Every game I played in 2021

Back in 2020, I committed to finishing at least 52 games—a game a week. At the end of the year, I shared a list of everything I had played. This year, I stuck to that goal and then some, finishing 54 games.

Usually there isn’t a particular goal in mind with my choice of games throughout the year. It’s a mix of older games I never got around to, the year’s latest releases, and past favorites I want to revisit. This year was mostly the same, but I closed out the year feeling particularly good about the 2021 releases I managed to finish.

The beginning of this list starts with a mad scramble to finish up some of 2020’s games so I could get my top 10 list out. I didn’t release that list until February. 

Now, I’m more or less satisfied with what I played in 2021. Sure, there are certainly a few games that have entered the old backlog, but there aren’t many zeitgeist-y, hot GOTY games that I feel like I missed out on. It’s a silly thing to brag about, I suppose, but as someone who prides themselves on exploring what gaming has to offer, it feels good.

I even got to tackle some long-running backlog games in the process, like Psychonauts and Super Metroid. Overall, a lot of other things about the year may have been less-than-good, but my time with games was great.

Now keep in mind, the list below is something I’ve kept to myself in the past. The little blurbs and scores included should not be taken as definitively as my final top 10 list. These are just my unpolished thoughts I wrote down as the credits rolled, with a score I gave with my gut, rather than hours of thought. That said, enjoy!

Astro’s Playroom (PS5) – Completed on 01/13
★★★★☆
An excellent little platformer that’s an awesome showcase for the PS5 controller and a shameless ad for Playstation history. A few annoying moments keep it from perfection.

Wide Ocean Big Jacket (PC) – Completed on 01/14
★★★★★
60 minutes of walking around and talking. Beautiful, hilarious, simple. Everyone should play this game if only to know that this is a way more games could be. I wish more games were like this.

Umurangi Generation (PC) – Completed on 01/21
★★★★★
Pokemon Snap for the modern leftie. This game wears its politics on its sleeve, but more importantly the photography invites you to examine its world, piecing together the problems of the game’s world without a line of dialogue.

Chronos: Before the Ashes (PS4) – Completed on 01/27
★★★☆☆
The world building between this and Remnant: From The Ashes was super cool. Finishing this game made me want to return to Remnant and follow the story more closely. However the plodding Dark Souls combat here is a little too clunky for me to say I truly enjoyed playing it from beginning to end.

Hotshot Racing (Xbox One) – Completed on 01/29
★★☆☆☆
My harsh score for a relatively solid racing game comes down to one key factor: it feels soulless. Inspired by arcade racers, but nowhere near as ambitious as the best ones. Track design, music, and aesthetics are all bland, even if the core racing is pretty fun.

The Medium (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 02/05
★★☆☆☆
A bad impression of Silent Hill. Uninspired, not scary, and tells most of its story through second hand info and notes. It takes almost the entire game before you are actually a part of the main plot. Troy Baker plays a comical, goofy-talking Pyramid Head for some reason.

The Pathless (PS5) – Completed on 03/03
★★★★☆
Part Journey, part Zelda, this game dodges masterpiece status by being a little too wordy, a little too open, and poorly paced at times. Journey with a dash of Zelda is a truly great idea, but it’s a little too far on the Zelda side. Still, epic moments gave me goosebumps and the puzzles were fun to solve. A beautiful game.

Little Nightmares (PS4) – Completed on 03/07
★★★☆☆
Review on RRC

Little Nightmares II (PS4) – Completed on 03/12
★★★★☆
Review on RRC

Adios (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 03/17
★★★☆☆
A slight, dialogue-heavy, compelling story with some gut-wrenching moments, told in a 3D world that looks and feels like it was made by someone in a college course making their first game. I had a hard time getting over the aesthetic and wished more had been done there.

Detention (PS4) – Completed on 03/18
★★★★★
A game that understands the potential of horror as an avenue to explore deeper themes. This game is a stepping stone to some serious Wikipedia rabbit holes of Taiwanese history. This is one of the great horror games, up there with Silent Hill 2.

Paradise Lost (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 03/26
★★★☆☆
Review on RRC

Gorogoa (PS4) – Completed on 03/28
★★★★★
A stunning puzzle game that’s polished to perfection. Short, sweet, and constantly surprising. Why did I wait so long to play this game??

Star Wars Episode 1: Racer (Switch) – Completed on 03/28
★★★★☆
Revisiting this game, it is almost as thrilling as it was before, but the upgrade system really gets in the way of the races. There are still some incredible track designs in this game though.

Say No! More (PC) – Completed on 04/01
★★★☆☆
Review on RRC

Devotion (PC) – Completed on 04/06
★★★★★
Between this and Detention I feel like I am experiencing the early greatness of a top tier studio that will go down in history for their craft. It’s rare to play a game that can be so creepy while also having a heart. This isn’t a haunted house game, it is a genuine story of family struggle.

The Call of the Sea (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 04/10
★★★★☆
I didn’t connect with this game immediately and almost fell off of it, but after a couple chapters I started to really enjoy the puzzle design. I never got super invested in the story, but I did end up enjoying it and thought the ending was well done. The puzzle design is the star of the show though, with many puzzles that you solve in an organic way without a ton of traditional gameplay mechanics.

Bioshock Infinite: The Complete Edition (PS4) – Completed on 04/29
★★★☆☆
I gave this a 5/5 when I first played it, but it didn’t hold up. I still enjoyed the scifi aspects, but the politics fell flat. The combat was noisy and not nearly as dynamic as it felt in the original game. Feels like a game trying to appeal to a specific audience on the Xbox 360 back then.

Resident Evil Village (PS5) – Completed on 06/02
★★★★☆
A wildly unbalanced opening area sets the stage for a game that constantly throws curve balls. There are so many good sections that are a ton of fun, but the variety gets the better of it. This game is great in its own way, but can’t touch the experience of RE7 in VR.

Biomutant (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 06/10
★★☆☆☆
Review on RRC

Little Misfortune (Switch) – Completed on 06/13
★★★★☆
About as darkly hilarious and entertaining as you can get with a game that’s just about walking from left to right with some very light interaction. Definitely closer to interactive fiction than a game, but if the humor is your style it is a must play.

Ratchet and Clank: A Rift Apart (PS5) – Completed on 06/28
★★★★☆
Absolute comfort food and an incredible showcase of the PS5 tech. It’s not winning any awards for gameplay innovation, but the new ideas here are fun and cool. Definitely feels like a playable Pixar/DreamWorks film at this point.

The Messenger + Picnic Panic (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 07/02
★★★★☆
Some cool twists and turns, but mainly a solid platformer. Overstays its welcome a few times but always manages to come around with the fun again.

Bowser’s Fury (Switch) – Completed on 07/09
★★★★★
I usually knock a game for a bad ending, and Bowser’s Fury retreads the same mid-game finale at the end instead of rewarding you with something new. That said, there are so many new, rewarding, and exciting moments in this perfectly-paced game that I’m willing to forgive it. The world format, where you are free to explore and collect at your leisure, is a brilliant addition. One of my favorite Mario games.

Genesis Noir (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 07/11
★★★★☆
If you love space, big science ideas, psychedelic imagery, and a smooth jazz soundtrack, then maybe Genesis Noir is for you. I’m not sure who I’d recommend it to, because I think it’s a little too high concept for its own good, but I kinda loved it anyway.

Mundaun (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 07/21
★★★★★
A folk horror game in a tiny Swedish mountain town with a dark secret. This is a horror game about unease and creepy things in the distance. It’s quiet, with lots of downtime to explore and solve puzzles. The brief moments of true scares are very effective. It’s creepy, off-putting, and often funny. I loved it.

Chivalry II (PS5) – Completed on 07/25
★★★★☆
Feels like a break from the massive commitment multiplayer games of the current era. Dumb fun on a huge multiplayer scale that will have you laughing with friends. The combat does have a decent amount of depth to it as well. It won’t win any awards for its sarcastic medieval aesthetic, but it’s too fun to ignore.

To The Moon (Switch) – Completed on 07/31
★★★★☆
Very much feels like a game that was made in RPG Maker in 2011. References of the time like Doctor Who definitely age the game in a way that is distracting today, but the heart of the story shines through. It’s really all about the story here, which is very sad and touching in a particular and unique way.

Eastshade (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 08/05
★★★☆☆
Eastshade has a ton of promise at the start. An Elder Scrolls game without combat, where you explore, paint pictures, and help residents of a sleepy island with their problems. Oh, and all the characters are animals! Lots of charm, and definitely has that draw that Morrowind has, but the structure of the world and the quests eventually turn it into a tedious time that’s not nearly as fun as the early hours. It was a total slog to finish this game.

Foreclosed (PS5) – Completed on 08/08
★★☆☆☆
Review on RRC

12 Minutes (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 08/21
★★☆☆☆
I was able to accept the twists and turns of 12 Minutes as a sort of “M. Night” Adventure Game up to a point. Once the plot twists started though, the game fully lost me. There are fun puzzles to solve and a lot of the game had me intrigued, but the hack ending soured it all.

Guilty Gear Strive (PS5) – Completed on 08/21
★★★☆☆
The core fighting game here is undeniably fun, but the options for engaging with it outside of local and online matches are sparse. The story mode is a long unplayable cutscene, and the extras are all weird charts and cosmetics for your online avatar. I would love to invest time into learning this game, but I wish it had more single player to sink into.

Death’s Door (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 08/23
★★★★★
A phenomenal Zelda-esque adventure that outdoes Nintendo at their own games. Sparse but awesome boss fights, clever puzzles, and a rewarding end game make this easily one of the year’s best games.

The Vale: Shadow of the Crown (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 08/25
★★★★★
Review on RRC

Psychonauts (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 08/29
★★★☆☆
Psychonauts was rough around the edges when it first came out, and it has not aged so well in the intervening years. The creativity and some of the writing still shines though, but it can also be an unfunny chore at times. I’m glad I finally finished it but it’s not the true classic I was hoping for.

Tormented Souls (PS5) – Completed on 09/05
★★★★★
Review on RRC

The Forgotten City (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 10/15
★★★★★
In a year of time loop narratives, The Forgotten City may end up being the one that actually sticks the landing. This is a story heavy game in the best way, with lots of fun conversations, fun puzzles, and hidden nooks and crannies. The ending is maybe a little ridiculous, but considering the story they end up telling, I’m willing to give it a pass.

Warioware: Get it Together! (Switch) – Completed on 09/24
★★★☆☆
While it was a decent co-op twist on the WarioWare formula, outside of the typical party game funny moments, I don’t feel like I was ever having a super great time with it. The value proposition just isn’t really there either, with very little to the game.

Psychonauts 2 (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 09/30
★★★★★
An all-time great game. Builds on the original, strengthening both games through great storytelling. An unbelievable series of unique worlds and creative moments. You could tell every moment of its long development was put to use. The combat could be better, but everything else is masterful.

Metroid: Zero Mission (GBA) – Completed on 10/02
★★★★☆
A much needed remake of the original game that brings it more in line with Super Metroid. I love how weird and creepy it can be. I wish it didn’t overstay its welcome with the final mission, and I wish it improved some frustrating moments (mother brain?).

Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS Emu) – Completed on 10/11
★★★☆☆
A game that wears every bit of its non-Nintendo pedigree on its sleeve. Too big, too repetitive, and often grueling, it’s a game that doesn’t know when to be restrained. The Metroid formula gets a lot of mileage here, and it’s not all bad, with a lot of great puzzles, but ultimately needed an editor.

Apsoluv: End of Gods (PS5) – Completed on 10/15
★★☆☆☆
A futuristic underground facility with viking lore is a cool concept, but Apsoluv failed to move me in any exciting way. It’s a toothless experience with some fun environments, but mostly a lame, pointless, walking sim that fails to achieve its goals.

Super Metroid (SNES Classic) – Completed on 10/19
★★★★★
An all-time classic for good reason, Super Metroid is STILL special even among other Metroid games. The non linear structure and exploration is unforgiving and deeply satisfying in a way that none of the other games can match. The atmosphere is still potent, and the minimal storytelling still lands. An absolute masterpiece (with a few annoying level designs) that stands as possibly my favorite Nintendo game now?

Metroid Fusion (GBA) – Completed on 10/23
★★★★☆
Metroid Fusion doesn’t compare to Zero Mission or Super Metroid, but it offers something different that’s enjoyable in its own way. It’s pretty linear, short, and heavy on storytelling, but it mostly works. I could have done with a little massaging of the Adam/AI story because it makes Samus seem like she’s obsessed with some dude. However, even today it works better than I expected. Also it’s great to see how all of these games connect and build on story beats.

Valfaris (Switch) – Completed on 11/07
★★★☆☆
Valfaris is an unremarkable game that I regret hyping myself up about. It’s hard, and evokes the game design and visuals of some of the grungier 16-bit games. A 12 year old me would have played this back-to-back with Robocop vs. Terminator. Today, I couldn’t even finish it. I played most of the game but I’m not feeling the drive to continue.

Metroid Dread (Switch) – Completed on 11/08
★★★★★
Mercury Steam deserves a “most improved” award for this one. Metroid Dread is easily the second best of the 2D games and may even (with time) come to be considered as good as the mega classic Super Metroid. It was a treat playing this game, even after 4 other 2D Metroids back to back.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 11/25
★★★☆☆
A solid 4/5 brought down by a consistent lack of polish. Distracting visual glitches at every turn, awkward scenes that take away from the great writing elsewhere, way too much of the simplistic combat—it all adds up to take away from a story that’s often better than the movies. This game is very close to a comic book superhero version of Mass Effect. It’s a shame it doesn’t fully live up to that.

Sable (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 12/04
★★★★☆
I seriously debated giving this a 3/5 solely based on technical issues. This game should be avoided until frame rate and basic collision issues are fixed. That said, this was a better BOTW for me, in a more interesting setting, streamlined to just the fundamentals- climbing, exploration, and puzzle solving in an intriguing world.

Call of Duty: Vanguard (PS5) – Completed on 12/13
★★★☆☆
Better than last year’s game, but still far behind Modern Warfare, Vanguard makes a strong case for a new style of COD campaign I really enjoyed. By telling the story primarily between missions, the long cutscenes broke up the action and pacing in a way that made the whole thing far more engaging and less tedious than some other entries. Still, the rewriting history aspect of COD has never been more all over the place, ultimately landing me somewhere in the middle with it.

Inscryption (PC) – Completed on 12/14
★★★★★
Inscryption is not enough of a great thing, and that’s what makes it great. While every other game is trying to force feed you an endless series of quests, Inscryption is willing to throw away excellent mechanics and move on to something new in order to surprise and delight. It does this over and over. And while you could argue that the starting hours are some of the most fun, that doesn’t take away from the rollercoaster the game eventually becomes.

Halo Infinite (Campaign) (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 12/22
★★☆☆☆
It is impossible to grade Halo Infinite’s wildly uneven campaign in the same breath as it’s seemingly excellent multiplayer, so I won’t. The open world is interesting for a bit, but falls quickly into a routine of Far Cry-esque repetition. The new equipment, particularly the grappling hook, is the star of the show here, changing up Halo combat and navigation in exciting ways. But an awkward dpad selection makes switching between them in combat a chore. The second half is a grueling slog of repeating corridors and miserable boss fights in tiny rooms. The legendary experience is pure misery.

Tetris DX (Analogue Pocket) – Completed on 12/27
★★★☆☆
I have no idea why this was ever considered a great version of Tetris. It’s not particularly feature-rich, but I’m sure the added color was nice at the time. Most importantly, though, Tetris DX has a godawful soundtrack with no option to listen to the original Tetris music. When you’re talking about a game that was already pretty much perfect, it’s all about presentation, and Tetris DX misses the mark.

Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye (Xbox Series X) – Completed on 12/28
★★★★★
What a treat to be playing new Outer Wilds content only two years after the original. Echoes of the Eye is an expansion that lives within the main game, enhancing it while also acting as something mostly standalone if you’ve already played the original. New mechanics and a horror angle make this expansion unique. Those horror moments are pretty special too. They’re scary, but there’s something to each spooky moment that makes it far more than a cheap scare. Overall, it’s just incredible to have more of this game and have it be so good.

Returnal (PS5) – Completed on 12/31
★★★★★
After rolling credits on Returnal, I started a new run almost immediately. The next day, I unlocked the “true” ending and rolled credits again. I felt fulfilled, but the next day I loaded up the game again to start going after other challenges. Returnal is so much fun to play, and so aesthetically up-my-alley, with its dark sci-fi tone and weird, opaque story. How could I not fall in love with it?

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