We’re about halfway through the year at the moment, so it’s a good time to check in and sees what are some of the top games of 2021 so far. 2020 was a big year for games given the new consoles plus games like Last of Us 2, Ghost of Tsushima, and Hades. Today I am going to go through my top 10 games of 2021 so far.
I’m going to go through the list in terms of how I rate the game, so worst to best. I think we have plenty more great games coming out this year, so I am sure this list will evolve as we go towards the end of the year for the final 2021 list, but this is a good sense check of where we are right now. There are most likely some games in here you’ve heard of and maybe one or two you haven’t, so hopefully, there are some good ideas for new games to pick up.
Loop hero does what it says on the tin… you are a hero who travels in a constant loop, battling and building up your stats as you go. Rather than the traditional method of controlling the hero in the game, you look down on the loop from above and place tiles, and select weapons and items for the hero which helps generate materials and other benefits.
Loop Hero will make you wonder where the time has gone and even though your hero is trudging around their loop over and over, there’s something about this game that’s both satisfying and addicting. Chceck it out on PC now.
Cybershadow is a new action platformer which harks back to the days of 8-bit games both in graphical style but also in its difficulty too. It takes inspiration from the classic 2D sidescrolling action, tricky platforming and precise action.
The gameplay in Cybershadow is inspired by Ninja Gaiden. It’s your job to navigate the world, armed with only a sword, to begin with, a use jumps, dodges, and attacks to remove the enemies from your path. The controls are pretty simple – you can attack and jump and that’s pretty much it until you open up a series of power-ups later on in the game. Cybershadow eases you in nice and gentle on the first level, but then the difficulty really ramps up as you get past the first stage. Enemies will attack from the air, ground, and throw projectiles so you’re going to have to have your wits about you at all times.
Narita Boy is an action Metroidvania with a mix of platforming set in a techno-futuristic world that’s gorgeous on the eyes and ears. It has a retro-feel but scratch below the surface this is very much a modern game.
Narita Boy is heavily inspired by the 80s in terms of visual design and music, the world is bright and vibrant and the soundtrack is heavy on the synth. At first glance, it looks like a retro game, but it’s more retro-inspired with modern-day mechanics. There’s a constant CRT filter over the screen that adds to this theme.
It’s difficult to go into too much detail on this game, but it’s worth downloading and checking out as it has all the right attributes to be a hit game. It’s also available on Xbox Game Pass, so if you are a subscriber then you already have access to the game. Metroidvania’s have been everywhere over the past few years, some are great and some are definitely worth a miss, however, I’d say Narita Boy is worth experiencing. The graphics, the music all work together really well and the storytelling is top-notch. It may be vague at times, but everything from the pixel-inspired cutscenes to the immense amount of NPC dialogue and world-building make this a world worth exploring and spending time in.
Before Your Eyes
Before Your Eyes is a new narrative adventure with a difference, instead of using the mouse or a controller, you blink to control the game. The mechanic is more than just a novelty in a powerful narrative game that will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions, and it’s taking a strong claim for one of the best games of 2021 so far. Just don’t blink, or you’ll miss it.
Much of the game is a lean-back style and watch the narrative play out, however, when you blink time will jump forward. Maybe it’ll be a day or a week or even years forward. The game requires a webcam to be set up to register the blinks, but this is easy to do and works surprisingly well. If playing with the webcam doesn’t sound like it’s for you, then there’s good news because it can be played with traditional input methods like a mouse and keyboard.
Before Your Eyes is a really well-put-together game that innovates in its controls and tells a very touching, personal story throughout the narrative. It mixes in little puzzles and decisions, while they don’t affect the direction of the narrative too much, they do compliment the gameplay well. It’s not too long, it’s a very memorable experience and a unique little gem that’s worth checking out.
Valheim is the latest indie hit to blow up on Steam following the likes of Fall Guys and Among Us in recent months. Valheim is a new survival game currently in early-access that came out at the start of February 2021 and has taken the world by storm. Activities range from building a camp, hunting, fighting wild boar and also world bosses too. There’s something very approachable about Valheim and players are flocking to it in droves.
Valheim can be played with up to nine other friends on a server, and it’s probably best enjoyed with between 2-5 other people. When the game first starts you start out with pretty much nothing. You start off simple by cutting down streets and punching poor animals to death to turn them into a tasty dinner later on.
Valheim came out of the blue for me and it’s had a really strong start. The world you inhabit is a beautiful one and the adventures Valheim throws at you are fun, unique and immersive. The game is better with friends but offers a nice chilled experience if you want to fly in solo. Visually it’s got its own style which harks back to MMOs of days gone by and Valheim’s mechanics may be a collection of simple activities, but when they have put together this well and simply work as they do, then this adds up to a very satisfying experience. Check it out in early-access on steam now.
Outriders is here and the newest looter-shooter to enter the market from People Can Fly has landed. I’m about 10 hours into the main campaign, having spent roughly the same amount of time with the demo. These are my first impressions, albeit with the caveat I haven’t experienced the endgame content just yet.
I was sceptical of Outriders at first and mildly hyped for the full release. I’m a fan of looter-shooters, having put hundreds of hours into Destiny, Destiny 2 and tens of hours into the Division and Avengers. The thing that really drew me to Outriders was the build potential, as this is something I really enjoy with Destiny… Looking at combinations of class, weapons, armour and mods go well to create a fun and engaging gameplay style. On first impressions, Outriders appears like it has all the right ingredients.
Outriders so far have had a good start. It’s probably not going to win any game of the year awards, but it’s a good looter-shooter which has had one of the best launches the genre has seen for some time. Anthem dies, The Division 2 fizzled away and The avengers is struggling. There’s plenty of promise in here, and I’m looking forward to getting into the endgame, hopefully with multiple legendaries in my hands.
Returnal is a new PlayStation 5 exclusive from Housemarque and it’s a punishing, interesting game filled with euphoric highs, jump scares, and dramatic low points too. It’s one of the best demonstrations of the PS5 to date, in particular with a fantastic audio design that is rarely experienced anywhere else. This is a game that will divide the crowds, but it’s one you simply have to try.
There’s a decent mix of genres in Returnal. One minute you are exploring and platforming, the next minute you’re in a bullet-hell style battle with an enemy with tentacles thrashing about threatening instant death. There’s the infinite loop of the rogue-lite genre, which many more will be familiar with since Hades broke through in 2020. Returnal has layers and you have to dig pretty deep and work hard with your skill and time to find out everything that this game has to offer.
Returnal is an endurance test of a video game. In the early hours, you are in discovery mode, learning about the planet, the monsters, the attack patterns, and staring in wonder at most things in the game. As time goes on the game becomes more and more punishing and it’ll take a particular type of player to want to jump back in time and time again. If you like this style of game, or if any of the above sounds like it’s for you then I would fully recommend Returnal. It’s truly a next-generation game and shows off the wide array that the PS5 can do. I like that Sony is investing in this type of game – it’s tough, it’s different and it’ll make you laugh with delight and cry with loss. I don’t know if I am that type of player to want to jump back in time and time again, but I’m impressed with what Housemarque has produced and if you have access to a PlayStation 5 then I’d recommend checking it out.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is the latest game from Insomniac, creators of the Marvel’s Spider-Man PlayStation exclusive, and this is another iteration on the fast-paced action and adventure games Insomniac has been producing in recent years. Whether you are new to the Ratchet & Clank series, or a seasoned veteran, this one is bound to bring a smile to your face through its thoroughly enjoyable gameplay.
Rift Apart is simply a stunning game, there’s no question. Since the game was revealed in the summer of 2021, it’s demonstrated the power of the PlayStation 5 very well, feeling like you are playing a Pixar movie. This is a demo of what video games could be and it lives up to the promise of what the next generation can deliver. Spiderman Miles Morales looked great, but this is a whole different kettle of fish and specifically made for the PS5.
One of the things I really appreciate with the game is that it’s not too long, coming in at roughly 12 hours or so for a regular playthrough, and around 15 hours if you want to find all of the secrets. Not all games have to be 60 hours and I feel like this really respects my time. I’m not saying I don’t want more, because the gameplay is so fluid and fun I probably do want more, however, in my life at the moment this is the perfect sized game for me. I’ve been given enough, I’m left wanting more and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. It doesn’t feel padded out or repetitive, it’s the Goldylocks of games and gets it just about right.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart looks like it could have come from the future to demonstrate what the current-gen consoles could do in a few year’s time, and it’s great to see games embracing the capabilities and showing off. This is a game that struts with confidence and checking out videos and streams doesn’t really do the visuals justice. It’s not just a good-looking game, the story is well-formed and flows with ease, the fluidity of the movement and action is hands down some of the best you’ll play and the sheen of quality shines through with every level and encounter. If you have a PS5, this is a must-buy title.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowsers Fury
The final entry in the Super Mario 35th Anniversary celebration is here in Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. Super Mario 3D World is the latest game to be ported to Nintendo Switch from the Wii U given its original release date back in 2013. Bowser’s Fury is a brand new short title to accompany Super Mario 3D World, and these two games offer different sides of the Mario series style.
Many people, myself included, missed out on Super Mario 3D World when it first came out nearly 8 years ago. The title has been given a new lease of life and a massive audience with Nintendo Switch owners and it’s already shot to the 3rd best selling Super Mario title on Nintendo Switch ahead of Super Mario Maker 2 and New Super Mario Bros Deluxe but behind Super Mario Odyssey and Super Mario 3D All-Stars.
The gameplay is fun. There’s a lot of connections here to Super Mario 3D world from a stylistic point of view, but also some gameplay elements. This feels much more like Super Mario Odyssey, albeit without the use of Cappy. Plessie makes a return from 3D World to help you swim and complete some tasks. Bowser interrupting can be a little annoying at times, especially if you are high up you may get knocked all the way down again to the lower levels. But it’s a small thing when compared to the overall fun you’re going to have with Bowser’s Fury.
Super Mario 3D World alone was enough to convince me to get this package, given I had missed it the first time around. I highly recommend the game if you haven’t played it and I also recommend playing it co-op. For me it was great to play through with the missus – We’ve tried other co-op games before, but they never felt quite as good as this one. Bowser’s Fury is a short but sweet outing for Mario. It kind of feels like something that was created in a short space of time in lockdown by Nintendo to give the audience an incentive to buy 3D World again. I’m not against Nintendo experimenting with these shorter titles like this and there are some really nice innovative gameplay moments here.
Monster Hunter Rise
Monster Hunter Rise is the newest Monster Hunter game out now, and also the first dedicated to the Nintendo Switch from the ground up. This is the total package offering smooth onboarding for new players, depth and complexity if you want it plus potentially hundreds of hours of gameplay.
There are a certain speed and fluidity to Monster Hunter Rise that I haven’t encountered before; running into battle at full speed on the back of your palamute canine buddy, jumping at the right time and swinging your Sword, Axe or Hammer right into a huge monster’s face, landing and then pulling off a seamless combo to finish the hunt. I don’t think I’ve ever actually pulled off the seamless combo bit, but you get my drift.
Monster Hunter Rise is the latest addition to the Monster Hunter family, which exploded in popularity since the release of Monster Hunter World back in 2018. Monster Hunter fans would protest saying this was a hugely popular franchise long before World and Iceborn were even thought of, but Monster Hunter World took it to new levels in the West. Monster Hunter Rise does a great job as a follow-up and now has the added bonus of being able to play it on the go, on the sofa or in bed on Nintendo Switch.
I’ve still got much more to discover in Monster Hunter Rise, but I find myself thinking about it when I am not in the world. I’m looking up weapon guides while I take my daily walks, I’m actively seeking weapon tutorials to understand new combos or how to unleash more powerful attacks. It’s always a great sign if a game gets inside your head and you are thinking about strategies when you’re away from the screen. The simple fact I can now take Monster Hunter with me on my travels is great.
I’m really enjoying my time with Monster Hunter Rise and I’d recommend it to anyone who has a Nintendo Switch. It’s got the potential to be one of the best and biggest Nintendo Switch games out there. The learning curve may be steep, but the rewards are huge if you can push through those small roadblocks. The game is charming, it’ll make you laugh at times, there’s the pain of defeat and the triumph in a successful hunt… it’s really got the whole package. You can get by scratching the surface of a Monster Hunter games, but it’s only going to get you so far. These games are designed with hundreds of hours of play in mind, and I’m finally starting to understand why there’s such a feverous fanbase of the series. I only wish I had discovered this earlier.
Plenty of great games for 2021 so far. There’s some big hitters in here like Monster Hunter Rise & Ratchet & Clank. There’s some indie titles like Loop Hero, Valheim and Before Your Eyes plus some remakes too with Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury.
There’s some games in here I have missed including It Takes Two, Resident Evil Village, Hitman 3 and plenty more, maybe I’ll get round to checking those out later on in the year. In particular It Takes Two looks very good, plus is an excellent co-op experience.
Let me know what you think of the 2021 list so far down in the comments or get on contact through Patreon by checking out the support us link above.