2021 has been another extremely unusual year, so hopefully it’s a bit of a treat to end it in our usual way – with the top fifty games of the last twelve months, as chosen by you.
50. Days Gone (PC)
What we said: “I wasn’t expecting Days Gone to add anything new to the genre, but both in terms of its systems and its story it’s uninspired, which is driven home by the fact that it’s endlessly, needlessly long. I’m begging you, haven’t we done this enough?”
Played this one first on PS4, but it was buggy and didn’t grab my attention,” says Aivoke. Then the game came to PC. “Installed, started the game and focused giving it a new chance. I was so happy that I did! Loved the story and setting. This really is a lost gem and everybody should give it a second chance.”
“Such an underrated gem!” says Mkreku.
49. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
What we said: “The Great Ace Attorney chronicles is a lovely bundle which, like many a spinoff, suffers from not being quite as great as the original you immediately compare it to. Regardless, there is so much to love here: it tries some new things setting- and gameplay-wise, it makes enjoyable references and I just consistently enjoy Shu Takumi’s writing no matter what he puts out. The historical setting could prove to be a bit of niche interest to many, but rather than contort myself and tell you that this is just like the Ace Attorney you know and love, or call it a prequel, or a great way to start with the series, which it isn’t, I’d rather give it to you straight and say – do you love a good period drama? Have at it.”
“A blast from the past. I haven’t played a visual novel style game in a long…” says Cristoflanga. Maybe he’ll come back next year and say “…time”, and an excellent joke will be complete.
48. The Ascent
What we said: “The Ascent teems. Its tiered alien megacity is one of the liveliest cyberpunk settings I’ve explored, always crawling with people and machines, whether you’re massacring mutants in the sewers or gazing out from a boardroom window. Admittedly, it also teems with cliches and callouts to the usual canonical works: William Gibson’s phrase “high tech, low life”, which flickers on displays throughout like a sorcerer’s incantation; Blade Runner’s flourescent umbrella handles and melancholy synth score; pirouetting holostrippers from any number of seedy sci-fi saloons; an Oriental faction who worship honour and wield katanas. This is not one of your transgressive, norm-busting punk fictions – even Ruiner, its closest cousin, is a bolt from the blue by comparison. But what The Ascent’s world lacks in imagination and bite it almost makes up for in scale and an exhaustive, toymaker’s commitment to the fine details.”
Lets give this to PixelCloth. “It had some bugs, but I was sucked in by the atmosphere and excellent soundtrack.”
“Diablo 3. Only with guns,” says Davet010.
47. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (PS5, Xbox Series)
What we said: “When I reached the end of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, I didn’t feel like I’d had a rewarding experience. I was relieved it was over. With some side-meandering, it took around 30 hours, and I didn’t enjoy a lot of them. I’ll admit crunching a Souls-like in less than four days is an unnatural and gruelling experience: I imagine if I’d played Fallen Order over several months, I would have been less frustrated, but probably still bored. It’s such a shame, as Fallen Order has an incredible gameplay experience at its core, with fantastic environments and well-directed action sequences. Yet it’s unable to sustain this thanks to some fundamental design problems.”
Couldn’t find any comments on this one. But maybe that was a Jedi mind trick?
46. Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker
What we said: “If I could say one thing that defines Endwalker, it’s that life, through all its hardships and joys, has meaning. Despite all our troubles and hard times throughout the course of our lifetimes, there are still moments where we find happiness with those around us and the memories we make along the way. Like the unnamed soldier had said, it’s the little things that make life worth living, and I can certainly say that Final Fantasy 14 was one of those things that came into my life when I needed it most.”
Gonna let Dysisa run long on this one. “Hard to even begin to describe how amazingly satisfying it was to see the conclusion to this story that’s been going for nearly 10 years now. So many callbacks and nods to all sorts of things from the past, all building to this very wonderful ending. Add onto this that they’ve somehow once again outdone themselves with the music and the dungeons.
“Best way to put it I suppose would be that it made me really and truly feel like the nearly 3000 hours I’ve put into the game at this point were all entirely worth it.”
45. Persona 5 Strikers
What we said: “There’s a whole lot of good here that easily balances out the bad if you’re already a fan of Persona 5, and I’m pretty sure that if P-Studio made approximately 5 more sequels we would eventually arrive at the perfect version of Persona 5. There’s just always so much of everything, from plot strands to enemies to fight and food to eat, that I had a great time while simultaneously feeling pretty exhausted by it all. Though that’s just videogames for you.”
“There’s been many excellent sequels to long running Japanese series this year: MonHun, NEO-TWEWY, Ace Attorney,” says Meho. “But Persona 5 getting a proper sequel is not something I ever expected. This is not a mere Musou game.”
44. Far Cry 6
What we said: “But, as much fun as noodling around Far Cry 6’s world is, it’s probably wise to bear in mind the words of Far Cry 3’s Vaas when he attempted to explain the definition of insanity. “Insanity”, he said “is doing the exact same fucking thing, over and over again, expecting shit to change.”, and I’d say that statement rings true here, because, beyond the slide towards one-man army protagonists, shit has definitely not changed. If you were looking for a sequel that would shake up the series and bring about a gameplay revolution, you’re going to be disappointed, but if you enjoy that classic Far Cry collect-em-up grind and simply want a brand new sandbox to explore and explode, you’re going to be far from bored with all that Yara has to offer.”
“It’s Far Cry, doing what Far Cry does. Not the best in the series, but it keeps me playing into the small hours,” says TheRelic, which is hopefully a reference to the cracking Lincoln Preston Pendergast novel.
Simon893 loved it. “The best Far Cry has been for a long time. Dani was a great character and a welcome move away from the silent protagonists of recent games in the series.”
Developer: Nightdive Studios, iD Software and Machinegames
What we said: Nothing!
“My love of video games really only began with Quake,” says MARATXXX, which is a lovely thing to read..
Rhodos: “Not exactly a stellar year was it. The only game on the list I’ve played is Quake.” Play Toem, Rhodos. It rules!
42. Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous
What we said: We didn’t review it!
“You might finish it. But I doubt it,” says Davet010.
“Enjoyable romp,” says DarkBytes. You Pathfinder fans keep it brief!
41. Subnautica: Below Zero
What we said: “Perhaps most exciting of all, however, is the arrival of the original Subnautica’s extreme-pressure PRAWN Suit, enabling explorers to dive deeper than previously possible in Below Zero. Those eager to slip inside its welcoming frame should make their way over to Arctic Living’s final addition: the brand-new abandoned Alterra Mining Site biome.”
Lin has opinions. “A perfect survival game, a perfect crafting game, a perfect open world and a perfect story, Subnautica is an endless source of wonder, and the game we all keep saying we want.”
Time to bring out Dave. “When we set a scale from 0 to -10 where 0 is 10, then Subnautica is 0 and Subnautica: Below Zero is somewhere ehm… below 0. So not as good as Subnautica. But still better than all those other games.” Dave had a PowerPoint deck too, but we couldn’t paste it in here.
40. The Artful Escape
What we said: “Ultimately you’re watching a performance as much as giving one, and for a game this sly and playful, I can live with that. This is a rush, a conceit, a virtuoso doodle. It’s a gas. It’s a lark.”
“One of the deepest games ever written, I could play this for the next decade without getting bored.” Testify, BellyFullOfHell!
“Still playing this every night even though I kinda hate it,” adds Flippyfloop, enigmatically.
These comments were actually left over from last year’s game number 40 – but what was it?!
39. Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade (PS5)
What we said: “All round there’s a lot to love in Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade. A year on from the PS4 release, Square Enix clearly had a mission to fix, upgrade, and enhance the original project in every way it could – and in almost every case it pays off handsomely. Frame-rates across both its 4K mode, and the 60fps mode are faultless. The improved textures, lighting and volumetric effects also give a satisfying update over the PS4 original, while loading times are substantially improved. The photo mode is an inspired extra, while you even get PS5 features like adaptive triggers used for the motorbike racing missions. All this combined, and especially with the new Intermission DLC, there’s enough here to justify a replay. Put simply, this upgrade is an absolute success – one of my favourite games of the last generation has transitioned beautifully to PlayStation 5 and I highly recommend it to FF7R players old and new.”
Torhal was won over: “I haven’t played the original release, however, found myself enjoying FF7R tremendously. I am curious to see where the story will take us in episode 2.”
“I was blown away by the original, but at 60hz on PS5, maaan,” says Willowside9.”
38. Age of Empires 4
What we said: “It’s those little nuances, too, that set AoE 4 apart, giving it that lovely vein of hidden depth to be mined from beneath the initial simplicity, the fabled “easy to learn, not just difficult but nigh on impossible to master” tag that’s always been such a holy grail for games in this genre. A week or so with it and I can feel those old, familiar tendrils of strategic curiosity wrap around me, drawing me in with an urge to improve, to develop, to economise, to learn. It’s wonderfully appropriate, and really, in a way, what this game is all about. Through its canny tutorials, docu-series campaigns and bottomless well of multiplayer depth, Age of Empires 4 wants nothing more than to simply teach, and I am nothing less than delighted to return to my role as its student.”
“Great return for the OG RTS,” says Mrsyms.
“Even RTS fans have found quality arriving their way,” says Art3m15, who, with that name, is probably a protocol droid of some kind? “Despite some technical hic-ups at launch this game had respectfully honoured earlier titles in the series and brought their style of gameplay to the fore. Respectful yes, but married to an updated engine that delivers one of the finest strategy titles you can buy.” Sounds excellent!
37. The Forgotten City
What we said: “The Forgotten City began life as a Skyrim mod, I gather, and you can still see a bit of that in the way you move, the way the camera zooms in on the face of whoever you’re currently talking to, the way rocks and trees are drawn and the way light falls. It feels like a mod in the best way, too – something ingenious and free-flowing, bursting out of a private obsession and interacting with players until it’s formed this lovely, singular thing. I don’t know which ending you’ll get or what you’ll take away from it – for me, the whole thing was not about morality so much as it was about the way that successive eras have struggled with morality’s contradictions, until the whole thing is piled up like a pousse-café – but I know you should play it. It’s fascinating and generous. It’s spooky and weird and thrilling and audacious.”
This game is properly fantastic, and RealStyli has it down perfectly: “I never played the original mod for Skyrim but I’ve always loved timeloop games, especially ones with mysteries to unravel. The Forgotten City was a delight from beginning to end and I was genuinely invested in the story and the characters.”
“I will not forget,” says Bumeggs. And I will not forget we have a reader called Bumeggs.
36. Back 4 Blood
What we said: “It’s almost there, basically. Almost really quite special. But in falling just short of that Back 4 Blood is still a wonderful, messy treat of a game. Considering it got there by effectively slapping a progression system on a widely-adored, cult-favourite series that might be best described as the video game equivalent to a bong, that’s quite an achievement, too.”
“It doesn’t do anything new but it does what it does really well,” says Paul_ynwa. “One of the better games for playing with complete strangers and suddenly finding yourself being a team. “
Return of Jafar: “While initially looking just like a Left 4 Dead clone there’s a lot to like here in the deck system, adding longevity to the game as you experiment with builds and synergies with your teammates. “
35. Lost Judgment
What we said: “Away from the stilted melodrama, Lost Judgment still has that special spark – there are nerdy tales about the second hand game market, missing game directors, held together by elastic combat and skateboarding with a soundtrack that lets you know RGG misses Jet Set Radio as much as anyone. And this remains a fascinating series, as close to video games have got to the golden age of studio cinema – the same sets being redressed with different actors, different characters and directors and then different mechanics, genres and then all those other silly little details that make a video game. Like its predecessors, Lost Judgment offers a sense of place and atmosphere that begs to be drunk in – plus a story that too often leaves a nasty taste.”
“Yakuza games are everything great about video games,” says Moonpatrol, and we will not top that, so let’s move on.
34. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
What we said: “Bugs aside, there’s a lot here that Eidos can be proud of, but those things are hard to find amongst an oversaturation of gameplay systems and mechanics, and uninspired combat. As much as I enjoyed the game’s stunning set-pieces and thoughtful storyline – not to mention the prerequisite post-credits (and post-post-credits) scenes – unlocking the full complement of your pals’ sparring skillsets and getting to the end of Guardians of the Galaxy feels like an unmitigated slog when you’re fighting an endless sea of tanky, bullet-spongey Centurions. And I still can’t quite understand why a game that relies so heavily on cooperative play offers no co-op option at all.”
Hey! It’s Navi! “A genuine surprise to find a beautiful, funny, well crafted single player game like this.”
What we said: “I said I loved how Inscryption played with expectations, and I do, but there’s something else I love about it too. It’s the game’s confidence. You can feel an assuredness of touch and a strength flowing through the ideas in Inscryption, and they combine to deliver such a wallop of an impression it’s hard to stop thinking about it. It’s no wonder developer Daniel Mullins has already cultivated an eager following for the equally strange (and potentially related?) games Pony Island and The Hex. Inscryption is a wonderful nightmare, and it plays a vividly memorable game of cards.”
Zipparo is on board with this. “An extraordinary opening act that could have been the whole game in my book. A remarkable mergence of ccg and story.”
“This one was an equivalent of an earworm. Like that one time I heard Rocketman’s lyrics being sung by Dua Lipa this year and couldn’t get it out of my head, Inscryption continued to burrow its way into my neurons with every successive click I made. What a gem. I’d buy it again on Switch!” That’s FirLocke. (That Dua Lipa song is great too.)
What we said: “What unites these stories is consequence and possibility: the chain of “buts” and “therefore” never ends. Like a good DM, Wildermyth understands that big choices should lead to an unexpected twist and more story, rather than the end of a story. Wildermyth flows.”
WHAT A GAME.
Cor. Lots of votes but not many comments for this one. Just play it!
31. A Plague Tale: Innocence (Switch, PS5, Xbox Series)
What we said: “The great shock of Plague Tale is that on some level, it’s a Gears of War game. The more obvious comparison is The Last of Us, another poignant, apocalyptic escapade in which an older character guides a more innocent soul whose blood is touched by destiny, but in practice, and for all the absence of chainsaws, it’s often Epic’s game that comes to mind. It’s there in the tanky handling, with characters swivelling ponderously as though secretly many times their own size. It’s there in the sense of a historical backdrop (the Sera of Gears is a pastiche of familiar architectural traditions) being softly consumed by the supernatural: the darkness alive with eyeshine, the twisted, bony black rot the rats leave behind them, the alchemical motifs that gradually become the plot’s crucible. But above all, it’s a question of framing. As in Gears, you spend most chapters wending your way towards some distant landmark, a brooding structure such as a windmill that is teed up for you with a context-sensitive look command, then tugged into and out of view by the intervening geography. It lends each stage of Amicia and Hugo’s journey a powerful inexorability, for all the trail-and-error process of bamboozling soldiers – as though you were being drawn through its world by gravity towards a procession of massive objects. It’s worth giving into the pull. Just don’t forget to look for the flowers.”
mha71 was delighted. “Surprised me with its sheer brilliance – and I’ve never heard a videogame speak French to me before…” Mon dieu!
30. Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye
What we said: “The worst thing about Outer Wilds’s first expansion, from my perspective, is that there won’t be another one. Which is also, of course, the expansion’s best quality, because the last thing I want for this game is anything like the endless, itemisable sprawl of a No Man’s Sky. The moral of both the original story and the expansion is that at some point you have to say goodbye – and as goodbyes go, this is one for the ages.”
“Is it even fair to have DLC as game of the year?” asks Malek86, bringing the rhetoric. “I guess it doesn’t matter when said DLC is this good. Just like the main game, the less you know about it, the better.”
“Simply stunning,” says Big_Game_8369.
29. Crusader Kings 3
What we said: We haven’t reviewed it!
Zephro has though: “Just continues all the excellent work of CK2, the 3d portraits actually add a remarkable amount of character to the game, though it could do with being made a bit harder. Some of the bloodlines mechanics are very gameable.”
28. Shin Megami Tensei 5
What we said: “Because this is an RPG that hasn’t fallen far from its 1987 original, as hard-edged, dark and strange as the first-person Famicom dungeon crawler that started it all. It’s permeated with the same dank ambience, and fuelled by the same deep, deep mechanics, a vision of hell that’s absolutely heavenly for hardcore RPG lovers. As a relative newcomer to the series, it’s been an education, and more often than not a delight. Maybe that Edge review really was on to something – when you can talk to the monsters, it turns out pretty special things can happen.”
Moonpatrol is back! “Captures the feeling of isolation and anticipation that all good dungeon crawlers have, minus the corridors. Tremendously atmospheric and rewarding in equal measure.”
Kakoro was equally satisfied: “Great continuation of the series, fantastic gameplay and visuals. Great way to keep turn-base system fresh and enjoyable.”
27. Life is Strange: True Colors
What we said: “As its story began to wrap up, I was left feeling a pang of sadness that my time with True Colors’ characters was coming to an end. After four years of waiting to see what Deck Nine did next, gorging this beautiful game in two five-hour sittings felt almost wasteful, and it’s here I felt both the upsides and downsides to the series’ switch from an episodic release schedule. Logistically, I’m sure releasing in one go is the easiest route, and Life is Strange 2’s 14-month launch window was clearly far too long to sustain everyone’s interest. Still, I felt sad that True Colors’ brilliant characters and their ongoing problems wouldn’t live unfinished in my head for longer, buoyed up by the joy of dissecting and theorising what might come next, a month or two down the line. In this, perhaps, I can sympathise with Alex – accepting of something precious, and treasuring it while it lasted.”
“A great cast, setting and soundtrack make this one of the best entries in the Life is Strange series,” says Ryuke. “Being able to play every episode at launch was a welcome change, and the story built up alongside Alex’s personal developments very well. Yes the ending might have fallen a bit flat, but the journey there was relaxing, enjoyable, emotional, heartwarming, funny, stressful, and everything Life is Strange should be.”
“Just a lovely, lovely experience,” says Doctorgonzo.
26. Tales of Arise
What we said: “Tales of Arise rides the high of a brilliant battle system and a charismatic supporting cast. It’s not always the smoothest ride, especially when the back half of Bandai Namco’s game stumbles into interplanetary affairs and storytelling that goes for something a little more grandiose, but the combination of compelling characters and a plot that’ll genuinely get you rooting for everyone involved is a sublime match.”
I hope JayG is honest this year.
“Have to be honest and say I spent 25 hours randomly pressing a button hoping that something cool would happen. Kind of like a fun version of Dragon Age 2 with decent characters to team up with. Did take 8 hours before I realised I could use a potion.”
YOU CAN USE POTIONS?!
What we said: “Unpacking has also shown me, perhaps unwittingly so, how much our status and our belongings, as well as how these belongings are designed, speak for us as people, and that connotation isn’t always positive. But it’s also a game that allows for personal expression and finding fun in what’s literally just stuff – whether you proudly display the stuffed animals in an adult’s home or hide them away, whether you like to stack books according to matching spines. The resulting home is a small diorama of a life, ready to be treated almost like art thanks to Unpacking’s photo mode. This tidy exploration of a home had me yearning for a future I can’t see for myself, no matter how much I want it, but I do think a fancy loo roll holder is on the cards.”
Logicub was moved. (Pun not intended but duly noted after I typed it.) “Some of the finest storytelling I’ve seen in gaming, I’m still amazed at how attached I became to a character that I never even met.”
What we said: “More importantly, hygge is about sharing that sense of comfort with friends. Maybe this is why Valheim, with its emphasis on small-scale co-operation on servers of up to 10 players, has appealed to so many during the cold winter months, when people are searching for ways to get closer to friends. Valheim’s about battling monsters and venturing into the unknown, but at the end of each day you return to a place of security and warmth – a place you’ve created together. Well, unless you’ve all gotten lost in the Black Forest.”
“I still can’t comprehend this was made by a team of 5 guys,” says Lad_Umboros. “I hope they’re enjoying bathing in all the money they made.”
IngBad has cracked it. “In hindsight, it’s annoyingly obvious how popular this would be – Vikings, PS1 style graphics, MMO base building with healthy lashings of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. OF COURSE it was going to be huge, why didn’t I think of it first!
“The perfect pandemic game, everything we could no longer do was here – Eat and drink heartily with friends, get back to nature (by hacking down every tree in sight), travel to distant lands, bash massive monsters into bits. The things Valheim does better than other MMOs are subtle (and mostly stolen from Zelda:BOTW) but it all comes together into this fantastic village building/farming/brewery running/beard growing simulator. All the best people pronounce it VAL-HEEEEM!”
23. Death Stranding Director’s Cut
What we said: “As the credits roll on Death Stranding, heavy with unearned pathos, the impression you’re left with is of a self-congratulatory monument to the ego of a creator who is high on his own supply. Has Kojima always been this full of it? Maybe. But then you return to the game proper, select a humble delivery order, lace up your boots and plan another reckoning with those unforgettable, haunted moors. And you realise that this game has got under your skin in a way few do.”
“Hideo Kojima is nuts, but man he makes great games!” That feels definitive, mha71.
22. Kena: Bridge of Spirits
What we said: “To me, Kena: Bridge of Spirits very much has first game syndrome – something with all the right ideas, weakened by their execution. If it does well – and given the fever with which it’s been followed leading up to its release, I expect it will – it’ll be because we often value AAA looks and mechanics more highly than attempts at innovation. I’m sure with this foundation Ember Lab has a great game in it, but this isn’t it just yet.”
“Beautiful game,” says Robertfulton.
Darren also digs it. “Despite some negativity in the build up to this game’s release, it was a real surprise for me and a game that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish even if nothing about the game is original or ground-breaking.”
21. Control: Ultimate Edition (PS5, Xbox Series)
What we said: “The Oldest House is a knife-edge construction, in other words. Its scope is the scope of myth, but its detailing speaks to the homely old 9-5 toil of an earlier generation, walls of punch cards and rows of desks, elevators, as the poet said, to drop us from our day. It’s spooky even before it starts to change. But the more you push forward, the more the world begins to shift and recalibrate itself around you.”
“Interesting story,” says JWT.
20. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
What we said: “It’s the heady energy at the heart of every Super Mario 3D World level, pushed out across an entire map for what’s a hugely entertaining, and very different brand of Mario action. There might be more polished Mario adventures around, and more coherent ones. But when it gets to the core of what makes these games so special – the inventiveness, the imagination and the eccentricity of it all – then this new pairing might well be peerless.”
PixelCloth again: “Having already played the first one on Wii u this was a no brainer. Little did I know just awesome Bowser’s fury would turn out to be.” It really is special!
Now it’s M_P_FREE’s turn: “The only game on the list I’ve played this year. Is it the best game? Almost certainly not, but it is classic Mario with the breath of fresh air that is Bowser’s Fury.” Play Toem! You’ll really like it!
19. Monster Hunter Rise
What we said: “It’s all enough to make me believe that this really might be the Monster Hunter for all.”
Avaloner – great, now we’ll be humming Bryan Ferry all day – says: “Without a doubt the best Monster Hunter yet. Proof that gameplay trumps graphics every time. Could have done with better post launch content but I’m too busy wearing carcasses to complain.” (Another Ferry reference there?)
18. Yakuza: Like a Dragon
What we said: “Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a good game – sometimes it’s okay, sometimes it’s great, sometimes it made me groan. It runs the full gamut of emotions, from boredom to disbelief. The will to reinvent itself is there, and that means not everything works – whether you’ll enjoy it or not depends on what aspects you care about the most.”
“Loved the change to RPG for the Yakuza series,” says GTJacket79.
Gintoki closes: “Love this series, it may be a new protagonist and style of combat, but it is the same beloved insane sense of humor.”
17. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Yep, this is in the list twice. Good for you, Eidos Montreal!
16. Microsoft Flight Sim Xbox
What we said: “There’s work to be done – and thanks to this version receiving future updates alongside the PC version, work that’s already well underway – and you might want to temper expectations before heading in. Perhaps most importantly, though, this is Microsoft Flight Simulator on console in all its glory and occasional clunkiness, and with that sense of splendour and wonder unsullied by the small imperfections along the way. It remains one of the most breathtaking videogame achievements in recent years, and on console one of the most incredible next-gen experiences to date.”
RorschachCCCLX weighs in: “Like most people I share this planet with, I lack the funds and lands to own and operate personal fleet of airplanes. Lucky for me, the latest incarnation of Microsoft Flight Simulator does a pretty good job replicating what that would be like.”
“Probably the most ambitious bit of software I’ve played in a long time, and not even a game really,” says Merf (and the Magic Tones). “It’s somehow quite moving as you create your own experiences and take in the whole planet.”
15. Death’s Door
What we said: “How warm and funny and sad. How textured. And how fun! It is absolutely unmissable.”
TC perfectly sums up the brilliant atmosphere: “Where did THIS come from?”
“Such a treat. Visuals, music, story and gameplay combine perfectly. On my second play through on Switch. Definitely ESSENTIAL!” GoingCommando there. And that’s still too much information, cheers.
14. Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut
What we said: “It’s desperately frustrating, because I maintain that Ghost of Tsushima is still, largely, quite fun. The problem is it’s an easy, breezy, lite beer kind of fun – the kind that Sucker Punch is known for, after all – and the blanket genericism of it just doesn’t sit well against such a po-faced tone.”
I feel almost guilty picking this because so few people will be able to play it,” says marmaduke, “but it really is everything you could want from VR. It’s immersive in a way that nothing else has been; it’s terrifying, it’s frantic, it’s beautiful. It’s even genuinely funny. Nothing else this year has been able to compete with it, and I suspect it’ll be a long time before anything does.”
This is from last year’s 14 – Half-Life: Alyx. Leaving it here as a reminder that last year we got a freakin Half-Life game!!
Anyway: Ghost. “I played my way through the original GoT on PS4 last year and it became one of my favourite games of the generation. I was adamant I wasn’t going to spend another £25 on a glorified PS5 upgrade as I felt I was done with the game. But after a beer or two and on a whim, I flaked and got it. I’m so glad I did!!! The visuals and the DualSense haptics alone are totally worth the money, and Iki Island is a great expansion to the story. I’m now well on my way to the Platinum and determined to get it.” That’s the Buggs verdict.
13. Hitman 3
What we said: “All the same, there is something very hopeful about Hitman, an optimism that somehow coexists with its air of absurdity.”
2much (2soon!) says: “Hitman 3 comes with the caveat that really this is when you include the maps from all three games, and mechanics that have merely been tweaked over the course of the trilogy, but man, what a wonderful thing that exists. A game so fun I can ignore its often frustrating always online requirement. Aside from the gameplay, the story has a sort of BBC interpol drama aesthetic that you rarely if ever see in games and I found that really refreshing.” Miss you, 2much!
12. Mass Effect: Legendary Edition
What we said: We didn’t review it! Or at least I can’t find it. But I’m sure Tom wrote something good about it!
“A chance to play through my favorite story of all time again without fighting through endless mods to make it look good? Sign me up!” That’s Sixtoe.
And here’s Commander Tiel: “Replaying these games reminded me of what stone-cold classics they were in the first place. “
11. It Takes Two
What we said: “If you can swat the story away to the background, and consider it a slightly ill-chosen set-up for an adventure, then there’s a lot about It Takes Two to enjoy. This is a rare kind of co-op experience, with an energy and imagination and playfulness that sometimes rivals Nintendo’s. As a toy, it can be a joy, and it will create some co-op moments to remember.”
Tiel AGAIN: “Reminded me of the most joyful gaming moments fo my whole life.”
“A genuinely charming, beautifully written, stunningly gorgeous co-op game that pretty much ANYONE can pick up and play,” says Cheeky_Caboose. “The gameplay loop feels designed to perfection, with each new setting lasting just enough time to wring every last laugh from the player before moving on before boredom sets in. The levels themselves are genuinely gobsmacking in their intricacy and detail, and you’re never doing the same puzzle twice. Plus it’s a surprisingly long game, lasting beyond the 10-15 hour mark.
10. Hades (PlayStation, Xbox)
What we said: “This game comes from Hell, and it takes you back there, and it’s brilliant. Get in.”
Can you say anything else about Hades these days? Tosdevino can! “A real highlight in the roguelite genre with impeccable gameplay, an addictive loop and a clever use of storytelling.”
9. Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
What we said: “So while full voice acting may seem like a token addition on paper, in practice it has a big effect.”
“It’s Disco Elysium, but now in 60 fps on console and you can listen to the new voice of Cuno and how he still doesn’t f***ing care so what else do you need?” says Solegor.
Art3m15: “A truly incredible achievement in RPGs and I’m not going to reveal anything about that achievement here since I want those of you who haven’t played this title to do exactly that.”
Get to it!
8. Resident Evil Village
What we said: “And for all these flaws, Resident Evil Village was a thrilling adventure that kept me hooked from beginning to end, despite its jarring twists and turns. But the delightful level design isn’t enough to mitigate a strange, unsatisfying, plothole-ridden story, and that bizarre final act ultimately sullies what is an otherwise terrifyingly good horror romp.”
“A beautifully crafted, tightly edited rollercoaster ride that stays true to Resident Evil whilst making the format feel relevant all over again. Once I’d picked up the joypad I simply couldn’t stop. The game is arguably too short but it keeps you firmly within its grip for the entirety of its play time. Stunning stuff,” says Judo.
“A new mainline Resi is the very definition of ‘event gaming’ and I’m happy to say the continuation of the story of Ethan Winters did not disappoint. A rollicking gothic horror thrill ride from start to finish – roll on the DLC!” Karlsavage is very happy.
7. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
What we said: “It’s just pure craft, pure fun, pure video games – all the brilliant, bizarre ideas this studio has just thrown at the wall and all of them sticking. The only thing it lacks – apart from maybe a tiny bit of restraint – is pretence. There’s no self-seriousness, no po-faced melodrama, no insecurity about the form. A game that’s happy to be a game, in a familiar, cuddly shape.”
Douggregg gets right to it: “Really great showcase of the PS5’s capabilities and lots of fun.”
Now Robbiejc85: “One thing I didn’t expect to write this year: Ratchet and Clank might teach Tim Schaefer a thing or two about how to pace and write a narrative-driven action platformer. Aside from Insominac’s peerless tech and crunchy, accessible action, it’s the heart, writing and the memorable new faces that elevate Ratchet and Clank beyond the Double Fine’s – often unfocussed – opus, for my money.”
What we said: “Appropriately for a game about time travel, Deathloop can be read as a game both for newcomers and old hands – an accessible introduction to Arkane’s grittier immersive sims, or a triumphant refinement of the Dishonored style.”
Thomasdavidowen has this one: “Even though it is told through first-person, Deathloop felt as though it was doing something new. Yes there are elements of many other games, but the unique world and storytelling helped it stand out and indeed above its contemporaries.”
“I would’ve played Deathloop to death if I had gotten my hands on a PS5. Since I didn’t want to hold that against the next Arkane game, I’ve chosen it as one of my favourite yet to play games of this year.” Now that’s being a fan, Dave.
And, as jonbwfc adds: “Tom Nook can do one though.” (This is from last year’s number 6 but it feels timeless.)
What we said: “It is full of real, bona fide video game magic, but with each death it becomes less special, more mundane, and this is why it feels so difficult to pick up the controller again, why Returnal feels like it doesn’t want to be played. But the magic it does have is transcendent. And so I do still want to play it – whether Returnal likes it or not.”
“There’s few games that made me feel so unwelcome as Returnal, yet it plays so well that I couldn’t keep stop coming back. I also enjoyed how Housemarque transformed their trademark bullet hell gameplay into a more intimate and frightening experience. ” That’s Indy, who belongs in a museum.
“Housemarque are the masters of arcade gameplay and this is their masterpiece,” says Kangoo. “The controls are so perfect and precise, no game has ever played as well as this. Throw in the best sound design as well and this is something special. This will probably never get the recognition it deserves but for me, this isn’t just goty but easily top 10 of all time.
4. Psychonauts 2
What we said: “For me, watching Double Fine pick its way through this messy web of cliché and insight, imperfectly translating very complex phenomena into architecture, opponents and abilities, is part of the appeal.”
“Everything that the (excellent) original did slightly not great, Psychonauts 2 fixes. This is an amazing sequel to an already fantastic game, plus you can pet a goat WITH YOUR MIND!” That’s the verdict from Ankles, who is now tied with MrFlay for my favourite username. What’s that about goats now?
“A tall order to follow up a classic after such a long time but one that didn’t disappoint,” says VandalHandle, which is another strong name!
3. Halo Infinite
What we said: “And, if nothing else, you can always rely on that golden triangle – Master Chief and his gun, grenade and Gravity Hammer – this time on your own terms, the best it’s been in a decade.”
“Halo is back baby!” says Superiorcale. “Master Chief, the banished, arena battles, open-world Halo, Banshees and Warthogs and brutes. What more could you ask for! Oh yeah, FTP multiplayer, grappling hooks – this game retains all the classic Halo gameplay we love and shakes it up just enough to keep it fresh.”
Soylent_Teal had fun: “343 outdid themselves. Traditionally I’m not the biggest Halo fan but this is the game that won me over. The combat is excellent and the AI is challenging. Open world done right, Ubisoft take notes!”
“I had held off from voting till I had played Halo. Only done about 10 hours, but this is genuinely the most fun I have had in Halo since CE. It’s taken of my fav levels in the Silent Cartographer and turned it into a game and I’m all here for it. The high values targets are great additions and require different tactics to take down.” That’s from thesnowman. Do stay away from the Xbox vents when playing, m8.
2. Metroid Dread
What we said: “This is a modern Metroid, a 2D adventure delivered with triple-A panache, yet one that retains the grace and poise that’s always marked the highlights of this series, and marked it out from its many imitators. How blessed we are to have Samus properly back, and what a marvel it is to be reminded how special Metroid can be. The wait, I’m delighted to say, was somehow worth it.”
“I’ve never really gelled with 2D Metroid games before,” says Sheikah. “I know, it’s almost sacrilege to say that, but something about this game clicked with me; the game felt a joy to play. If I had to put my finger on it I think the increased speed of progression, particularly by being able to counter to storm through levels, made this much more enjoyable to play through. E.M.M.I.s were also a really great addition, I thought. Is there anything more satisfying than blasting the face off one of those belligerent E.M.M.I.s?”
“Distilled, taught, propulsive,” says MrZappa. “A pure shot of particularly Nintendo magic.
Rogersanbr: “An intense game very well crafted. The gameplay is precise and the level of difficulty was perfect to me. The story was surprising and the art direction really cool.”
Let’s let Specialgamer sum it up. “Somehow manages to be as exciting as an action movie, scary as a horror movie and intricately designed as a recent Christopher Nolan movie.” You had us up until the last bit there.
1. Forza Horizon 5
What we said: “It is familiar in the best sense of the word: comforting, personable, tailored to you, welcoming to all. It’s a dependable joy.”
“The latest and greatest iteration of a series that is never less than spectacular, fast paced fun, Forza 5 uses Mexico to great effect in creating a playground that is all too easy to lose many, many hours living out your personal petrol-head fantasies in – joyous.” That’s SomethingOriginal’s take.
“Playground Games have really mastered their craft.,” declares Richyroo.
McPhisto74: “The reason I decided to get back into the Xbox ecosystem and buy a series S after I sold my 360 8 years ago (the other being wanting to play the Gears series again). Everything I read and saw about FH5 made me wanna play it. The scale of the world, the graphical fidelity, the sheer sense of speed… Loved every minute of it so far. “
Xentar brings us home: “We have waited longer than for previous games in the series and it was worth it. Even with online problems and some achievements unattainable, this is the best game of the year due to its fun attitude, accessibility and great game world. No other game got that many hours of my time.”
Wonderful stuff! All done! Happy new year everyone! May it bring you all the very best!