Returnal may just be the most next-gen game we’ve played this generation. HouseMarque’s arcade heritage plays perfectly in a roguelite setting, and they did a tremendous job weaving quite a gripping story into that roguelite fabric. Selene’s journey is one we didn’t expect to be interested in, but it’s fantastic. There’s ample reason to keep playing the game just to see the story through, but more importantly the game encourages you to play and get better at it.
Unlike some other tough games, Returnal treats your time with respect and lets you get back to where you were while keeping the run-based structure intact. It also uses the Dual Sense controller better than any PS5 game yet. The rain on Selene’s helmet, or the loading of a computer screen feels phenomenal, and is a true showcase for the potential of haptic game features. Elsewhere, Bobby Krlic’s score is creepy and atmospheric, and the visual effects and particle work on display is excellent. In all, Returnal is one of the more creative first party Sony games in a while, and it wins the bronze medal in our list of the best video games of 2021.
Live. Die. Repeat. Deathloop was mysterious to a lot of the industry. What would it be like? Would Arkane’s work with Dishonored play into Deathloop’s world? The answers are: awesome, and oh heck yes. Deathloop isn’t exactly what a lot of people thought it would be, but in a good way. Colt is a great hero, the writing is strong, and Juliana is a great villain. What more could we really ask for? Well, there’s the game feel, which is weighty and satisfying. Weapons kick hard, and the powers you’ll gather feel, well, powerful. As the name suggests, it’s also a loop game, and a darn good one at that. Builds can be varied, and the act of gaining knowledge over the adventure feels outstanding. Great games frequently tease out the experience over time, and Deathloop is a great example of that.
1. Metroid Dread
Metroid Dread is one of the best Metroid games. Yes, we’re saying it, Metroid Dread can be uttered in the same breath as Super Metroid and Metroid Prime. Samus’ latest adventure is both varied and exciting, and does a great job of leading you toward success. It never outright says it, but it often suggests your next course of action through level design. Looking back on the adventure it’s obvious. But more importantly, Metroid Dread feels sensational. Samus has never controlled so fluidly, nor has her motion felt so precise. Part of that has to do with the stellar animation, which really belies the fact this game is stretching the Switch to its limits.
That stretching results in some mild occasional slowdown, but it doesn’t take away from the excellent combat. Samus can do a lot, and even the complex controls feel natural over time. Some pacing issues didn’t take away from our team’s enjoyment of the game either, where it took second place in voting. After a great deal of discussion, we’re really proud to name Metroid Dread our game of the year for 2021.
Just Missed The Mark
It was a pretty good year for games, which means a lot of things just missed the top ten. The three most prominent things that got bumped were:
- Halo Infinite, which lost points for a scruffy, underbaked campaign and story
- Hitman 3, which lost points for being more of the same (but in a great way)
- Loop Hero, which just wasn’t the best looping indie game of the year
What do you think of our list of the ten best games of 2021? Did we get it right, or did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments below or on social media. Want to hear our discussion about the ten best video games of 2021? Listen to episode 4.23 of Press X To Podcast. Stick around for episode 4.22 where we discuss the best leather jackets and teeth of the year!