As 2021 draws to a close, us fine folks here at Gaming Respawn take a look back at the games we played this year and choose which ones impressed us the most. Honestly, while 2021 had the occasional “big title” release here and there, like Returnal, Resident Evil Village, Far Cry 6, and Halo Infinite, it was a relatively slow year with games, at least compared to the likes of 2020. Still, we have some games to share that we feel deserve the spotlight for a GOTY article, so check them out below in “Gaming Respawn’s Game of the Year 2021” and see if any of these made your lists.
My pick for 2021 Game of the Year has to be the game I never thought I’d ever see again: Metroid Dread. It was a dream game that was announced 16 years ago and then disappeared, much like the Metroid series. As a diehard Metroid franchise fan, I was beyond excited when the game was re-revealed this year and released for Nintendo Switch. Metroid Dread does exactly what you want from a sequel: It’s a game that builds upon previous installments but never forgets what made the previous games so great. Its brilliant atmosphere genuinely makes you feel alone on Planet ZDR while at the same time constantly making you feel on edge and knowing of all the dangers that are around you.
Metroid Dread is a genuinely unforgiving game but one that never feels unfair. After all, the game always wants you to feel dread. The world of Metroid Dread is always out to get you, and your goal is to simply survive. Its labyrinth leaves you with so much to explore, but like great Metroidvania-style games, it always holds back until you’re ready for a new area. I’ve played through Metroid Dread twice already, and I’m pretty sure I’m going back for a third run before January is done. It’s just so brilliantly made that it truly feels like a sequel worthy of standing right next to my previous favorite, Super Metroid. Do not skip out on Metroid Dread, it’s easily one of the year’s best games.
Persona 5 Strikers
I had to really put a lot of thought into my Game of the Year this year. With all the disruption from the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s hard to keep track of what actually came out this year. For me, it hasn’t been an amazing year for new releases, but there have been a few I’ve really enjoyed, my favourite being Persona 5 Strikers.
Persona 5 always seems to have a way of surprising me. After playing the original release and thoroughly enjoying it, I didn’t want to waste money on the release of Persona 5 Royal, which I assumed would be the same game with a few extra bells and whistles…I was wrong. Atlus managed to interweave new characters and storylines so seamlessly throughout the game that it felt like a completely new experience. Then, just as we thought the story of the Phantom Thieves was over, Atlus comes out with Persona 5 Strikers. I was hopeful, but a small part of me was also dubious. A satisfying conclusion had already been reached, and the last thing I wanted was a poor attempt to cash in.
Persona 5 Strikers was anything but.
I enjoyed just about everything about it. The music was great, and I instantly fell in love with the new characters and the way they complemented the original cast. The notion of good and evil was blurred by somewhat relatable villains. The opportunity to explore areas outside of Tokyo gave us more scope for character development as we witness the group of friends see and experience new things.
The new story was compelling, and there were elements of gameplay that I actually preferred in Strikers. Without the turn-taking mechanism, everything from movement to combat was a lot smoother, and it was great to be able to play as characters other than Joker. My only real complaint was that the Jails were a little repetitive compared to the Palaces of the first game, but overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience that I’m tempted to, just from writing this, jump back into.
Persona 5 Strikers
I haven’t played much this year, but I could easily say from the number of games I have played, Persona 5 Strikers became my Game of the Year, no questions about it. It checks all of the boxes for me: fantastic story, as well as simply some of the best music, gameplay and controls. I love how it’s a sequel that’s not a sequel continuing after the events of Persona 5. I haven’t played Royal, but I have played the original, and enjoyed every moment of it, so when I heard that Persona 5 Strikers was coming to North America, I knew I just had to get it when it was released. I don’t usually tend to complete the games I play and only do the main story, but I couldn’t put down Strikers as re-entering its world made me want to uncover every little thing that was in it.
I loved being able to continue the story of Persona 5 with the Phantom Thieves gang. Without spoiling anything and to keep it simple, I appreciate how the new adventure is the gang going around Japan. If you are like me and need more Persona 5 and haven’t played this game yet, I’d highly recommend picking it up.
I’m even loving the new game’s combat style as it was changed from a turn-based style to a hack and slash. It gives it more depth by giving you the ability to switch between the Phantom Thieves and using their different combat styles, which makes the game way more fun for me. I know that the year flew by because of all the times I couldn’t put Persona 5 Strikers down, and it did take me months to get through, but I have no complaints as I loved my time with it.
Guilty Gear -Strive-
Since it dropped in June earlier this year, there hasn’t been too much I’ve played outside of Guilty Gear -Strive-, so I have to make The Game Awards Fighting Game of the Year my GOTY for 2021. With its brilliant visuals, killer soundtrack and smooth rollback netcode, it’s still the best looking and feeling fighting game out there right now, in my opinion, and a great entry point for people to get into the series or fighting games in general. The game still has more to give as well, with Happy Chaos just rolling, Baiken being added at the end of January 2022, and more stages and another new character still to release later next year.
Shin Megami Tensei V was a very close second for me this year but probably came out a little too late in the year to really compete with Guilty Gear for my overall playtime. Atlus have nonetheless done an incredible job with the latest entry in the MegaTen series, producing a gripping RPG with fantastic gameplay and story, offering you hundreds of Demon companions to discover and use in battle to create a mixture of different teams to fight with. I think if it had a feature to take those Demons online against other players, Pokemon battle style, then that would have tipped it past GGST for my Game of the Year.
NEO: The World Ends with You
This was a tough year for me. Honestly, there were two games that really deserved this spot, in my opinion. Well, since the name above this snippet doesn’t read ‘Psychonauts 2’, you can probably tell which game won out in the end. When it comes down to it, I guess NEO: The World Ends with You just gives me a bigger sense of personal fulfillment. The original title was a cult classic JRPG with great visuals and music, and after waiting for 14 years, it was reassuring that the long-awaited sequel ended up being so much fun.
The soundtrack is great, the storyline makes up for the stuff that happened in the extra content of Final Remix (no spoilers here, folks), and honestly, it just feels awesome to control. While the new combat system may not be as ‘innovative’ as the original, it feels super easy to play, and when they come to remaster it in 10 years’ time, a bunch of us old fans won’t have to go around saying, “Well, it only really works with the original system’s control scheme”.
So ends Gaming Respawn’s Game of the Year 2021 list. Do agree with our choices? Let us know in the comments below.