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

  1. Remnants of the Precursors (ROTP)
  2. Old World
  3. Wildermyth
  1. Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
  2. A-Train: All Aboard! Tourism
  3. Life is Strange: True Colors
  4. Death’s Door
  5. Sunless Skies: Sovereign Edition

Not a lot of options for me this year. 2021 was mostly board games, and mostly older board games at that. Let’s see:

  1. Oath - A love-it-or-hate-it proposition. I mostly love it, but I completely understand why some folks really don’t.
  2. Imperial Steam - a really solid heavy eurogame
  3. Faiyum - a really solid mid-weight eurogame
  4. Ankh - a lot better than the overwrought miniatures would lead you to believe
  5. Shamans - I don’t normally like hidden role games, but this one is very clever and tense. I have docked it one imaginary point because the box cover says “Shamanz” but the actual name is the much lamer “Shamans”.

(on my initial list, but it’s not a 2021 release) Nevsky: Teutons and Rus in Collision - I hope you like mud

Honestly not an amazing selection. I played quite a few games better than these in 2021, but none were 2021 releases.

  1. Wildermyth

If Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous was an all-you-can east smorgasbord, a big old feast with a zillion classes and races, a ginormous campaign, and an entire light strategy game tossed on top, then Wildermyth was a tiny little experimental pop-up restaurant that only serves a handful of dishes each day.

In many respects, Wildermyth is minimalist. Art? Simple and cartoony. Animation? Basically paper dolls. Voiceover? There isn’t any. One race, three classes, random abilities on level-up and a bare minimum of items and armor. You can’t even trade items between characters in your party.

But this is a case where less is more. Not being able to swap items in Wildermyth felt like blissful freedom after spending literally (and yes I literally mean literally) hours shuffling items around in games like Pathfinder or Divinity 2. Having a choice of random abilities for my characters on level up did remove the ability to micromange my teams - but it also gave me a wider variety of teams than I would have made if left to my own devices (and, again, saved me a bunch of time.) Wrath of the Righteous was a more comprehensive game in terms of features, but Wildermyth was more fun because I spent my time playing the game instead of slogging through UI and looking up how things worked.

Wildermyth is also innovative: it is the first game I have ever seen that created a unified whole out of randomized roguelike elements, procedural storytelling, and (in the campaigns) traditional storytelling. It made me care about my characters, even when they were involved in randomized anecdotes. It had a legacy system that worked both in terms of game function and storytelling fiction, with you creating an extensive pantheon of heroes young, old, and passed into legend.

Wildermyth does have its flaws. It really could use a few more items and armor pieces, a few more map objective types, a couple more things to do on the overland map. And it does rely a bit too much on what might be termed “wistful indy poignancy” in the writing. But the first objections are me being left wanting more, a sure sign a game has done its job successfully. And the second is something I never even dreamed I’d get out of such a game. Who ever thought they’d be getting wistful poignancy in a rogue-like?

  1. Valheim

On the one hand it’s “just” a Minecraft/Terraria clone; on the other, it does so well what many other attempts have done so poorly. And it felt polished, balanced and fun even when just entering Early Access. Indeed, it felt more like a finished game than Minecraft has ever done. Edit: Yeah, OK, according to the rules it doesn’t technically qualify. But I’m still leaving it here, because I protest the rules - some Early Access games are more complete than some technically released games. (E.g. Valheim vs. Solasta.) And a bunch of games spend forever in Early Access, so by the time they’re technically finished the world has moved on.

  1. Hitman 3

Normally I hate repeating content in games - even in good games, like Outer Wilds. But repeating content in Hitman is a pleasure, as you invent multitudes of ways to do in your targets. A bunch of games have talked the “multiple ways to achieve your goals” talk over the years, but Hitman actually walks it (assuming your goals are to kill someone and escape, that is.)

  1. Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous

The fact I liked the little pop-up restaurant better doesn’t mean I don’t like tucking into a big old smorgasbord as well. To enjoy a smorgasbord, though, you need to accept that some of the vast number of dishes it offers will be much better than others, and that some are best skipped entirely. No need to even try the sushi station, er, I mean Crusade mode.

  1. Dorfromantik

This gets the Islanders award for a game where the number of hours played show I liked it far more than my subjective impressions do. My subjective impressions say it’s a pleasant landscape-building puzzler that, as someone says above, maybe needs a tweak or two. The number of hours played says its deeply engaging game that gets its hooks in you long-term (while at the same time being super chill and relaxing.)

  1. Inscryption
    The card game mechanics were enjoyable enough, adding in all the other layers - no spoilers. Wonderful. The only game I fully completed this year.
  2. Wildermyth
    A warm hug of a game. Enjoyable bite-sized tactical battles, and endearing procedural storytelling that is so, so well done.
  3. Old World
    A well received shot in the arm for a 4X genre I haven’t touched in years. Will likely take years for me to grok all the systems, but I can enjoy the stories it produces just as well without that knowledge.
  4. Trials of Fire
    Crunchier than Wildermyth, but still good.
  5. SNKRX
    Getting to the scrapings of the games I played that were released this year. Snake with added RPG elements.

Since I’m not good at keeping with the shiny - a quick mention to the game I’ve played most of this year - Elex. I’ve loved revisiting that Gothic feeling of being terrified to actually fight anything.

  1. Unpacking
    With a bullet, the best of many great indie experiences this year. This plays like a game that knows exactly what it is and dials every aspect of its design to perfectly match that. Lots of games are about accumulating stuff, but very few of those are not about using said stuff to min-max some stats or racking up some capitalist score. But Unpacking is really about the meaning behind the objects in our lives, how those things come and go, how we grow with and around them. And all of it is executed with such attention to detail and precise care. It’s a small masterpiece.

  2. Cloud Gardens
    I saw this and Unpacking both described as part of a burgeoning genre of “placement games.” If that’s a thing, then bring on more placement games! This game is so beautiful and so relaxing that it’s easy to overlook how technologically impressive it has to be under the hood to allow you to build these custom dioramas and, simultaneously, to let plants spread their way around them.

  3. Clap Hanz Golf
    I can’t deny my most-played game a spot in the top 5. This is Hot Shots Golf perfectly adapted iOS and spiced up with a string of unlocks and variant game modes so it never feels old.

  4. The Forgotten City
    I didn’t play all the time loop games from this year… Who could?? But of the ones I played, this was the best. As the mystery went deeper and deeper (surprisingly deep!), the game made it easier and easier to navigate and plan around. Great storytelling–a shame about the over-long combat interlude.

  5. SOLAS 128
    I respect a puzzle game that can go so far up its own ass that it establishes its own unique inevitable logic. I guess this is the “Jonathan Blow” style of puzzle game, but SOLAS exhibits none of the self-satisfaction that oozes from Blow’s games. It just slowly marches these shapes in laser-like reflectable lines around the screen to a thumping electronic beat as you try every possible combination of mirror and splitter placement until the shapes combine in just the right way to unlock the next screen. But what’s genius about SOLAS is how that one screen may just be a single step in a much longer multi-screen chain of cause and effect that results in you getting, like, the yellow laser-shape to bop its way into the yellow keyhole. By the end of the game, I was outclassed, but I still enjoyed following a walkthrough video and admiring the elaborate final puzzles.

The rest of my top 10:

  1. Fossil Corner
    Buy a box of fossils. Arrange the fossils into a family tree using their physical properties as clues (these are actually fun and interesting procedurally generated puzzles). Pick a fossil from the box to keep and put on a shelf. Photograph this or that set of fossils in your collection to fulfill a random request on your computer for money. Buy a new shelf and a new box of fossils. REPEAT FOREVER because procedurally generated puzzles. Brilliant!

  2. The Artful Escape
    Bob Dylan’s nephew decides instead to be style himself the Son of David Bowie and go on a cosmic adventure playing guitar for bizarro aliens. Colorful and enthusiastic and not very challenging, but whatever. The video game equivalent of a planetarium laser light show.

  3. If On a Winter’s Night, Four Travelers
    An atmospheric pixel art point-and-click anthology game with some of the most beautiful pixel art of the year and most evocative gameplay set pieces. If you think there’s even a chance you’ll like this, just play it because, absurdly, the talented people who made it are giving it away for free.

  4. Wolfstride
    This is a shaggy and silly mech battle game with way more story than I was expecting and an eclectic black-and-white anime art style. It keeps handing out new goodies and new minigames and new story twists, and all the while I just keep smiling, so I think it has just totally won me over with its goofball energy.

  5. SNKRX
    Hey, what if you took an extremely accessible arcade-style game and added a bunch of strategy and RPG progression on top? That’s what my friends and I at Vodeo Games aimed to do with Beast Breaker, and so did game designer “adn” with SNKRX. Next to Clap Hanz Golf and Mini Motorways, this was my iPhone obsession this year.

It was a really great year for games, I thought. Here are some other games I enjoyed:

  • Chicory
  • Exo One
  • Inscryption
  • Last Stop
  • The Legend of Tianding
  • Loop Hero
  • Slipways
  • Song of Farca
  • SPOOKWARE
  • Wildermyth
  • Ynglet
  1. Old World
  2. Monster Hunter Stories 2
  3. Warhammer 40K Battlesector
  4. Demeo
  5. Fights in Tight Places

Oh, did Trials of Fire hit 1.0 this year? Hmm, now I have some thinking to do.

Holy bejesus, I swear Valheim was in EA and launched proper last year, but nope, still in EA and ineligble for votes. Amended my list.

@humanton

Could you fellows please unbold your numbers? Only the game title should be bolded.

Thanks

  1. Old World This was the highlight off not only this year but pretty much any game released since Covid.
  2. Oxygen Not Included: Spaced Out DLC. A very nice addition, if just for the QOL, improvements in the base game. I’ve just scratched the surface (hum not really most of the game is well below the surface), but it definitely satisfies my builder itch.
  3. Remnants of the Precursor. Very nicely done remake of MOO1. AI is bit disappointing and I only started playing it in 2022, but it since it was released at the end of Dec. If i don’t vote for it this year, I can’t next year.
  4. Surviving the Aftermath: Competent, but unimaginative
  5. Humankind I probably would have liked this game more if it wasn’t released at the same time as Old World. A- for looks, B+ for originality C- D for everything else

Dropped . New World: A for looks, B+ for crafting depths. D for everything else.

  1. Solasta: Crown of the Magister
    this is the closets I’ve come to the real D&D pen and paper experience - its so damn good. Sure, its not nearly as fancy as my second choice, and graphics aint all that, but still - its very, very good!
  2. Pathfinder. Wrath of the Righteous
    Yeah - this is the real deal. A massive, insanely well-crafted adventure, with an immensely wide amount of choices to be had, almost too much for someone like me, who has 50 characters in LOTRO.
  3. Wildermyth
    This is really cool - its almost like a D&D adventure as well, eastern mythical style or some such - I really enjoyed my time with it.
  4. Old World
    The new 4x king in town - Havent played it as much as I feel like I should, because its a lot easier to play action games, but it still deserves to be here
  5. Tales of Arise
    I am not a big fan of JRPG’s, but this one really shines - its well done, its easy to get into, and its really gorgerous!
  1. Wildermyth
    Fantastic. Best mix of procedurally generated and scripted content I can remember. I keep getting really attached to the characters and invested in the stories they tell. Simply amazing stuff.
  2. Gloomhaven
    Almost feels like cheating since it comes from the board game, but the gameplay translates so well, and the digital version has enough original content, that it warrants its own entry.
  3. Mass Effect Legendary Edition
    Definitely cheating to list a re-release like this, but the stories are still so good I fell in love all over again. To the point that I did the whole 100% achievements thing. again.

Hardspace: Shipbreaker would definitely be on my list if it weren’t still in EA. Love that game so much.

  1. Wildermyth
    Not only the best game for me in 2021, but the best game I’ve played in years. The writing, illustrations and music all create an evocative and at times even poignant story telling RPG backed up with an addicting turned based tactical combat game. Throw in transformations and a host of different team synergies and I’ve not been able to stop playing since I got it. Like @Humanton I also love not being a slave to inventory management. Such a relief. I’d like to see more events and random campaign options to slow down incursions to allow for more map exploration but niggles really. Great game.

  2. Humankind

  3. Old World

(Basically a tie. Both games force too much conflict for my liking but the respective map generators allow ways around that.)

  1. Wildermyth
    Absolutely incredible. A dream game of old computer fantasy come true. I’m thankful for @Humanton to have written pretty much everything I wanted to say about it, and probably much better!

  2. Astalon
    Dominic Tarason summed it up as being LA-MULANA for dummies, and it is quite accurate. It doesn’t feature nearly as much puzzles as LA-MULANA, but the few it does can be surprisingly deep for what looks like a “grind your way to godhood” metroidvania tinted with rogueliteness. Its dark theme with light tone also appealed to me.
    I have absolutely nothing bad to say about it.

  3. NieR Re[in]carnation
    I’ll up @Nightgaunt’s Clap Hanz Golf with an f2p phone game!
    Must be honest: it is a Yoko game 100% — it’s grind over grind of dumb gameplay.
    But it is the game of his I had dreamed about, focusing on the metempsychotic weapon stories. So much to read, to puzzle in, to be confused or surprised by. And doesn’t require to spend a dime to be enjoyed, nor will bother you begging for your money.
    Beautiful game.

  4. Beast Breaker
    I’m a sucker for physics-based puzzles and this game kept on providing the most head-scratching situations that seemed to keep on stimulating my brains at the perfect level of frustration and reward. It was also charming. And that discrete but incredible soundtrack!

  5. Northern Journey
    Northern Journey would most likely be higher (much higher?) in the list if I hadn’t been ill and couldn’t have played it since the first few hours I spent with it. It was two hours of running around, with nothing happening. Yet I can remember them vividly and the sights and creatures I’ve seen I cannot stop to think about.

This year’s been awesome for me. I have hardly ever played that many games released in the current year!
I had to drop lots of games from my list:
Slipways, a game to obsess about, despite it;
Okinawa Rush, an absolutely incredible action game through and through;
Dungeon Encounters, the best new Wizardry clone around;
Rift Wizard, a very good successor to Desktop Dungeons, which I couldn’t spend as much time as I wanted with;
Carrier Command 2, an incredible update to the original that has been getting better and better since release;
The Magister, Nerdook addictive gameplay at its best;
Pawnbarian, a perfect head scratcher that makes me lose the notion of time;
Ynglet, which is more poetry than game, probably;
A-Train All Aboard Tourism, my go-to handheld mode game in bed, the most involved economical simulation, which I’m inept at especially when falling asleep;
Clap Hanz Golf, my go-to game when on the go;
Voice of Cards, a witty RPG, but I would have loved for Peter to be the narrator;
Undernauts, which I had no time to play it as I spent so many hours lost as a Stranger in Sword City;
Sumire, a sweet but very predictable tale;
Monster Hunter Rise, a fun action game in multiplayer;
Capcom Arcade Stadium, a lovely way to compete with friends for leaderboards (wished it had replays though!);
Huntdown, absolutely gorgeous set pieces of action gaming, with probably the best pixel art in years;
Geneforge Mutagen, a reboot of my favourite Spiderweb game which makes the mechanics even more interesting by turning the game into a strategy one, instead of a grind to power one;
Shiren the Wanderer 5, the best Shiren game ever, but it felt unfair to nominate it since it’s a ten-year-old game after all;
and Overboard, Armoured Commander 2, Field of Glory 2 Medieval, Tian Ding, Cloud Gardens, Conquest of Elysium 5

HA! GAMES!

I wonder where the year went, because I don’t remember playing that many notable games (edit oh year I did a full playthrough of Sunless Skies on Summer, also some hours played at DRG). My top 5

  1. It takes two
    See thread I did. Perhaps the best coop game ever. Always so fresh, with ever changing gameplay and enjoyable sequences, with lovely sandbox scenes, and still with very tight controls, and the visuals are great too.

  2. Gunfire Reborn
    See thread I did. Great marrying of FPS + roguelite.

  3. Forza Horizon 5
    Best racing game ever? The only ‘issue’ is that it happens to be incredibly similar to the already great FH3 and FH4.

  4. Sable
    No combat and lots of exploration in a mysterious world. Climbing hard to reach areas gets addictive.

  5. Resident Evil 4 VR
    I never played RE4 so it was a nice experience. Crunchy combat, tight pace, enjoyable villians, and it’s a trip seeing everything in first person.

I do have pending to play a few, bought and ready to go: Wyldermyth, Hitman 3, Inscription, The Forgotten City and Outer Wilds DLC.

You should probably remove the numbers and dots to make sure the script totally ignore your vote ;D

Oh , there is a script? let me read the OP…

Can I just say, the quarterlies are why I love Qt3.

I’ve been whining, and bitching, and moaning, plus complaining about the 2021 game lists for the last few weeks. Other than Old World, it is been a pretty bad year for games for me. I played a lot of older games.

Yet, in the space of 24 hours. I’ve found a game I’m almost certain to like Wildermyth. A boardgame, Rocketman that looks wonderfall. How is it solitare??, Solasta, which sounds intriguing, and indie Unpacking which sounds awful, but if you all say it’s great, who am I to argue. Plus an updated version of Moo,yes!

Close! The game’s titles need to be alone on their line too.