Well, 2021 has been a year, and it’s about to be a different one. Picking my favorites this year was actually kind of tough, but it’s a pretty even split between indies and larger studio affairs. I’ve changed things up a bit this time, so I actually picked a runner-up and GOTY. Here’s the list of my favorite PC games of 2021.
Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Cyber Shadow really surprised me. I don’t typically go for level-based NES throwbacks. When I reviewed it, I gave it a 9.5. I loved it so much, it’s easily one of my favorite PC games of 2021. Once the dust cleared, I was shocked to see that my feelings weren’t universal. But it’s a marvelous game with incredible level design and gameplay. It plays kind of like the NES Ninja Gaiden games, but way more fair. It’s challenging, but so well balanced that individual segments never took me all that long. Save for the final boss fight, which I thought was a bit much.
The game has so much packed into it, from letting you go back to previous levels to hunt for powerups and some of the most satisfying movement mechanics around. For me, it absolutely hit on everything that I want from retro platformers of this sort. It took me a good eight hours too, which I mostly feel is the perfect length for a game like this. If you haven’t played Cyber Shadow yet, I highly recommend it. Maybe you’ll be as crazy about it as I am.
Resident Evil Village
Okay, I gave everything else on this list at least a 9 when I reviewed it. Resident Evil Village is a stupid game. The plot is dumb, the action is dumb, the characters are dumb. It’s all dumb. But after beating it on normal, I did a new game plus on hard. Then I did another new game plus on the even harder difficulty. When that still wasn’t enough, I did a speedrun of the harder difficulty with infinite ammo. I just couldn’t stop playing the freaking thing for weeks. I like dumb.
Resident Evil Village is easily one of my favorite PC games of 2021, even though the hardest difficulty is badly balanced. You seriously need to bring in one of the super magnums just to be able to chew through ridiculous boss health pools. But I still had a good time when doing that. And going through and just laying waste to everything with infinite magnum ammo after doing things the normal way three times was insanely satisfying. I’ll probably be doing it all again from scratch next year when the itch returns.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but playing Echo Generation just makes me happy. It’s a combination voxel adventure game and turn-based RPG. Solving the game’s riddles is pretty rough, as it’s very much an adventure game in that sense, but the game is so funny and made with so much heart that I don’t even mind. On top of that, the combat is a blast, even though I’m usually bored by turn-based battles. It’s a seriously fun time.
Some of the game’s puzzles are ridiculous, though. One that sticks out requires you to put a cardboard cutout of an alien next to an actual alien on a spaceship. How do you get the cardboard cutout? You have to walk up and interact with it in a video store. But, if you do, the game tells you it costs more money than you’ll ever have. You then have to select the “buy” option anyway, at which point the shop owner says they’ll just give it away for free. Who could figure that out?! That’s not even a puzzle, it’s just a trick! I’m apparently still kind of worked up about this.
Astalon: Tears of the Earth
Metroid-likes have a problem with redundancy. Many of them feel so interchangeable that — although I love the genre — I’m not often impressed. Astalon does its own thing, though. Using a combination of NES-era graphics and some of the most deeply compelling exploration in the biz, it makes for a game that I consider a must play. The game wasn’t perfect at launch, though. There was this one section that was way harder than the rest of the game. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the extreme anger that came with getting through the original version of it.
Thankfully, the devs added another travel point here to make it less painful. This means that I’ve got pretty much no qualms with the current version of the game. If you like Metroid-likes, you need to play this. You might think the “you always go back to the starting hallway when you die” thing is weird, but it’s not a big deal. And hunting for the game’s secrets is an incredible time in and of itself. As long as you don’t open the wrong doors with your keys. But you probably will!
Runner-up: It Takes Two
What an incredible game. I don’t like co-op games, usually; I like to play solo. You can’t play It Takes Two by yourself, though. Luckily, I got to play it with the fantastic Blake Grundman, who patiently waited while my dumb ass got confused by simple puzzles. I, in turn, made fun of him when he bungled the some of the platforming sections. I’m probably going to send him a link to this just to needle him some more. Between the amazing level design, wonderful controls, and whimsical world, there’s so much to like here.
It’s even a pretty lengthy game, clocking in at about a dozen hours. But It Takes Two is undeniably something that’s better when you take your time. I’m going to try and bully someone else into playing it with me so that they can experience it themselves. And maybe just want to play the story as the other character, as both of them have unique actions and segments.
Favorite PC game of 2021: Psychonauts 2
It was kind of hard to choose between my top two games to see which I would crown GOTY. They’re both dreamy 3D platformers with deep themes all about acceptance and understanding. But Psychonauts has been important to me for a long time. I adored this game. It was exactly what I wanted from a follow-up to the first one, and I was overjoyed to step back into the world and see it put together with so much love. The mechanics were also improved so much that Psychonauts 2 really does stand on its own as far as 3D platformers go.
The only complaint I have with the game is that it ends. I wanted more of an epilogue after the credits rolled, even though I probably spent an hour going around and talking to everyone, which included new dialogue from the entire principal cast. I guess that’s enough but it wasn’t enough. I truly hope it’s not the last we see of the franchise. And I also hope it doesn’t take over a decade and a half next time. As far as I’m concerned, though, nothing else can be the 2021 GOTY.
That’s all from me. See you next year for more game reviews. I think I wrote over 100 this year alone. How is that even possible? No wonder I’m so tired all the time. I counted. I’m at 107. And I’ve still got a few on the way. I need to get out more.