Alex Orona’s 2021 Games of the Year

Alex Orona is former host of Super GG Radio and the monster punter. You got monsters, he’s got a foot.

Hey guys! It’s your (former) Super GG host Alex Orona! 2021 was a great year for games, despite Covid,there was plenty I loved this year. My list always ends up way longer than just a stock 10 (this year it was 18.) After dwindling it down I’m happy with my list but before we get to the main countdown there were a couple games I particularly liked but barely made the cut so I want to address them now.

Honorable Mentions

The Gunk

I am a big fan of the Steam World games and was glad to get a new game by those developers. While I had a blast with it, I had a nagging feeling that it could’ve been better. 

Ender Lillies

A beautiful metroidvania that is tons of fun but misses slightly on an explorable world with multiple paths. Having a giant linear map felt confusing and frustrating at times but still worth looking at for the next metroidvania fix. 

Golf Club Wasteland

An alluring low key chill wave golf game with environmental storytelling up the wazzo. Unfortunately, using golf as the key mechanic with not a lot of variety left it feeling flat. 

Games I Wish I Had More Time With

Guilty Gear Strive and Monster Hunter Rise

I love both of these series and developers but for some reason I was just simply burnt out on the series.’ I plan on coming back to both as I know there’s quality in the product itself but for now I’m going to keep moving with my Game of the Year list. 

10. Backbone

I love the idea of a gritty super dark Noir tale with a world where anthropomorphic animals are the main characters. Ever seen a raccoon narrate how they want to drink until they die? I know I have, and it’s surreal as hell. Following Howard the raccoon PI’s bumbling but very grim adventure style detective story is as thrilling as it is hilarious. The hits hit hard and the score hits harder. Jazzy piano tunes croon at the right moments and silence permeates the suspense. I liked a lot of what they did with Backbone but also didn’t feel a direct drive to play it. Once I was in it, I loved every minute but it’s a bit of an undertaking diving into such a dialogue heavy game. Also some of the best water animations of the year.

9. Unpacking

The complete opposite of Backbone, how about a game where you just unpack someone’s life? It’s soothing and charming in a way that not a lot of other games were in 2021. It tells a story that really only unfolds as you unpack. It remains minimalist but also does a lot of environmental storytelling through the universal chore of unpacking. 

8. Eastward 

Eastward is a special game in that I did not know what I was getting into with it. I was expecting a Stardew style experience with similar beautiful pixel art and catchy chiptune soundtrack. What I got was a Last of Us style zelda like… with beautiful pixel art and catchy chiptune soundtrack. It’s a fairly dense linear narrative but it’s a world that feels huge and alive. The cities bustle and the story takes twists and turns. It especially felt good to just be part of the world of Eastward. Talking to the non player characters feels like their lives are fully realized despite being irrelevant to the story. I return to Eastward time and time again just to live in that world again. 

7. Nier Replicant 

Nier Replicant was a solid remake from early in the year. Bringing the fabled precursor to Nier Automata from 2 gens ago back onto modern consoles for us to experience. An exciting premise if not a slightly faulted one as it’s a super sad tale where everyone’s lives generally get worse and worse as the story progresses. Our heroes face unfair odds and are rarely rewarded for their efforts. Despite that I still enjoyed my time with Nier Replicant. It did a lot of things that I found charming in Nier Automata but now with a more fantasy setting. The characters made me laugh and the story was satisfying to a point. Now to beat it 3-4 more times to get the full story…

6. Guardians of the Galaxy

Affirming my suspicions that superhero games are best when linear and story based, here is Guardians of the Galaxy. A lot like Miles Morales (2020), we have a coming of age tale of the Guardians, fresh into their tenure as a team working to come together cohesively. There are plenty of trials and tribulations of course, with a ton of arguing but it’s satisfying when they do finally come together. The story itself digs deep into the comic book lore to an impressive extent while still giving context for the layman. The combat doesn’t do anything to write home about but still feels good to combine and control each guardian’s special abilities. The chatter amongst the guardians is smart and quick but can also feel a bit overbearing at times. Sometimes I just wanted them to stop bickering, but that doesn’t stop the game itself from generally being an overall positive experience more people should check out. 

5. Death Loop

I feel like the premise of Death Loop is something really unique. Take out a couple of key visionaries within a single day, if you don’t start the day over and try again. It’s a really clever hook and Arkane does such a great job with the clockwork world that it can just be fun watching it all function on it’s own. The gunplay is satisfying as well as the visionary powers but I’m really here for the world and what’s going on at the different intervals. Seeing how the days play out is magical and the 70’s aesthetic is also quite the bonus. Don’t get me started on the wild asynchronous multiplayer. Both a blessing and a curse. 

4. The Forgotten City

I am not a fan of Skyrim. I have made it clear that those types of games are not for me, but when someone made a mod that spun a small time loop mystery into Skyrim I was all in. Now spinning it out into its own game is such a perfect success story that I want to support. Forgotten City is enthralling. The characters are fun and vary in personality so wildly that I had zero issue memorizing who each one did and what they liked, which is necessary as you will use them to solve clues about the mysterious forgotten city. There are multiple endings, all relatively satisfying but generally speaking they do something special with how this story plays out. I can’t say enough good things about this game. 

3. Loop Hero

This is the game I spent probably the most time with this year. Working from home, it always felt nice having Loop Hero on my second monitor running. It’s not necessarily an idle game but sort of plays itself. Your hero goes around in his set loop while auto fighting enemies and collecting resources and gear. You control how you display the resources or gear your hero. It’s hard to explain but works beautifully in practice. It just kind of goes and takes you along for the ride. I found myself just kind of letting my hero go a few runs before pausing and equipping him properly. It makes for good progression without much leg work on your end. It’s really great. 

2. Death’s Door

This was hands down my Game of the Year for most of 2021. I loved the Zelda style gameplay, simple but with some customization within. The art style is wonderfully realized with enemies and characters that can be framed inside your house. The whimsy and mystical elements mix so well within the real world context of the crow world. Take that all in with a wonderfully orchestrated musical score and you’ve got something wholly fantastic. I am still digging into the post game content of Death’s Door but this is one that stuck with me throughout all of 2021. 

1. Inscryption

What can I say about Inscryption? It’s a fantastic card game that kept me on my toes and finding satisfying card and totem combos that would feel overpowered until it all would come crashing down. It’s got a meta layer that is both multimedia and also enthralling in a mystery that kept me guessing. Outside of the card game, there’s multiple escape room style sections and outward puzzles that made me think outside of the box. Throughout the entire game I never felt like I had a bead on what the game was doing, because each time I did, it would change up drastically. That’s the beauty of Inscryption, whether you think you know what it is, you never really do and that’s what makes it my Game of the Year.

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