2021 was a huge year for catching up on games I’ve been meaning to play for ages, as well as indulging in new releases. Here are some of my highlights.
I played every Devil May Cry game, they’re mostly great
Devil May Cry V looks awesome, and I’ve had the HD Collections of the DMC series on various systems for years without playing them. I decided if I want to earn my way to playing DMC V, I was gonna play through the entire rest of the series first.
Playing through the first game is super interesting, especially if you have some of the historical context around it being a Resident Evil to begin with (Thanks James), and as a fan of Platinum-style character action games it has been quite a journey to see where this genre originated and how it gradually became home to Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising.
The series has some real highs and lows. You can totally skip 2 and not really worry about missing story or even a particularly good game, the edgy, subtle as a sledgehammer themes of DmC have aged horridly, but I still enjoyed playing each of them.
If I wanted to justify playing the bad games, I could say (and do) that it helped me better appreciate the highs. The series really came into it’s own in the third entry, thr fourth added super fun movement options and an even higher skill ceiling, and V continued to open things up with more characters and some just absurdly pretty graphics.
The Devil May Cry games rule.
I caught up on some RPGs
2021 is the year I got on the Game Pass train, and one of the highlights of that for me has been Octopath Traveler. It totally passed me by in its initial Switch release, but friends (James, again) assured me I’d probably dig it. I adored it. The 4K makeover for a pixel-art inspired HD-2D looks so damn nice, and I loved gradually unfurling each of the eight characters’ often surprisingly complex stories.
Ys: Memories of Celceta has been on my Vita for years. It doesn’t quite hit the highest highs of Ys VIII for me, it was still super fun. I’m keen to play the entire Ys series through soon.
Tales of Arise was a delughtful surprise. I played it for review over at Press Start and found it’s fighting game inspired style of action combat exhilarating.
Big Resident Evil hours
I re-played Resident Evil 7 in preparation for Village, I love that both games take the Resident Evil experience to totally new places and perspectives, while maintaining the feel of a Resident Evil. Village has some memorable villains, thrilling combat moments, exciting boss battles, creative set pieces (I don’t think I’ll forget my first play of the Beneviento house as long as I live) and like any good RE game was endlessly replayable - I think I played it through four times by the end. Extremely excited to see where this new story goes from here.
Heaps of mobile and indies in between
I played a tonne of mobile and indie games this year, both for the Apple Arcade focused podcast I do with my good friend Chris and just generally for the fun of it. I loved Overboard!, a visual novel style narrative story where through multiple plays through you can gradually discover how to get away with murder. Roombo: First Blood was a short, sweet game about being a robot vacuum and murdering people in silly ways. Unpacking is one of my most treasured gaming experiences this year - somehow through the act of unpacking boxes into a house over and over I felt such empathy and emotional connection to a character I had never seen. It’s a masterpiece.
It was a great year for Zelda games for me as well. I adored the remake of Link’s Awakening on Switch, and Skyward Sword HD gave the game a chance to shine in a way that helped me fully appreciate it. The Zelda mood has continued into playing Wind Waker HD, and I’m remembering just why the game was so special to me at the time. The characters, music visual style are timeless.
I loved a Marvel game??
I am in full Marvel fatigue mode, but somehow Guardians of the Galaxy got through that fatigue and became one of my favourite games of the year! A Mass Effect-lite combat system and some wonderfully written characters really elevate this from being a fairly average action-shooter to something quite special. There are so many memorable little character moments and the length of the game really gives you time to hang out and get to know these characters more than a film ever could.
Metroid Dread is my personal Game of the Year
It had some close competition with Resident Evil Village, Guardians of the Galaxy and Unpacking, but Metroid Dread is my favourite game of 2021. It has the puzzling and exploration of some of the best 2D Metroid games and a markedly improved combat system over MercurySteam’s last Metroid game, which let them add some wildly challenging and enjoyable boss battles into the mix that make full use of Samus’ new combat abilities. It’s awesome that MercurySteam improved so much over Samus Returns, and honestly wild that an honest-to-goodness new Metroid game is this good in 2021.
For a year supposedly hampered by production issues, working from home and the general everything of a COVID 2021, there were a pile of really fantastic games to appear this year. Even more that I’ll probably get around to playing another year too! My biggest hope for next year is for more games truly made for the new generation of consoles. New designs and mechanics will be possible when we let go of the PS4/Xbox One generation, and I can’t wait to see what that looks like.