Top 10 Games I Played in 2021
In 2021, I completed 32 games. Most of them were games from the mountainous backlog, but a few of them were 2021 releases. Cutting that list of 32 games down into a top 10 was tough, and the games I picked are all so close for me, that the ranking doesn’t matter all that much anyway.
Still, there are several other games outside of my top 10 that I really enjoyed, and I wanted to include those as “Honorable Mentions” too. These were all fantastic games, and I just couldn’t bring myself to leave them out of the list entirely!
- Chrono Trigger
- The Messenger
- Axiom Verge
- Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
- Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
- Divinity: Original Sin II
With that, it’s time to move on to the Top 10 Games I Played in 2021!
10. Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster & Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked
I’m starting off this top 10 with a tie between 2 games: Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster, and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked.
I’d never played Nocturne before, but I’d heard a lot about it. The atmosphere and overall mood of Nocturne is incredible, and those really help make it something special. The dungeons could be pretty brutal, but even that contributes to its overall mood.
Devil Survivor has a really cool setting and story. I’ve enjoyed a few Strategy RPGs before, so when I learned Devil Survivor was a Strategy RPG Shin Megami Tensei spin-off, I was really curious about it. It was a really cool game, Shin Megami Tensei mechanics like demon fusion mixed with the Strategy RPG formula worked really well!
9. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux
I’m still surprised at how much I enjoyed Strange Journey Redux. This is a game that I wasn’t even that interested in at first, because I haven’t cared for the 1st-person dungeon-crawlers I’ve played in the past all that much. But after playing the first Shin Megami Tensei game this year to see the roots of the series, I decided to give Strange Journey Redux a shot too, and I am so glad I did!
I really enjoyed the setting here, and the characters as well. Of the Shin Megami Tensei games I’ve played, this one probably makes the best use of the alignment system, with really great alignment reps and story beats.
8. Shin Megami Tensei IV
I liked Shin Megami Tensei IV a lot, but there’s one thing that put a damper on my enjoyment for several hours of gameplay, and that’s the fact that I ended up on the Neutral route in my playthrough, which meant I had to jump through some incredibly tedious hoops in order to finish the game. That definitely brought down the experience for me, and I very nearly didn’t even finish my playthrough. I’m glad I stuck with it and finished the game, but wow was that part annoying.
Aside from that, Shin Megami Tensei IV was an excellent playthrough, and it’s a game I definitely want to return to someday to do other routes. The OST is phenomenal too, and the track “Tokyo” is one of my favorite tracks in all of SMT.
7. Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 1 & 2
Okay, this is another slot with 2 games in it but in this case there’s a better reason for it, because Digital Devil Saga 1 and 2 are basically one game split into 2 parts. The 2nd game directly continues the story, and leads up to an incredible finale.
The two are pretty interesting Shin Megami Tensei spin-offs. They basically take the traditional party-based JRPG formula, and add some SMT flair to it, and the result is a really good pair of games. Some SMT staples like demon fusion and recruitment are not present here, but the story is so good here, and the OSTs of both games are, again, just phenomenal. Plus, even though you can’t recruit them, the enemies you fight are still demons from the SMT series, and I love that!
6. Gravity Rush 2
I enjoyed Gravity Rush Remastered when I played it last year, and Gravity Rush 2 basically takes everything its predecessor does, and makes it bigger and better. The highlight here for me is the gravity shifting mechanic. Shifting gravity to fall upwards through the air, or slide up the side of a skyscraper is so cool!
On top of that, Gravity Rush 2 has a built-in photo mode of sorts, giving Kat a camera and tripod you can use to take pictures as you fly around this open world. I love taking screenshots, so having this mode in Gravity Rush made it just that much better for me.
This game also answers at least some of the questions I was left with after the first game’s conclusion, which was nice. It’s a little sad we’ll probably never get a Gravity Rush 3, but at least we got some closure with Gravity Rush 2.
5. Metroid Dread
I think I’m still feeling some of the disbelief I felt when Metroid Dread was first announced during the E3 2021 Nintendo Direct. Despite Metroid: Samus Returns having released back in 2017, I had very little hope Nintendo would ever continue the series. I am so glad I was wrong!
Metroid Dread was fantastic. It’s tough as nails during its boss fights, but finally taking down each boss was a great feeling because of it. It’s also really good at guiding you the right direction without feeling too linear, and there are sequence breaking opportunites for players who master the mechanics. I’m definitely not one of those players, but I have tried some of the easier sequence breaks, and it’s really cool that sequence breaking is possible!
4. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
When I started playing Bloodstained, I had no idea it would make it so high up on this list, but the game is just so fun. It’s a wonderful revival of many of the concepts I enjoy from the Castlevania series. It’s like Symphony of the Night with the Souls system of Aria of Sorrow added to it, and that is an excellent combination.
Aside from that, playing Bloodstained in 2021, there’s just so much content in it. On top of having a New Game+ mode, it also has a built in speedrunning mode, and a randomizer. The randomizer especially is interesting to me, because it adds so much replay value if you enjoyed Bloodstained and are looking for a different experience on repeat playthroughs.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, there’s also a Classic mode that pays tribute to the NES Castlevania games. All these things make Bloodstained an incredible revival of the Castlevania series, and I’m so glad I got around to playing it this year.
3. Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse
The MegaTen fanbase is pretty divided on Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, but I found myself solidly in the Apocalypse-enjoyers camp.
Gameplay-wise, Apocalypse is a lot like SMT IV with some tweaks and polish in a few areas. I thought the changes to Hama and Mudo were particularly interesting, where they’ll only insta-kill if the caster is Smirking. Otherwise, they’re just damage-dealing attacks.
The story is where Apocalypse gets a lot more criticism. It’s definitely very different from the stories in other SMT games I’ve played, with a lot more focus on anime tropes and the power of friendship. I liked it, but I understand why people wouldn’t enjoy the story.
The final boss of Apocalypse is one of my favorites in the MegaTen series. It’s a super epic fight with really good final boss music and a cool gimmick, and that’s all I’ll say to avoid spoilers!
2. Persona 5 Strikers
I’m a fan of Persona 5, so I was pretty excited when Persona 5 Strikers was announced, and I was even more excited to play it when it came out. I’ve never played any other Dynasty Warrior-type games like this, so I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it or be any good at the gameplay. Well, I don’t know if I was any good, but I didn’t have much trouble beating the game on Normal, and I had an absolute blast doing so.
Strikers raised the bar for Persona spin-off games in a big way. I’m not saying the other spin-offs are bad, I actually like the Persona dancing games a lot, but Strikers not only has fun gameplay and a full story, but it manages to do that while also featuring several mechanics from the original game. I’m mostly talking about how it has demon fusion, because that was an awesome feature to have. But it also has All Out Attacks, and other things like that to make it feel more like a sequel to the original game.
The last thing I want to say about Strikers is that this is the only game I got the Platinum for this year. I wanted to see everything it had to offer, and it doing that was a blast!
1. Shin Megami Tensei V
There’s probably some recency bias with this one since it’s still so fresh in my mind, but I think Shin Megami Tensei V was the most fun I’ve had with a game all year. Out of all the Shin Megami Tensei games on this list, I think V has the weakest story, but what carries it to number 1 is that in addition to the glorious Press Turn battles, it also has super fun exploration. I loved running around the Netherworld, getting loot from vending machines,and seeing Fafnirs flying around in the overworld, seeing other demons in the overworld was cool too of course, I just especially remember the Fafnirs.
As with SMT IV, Shin Megami Tensei V is definitely a game I want to revisit at some point to play another route, and get pulled into its excellent gameplay loop of exploring the Netherworld and fighting its demonic residents.
That’s it for the list, thanks for reading! Even though most of my gaming time this year was spent catching up on the backlog, I was still able to play several 2021 releases.
2021 was a great year for video games, and there are still a number of interesting releases (Deathloop, Scarlet Nexus, NEO TWEWY, Tales of Arise) I didn’t have a chance to pick up this year. I think the biggest one among those is Tales of Arise. I’ve played most of the series from Tales of Symphonia onward, and I’ve heard a lot of praise for Arise online, so I’ll definitely be checking it out eventually. If I pick it up in 2022, maybe you’ll see it in next year’s top 10, who knows?