Games of 2021

I continue to find gaming central in my life. I have for the third year in the row tracked the diversity and representation in the games I play. I have written internal reviews for many of the games I play. I have also started posting reviews on Steam. These are minor things that supplement the gaming experience and mindfully get me beyond the “achievement” and “escapist” qualities of gaming. Still, games are more complex and varied than ever before, so there are many ways I have not engaged with them. Just to keep up, stay current, and have some kind of pulse on the flow of games in the world is nearly impossible, even with consistent exploration and interaction. In some cases, I watch the games on YouTube so that I can multitask and still understand what the hype around a certain title is. This approach is far from ideal, but until I’m retired (or my consciousness has been uploaded into a gaming computer), it’ll have to suffice. I’ve decided to include some write-ups below, for the first time, rather than just list the titles. Also in this post, I have also included games that I started and did not finish, games that are ongoing, and games that I have started and will take me into 2022.

The Completed Games of 2021

Death Stranding (10 of 10)

What can I say about Death Stranding? It resonates with my personality so perfectly. As a hiker, I found myself wanting to continue going long after the missions each completed. The resonant and ambient world never ceased to amaze me, but most importantly was the tone of the world, its characters included, which felt like stepping out onto the trail in the nearby Cascades. I’ll never forget this game.

Dying Light and Dying Light: The Following (10 of 10)

I revisited Dying Light and its expansion with my brother, in anticipation of the upcoming sequel. The game, remarkably, holds up, and is actually superbly better than the solo run I originally did years ago when it first came out. While certainly horror-filled, it’s also entertaining and packed with discoveries that keep the heart rate up while a sense of awe and the unnerving around each corner.

A Short Hike (10 of 10)

I started this title and then put it down for a couple of months as I was distracted with larger, flashier games. I ended up feeling guilty because the game’s first moments are just as compelling as its last. I have no idea why I stopped, but I immediately picked the game back up as I started it fresh months later. The characters, the charm, and the sheer compassion that fills this game make it a beautiful experience that doesn’t take much time and yet fills one’s mind with memorable moments. I can’t wait for the next Adam Robinson-Yu title.

Sable (10 of 10)

I just finished Sable, and was really quite sad to do so. While nearly getting all of the achievements, I knew that I had to move on from what is truly an astonishing work of art. The game is relaxing, the puzzles are just enough to get the eyes furrowed, and the world is filled with a sense of serenity that most games replace with drama and distraction. Like Death Stranding, Sable reminds me of my inclinations to get on the road or the trail. And like A Short Hike, I hope the developers bring another title like it to us soon.

Road 96 (9 of 10)

And I also just finished Road 96, which I had been irrationally pushing back for way, way too long. The game feels like the old Walking Dead adventure and other dialogue-driven adventure games, but brings in FPS, mini-games, in an ultra-relevant setting filled with radicalization and political reflection. What’s truly beautiful in this game is how amazing the scenes and settings are. The world is very established, but each chapter brings completely new contexts and situations. Playing this one, I couldn’t stop myself from continuing for far too long, as the hours passed and passed. I only played one single play-through, which doesn’t include everything, but it’s a game I may return to from time to time to refresh myself with its strong storytelling.

For the King (9 of 10)

I put thirty hours into this “digital board game” with my brother, and found that it’s cuteness, cleverness, and ease of access is a great, fun way to spend the long winter hours. It’s definitely a great pandemic game for fans of high fantasy, but also it’s got an aesthetic born from a mobile-friendly world. Derived from D&D and many other fantasy worlds, For the King is great until it’s not–when there are moments of difficulty that cannot be tackled with skill but rather just luck. The wins are rewarding, but the losses are impossible to comprehend.

Disco Elysium: The Final Cut (9 of 10)

The only reason I give this masterpiece a 9 is because the “final cut” didn’t offer much more than the original. Some new dialogue (though controversial) was enjoyable, but otherwise I felt like I was playing the original all over again. This is fine, of course, but as its own title pushing forward from the original, it felt redundant and disappointing. But only slightly.

Resident Evil 8: The Village (9 of 10)

I never play Resident Evil games because the horror and puzzles really terrifies me to the breaking point. So, like its predecessor, I watched #8 and found it was truly, unbelievably captivating. The total length is very long, but it rivals all the horror television for its characters and sequences.

Arid (9 of 10)

A game created by students is not a game to be dismissed. Arid scratched my desert itch, and scratched it and scratched it further. The minor horror elements were easy to adjust to and were not as frightening as I expected. The animations and the story were engaging and surprising, and the level design kept things balanced and accessible. More desert games like this (and Sable, described above!) are needed.

The Division (9 of 10)

I’m not a Tom Clancy person and I am not a third person shooter person, but I found myself completely, utterly addicted to the Division despite how old it is and despite how unplayed it is. A multiplayer game that doesn’t have a huge player-base, which can still be played and enjoyed, says something. The world is just stunning. The visuals and environments are so detailed and well done, that merely running from neighborhood to neighborhood in New York was an exquisite way to spend my time. Plus one for escapism?

Call of the Sea (9 of 10)

I went on a limb and tried this first person adventure game since it was on sale and the background (“wife head to remote island to find missing husband”) was a compelling premise given the strong feminine protagonist. I was blown away with this short game and, while I relied on Google maybe a bit too much for the puzzles, found the pacing and the exploration fresh and strangely enjoyable. I also am a sucker for tropical islands, so there’s probably some bias here.

Beyond: Two Souls (9 of 10)

I’m really not sure how I missed this game when it was released, but I did, and then I found it, and then I played it, and I’m super happy I did, because I was unable to take my face away from the screen after work for nearly a week-straight. I didn’t play every arrangement of chapters, I didn’t succeed in finding everything or achieving everything, but I did complete the game and found the story to be emotionally wrenching and a fantastic allegory for the end-times surrounding us.

Cyberpunk: 2077 (8 of 10)

Okay, okay, so this game’s rating is most likely biased on account that I played it at release, bugs and all. But it wasn’t so buggy on the PC to keep the experience from feeling okay enough and I was able to get through the main story and most of the side quests at just under 40 hours. That said, there’s a lot of repetition in this game, and the writing finds itself missing the mark more than it should. Still, the world is huge, the acting and characters are superb, and it’s a remarkable follow-up from the company who made one my favorite games (Witcher 3).

Stardew Valley (8 of 10)

Playing this with a friend, it was a great way to pass the time and, in one of the simplest ways possible, have us saying “What’s next?” It’s a great game for peace and a great game for connecting gamers at varying skill levels. I haven’t seen everything in the game, though, so I may return to it.

The Eternal Castle (Remastered) (8 of 10)

This is an example of a game I watched rather than played. The brutal platformers are, I’ve learned, not my genre. I highly recommend the short play-through on account of the visual style alone.

Ascent (8 of 10)

Another great co-op to spend these pandemic days. Put in nearly 13 hours alongside my brother. We had been dragged in with the trailer and found the graphics and world compelling, but the later levels fall flat and the plot twists are a bit too heavy-handed to be taken easily. But it’s a fun game, and one that didn’t get nearly as much praise as it should have.

Journey to the Savage Planet (8 of 10)

Occasional there are games that are just weird enough to triumph and stick above and beyond even some of the best games of the year. This is one of them. It’s rough, not perfect, and could easily be twice the size, but for what it is, it’s fun and quirky and the type of game that really brings people together in a way that feels social, competitive, and reminiscent of the 80s. I found it oddly coincidental to play this after visiting the new Meow Wolf in Vegas, which has a very similar aesthetic.

Planet of the Eyes (8 of 10)

While I’m not into platformers, even puzzle platformers, this one was short and sweet, and stress-free. Simple design for robot-lovers. It’s an oldie but a goodie.

The Division 2 (8 of 10)

While the first Division game really caught my attention, I didn’t feel nearly as compelled with the DC-based sequel. Yes, it’s a game that sucks the player in, and there’s a lot to see and do, but there’s almost too much to do and the world relies a little too much on recycling levels and concepts into the later game that 21 hours ends up feeling very sluggish. It was nice to play with more humans that the first, however.

The Longest Road on Earth (8 of 10)

I really enjoyed this art piece, which has very minimal gaming elements and is more of a visual novel than anything else, though there isn’t any text or dialogue, which makes it even more unique as a 2D experience. A Raw Fury game, I’ve been compelled to try other games from this publisher as a result.

The Sevens

  • Noita
  • Metal Gear (watched)
  • Metal Gear 2: Solid Snack (watched)
  • Resident Evil 4 (watched)
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (watched)
  • Vermintide 2
  • Dungeon Defenders 2
  • House of Ashes (watched)

The Sixes, Fives, and Fours

  • Metal Gear Solid (watched)
  • Yakuza Kiwami 2 (watched)
  • Returnal (watched)
  • Dying Light: Hellraid (watched)
  • Mosaic
  • Tell Me Why
  • Man of Medan (watched)

Ongoing Games

The following I continue to play here and there, some more than others, and will probably continue after 2021 as well.

  • Valheim
  • Deep Rock Galactic
  • Magic the Gathering: Arena
  • No Man’s Sky
  • Worms WMD
  • Risk of Rain 2
  • Babble Royale

The Uncompleted/Unfinished Games of 2021

The following games I did not complete this past year, though I did start them. Only a few I may return to. I’ve found myself more and more leaning toward not continuing games that are awful or otherwise do not feel like a strong use of my time.

  • Age of Wonders: Planetfall
  • Griftlands
  • Hell Let Loose
  • Back 4 Blood
  • Arma 3
  • Far Cry 6

Current Games to Take Me Into 2022

The following games I’ve started and have yet to finish. These will be completed this coming year.

  • Broken Age
  • Wasteland 3
  • Forgotten City
  • Inscryption
  • Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
  • It Takes Two
  • I Am Dead
  • Black Geyser: Couriers of Darkness

On Deck and Upcoming Games for 2022

The following are games I haven’t started, but are my top future plays.

  • Heavy Rain
  • DEATHLOOP

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