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 continue:
Old Game #7: Borderlands 3
Played on PlayStation 4 | Released September 2019 | Developed by Gearbox Software
Like with State of Decay 2, Borderlands 3 was another game I went back to and played with a friend of mine. Going through the entire campaign cooperatively. Something that ended up altering my experience of the game entirely from the first time I played it. Not in a good way or a bad way. Just a different way.
Back when I was playing alone, there was this need to feel like I was being optimal. I needed to get the best stuff because the game was pretty tricky when playing alone. When you play the game with other people though, which is really how it was always meant to be played, you’re afforded much more freedom to get weird with how you play it.
There are a lot of wacky-ass weapons and powers in Borderlands, not having to worry about doing everything yourself, it means you can spend a whole bunch more time delving into the weirdness of the game. And that really is to the whole game’s benefit.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Borderlands franchise. I’ve played through Borderlands 2 more times than I care to admit. BL3 always kind of felt like a bit of an inferior game in many ways, but going back and playing it through again this year was actually a whole bunch of fun and really makes me wish I could spend more time playing games with friends rather than on my own all the time.
It also makes me all the more excited for Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands next March and to see what new approach to the franchise a Fantasy based spinoff can give us.
Old Game #6: Astro’s Playroom
Played on PlayStation 5 | Released November 2020 | Developed by Team Asobi
At some point in 2021, I managed to get my hands on a PlayStation 5. Which meant I could go back and spend a whole bunch of time catching up on all the great PS5 release titles that I couldn’t play during the release window for the new consoles in the final month of 2020.
And it’s one of the main reasons I chose to split my Game of the Year list in two separate halves. Because, if I’m being brutally honest, between this game and another that is coming up later on within this list, I think there might have been embarrassingly few 2021 games on my 2021 Game of the Year list.
Because Astro’s Playroom is both an incredibly cool proof of concept of the console’s new controller: the DuelSense, as well as a fantastically cool throwback to the legacy of the PlayStation through all of its iterations over the close to 30 years since Sony decided to get into games.
A mascot platformer at its core, Astro’s playroom takes players through several TRON-esqe worlds based on the interior of the PS5, all of which pay homage to the four console that came before it, as well as the many iconic video games that showed up on the platform over the years.
Even without all the stuff they’re doing with the controller in this game, I’d happily explore these worlds just to find all the little characters playing in the world and try to recognise what video game pantomime they were acting out.
But even if this wasn’t a cute and vibrant video game full of charm and creativity, it acts as an amazing showcase for the PS5’s new controller and all the things it can do. Too many to list given the format of this post and it’s length already.
It’s just a shame that I’ve not really playing anything else on the PS5 that comes close to making use of all those features to the same extent. Given, I only own like four PS5 games at this point, so fingers crossed some more of the exclusives will make use of the controller in anywhere near close to the way Astro’s does.
Old Game #5: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Played on PlayStation 5 | Released November 2019 | Developed by Respawn Entertainment
I’ve had a hankering to go back and play this game again for most of 2021. It was actually finally getting a PS5 and seeing this also got re-release on the new console that finally saw me borrow this game from a friend and enjoy Respawn’s first foray into the world outside of first person shooters. And done to amazing effect as well.
Even though there was never really a link between the two inspiring me to come back and play this again, playing Fallen Order in the middle of my rewatch series of Star Wars Rebels (which is actually me watching the series for the first time), made me realise just how much of this game’s visual design and setting is inspired by that animated series.
While the Inquisitors have been a thing in Star Wars lore for decades, their specific design, with those spinning, duel bladed lightsabers is an invention of Rebels and one that finds its way into this game. Coupled with the fact that Cal’s master is a Lasat, the race reintroduced for the character of Zeb in Rebels also.
It added a whole new level of enjoyment for me for this game that was totally lost on me the first time I played it, back before I’d even met the Nightsisters of Dathomir in my Clone Wars rewatch. Needless to say, the whole extra layer of context to this game and what Respawn did with it was something I apricated a ton more this second time I played it.
It also helps that I absolutely destroyed the game on my second playthrough compared to how much difficulty I had with it the first time. I’ve not played many “Souls-Likes” this being the closest game to the genre I’ve invested significant time into. And playing it through again this year was a breeze.
I’m a huge Star Wars mark in the first place, but going back and playing the even nicer looking version of this on the PS5, with all the added context of Clone Wars and Rebels that I didn’t have before made me get so much more out of it than I even expected to.
I really hope Respawn have got another one of these in the planner, I’d love to see more Star Wars content from them.