2021 is coming to a close, and what a year it was for video games!
Some people think this was a slow year for games, but for me, it saw the release of so many games I was looking forward to and unexpected sequels I never thought we’d see.
I played an incredible number of fantastic games, some that came out this year (and were among my most-anticipated titles) and some from years past. It was tough narrowing it down to my favorites, but here are the top 5 games I played this year!
This year’s honorable mentions go to Blue Reflection: Second Light for being an unexpected sequel that massively improved upon the original, Persona 5 Strikers for providing a fantastic Persona-like experience as a sequel story, Tales of the Abyss for being an excellent JRPG and a new favorite in the series, and Bug Fables for filling that Paper Mario void while also standing on its own.
So, which dazzling titles pushed those four into the honorable mentions category?
5. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
Graduating from last year’s list of honorable mentions is 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, the 2020 sci-fi game from Vanillaware that might be difficult to describe in terms of genre but deserves to be played for its story.
As I discussed in my review, 13 Sentinels has a complicated narrative presented in a nonlinear format with so many twists and turns that it continually took me by surprise.
The most incredible part is that despite how convoluted it might seem at first, everything comes together in the end in a way that makes sense.
Have you ever liked a science fiction story? Well, it’s probably in there somewhere as part of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim’s fascinating story. I absolutely loved it, and even though I finished it near the very start of the year, looking back at it made me realize it had to be included here.
And now for something completely different, Bloodborne also made it from last year’s honorable mentions onto this year’s list proper. In my review, I described it as a “beautiful, wonderful nightmare,” and that’s why it lives on so strongly in my thoughts.
The gothic horror aesthetic, the spiraling descent into cosmic horror, the terror of death lurking around every corner… it was a difficult experience, but an incredible one that I’m so happy I played.
Thanks to The Old Hunters, Bloodborne also introduced me to the wonder that is Ludwig’s theme, so it almost deserves a spot for that alone.
(Actually, if we were doing a ranking based on soundtracks, the next three entries might still all make the list.)
3. NEO: The World Ends With You
Coming into this year, my most-anticipated game of 2021 was NEO: The World Ends With You, the long-awaited sequel to one of my favorite JRPGs.
I was still reeling from the shock that we were actually getting a sequel to The World Ends With You. Actually, I still can’t believe it. Did this year really happen??
Any worries I might have had about NEO were quickly banished once I started playing. As I said in my review, it truly feels like a TWEWY game, and while it might not hit the same highs as the original, it’s still a fantastic game all around.
The soundtrack is wonderful, with so many varied tracks that won me over as I played. One of my favorites is Insomnia, but the soundtrack has such a range beyond that!
With a solid story and a great cast, it gave me everything I wanted from a TWEWY sequel. I can easily say NEO: The World Ends With You is my favorite RPG of 2021, and I hope more people will give it a try.
2. The House in Fata Morgana
Only a year ago, I had no idea how incredible The House in Fata Morgana was. Now it’s among my all-time favorite visual novels. This story brings more gothic tragedy onto this list with its tale of a strange mansion… and many, many things that I can’t write here due to spoilers.
It’s dark, tragic, emotional, beautiful, and wonderful. I mentioned back in my review that it’s a slow burn and takes a while to reveal what its true story is, but it’s well worth putting in the time to read it.
The characters, their tragedies, the way the story unfolds… it’s incredible.
There is no way to express how much I loved this story, aside from its prominent position on this list. The House in Fata Morgana is absolutely wonderful and needs to be experienced by more people.
It also has an exceptional soundtrack, but if I attempted to link my favorite songs as I did with Bloodborne and NEO, I would simply be here all day, linking to every song on the soundtrack.
So what could possibly beat out such an amazing story for my #1 spot? Okay, it’s no mystery; if you’ve crossed paths with me at all over the past couple of weeks, my #1 pick was probably a foregone conclusion…
1. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
Are you telling me that we not only got a TWEWY sequel this year, but we also got an official Dai Gyakuten Saiban localization? YES WE DID! (On the same day, no less!) The official announcement of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles made me scream for joy, but would it live up to my hype???
(Its placement on this list should answer that.)
Maybe I had some mixed feelings at first, as my review of The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures will show that while I loved parts of it, it had odd pacing and was clearly a setup for its sequel. But even with a weaker first half, Chronicles hurtled to the top of this list once I played the second half.
You can read more of my thoughts on The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve in my review, but I’ll say again that it might be my new favorite game in the series.
Has Trials & Tribulations been dethroned after all these years? Distancing myself from the immediate aftermath of finishing Resolve might help me decide, but right now I’d say yes.
In fact, the more I think about Resolve, the more I love it. My thoughts right after finishing were mainly related to twists and turns and character arcs, but taking the time to think about it and read other fans’ comments made me fall even more in love with the story’s themes, parallels, and other little details.
So with Resolve proving to be so amazing, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles easily claimed the top spot as my #1 top game I played this year.
…It also has an exceptional soundtrack, but if I attempted to link my favorite songs as I did with Bloodborne and NEO, I would be unable to do so without spoilers.
What a year for games… and there are so many more excellent games I played this year that didn’t make the list (like Psychonauts 2 and Tales of Arise). Despite my comment last year, neither Yakuza game I played this year made it onto my list. I considered including Yakuza 3, but I guess ultimately I just like [REDACTED] better than [REDACTED].
(You can fill in whatever spoiler names you want, because my actual thought process when I wrote that sentence was dubious.)
Will next year’s games be just as exciting as these? I find it hard to believe, but come back tomorrow to see what 2022 games I’m looking forward to the most! What are the best games that you played this year?---
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