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

Personally, I was referring to the writing style, specifically the banter between characters, as well as some of the flowery descriptions I guess. I do love the way the story and characters work, but it certainly seems ‘whimsical’ to me.

I actually quite like the art, and think it fits the game well. :)

Oh, that’s fair. Yeah, the text is stylized in its own way, too. I can appreciate that it’s at least trying to be interesting and different, though quite often I feel like it might be trying too hard.

It’s not really whimsical, per se (that’d be more, say, Adventure Time.) Wildermyth is wistfully poignant™.

Yeah, this is fair. At times while reading I was like, “Relax. Just use a simple sentence or two for a change, then we can both take a break.”

I blame a generation raised on Tycho from Penny Arcade.

I was blaming the procedural generator!

Yeah that’s a good way of putting it.

I wrote off Wildermyth because of the art style and my writerly dismissal of algorithmic stories. However, this year’s nominations have made me add it to my wishlist.**

** Because Steam sales have ruined the economics of PC gaming

  1. Mass Effect Legendary Edition
    More of the same, but just so damn good, especially ME2.
  2. Mario Golf Super Rush
    Fun, but not exceptionally good, so it didn’t beat the remastered ME.

And that’s it. I also played Far Cry 6, but while fun in co-op, it is, in my opinion, worse than FC5 in almost every way. Menus are agonizingly slow to load on PS4, map doesn’t work as it should, world is rather uninteresting and repetitive, airplane controls are just crazy etcetera. Still playing this (in co-op) and still enjoying that, but that has more to do with spending time with a good friend than with the game itself. So I just cannot award FC6 any points for ‘best game’.

  1. Pathfinder WoTR
    Glorious mess of a game.

  2. Disco Elysium: Final Cut
    Terrific game. I find it hard to fight against my desire to pass all the checks and just go with the flow but I still love it. The 3D environment is well done but I’d be interested to see what it would have looked like as more of a VN. Are there any VNs that are as responsive to character stats and stat checks as Disco Elysium?

  3. Out of the Park 22
    Perfect Team was the perfect fit for this second year of Covid restrictions. I still log in, play tournaments, and see how my team is doing. Nothing ground breaking or new in the game but a satisfying comfort food.

  4. Sands of Salzaar
    Chinese Mount and Blade crossed with ARPG battles. Battles are too frantic so I’ve never been able to really get very far but it feels like I need to get just a little better to get over the early to mid game difficulty.

  5. Dying Light Platinum Edition
    This probably should be Wildermyth but as much as I love the idea of Wildermyth I bounce off the wistfully poignant writing. I admire the craft in Wildermyth in small doses but DL pulled me in and dragged me along for a month.

Honorable mention -
Old World looks great but I’m waiting for the Steam release
Ghosts of Tsushima looks pretty terrific but I don’t have a console

  1. Echoes of the Eye
    I didn’t expect or want more Outer Wilds, and I certainly didn’t expect any DLC to elevate it further, but that’s exactly what Mobius went and did. Somehow. It’s just a staggering achievement given the towering brilliance of the base game. Prahlow also outdid himself with the soundtrack, again.

  2. Inscryption
    Immaculately presented and wildly inventive and unpredictable. I loved the card game at its core but what kept me going was the overarching mystery. Where is this going?

  3. Wildermyth
    I’ve not played this for long but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with it so far. It feels like an RPG without all the fiddling and faff, just the adventure, but what’s here is also interesting and satisfying and I love the storybook aesthetic. I’m actually surprised how much I’ve been enjoying the tactical battles too; it’s amazing how far ‘dodged’ ‘missed’ and ‘blocked’ go in softening the impact of a failed roll!

  4. SOLAS 128
    Such a clever and intricate–but accessible–puzzler. Some of the symbols and interactions can be a little unintuitive at first but once you’re over that initial bump it’s a joy. The propulsive soundtrack and glitchy neon laser light visuals are a such a treat while your brain cogs are turning. I finished the main stretch but got stumped by the secret stuff in the end!

  5. Yugo Puzzle
    An unexpected latecomer and perhaps worthy of putting above SOLAS 128 because of how downright elegant it is. Despite its simplicity and light ruleset there’s so much hidden depth here in the mechanics and it starts tricky so it’s rewarding right from the beginning.

Others!

  • Old World - I simply didn’t play this enough but I’m keen to get back on it when I’ve got the headspace.
  • Below Zero - Still good, but not a patch on the original.
  • Loop Hero - I bloody loved this but towards the end felt that the ‘strategy’ started to buckle as RNG dashed too many rogue runs. Some of my favourite pixel art in recent years too alongside Huntdown (@Left_Empty preach!). blinch’s soundtrack is a banger.
  • SNKRX - This dramatically changed week to week, far too much for my taste for a game not in Early Access. Shame because I enjoyed it before it went into flux.
  • Chasing Static - Well presented and atmospheric PS1-style lo-fi horror. The core mechanic didn’t feel very well realised or satisfying unfortunately.
  • Mech Armada - Still in Early Access but very promising and one of the biggest surprises of the year for me.
  • Strangeland - Brilliant in many ways. Despite its earnestness I struggled to connect with the main character’s plight though.
  • Fights in Tight Spaces - I enjoyed this, but Into the Breach with a random selection of actions from a deck frustrated me more than I expected it to! Where’s Slip or Shift when I need it?
  • Beast Breaker - There’s a lot I liked about Beast Breaker but the crafting loop/gear icons I found confusing and certain interactions between gear and abilities (burn vs. acid, rolling and ammo, action points, momentum) didn’t feel intuitive even after hours of play.
  • Airborne Kingdom - Loved what I played of this. Unfortunately tearing down structures (and losing materials) just to reallocate limited and idle–but engaged–workers seemed so daft to me.
  • Monster Hunter Rise - Had a blast against the tough monsters with friends but there were too many ‘easy’ monsters between which were just nowhere near as fun or engaging to fight.

And lots more I wish I’d had time to play!

As usual there were a lot of games I didn’t get around to play this year, but my votes are:

  1. Solasta: Crown of the Magister
    It has some jank, but not the kind that annoys me. It is a faithful adaption of the 5e ruleset, which I see kind of the point of making a D&D game. The campaign feels like playing through a campaign, and it manages to be focused and progress without trying to stuff in too much else. There’s a lot of potential for expanding and making a more open campaign, but I didn’t feel like anything was missing. I’d love to see Tactical Adventures make more D&D games, and I hope WotC seeks them out for a licensed game.
  2. Wildermyth
    This is also a great game. It could easily have been my #1. Great turn-based combat, great atmosphere, and lovely stories. I’ve nothing to add, the other voters have summed it up well.
  3. Loop Hero
    This was exactly what I needed to have as a couch game on the Switch after having (finally) become fatigued with Slay the Spire.
  4. Outriders
    I liked this a lot. Such a fun loot-shooter. PEW PEW!
  5. Griftlands
    The idea of a more story-oriented Slay the Spire is a good idea. I think Griftlands has a lot of cool mechanics, but it might be a bit too cluttered.

If I’d ever gotten around to Inscryption I assume it’d have a place on my list. Maybe it comes to the Switch this year and I can vote for it then. Humankind had some interesting takes, but it felt too empty for me. Old World is sadly not available outside of EGS yet, and I guess that’d also be high on my list if I had played it. Gloomhaven was my GOTY in 2017, and I can’t bring myself to vote for the adaption (but good point about the Guildmaster mode @FinnegansFather - however, it’d not break my top 5).

Keep in mind the prose itself is still all hand-written by humans. :)

I think the ‘procedural/algorithmic’ aspect refers to how each vignette is strung together to form the whole, and how they can insert character and world state or show different branches or give you different decisions based on that.

Even though there is some overarching narrative in the campaign mode you do get the sense of ‘random event’, as that’s what they mostly are. But each one usually does something meaningful in some way to one or more of your characters, whether it’s a combat that ends in equipment or skill, some bizarre and creative mis/fortune, or changing a character’s personality or relationship to other characters.

It feels kind of like an adventure distilled to the interesting meaningful bits, showing the high and lowlights of the lives of your party as they develop and grow old.

  1. Mass Effect Legendary Edition

I played Mass Effect 1, and I liked it, but I never came close to finishing it thanks, in part, to trying to drive that stupid vehicle on planet’s surfaces. That part was still a bit frustrating, but OMG most everything else more than made up for it. I still wish it were more RPG-y less shooter-y, but it captured my interest like nothing else this year. It also caused me to tear up. I loved it.

  1. Tales of Arise

  2. Boyfriend Dungeon

I never would have played this if not for GamePass. Thanks, GamePass. A fun little ARPG. Too short, but engaging.

  1. The Artful Escape

I am not a platformer, even a baby one. I don’t know why. I wish I were. But I’m not. I posted in the thread my frustration in places, but, although I rage quit, I never rage-uninstalled, and I returned and finished it! This gets fourth place for the joy of its aesthetics and the exuberance of its world-building (or vice versa).

  1. Scarlet Nexus

The demo almost caused me not to place this. Again, GamePass caused me to play it. I like the game a lot more than the demo! I’m about 13 hours in, and I played most of that time on cloud gaming too, so for me, it’s also proof of concept that works (for me, here, with no data caps).

(Honestly, depending on the day 2-5, especially 3-5, could be in any order for me.)

And the rest:

I honestly almost went to the “ports are allowed” justification for the Xbox version of Hades. I think I voted for the Switch version last year as my 5th-place game. I remember, in any event, thinking: I know this is a great game, but it just isn’t completely clicking for me. Yeah, it clicked this summer on Xbox for me. It would be my #2–and a strong number 2–if I had never played it on Switch.

I really liked Last Stop despite some story problems. That could easily have snuck on my list.

Like many others here, I also liked Unpacking, and it, too, could have made it.

Forza Horizon 5 is fun, but I haven’t connected with it like I did 4 or, especially 3. 3 remains the high point in the series for me, and 5 doesn’t really improve on that formula enough for me in a year that was full of games I really enjoyed.

A special award for game that most frustrated me, but I kept playing: MLB The Show 21.

Finally, this may be the year that causes me to question what my favorite genre really is. I love strategy games, especially turn-based strategy games, but I guess my love peaked quite a while ago. So far I have bounced off of both Old World and Humankind. I hope that changes in 2022.

  1. Old World
  2. A-Train: All Aboard! Tourism
  3. Back 4 Blood
  4. Slipways
  5. Remnants of the Precursors

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.