The Best of My 2021. Which games are worth playing from last year

I’m Kinglink and it’s the end of 2021… or rather the beginning of 2022, but that’s the perfect time to discuss the best of last year. 

I make a lot of Youtube videos for everyone to watch, and I hope people are enjoying them. And from the number of likes, I think that’s what happening, remember to click it.  Though every time I get to this point of the year, I realize this video is more for me.  It’s a chance for me to take stock of everything I’ve played, become reflexive and just think about what I enjoyed the most or want other people to play.  In the past, I’ve talked about Yakuza, Outer Wilds, and Disco Elysium, and this year I’m going to give it another go. 

I obviously haven’t played every game that came out last year, though I did play 295 games, that’s not even counting games I emulated.  And yes, I do keep track of this stuff.  So I did well, though not every one of those games came out in the last twelve months either, and that’s just something I’m ok with.  I do what I can with the time I have.

Before we begin the best of the year, I want to talk a bit about the best of Humble Choice.  I don’t want to do a deep dive into the quality of service right now, and there’s news of the change next month, but with twelve bundles in 2021, and approximately 159 games, remember I do keep track of this somewhat obsessively, here’s the best out of that bunch.  The fact is, there were two that I think stood out above all the other titles this year. 

There were quite a few good games, some runners-up were Civ 6, again, Bloodstained Ritual of the Night, Ring of Pain, but the top two were close.  However, there is one title that I loved enough to finish.  And that was Control.   Control is just a solid game that shows off what RTX can give us,  it was my first major exposure to the technology.  But beyond that, Control is an interesting and unique game from Remedy Entertainment. 

The story here is really good as long as you don’t ask too many questions and the world is wonderful.  I love the visuals and experience here.  The combat is solid for what it is but I did think it became too easy instead of challenging.   

At the same time, this was one of the few Triple-A titles for Humble Choice, and while there were others, it was the one I enjoyed the most.   If you have it, it’s worth playing.  Though a slight complaint… Getting the base edition sucked, and finding out there’s no way to buy the DLC on Steam well that stings now. 

But I also want to think about Humble as a larger service, with Control coming out in March, does that mean it was the best month.  I would say Control and a second game were neck and neck. Control was slightly better, but the other game was almost as good, though it came out in a better month.  Darksiders Genesis and Hellpoint didn’t do as much for me, but Levelhead and Cook Serve Delicious 3 are some of my favorite games.   And of course, having a headliner like Metro Exodus pushes it over the edge.    So my favorite month was May 2021.

Metro Exodus is really good on its own, and again, pushed the limits with their new RTX-required Enhanced Edition, the fact you got both the original and the enhanced edition at the same time was a treat.  

But like I said, I just never pulled the trigger and got beyond this train section in Metro Exodus, perhaps one day soon, but after playing the first two games in this series, this one feels better, but there’s still that wealth of games out there for me. 

With Humble out of the way, let’s talk about the best games of the year. As much as I would love to do a countdown, I struggled this year to tell you which order these go in.  I do have a single “Game of the Year”, but otherwise, these are all amazing and worth playing, so I’m just going to go down the line. 

I spent a lot of time on which games were the best for 2021, and my opinions will probably change.  The top game of the list has changed at least three times, to be honest. There were amazing games like Artful Escape, 20xx, and Dicey Dungeon that just didn’t make this list, unfortunately.  I’m sure next year, I might play Age of Empires and feel bad I didn’t put it on this time, but for now, these are my favorites.

We’ll start with two cheats.  Anyone who has heard me talk about games probably has heard me talk about this series. It’s the Yakuza Franchise, and I’m just including the entire franchise as a best of.    I’m a massive fan and this year I was given a huge gift, Yakuza 3 through 6 came out on PC, and that’s what I spent most of the first half of this year on and I have no regrets.

As a franchise, I just love Yakuza’s storytelling, they take a style of Yakuza cinema and apply it to a video game, and it’s done well over each of the 8 games that I’ve played.  Every game has me wondering what might happen next and where the story will go.  Every Yakuza game keeps the player involved in the story while tantalizing and tormenting them with thousands of things to do. 

These are some of the most packed games.  Much of the entire series focuses on a single neighborhood in Tokyo but that city continues to have new and entertaining content over each game.  This just shows the attention to detail and love that this series has not just from the fans, but the creators too.   It’s why I couldn’t stop playing all of these games. 

If you enjoy stories in games, definitely play Yakuza, if you like open worlds, Yakuza has an excellent content-rich open world for you to explore, but I also just recommend this series for so many reasons.  It’s one everyone should check out.  It’s why I have a video on the entire series so far on PC. 

And I have to say it.  I am still waiting on Judgement and Lost Judgement, Sega, I know the challenge with this one, but I want to complete this collection… and then I’ll start asking for Dead Souls or Ishin… or Typing of the Yakuza, which doesn’t exist but, come on, think about it, that would be awesome…  Alright moving on.

The other franchise I wanted to talk about this year is Life Is Strange.  I know I’m late to this party, but I played the first title in January of the year, and couldn’t believe how amazing the writing was.  I then started Before the Storm and thought there was no way a prequel could be as good as the original, but Before the Storm blew me away, pardon the pun, a second time.

These two games are amazing storytelling that shows what players should expect from the video game industry.  What made the original Life Is Strange stand out so much is that it felt like the player was an active participant in the story.  Life Is Strange uses much of the Telltale formula but also interweaves the player in the narrative.  Giving the player the ability to reverse time, to consider choices is extremely powerful and the player ends up feeling the impact of choices they make. 

Before the Storm removes the Time Travel aspect but instead gives a deep and emotional story where players will be wrapped up in the journey, and continually care about what choices are made, and what happens on the path.  For both of these titles, it’s the journey that matters far more than the ultimate destination.  That’s actually what’s so surprising about Before the Storm, the destination is known from the first game, but it’s so rare for a prequel to be able to rise above simple backstory for characters and tell an elegant and fresh story which Before the Storm does, and does so without having to add new needless characters.

Of course, there are more in this series, Life Is Strange 2 had a lead in title called The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit which is absolutely worth playing. Life Is Strange 2 wasn’t as good as these titles but still worth checking out.  Tell Me Why, which isn’t technically in this franchise but similar style and also made by Dontnod was also not at the same level, but also a solid tale.  Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to check out the newest title, Life Is Strange True Colors but I am looking forward to maybe playing that in 2022, and who knows I might talk about it next year.

2021 was another long year.  But two things kept me going throughout the year.  I did my video on emulation which was quite enjoyable and reminded me why I liked to play retro games, and still do.  Shout out to Retro Achievements, I’m a top 300 player on the site now. And I played a little Warframe in May… and June, July, August, September…  

Yeah, I spent about 200 hours playing Warframe this year, and I don’t know if I ever put that level of time into any other title outside of an MMO.  And yeah, technically I started playing Warframe around 2016 like I said an asterisk but with that level of time commitment in an already busy schedule, it’s hard not to talk about it. 

Warframe just has a lot of content that kept me coming back.  There’s a great feeling of progression in multiple different areas, but also once players can get a decent arsenal, which doesn’t take too long, they’re able to pretty much choose what they want to do and from there, the sky’s the limit.  Players can try to collect multiple different frames, go through the now-massive storyline, unlock rare frames, and more.  

Which is also one of the few minor issues I could have.  Warframe does have a decent amount of grinding involved in it, though what surprises me is I never really minded that much, outside of one resource, the nitain extract.   Otherwise so much of the game is accessible without paying a single cent for it.  Warframe even uses something similar to the loot box mentality, with their void relics, but zero money transactions, just mystery boxes and it’s done in an amazingly fair manner.  Most of the purchases can be earned with a relatively reasonable effort by players.

But Warframe just has a content-filled universe waiting for players to forge their destiny and in that way, I really can recommend Warframe, which even now has a new expansion that just came out.  Warframe can be overwhelming at first, but it is worth checking out in 2022.  Filming footage for this even put me at the edge of the precipice.  I could dive into this game and play for probably another hundred hours, and if it wasn’t for the release schedule I have, I probably would have taken that plunge and been very happy with it. 

Speaking of content-rich games, there’s Forza Horizon 5. I don’t think a driving game really should win a game of the year, but whether it’s the quality of the year we’ve had or just how ridiculously good Forza Horizon 5 is, Forza was always going to be on this list.

It’s a racing game that isn’t focused on the track.  Players can jump into any car they like and find something awesome or amazing to do.  Whether it’s hunting down collectibles, cruising the streets, chasing the stories, or collecting cars, there’s a huge world to explore.  The competitive parts of Forza Horizon are just as welcoming, whether it be a Battle Royale, which I still can’t believe they pulled off,  racing in a group, or just random matches, there’s a lot to find, and with their weekly season system, players will have reasons to return to the game for a long time. 

The graphics though on this are truly amazing and the experience is something else.  The Forza Horizon festival is no longer just a celebration of racing, but a celebration of driving or just cars in general.  And seeing a map full of objectives to chase down or tackle will give players so many options there can be a bit of Analysis Paralysis, but many of the choices here can be linked together, and the experience of just cruising around feels so slick. 

I will say that I’ve played less of Forza after a month or two, but I still enjoy dropping into the game for an hour or two every so often, and there are those free weekly challenges to keep the game lively for people who just want more. 

I put Forza on the top of my November 2021 Game Pass list, but I think there might have been a better game.   Let’s talk about It Takes Two. This is just a ridiculously good game.  The more I’ve played it the better it’s gotten, the level design alone is brilliant as it constantly changes the art with each area and keeps coming up with new inventive uses for everyday items.  You don’t just hang on a non-descript pole, but instead, you’ll pull a corkscrew attached to a rope that leads to a pot lid.

The story here is also impactful, focusing on a married couple that’s going through a divorce and what toll that’s taking on the family, yet at the same time, you’re battling a giant toolbox or fighting a vacuum cleaner.  The writing is well done, and the story is told throughout the game, not just in cutscenes or narrative moments.  The gameplay as well is heavily focused on cooperation with your partner.

This is also the reason it’s not the best of the year.  Let me be clear, It Takes Two is amazing and worthy of every level of praise, it very likely would get a 10/10 from me, however, it has a rather major flaw in my opinion, where it requires two players.  Unlike Gears 5 or Back 4 Blood where players can play with AI partners, or in some games control both characters at the same time, It Takes Two requires two players to work simultaneously. 

The bigger issue is with such a narrative-driven game, you’ll want to play with a single partner the whole time, but worse, this is a pretty meaty story, if you’re not playing with someone who plays games often it’s going to take far longer than the ten hours people are claiming.  

And yet the journey you’re on is worth taking, especially if you have someone you can commit the time with and are close to, an older child, or a spouse would be perfect, it’s just also a large commitment of their time as well, and scheduling that much may be challenging.  None of this is to say the game should change, but those issues do have me struggling to find time to play it myself or to recommend it as the best of the year.  I wanted to finish this game before the new year and had a week available, but having to schedule other people’s time too means, I’m only about a third of the way through this amazing journey. The good news is I think there is one better title. 

What is the best of the year?  I don’t know. Is it the best game I played?  Is it the game I think most people will like?  Is it the game I played the most?  Congratulations Warframe… but I like to give the award to the game I think that you the viewer absolutely MUST play.  If there is one game you need to check out, that’s the title that deserves it.  And I think there’s a perfect choice this year that lives up to it. 

Inscryption.  Which… is also a problem.  After all that build-up, I don’t want to say too much here.  Inscryption is an excellent game made by Daniel Mullin, the developer of The Hex and Pony Island, two fantastic games.  However, Inscryption does everything far better. 

This will look like a simple card battler.  There’s a card game and a table where the player can get up from and walk around a small room, and that’s how the game starts, but what I can tell you is that this is one of the most amazing and intense rides.  I was up at 1 AM playing the game, and I kept telling myself “I just want to see a little more and then I’ll go to bed” for the next three hours.

I know I’m not saying too much about it, but the card game is a big piece of the core of the game but it’s not as big a challenge as most card battlers.  The thing is if you are interested, try not to hear too much about this experience, but go in as fresh as possible because this is an amazing game.  There is an excellent story here, and this is easily one of my favorite games of the year.  

I’m dying to dive deep into this one, but I would be disappointed if someone robbed me of that experience so, consider Inscryption if you haven’t played it already, and if you have, you probably know why I and other reviewers liked the game, it’s a unique and interesting game in a sea of Microtransactions and bloated experiences. 

And on that note, I think that’s how I’ll remember 2021…Hopefully, 2022 is better, I see a lot more games coming this year, and I’m already ahead of the curve.  At the current rate, I might be talking about the best of closer to 400 games next year.  Help me. 

2021 has been a big year for me as well.  My channel has grown quite a bit. I think I’ve found a format I’m happy with, and I’ve played a lot of great games.  But beyond that, I want to thank all my viewers.  I thank everyone often because I could just play games for myself, but it is the support of everyone that pushes me to keep making these videos and will continue to do so. 

I don’t know what 2022 will bring but I’m looking forward to it.  As I said, this was a video made for myself, but I still have to do the youtube spiel.  If you’re new, first thanks for watching a best-of list for someone you aren’t already a fan of, and maybe consider subscribing so next year we’ll be old friends.  Ringing that bell helps you find out when my new videos come out.  Likes and comments always help the channel no matter who you are, and if you’re interested, I have a discord server down in the description, join up and come hang out.

I’ll throw up my series retrospective of Yakuza, which was something I was trying to start in 2021 and didn’t take off.  And let Youtube figure out what else you should watch. 

See you next time.

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