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It’s that time of year again. Time to stop shovelling handfuls of mince pies into your cakehole and pry your eyes off the festive telly schedule, and enjoy what can only be summarised as GAMINGbible’s list of the 40 best new video games to have come out in 2021.
Before the numbers, the method. The GAMINGbible team - that’s a dozen fine folks in total - all put together individual top games of 2021. The positions were assigned points - the higher up the list, the more points a game received - and a first-draft top 40 was created by combining all of the individual lists. Then came lively discussion and friendly debate as some positions swapped and others remained static. The end result: the list you see below. It’s not science, but nor is it complete chaos. It pays to have a system.
So let’s dawdle no longer: dig into the best 40 video games of 2021. Every game title is a link, which will take you to our coverage of the game in question. Enjoy!
40: NEW POKÉMON SNAP
37: BACK 4 BLOOD
35: GENESIS NOIR
34: EXO ONE
28: ORCS MUST DIE! 3
27: BEFORE YOUR EYES
24: MOONGLOW BAY
18: LOST IN RANDOM
17: LOST JUDGMENT
15: DEATH’S DOOR
14: HITMAN 3
If you’d rather enjoy our top 10 games of 2021 in video form, click the player below.
After their relatively disappointing Avengers game of 2020 we weren’t expecting a lot from Square Enix’s second swing at a massive Marvel franchise. But this single-player action-adventure really surprised us, matching familiar but fun combat and traversal with light puzzling and a plot that genuinely stands as one of the best we’ve seen in 2021. It’s a little padded in places, which does slow its captivating story down, but Guardians of the Galaxy manages to make the player care about every member of the Milano crew, and the way characters look out for each other is incredibly heartwarming.
While we didn’t get a new Zelda game in 2021, this indie delight is a more than acceptable substitute, mixing super-cute visuals with a story that can hit you right in the feels one minute before giving you the biggest smile the next. Gentle puzzles and some surprisingly testing bosses stand in our hero’s way, but Chicory recognises the importance of letting players finish stories, so there is a wealth of accessibility options available. While painting the world into life is a part of Chicory, progress never depends on it.
We’re so happy that fans of this iconic Xbox series finally received a 343 Industries-era title worthy of its lofty reputation. With its new semi-open world structure and Master Chief receiving the game-changing gadget of the Grappleshot, Halo Infinite is a bold step forward for its franchise. But it doesn’t forget its roots, either - its free-to-play multiplayer mode is terrific fun, and there are plenty of nods to the games that started it all, if you go looking for them. A return to form, then - and just in time for a new generation, on a new console, to fall in love with everything Halo.
The fifth entry in Playground Games’ open-world driving game series forgoes simulation-style gameplay for arcade thrills, matching some unreal action with visuals that look astounding. Its Mexico setting finds Horizon looking more beautiful than ever, with several biomes offering very different conditions, and the range of vehicles on offer is extensive indeed. Arguably Forza Horizon 5 doesn’t do a lot that previous games in this series didn’t already offer - but by tweaking and fine-tuning what was already amazing, this really is Forza at its very best.
Fans of Samus Aran’s 2D adventures were waiting a long time for a brand-new game, some 19 years indeed, but Metroid Dread doesn’t disappoint. It’s challenging, complex, and might just throw some players off with how tough it can seem on first impressions. Which is to say: prepare to die. But dig those heels in, and Nintendo’s greatest first-party title of 2021 starts to reveal its wicked delights. While it took its time, this is a sequel to the Game Boy Advance classic Metroid Fusion in every respect - but newcomers needn’t worry about feeling lost, as from its tight controls to its imposing bosses, Dread stands on its own terms in no little style.
Metroid Dread is our Nintendo game of the year - and Nintendo EPD in Japan kindly sent us a message:
“We are honoured to accept the Nintendo Game of the Year award for Metroid Dread from GAMINGbible. Metroid Dread is the first brand-new game in the 2D Metroid franchise in around 19 years, and was a close collaboration between Nintendo and Spanish development studio MercurySteam working as one team. The development team paid special care to make sure that all players, including those who’d never encountered the series before, could jump in and enjoy this game. We’d like to deliver a big ‘thank you’ to all the players on behalf of all the staff that worked on bringing the development vision to reality. And we hope that players continue to enjoy the exciting adventure of Samus Aran in Metroid Dread.”
Double Fine’s Psychonauts 2 is another sequel that fans have long been waiting for. And like Metroid Dread, this isn’t a game where you need to have played its predecessor to get the most out of it. From the outset, Psychonauts 2 delivers fantastically imaginative visuals, while matching its unique look with some of the best 3D platforming we’ve played in years. Its story also really goes places - both in the game’s material world and into the broken minds of characters desperate for salvation. It’s a trip alright, but one that everyone is recommended to take.
4: IT TAKES TWO
It Takes Two confidently stands apart from any other multiplayer experience of 2021. Same-sofa collaborative play simply doesn’t get any better than this, as two players are required to guide May and Cody through a magical - and sometimes nightmarish - world of puzzles and problems. The pair can only go forward if they work together, using their individual abilities in tandem to overcome obstacles. There are arguments along the way - in game, and maybe in your home if you can’t play together quite right - but the lasting takeaway of It Takes Two is of a co-operative experience that’ll warm your heart. It’s also playable online but, if you can, this is one that really shines when you’re both in the same room.
Deathloop is a shooter that mixes superlative visual flair with a gameplay loop that we just can’t get enough of. It’s mysterious, enigmatic, but so intuitive to gel with that anyone who likes a first-person shooter will click with it immediately, and quickly become immersed in its world of fantastical assassins and sci-fi technology. Our character, Colt, is out to kill all eight of the Visionaries who control and power this strange island - and he can tackle them in any order, bringing brilliant replay value to Deathloop. And replay it you will, learning the movements of your targets, themselves trapped in a time loop that only their deaths will break. Non-linear but confident of story and bursting with personality, this is a game no FPS fan should miss.
A musical indie adventure through the unexplored extremities of space and time, The Artful Escape lit up Game Pass on its release. It’s a 2D side-scroller with basic platforming which is made so much more entertaining by a ‘Press X to Shred’ mechanic that sees our hero, Francis Vendetti (or whatever name you give his alter-ego), riff along to whatever the background music is. He also faces off against bosses in Simon-Says-style rhythm action battles, but the real appeal of The Artful Escape is twofold: its visuals are dazzling and its story touching and tender, the whole experience distinctly grounded despite the galaxies it sends the player spinning through. Few games of 2021 made us smile as much as this one, while also reflecting on the choices we’ve made in pursuing our dreams.
Finally, at number one, we have Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. It was a close one, but this incredible PlayStation 5 exclusive, probably the one absolute essential on the console so far, takes our Game of the Year title due to the sheer magic that courses through it. Yes, it’s an astounding technical achievement, pushing its hardware as it takes Ratchet and Clank - and new character Rivet - from one dimension to the next. But it’s so much more than a showcase for what the PS5 is capable of. Even without the Pixar-quality visuals, Rift Apart’s gameplay would be worthy of celebration - the combat is electric, the selection of guns sensational, and just moving in this game is a treat, its makers at Insomniac clearly learning a few tricks during the making of their previous game, Marvel’s Spider-Man. Fold in a huge array of accessibility options, and a series-best story, and for a lot of people in 2021, this was simply the best game they’d ever played.
Over to game director Mike Daly, at Insomniac Games:
“In addition to being incredibly proud of what the team was able to accomplish with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, it was also the most fun many of us have had working on a game. We got to lean into the PS5's awesome new tech and indulge our insane ideas for alien weapons. It's been inspiring to see fans' reactions and the cherry on top is GAMINGbible's GOTY. Thank you!”
And that’s a wrap on the new games of 2021. Why not take a look at ten games we’re really excited for in 2022, over here.
Featured Image Credit: Xbox Game Studios, Capcom, Annapurna Interactive, Nintendo, EA, Finji, Bethesda, Sony Interactive Entertainment
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