• CJ

Cally’s top 10 of 2021

Article first appeared as part of Offshore GameCast's GOTY selection. Featuring GOTY articles from many podcast hosts in the gamesphere.


2021 I keep being told has been a bad year for gaming. But I can only conclude those touting this aren’t interested in variety in their games.

For me 2021 has been a fantastic year. Admittedly aided by a lockdown or two, but I’ve played more games this year than any other. I’ve played a lot of games that didn’t come out this year but were new to me. For this list I’ve of course only looked at games from 2021.

While I can certainly point at my number 1, the rest are in no particular order.


GOTY


So, to kick this off, my GOTY, The Forgotten City.


Beginning life as a Skyrim Mod, this stand-alone experience received a full release earlier this year. I picked it up on the back of a dramatic trailer and a host of 5-star reviews on the Xbox store.

A time loop game (but like, before they were cool), the Forgotten City sees you transported to an ancient city living under the tyranny of ‘the golden rule’. This being, any sin committed by one person, will result in the whole population being killed.


When the rule is inevitably broken, you must dash back to the portal to reset the day.

Where The Forgotten city shines (other than gold statues) is in its writing. The characters you meet you will become invested in their plight. With only a few you will desperately want to slay.

The story is well thought out, and the twists and reveals are hard to see coming but feel earnt.

Multiple endings exist, but the ‘good’ ending really hit me hard. It takes a lot to make a robot feel emotions, but this game had me leaking oil from my optics.


I’ve written a full review for this one over at Robot-Republic, check it out.

The game is also now on Game Pass, I bought it on release and have zero regrets. But while it’s available on GP, I’d highly recommend diving in.




The Rest


Psychonauts 2


I played only a bit of the original, and only within the last year. While the style was nice, it didn’t grab me in any real way. The sequel, however, had me from mission one.

Stylized and beautiful, full of endearing characters and fun gameplay, there really aren’t any negatives to be found here.

It also deals with some deep emotional/mental issues in a sublime way. It never feels like it’s trying too hard or just doing it to tick boxes. It feels like the story the writers wanted to tell without compromise.



Forza Horizon 5


This one surprised me. While I’d anticipated the game looking and playing beautifully, I didn’t think it would be any more to me than a brief tour of Mexico that I then move on from.

I’m not a car guy, I drive an electric car, that should tell you all you need to know about how little I care for ‘car go brrrrrr’. But this game might have changed that, at least for virtual cars.

So far, I’ve sunk nearly 3 solid days into the game. Cleared most of the races on the map.


The game is more forgiving than other racing games I’ve tried. Usually, when I’ve tried racing, I’ll crash, or fuck one thing up, and that’s me. Driving to the end, in last place, feeling salty. But with the prince of Persia time rewind ability, I can finally enjoy racing.


Yes, I know this is noob tactics here. But it’s what makes it enjoyable for me. And enjoyment is entirely why I’m playing anything.



Last Stop


This little Anna Purna gem deserves more recognition than it’s been getting. Mechanically it’s dialogue choices and running around looking at things. So not too much too it. But the story is wildly intriguing.

It’s 3 stories told alongside each other, interacting with one another in subtle ways.

Body swaps, aliens, and secret agent spy work. It’s a game you can crack out over a weekend and is on Game Pass, so give it a shot.


Snow Runner


I’ve can’t claim to have put too much time into this one, but it makes it onto my list for the fun I had while I did play it.

The objectives are mostly picking up cargo from one place, delivering it to another, but with horrible road conditions. The physics of the muddy terrain feel realistic, it’s a nightmare getting stuck. But with a team of friends, pushing each other out of quagmires and winching each other around it’s a lot of fun.


Yakuza: Like a dragon


Typically, I’m not a fan of any game with a 60-40% cutscene ratio in the first 3 hours of gameplay. However, I’ll forgive Like a Dragon in this for being such a heartwarming and funny experience.

Ichiban is a contender for my favourite game character of all time. The one-time yakuza who spent nearly two decades in prison for taking the fall for a boss who then turned his back on him. And yet maintains unbreakable positivity.

The combat is turn-based but dynamic. So, you don’t feel locked in place waiting to be hit. The fight actions are also hilarious.



Immortals: Fenyx Rising


Bar far the most underrated game in this list. Yes, it is another Ubisoft open world, with a map that someone spilled the icon box over. You go icon to icon, solving the puzzle, or entering the dungeon (also full of puzzles), and button mash fighting the same 6 baddie types. AND I LOVE IT!

The narrating from Zeus and Fenyx herself can be cheesy and annoying, but only to those dead on the inside. The bright colours, easy combat, satisfying puzzles all make for a very fun chill experience.


The Artful Escape


This is more a game to look at than play if I’m honest. The mechanics of it mostly involve holding a directional stick in one direction and holding X.

However, the visuals that play out in the background, along with the ethereal tunes you’re shredding on your guitar are something worth beholding. The story is also a fun draw. That of wanting to escape and become someone else.


Scarlet Nexus

I haven’t historically fallen for JRPGs. The story is usually pretty convoluted, and the turn-based combat I find grindy.


This is why Scarlet Nexus appeals to me. Hack and slash combat, with psychokinetic powers. A story that’s, at least thus far, pretty clean. The characters are nice enough, though not particularly memorable. But what makes this game great is the art style and monster designs. They certainly are created by throwing any random household crap at a whiteboard and seeing what sticks, but this method does lend itself to unique creations.


Echo Generation


A turn-based combat adventure game in an 80s setting.

Graphically this is fantastic, despite blocky everything, it still looks stunning to play.

The story involves giant worm creatures, aliens, ghosts and more. The ghost in the school being actually pretty terrifying.

One criticism would be a need for quick travel or more rest spots. But that’s almost certainly just my being a noob.

This game drips style and nostalgia.




Honourable Mentions


Flight Sim

Visually stunning, great game for a relax.

Deaths Door

Pure gameplay. Boss design is also great.

The Medium

Enjoyed this mostly for the horrific main monster design.

Superliminal

Fantastic puzzle game using perspective.



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