TheGamer Game Of The Year Editor’s Pick, 2021 – Ryan Bamsey

TheGamer Game Of The Year Editor’s Pick, 2021 – Ryan Bamsey

With the world ablaze, 2021 needed to push the boat out when it came to gaming. I reckon it’s done pretty well, too. There have been impressive releases across the entire spectrum, and whittling an entire year down to a list of 10 spectacular games has been something of a pain.

But I did it. And my top 10 is a list of games that, first and foremost, made me happy. For me, video games are the ideal comfort food and my picks make up my perfect feast. Some are games that I knew I’d like from the first trailer, others are nice surprises that stuck with me longer than I thought. I’ll say it again, though – they all made me happy. That’s what matters.

Honourable mentions go to New Pokemon Snap, Going Medieval, and NIMBY Rails.

SNKRX

Okay, hear me out. A roguelike auto-battler in the style of Snake, of Nokia 8810 fame? I was sceptical too, but it’s one of those compelling experiences that I can’t really explain. Which is a pity, because that’s what I need to do here. It’s another one of those games with a bit of deckbuilding, resource management, and oftentimes hoping for the best, but it excels so much in these areas that I can’t help but bring it to your attention. The thumping soundtrack will be in your head for days and you’ll find yourself sheepishly saying “Yeah, it’s like Snake but like, not?” to your mates and getting frustrated when they simply don’t get it. But you get it. The snake has coiled around you and is pulling tighter, not letting go until you complete just One. More. Run.

Bravely Default 2

Call me a traditionalist but I’m a sucker for a good old-fashioned ‘collect the crystals, unlock jobs, and batter some mystical entity with overpowered ability combinations that you grinded six hours to get.’ Bravely Default 2 delivered on all fronts. You know when you get introduced to someone and they instantly become your friend? You’re two drinks into the night and cracking jokes as if you grew up together? Bravely Default 2 is like that. It has great voice acting, a nice difficulty curve, as much complexity as you want, and a cast of likeable characters. It’s not one of those RPGs that feels like a chore to complete, which is a huge tick in its favour. Oh, and there’s a town full of Welsh drama queens brimming with anxiety – I couldn’t have asked for a more accurate, painful piece of representation.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

I grew up playing Ratchet & Clank with my parents and it’s one of my favourite gaming memories. My dad would help me on the harder puzzles, and I’d help my mam out on the glider sections in return. Growing up with gamer parents is something I’ll forever be elated about. One of the things that made this game a standout for me is playing it with my parents when I visited home thanks to PS Remote Play. It was like old times again, except now it was me helping with the puzzles since I’m something of a pro gamer now. Truly. Definitely. Sentimentality aside, Rift Apart is a fantastic game. It’s gorgeously polished, the blend of nostalgic offerings and new characters works well, and it’s just nice to have them back on my screen. It’s fun.

The Last Spell

Remember when I said that these games feel like comfort food? The Last Spell has a kick to it. It’s something of a dominatrix – it’ll beat you into the ground and you’ll simply ask for more, satisfied with your purchase. It has a gorgeous pixel-art style and beautiful animations that grab your attention, and a tight gameplay loop that rewards you even when you inevitably fuck up. Despite being a turn-based game in which you can strategise at your leisure, The Last Spell is deft at instilling a feeling of hostile anxiety. The monsters of the night will quickly overwhelm you, your victories will be clinched from the jaws of defeat, and you’ll want to do it all over again.

Wildermyth

I cannot overstate how much joy has been brought into my life through the masterful game design of Wildermyth. The concept is simple: the game will make some characters for you and you’ll take them through randomly generated narratives. The execution is what makes the game tick. The stories that you make with the game will have you forming attachments to your characters and caring about their plight – you’ll feel pride if they get to retire, and grief if they come to an unfortunate end. I have to also mention the artstyle. It’s whimsical and reminiscent of a child’s drawing book, which is a perfect accompaniment to the narratives, which often feel like they're born from a child’s meandering mind. Ironically, words do not do the game justice. It’s something you have to experience for yourself, knowing that your own is wholly unique.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

When it was revealed that this collection of games was finally coming to the West, I was overjoyed. I’ve loved Ace Attorney since I was a child, playing it well into the early hours of the morning and falling in love with the series’ characterisation, humour, and style. I’ve tried other visual novels, but they just don’t compare. I put Ace Attorney on a pedestal and the adventures of Ryunosuke did nothing except raise that pedestal a little higher. The games are more of what we love from the series but set against an interesting new backdrop with a great cast of new characters and some gameplay changes that shake things up a little. They are cheesy, over the top, emotional, and utterly fantastic.

Monster Hunter Rise

While World was a great entry in the series, Monster Hunter feels and plays better when it’s on a handheld. Rise is an argument in favour of that idea. It has engaging new monsters to fight and its selection of returning favourites is almost perfect, although snubbing Malfestio should be a crime. Capcom hit it out of the park with this one, resulting in an accessible game with heaps of content that I’ll be playing for many hours to come. Highlights for me include the lush environments, the addition of Palamutes, and the fight against Magnamalo.

Mad Games Tycoon 2

Blending the winning formula of Kairosoft’s Game Dev Story with the gameplay of Theme Hospital has inadvertently resulted in one of my favourite games of all time. This management simulator gripped me almost immediately and when I called my boyfriend over to come and have a look at it, it gripped him too. We’ve played this game for days in its multiplayer mode, where we pretend to be two branches of the same company, sharing research and tips. Making video games has always been a pipe-dream of mine – I stopped making clunky messes in RPG Maker a long time ago – but this game recaptures that eager excitement that I once had perfectly. I enjoy thinking about what the games I design would play like – I’d put Pirate Fantasy 4: Rum And Voodoo into the #1 spot if I could.

NEO: The World Ends With You

This was a game that I knew I’d enjoy from the moment it was announced. I loved the original and I loved the original’s port. I didn’t expect to fall in love with it as hard as I did, though. NEO: TWEWY oozes a certain charm and style that I adore – from the sincere appreciation of queer culture to the smooth battle system, there is nothing out of place about this game. Its story is a deeply touching rumination on death, deception, and optimism that resonated with me. Predictably, I found it incredibly difficult to put down, and just by writing this, I’m getting the urge to start all over again. Maybe I’ll just chuck on the OST. Again.

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous

I’ll say it now: Pathfinder beats Dungeons & Dragons in every way, and that includes in its video games. I loved Kingmaker and I find Wrath of the Righteous a great follow-up title in every single way – I adore intense character development systems, I love a huge roster of characters to form attachments to, I’m thrilled by huge lore dumps that are somehow actually interesting to read, and I relish combat that makes me reconsider every five-foot step. It’s a wonderful game to play, to write about, to talk about – and then play again. Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is my GOTY because no other game could feasibly take that spot from it.

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