2021 Quarterlies! Vote for Qt3’s Best Game of 2021: “All these worlds are yours. Except Europa. Attempt no landing there.”

I should probably play my copy so I can get a high five!

You’ll need to bold just the game titles, not the rank numbers.

  1. Overboard - Switch - This game was just such a delight. A studio filled with talented IF creators firing on all cylinders on a passion project during quarantine. I recently completed another run after being reminded of it, and had totally forgotten about the ship’s chapel. Instant GOTY.
  2. Monster Train: First Class - Switch - This is a 2021 port exception, because I haven’t played Windows games in the last two years, but this game is the absolute peak of the roguelite deckbuilding genre for me.
  3. Olija - Switch - Describing this as a 2D pixel-art Dark Souls doesn’t do it justice. This is an extremely polished dark fantasy epic that plays to completion in 5 hours without repeating any tricks and with no Metroid backtracking. Highly recommended.
  4. Mushihimesama - Switch - Another 2021 port exception, because there’s no way I would have played this game in any other format. A solid-performing port of a highly-regarded SHMUP playable on my TV and handheld was exactly what I needed to give the genre a real try for the first time, and I was hooked.
  5. Metroid: Dread - Switch - This was a Metroid-ass Metroid game, and kind of exactly what I wanted.

Honestly, I was kind of surprised that aside from Overboard, none of these games are in my overall top 10 for the year. I played a lot of older games for the first time in 2021 that made much more of an impact on me. Including older games, my GOTY is probably The Outer Wilds, even though I didn’t click with this year’s DLC quite as much as I’d hoped.

Glad you picked this. I have only had an hour or so with it, but it’s super cool. Has Another World vibes… Something about the animations and the screen-by-screen progression (less the gameplay). Need to spend more time with it. (It’s on Game Pass, if anyone is curious about it.)

  1. Old World

Old World is what you get if a veteran designer tries to innovate in a genre he knows best. Its innovations on 4X games are all meaningful and tackle some of the core problems that plagued the genre since forever. Even though I already played for nearly about a hundred hours I’m pretty sure I will be returning to this game multiple times over the next couple years like I did with Mohawks previous game Offworld Trading company. This was by far the game I enjoyed the most this year.

  1. Inscryption

People say it is hard te describe this game and you should not read anything about it before going in. However I think it is fairly easy to explain what the game is mechanically. It’s a card game blended with an escape room game. By virtue of the card game having no multiplayer component the designer is able to stretch how it evolves in extreme ways. Seriously a big part of the fun is being surprised at how the whole thing evolves over and over again. The card game itself is surprisingly strong as well. Special shout out to whoever composed the music.

  1. Deathloop

Deathloop the game that got rave reviews from the press but wasn’t particularly well received by gamers themselves. What can I say, this game had me glued to the screen for the two weeks I was playing it.

Being hunted by a real player while trying to progress the game really got my adrenaline pumping. This was one of the most hated features of the game but for me it really brought things together.

What I liked the least was how it spoon fed the solution to breaking the loop to you in the end. I would have preferred to just figure it out on the basis of my own notes.

  1. Psychonauts 2

Psychonauts 2 is not only a proper sequel to the original but it manages to surpass it in every way. The writing is simply fantastic, one of the few games that does not present us with standard heroes journey. In fact the story is not even about the character you are playing for the most part.

The strongest part about this game is how the level design manages to convey the story without making any of it explicit. Yes the game play itself is just standard platforming but this game made me smile ear to ear from beginning to end.

  1. Returnal

Harder than a new From Software game? But I still keep returning to it. Pun intended. I’ll probably never make it out of the second biome but the shooting is just so damn fun so I keep trying.

Overall this was a very good gaming year for me. There are a lot of games released this year that have the potential to make it on this list that I just didn’t get around to playing yet. To name a few: The Forgotten City, Echoes of the Eye, Hitman 3, Loop Hero, Gloomhaven, Griftlands, Bonfire Peaks, Overboard.

Onwards to 2022!

  1. A-Train: All Aboard! Tourism
    You didn’t seriously expect anything else to be here did you? Nah, I didn’t think so, haha. Taking out the honours for both most played game of 2021 and most written about game of 2021. If I need say more then just check out the Qt3 thread on the game, and series in general. Riding the rails of intersection between transportation game, city-building game, business management sim, and a whiff of anime visual novel.

  2. Age of Empires IV
    Second most played game of 2021, which isn’t bad considering it released towards the end of the year right at the back end of October. Arguably, released prematurely by Microsoft to hit the holiday release window. What is there is a solid return to form for Relic Entertainment, an entertaining sequel in the franchise, and a long needed major release in Real-Time Strategy genre. Takes out the honours for most watched game of 2021 on Twitch thanks to a plethora of tournaments, show matches, and the convergence of “pros” from differing RTS backgrounds (AoE\AoM, WC3, SC2, C&C, etc).

  3. Total War: Rome Remastered
    Came for the updated Rome: Total War nostalgia and will stay for the almost limitless mod potential unlocked with the last update. The modders are going to have some fun with this one, that is for sure. Already some promising mods out there, such as RTR Imperium Surrectum, but compared to where things will be in one or two years time? The fun is only just getting started.

  4. Old World
    Fresh out of games from 2021 that I have played we’re dolling out our final two votes to games which entertained me through the medium of let’s plays and the like. Starting off with Old World, which I’ll play when the Steam\GOG release hits, which kept me entertained via stories such as those dished up by our very own Tom Chick.

  5. Kena: Bridge of Spirits
    Beautiful looking game with a bit of an uneven difficulty curve at times, especially that final boss gauntlet. Probably need to upgrade my PC to be able to play this anyway, but it was interesting to watch and dissect the design of. A very solid first release by Ember Lab and I will be interested to see what they develop in the future. A welcome throw back to the classic PS2-era of action-adventure or 3D platformer games.

This was the weakest year of video games I can remember, especially for AAA. I played about 20 new releases which is the usual amount, but even the best ones felt more like something that might make position 5 on the list in a normal year. These are all good games, but I’m more excited to see what gets done with the ideas than playing them further.

  1. Slipways - This game has a very neat logistics puzzle as its core that I really liked thinking about and optimizing, but it doesn’t do a good job of telling you how well you really did (“winning” is easy, the star ratings are too dependent on the setup). So I fell off playing it after a couple of weeks, but only due to these meta issues rather than anything with the core gameplay.
  2. Rift Wizard An exceedingly clever build optimization / tactical battle rogue-like game, where you can come up with more and more abusive combinations of spells and upgrades (and indeed need to do so to stay ahead of the difficulty curve). It was really refreshing to have somebody do a game in this style that didn’t use deckbuilding as a crutch. But the runs are too long and stressful and have too much context for me to be able to play this in small chunks.
  3. Forgotten City - A time loop game that does a bunch of really clever things with the loop structure both mechanically and in tying it to the story. It was certainly the best one out of the 6(!) time loop games I played last year… But I despised the true ending, and the puzzles are so easy that it might as well not have been a game.
  4. It Takes Two - The first half of this co-op game were really strong. Great characters, amazing environments, and varied game play where no segment overstays its welcome. But the developers had clearly front-loaded the game with the best material, and the second half was just ok.
  5. Inscryption - I loved the first act for both the atmosphere and the gameplay. I did not care at all about the later parts of the game, which aiminished the experience as a whole.

Death Stranding would be at the top of the list otherwise, but in all honesty I played the normal edition rather than the 2021 Director’s Cut release that would be eligible.

I would think you should still vote for the eligible game. Unless you think it doesn’t have the same qualities that make the one you’re playing enjoyable. I doubt if the director’s cut changes much of those qualities.

Counterpoint: George Lucas. Also, Bladerunner (that one’s a mixed bag).

Yes, I’m guilty of the heresy of liking the original version of Bladerunner. I’ve struggled with what form of penance I should undertake.

Guess I need to get my vote in even though I fully plan to play a few potential vote-getters any second now!

My rankings are somewhat influenced by the amount of time I spent with each game. So rather than ranking them by how I THINK they should be, I’m ranking them by how much I enjoyed them when I was playing them. It makes sense to me.

  1. Tainted Grail - this game really clicked with me and I had a great time with it, thanks to having the ‘deck of deckbuilders’ thread around here to consult.
  2. New World - as much as the endgame is a grind, the leveling process is a lot of fun. And I love the world design and the sound in the game. It’s a beautiful world that I loved exploring. Until I hit the wall, I was logging in and playing a couple of hours pretty much every day for a couple of months in a row. Plus I got to reconnect with a number of Wanderers in game, and that was extra awesome.
  3. Out of the Park Baseball 22 - I played the Perfect Team portion of this non-stop from Spring Training to the World Series. I fell in with a bunch of guys who really understood Perfect Team (and were quite willing to share their knowledge) and that made the game 1000% more engaging. I really dig constructing my Perfect Team, looking for bargains, completing collections, upgrading the crew and setting them loose. As long as I’m tinkering with my team, I’m happy. Once the team is more or less static, it’s a lot less fun.
  4. Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous - I played this quite a bit when it came out then I just stopped. Not sure why. But I definitely want to go back to it.
  5. Mini Motorways - I played the crap out of this, a great zen game to play while watching tv with my wife. Starts easy, ramps up and get out of control in an instant. But I loved it!

Honorable Mentions
Wildermyth - didn’t play this a lot but I really enjoyed my time with it. I love the emergent stories that I saw. This is at the top of my “play this real soon” list.
Loop Hero - dove into this a lot when it came out. It worked as a game to play while watching TV with my wife. Not sure I was too good at it but eventually I felt like I experienced most of it, so I didn’t regret moving on to something else.

Hoping I can get some time in with The Forgotten City and Slipways before the deadline, so my vote might change.

  1. Mass Effect Legendary Edition

Thanks, bye.

I am extremely annoyed that Noita came out last year so I can’t vote for it. It has to be my top game played by sheer time this year. I also can’t really in good conscience vote for Nioh 2, since I voted for it last year and played it on PS4, not PC. I also also won’t be voting for Disco Elysium, even though I think it’s one of the best RPGs ever made and one of the very few that actually deserves that name, because I find the Final Cut kind of a downgrade, actually, and I don’t think the addition of a couple minor quests and more voice acting ought to make it eligible again. Caster of Magic I feel somewhat similarly about. It’s a great achievement and I look forward to more time with it, but it is after all more or less a mod of a game that’s more than 25 years old. Just calling it a mod sells it short, but. All that said:

  1. Tainted Grail
  2. HighFleet
  3. Old World
  4. A-Train: All Aboard! Tourism
  5. Brutal Orchestra

Tainted Grail I wasn’t even sure I liked at first, but the more I have played it the more it has grown on me. I wish its presentation was a little less three dee, but what are you going to do. I have been playing it a lot and will continue to play it and probably exhaust it. I like the setting and the 2D art a lot, although again at first I wasn’t sure if I did. But it’s really got some hooks and I let them worm their way into me.

HighFleet I probably shouldn’t rate as highly as I have but I just can’t help it. It’s hard as hell. It’s kind of janky. The atmosphere, though, is absolutely incredible, and I just know my teenaged self would have killed for this exact game and played it for hours and hours and stared icily across the Arby’s parking lot, imagining it was Gerat. I fear only myself and @Brooski will vote for it in any capacity, but c’est la vie. I am a big booster of the game and even I think it’s too hard.

Old World I haven’t played as much as I have read about it, but that is not the game’s fault at all and I really want to spend more time with it, time is just the problem. It does so very much right, things I have encountered in other games (like orders) and wanted to see adopted more widely for years. Glad Epic gave this one the chance to see the light of day.

A-Train is just so nice. It’s a nice little game with some nice music and a nice sense of making things come alive. A soothing and attractive little “city builder” where you sort of don’t really build the city. I like that it’s a pretty hardcore economic simulator and that it doesn’t try to be all things to all people. If you don’t want to run a Japanese train company, you need not apply. I want them to make a construction company sim next so I can fulfill my fantasy of being Salaryman Kintaro.

Brutal Orchestra, or more properly Hieronymus Bosch’s Brutal Orchestra, is a bizarre little game, and I have a real penchant for those. It’s a little hard to describe beyond roguelike JRPG. I have barely scratched the surface, and it was a real struggle to rate this one or Urtuk in the coveted last spot. I’ve played Urtuk more, but I feel like this one deserves to be highlighted, too, and since neither of them are likely to win anything, that’s what I went with. Stylistically it’s got that weird Hylics vibe, so maybe @krayzkrok would enjoy it (and thanks for reminding me I really need to get back to Arboria, another game that could easily have taken this spot). Gameplay wise it’s more interesting than your average JRPG because each of your three characters can both move long the five space horizontal grid and also attack in their turn, in either order, and positioning matters for attacks. Pretty interesting and I’ll keep plugging away at it.

I have to credit Urtuk for one thing, though, absolutely. It gets, hands down, the award for Game Name Most Likely to Also Be a Black Metal Band and Album Name:

5 games:

  1. Deathloop
  2. Endzone A World Apart
  3. Chernobylite
  4. Riftbreaker
  5. Necromunda: Hired Gun

Ok done editing, lol, damn 2020 game releases.

Can you tell me a bit more why, spoiler free? I have yet to play the game, but I enjoy my games in their best actual form, not the marketing’s (which is why I am so glad I played the socalled “jank” version of Nier Replicant, and not the Steam remake with its massacred soundtrack and redub).

And yet another unheard game going on the wishlist merely for that phantasmatic title :0

Purely because I don’t like the voice acting changes. They really don’t give you enough granularity with selecting what will play, which is both surprising and disappointing. I don’t like the narrator’s voice very much. It’s too slow and sleepy. I wish they hadn’t just had him read all of the skill voices, too. I wish you could turn off the narration but not the skills, or if you could turn off the skills the Ancient Reptilian Brain (one of my favorite vocal performances ever) would still play, but it doesn’t, even though I don’t really consider it a skill. I think the new Cuno voice is awful compared to the old one, just boring. The old one sounded like it could be a 14 year old on speed. This one does not. That’s pretty much it. There is a mod to change the voices that play (letting you selectively turn them on and off) but it’s a bit poorly documented and kind of janky. On the other hand, now Kim is fully voiced and he’s one of my other favorite game performances ever, so strikes and gutters for sure.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the Brutal Orchestra soundtrack is great.

Thank you, I’ll wait for the mods to come to fruitition before I get into it, I think! The fact that such an effort exists is comforting.

I’ll run the script right after voting closes and it will take any edits you’ve made until then. Remember that only the first vote post counts so don’t “edit” by creating a new post.

Hey folks, feel free to take a jaunt up to my post #2 up there and make sure your votes have been counted.

Also, if a few of you enterprising sorts can look over the alphabetical list of games there and tell me of any duplicates you see, I’d appreciate it.

Caster of Magic and Caster of Magic for Windows, are those distinct? I thought I saw they were… bad memory though.