After 2020, 2021 started with a bold new direction of awful beyond comprehension. I won’t really get into that, but needless to say it was an inauspicious start. However overall 2021 turned out to mostly be a better year than its predecessor and despite some fuck-ups made during my research biting me in the ass months after it was too late to fix them, I managed to recover and get back on track. I’m looking at PhD programs now and have interviews set up, and I’m hoping to get my Thesis done and my Masters Degree earned these next few months. Its been a heck of a time for me on a personal level and I can only hope the next few years are somewhat calmer. But I doubt that. As for games, yeah we got some good shit this year. I imagine all of you already know what my favorite one is going to be, so let's take a looksie at the year that was.
Metroid Dread-Overall GOTY
Is anyone really surprised this one is my top game of the year? Metroid is my favorite Nintendo franchise and after seeing it get neglected for years we finally got something in the form of Samus Returns….a remake of the second metroid game on a dying console that the switch was busy eclipsing. Despite its flaws it was a rather good game and it seems to have done alright enough to have justified another game from MercuryStream. It was exciting to see folks getting excited for it, it got tons of marketing (maybe a little too much spoilers wise), and it was the first new 2D metroid in 20 years. It's also the direct sequel to that 20 year old GBA game, Metroid Fusion, which also happens to be my very first Metroid game. I set expectations low-it would likely be a good game but nothing that was going to live up to what had come before.
This was incorrect of me to assume, because not only is this game great, but it also lives up to the other Metroids in ways I didn’t think it could. The atmosphere is great, the visuals are fantastic, the art designs and aesthetics are lovely with one of my favorite suits in the entire series. The game controls super well and just navigating is a joy, and the story manages to add to the lore in a positive way while having Samus show tons of character wordlessly in a way that heavily reminds me of DOOM 2016. When I beat this game, I immediately started up a new save and I think that's one of the highest compliments one can pay a game. I have no regrets grabbing the CE for this one and it still feels so unreal to me that not only did my beloved Fusion get a sequel, but a great one at that.
Warframe-Best F2P (New War)
I put Warframe here every year, so this one isn’t going to be surprising but yeah this year also saw the advent of The New War. The invasion of a certain faction has been teased for years and last year the invasion finally began proper. All of the new elements of the game, from the Railjacks to the Necramechs were involved in this large and pretty ambitious new mission and I was generally satisfied with it. I have my issues with it, but overall it was a good time with some good pay offs and I’m eager to see what's next. Also my favorite frame finally got a prime version and its more glorious than I could have hoped for. Lovely.
Outer Wilds-Best exploration game
Just a lovely game. Its a game about the joys of exploring, its made by science nerds so the physics of it play an integral role and the music is just incredible. I absolutely adore this game, exploring and solving puzzles, and how it really pushes you to figure out how things connect. I'd say more but I think this game is best played as blind as possible so yeah, grab it and the DLC is my reccomendation.
Disco Elysium-Best Depressing CRPG thing
Disco Elysium is a game of extreme overwhelming sadness and absurdity. Its a sad game in a sad world and it also has moments of extreme hilarity or comedy, and more than that it managed to strike a good balance between the two. I think its just a beautifully realized world-its not a post apocolypse, but its just a grim city thats been failed by all sorts of different political philosphies and is now standing in the aftermath of the downfall of the previous government. The city is grey and the colors muted, the scars of war and horrors of executions lie scattered around in plain sight and hidden away, and you're a drunk wreck of a cop who has to deal with the person you were while also needing to solve a murder. Its just a fantastically realized and fleshed out world you explore, and its so well written that its permanently stuck in my brain and probably will be for life-in no small part due to the amazing sea shanty-ish soundrack. The game is basically only dialogue and wandering about, and it feels so aimed at someone with my sensibilities it hurts. I absolutely adore this game and I think you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.
Surge 2-Best Parry Simulator
The Surge 2 is a good game. I've heard nothing but bad things about the first game, howevever after seeing a positive review from someone who hated the first one I decided to give it a shot and yeah its pretty darn good. The storys silly nonsense, a fair few bosses are kinda eh, but the exploration and locations are fun and the gameplay shines. Its a soulslike that is incredibly reliant on parries-and not just parries, but directional parries that allow the combat to make parrying more complex and enjoyable to try to noodle out when its at its best. Its just a fun smaller game and while I wouldn't say it reaches the heights of the Souls games in some regards, combatwise I think it does a good job of making a case for itself.
The Ascent-Best Cyberpunk
A game that was completely off my radar, Amna informed me of this one and I was intrigued. Cyberpunk is always something I’m up for and it's genuinely one of my favorite genres to play around in. The game is a damn impressive undertaking from a small team-you live in a giant city tower, predictably starting at the bottom. Traveling through space is long and arduous and those who start rich end up poor by the end of it. Those seeking a fresh start go into massive basically unpayable debt, and do menial labor until they’re dead. You’re one of these drones, until the corporation that owns your ass goes under and a corporate free for all ensues. A top down twinstick shooter rpg of sorts, the game generally is a fun and challenging experience and its dripping with atmosphere. The world oozes personality and generally I enjoyed the story and writing. Would recommend giving a looksie if this sounds adjacent to your interests.
Valheim-Best survival crafting
This year, I learned I’m kinda into this sorta thing between this and The Forest. Valheim came out and immediately my…eating enthusiast friend group picked it up and sucked me into it. And yeah it's pretty good-the graphical aesthetic looks good, the music is enjoyable, and the progression from resource to resource to location to location feels good. I really enjoyed building up a little abandoned village with friends, building an outpost on a nearby island to fight the second boss, and setting up docks for transporting resources that can’t be teleported. The game really taps into the joy of exploration and discovery as well as surviving in a hostile world and I’m looking forward to whatever's next content wise.
Ace Combat 7-Best airplane related game
Gundy is normally wrong about most things, but in terms of Ace Combat yeah turns out he's right. The story is dumb and silly, the writing is over the top, but man is the gameplay and concepts this game is playing with fun. It's so satisfying to have to figure out the best loadout for the situation, get better planes, and deal with challenging situations and other ace pilots who push your skills to the limit. The ending area is one of the most fun, tense series of objectives I’ve felt in a game like this and it felt like a great culmination of all that had come before. Lovely game.
RE8-Best rollercoaster of weird
RE8 is a dumb game (which was kindly provided to me by Law, along with Deathloop later in the year). It kinda knows that though, and it's overall a damn good time. It's a more action oriented affair and its focus on multiple big locations is a change from the one overall location of the Baker residence in RE7 but I feel like that variety serves it well. Also the tall vampire lady was appealing aesthetically and was enjoyable as a villain, as was not-Nicolas Cage and really most of the villains. I think it's sufficiently different enough from 7 that I find it a little hard to compare both too equally, so its hard to say which one is overall better, but I think this one was a fun time that I wish I had more of and that probably says something positive about the game.
Ori and the Will o the wisps-Most improved from a prior game
I….didn’t really care for Ori and the Blind Forest. Perhaps that's somewhat of a hot take, but I found the game could be immensely frustrating with its chase sequences, its combat felt kinda eh, and while the user generated checkpoints feature was an interesting idea I think it ultimately didn’t really do much for the game. I also didn’t connect massively with the story, even if the opening got a little emotional charge out of me.
Ori and the Will O’ The Wisps is a superior game in basically every way IMO. Its story has some missteps too but I think it overall has a more interesting world and cast of characters to play with, and I actually cared about the fate of the various characters as time went on. The graphics in the previous game were pretty but this game is drop-dead gorgeous and it looks super great, with lots of excellent color usage and effect usage. Gameplay utilizes different “weapons” allowing you to find a good playstyle and it feels a lot more satisfying to play and navigate, and the chase sequences feel a lot better done here too. Just a good time and an impressive improvement over the last game, and I’m glad I gave it a chance.
Darkwood is probably one of the most disturbing, disgusting games I’ve ever played. It takes place in a hideous twisted forest, where you and everyone else who lived in the area before a mysterious occurrence caused it to mutate are now trapped. Every night you have to try to survive in your base as random forces move around things in your house, you hear random noises outside, or monsters actively try to bash their way inside to murder your ass. As you proceed from area to area things get worse and worse, and more twisted as you descend further into an insane nightmare. I’ve never been so unsettled as I was when I was playing this game and I highly recommend giving it a try and going in blind if at all possible.
Giga Mermaid-Best shantae waifu
Every year, forever.
FIN (and tentacles)
And here we are, at the start of the new year standing over the grave of the old year. As noted above, last year was a rough one but it was a better one than 2020 I think. As of now I'm on the cusp of finishing my Masters Degree and beginning the next phase of my life. I also have gotten to experience something new and incredible-being an uncle, because my sister had a baby this year and man is it a strange but also cool feeling. I can only hope that 2022 continues the general mild upward trend, though I imagine we're in for some rough waters ahead regardless but best we can do is just keep swimming and all that.
As always, I'd like to thank you for reading my weird thoughts and words spewed onto a page and slapped online. Its sometimes hard to work up the motivation to keep writing but I want to keep pushing myself to do it both for school stuff and for personal stuff, and I do appreciate it when folks decide to spend some of their time reading it. Feel free to leave thoughts and comments below if you're so inclined, hope this years a better one for ya.