This year felt quite the same as last year.
We’re now nearing two years of the Covid-19 pandemic and somehow, things are worse. We’re now dealing with the Omnicron variant, supply chains are a mess and every facet of society is stretched thin. Sure, we might not be stuck at home like last year but isolation is still very much an issue. This year’s been a busy year for the industry, a lot of great games have launched over the last 12 months while many massive blockbusters were forced to move into next year given the circumstances of a global pandemic.
And that’s where things begin to mash together — even with delays, we saw a ton of great video games this year. Against the odds, viruses, and supply issues, developers did their best to alleviate the blues of being stuck at home with nothing to do by delivering sometimes thoughtful, sometimes dastardly, but always fun video games. This year may have had fewer AAA blockbusters but it left the door open for smaller developers to showcase their games and take the stage.
So, while this year has seen hundreds of commendable video games, we’re whittled it down to the list below. Some games like Unpacking, The Artful Escape and Unsighted left us pondering about how to live, how to be ourselves, and how to care for ourselves. Video games are meant to leave us feeling satisfied, to feel something in the face of the end of the world. How do we recover when everything is a mess?
Through the power of imagination and the talented developers creating video games, we’re free to explore the deepest reaches of ourselves. Of other worlds and spaces that would otherwise only exist in a vacuum. Video games give us insight and the ability to go places only made possible by the medium.
This year’s list of top games took us around the world, out of our world and into others. This list is everything that stood out to each of us as hobbyists and as writers.
Forza Horizon 5
The Forza Horizon series is more than an open-world racer. Since its debut, the series has consistently delivered high-octane thrills that have yet to be replicated elsewhere. This year’s Forza Horizon 5 takes us to the exotic locales of Mexico and proves people want games like this to get lost in. And it shows that within the first month of launch, Forza Horizon 5 hit 12 million players – something that took the previous entry a year to accomplish. It’s also the biggest opening for an Xbox Game Studios title and it’s full of accessible fun that lets players live out the fantasy of being a racing legend.
For more on Forza Horizon 5, check out our review.
It Takes Two
For a game that starts with the heavy subject matter before turning into one of the best action-adventure titles this year, It Takes Two is something everyone needs to experience. Not because a young couple is on the verge of separating but how it takes that and turns the experience into a whimsical and engaging romp where the only way to get home is to work together. What better way to invite your partner to play a video game with than the latest from Hazelight Studios.
Every level inspires a new feature or mechanic that keeps players invested and engaged. Furthermore, there is never a dull moment and the experience tends to stay fresh the entire runtime of the campaign and it’s easily one of the most original games we’ve seen this year. Without a doubt, It Takes Two is a co-op campaign worth your time and one of the best games this year.
For more on It Takes Two, check out our review.
Given that this year has seen a lot of great releases filled with original IP and remakes, NieR Replicant finds a middle ground between being a remake and remaster. How did this decade-old video game end up on a best-of list in 2021? Well by improving on the original and bridging the gap between its sequel.
Nier Replicant is largely the same as it was back in 2011 but the performance tweaks and adjustments to combat pull this project closer to Nier Automata, the story beats hit harder, the characters are stronger and the combat is engaging and flexible. Paired with wildly fun sections that shift the game into a bullet-hell perspective and heavy, bleak storytelling, NieR Replicant stands out for how different it is and how different the industry is a decade later.
For more on Nier Replicant, check out our review.
New Pokémon Snap
Nintendo’s on-rails photography game took nearly two decades to see a sequel but the wait was worth it. In New Pokémon Snap, with your trusty camera and the Zero-One buggy, the game presented itself as an on-rails game where you’d explore various locations and take a variety of photos of the resident Pokémon. Within New Pokémon Snap, there are now several regions in the Lental region that require your keen eye.
Professor Mirror requires your help with building the Photodex, an essential compendium with over 200 diversities of Pokémon for you to photograph. The goal is to take the best photos of the wildlife and earn high scores which focus on how big the Pokémon is in the photo and it’s being active. If anything, the game is a peaceful way to play video games and it’s also full of familiar Pokémon that’ll keep you busy for a while.
For more on New Pokémon Snap, check out our review.
Persona 5 Strikers
Persona 5 Strikers had me worried before launch but within an hour of playing the collaboration between Atlus and Koei Tecmo, I knew there was something special for players. Combining Dynasty Warriors gameplay with the style of Persona works so well, it’s a shame it took this long for a game of this calibre to become real.
I say that because most games that incorporate musou gameplay don’t offer much else outside of the core gameplay loop. It breaks the mould of what to expect and runs with it straight through until Persona 5 Strikers ends. Picking up several months after the end of Persona 5, the Phantom Thieves set out on a summer vacation trip across Japan. Things don’t go as planned and soon the team is pulled into another adventure into the Metaverse and it’s up to them to make things right.
For more on Persona 5 Strikers, check out our review.
Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil’s renaissance continues with this year’s excellent Resident Evil Village. The series has seen a departure from its roots in recent years but it’s also the reason the series has been reinvigorated – it isn’t afraid of trying something new to tell a story and the swap to first-person and new characters is a great idea in the long run.
Set in a dilapidated Eastern European village, you wake up to discover the entire area is festering with threats that are in your way to prevent you from leaving. There’s a haunting Medieval castle that begs to be explored and a lot of the fun is opening up the hidden pathways to create interconnected pathways across the village. By limiting ammo and weapons from the start, Resident Evil Village begins with a white-knuckle encounter against Lycans before unfurling into twisted battles against infected monsters and humans. Even being on the shorter side, Resident Evil Village has a lot of going for it and is highly replayable.
For more on Resident Evil Village, check out our review.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Chicory: A Colorful Tale lets you play as a dog that wields a magic paintbrush from a top-down perspective. You’ll use your painting powers to restore colour to the world while exploring, solving puzzles and helping your animal friends along the way. Our hero feels like he isn’t worthy of his abilities given his sister is much better than him and the story focuses on what creators go through and their struggles of living as an artist. There’s a ton of engaging puzzles that will keep you invested, the characters and their stories will resonate with you. Chicory: A Colorful Tale has heart and tons of it!
Toem is one of those games that is packed with personality and charm. It’s got a simplistic design built around a satisfying gameplay loop where you need to take photographs of each area in certain ways. As you figure out what is required of you, the next level opens giving you access to even more gorgeous images. Given you use a camera to take photographs and then engage with the locals to learn of the areas, it’s generally relaxing as you move throughout each area to reach the top of a mountain and experience Toem.
For more on Toem, check out our review.
Psychonauts 2 took the long road to release but it’s a game that the world needed. Double Fine launched the series back in 2005 and has since hadn’t the chance to prove the potential the larger world of Psychonauts has. We finally got that in the sequel that launched earlier this year.
What makes this a standout game for 2021 is how smartly Psychonauts 2 introduces new ideas and then runs with them to great success. The game is packed with quirky individuals and deftly handles mental health struggles while being simultaneously fun to play and brimming with gorgeous art direction. Learning the secret history of how the Psychonauts came to be and expanding on the history of Raz’s family is a satisfying narrative thread the series pulled off spectacularly.
For more on Psychonauts 2, check out our review.
Bravely Default 2
What stands out about Bravely Default II is how firmly confident it is in what it does and how difficult it is as a video game. Don’t let the graphics fool you (even if they are a bit of a departure for the series), Bravely Default II is a masterful RPG that will challenge players to continually retool their strategy when dealing with bosses with thanks given to the risk vs. reward mechanics of the Bravely system.
The job system is one of the legacy mechanics few games use these days so seeing it return in such a spectacular way is highly welcome. Sure, Bravely Default II is packed with standard tropes for the genre but the real meat and potatoes of the game are hidden away within the job system.
For more on Bravely Default 2, check out our review.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits
Kena: Bridge of Spirits feels like it came and went earlier this year but the inaugural game from Ember Lab is one that’s stayed with me since launch. It’s a throwback to simpler times and pulls from classical platformers like Jak and Daxter to tell a heartfelt story about loss.
As Kena, you must help the dead and guide their spirits to the afterlife or risk corruption and devastation upon the physical world. A lot of the mechanics and choices the developers made feel like something out of an older developer handbook – from the segmented zones instead of an open world to how collectibles and combat are handled. By going back to basics and focusing on the core mechanics, Kena: Bridge of Spirits excels at what it does, even if it does have a bit of a difficulty curve regarding the bosses. For Ember Labs to deliver such a competent game so early into their journey, it is a triumph for the studio and one of the top games of 2021.
For more on Kena: Bridge of Spirits, check out our review.
The Artful Escape
Annapurna Interactive continues to deliver some of the most original experiences you can find in video games. One of this year’s most impressive offerings is The Artful Escape from Beethoven & Dinosaur.
Playing as Francis Vendetti, the young musician struggles to live up to the legacy of his uncle, a renowned folk musician. What happens next is a transcendent trip through space, a trip where young Francis’ ability to shred on a guitar is the entire game’s gimmick. While the game is entirely on-rails, it’s a visual spectacle worth experiencing for yourself and introduces many crazy personalities across the universe.
I wouldn’t call it a true video game but a cross between a game and an interactive experience – something that’s a bit of both but easily recommendable to anyone looking to be a bit self-indulgent with what they play.
For more on The Artful Escape, check out our review.
NEO: The World Ends with You
While Square Enix has mentioned the follow-up to The World Ends with You underperformed, it was a brilliant sequel to a niche RPG on the Nintendo DS. Everything about it oozes charm and style from the poppin’ soundtrack to the inspired visuals, you won’t find anything like it on any platform.
A lot of things could have gone wrong in the transition from handheld to consoles but the developers made it work. Granted, the story does a bit of rehashing on the concept of the Reapers’ Games but it is clear NEO: The World Ends with You was designed with fans in mind but it’s also a great entry point for newcomers given how accessible the game is.
For more on NEO: The World Ends with You, check out our review.
Shin Megami Tensei V
Atlus launched Shin Megami Tensei V earlier this year and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The latest entry in the long-running RPG series has made the quality of life improvements to the formula that makes this a bit more accessible.
Shin Megami Tensei V is at its core a hardcore RPG and from the earliest moments will challenge you. A lot of the game’s DNA is shared with the Persona series, but the difficulty is where you can see the vast differences between the two series. Set against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world, your job is to restore the world to normal. You can capture and befriend demons, or barter with them to join you. You can fuse demons to make stronger ones to help in your battle against angels and demons. There’s a lot to uncover in SMT V and it has a lot of content that will keep you busy and entertained as you explore the end of the world.
For more on Shin Megami Tensei V, check out our review.
One of this year’s most impressive titles wasn’t a massive AAA title, no, it’s a game from Chinese developer Pixpil. It’s hard not to look at Eastward and see how games like The Legend of Zelda or Earthbound have influenced development. However, that’s only the basis of inspiration and what you get when playing is much more than the sum of its parts.
As John and Sam will embark on a strange journey together, one to discover the truth of Sam’s true nature and what caused the world to turn into the displaced nightmare it is. Eastward is a single-player game so you’ll work characters in tandem to solve puzzles and in battle.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury got a second chance on the Switch this year and proved that it’s a phenomenal Mario game that was offset by its release on the Wii U. I know I missed out when it launched years ago due to lack of interest for Nintendo’s console but I was finally able to experience how good Super Mario 3D World was. With the bonus of the highly regarded expansion, Bowser’s Fury.
Nintendo improved the base game in a few ways like faster character movement while also expanding the multiplayer offerings to make it easier to play with friends and family. Playing together is the ideal way of experiencing Super Mario 3D World given how some levels will situate themselves to require teamwork to solve puzzles or hold a switch to move into the next section. This game is a blast.
For more on Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, check out our review.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Ratchet & Clank have been around for decades starting with their introduction on the PlayStation 2. Rift Apart picks up as heroes Ratchet & Clank are celebrated for their good deeds with a parade being thrown in their honour. It isn’t long before Dr. Nefarious swoops in to make a mess of things, but things quickly go south thanks to the Dimensionator activating portals to another dimension.
It is here we meet Emperor Nefarious, a smarter and more impressive take on the doctor, one who has taken control of the universe and is looking to take the next one. We meet a lot of familiar friends and faces but with a twist and it proves to be a wildly successful spin on these loveable characters.
However, it’s meeting newcomer Rivet, the female Lombax from an alternate dimension who takes the crown as being one of the best characters this year. Insomniac could have easily made her a female version of Ratchet, but instead spent time creating a wholly unique character that leaves a mark on you as you play the game. She’s an impressive character who will go out of her way to help those in need, despite her gruff exterior.
Not to mention Insomniac taking advantage of the Playstation 5’s capabilities to deliver an exhilarating game that puts its brilliant level design and knowledge of the system in its paces.
For more on Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, check out our review.
The Forgotten City
A title that was once a mod for The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim spread its wings earlier this year and was released as a standalone game. It’s easily one of the best gaming highlights this year given how simple yet clever the premise is. However, the narrative is far from simple and is one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had this year.
The Forgotten City sends your character back to a Roman City governed by one rule, the Golden Rule. For those who commit a crime in this city means the rest of the inhabitants will pay for the sins of the one. Upon entering the time loop, you are tasked by the leader of this city to find out who is causing the loop and to stop them. This only scratches the surface of what players will find when they enter The Forgotten City as it is filled with memorable sidequests and interesting residents.
It’s a short experience lasting roughly 12 hours to so but it is an experience that’ll stay with you long after completion and it is a rich narrative that shouldn’t be missed
Deathloop, without a doubt, was a surprise hit for me this year. After seeing the numerous trailers during live streams, I thought this game was overexposed. I was frankly disinterested until I began playing it for myself. Arkane Studios outdid themselves in blending perfect level design with thoughtful gameplay.
Nearly every aspect of the game worked in unison, leveraging one core aspect above another. As the story of Colt, a man stuck in time, unravelled, I was compelled to see every thread conclude. I was enthralled until the very end. Although the payoff didn’t hit as much as I wanted, the journey was a standout in 2021.
For more on Deathloop, check out our review.
Following Halo 5: Guardians, I was cautiously optimistic in the direction Halo Infinite would go. After a tumultuous development cycle, 343 Industries proved they understood the assignment. Halo Infinite features the most compelling, emotional, and rewarding campaign since Halo Reach.
Leaning into open-world level design, Zeta Halo is a wonderful sandbox to play in. Plus, multiplayer is hitting on all cylinders and while not perfect, Halo Infinite has the foundation in place to build towards a healthy future for the Halo community.
For more on Halo Infinite, check out our review.
IO Interactive has outdone themselves with Hitman 3. Following 20 some odd years developing Hitman, this is the studio’s magnum opus. Agent 47’s journey comes to a head in a series of gorgeous and enthralling open-concept levels where the imagination can lead players to exact the most intricate murders possible.
Hitman 3 has some of the most rewarding replayability in contemporary games where each run is meant to be different and unique. Being the undercover hitman is only a part of the fun when you could be doing a Suit-only run using a fish as a weapon. Although Hitman 3 was released early in the year, it’s stuck with me ever since and will continue to do so.
For more on Hitman 3, check out our review.
To say that Death’s Door is special is a massive understatement. The indie hit the scene hard and fast this year, as it brought a unique look to a game type that we’ve seen dozens of times. It’s tough, but also forgiving. It’s familiar, but also it carves its path.
The top-down action game borrows aspects from amazing titles like Zelda, Metroid, and the Souls franchise, and blends them to create one of the most memorable experiences of the last few years. It’s a moody journey through a truly unique world, with quirky characters, and a wide variety of puzzles and action. If you’re looking for one of the most noteworthy releases this year, look no further.
For more on Death’s Door, check out our review.
Unsighted is not unique in that it borrows ideas from many popular, age-old franchises that came before it. But, how it blends them and builds a world and large cast of characters you care about, is truly unique.
It’s a beautiful, pixelated world where autonomous robots are here to stay. It’s your job to rebuild a city that’s been ravaged by robotics that has essentially gone rogue. The top-down 2.5-D perspective opens up possibilities for amazing gameplay and exciting traversal. The more characters you meet, the more you care about their future and the more you want to press forward through the difficult, but very rewarding battles and puzzles.
For more on Unsighted, check out our review.
On the surface, Unpacking is a simple game where you well… unpack. You move from a new home to a new home, placing items where you’d like them while soothing music and a welcoming art style.
What stands out the most in Unpacking, is how an unexpected story can create one of the most awe-inspiring moments of any game this year, while having no fast-paced action, no dialogue, and all but a few words of text. This game tells a human story in one of the most unique ways you’ve ever seen. If a chill, touching, simple, but the engaging experience is what you’re in the mood for; do yourself a favour and take a few hours just Unpacking.
For more on Unpacking, check out our review.
Tales of Arise
Tales of Arise is the latest entry in the long-running JRPG series, Tales of and it’s a fantastic game for veterans and newcomers alike. The latest entries on the previous generation didn’t hit as fans expected but Arise breaks the glass window on the reception on the recent entries.
The battle system and characters are a reason to pick up the game alone. The story is intriguing enough that you want to stick around as you go from area to area as you learn the backstory of your party through each area and the overarching arc of the story for the game’s two leads.
Tales of Arise was built on Unreal Engine 4 which is a shift from previous titles that were built on an in-house engine. The choice allows the game to show off a higher graphical quality through gameplay, the story and character dynamics.
Marvel’s Guardian of the Galaxy
Marvel’s Guardian of the Galaxy was developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix under the Marvel Game Brand. The 2021 title is a fantastic game that does the characters justice for anyone who fell in love with them through the original James Gunn MCU movie.
While these characters are similar, the take is a different approach in a post-war world for the galaxy. While the dialogue is still funny, there is still a focus on grief for Star-Lord and his mother. That close mother-son relationship kicks off the game and is ever-present throughout the whole single-player campaign.
Eidos’ approach to gameplay for the Marvel Games’ title puts you in full control of Star-Lord as you team up with the other Guardians through button prompts and assists. Personally, the approach was fun as it feels a lot like Tales’ combat style as you make your way through many enemies in the game.
For more on Marvel’s Guardian of the Galaxy, check out our review.
Sega’s Yakuza developer, Ryu Ga Gotoku (RGG) Studio outdid themselves in the Judgment follow-up, Lost Judgment. The game focuses on defence lawyer turned detective, Takayuki Yagami once again in his next big case a couple of years after the original game. This time around feels much more personal as Lost Judgment follows the theme of bullying. After a police officer is caught in a sexual harassment scandal, he is found guilty but just before his sentence, he divulges the name of a recently unnamed rotting corpse that was found in Yokohama recently. He reveals the body is his son’s bully who led his son to suicide many years ago.
Lost Judgment is a game that won’t be a lot on many GotY lists as it passes people by. That’s a shame as RGG studio has created an enticing narrative that should be recognized, in my mind it is on par with Naughty Dog’s approach to storytelling. It especially hits close to home for anyone who has ever dealt with bullying in their life or knows someone who died because of it.
The whole time was enthralling the whole way through with so many turns as Yagami tries to unearth the true mastermind through this carefully planned scheme that’s part of a series of similar ‘bully punishments’. One understated thing is Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s impact on the game as it is felt in the game in the past-Tojo Clan/Omi Alliance world.
For more on Lost Judgement, check out our review.
Final Fantasy XIV
When Final Fantasy XIV version 1.0 was released more than a decade ago, it was universally panned by both reviewers and players. The initial launch did overall great damage to the Final Fantasy brand that reportedly almost bankrupted the entire company. Square Enix stuck with it and rebuilt the MMO from the ground up in two and a half years in a last-ditch ’do-or-die’ move to resurrect the game and do it right. That version launched in August 2013 which gained a positive reaction, the opposite of the 1.0 version
The stakes were immensely high for the game director, Naoki Yoshida who was put in charge of the 2.0 version of Final Fantasy XIV players now know as ‘A Realm Reborn’. The bet worked out in their favour as Final Fantasy XIV is one of the most popular MMO out there. While a great MMO, the publisher bet even more on telling great stories in follow-up expansions like Heavensward, Stormblood, Shadowbringers and most recently Endwalker.
Most recently the MMO won ‘Best Ongoing Game’ and ‘Best Community Support’ at the Game Awards. It’s deserved as Final Fantasy XVI isn’t just a great MMO but a great Final Fantasy game that is welcoming to single players like me who wanted to experience the main story and expansions. As a total package Final Fantasy XIV is easily in my top three mainline Final Fantasy games that are deserving of the attention of new players. Just a warning if you want to commit to the popular MMO, firstly it’s takes a while to get into the game since the release of the Endwalker expansion so it might be a wait until they upgrade the game’s servers to make that easier. Also, it’s a time sink to get to the great parts… it’s truly the One Piece of games.
For more on Final Fantasy XIV, check out our review.
As it was supposed to be announced at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) and despite a 2007 message referring to it in Metroid Prime: Corruption, here is the arrival of the final chapter of the SR388 event.
I have to admit that I was initially afraid of Metroid Dread despite being very excited to play it. You see, the term “Metroidvania” is overused by all kinds of video game companies because they are action-adventure and platform video games that borrow heavily from the Metroid series and Castlevania. More specifically, games that feature cards with worlds connected that the player can explore but not in their entirety since some parts will require skills, keys, portals or others, forcing the player to go back and forth ever so often.
This game is a real delight for fans of the series or for those who love Metroidvanias. Do you need to have played other Metroid 2D games before starting Metroid Dread? No! But I strongly suggest it! The game is just awesome, filled with intensity, challenges, and creatures to roam around. Aside from the small negative sides, it will be able to satisfy you greatly. And for those wondering if the game is long, I remind you that in most 2D Metroid games, you had to complete the game in under three hours to get the ending where Samus is not wearing her suit.
For more on Metroid Dread, check out our review.
Returnal is a roguelite-style action-adventure game that has you dying over and over and over and over again.
For those who do not know what it is all about these famous games, like the game Rogue released in 1980, are characterized by games with a procedural generation of its levels, permanent death and complete loss. of everything, you’ve amassed throughout your last progression. That said, what differentiates “Roguelike” from “Roguelite” is that you have mechanics that allow you to stick with certain buffs or gears to help you in your next progression, which is the case here.
Equipped with your DualSense, you will feel the rain falling in the dark forest or even the wind in the desert valley as well as the vibrations of everything around you. Combine it with the principle of your adaptive triggers that will allow you to shoot, target your enemies or even unleash the devastating power of your weapon with the simple squeeze of your triggers. Also, add the sound effects of your weapons and the environment that will echo through your controller speakers.
Do you like shooters? Do you like fast-paced confrontations? Do you like difficult games? If you said “Yes” to all three questions, then Returnal will be a game to try. If, on the other hand, you’re the type to ragequit and throw your controller at the slightest frustration then go play Demon’s Souls, it won’t be as bad.
I love the gameplay loop. It’s frustrating but so intuitive and immersive you’ll be asking for more by the end of it.
For more on Returnal, check out our review.
Monster Hunter Rise
Monster Hunter is a Capcom franchise that first appeared on the Playstation 2 in 2004 and has since evolved into no less than 15 original games and 10 spin-offs in recent years.
At first glance, we have to admit that players who own the Switch were treated to Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, while PS4, Xbox One and PC players had Monster Hunter World. How do you deal with the problem? By offering the Nintendo console its own exclusive game, Monster Hunter Rise.
This franchise is known to be loved by people who enjoy the adrenaline rush of battling these titanic, ravenous creatures who will do anything to turn you to flesh. How pleased I was when in Monster Hunter Rise it was offered to have not one but three familiars that follow and come to help you out. First, the traditional Palico, those little cats who provide support with attacks and tools that can hurt your opponents or, conversely, take care of you. Then the Palamutes, these gigantic fighting dogs that will fight alongside you and also serve as your mount. Finally, the owls will help you by flying over the areas in which you progress to detect the different creatures and resources.
On the other hand, a very important new addition to the series is worth considering: the Wirebug. This little bug attached to your arm will allow you to propel yourself high or forward for faster climbing or through areas without hassle.
At once colourful, fluid and with a sublime musical atmosphere, Monster Hunter Rise is, in my opinion, the ultimate game that Capcom had to launch on the Nintendo Switch to win the hearts of gamers. The RE Engine has decently demonstrated that it is suitable for Nintendo’s hybrid console.
Is it as beautiful as Monster Hunter World? No, but it is nevertheless excellent and graphically looks wonderful on the Switch. Each place you will visit is very detailed, beautiful, and comprehensive. The village of Kamura, on its own, will charm you with its decorations and the different plays of light.
For more on Monster Hunter Rise, check out our review.
Back 4 Blood
Honestly, I’m worried about what Tencent’s recent acquisition of Turtle Rock Studios means for this game that was supposed to be in it for the long haul. Here’s knocking on a wooden board on the window that things keep going strong!
It hasn’t been a perfect launch for Back 4 Blood by any stretch of the imagination. The convoluted mess of far too many specialized zombies that plagued the beta found its way into the base game. And the pick-up-and-play for the campaign was kind of a mess.
But what Back 4 Blood gets right is the feeling of co-op zombie slaying with friends. A lot has changed in the multiplayer world since Left 4 Dead left us. This reimagining gets the feeling of the original series right. I don’t even mind the chaotic social hub and grindy card system.
For more on Back 4 Blood, check out our review.
If you haven’t given Inscryption a try yet, have you been gaming this year? When I reviewed this card-battler-meets-point-and-click-adventure earlier this year, I was feeling burned out on card games. They’ve become a sort of mobile, in-the-moment experience for me. One where I try to avoid overspending on the experience.
But Devolver Digital has never shot me dead. They’ve never done me wrong. Inscryption does not do you wrong. It’s a creepy, self-aware commentary of the futility of life and the reasons we keep on living. It’s also extremely weird. There were so many points while playing this game that I audibly yelled “What is this game?” My only answer is that I’m pretty sure it’s about death, and it’s unlike any card game I’ve played before.
For more on Inscryption, check out our review.
Age of Empires IV
Age of Empires IV is proof that perfect compromises can exist. In the era of the series’ HD facelift, I’ve had a strange dichotomy with the RTS superhero that it doesn’t have to look good to be good. Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition and Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition are rough to me. They’ve added some makeup, but the blemishes still show through. They were both great games in their respective gaming empires, but times have changed. And those games don’t hold up for me.
It all had me worried that Relic Entertainment’s interpretation of the series would give up the throne. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, right? However, Age of Empires IV is my Game of the Year. Reimagining the campaign as a series of documentaries with real-life footage and informative text entries has me excited to learn. And while there’s no denying that its gameplay looks dated and basic, Age of Empires IV plays like a modern dream. It’s exciting to be a part of it!
For more on Age of Empires IV, check out our review.
Ruined King: A League of Legends Story
League of Legends has played a very important part in my life. I was introduced to it in 2011 when my university roommate told me it was much easier to get into than DOTA, and who the heck was playing World Of Warcraft anymore like I was at the time? So many nights were spent playing the worst support of all time with his friends across the globe. I was in love with the community of it all. I got my little brother into League Of Legends.
But the lore evolving in the game’s wikis, short stories and other media have always been daunting. And, thus, League Of Legends has always felt like the same game to me. So it was crazy to think that it would be able to lend itself to a classic-style 2.5D RPG. But it’s all I want now! Sign me up for all of the bite-sized story games!
Ruined King: A League of Legends Story is the perfect way to approach a confluence of lore. I never feel alienated by not keeping up with it while playing this game. Turn-based combat is easy to understand, but hard to master. My only complaints are that the game feels padded with fetch quests that don’t offer any real leg up in terms of reward. There’s also a real lack of diverse enemy types present, which adds to that padding. But classic RPG fans and LOL nerds alike should feel accommodated by this game.
For more on Ruined King: A League of Legends Story, check out our review.