Happy Holidays one and all. Hope everyone enjoyed the swanky festivities this time of year brings, and got plenty of socks to tide you over until next year. Surprisingly, I got no socks, so I will be wearing my 12-month old holy toe-covers until they turn to ash.
Enough of all that though, let’s talk about the important stuff – Game Of The Year. Unlike the official award ceremony hosted by TGA, we won’t be giving lip service to the rampant abuse found within the industry seconds before promoting it – no, we have integrity over here.
What does this mean? Well, simply put, anything from Activision/Blizzard or Ubisoft automatically fails to make the cut. We also won’t be mentioning David “We Don’t Make Games For Fags” Cage in a positive light – or at all – minus just now of course.
So, without further ado, let’s get into the endlessly prestigious, Objectively Correct Game Of The Year Awards of 2021.
Disclaimer: The following list is entirely subjective.
It would be too easy to just drop the winner and leave it at that. There have been way too many fantastic games released this year to not gush about a bunch of them. Of course, there can be only one winner, but every game here deserves buckets of praise.
To keep things interesting, I will not be repeating genres. If a game wasn’t good enough to be the best in its genre, then it doesn’t get a mention – simple as that.
In no particular order:
Monster Hunter Rise
Monster Hunter Rise is the best Monster Hunter game – probably ever. Sure, it lacks the visual polish of World, and yeah, old school Monster Hunter players love to bang that “the games that controlled like shit were better” drum – but Rise is something else.
Rise is not only accessible to newcomers but has enough depth and STUFF for veterans to sink their teeth into. Capcom has been supporting Rise since its release, and they don’t seem to be slowing down. Heck, there is even a PC port on the way, and that’ll accelerate the already bonkers sales of Rise.
Rise is the game that made me truly appreciate the genius of the series. I’d still be playing it if I wasn’t contractually obliged to review other games.
Guilty Gear Strive
I suck at fighting games. Ask anyone, and they will confirm. As a result, I love the idea of playing them, but in practice, I don’t spend all that much time playing them at all. A mixture of lack of patience and lack of time tends to kill any aspirations of greatness,
Guilty Gear Strive is different, however. Somehow, the wizards at Arc System Works managed to meld complex, multi-layered anime fighting systems with easy to pick-up-and-play controls and gameplay. In the process, they made perfection. The starting roster was, in my opinion, the perfect size to start with, and thanks to DLC, is expanding nicely.
Strive is probably the best fighting game to come out this year, and is one of my favourite fighting games ever.
Cotton Reboot is a special game. When you get to the ripe old age of 30, you are mostly set in your ways. You know what you like, you know what you don’t, and you tend to stick with the former. As a result, it’s pretty damn rare that you discover a whole new genre of game, and fall completely in love with it.
Cotton Reboot! is one of those games. I played it on a whim for review over at Nook Gaming, and if I am being brutally honest? I was expecting a quick review of a game that was going to be underwhelming. How wrong I turned out to be.
Cotton Reboot! Is a classic shoot-em-up that lasts 20 minutes. You can boot it up and finish it on a lunch break with ease – yet I sunk over 20 hours into it before I wrote my review, and broke into the top 20 players on the Leaderboards. Needless to say, I was bloody hooked like a gluttonous guppy.
Gorgeous visuals, perfect controls, addictive gameplay, and one of the best soundtracks I have ever had the pleasure of listening to, Cotton Reboot! is the free hit a dealer gives you to get you addicted. I am a shoot-em-up junkie – and proud – all thanks to Cotton. Well, Cotton and mah boi PowahDunk.
Metroid Dread is a phenomenal return to form. After the catastrophic failure of Other M and Federation Force, Dread proves that Nintendo (in conjunction with Mercury Steam) can still release absolute bangers.
There hasn’t been a game announced, or released, this year that gave me as much hype as Dread. Some people don’t like the EMMI sequences, and that’s fine. Even if that is a minor gripe, the rest of Dread is refined perfection.
Hyper slick controls, near-perfect pacing, excellent exploration options and sequence breaking turn Dread into a masterclass of 2D game design in the Triple-A space. Metroid is back, and I want more.
If Returnal was nothing but gameplay, it would be a 10/10 experience. Mechanically, Returnal is more like crack than a video game. The way it slowly opens up its mechanics, biomes, and weapons kept me hooked throughout. Heck, even at a base level, the game feel is out of this world.
It’s also supremely satisfying to overcome. This is, at its core, a Roguelite. Death knocks you back to the beginning, progress is slow, and difficulty is high. But holy beans, killing Phrike for the first time was one of the most satisfying experiences of 2021.
Returnal isn’t just gameplay and difficulty, however. What elevates Returnal to new heights is its story. It’s woven into everything seamlessly and is told in such a way that forces you to play more to uncover it all. When all is said and done, it leaves just enough ambiguity to spur interesting conversations between peers. Truly excellent.
Oh, and Blue Oyster Cult.
I love old-school first-person shooters. My earliest childhood memory is of my Dad playing DOOM. I was two years old, and it is still engraved in the annals of my psyche. I’ve played all the classics, whether it be Blood, Rise of the Triad, Duke, or Quake – and let me tell you something right now – DUSK is better than them all.
It’s easy to look at DUSK and think that it’s just a modern retreading of tired old tropes for tired old gamers. Heck, if it was that, it would still be better than most of the games that came out this year. But DUSK is so much more than that.
DUSK takes what made those classics great, and then made them better – made them perfect even. No other game this year felt as good in my palm as DUSK, and I was playing on Switch. Every level is unique, every gun feels perfect, every hop, skip and jump feels on point.
DUSK was overlooked by the mainstream and it garnered little-to-no attention. Clearly, modern gamers have no taste.
Tales Of Arise
It takes a lot for a JRPG to tickle my fancy nowadays. It takes even more for an anime one. The genre, for me, has stagnated into oblivion, and the anime aspect tends to be riddled with lazy, generic tropes that make me want to leap off the nearest building.
The funny part? Tales of Arise pretty much ticks everything I hate about the genre, draws a smiley face, throws it at me, and repeatedly asks if I like it. I bloody well love it, and I am not ashamed to admit it.
Tales of Arise soft reboots the long-running series, so it feels very new and very different, but keeps a lot of DNA that made the series great. This has led to the best action-combat system in any JRPG I have ever played. It’s simply sublime in its execution and easily carries the game to completion – a rare thing indeed.
The story is also fantastic, with powerful themes tackled with care, finesse, and little in terms of sugar coating. This is a serious tale, with a few lighter moments to stave off depression. I was infatuated with the cast, the world, and everything surrounding it. Easily the best JRPG to come out this year. Nothing else even comes close.
And The Winner Is…
Cotton Reboot! had to win this year. This is, after all, my bloody list. Every game on this list nailed it. Every single one has Game Of The Year potential. But for me, Cotton Reboot! did something no other game did – it made me love a whole new genre of game. It introduced a tired, jaded bastard to the simple joys of gaming’s oldest genre.
When one game opens up decades worth of unsung masterpieces, nothing else this year can ever hope to compare. On a technical or mechanical level, is Cotton Reboot! the best game? No. On a purely subjective level, is Cotton Reboot! in a league all of its own? Absolutely.
For notifications when the latest article drops, follow me on Twitter @gameswithtoasty. Alternatively, you can join follow my Podcast. I even have a YouTube channel and Stream on Twitch! Happy gaming.