Top 10 Games of 2021

Edit: I have no idea what’s happened to the numbering of my list. It should read 10 - 1, and it does in my edit pane, but NOT in the Preview or the actual post. Whatevs. Enjoy!

Grouvee People. It’s that time again. Let’s talk about our favourite games of 2021. A year we thought would be completely different from 2020, but as I sit here anticipating a fourth lockdown here in the UK, maybe it’s not so different after-all. At least, not for most people. As I have frequently announced to/annoyed you all with this year, I made a baby, so the amount of time I played and when changed very much so compared to infinity time I had in the early part of the pandemic 2020 while my work tried to figure out how to spoil my fun in the office AND at home…

But never mind that! One way we can forget about our worries is to jump into our games. And that’s what we did. You don’t have to do a Top 10 if you don’t want to (I’m not the boss of you). Use whatever format you want.

Here I goooooooooo;

  1. Spiderman (PS4) - This is about as close to being the real Spiderman as I’m ever likely to get. Great fun and exhilarating when things are going well. When things get out of control, it gets a bit clumsy, but to implement so much, they would have struggled to do better.

  2. The Outer Worlds (PS4) - I shouldn’t have rushed this one as there’s a lot of charm and character I feel like I missed out on. I think I was just trying to make the most of my time… at the time… Anyway, I enjoyed the combat and exploration, as well as the people I met. I wasn’t a huge fan of the graphical style, I feel this could have been a gorgeous space adventure rather than the oversaturated, garish palette we got here. But overall, a good romp.

  3. Shantae and the Seven Sirens (Switch) - WayForward have pretty much perfected the Shantae format at this point. The next game will have to do something different to mix it up a bit. This is a vibrant, well put together Metroidvania, with an upbeat soundtrack, a bit too easy difficulty and a lovable cast of characters.

  4. Devil May Cry 5 (PS4) - DMC in general is silly and over-the-top and that’s why I like it. Great to see Capcom embrace that in every way, with the characters, environments and combat being exaggerated to the point of being almost stereotypical. It’s fantasy, in it’s own way. And what a banging theme song.

  5. Axiom Verge (Switch) - Now this was a mysterious Sci-Fi adventure. I liked the retro graphics, the combat was challenging and the whole atmosphere was immersive. I was slightly less over the moon with the soundtrack, which everyone else seems to rave about, but it was fine. Can’t wait to play the sequel on 2022 some time.

  6. Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Switch) - This was so cute and yet surprisingly challenging in the puzzle department. I played this with the Mrs and she loved it too. She has a better memory than me so she was an absolute life saver for remembering where stuff and characters are so we could progress. Good memories made and what a fine remaster of the Gameboy original.

  7. Metroid Dread (Switch) - Conversely, Metroid Dread was dark and the EMMI really did fill me with dread every time I saw one of their zone doors ahead. I enjoyed the story and challenge, although I found the soundtrack just ok, although the overall sound really added to the atmosphere. Graphics were stunning, for a Switch game. Gameplay degenerates into a bit of a collect-o-thon by the end and standard enemies are breezed past, until you hit any kind of boss who immediately stone-walls you. There’s a fair bit of backtracking too, and I did get lost. This is why despite my love for the series, the game is only 4th on my list and ranks behind Metroid Prime and Super Metroid for me.

  8. Hades (Switch) - Now we enter what was a difficult Top 3 this year. In any other year, Hades might very well have been #1. So finely crafted, with great care taken to add the detail to gameplay and story. I ploughed about 70 hours in before I just… stopped. But that was enough to see the credits and do everything of import to the main quest. I actually sprained my wrist playing Hades, the fighting is that intense and very much a “One more go” game! Everyone who likes the genre should give this a go. It’s best in class.

  9. Nier Automata (PS4) - This was top of my list for so long and of all my Top 10, this one will really stick with me I think. I already have bits of the hauntingly beautiful soundtrack on repeat on my phone and in my head. The story opens up on the second and third playthroughs to reveal a tragic story but one that ultimately holds a mirror up to human consciousness and the struggle for understanding it. It looks beautiful too, in style but not necessarily the graphical. Almost like playing in a dream or a haze. The only real downside for me was not realising what I needed to do to get the true ending. A touching experience and I’m looking forward to trying Nier Replicant.

  10. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (PS4) - This took me 8 months to beat (blame the child). Eivor and I have been on this epic adventure across my home country together for so long, I was genuinely sad when it came to an end. After a slow start, the game opened up this sprawling epic, with the best visuals in the series yet. How they craft such a large world and make it work as well as it does, I don’t know. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but given the scale, it’s a wonder to me. I don’t like this quite as much as Origins and Eivor becomes too OP, but apart from that, I can’t fault this. I had a great time. And England was so beautiful back then. I want to go there! I’d die, but still, to see it would be wonderful. I can’t speak for the historical accuracy, but the vikings and England in that age is fascinating. I will miss this and it makes me sad to think this style of AC game might only end up being a trilogy.

There we go folks! If you stuck it out this long, thanks for reading. Looking forward to reading your Top 10 or whatever you go with.

~ Inc


Thanks for getting this up. I had been putting off starting the thread this year because Ive been lazy and hadn’t finished my lists. Going to try to get them up tonight.


2021 was supposed to play out differently, wasn’t it? With things ending almost as uncertainly as they did in 2020 it has certainly been an interesting year. Like last year, community was very important even if it often remained at a distance. To many of us Grouvee is a big part of that community, a safe place to share and discuss our interests. I know that Grouvee has been important to more than just me alone, and I am thankful for the great people here. Just as last year, as a way to continue sharing and creating discussion, here are my 10 personal favourite games released in 2021, with honourable mentions (in a rough reverse chronological order):

  • Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury : It’s probably well known that Super Mario 3D World is my favourite 3D Mario game ever made. It’s is a solidly and cleverly designed platformer that presents the best of both 2D and 3D design sensibilities. But it’s also now just a little over eight-years-old. Naturally then it is the addition of Bowser’s Fury that ensured this game a spot in the top ten. Bowser’s Fury is a refreshing open world playground for Mario, a game that borrows heavily from the smart designs of Super Mario 3D World and fits them brilliantly into a sandbox environment. Bowser’s Fury boasts both some great horizontal freedom as well as exceptional verticality in its puzzle designs. And it has just about the best Bowser Fight ever crafted, a fight you get to relish over and over to your heart’s delight. Bowser’s Fury also doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, but also provides plenty of post end-game content for those who want more.
  • Minute of Islands : A melancholic dystopian vision of the future that feels visually and thematically Adventure Time adjacent. Minute of Islands is not just a visual feast, it’s also a heart wrenching exploration of grief, loss and letting go. Filled with visual metaphors for Mo’s inner turmoil. The game does an exceptional job taking us on an emotional and transformational journey that I found deeply affecting.
  • Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart : is there any surprise that a new entry in one of my favourite series is on this list. I’ll admit, I bought a PS5 just to play this game, so no one should find this entry strange in the least. But Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is not just another entry that I am biased toward. It is one of Insomniac’s more emotional in introspective tales, a story that explores the trauma of loss and isolation coupled with questions about identity, responsibility and found families. The game also invites some thoughtful analysis thanks to it’s exceptionally well written characters. It’s also a super fun combat platformer that contains all the charm Insomniac’s games are well known for, and it’s my favourite entry alongside A Crack in Time, my all-time favourite game in the series. I sadly never got around to writing a full review, but I did record some post game thoughts that might add a bit more to this short recap.
  • The Wild at Heart : A superb game with beautiful hand-drawn art. My original review best sums up my feelings about The Wild at Heart
  • Death’s Door : So nice I bought it twice! Read more in my official review.
  • Psychonauts 2 : folks, I rarely every declare something my GOTY, but if there is one this year it’s Psychonauts 2. A deeply moving and affecting game that has beautiful things to say about mental health and anguish and the toll of emotional turmoil that comes with trying to tuck the things we deem as unwanted away in the recesses of our psyche. Psychonauts 2 not only touched me on an emotional level, it also tickled my senses with it’s visual and aural imaginings. It’s a feast for the eyes and ears and will stick with me for a very long time.
  • The Artful Escape : Another beautiful game that ignites the senses on fire. A melodic journey through introspection, self-discovery and acceptance, it’s not surprising that the game has been read as potential Trans allegory. And even if not intended as such, it’s such a deeply and wonderfully Queer game that I found it exceptionally moving.
  • Sable : Sable was a freeing experience, another game that also focuses on themes of identity and self-exploration. Yet the very chill and open nature of the game leaves these themes open to personal interpretation and often encourage self-reflection. The vast spaces of Sable’s dessert fell both enticing and lonely, a respite from rigid roles and conformity yet also a vast expanse that one can lose themselves in. Sable does an impeccable job portraying the infinite excitement and terror of adolescence, growing up and choosing the roles we play. For a few more thoughts on Sable take a gander at my official review.
  • Axiom Verge 2 : a superb follow up to Axiom Verge that trades ranged weapons for melee combat and shapeshifting, Axiom Verge expands on the Metroidvania genre by changing the stakes. Bosses are no longer mandatory which frees the player to chose between focusing on exploration over combat if they so wish. It’s an interesting choice that allows players who are fans of Metroidvania’s winding paths and secret areas but that struggle with combat difficulty. Instead of a game that shifts difficulty by adjusting enemy health pools, Happ made it possible to avoid enemies altogether. This makes it a compelling entry in the ongoing attempt to address accessibility linked to difficulty in gaming. Yet it’s more than just a novel approach to difficulty, Axiom Verge is an excellent Metroidvania in it’s own right, and is hands down the best of he genre released this year.
  • Outer Wilds - Echoes of the Eye : Mobius Digital proves you can capture lighting in a bottle twice. I didn’t think it possible, but Echoes of the Eye managed to thrill, delight and creep me out all over again providing another emotional and cathartic experience. My official review was short because I didn’t want to spoil anything for anyone but the game did haunt me for some time after completion.

Honourable Mentions

  • Genesis Noir : Genesis Noir is a cosmic jazz infused noir that aims high, occasionally misses, but delivers a truly unique experience.
  • Mass Effect Legendary Edition : It’s only fair that I place Mass Effect: Legendary in honourable mentions simply to give ten other games a chance. Was there any doubt this would make my list? Not if you know me at all. To nitpick, the remastered version of the first game provided a few nice QoL tweaks but overall, I probably still prefer the original. And if you have a Series X|S, the original loads faster than the Legendary Edition oddly enough.
  • Hot Wheels Unleashed : did you like Hotwheels as a kid? Then you’ll love this. Unlock cars, race and build your own tracks. It’s a ton of fun and racing actually feels quite good.
  • Kid A Mnesia Exhibition : nothing since the start of the pandemic has so perfectly captured the feeling of walking through a real physical space. Despite many improbable elements, the Kid A Mnesia Exhibition gave me the feeling of entering a gallery space and immersing myself in its many installation pieces. There was a period in my life where if I wasn’t visiting a gallery I was probably installing my own piece and the memories of that period came rushing back while I visited this gallery’s virtual spaces. Nothing has conveyed the feeling of real space the way this work does (except for windy days under the trees on my island in ACNH). I look forward to revisiting the Exhibition regularly.
  • Echo Generation : a game that left me with a weird sense of unsettling nostalgia. You can read more in my official review.

Now for my 10 favourite games that I played in 2021, released in any year (except 2021, as with last year I will leave out games last year to avoid crossover with my previous list). This was a very difficult list to compile, largely because I played a lot of really enjoyable games this year. I’ve cheated a bit and my honourable mentions, usually limited to less than five, has quite a bit more. As usual, this is also in rough reverse chronological order.

  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice : Tied with Bloodborne as may favourite From Software game. I clearly like my From games full of fast combat. The parry mechanic being central to combat in Sekiro made for very enjoyable combat. Although I never published an full review, you can read about one of my favourite experiences in-game(spoilers within).
  • Kentucky Route Zero : I think this was my most profound media experience this year. I have also rarely experienced anything like this game. Nothing I can say here will do it the justice it deserves but you can read my original review
  • Where the Water Tastes Like Wine : a sometimes joyful, sometimes horrific trek across the United States encountering stories about the land and its people. Tragedies through to celebrations, all misremembered and retold until they become the folklore fabric of an entire society. Do you dare make a deal with the Wolf?
  • Spiritfarer : a deeply moving a beautiful game that forces you to deal with loss, grief and your own mortality. Like Kentucky Route Zero I found this very moving and it was hard to let the game go. It’s also a title I want to revisit in 2022 now that new content, and thus passengers, is available.
  • Doom Eternal : It would be fair to say that I hated Doom Eternal in 2020. It made my list of gaomes completed, but not my top ten. If you need proof that I wasn’t very nice to the game look here, here, here, here and here. Yet in 2021 I loved this game. Something (buying a PS5) convinced me to replay it, and the second time was the charm. I adore this game and it’s safe to say I now love it even more than Doom 2016. Doom Eternal is a thrilling ride and I look forward to replaying many times over.
  • Alba: A Wildlife Adventure : My official review sums up my feelings about this wonderful slice of life/Pokémon Snap clone of a game.
  • Roki : A Scandinavian set point & click style adventure that sees a young girl trying to save her brother from The Raven of Winter, who in turn wants to save her own son from the humiliation that she feels her siblings have visited upon him. Think Labyrinth in winter with trolls, spirits and even the Yule Cat.
  • Hades : So nice I also bought this twice! Played and completed on Switch and then started again on PS5, Hades is everything that people claim it is an more. You’ve heard the pitch a million times before, I’m sure, so I need not reiterate it because by now if you haven’t played Hades you probably know if you will or not.
  • Final Fantasy XIII : the best Final Fantasy game, wanna fight about it? Read my official review]( BMO's Review of Final Fantasy XIII | Grouvee) if you want to know why.
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon : A brilliant meta-commentary on JRPGS and the first Yakuz).a game that I have played. I didn’t write an official review of this one but I did put down some of my thoughts about the game while playing.

Honourable Mentions

  • Rage 2 : Doom 2016 meets Far Cry. If you like how that sounds you might like this game. While the Far Cry open world structure is not really that exciting, the fluid combat more than makes up for it. Also the story is dumb as a bag of rocks, but you won’t care when you are bouncing all over the place enjoying the excellent traversal and gunplay.
  • Carto : an example of a game that would have made it to my top ten if not for all the fantastic games I played this year. Carto absolutely belongs in a top spot. It’s fun, heartwarming and has a simple but enjoyable puzzle mechanic that will easily while away the time.
  • Mass Effect Trilogy : yup, here it is again, and again it gets bumped down to honourable mentions because another ten games deserved their spot above. But as always Mass Effect* is still one of the best game series and a joy to play. This year I got to enjoy it on the Series S where load times were basically nonexistent.
  • Astro’s Playroom : can you believe this is a pack-in game? Another game highly deserving of a top spot, but bumped thanks to many other great games played this year. Read my official review for more details.
  • Afterparty : poor optimization is the only thing that dragged this excellent entry from Night School down. I do hope the recent Netflix acquisition doesn’t mean we lose the wonderful original stories that Night School likes to tell. Read more in my official review
  • Townscaper : a relaxing town building tool that lets you create wonderful little island villages. Low stakes, simple interface, hours of fun.
  • FAR: Lone Sails : another that deserves higher than honourable mentions but bumped by other games that deserved it more. A short and sweet puzzle game set in a post-apocalyptic world in which a steam engine is a lone survivor’s only means forward.
  • Timespinner : a superb metroidvania with decent Queer representation, Timespinner is an enjoyable game with multiple endings and a respectable amount of replay value.
  • Prey : there is a lot in Prey that makes it a great game, and also a somewhat groundbreaking one for its time. A whole year before the first Portal, Prey was already doing Portal albeit without the portal gun. Prey experimented with similar environmental puzzles that can be solved using portals. It also uses portals to spice up combat. It’s also fantastic to play a game in which the hero is not only an indigenous person, he is voiced by an indigenous actor. Prey suffers a bit for some of it’s regressive representation, but it feels ahead of its time in a lot of ways. Ultimately it doesn’t get much better than a wisecracking Michael Greyeyes.
  • Good Job!: a truly fun physics game that allows for hilarious chaos. Also the perfect game for two player mayhem. My partner and I had a great time playing Good Job!
  • The Gunk: I think it’s only fair that I squeeze this in at the last minute because I thoroughly enjoyed The Gunk. You can read more in my just posted review.

I played very few new releases this year, but of those I did play my ranking would be:

  1. Psychonauts 2
    Amazing sequel to my favorite game of all time. Could not be happier with how this turned out, totally worth the wait.
  2. Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
    Loved revisiting 3D World, and the expansion was a really cool and unique Mario experience.
  3. Lost Judgment
    While far from my favorite Yakuza-related title, the mini-games and substories were particularly top-notch this time around.
  4. Persona 5 Strikers
    While I miss the grand, varied dungeons of the original, the surprisingly full-fledged story made this enjoyable all the way through for me.
  5. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
    Between the yawn-inducing combat sections lies a five-star narrative experience I enjoyed quite a bit.

Of the games I finished this year that released in years past:

  1. Ghost of Tsushima
  2. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  3. Sly 2: Band of Thieves
  4. Yakuza: Like a Dragon
  5. Pikuniku
  6. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
  7. Horizon Zero Dawn
  8. Alba: a Wildlife Adventure
  9. Paradise Killer
  10. Maneater
  11. Bugsnax
  12. Immortals: Fenyx Rising

Yay! Someone set the precedent of games released in years past but finished this year :slight_smile: I will prepare my top 10 New Years Day hehehe

1 Returnal 2021
2 Dark Souls 2011
3 Dark Souls III 2016
4 Gorogoa 2017
5 The Witness 2016
6 Hades 2020
7 Metroid Dread 2021
8 Psychonauts 2005
9 NieR:Automata 2017
10 Wandersong 2018
  1. The Goonies II (MSX, 1987) - This and the Castlevanias turned me into a Konami fanboy. Such varied gameplay, so smooth and functional for its time. Who would’ve thought a Goonies videogame would sell me on the metroidvania genre.

  2. Link to the Past (SNES, 1991) - I loved finally playing through the earlier Legend of Zeldas, and I did really enjoy them and surprised myself by pushing through the challenge. But nothing can beat this blueprint for Link’s Awakening (a childhood favorite). I never gave Link to the Past a true chance, never enjoying the beginning much. But once you push past the beginning, this game deserves all the praise it gets.

  3. pedit5 (PLATO, 1975) - This opened up a whole new can of worms for me as I started the chronology project (playing games of genres I like in order of release date). Extremely challenging, but straightforward, fun, and able to be overcome. This led me to several other PLATO games on this list!

  4. dnd (PLATO, 1975) - Probly my favorite of all the PLATO games, even better than pedit5 (which only got higher on the list because of its novelty and being my first exposure to PLATO dungeon crawlers). Fun, addictive, and so challenging that I still haven’t beat it! I know I will be returning to it to hopefully finally beat it, and this time not make a stupid mistake after developing a very strong character. I love how much longer this game is than the other PLATO single player games, not to mention how this spoiled me as I’m now starting the microcomputer and console RPGs that came later and had WAY more limitations that it’s unfair to compare to the PLATO mainframe games.

  5. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (NES, 1989) - Again, this and The Goonies II really sold me on Konami and the metroidvania genre. I still haven’t given the early Metroids a proper chance, and I am excited to. This game was just so involving, fun, and addictive. It combined all my favorite parts of the prior 2 Castlevanias, plus I just simply had a blast playing it.

  6. Acheton (PC, 1979) - I’m surprised only one text adventure made the cut, and that it wasn’t Adventureland, Pirate Adventure, or Colossal Cave. But something was just very special about Acheton. It had a cuteness to it, it also had an earnest way to manage the challenges instead of petty RNG-based tackiness… It was so good that I pushed through retrying over and over multiple days till I got it right. This, Colossal Cave, Adventureland, and Pirate Adventure are all highly recommended if you wanted to give text adventures a chance. This is just the most solid, sophisticated, and fun.

  7. Klonoa: Door to Phantomile (PS1, 1997) - This was right before I started the chronology project (prior to that I would play one old classic game, one RPG, and one PS1-or-later game at a time). I wound up playing right through this, and I want to return for 100% completion. It gave me the drive that led me to get back into gaming: it had RPG elements, platforming, reminded me a lot of my old favorite Tomba, just so many reasons it captivated me. Plus, while having a healthy challenge especially if going for 100%, it was easy enough to just simply enjoy. It reminded me of how fun games can be, while being a nice break from the challenges of the first 2 Legend of Zeldas, and was the perfect supplement to the early Dragon Warriors as I tried getting back into gaming.

  8. Link’s Awakening/DX (GBC, 1993/1998) - I wanted to play the original, but I kept having issues with my Game Boy and then with an emulated version (of course, always after getting through a good half of the game arg). So, I switched to the DX version to finish out the game. This was as fun as always. It’s sort of redundant to have on this list since this has been a favorite for most my life; but since I hadn’t fully completed the game since back in the day, and I finally did this year, plus in the context of the first 3 Zeldas, this confirmed that I am more of a Zelda fan than I ever admitted. This had always been a favorite, and I always enjoyed the first 2 at my grandma’s, but I never could call myself a true Zelda fan. If it weren’t for the chronology project, I’d probly still be playing through Zeldas and Konami games. I even wanted to try the cd-i games, ha. But uff, I still can’t quite get into Ocarina of Time; that was always the game that turned me off of Zeldas. Hopefully, after I get through the chronology project up to N64, Ocarina will finally “click” with me, like the Castlevanias and Link to the Past finally “clicked” during my 2021 playthroughs. For now, this is a confirmed still-favorite, alongside my new other favorite Zelda that everyone always told me to push through and give an earnest try (Link to the Past).

  9. Moria (PLATO, 1975) - I probly give this game more credit than it technically deserves, just because it set so many precedents for MMORPGs, party-based dungeoneering, and other innovations. Plus, it was earnestly fun a la dnd and pedit5. Still, I prefer purely single-player RPGs, and it seems those early dungeon crawlers, limited to only one character, will remain my favorite. And any later RPGs that choose to limit themselves to reflect these origins will still be my faves! I’m not big into complex RPGs, though I know that’s blasphemous in the RPG community ha.

  10. Space Invaders (1978) / Head On (1979), both arcade games - I put both these on here just to recognize that arcade games finally “clicked” with me. It makes me nervous cuz I skipped a lot of possible arcade games to put on my backlog, but I can always return to this era some day. I always said I dislike arcade games, since I prefer games with set goals/final bosses etc., but these 2 in particular showed me it’s okay to just simply have fun with a game. No need to feel tense, obsess over 100% or all 99 levels, and just play to play.

Have to give an honorary mention to Old School Runescape, even though I hate the current owners and am sick of the perpetual updates, it took up the majority of my year. I quit OSRS in July and finally got back on Grouvee and back into gaming!


I love this list! I’m not going to lie, I had no idea what a PLATO was. I’m assuming you’re emulating that somehow?



Many of the original creators, students/developers, etc. are involved. Sometimes it takes a while to get a login approved, but once you do, it’s surprisingly ez pz. I felt like a real computer human/gamer.

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This is fascinating. I was not aware of PLATO before today and now I’m totally intrigued.