The year is almost over, and it was another strong year for the video game industry. 2021 was a bridge year with it being the new generation of consoles of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S as well as plenty of games being cross-generational. Tons of great games were released throughout the year, and it was an absolute tight race for game of the year. With that, we present mxdwn’s Top 10 games of 2021. Enjoy!
10. Psychonauts 2
Psychonauts 2 is one of mxdwn’s games of the year for a number of different reasons. Developer Double Fine was able to craft an experience the only way they know-how, a mix of creativity and focus. Picking up after the events of the first game, main character Razputin “Raz” Aquato has fulfilled his dream of joining the international espionage organization known as the Psychonauts. However, there is trouble brewing as the leader of the Psychonauts seems to be different after getting rescued from a kidnapping. There may also be a mole hiding within The Psychonauts.
Raz has to journey through the minds of friends and foes on a quest to defeat a murderous psychic villain. As Raz, players have access to a variety of different psychic abilities to fight and traverse through levels. The level design is easily the biggest highlight for the game. Each level is different and unique as they take place inside someone’s mind. Everything from the enemies to the theme of the level is tailored to that character. That’s what makes Psychonauts 2 very special and why Double Fine is one of the most unique studios out there.
9. Resident Evil Village
As the latest installment to the Resident Evil series, Resident Evil Village was a well-received welcome back into the life of Ethan Winters. Ever since the gameplay demo was released, fans have anticipated the entire game after experiencing what and who was lying in store for them. When the game was finally released, it stunned fans with its gorgeous in-game locations, clean graphics, and of course, the long-awaited arrival of Lady Dimitrescu. The game’s story-rich narrative also adds a nice touch to the survival horror aspect of it all, as Ethan experiences heart-racing situations and uses his combat skills against the different antagonists throughout the game to find his family. Resident Evil Village is an excellent addition to the Resident Evil franchise and an exciting continuation of Ethan’s story, even if he still can’t catch a break.
8. Forza Horizon 5
7. Shin Megami Tensei V
6. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is one of the first PlayStation 5 titles that truly brings out the power of Sony’s new hardware. The game’s visuals are stunning, and that’s putting it mildly. It also makes the transition from area to area, or in this case, dimension to dimension, completely seamless, and is one of the few titles to ever make me just drop my jaw in awe. It also helps that the gameplay is extremely fun to boot! Insomniac gave us plenty of weapons to play around with, and with a fast paced title such as this, it was never boring in any way.
5. Life is Strange: True Colors
Since the series debuted 6 years, Life is Strange has been one of Square Enix’s key games almost every year. Split between original developer DONTNOD and Deck Nine, the series has been treated with care and love from the 2 developers. However, with Life is Strange: True Colors, Deck Nine has handily made the series their own and elevated it to its highest point thus far.
Life is Strange: True Colors feels truly special. The game is absolutely stunning to look at with plenty of moments of respite so you can take in the beauty of Heaven Springs. The characters are the best they’ve been since the original with even minor characters being fleshed out enough to make you care about everyone you meet. Alex Chen rules and is easily one of the best characters of the year.
And, boy oh boy, does it feel great to play as a character with powers again for the first time since the original. In a game about connections, Alex’s empath powers are used extremely well and draw you into moments and what characters are dealing with perfectly letting you and Alex connect to the town of Heaven Springs and its citizens. Life is Strange: True Colors is one of the shining examples of what games can be nowadays, and is hands down one of the best games of the year.
From the first moment Selene crashes on Atropos, you know Returnal is going to be something special. Giving heavy Alien vibes, Returnal sees Selene trying to escape the planet full of hostile creatures, machines, and bosses. The game itself is a hardcore roguelike that puts your skills to the challenge, and it exceptionally nails that.The loop of Returnal is all about dying and getting better. The hellish, intense encounters in each biome are meant to push you to your limit and teach you how to get better on your next run. Thus, nailing the feel of wanting to do one more run over and over. The story is interesting, bizarre, and keeps drawing you in as you progress, and there are some incredible moments you don’t see coming at all.
The weapon and item variety allow for so many different strategies and ways for you to handle encounters and bosses. Weapons also have unique abilities that can be unlocked, making you want to switch weapons often to try to get these new abilities on the weapons for future runs. Returnal also takes full advantage of the PlayStation 5. The speed of the PS5 allows for the game to load you back to the crash at the beginning of the game instantly, urging you to jump right into your next attempt to escape.
The DualSense features are incredible. Each weapon feels different to shoot thanks to the adaptive triggers which also allow for different firing modes depending on how much you hold the trigger down. The sounds and vibrations the controller emits are impeccable from feeling each drop off rain hit you through vibrations to the all familiar sound of your alt fire being ready coming through the speaker to audio logs being played through the controller, the game takes full advantage of being a PS5 exclusive. Returnal may be difficult, hellish, and punishing, but it keeps bringing you back and makes you want to break free of the cycle. Returnal is easily one of the best games this year.
3. Hitman III
Hitman III concludes developer IOI’s World of Assassination trilogy. Picking up from the events of Hitman 2, Agent 47 returns for the most important contracts of his entire career as he embarks on an intimate journey of darkness and hope. It’s the best place to play every game as all locations from the other two games in the World of Assassination are available to play. Progression from Hitman 2 carries over so returning players can continue what they started and new players have access to everything. Like the previous two games, levels in Hitman III are unique, varied and filled with tons of ways to assassinate the targets. Some of the more unique locations include a manor in Dartmoor, England where Agent 47 takes someone out while a murder has taken place, a nightclub scene in Berlin, Germany has Agent 47 having to take out multiple targets. Wherever you go, there is something unique to find, explore, and interact with as you figure out the best and most efficient way to assassinate a target. That’s what makes this recent Hitman trilogy so special and is one of the reasons everyone is excited for IOI’s take on James Bond.
Have you ever wondered what Hitman would be like if you do not have to be as sleathly while this is where Deathloop comes in. You are Colt and trapped on the mysterious island of Blackreef, which is in an type of time loop. Colt is tasked with killing eight targets in 24 hours but failing results in the day just restarting, think of an deadly version of Groundhog’s day.With beautifully rendered characters and background this game is an true work of art and even after you beat the game it pulls you back in as you can use an vast collection of weapons, powers, and ways of entry into which level is your favorite. At first you will be slowly and methodically creep around the level. After hours of gameplay you will fly through each level learning more things each playthrough. Once you get the hang of the many different styles of play, this game truly becomes one of an kind.
1. It Takes Two
As a critically acclaimed action adventure game developed by Hazelight Studios, It Takes Two features a unique two-player co-op experience with enough room for some light-hearted PVP opportunities. The game takes place in a family in which the parents have decided to divorce, but their sad little daughter’s tears turn her parents into tiny puppets. The two puppets need to work their way through a series of challenges and obstacles and fix the family problems they ignored when they were still humans. With a healing theme and some cool innovations in gameplay, it’s not surprising that It Takes Two won mxdwn’s Game of The Year.