror, rogue-lite deckbuilding and narrative exploration makes for a gripping experience quite unlike anything else I’ve experienced. Incryption‘s narrative is divided into three distinct acts, each act building upon both the story and gameplay elements of the previous act to form a rich and satisfying blend that eventually reaches an almighty crescendo. I can’t go into the details of the story for risk of major spoilers, but know that once this game gets its claws into you, you’ll be dragged along for the ride, kicking and screaming.
The gameplay follows a standard rogue-lite formula, where you play through a map, using cards and artifacts you gather as you play to battle through waves of enemies and eventual bosses. However, there’s a lot lurking beneath the dark and murky veneer of this game that helps add lashings of intrigue to keep you playing hour after hour. Needless to say, there’s a fair number of twists scattered throughout too, but the card game is well crafted in the way that combos feel both simple to execute and satisfying to pull off, the perfect combination for a game like this. If you’re into rogue-lites and the occasional card game, then this game should be an easy buy, and I can’t recommend it enough.
- It Takes Two
It’s been hard to avoid hearing the buzz surrounding Hazelight’s darling, It Takes Two, during 2021, and for good reason. While winning a prize at the Game Awards is hardly a marker for quality, the fact that an indie title like It Takes Two swept in multiple categories, including Game of the Year, definitely goes to show how gamers have taken this game to their hearts.
It Takes Two is an adorable, yet surprisingly deep, two-player experience following warring couple Cody and May after they are accidentally transformed into dolls by their daughter. To transform back into their full-sized, human selves, they have to overcome trial after trial introduced by the magical talking book Dr Hakim (the single most terrifying part of this game).
Gameplay-wise It Takes Two is an absolute treat, introducing a diverse range of gameplay styles to keep players invested throughout its story, with something to appeal to everyone! Honestly, if you have a player two in your life, or fancy playing through a memorable experience that won 2021’s Game of the Year Award, then definitely pick up It Takes Two.
- Life Is Strange True Colours
This game took me by surprise. Before 2021, I’d heard about the Life is Strange series, but had never really given it a passing thought – that is until Life Is Strange True Colours made its way to consoles. Needless to say, I picked this one up and fell in love with the game and its characters.
Life Is Strange True Colours is a difficult game to talk about, as half the joy comes from experiencing everything the game has to offer blind, with no external influence. To avoid spoilers of any kind, all I’ll say is that this game follows protagonist Alex Chen as she moves to the idyllic town of Haven Springs, but not all is as it seems. Alex has the power to feel, and in turn be influenced by, other people’s powerful emotions, and her adventure centres around this and a tragic event that rocks Haven Springs to its core.
As far as the presentation and gameplay go, the game is a pretty standard adventure game but with the occasional twist. It’s pretty simple, but there will be a few head-scratchers here and there (at least, there was for me!) There were a few visual quirks that I ran into a few times, with Alex being REALLY fond of T posing, but still – if you can get past the games little quirks and bugs, then there’s a lot of heart to this game and it’s definitely worth checking out if you missed it.
- Bravely Default 2
As a massive fan of not only turned-based JRPGs but also the Bravely Default series, the inclusion of this game on my best games of 2021 list is hardly surprising. Having entered the world of home consoles at long last, Bravely Default 2 builds on the solid foundations set by its predecessors on the 3DS, providing a well-rounded and enjoyable experience through and through.
The story is pretty standard JRPG fare, with our four protagonists seeking out the four elemental crystals stolen from a fallen kingdom, to which one member of our party belongs. The defining feature of the Bravely Default series is the many jobs a character can use in combat, and its namesake, the brave and default system, that allows players to pass turns to use more actions later, or launch an all-out attack but risk being left vulnerable in the turns to come. It’s incredibly strategic and combining various jobs and moves in a devastating combination of magic and death makes for an immensely rewarding experience.
Quite honestly, Bravely Default 2 is a stunning game from all angles, with a great visual style (even if the character models aren’t to your taste), excellent music and tight, well-rounded combat. If you love the Final Fantasy series and would like a return to the classic gameplay of old (like FF5), you could do worse than to give Bravely Default 2 a shot!
- NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139…
The NieR franchise holds a very near and dear place in my heart, so it’s hardly surprising that the remastered game would find its way to my best of the year list.
This game takes the original NieR Replicant that never left Japan and updates it visually and technically to be more in line with the incredible NieR Automata. Story-wise, NieR Replicant is a difficult game to discuss without giving away the biggest asset this game holds. The story is one of my absolute favourite in all gaming, weaving a melancholy masterpiece that will sweep you along the journey from start to finish.
Another major boon for NieR Replicant is its soundtrack. Updated from its original iteration, the soundtrack hits incredible heights with its diverse offerings ranging from mournful requiems to guttural chants that would feel at home in a religious temple – there’s a lot to love here. With the new story elements in this remaster, there’s even more to love, and if you’ve been debating checking out where NieR began, now is the best time to give NieR Replicant a shot!
- Monster Hunter Rise
Monster Hunter has never been a game series that rocked my world. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love some monster hunting games, like Toukiden and God Eater, but Monster Hunter just lacked that certain something – that is, until Monster Hunter Rise.
If you’ve played a Monster Hunter game in the past, many of the series’ hallmarks make a triumphant return in this game, although with so many more additions that help update this game into the most accessible entry for newcomers, while making it satisfying for fans of old.
The inclusion of the wirebugs and everyone’s favorite new friend, the Palamute, make combat and traversing the world a spectacle, giving players more choice than ever as to how they want to topple the gargantuan beasts. The new mechanics blend expertly with the existing systems and surprising depth of the series, and makes for a system that is easy to learn, but difficult to master. For those willing to invest in the game, and with DLC just around the corner, there’s so much on offer here that you’d be hard pushed to say no to Monster Hunter Rise!
- Tales of Arise
One of my favourite games of all time is Tales of Xillia, and the Tales of series has become the gaming equivalent of comfort food for me over the years. Tales of Arise, however, ups the ante further by being not only one of the best games of the year, but for me also challenges Tales of Xillia for the crown of my favourite Tales game of all time!
Let’s be honest here, Tales of Arise is a gorgeous game through and through. With upgraded visuals and character models, this game makes the world sing with colours that pop and environments that feel varied and alive. Combined with the snappy and responsive combat that has particle effects flying across the screen, you’d imagine that combat can feel disorientating, but you would be wrong. The modified combat feels satisfying and deliberate and executing a perfect combo can leave you feeling god-like with a rush that, honestly, I struggled to experience in other games this year – it’s just that good!
For newcomers to a well-established franchise like Tales, it can be a daunting prospect, and often it can be difficult to get a feel for the world. However, I can say with confidence that this game is a fantastic jumping-in point with its grand story and an excellent cast of characters, and there’s a reason that this game has broken sales records. If you’re on the fence but love visually stunning action JRPGs with excellent combat and an epic story, then you should 100% check out Tales of Arise!
- Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
First, let me be honest. I’ve never been a big fan of Ratchet and Clank – shocking, I know. Personally, I was more into Sony’s Sly Raccoon than Ratchet and Clank, and the series pretty much passed me by. That is until Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart was announced.
This game is a visual treat, retaining the iconic series visuals that fans have come to love while cracking everything up to an 11 – everything about this game is gorgeous and one look at the worlds will leave you gasping. As far as gameplay goes, it’s a pretty standard affair – there are guns – lots of guns – and defeating enemies often results in an explosion of bolts that can be used to upgrade your weapons and unleash ever-increasing levels of carnage upon your enemies. Satisfying through and through, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart has you exploring diverse worlds with incredible third-person shooting that is addictive and polished to a gleam.
The inclusion of Rivet is one of those choices that just makes sense, introducing a new Lombax into the mix helps raise the potential for spin-offs and a new adventure with both Ratchet and Rivet, and this game is all the better for her inclusion. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is a tight gameplay experience with a story that’s as fun and colourful as the characters involved and is the perfect resurgence for the series – and quite honestly, after this game, I cant wait to see what’s next for everyone’s favourite lombax.
- Resident Evil Village
We’re here, and how could there be anything else that topped my best of the year? The presence of the incomparable Lady Dimitrescu alone could have earned this game a spot on this list, but there’s so much more to this game than everyone’s favourite giant vampire lady.
Resident Evil Village is a direct sequel to 2017’s Resident Evil 7, and once again sees Ethan Winters thrust into a horror-filled world of vampires, werewolves and mold. The game isn’t the scariest experience overall, but don’t let that fool you – there are sections in the game that will have you screaming in terror as you run for your life (at least, that’s what happened with me).
The world of Resident Evil Village is nothing short of breathtaking and when combined with the charismatic and generally well realised characters that make up this game’s primary antagonists, it’s hard to not fall in love with this game.
On a more personal note, this game singlehandedly made me reassess my disdain (read: fear fuelled avoidance) for horror games. While I’m sure there were better games released this year, the impact it had on me, and the impact Lady Dimitrescu had on the gaming landscape as a whole, more than earns its place on this list. If you’re in any doubt or have yet to check out Resident Evil Village, then definitely go and pick up a copy – you won’t be disappointed!
With all that being said, thanks again for joining us on this week’s trip down the Otaku Rabbit Hole, and we hope you’ve enjoyed your time here. If you did, that’s amazing, and please consider sharing. If you didn’t, then please get in touch and let us know why. Did your favourite games of last year make this list? If not, then please let us know your list too! We would love to hear your thoughts! Thank you all once again and, until next time, keep it weeby everyone!
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