Let’s be real; in a lot of ways, this is my real Video Game of the year list for 2021. Or maybe it’s the feeling that 2021 has been something of a dry year for major Video Game releases, combined with the fact that I’ve had limited time, money and access to the new platforms with which to play these new video games.
Thus, I’ve had a lot more enjoyment in playing older games in 2021. Both old favourites and games I never ground around to till this year.
For the past few years, I feel like I’ve been bending my personal rules for what qualifies for my Top Ten lists at the end of the year. Over the course of the past few months, I felt like this was going to be the year where I just went ahead and broke the rule entirely, simply listing the ten games I had the most fun with of the course of the preceding 12 months. Regardless of when they came out.
In the end though, I didn’t want to lose sight of the original purpose of my top ten “Best of Year” list and decided to split the lists into two and talk about both of them. It’s only fair considering there are 4 games on this list that would defiantly make their way onto the main list given the opportunity.
Rather than write about these games once per day, I’m going to break them into chunks and then dedicate more time to the games I feel I need to. So let’s get into it.
It’s list writing time again!
Old Game #10: State of Decay 2
Played on Xbox One X | Released May 2018 | Developed by Undead Labs
State of Decay was always one of those games I had on my back burner, installed on my Xbox’s hard drive for years, I’d never really gotten around to playing it. This year, I finally remedied that problem. Mostly in part due to my cousin picking up a Xbox Series S at some point in the year and finally giving me someone on my friends list who didn’t only want to play Warzone for another 12 solid months.
State of Decay is a fantastic bit of open ended, sandbox zombie fun. It plops you into a map and tasks you with a series of procedurally generated tasks based on the people you recruit and the map you chose to play in. Playing the game alone can be tense, terrifying and a little oppressive.
Much like I’d assume trying to survive in an actual zombie apocalypse would be. However, playing the game with a second person turn the experience on its head and makes the whole thing feel much less serious. And inherently a lot more goofy and wacky.
I feel like it’s one of those games where what you get out of it really is predetermined by what you take into it. Doing donuts in a cornfield, bashing zombies around as they charge you and leading NPCs into death traps takes a lot of the edge off this zombie survival/community management sim.
I only ended up playing this one for a month or so, but by the time we had games the system and I had my ultimate camp set up in a microbrewery, I think it was time we realised we should move on. It gives me good reason to keep an eye on Undead Labs and hopefully hear some news about the announced sequel and when we could eventually see it.
If we’re not just living it by then…
Old Game #9: Digimon World: Next Order
Played on PlayStation 4 | Released January 2017 | Developed by B.B. Studio
This has become one of those games that I can’t help but come back to at least once a year. It was a compulsion that was previously served by me going back and playing old Pokémon games over and over. I can’t explain why, but I feel like Digimon has been invasively taking larger and larger chunks of my brain over these pas couple of years. Maybe it was the announcement that Digimon Survive got yet another delay that drew me back to Digimon World: Next Order again.
The original Digimon World on the PS1 was one of my favourite games on the platform, a game I obsessed over. Probably in part due to it’s level difficulty and how much of it remained obscured to me not matter how much time I poured into it. And despite the countless Digimon games that came out in the time since then, this is the only real sequel and follow-up to that Digimon World.
And it was originally a Vita exclusive.
For this sequel that came out 16 years later, the devs took out a lot of the… let’s call it bullshit, to make a much less obscure and more user friendly experience. One that really strokes the collector part of my gamer mentality and makes me want to play through it over and over, getting different Digimon partners every time and reliving that slightly varied, but ultimately repeated experience over and over.
It’s the exact same reasoning behind why I got back to play those same Pokémon games over and over again. There are a ton of Digimon games out there, but for some reason, it’s this on in particular that gets its claws into me and I end up going back to play it through at least once every couple of years when there’s something of a dry spell.
Plus, that music and animation that plays when you fuse your Digimon in the end game is such a hype anime moment. Just thinking about it puts a stupid smile on my stupid face.
Old Game #8: Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Played on Nintendo Switch | Released March 2020 | Developed by Nintendo EPD
You know, I feel like this should be somewhat higher on my list for 2021 considering how much of my life in 2020 Animal Crossing: New Horizons consumed. But like a lot of people out there, I kind of fell off Animal Crossing pretty early in the year. Or at least when it got to it’s one year anniversary and we realised there wasn’t going to be any different content compared to the seasonal stuff we saw last year.
But again, like a lot of people; I found myself falling back into my island paradise just last month in November when Nintendo dropped a whole bunch of new content for the game. Content I’ve been enjoying, despite the fact that I’ve only seen half of it.
To explain, there were two expansions for Animal Crossing last month. One was a free one that added a bunch new items, cooking mechanics a new Co-op venture that allowed you to shop from the rare shopkeepers more reliably. No to mention a whole slew of other stuff added too. That’s the stuff I dig my teeth into and consequently found myself going back to my island on a daily basis and investing some time in doing a few little jobs.
Outside of that, there was a paid expansion: Happy Home Designer Paradise or something. One that was seemingly inspired by the 3DS game that left people polarised at the time. But here’s the thing: of all the things I enjoy about Animal Crossing, interior design might be my least favourite things to do. I hardly ever spend any time inside my own home except to craft, cook and manage items. So this expansion really didn’t seem like it was for me.
Maybe I would have picked it up in that online bundled if they’d been packed with Gameboy games or something rather than smelly N64 stuff.
So seeing as how I’ve only touched half the expansion and it’s only been out for less than a month at the time of me writing this, maybe it’s lucky it’s as high on the list as it is… Nah, that’s probably not fair. I got a good bit of time with Animal Crossing at the start of the year as well, and the things they have added have been pretty great, they reminded me of how much I enjoyed this game in the first place.
It’s nice to come back to it, It’s just too bad that Nintendo are done with it now for the foreseeable future. It’s weird, you would have thought this could have been their answer to the seasonal model that so many other game developers are trying to work at the moment. But who is to say what kind of things go on in Nintendo’s collective mind…