Top 20 Best Games of 2021
What a weird year 2021 has been. Pandemic news, vaccinations, public scandals, people slowly trying to return to their old lives, viral memes, new albums, new blockbuster movies, and of course, new games. Even though a good chunk of the most promising titles originally planned for a 2021 release got delayed (which makes 2022 one of the most promising years in gaming history), we still got to enjoy a ton of really good games released almost at a weekly basis. This might have been a somewhat bad year for all of us, but in terms of gaming releases, there’s not a lot to complain about.
Narrowing down the twenty best games reviewed by the WTMG staff in 2021 was a really hard task. A lot of good titles did not make the cut. That doesn’t mean they weren’t good enough, it just goes to show the frequency and overall quality of the games released this year. These twenty games included in this list are the ultimate cream of the crop in one of the most consistent and impressive years this industry has seen so far.
As always, before we start, let’s clarify some ground rules.
- No Switch ports of games released years prior were considered eligible
- No remasters or next-gen ports of PS4/X1 games were allowed either. Full-fledged remakes are still good to go
- Expansions or DLC, such as The Binding of Isaac: Repentance and Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker, are not eligible as well.
We would like to start off this list by mentioning some of the excellent games that almost made the cut. These honorable mentions might not have been able to grab a spot in the final list, but you should still absolutely play them. All of those titles are bangers: Resident Evil Village, The Ascent, Hot Wheels Unleashed, The Forgotten City, Flynn: Son of Crimson, Gloomhaven, Dodgeball Academia, Deathloop, Lost Judgment, Sniper Elite VR, Inscryption, The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante, A Juggler’s Tale, and Everhood.
Time to give these twenty games one final homage before the year is over! Without further ado, these are WayTooManyGames’ Top 20 Games of 2021.
Yeah yeah. It’s an open world game made by Ubisoft. It’s yet another Far Cry game. I will stand by it, though. I had a ton of fun with Far Cry 6 this year. For once Ubisoft managed to provide us with an open world game that had deep storytelling, fun characters, a map worth exploring, and a combat system that allowed you to go berserk against fascist soldiers with a multitude of weapons and strategies at your disposal. Good job with Far Cry 6, Ubi. Can’t wait to see you ruin the sequel by drowning it with NFTs. – Leo Faria
I fell for NEO: The World Ends With You the moment I noticed its presentation comprised of Jet Set Radio-esque visuals and a crapton of nu metal. I eventually started to outright love this JRPG gem once I learned more about its story and characters, and once I was able to go rampant against foes with its cathatic combat system. – Leo Faria
The Artful Escape is a somewhat pretentious indie game with very little in terms of gameplay, being mostly focused in its storytelling and presentation. In theory, the kind of game I dislike the most. In reality, one of the most beautiful and engaging games I’ve played in 2021, all thanks to its gorgeous art style, excellent sound design, relatable characters, and rhythm sections that pleased my inner frustrated musician. – Leo Faria
Ever since Monster Hunter World got me hooked onto the franchise I have poured hundreds of hours into it. Monster Hunter Rise is even better, with fantastic new movement abilities and a great roster of monsters to fight over and over again. Grinding for gear never gets boring and it’s one of the most exciting games I’ve played all year. I’m always looking forward to playing even more of it. – Kyle Nicol
This game shouldn’t be here. I give you that, I concede, all the big names beat it, but damn if this isn’t the most all-around fun that I have had in a game this year. Soundtrack, characters, hectic combat, absurd story; top to bottom, it made every part of me that loves action-adventure smile. It had its glitches, sure. It showed its flaws, alright. There are a ton of better games to play from 2021, but… were there really? – Todd Eggleston
VR is finally starting to come into its own. And while this year has had some absolute stand-out titles, Demeo was the one that took the cake for me. It isn’t just a fantastic game in its own right. It doesn’t just look, sound, and run great either. It makes the very platform of VR integral to its experience. It’s not just a game in VR, it’s VR being used for gaming. You can’t recreate the social experience of playing a board game with all these digital effects and animations the way this game does with regular gaming. To me this is a must-have title, up there with Beat Saber. It doesn’t just show what VR can do, but why VR gaming should be pursued. – Thomas Medina
Guilty Gear Strive is an overall excellent package with a few bumps, but nothing that derails it. Many consider this the first true next gen fighting game for the 9th generation of consoles. By all accounts then, things are off to a fantastic start. – Wayne Denor
After over a decade and a half of waiting, the long anticipated sequel to Double Fine’s Psychonauts finally made its debut. Pyschonauts 2 had to overcome the massive hurdle of trying to live up to its predecessor, but not only did it succeed, it somehow actually managed to surpass it in just about every way. An impressive feat to say the least, making Psychonauts 2 a game that cannot be missed.- Heidi Hawes
Death’s Door is a game I knew I would enjoy, it looked quirky enough with its setting and themes, but it also continued to surprise me throughout. Its level design, great characters, and tight gameplay makes this an absolute must play for any action-adventure lover. – Jordan Hawes
Bluntly said, this a masterpiece, despite missing the coveted perfect score. I couldn’t help but be absolutely enamoured with everything it had to offer. From the nostalgic, beautiful pixel art to the catchy, sublime score. Sure, there’s a few hitches with the gameplay but it’s never anything that proves detrimental to the overall experience. Play Eastward; any video game library needs this amongst the other greats. It was unadulterated fun, so what are you waiting for? – Fernando da Costa
I’m not a member of the Persona 5 fanclub, so I did not expect to like this game half as much as I did. I’m not a hater either to be clear, I actually find a lot of decent things about the game. Persona 5 Strikers though, just takes all the good stuff and does so much more with it. The action/strategy hybrid combat system is phenomenal, the demon fusion system is here and intact, and it takes the premise of Persona 5 and does more with it. This to me is the game Persona 5 is to everyone else. It’s so good that it has me thinking that that the future of Persona would work really well as an action/strategy hybrid. Which not normally something I say often about traditionally turn-based franchises. – Thomas Medina
Legitimately the best CRPG I’ve played since Baldur’s Gate II. I can’t really give praise then that, as I still hold that franchise as the gold standard of RPGs. At least until I played this game which rightfully gives it a run for its money. The story, the world, character customization, the combat, all of it is executed perfectly. Everything polished, beautiful and fluid graphics, and the writing channels that classic Bioware feel. I kind of got the same vibes from it that I got from Final Fantasy VII Remake. It channels the classical RPGs in a way that’s both nostalgic and new. And damn, was I almost as smitten with it as I was with FFVIIR. – Thomas Medina
Josef Fares once again delivered a truly memorable gaming experience, this time with the sweet and silly It Takes Two. This game presented the best co-op gaming experience I’ve ever had, and had some of the most creative and ingenious level designs I’ve ever played. It Takes Two is my Game of the Year, without a doubt. – Heidi Hawes
I know, I just said that Guardians of the Galaxy was the most fun I have had in a game this year and, top to bottom, that isn’t wrong, but Ratchet & Clank does all that while also checking off all the boxes for what makes a game truly top tier. Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and Ratchet & Clank, all in a four-year window, is crazy to think about. Go ahead and add in Spider-Man 2 and the recently teased Wolverine. Insomniac is quickly proving to be PlayStation’s best, if not most varied, studio and well worth the $229 million. – Todd Eggleston
All snark aside, Mario Party Superstars is the ultimate in Nintendo introspection and understanding what made the game series great. By aping the boards from the Nintendo 64 era and implementing games from the entire franchise, NDCube brought classic joy to new and old players alike with a fresh coat of paint, tighter responses, and some godawful stickers that children seem to enjoy. It’s easily the best Mario Party in the last decade, if not of all time. – Oliver Shellding
Returnal is the latest game from the fantastic Housemarque and once again, they did not disappoint. The mix of rogue-lite, bullet-hell, and third person action storytelling is masterfully done. It offers an experience you rarely see in the mainstream scene and it captivated from start to finish. – Jordan Hawes
Every time I think there’s no way Playground Games can improve upon its Forza Horizon formula, they shut me up with their latest iteration of their gearhead enthusiast sandbox. Being able to race around Mexico with some of the greatest graphics and controls seen so far in this generation was enough to make me consider Forza Horizon 5 my favorite game of 2021. And I can’t wait for Forza Horizon 6 to make this near-flawless experience obsolete in comparison. – Leo Faria
I really enjoyed the original Little Nightmares and was excited to review the follow up, but I never expected it to be as good as it is. For me, Little Nightmares was just a fun little platforming experience with great atmosphere. I loved the ending, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan. The sequel was just an opportunity for me to get more of the same and I had very few expectations.
I was dead wrong to expect so little. Little Nightmares II absolutely blew me out of the water. Tarsier Studios doubled down on the atmosphere and took bold steps forward with the story before bringing the franchise to a close. I feel that too often modern sequels try to retcon or redirect their predecessors, but Little Nightmares II only expanded upon and strengthened the context in which players can experience the original. The whole experience was filled with grotesque characters, chilling music, and remarkable twists and turns in the story. Equally as significant as the score was the use of silence to create discomfort for the player. For a game I had such low expectations for, I’ve been amazed how often the main theme gets stuck in my head and how often I think about the final twists. – Jason Palazini
Here we are at number one. A game I’ve literally been anticipating since the first footage was shown five years ago during the announcement for the Nintendo Switch. And with hype like that, history tells us the game rarely lives up to or survives it. Shin Megami Tensei V however, lived up to and surpassed it. An open world that rivaled Xenoblade Chronicles alongside the phenomenal combat and demon fusion systems SMT made its name with. A match made in heaven, or in the Netherworld in this case. The atmosphere, the exploration, the clever writing for the demons and sidequest, it’s not a game any RPG fan can miss. – Thomas Medina
What about you, dear reader? What were your favorite games released in 2021? Let us know in the comment section below!