Each year games are released at a very large magnitude, and sometimes it is difficult to keep up, CGM Recommends has your back with our writer’s preferences from 2021.
As the year closes out, we here at CGMagazine have a last hurrah in store for readers who may have missed stellar games this year. Every 12 months there are numerous games that come and go, but there are also those that stick close to us that aren’t either critically acclaimed or have mainstream appeal.
Whether a game blew us away to the point that it imprinted better than a Twilight storyline, or just gave us a really great experience, gaming throughout the year is always filled with fun memories and stories to carry into the next year.
Although 2021 was hard for everyone, CGM has the last call with our writers favourite games 2021. Just to note, there is no ‘King title’ or democratic vote among us, this is a list of games we, the writers, at CGMagazine have compiled as our best to play this year. A final note before we press forward, there is no ranking system, it is purely random from our choice at CGMagazine to our fantastic readers.
Here are the titles for CGM Recommends: Writer’s Choice Games 2021!
Release Date: June 10th
Writer: Jordan Biordi
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is one of the few examples we’ve had this year of the representation of video games as art. It’s a thought-provoking, nuanced, sweet game that not only celebrates art but highlights the emotional toll of making it. Its central gameplay mechanic of filling a black-and-white world with colour, is not only thoughtfully executed, and genuinely relaxing—as I said in my review, it’s like a virtual colouring book—but it also connects to the player on a meta-level as they slowly see their world coming to life with colour, and it pushes you to want to paint every pixel of every screen.
In an industry, and especially a year; so fraught with trauma, abuse, and general toxicity, I honestly cannot think of a better example of what video games can be and mean.
Release Date: October 8th
Writer: Chris de Hoog
Of all the farfetched, long-shot predictions I could have made for 2021, “a 2D follow-up to Metroid Fusion” seemed the most unlikely. But not only did Nintendo announce Metroid Dread at E3—instead of the long-awaited Metroid Prime 4 update—it arrived on time in October…and it was good. After 19 years and a huge jump from the GBA to Switch, Dread retains that quintessential old-school Metroid feeling without feeling dated. Nintendo EPD and MercuryStream clearly learned a lot about the series from developing Samus Returns and applied it well here.
From the atmosphere to the difficulty arc, to the way series lore is weaved in, Metroid Dread feels like its successors in every way. It’s a very well-polished adventure title that I can see myself replaying regularly for years to come, still finding secrets and shortcuts and alternate paths. However, it has also learned from its forebears, adding modern conveniences like fast travel and minimizing the way Samus’ hand is held by Adam. And it also helps that it’s one of the most beautiful experiences on the Switch.
Release Date: September 24th
Writer: Dennis B. Price
I had high expectations going into Lost Judgment, I’m unabashedly a fan of the Yakuza series, but the spinoff series offered something completely different narratively for me. The theme of the first Judgment game delivered something personal with a focus on the fictional cure for Alzheimer’s disease and Lost Judgment takes it a step further within a narrative that focuses on bullying. RGG studios told a gripping and much darker narrative in comparison to the first game, it pushed the envelope of the developer’s storytelling that felt on the same level as a western storyteller like Naughty Dog.
On the other hand, Lost Judgment feels like a back to basics kind of game as the brawler-like gameplay makes a comeback and boy did I miss it following the developer’s shift to JRPG in last year’s Yakuza: Like a Dragon. The sequel feels like the second season of my favourite detective TV series, but it is a standalone story. You’ll get a bit more out of it if you play Judgment, as they do make some references to the first game as well as story implications from Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which definitely impacts Lost Judgment in the form of an antagonist group.
Lost Judgment was my favourite game to come out this year. It’s a shame it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves in other ‘Game of the Year’ talks because it’s fantastic, even so, I’ll continue to passionately give the game its props.
Release Date: October 28th
Writer: Ridge Harripersad
Riders Republic shocked me to surprise and rocked me to my core with its zany, over-the-top take on extreme sports. I thought it brought me back to some old SSX days while modernizing it with games like Steep. The plenitude and variety of sports available were awesome in their integration of either racing or trick-based competition.
The freedom of the mechanics and map of the game offer so many moments of zen, taking in the tranquil, snowy mountains to admiring the auburn, dusty dunes. I believe this was the perfect game to allow players to travel to different landscapes from the safety of their homes and gaming consoles in our current time (in real life) when traveling around the world can be difficult and unsafe. Plus, who doesn’t love a good ragdoll crash to laugh at?!
Release Date: August 25
Writer: Shakyl Lambert
Hype is a very tricky thing to live up to. 16 years of hype is a whole other thing entirely. And yet, the team at Double Fine managed to pull it off better than anyone could’ve expected. Psychonauts 2 managed to not only retain everything that made the first game a beloved cult classic, but smoothed out the jankier parts (the controls).
What shocked me the most was how unexpectedly mature the game was. While the game has a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, the game manages to tackle a number of subjects like mental illness, addiction, and trauma in a way that was legitimately moving, yet still accessible enough to not feel preachy or out of place within the story. That’s not even mentioning the incredibly inventive level design and art direction. Psychonauts 2 is an absolute must-play for damn near everyone.
Release Date: October 19
Writer: Preston Dozsa
You’re trapped in a cabin, forced to play a life or death card game with a strange figure shrouded in darkness. This is how Inscryption starts, but this simple scenario gives way to something much stranger and horrifying. Like developer Daniel Mullins’ past games, Inscryption is a masterclass in subverting player expectations, continually evolving its narrative and its gameplay to create a compelling experience that is unlike any other game released this year.
And though Inscryption changes its style, structure, and even form, it remains at its core a fantastic card game that makes you want to keep playing to see just what other surprises – and unsettling revelations – lie in store.
Release Date: December 7th
Writer: Eduard Gafton
This summer was the best time for me to try and tackle the monolith that is Final Fantasy XIV and get caught up with Endwalker. And whereas I’m yet to reach content from the latest expansion—I’m on my way!—I instantly fell in love with this game as it is, without a doubt in my mind, the best MMO I have ever played and one of the best entries in the Final Fantasy franchise as a whole.
Yes there is a lot of filler content, and yes, the quests leading into Heavensward are a slog, but ultimately, those who persevere will find that Final Fantasy XIV is a true labour of love that can cater to every type of MMO and/or Final Fantasy player.
Release Date: November 16th
Writer: David Walters
The world’s greatest detective (no, not you Batman, sorry) has an awful lot of stories, it’s true. What he doesn’t have, is a story about a young Holmes, before the move to Baker Street, before the confidence and standoffish-ness he is known for. Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is exactly that. Holmes travels back to his childhood home on a Mediterranean island called Cordona to uncover some mysteries about his mother’s death. There is a rich story, brilliant detective work, and a wealth of things to do around the island. Do yourself a favour and step into the shoes of the icon and guide him through the twists and turns of Cordona.
Release Date: November 4th
Writer: Philip Watson
Racing games are a dime a dozen, but the Forza Horizon series that keeps building upon each entry continuously makes a statement. This year, they showed off a sandbox world that allows free roaming through a beautiful Mexico loaded with different biomes that have different styles of racing. There are many activities to do, and there is a strong sense of community by being able to work with other players online to accomplish objectives in the Horizon Arcade.
Forza Horizon 5 broke the mould of ‘traditional racing games.’ It completely took me off guard with how excitedly surprised I was with this title. Playground Games annihilated expectations with this beautiful open world and created a whole new beast that has sharp controls and many different gameplay elements that will keep gamers coming back to the festival year-round (the A-Team-styled van also helped).
Release Date: October 26th
Writer: Dayna Eileen
This game didn’t score the highest for me this year, but on a personal level, it stuck with me. I’ve always loved the MCU, and Guardians of the Galaxy is the first “superhero” game I’ve ever gotten into. Being used to games that are more combat-focused had me frustrated with the story-driven adventure at first, but the game became a real cinematic experience that let me sit back and enjoy between each fight. The voice acting is excellent, especially from the actor, Jon McLaren, playing Peter Quill.
At launch, the game was filled with bugs, but with patches in November, and hopefully more in the future, many of the problems are being addressed. The game is rich with colour and the environments are all unique and filled with character, making it a great walkthrough experience. With plenty to collect and a decent length story, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is my pick for this year’s best games 2021.
Release Date: September 9th
Writer: Hayes Madsen
Tales of Arise is the most ambitious Tales game to date, but it still retains all the charm and heart that has made the series so endearing over the years. The strongest aspect of Arise, for me, is how well-defined the core cast of characters all feel. Each one has their own set of values, which constantly get challenged across the course of the game. Questioning morality is one of the key themes of the game, and Arise isn’t afraid to tackle tough subject matter, even if it doesn’t go about it gracefully all the time.
With one of the best combat systems in recent memory and a jaw-droppingly gorgeous art style, Tales of Arise isn’t just the pinnacle of the Tales series, but one of the very best JRPGs of the last decade as well.
Release Date: April 30
Writer: Zubi Khan
Housemarque’s first step into AAA gaming with Returnal bridges the gap between arcade-inspired hits such as Super Star Dust HD and Resogun with evocative and atmospheric storytelling found in more narrative-focused titles. With its difficult but rewarding gameplay loop, otherworldly boss encounters, and eclectic roster of weapons, Returnal is a hallmark title for the PlayStation 5.
Release Date: July 20th
Writer: Khari Taylor
Death’s Door is the kind of “Soulsborne meets Metroidvania” hack n’ slash adventure that feels made specifically for western animation lovers like me. Starring an adorable crow as its unlikely Grim Reaper and set in a gloomy yet vibrant fantasy world filled with interesting enemies, screen-filling bosses and quirky, memorable comrades, it’s a beautifully animated, lovingly crafted action puzzler that, despite its cute exterior, does not shy away from beating players repeatedly into the dirt.
Gamers that choose to stick with it, however, will discover that the most frustrating points of Death’s Door are in fact its most revealing teaching moments, and much akin to Daniel-san in Karate Kid when he realizes that Mr. Miyagi’s repetitive chores are actually teaching him Goju-Ryu Karate, players will smile with delight when suddenly everything begins to click and that seemingly impossible level boss or unsolvable puzzle suddenly gives way.
Death’s Door should take the average player only 8-10 hours to finish, but for those that want to stay engrossed in its world and unlock everything. There are plenty of items to find, challenges to complete and a lengthy epilogue chapter for players to take on should they wish to see the game’s true ending. Originally exclusive to Xbox and Windows PC but now available on all major platforms, there’s no longer an excuse to miss out on this indie masterpiece.
Writer: Brock McLaughlin
Death’s Door flew under my radar, but wow am I glad Twitter didn’t shut up about it and I sunk my beak into it. This was truly the game beneath my wings this year. Death’s Door had an excellent gameplay loop, wicked artwork and a memorable story. No matter how challenging it got, I couldn’t put it down. If you choose to not play it, expect a murder of crows to show up at your door and force you to sit down and play it like that scene from A Clockwork Orange.
Release Date: October 28th
Writer: Joe Findlay
As a creature of nostalgia, I play this game and look back to old dial-up games with my friend’s twenty-two years ago with Age of Empires II and experience the game at a new level with Part III in 2005. The game looks all too familiar when you boot it up, but the quality has come miles. The smallest details are there. The flow of the water and the blowing wind in the grass and trees make this a more beautiful experience than ever before as you travel large, diverse maps, but the fun of building up your village into a stronghold and laying siege to your enemies is still as present as ever.
Add to it the ability to recreate history with campaigns based on just massive events like the hundred years’ war or the rise of the Mongol Empire, and you have a game that is fun and, just as important, has a ton of replay value.
Release Date: June 11th
Writer: Clement Goh
A few games in 2021 have won me over, like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. It’s a stunning trip back to my couch, without the PS2. Instead, those lucky enough to get a PS5 are thrown into an experience. Easy pickings come from Rift Apart’s details, like seeing an old friend age well under highly detailed fur. But there are even more gorgeous environments from the planets Ratchet, Clank and Rivet step foot on. The console only touts its exclusive roots by literally tearing levels up, and pulling the rug from under players with an ever-changing level design.
All these changes come as an evolution of Ratchet & Clank. That formula of blasting enemies and flipping through gunfire is preserved. Insomniac Games tweaks the classic controls just enough to give new players an enjoyable shooter. More importantly, a satisfying reunion of story and gameplay for now-adult gamers at heart. The addictive combat is still intact—now fully realized with the DualSense and clever ways to use Ratchet’s signature tools of destruction.
Speaking of heart, Rift Apart manages to stay wholesome enough for me to connect with each character. Even giving me the chance to redeem each one as its story unfolded. The game goes full-Pixar, making it hard for me to blink across Rift Apart’s 10-hour adventure. It somehow becomes 2021’s funniest games from Insomniac’s talented writers. The universe comes to life by giving every being a personality. Something that especially elevates as players blast away.
Rift Apart easily takes my best games 2021 nomination. That goes without saying more about Insomniac’s evolution they had to get here. Rift Apart is the all-enjoyable pick-me-up and a triumphant comeback for Ratchet & Clank.
Release Date: May 1st
Writer: Brendan Frye
Resident Evil has stood as one of the premier horror franchises since it first hit the scene back in the mid-90s. Even with this high esteem, it had fallen a bit in recent years. Thankfully, Capcom has turned the ship around, with the most recent few instalments delivering some of the best horror the series has ever managed. Now, in 2021, Resident Evil Village once again pushes the series forward, delivering a thrilling, engaging, and overall exciting entry to the legendary franchise.
Somehow Capcom has managed to maintain the bonkers lore people know and sometimes love, but deliver it in a new and potentially terrifying way. Taking the series once again to an eastern European town, Village evokes many of the horror tropes but manages to deliver them all in a uniquely Resident Evil way. With some amazing characters, more story than most players could ever want, and visuals that show what the franchise can look like, this is some of the best the series has ever been.
I am more excited than ever to see what Capcom delivers next, but even as a stand-alone title Resident Evil Village is a fantastic entry into the series, and a fantastic horror title for anyone in 2021.
Release Date: Sept 14th
Writer: Lane Martin
I have been following Arkane Studios since Dishonored and I feel like Deathloop is the culmination of everything they have done since then. The world is gorgeous and fascinating, the characters are often legitimately funny in a medium that often ruins any attempt at comedy, and the gameplay is tight and filled with interesting decisions around every corner. All together, Deathloop is an amazing sandbox of a game that feels like the best parts of all of Arkane’s previous works, which were all pretty darn good on their own.
All the titles have been hand-selected and handwritten by our writers here at CGMagazine. The purpose of this list is to compile what we believe are the greatest hits in our opinion from the year 2021. As the year draws to a close, these are the best 2021 titles that we believe can carry fans into 2022, especially those who have missed out on the initial release.
See you next year!