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Jeremy’s 10 best games of 2021

An image from Dodgeball Academia showing multiple dodgeball players tossing balls, including three standing on a Kotaku dot-com field.

2021 was a year, right? The pandemic continues to cause unnecessary disruption despite the wide availability of vaccines. Semiconductor shortages are hitting the economy. Blacks and homosexuals continue to die. It was tough playing games this year, especially when you didn’t have a PS5 or Xbox Series X / S until a few weeks ago. Still, I managed to distract myself with more games than I thought. And while I haven’t beaten everyone here, I’ve found comfort in some, lightness in most, and fun in all. Here are my best games of 2021.

Cycle of death

An image of Deahtloop depicting the protagonist Colt uses two automatic submachine guns to shoot two guards.

Arkane Studios is the master of immersive first-person simulators, and Deathloop is proof of that. A gripping psychological tale of choices, timing, and consequences, Deathloop builds on the excellence of Dishonored and turns the volume up to 11. It’s brutal, it’s fast, but it’s also a treat, especially when you unlock the different abilities and weapons. Also, there are two black playable characters here, not one, two! Consider me sold.

Death’s door

An image of Crow's Death's Door standing in a cathedral in black and white.

Titan Souls, the first project from developer Acid Nerve, was a little boss game that I felt was a bit sketchy when it released in 2015. But I was intrigued by what the studio was doing, and Death’s Door is the logical next step. An isometric dungeon robot where you control a raven harvesting souls, Death’s Door is one of those games that expertly mixes feelings and moods. Understand and execute your goal without exceeding your welcome. It also has a drug boss fight that exemplifies its sleek game design. It’s no wonder that Death’s Gate appears on most of Kotaku’s end-of-year charts.

Dodge ball academy

A Dodgeball Academy screenshot of the protagonist Otto firing a wave of kamehameha.

A Shonen anime through and through, Pocket Trap’s Dodgeball Academy is probably the most fun I’ve had with a video game all year. It’s an absurd and charming little RPG about Otto, a student who leaves his poor school against his parents’ wishes to join Dodgeball Academy College, a kind of college for aspiring dodgeball players. What you get is a sports-focused dodgeball-em-up packed with various balls of power (like electricity and guidance), special moves, and side missions to complete. Everything gives way to a story about identity, the search for his true self and trust in his friends. Very shit from Naruto or One Piece if we’re honest, and I love it!

Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier

An image from Final Fantasy VII: The first soldier of three soldiers preparing to jump from a helicopter.

I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Ateam’s Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier as much as I did, and that’s mostly due to the platform it’s on. I mean, it’s a mobile game! The main input method is the touch screen. While you can’t be very precise in this Battle Royale shooter because of that, The First Soldier is still a good time killer, especially if you missed Fortnite on iOS. And because this is a Final Fantasy game, you can expect the usual props: summons, Gil, materia, costumes to dress your soldier as iconic characters from the series, and different play styles ranging from warriors wielding a ninja sword using shurikens. There are even Chocobos that you can customize, so what is there not to love?

Pokemon united

An image from Pokémon Unite that shows Pikachu about to drive a bullet into the enemy's goal to score points.

I’m a huge MOBA fan, having spent a good three or four years playing Titan Forge Games’ Smite when it released in 2015. TiMi Studio Group’s Arena of Valor was also part of my MOBA rotation before being overshadowed by developer Pokémon Unite. . It has become my main MOBA now, both for IP and for accessibility. But more than that, what Pokémon Unite did helped me find joy in MOBAs. I can be very competitive. It frustrates me when I lose because other people are not making their weight, but the variety of fun characters and events in Pokémon Unite prompts me to see beyond the competition, to enjoy both the aesthetics and the gameplay without just concentrating on the score. . It’s a nice respite from the high-intensity MOBAs that woke up, although Pokémon Unite can get pretty intense.

Scarlet nexus

An image from Scarlett Nexus showing Yuito Sumeragi using telekinesis to launch what appears to be a large bus at an enemy.

It is basically an anime, the video game. Developed by Bandai Namco Studios and Tose, Scarlet Nexus piqued my interest when it was revealed in May 2020 and shocked me when I completed it sometime after its release on June 25. It’s a stylish action RPG, with two protagonists whose narratives are intertwined, making you play the game twice to see the story from both points of view. It’s an evocative, emotional, and exhilarating journey with tight controls and even tighter powers. It’s fun, but what I like the most are the moments between playable characters Kasane Randall and Yuito Sumeragi, as they come to understand the connection between them and the events that unfold throughout the 25 hours of the game. Scarlet Nexus is amazing, and while it seems like a storytelling game, it’s more than that.

Skating city

An image from Skate City of a skater doing a hardflip on a ladder.

None of my lists would be complete without the skateboard look. Despite being available via Apple Arcade since 2019, Room8 Studio’s Agens Games and Skate City have smiled on consoles and PC this year without much fanfare. This is understandable, because it is quite discreet. But everyone is missing what amounts to a lofi version of EA’s Skateboard. Skate City, like Skate, requires you to use the joysticks to chain tricks, grinds, and spins to complete challenges and rack up points. The low-poly aesthetic, combined with chill-hop music, creates a complete atmosphere. And it is a perfect game to fill the time. Honestly, I can’t let it go.

Skul: The Hero Killer

An image from Skul: The Hero Slayer showing protagonist Skul with his head bowed and sitting in the grass to his left.

Skul: The Hero Slayer by Neowiz Games is an adorable roguelite action platformer. But honestly, don’t be fooled by her cuteness, it’s a rough game! You play as the eponymous Skul, a small skeleton warrior who can change his head for another head which then transforms his entire body and gives him different abilities. There’s a Grim Reaper, wizard, ninja, werewolf, and more to discover as you play and they yell at you in Skul – The Hero Slayer always offers another chance to experience a new style of play. C The best part: No two races are the same, and while there are some similarities between the two, whether in the form of familiar paths or enemies in familiar places, you can change.

Tales of ascension

An image from Tales of Arise that shows Alphen talking to Shionne.

Like Scarlet Nexus, Bandai Namco Studios’ Tales of Arise also animates the video game. Those familiar with the Thales formula know what to expect in this action RPG, but everything has been brought up to 11. The visuals are absolutely stunning. The real-time gameplay is tremendously tight. The characters are fascinating and profound. But what really amazes me is the story of the game, which is this interwoven story of class and liberation. It has so much meat on its bones that while some may seem a bit dry, most of what Tales of Arise has to offer is mouth watering and delicious. I’m still getting started, but I’m excited to see more of what Alphen and his eclectic band members are getting into.


An image from Unpacking showing a room full of things, including a sewing machine, sofa, what appears to be a Sailor Moon outfit, and more.

Who would say that a game with absolutely NO DIALOGUE could be so heartbreaking and yet Witch Beam’s Unpacking is just that. A story-based puzzle game that follows an anonymous protagonist through the various stages of life: early adolescence, college life, early relationships and their aftermath, and more. . It’s a great experience, backed by excellent environmental, sound and visual design. It also reminds us how bad boyfriends can be, especially when they don’t leave you space. It may be brief, but the unboxing will be with you long after.

With that, I say goodbye to 2021 and all its nonsense. Most like the pandemic and semiconductor shortages will follow us for a while, which sucks. Likewise, many of these games will make their way onto my never-ending order list, as the 2022 game lineup seems heavily stacked. Nonetheless, it has been a great year for games and I can’t wait to see what the next year holds.

Thanks for a great first year, dear Kotaku readers. See you in 2022!

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