gaming

ONE37pm's Favorite Games of 2021

rift apart mobile
Sony Interactive Entertainment

And now we've reached the finish line for 2021!

Now was it just us or was this whole year on fast forward? Because it definitely zipped by while we stayed busy making our way through the very best titles the gaming industry had to offer. With the presence of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S, gamers were treated to an initial lineup of experiences powered by those console's jaw-dropping tech. The last-gen consoles weren't left in the dust, however - the Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC all played host to a wealth of rewarding games that spanned various genres.

Some of us here at ONE37pm felt the need to show some love and adoration to the very best games of the year. You may even see a game on this list that came out a year prior but still managed to enrapture one of our newest members of the team. So without further ado, let's recount the games that provided us with the most enjoyment in 2021.

1. ‘Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy’ - Elton Jones

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Koei Tecmo

JRPG's practically rule my life. When I'm not putting together articles for this amazing site or scarfing down a plate of Jamaican cuisine, I'm pouring my life force into a game from that genre. Everyone recognizes the names of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Persona, etc. But it's the Atelier series, which is starting to become a bigger force within the JRPG scene, that caught my attention at the beginning of the year. Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy didn't seem like the sort of game I'd be all that interested in at first glance.

But when I was tasked with reviewing it, I rose to the challenge and am very glad I did. This JRPG features a lovable cast of characters that aren't out to dispose of some great evil - they're just besties who want to help Ryza complete whatever goals she's tasked with. The whole alchemy system features easier routes towards creating items, which is something I relied on heavily. And the combat system's cool mix of turn-based and active inputs made every battle just as great as the one that came before it. By the time this grand adventure wrapped up, ya boy shed a tear or two. After pouring 83 hours into this gem, I walked away from it on Cloud Nine.

Buy Now, $58.47

2. ‘Resident Evil Village’ - Elton Jones

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Capcom

I'm a Capcom Stan, which goes hand in hand with my extreme Resident Evil fandom. The franchise's switch over to first-person and return to its survival horror roots with Resident Evil 7: Biohazard really put it back in the limelight. And once news and footage of Resident Evil Village became public, my excitement was palpable. Once I played it from front to back, I just knew I had experienced yet another classic entry within Capcom's zombified breadwinner. RE Village pretty much mashed together the best parts of its predecessor and Resident Evil 4, which is a match made in heaven (hell?).

There was a larger variety of enemies to contend with this time as opposed to RE7's clone army of the Molded. Navigating different portions of the map and clashing with the ruler of each themed area pulled me in ever so deeper into the game's goings-on. That dollhouse section definitely had me shook just like everybody else that played it! RE Village wrapped up nicely for me and now I await its first batch of DLC. In the meantime, I'm gonna go back and complete the main campaign a few more times. I'M COMIN' BACK FOR YOU, LADY D!

Buy Now,$38.67

3. ‘Guilty Gear Strive’ - Elton Jones

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Arc System Works

Fighting games give me life! I spend far too much time reading up on updates from EventHubs and carefully dissecting character reveal trailers so I can make up some combos on the fly. From the very first second that I saw teaser footage of this game at Evo 2019, I just knew I'd be all over it. I've been playing the Guilty Gear series since Guilty Gear XX back on the PS2, so my familiarity with its flashy 2D animations and metal-head music is very strong.

Guilty Gear Strive reaches another plateau with its anime art style, original soundtrack, and battle mechanics. I love me some Sol, Ky, Giovanna, and Nagoriyuki (although I'm terrible at managing his blood meter). The gameplay itself is simplified a bit, but not lacking whatsoever - pulling off Roman Canel combos always puts me on an extreme high! Guilty Gear Strive is already amazing and will get even more content in the form of new/returning characters, additional stages, and even more story content. I can't wait to see where the future leads for this Arc System Works gem of a fighting game.

Buy Now, $39.99

4. ‘Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart’ - Elton Jones

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Sony Interactive Entertainment

I always refer to Ratchet & Clank series as "comfort games." They're never difficult to the point of being frustrating, plus they're not insanely easy to the point where it feels like they're babying you. I always get a kick out of blowing stuff up as much as possible with Ratchet's ever-growing arsenal. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart gave me exactly what I wanted and that's more planets to explore, more weapons to handle & upgrade, and a huge uptick in visuals thanks to the impressive processing power of the PS5.

The introduction of Rivet gave me a whole other Lombax to follow along and blast everything into oblivion with. The dimension-hopping mechanics threw in a cool wrinkle when it came to side platforming puzzles, which provided a nice change of pace from all the running and gunning I did. Plus I really found myself addicted to clearing out all the game's fervent arena battles. Rift Apart didn't have the most gripping plotline in the series, but I was more than pleased by everything else its gameplay had to offer.

Buy Now, $49.99

5. ‘Scarlet Nexus’ - Elton Jones

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Bandai Namco Entertainment

As soon as I heard the Bandai Namco development studio that worked on Tales of Berseria was working on a brand new IP, my interest peaked a bit. And once it was finally unveiled, I already knew I'd be completely enamored with everything it had to offer. Scarlet Nexus is literally a playable anime that pushes you through a mind-trip of a plotline that's still hard for me to wrap my head around.

All I know is this - there's time travel, clones, and intergalactic beasties at the heart of Scarlet Nexus. And while all that was cool (and slightly confusing), I got the most of my enjoyment from the game's incredibly open-ended combat system. You can pull off sick melee combos, call on your allies to attach their psychokinesis abilities to your move set, and fling massive objects at some truly trippy monster designs. It's easy to put an insane amount of time into Scarlet Nexus thanks to its two separate storylines for the main two heroes, so I gotta give this game even more props for its high replay value.

Buy Now, $30.99

6. ‘NEO: The World Ends With You’ - Elton Jones

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Square Enix

A lotta fans of The World Ends With You are gonna roast me for saying this, but I just gotta speak my truth - I have never played the original game. *dodges flood of projectile vegetables* Yes I know, I know. I'm buggin'. But I made sure to read up on the game's main conflict and what the whole Reapers' Game is all about. So when I entered the wonderfully animated world of NEO: The World Ends With You, I had enough knowledge on hand to know what I was getting into.

I'm so glad I gave this criminally slept-on JRPG a chance because it's one of the more stylish games I've played all year. Running around every nook & cranny within Japan's real-world Shibuya district was such a rewarding experience for someone like me that actually traveled there a few years ago. I also loved my time with this game due to two other factors - its banging soundtrack and its highly distinctive active-combat system. I implore everyone that loves JRPGs to give NEO: The World Ends With You a shot. I promise you won't regret it.

Buy Now, $39.98

7. ‘Aliens: Fireteam Elite’ - Elton Jones

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Cold Iron Studios

Sometimes, I like my games simple. Gimmie a wide selection of guns and vicious hordes of baddies to shoot any day of the week. In the case of Aliens: Fireteam Elite, it gifted me with the opportunity to blast raging xenomorphs with two co-op homies in tow. And I got way more enjoyment out of it than I was initially expecting.

Now is this game clearly a budget title that's not AAA-tier? Yeah. There's voice acting but no moving lips from the actual characters speaking, plus the visuals aren't exactly mindblowing by any means. Even with all that being said, I still had the time of my life hauling ass from acid-spewing aliens and holding down a position while they all converged on me & the crew. Aliens: Fireteam Elite truly becomes pure heat when you get two other friends to join in on all the horde-busting festivities. If you love World War Z, then I highly suggest you give this game your equal attention.

Buy Now, $29.99

8. ‘Psychonauts 2’ - Elton Jones

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Xbox Game Studios

I really had 0 expectations going into Psychonauts 2. I'd heard great things about the first game, but never found the time to give it a proper chance. Since I'm subscribed to Xbox Game Pass and Psychonauts 2 was on there day one, I figured I'd just go ahead and take the plunge. And thank god I did!

There are several reasons why this quality platformer ended up on this list. The wide array of abilities Raz unlocks over the course of the game gave me so much to work with during combat and exploration sequences. The way each stage incorporated the inner workings of one's inner turmoil gave way to so many inventive locales. And the story itself hits some emotional highs and lows that delved into some shockingly serious topics. It's clear that the world needs more 3D platformers as evidenced by the largely positive critical response Psychonauts 2 garnered.

Buy Now, $53.99

9. ‘Tales of Arise’ - Elton Jones

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Bandai Namco Entertainment

Favorite Tales games, you ask? I gotta go with Tales of Vesperia, Tales of Xillia, and Tales of Berseria. And now I gotta show some love to the latest entry in the long-running JRPG franchise, Tales of Arise. I gotta keep it a stack with y'all - the plot's main focus on a race of technologically advanced people enslaving and mistreating another race of people really struck a chord with me 'cause...well, you know.

Besides the game's deeply effective storyline, Tales of Arise also stood out to me thanks to the new elements included in the active-combat system and wonderfully realized anime visuals on current-gen hardware. Pouring 80+ hours or more into JRPGs is a regular occurrence for me and I had no issue devoting so much time to this excellent Bandai Namco voyage.

Buy Now, $39.99

10. ‘Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy’ - Elton Jones

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Square Enix

So I'm clearly not the only one that was put off by the E3 2021 reveal trailer for Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, right? It looked a little too close to Marvel's Avengers from a visual standpoint, plus the mention of Star-Lord being the only playable character irked me.

Then I got my hands on the game and was left completely surprised by just how good it was! Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy put forth a marvelous story that did a great job of properly presenting the personality quirks of every Guardian and presenting players with impactful choices that altered future events. The gameplay really stood out to me as Star-Lord unlocked elemental properties for his blasters and worked hand-in-hand with her partners through battle commands. And the soundtrack? Simply perfection. Eidos-Montréal knocked it out of the park with this Marvel Comics game adaptation.

Buy Now, $39.82

11. ‘Halo Infinite’ - Elton Jones

halo infinite
Xbox Game Studios

They did it. 343 finally did it. They managed to get over the finish line and deliver the best Halo release in its history since taking the reigns of the IP from Bungie. Halo Infinite truly delivered on the original promise of the first Halo by injecting a true open-world experience for players to freely explore.

I was already enamored with the game once its multiplayer component launched way earlier than expected a month prior to the campaign's release. The multiplayer certainly has its issues regarding setting up custom games and iffy progression systems, but I still find myself enraptured with everything else it has to offer. And on the single-player front, running, driving, and flying around Zeta Halo is an infinitely (no pun intended) rewarding endeavor that's great from start to finish. Halo Infinite is my clear-cut favorite FPS game of the year.

Buy Now, $54.99

12. 'Monster Hunter Rise' - Elton Jones

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Capcom

For some reason, I wasn't all that into Monster Hunter: World. I can look at that game and see why it's held in such high regard, but it didn't resonate with me as much as it did with everyone else. Monster Hunter Rise popped up and something in me said "go on ahead and give this one a chance, my G." I'm glad my gut was correct 'cause I ended up enjoying this one way more than I thought I would.

I think the whole feudal Japan setting sucked me in since I'm a huge fan of Japanese culture as a whole. The whole Wirebug tool did so much for me as it gave way to faster and more fun ways methods for traversal. And I gotta show love to those oh so precious Palicoes & Palamutes who held me down in the middle of monster encounters (those Palamutes were especially helpful in getting me around the map as quickly as possible). Shout out to my boy Denzel who accompanied me on some monster-busting missions, by the way!

Buy Now, $48.99

13. 'NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139...' - Elton Jones

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Square Enix

NieR:Automata blew my mind! The game's hyperkinetic combat, gorgeous art design, incredible OST, and mind-bending story had me in a tizzy back during its 2017 launch. After hopping into that trippy action RPG, I noticed a lot of people requesting a modern remake of the first game and a reinvention of the game's less favorable mechanics.

NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… (man, what a name for a game!) finally dropped and presented one of the most polarizing games of all time in a newer light. The combat was a bit closer to how it was done in NieR:Automata, the visuals got a huge uptick in quality, and the presentation adopted the original Japanese rendition we never got here in the States. And that story? Whoa...it went places I wasn't expecting (the final revelation given by Devola & Popola had me stuck for a while, not even gonna lie).

Buy Now, $42.99

14. ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ - Elizabeth Pagano

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Nintendo

Though Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released in 2020 just as the pandemic was beginning, it for sure saw another uptick in its playability over the past few months with a bunch of new updates and with the release of its expansion: "Happy Home Paradise."

Animal Crossing is one big vibe—I almost don’t know how else to describe it. It’s a campier version of going back to basics that re-teaches you the importance of the little things in life. Animal Crossing is about hanging out, crafting your island so that it’s the most chill place to live on, and basically doing nothing. If Seinfeld was the “show about nothing,” Animal Crossing is the game about nothing.

People who have never played it in the past might be thinking: what’s the point? There are clearly more active, interesting games out there that actually involve accomplishing something. The thing is, you do accomplish things in Animal Crossing—they’re just little things, like building a table, catching the infamous Oarfish, and giving your Robot-Ostrich neighbor a birthday present.

That’s all at the heart of Animal Crossing: just having a good ole time. If you’re looking to slow things down and relax, give this game a try—having a pigeon serve you a fresh cup of coffee at the local cafe is more fun than it sounds.

Buy Now, $54.03

15. 'Mass Effect: Legendary Edition' - Conor Sheeran

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Bioware

After the somewhat disappointing Mass Effect: Andromeda, fans of the franchise were clamoring something new, or at least get the next best thing: a remastered version of the original trilogy.

And in 2021, we got just that.

The Mass Effect: Legendary Edition featured remastered versions of all three original games, along with all of their DLC. You might not be willing to pay more money for games you already own, but in this case, it is worth the $60 price tag.

The story of the Mass Effect franchise, the galaxy's struggle to come to terms with the looming threat of the Reapers and the eventual fight against them, hits as hard as ever this time around. When you add in the DLCs like Citadel, Omega, Arrival, etc., the story becomes all the more memorable.

Buy Now, $29.99
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