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The gaming year of 2021 has started like many a year before it: slowly. We know how things traditionally go when it comes to the rollout of AAA releases - patchy in the first quarter, busy before the summer, a lil lull for the E3s and Gamescoms of the gaming world to do their things, and then back with a vengeance for the autumn (okay, fall, American friends). And 2021 is playing out in much the same-old, same-old fashion.
Which is to say: we're a ways off the new Halo, the new God of War (fingers crossed for 2021, but, yeah, probably not), the new Zelda, and more. We do have Deathloop and Resident Evil Village in May, and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart in June - but genuine 'big guns' are thin on the ground so far this year.
However, that's not to say great games haven't already been released - Valheim, featured in the video above, being one of them, albeit only in early access (so no spot for it, below). And now we're a quarter of the year down, it's a good time to take stock of the very best of 2021, so far. And according to Metacritic's review-score aggregating, the very best games of the year so far looks a lot like this list:
It Takes Two - Metascore 89
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury - Metascore 89
Hitman 3 - Metascore 87
Monster Hunter Rise - Metascore 87
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy - Metascore 84
Persona 5 Strikers - Metascore 84
Little Nightmares II - Metascore 83
Sunlight - Metascore 83
Tadpole Treble Encore - Metascore 82
Skul: The Hero Slayer - Metascore 82
Gnosia - Metascore 82
Loop Hero - Metascore 82
Solas 128 - Metascore 82
The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante - Metascore 82
We've reviewed a few of these at GAMINGbible. Of the EA-published, Hazelight-developed It Takes Two, the game of the year so far (apparently), our Phil wrote: "it's a wonderful two-player experience, with plenty to immerse you and your co-op partner in for hours on end." He scored it an 8/10, but Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury (which gets a pass here due to the substantial new content) received a 9/10 from us, with our James noting: "it's undoubtedly one of the best Super Mario games in franchise history, worth replaying time and time again."
Onto IO Interactive's Hitman 3, and our Julian wrote, in his 9/10-scored critique: "this is the best way to play the Hitman series as well as being an essential new Hitman game in its own right." And while our Dean didn't wholeheartedly rave about Capcom's Switch-exclusive Monster Hunter Rise in his 7/10 review, he did note: "if you're a fan of the Monster Hunter franchise then this new instalment will absolutely tick all your boxes and more."
Of Little Nightmares II, our Mark writes: "Everything from the game's story, to the claustrophobic atmosphere it creates combine into an incredibly compelling package that is a must play for horror lovers everywhere." It's a 9/10 from us, for Tarsier Studios' sequel. And our James tackled Persona 5 Strikers, awarding Atlus's spin-off a healthy 8/10 and commenting that it "embraces the hack and slash genre without losing that signature Persona feel", and that "characters are wonderful, the gameplay is fun and rewarding, and the dialogue reaches similar highs to previous games". James also reviewed Loop Hero, awarding the dark and gloomy roguelike 6/10.
Now, a few notes, on that Metacritic list... The games listed are new releases in Europe and North America, as some were already out in Japan; early access titles, next-gen updates and new ports of previously released titles are not included; and the Metascores shown are the highest individually recorded score for multi-platform releases. So if you're wondering where Yakuza: Like A Dragon (great, by the way) and Control: Ultimate Edition (also amazing) are, we're not counting those as 2021 games.
List caveats and our own critiques out of the way, I've got to wonder: who, amongst us, has actually played all of those? I work in games, have done for a decade and change, and some of these, I'd never heard of. Which just goes to show you that a) games continue to surprise and fascinate, and b) there's always something new to play, if you pick beyond the mainstream just a little. You can find all of GAMINGbible's game reviews, covering the biggest AAA releases, indies, remasters and retro classics, right here.
Featured Image Credit: Nintendo, IO Interactive
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