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

  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.

I like it, you play against a stack of AI cards, which will push the AI forward (it’s a race), also the card market get’s updated every round, so no stale market. The theme is the icing on a great cake.

It’s been such a good year for gigantic RPG’s like Wrath of the Righteous and Solasta but, sadly, I’ve had no time to actually play those. They’d surely be on my list if I had, and I suspect Wrath would be in the top spot, but that’s not the year I’ve had. I also own Gloomhaven, Slipways, Tainted Grail, and Astronarch and have really been looking forward to diving into those but, again, time hasn’t allowed.

So, for me, it has to be a list of shorter stuff that I found time to play, because between the pandemic, being overloaded at work, and having a 1-year-old, that’s all I can manage.

  1. WIldermyth
    I have little to add to what others have said. The tactical game is a little basic but still very good and brings some unusual skills and tactics to the table. The strategic layer presents some interesting choices and provides a nice framework for everything. And, of course, the stories are lovely, or weird, or super random, but always interesting and sometimes with far-reaching consequences (even into subsequent campaigns).

  2. Pawnbarian
    An elegant little card-combat/puzzle game based on chess piece movement. Easily the best game I played this year in terms of pure design brilliance.

  3. Trials of Fire
    I wish the cards in this were a little more interesting, and the visuals a little less brown, but it’s another really solid design with extremely engaging combat where every choice carries real tactical weight.

  4. The Riftbreaker
    A nice mix of tower defense, logistics, ARPG and a number of other ideas. Wiping out massive waves of enemies has never been so satisfying, and the resource and tech crawls are paced well for me. The only real problem is the fiddliness of some of the events and environments - I don’t know what hail storms and the like really bring to the experience. Still, a good time on the whole.

  5. Subnautica: Below Zero
    It’s Subnautica again. New environments, new challenges, new equipment, new plot. By and large, it manages to recapture that spirit of exploration and looming dread that the original game had, with perhaps some diminishing returns. Still, 75% as good as the original is still really damn good.

Oh yeah I played this too. I enjoyed it of course, but I think I will let my top 5 remain the same.

No offense to Below Zero but I’m pretty sure it would have been pushed off the list if I’d had more time to play games this year.

It would have been a top five for me if Subnautica didn’t already exist.