The first full year for the new generation of consoles may have been dampened by many different delays of both games and hardware, but out of the games that did release this year there were many incredible experiences spanning all platforms and genres.

This list consists of my personal top 10 favorites games of 2021, out of the games I’ve played. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to pick up a few games I’ve been anticipating greatly, such as Metroid Dread, but I still played a few dozen new releases this year.

Honorable Mentions


  • Halo Infinite
  • Nier Replicant
  • Persona 5 Strikers
  • The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
  • Mass Effect Legendary Edition
  • Backbone
  • Death Trash
  • The Legend of Tianding
  • Loop Hero
  • Unsighted
  • Song of Iron
  • Rain on Your Parade

There were simply too many amazing games released this year for me to simply settle on a set of 10. All of these games made up some of the highlights of my year and wrre simply beat out by a few games that appealed to me more.

10. Alan Wake Remastered

Alan Wake blew me away the first time I played the original version around three years ago, and the Remaster managed to have just as much of an impact on me. The absurdism presented through it’s narrative style is unmatched even a decade later. It’s the kind of game where you can peel back layers of details forever and continuously dig up more key information. Alan’s story is one for the ages, and it shines ever more brightly thanks to the retouching that’s been done by Remedy.

You play as none other than Alan Wake, taken on a vacation by your wife to the town of Bright Falls. The trip is meant to be an escape from the difficulties you’ve faced trying to write your newest book, but the events of the game escalate quickly. There’s a dark force hanging over the town, manipulating the people who live there and making you question your own sanity. It’s an action-horror title with some survival elements, and while the original gameplay has aged a bit, the Remaster has managed to smooth it over.

Alan Wake shining a flashlight onto a large smoke looking creature

Source: Press Kit

9. Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart

Growing up Ratchet & Clank was one of the most important series for me. Starting right at the beginning and adventuring through series all along the way from the mainline titles to spin-offs like Secret Agent Clank. To say I was extremely excited for Rift Apart would be an understatement. This is the game that pushed me into buying a PS5, and I basically sat down and played through the entire game straight. Earning one of the few platinum trophies I have.

Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart is a multiversal tale showcasing Ratchet and Clank bouncing between realities as they work together with another Lombax named Rivet to stop her reality’s version of Dr. Nefarious from conquering the multiverse. 

There’s so many things to love about this game. The characters and their chemistry carry the story while the smooth platform action combat and unique arsenal of weapons give all the thrills fans are used to from the series. Rift Apart is not only one of the best games of 2021 but I’d argue it’s up there with peak Ratchet & Clank as well. 

Ratchet from Ratchet and Clank Rift apart about to jump through a dimensional portal

Source: Press Kit

8. Lost Judgment

Lost Judgment is a dense game, which shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’re familiar with its predecessor Judgment or the series it came from Yakuza. I still have a ways to go with this title, but am already in love. While it feels familiar to the many other games in its franchise, I can’t help but fall in love with the cast and city of Kamurocho all over again. The brawler combat is some of the best in the series, and the story takes the characters to new thematic heights not explored by other games.

You play as private Detective Takayuki Yagami, a former attorney turned Detective due to some events that led up to the story of the first game. Lost Judgment holds a mysterious murder that seems to have just as many holes in its story as it does details. I don’t want to go into specifics too much, as this is a game best experienced blind. But fans of murder mystery games and/or the Yakuza series are sure to have a blast.

Yagami from Lost Judgment

Source: Press Kit

7. Life is Strange: True Colors

I went into Life is Strange: True Colors with rather low expectations. Having not having been that big of fan of the previous games in the series, I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. The story of Alex Chen is one that I’m happy I chose to experience. It is one of the most emotional experiences I’ve had with a purely narrative focused game from start to finish. There’s so much pain and heartbreak displayed throughout the narrative but it always circles back to one of the games central themes: healing by allowing other people in. Throughout the game many characters attempt to close out Alex or other members of the cast during their emotional turmoil. Due to Alex’s ability to feel what others are feeling, you’re able to slowly help stabalize their emotions and allow them to begin the process of healing. This cycle goes much deeper than just being contained to each episode, rather the entire game is Alex herself going through the exact same experience. Slowly being touched by the citizens of Haven Springs.

Overall, I was incredibly moved by the story and messages that True Colors had to share, and while it may be lacking in gameplay elements, the content that is there is some of the best in the industry.

Alex Chen in her bard outfit from Life is Strange True Colors

Source: Press Kit

6. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

I was initially very wary of Guardians of the Galaxy. The 30 minute E3 gameplay made it look rather boring and even a bit uninspired at times. After hearing the roaring praise for the game after its release I got a smidge of FOMO (fear of missing out) so I picked it up on a Black Friday deal.

It surpassed my expectations with ease. The story is very heartfelt, surrounding what it means to be family and how to grieve with the loss of your loved ones. I wasn’t anticipating such a grounded story at all. With the MCU version of the Guardians taking over the classic comic versions, i was expecting a game full of cheesy humor and half-baked ideas. But the cast not only resembles their classic versions, in many ways they embody the core of them. A group of traumatized war veterans and social outcasts trying to piece together the few relationships they have left, all while navigating how to continue their life within the confines of the law.

Even the gameplay, which is rather simple, never got stale. I love gliding around the environment as Star-Lord blasting away enemies while commanding the rest of the team with their special abilities. It would have benefited the game to have had more depth to the gameplay, but it wasn’t hurt by the lack of it either. Guardians of the Galaxy is the perfect evidence that linear, one and done games still have a place in the industry.

the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy

Source: Press Kit

5. Resident Evil Village

I’ll be upfront, I am a rather massive Resident Evil fan with Resident Evil 4 specifically being one of my all time favorite games. That said, I was extremely excited for Village.  I was a bit weary of it due to some issues I had with its predecessor Biohazard, but fortunately it lived up to the expectations that I had set for it.

The creepy mountain side village set a tense atmosphere met with a deeper first person combat system than the previous entry in the series, and a significantly improved narrative. Every issue I had with Biohazard was improved upon. From lack of enemy variety, poor pacing, lack of unique boss fights, good weapon variety, and general depth issues that effected both gameplay and narrative.

Watching Ethan stampede through the many bosses and settings throughout the game in a desperate effort to save his daughter was a more personal journey than what we’ve watched other Resident Evil protagonists experience. 

Village marks the Resident Evil series finally finding its identity in the first person format. By immersing the player into the life and emotions of Ethan, it allowed them to connect in more meaningful ways. This allowed the horror to be more psychological in nature, a turn for the series that I am happy to welcome.

Lady D from Resident Evil Village with her claws out

Source: Press Kit

4. Death’s Door

Death’s Door was one of 2021’s indie darlings, and for many good reasons. It’s a top down Zelda-Like where you play as Crow, part of an organization that acts as Reapers of Souls. Shortly after the story begins the souls of one of your marks is stolen. Without the soul you cannot turn in your assignment, and will eventually die rather than being an Immortal Reaper. The story is rather complex in some ways, and is a lot deeper than it seems at first.

Ultimately the story is about finding peace in death. The end of everyone’s story is the same, and there’s no reason to fear the outcome. The bosses you fight throughout the game are all souls who’ve become corrupted since Death itself has vanished. They fight with everything they have but find peace with their passing in the end.

Gorgeous art, addictive gameplay, amazing music, and a story that stands amongst the giants of the industry. Enough good words cannot be said about Death’s Door, at one point it was my overall Game of the Year, and even though it has sunk in its placement, I still adore this game so much. One of the best parts of the game is how alive the world feels. There are many different characters you meet throughout your travels, all with their own stories that flesh out the world so much more. There’s also many secrets to be discovered which added to the fun of exploring. Every nook and cranny has something to offer which made this feel like a much greater lived experience.

the Reaper from Death's Door charging the large mansion looking boss

Source: Press Kit

3. Inscryption

Inscryption is a psychological horror, table top-esque, deckbuilding rogue-like and if that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Inscryption is addictive, I immediately became so engrossed with its story and gameplay that I simply couldn’t set it down. Every twist and turn threw me for a loop and made me desperate to predict where the game was taking me next. There aren’t any other games like it. It pushes the limits of absurdist storytelling, yet manages to still establish compelling themes. As a big fan of card games like Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon, games like this are always on my radar. I’m a massive fan of Slay the Spire for example, another card based rogue-like. However, Inscryption blows any other card based video game I’ve played out of the water. The atmosphere and brutality of the game suck you in and refuse to let go until you’re finished.

Inscryption is a game you need to go into with as little understanding of what it is as possible to get the most out of the experience, to the point where the majority of the game can’t be seen in any marketing materials. If you are wanting a more in-depth explanation however, you can read my review of it here.

Leshy from Inscryption staring at you with his carved wooden mask on

Source: Press Kit

2. Psychonauts 2

I went into 2021 believing for a fact that Psychonauts 2 would be my Game of the Year. Double Fine is one of my favorite studios, everything that had been shown from the game look even more spectacular than the original game. While it isn’t my Game of the Year, that isn’t due to it failing to meet my expectations. In fact it still surpassed my very high standards I had set for it. 

Stories about death and healing were weirdly common this year, and Psychonauts 2 handles many of those same themes. It had the advantage of the stories taking place inside of people’s actual minds. By giving each mind its own distinct art style the developers were able to add contrast between how people view reality compared to what reality actually looks like. These distortions foreshadow the problems plaguing their minds and how Raz can eventually help them. The level of detail and emotion put into every scene took my breath away. Psychonauts 2 makes you feel seen. The problems that the characters you help struggle with are the kinds that almost anyone has felt similar to at some point in their life. For me personally it went even further than that. Psychonauts 2 has great representation throughout, including great characters who were gay and disabled. They weren’t used for jokes or gags, but instead were just people who happened to be involved with the story.

Raz on a mind ball rolling towards a menacing tower

Source: Press Kit

1.  Tales of Arise

Prior to Tales of Arise I had dropped every single Tales of game that I’ve played previously. None could hold my attention for very long so I would drift away to other games. That was not at all the case with Tales of Arise. I was immediately immersed in the great characters and worlds building. The topics it covered from slavery to true love were so compelling that my attachment to the cast was instant. Each character has immense depth to them, and watching them slowly bond toghether through their trauma and set aside their differences for the greater good even had me crying at many points in the game. Its usage of thematic devices such as foreshadowing were also the best that I have seen in a long time. Even simple scenes like a close up of two flowers can hint to so many future events. 

If Tales of Arise were a book it would be classified as a romance novel. It isn’t simply a game that has romance in it, or romance options even. but love and romance are integral themes to the entire game. It IS a love story, and I think that distinction is what makes this a either you love it or don’t care for it affair. I am a sap all the way down to my core, so a mushy love story RPG is just the thing for me.

Doesn’t hurt that Tales of Arise also has an addictive combat system. It’s difficult to describe fully, but each fight is instanced doesn’t take place in the set overworld), and it feels very similar to Kingdom Hearts mainline combat, although significantly less floaty. There isn’t a whole lot of fighting to be had though. It doesn’t feel like there’s a lack of fighting at all, but out of my 60 hour playthrough only 10 hours were in combat according to the in-game stats.


alphen from tales of arise fighting a beast with his sword

Source: Press Kit

In a genre that too often lacks good stories about women or people of color, The Gunk is a solid tale of two scavengers discovering a world beyond their comphrension. While I may have issues with the title, the representation that it offers is some of the best this year. A strong black woman protagonist with prosthetics, and her witty pilot partner go beyond what is typically seen, and for that I am thankful for The Gunk.

All in all, The Gunk feels like your run of the mill action adventure title. With a beautiful world that’s fun to explore, it’s held down by repetitive core gameplay and a lack of depth. What The Gunk has to offer is of great quality, I just wish there was a bit more to it.


Price: $24.99

Developer: Image & Form Games, Thunderful Group

Publisher: Image & Form Games, Thunderful Group

Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC

mike szoke the editor-in-chief of gpn

Mike Szoke


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