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Your game of the year, not released this year - 2021 edition


Jamie John
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6 hours ago, earlymodernsteve said:

I'm sure you know this, but it is now available sans VR as the 'Folded Edition'. Almost wish it had been the other way around as I think it would have been more successful that way and fans would have gone back to play it through helmet cam.

I can't imagine it having anything like the same impact in pancake mode. It makes use of VR's strengths a lot.

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16 hours ago, earlymodernsteve said:

I'm sure you know this, but it is now available sans VR as the 'Folded Edition'. Almost wish it had been the other way around as I think it would have been more successful that way and fans would have gone back to play it through helmet cam.

It’s allegedly going to be free with Amazon Prime from Saturday.

 

I assume they’ve stripped the VR option from the Folded edition? 

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Huntdown (2020) : It's Elevator Action Returns meets a delightful mash up of Blade Runner, Robocop & The Warriors (and many other 80's sci fi action classics that you can think of) in a supremely playable, beautifully presented, absolute top-shelf run and gun masterpiece. Watch the outstanding trailer which alone is enough to decide whether you're in or out. And if you're in, expect hours and hours of replay value as you tackle a challenge of skyscraper proportions, the hardest of which only a select few will finish. 2D pixel games are dime a dozen in the indie space but It's rare to find a game with such an unpretentious, perfect tone, like the best arcade games of yore it will have you sweaty palmed as you dodge boss attacks on that last hit point while simultanously making you chuckle with quality one liners. This is heart pounding, feel-good gaming at it's finest that reminds you of why you got into videogames in the first place.

 

 

Nights Into Dreams (1996): I have always struggled to find the appeal of Nights, I had the Christmas Nights demo back as a kid and I enjoyed it very much but I didn't really understand it. The game is more about high scores and chains than defeating enemies and getting to the boss (both of which take a seat so far at the back they might as well not really have bothered) which I found just too different I guess to the usual platform stuff at the time. I came across a copy of the full game in a bundle I bought a few months ago and sat down to play it properly. Again, it's strange. You beat a level, fight the boss, then it's back to the title screen. Did I fail? What happens now? It's more like a racing game where you pick your dream (track) go for the biggest chain/best score and a high grade. Around the 3rd stage it all clicks. The colours, the movement, the race to unlock the Ideya cages to get into bonus time for high scores. It's supremely addictive, even by today's standards. I was flying around the Soft Museum - a wonderful stage where the world distorts as you get near things in a cool effect - while this joyful, brilliant music which sounds like a irish folk mash up of Under Pressure plays that I really got it. The final levels as the kids take flight is pure magic. I love this game.

 

 

Quantum Break (2016) : I really love Remedy's output, so when I picked up a One X earlier in this year this was straight to the top of my list. Costing a whopping £2 from my local cex, I approached this with some trepedation as it's considered Remedy's weakest game and was somewhat of a flop. I had to play this offline, as my internet was down that week, and I think it did my experience a lot of favours. The TV show parts I couldn't watch, and i honestly felt I missed nothing. Some of the side character plots I wasn't sure about because of this, but the story of the two brothers and the time travel machines was all there. Is it Remedy's weakest game? Absolutely, but that doesn't mean it isn't a great experience. The time powers are fun to use, can look spectacular at times and I loved the variety in locations. The main actors all do a great job and the character models are outstanding, especially for a 2016 game running on the original XB1 hardware. When I finished the game I checked out some of the conversation online, and a lot of the critisicm came down to the amount of downtime in the game, something the TV stuff obviously doesn't help. If you like 3rd person action games I would really recommend this. By contrast, I bought Gears of War 4 the same day and was bored in 20 minutes. The below video from Raycevik will give you enough idea of whether it's for you or not.

 

 

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@Down by LawGreat to see someone enjoying NiGHTS for the first time years after release. Still my favourite game of all time. The combo chaining score attack nature of the game is steeped in Sega's arcade heritage but it's odd billing as a successor to Sonic, a rival to Mario 64, meant a lot of folk at the time didn't understand the game.

 

The soundtrack is really unique in videogames too. It loops through distinct sections/blocks that can vary depending on the mood of the Nightopians. The amount of different combinations is in its thousands. The composer, Tomoko Sasaki, also scored Ristar around the same time and there are definitely similarities! Check the flutes on this:

 

 

 

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Yeah, this sounds like a great way to vent:

Also-Rans:

 

Cyberpunk 2077 – Honestly, it’s a great RPG-Lite experience like Fallout. The world is a little empty (and not intentional-feeling like Gen Zero) and the script’s a little ropey for my tastes, but the Precision Rifles and high-end weaponry feel godly and the key visual moments look absolutely stunning.

 

PC Building Simulator – A pretty fun time-waster when it was free on EGS. Won’t blow your mind visually, but it really does the simulator genre right while just allowing you to fuck around with make-believe computers.


 

The Bronzed “Seriously, I just like walking around and shooting bullshit” Award: Generation Zero (PC/XBox/PS4, 2018/2019)

 

For a game where 90% of the time I'm walking and looting the same identikit in Sweden, it *really* scratches the itches I love from Fallout - walking and creeping about the wilderness, pulling random crap from bins and using it to shoot the everloving shit out of some bullet sponges. The game looks absolutely superb even a couple of years out of release, the guns feel and sound superb while firing, and when you're knee deep in swarming robot scum and blowing up everything itself, it feels incredibly chaotic and kinetic. There's not a lot more to it and the larger boss-style enemies are an exercise in tedium, but otherwise it's the second best game I couldn't recommend to everyone. The first is number one in this list.


 

The Silvered “I played it while things were a bit quiet and now I feel a bit daft” Award: Return of the Obra Dinn (PC, 2018)

 

Jamie John says enough about this game above, but I'll throw the things at the wall that immediately stick to mind - I love the aesthetic and theme of the game, the way the tale unravels, the feeling of accomplishment when the game smash cuts the black and says 'Well done.' when you finally identify three crewmates, going over all the small details for each scene to monitor the movements of everyone and feeling super big brain when you realise their relationships to the others. It's genuinely brilliant.


 

The Golden “This actually goes against everything I stand for but I keep playing” Award: Arknights (Mobile, 2020)

 

Everything about this game should not be appealing to me at all. It’s a mobile, anime, gacha-driven tower defense game hailing from mainland China.

Yet, if given the chance, this would easily land in my top 5 games this year. The presentation, production values, written plot and world building embarrasses most paid visual novels. The game is constantly updated with free content updates, events and rewards to the point where a normal ‘dead week’ feels like a relief, and has a clear roadmap for the next six months for both the global and chinese servers. The tower defense aspect is much smaller scale, and uses RPG and action elements tastefully to invest in units that doesn’t involve paying to win. It’s thoughtful, convenient to blast through and it’s enjoyable to play.

Frankly, Arknights is far better than it has any right to be, in the same way Genshin Impact shouldn’t have been taken more seriously than a BotW rip-off. It’s great, even. Just, uh, don’t play it if you’re suspectible to spending money or gambling. You can get a long way if you’re a stalwart fan of the F2P lifestyle, mind.

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Definitely Snowrunner for me.

It was a complete chore at times but after I got the platinum I felt like I deserved it. It’s a great game to listen to podcasts or radio or watch Netflix with.

 

Shame they couldn’t shit out the next gen version in time for me but I really can’t wait to see what they do for snowrunner 2.

Hopefully they will leave behind the PS4 gen and really take advantage of the cpu for really complex physics interactions.

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Definitely demon’s souls remake. One thing lead to another. I ended up with the platinum. got it this year when I finally managed to find a PS5 and extra points for not having played the original either. 

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Another vote for Paper Beast here - I just started it on Christmas Day and I’m going to finish off the platinum trophy later today. My only criticism is that it isn’t a bit longer. Best of all I didn’t have to pay for it since they just decided to give it away for free last year, I don’t even remember why.

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21 hours ago, MW_Jimmy said:

@Down by LawGreat to see someone enjoying NiGHTS for the first time years after release. Still my favourite game of all time. The combo chaining score attack nature of the game is steeped in Sega's arcade heritage but it's odd billing as a successor to Sonic, a rival to Mario 64, meant a lot of folk at the time didn't understand the game.

 

The soundtrack is really unique in videogames too. It loops through distinct sections/blocks that can vary depending on the mood of the Nightopians. The amount of different combinations is in its thousands. The composer, Tomoko Sasaki, also scored Ristar around the same time and there are definitely similarities! Check the flutes on this (Ristar)

 

 

Yes, I noticed this while actually playing through Xmas Nights - it's a really cool feature! 

 

As for Ristar, yes, always loved that game, was lucky enough to have it back in the day. Never made the composer connection but now it's clear as day, this piece is very Nights at @1:53

 

 

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I'm not sure I played any big game minted in 2021 this year. GOTY was very nearly Cyberpunk 2077, which I think was my last 'day 1' pre-order, on PS4 last December. Totally janky to start with, in one on-rails shooter scene slowdown was so bad it was in the seconds per frame range, I swear. One patch improved the visuals and playability, and even on base PS4 the world-building shone through.

 

But I followed that up with Ghost of Tsushima, a beautiful evocation of the Samurai/Ronin world, and that's probably my favourite big hitter. Closely followed by Assassin's Creed Odyssey, as Kassandra is awesome.

 

Really, my PS4 year was one of mopping up good titles I had missed - typical 'end of the generation' feel. Confirmed by picking up a PS5 last week...

 

Otherwise, lots of indie or AA games on Switch; Hades, Paradise Killer, Obra Dinn, Kentucky Route Zero.

 

Of which Hades is clearly my GOTY; I had tried Transistor and it didn't quite click, but Hades was amazing. First roguelike that I've really gotten into since, I dunno, Shiren the Wanderer back on GBA/DS.

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Couple of very boring ones from me unfortunately. Despite making a massive fuss about not wanting to play it in last years Game of the Year Awards, I decided to pick up a cheap copy of The Last of Us Part 2 and I thought it was absolutely incredible. I always thought the first was pretty overrated so just how much I enjoyed the sequel blindsided me a bit. 

 

Also finally started Hades and yes, you're all right, it's brilliant. 

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I have three contenders.

 

Eastshade It's a smaller more constrained Skyrim but instead of combat you get on by solving puzzles and painting landscapes. And it has the most amazing way of getting around the island, you can travel at speed on a foldup Victorian stlye bike and they got the feel of riding it down so well I think Bethesda could learn a thing or two. Incredibly charming and full of mysteries to be solved.

 

Sunset Overdrive felt like a mash up of Saint's Row 4 and any skating game you can imagine. I loved the look and feel of this game, it felt like it was made for the me of 20 years ago.

 

Life is Strange 2 is a game I bounced off twice but I pushed through and while it's not my favourite Life is Strange game it's probably the best one. I fell down a rabbit hole after completing it and discovering I'd completely misinterpreted the aim of the game (which I think was intentional) and that every small decision and choice of words could have huge impacts on the endgame. If you've bounced off it I highly recommend pushing onto Episode 3 where it really starts to come together rather than feeling like an endless slog.

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Easy one for me... Half-Life Alyx.

 

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After having a significant PC upgrade back in February this was my first stop and boy it didn't disappoint. Felt like a genuine ground-breaking moment in my game playing history, and years ahead of the competition in term of offering a complete VR gaming package. Proving without a doubt its validity as a genuine gaming platform moving forward..  

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Classic Bubble Bobble. Same as it is every year. I just wish we could get the Hamster Arcade Archive version on Switch instead of it being an add-on in the new version.

 

 

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Without a doubt, my GOTYNRTY is Paradise Killer. I think it would've beaten anything released this year or last. 

 

Someone on here compared its cast of characters to that of Michael Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time, which is a really great shout. I'd genuinely love to know if those books were an influence. 

 

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Two choices for me.

 

Hades is just a joy to play for the many reasons people have said. 

 

Assassins Creed Odyssey is by far my favourite of the series so far. Whereas the bloat is a source of criticism for others, it never bothered me as I just didn't want it to end. Looks insanely good on the new consoles with a kickass protagonist in Kassandra *Alexios does not exist!* and the sea battles are also great fun.

 

Still going through the 2nd DLC and still really enjoying it. I'll move onto Valhalla once I'm done but I'm not expecting it to top this. 

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I have two that I will put into seperate categories:

 

Live Service Game - Apex Legends

 

Season 11 kicked off in 2021 and it's the most fun I've had with Apex in ages. New map that is fantastic, new weapon that has become one of my go to's (CAR) and althought I haven't played much as the new character Ash, she has an interesting moveset. They even took my favourite weapon out of the care package (Triple Take) which is the cherry on top. Can't wait to see what they do next season.

 

Non-Live Service Game - Mafia Remastered

 

Having played both 2 and 3 in the Mafia series, no open world game does a better story than those. And Mafia is no different. Like playing a Scorcese film, while the likes of GTA shout "isn't crime coooool!", the Mafia series takes the approach that all the bad things you do will eventually catch up with you. Tempted to pick up the sequel remaster in 2022 and play that again.

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Suzuki Bakuhatsu (2000)

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I've wanted to play this game for such a long time based on the premise alone - you play through a day in the life of a character who notices bombs ticking in everyday environments - and so begins a bomb defusal game in which you take apart oranges, guns, train-crossing signals and much more abstract concepts too. The aesthetic is ridiculously cool with FMV/photo scenes for the story, and in game with the big overlays of screwdrivers and clinks, clanks and beeps as you peel back the layers on these impossible objects. Famed shibuya-kei artist Fantastic Plastic Machine supplies the jingles and adds a lot to the overall feel. It's quite trial and error (and gets very difficult towards the end), but enjoyed it lots and can see myself going through again to get all alternative puzzles.

 

King Colossus (1992)

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By now I've played most SNES and Megadrive RPGs so have to dig pretty deep. This was fan translation of a Sega RPG that didn't get released in the West. I can kinda understand why - it has some odd quirks such as a very basic story with little characterisation and no overworld - just towns and dungeons. It most closely resembles something like Illusion of Time/Soleil but then has bits of platforming like Alundra and bosses that feel very Ys-esq. Also the music is absolutely standout (from the same composer as Biohazard Battle). I'm glad I played through this and it fits nicely between early MD RPGs like Sword of Vermilion and later ones like Phantasy Star IV.

 

Super Crush KO (2020)

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A 2D-take on Devil May Cry / Bayonetta. Except that the main character is just a girl in her tracksuit chasing after her cat. Action is really tight and has all the elements you expect - launchers, charged attacks, dodge rolls in the pursuit of S-Ranks.

 

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D (2013) / Tropical Freeze (2014)

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Really solid 2D platformers that are super kinetic and instinctive. Feels like Nintendo's Sonic at times.

 

Hypnospace Outlaw (2019)

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I always knew I'd like messing around in this AOL Geocities internet-of-the-past simulator but didn't expect the interface be so robust, and an engaging storyline that perfectly fits into this era. The webpage puzzles, obtuse navigation, broken image links, midi downloads and music player skins, were just a few of the attention to details I really appreciated.

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Gran Turismo 2 (1999/2000) 

Pretty much the first thing I did with my lovely, shiny new Xbox Series S was to install a ps1 emulator and play a 21 year old game (ish, I went with the EU version, which came out in January 2000. Both ntsc versions were released before Christmas 1999). I was actually surprised at how well this held up. The emulation helped by smoothing out the eye bleeding visuals and the game itself is still great to play. The handling is unbelievably twitchy but, once you get used to it, its a lot of fun. Though I will admit to save state scumming to get through some of the harder races. 

 

It's not without its flaws. The licence tests are a bit too hard in places and block off parts of the game until they're completed. Fortunately, I sourced a save with them all done already. And the AI cars blindly follow the racing line, whether another car is on it or not, a fault that plagued every iteration of the series I've played. 

 

But, all in all, playing through it was my gaming highlight of 2021. 

 

Runners up:

Stardew Valley 

Minecraft Dungeons 

Mortal Kombat 11 

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Pathfinder 

 

Nice and relaxed gaming and it plays really well on bone. Well worth the £6 I paid for it. 
 

Chernobylite 

 

Bit of a hidden gem this one. Fantastic fun. PS4 version only released in 2021 so I’m not sure if it counts 

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