Game of the Year lists are always a challenge to put together. I consider myself pretty open to almost any genre, thus making my selection pool much larger to choose from. Throw in an amazing year for indie games into the equation and narrowing it down to the top 10 is quite a task. However, for the sake of the site I have compiled a list of games that I absolutely loved this year and recommend people check out. Will you all agree? Probably not. I hope that a few of these will grab your attention and you’ll try out some new games.
Once again, let’s take a look at the rules I built my list by:
- The game has to have had its full release in the calendar year of 2021.
- I need to have played the game after it has a full release.
- beating a game is preferable but not required; I should have played enough to get a general feeling about the game and story.
- Sticking with Indie-Gems mission, games on this list are on the smaller side of notoriety.
- Honorable mentions are games that were released this year but are in early access but are fully playable and worth checking out.
10. Circuit Superstars
Circuit Superstars was such a fun game for me. I normally am not huge into racing games but games like this tug on those nostalgia strings. These top-down racers bring me back to the days of my youth playing Hot Rod at the local arcade. Circuit Superstars aimed to build upon the arcade fun of these games and throw a little bit of racing sim into it and it works amazingly well.
There are many different classes of cars each with its unique handling too. There are a lot of different courses to race on. The ai is more than fair, no Mario Kart rubber banding here! Harder game modes bring in pit stop planning too! This game really requires some finesse in how you handle your vehicles, which takes it that step further than an arcade racer and I appreciate the challenge while still keeping its arcade roots.
There’s a lot to do in Circuit Superstars from taking on the racing campaign, free races vs AI or friends, online races, weekly challenges, and even racing on the Top Gear Track!
Dap is an odd little title. I fell in love with the game when I tried out a demo for it during one of the Steam demo festivals. It immediately became a most anticipated title for me and its launch did not disappoint. Dap is a horror game that has you rescuing fellow Daps and fighting off an evil corruption that is taking over the world. It has similar combat to Pikmim where you gather your rescued friends and send them to fight face to face with your enemies while you attack from afar.
8. Mini Motorways
I have long been obsessed with Dinosaur Polo Club’s previous puzzle game, Mini Metro, and was super excited for their newest game. Mini Motorways also spoke to me because my day job is working for a transportation department. It has the same minimalist design, but do not be fooled this game is packed full of challenges. Flow is the ultimate key hear and the game will constantly throw curve balls just when you think you got it. Place roundabouts, highways, traffic lights, and more to keep your progress moving!
7. Beast Breaker
I love it when games mix odd genres. Sure sometimes it flops, but sometimes it works really well. Thankfully Beast Breaker is the latter. Mashing Brick Breaking with Turn-based RPG mechanics makes for one fun game. You play a small mouse named Skipper and you take on the task of fighting off giant mosaic beasts to save your town and world. The story is interesting and shown with beautiful art, the combat and crafting are a ton of fun and quite unique. Playstyles constantly evolve with the way the game rewards you for trying out new equipment. I couldn’t get enough out of this studio’s first game.
Sable was a game that I immediately knew I had to play. I didn’t care what it was about. I just knew I needed to ride hoverbikes in the sand with this amazing art style. Honestly, I wasn’t let down at all once I built my first hoverbike. It definitely helps that the story is pretty good too. This game is chocked full of wonder as you set out to guide Sable through her gliding. You will explore vast deserts littered with ruins and the remains of ancient spaceships. I honestly can’t tell you how many times I just stop to take in the beautifully constructed world.
Wytchwood is a beautiful and dark crafting adventure game. You play the witch of fairy tales and make a deal with a malevolent goat that if you bring him souls he will help restore your memory. These souls come in the form of some detestable character like the wolf from little red riding hood, or a deer prince trying to cheat his brother of his rightful throne. There is tons of humor here, a great story, and lots of crafting to be done. It reminded me of Kings Quest but instead of point and click it was more action-oriented.
4. Moonglow Bay
This became my go-to relaxing game of the year. I loved the world of Moonglow bay. An adorable voxel game that has you working to build the seafood restaurant of you and your partners dreams built upon from sea to table ideals. Through your food you will also work to rebuild the town alongside your daughter, thus bringing life back into the harbor. While the game has had a few issues, the devs have been taking the communities issues to heart and have been fixing and improving this game.
3. Rogue Fable III
I am so happy to place a traditional roguelike in the top 3. Rogue Fable III is a simple roguelike that isn’t necessarily genre changing. It is a well made roguelike that gives you a multitude of class and race options that keeps each playthrough unique and challenging. What this game does is presents roguelikes in a easier to swallow aesthetic (let’s be honest ASCII can be such a turn off for the majority) with fun, solid gameplay. It even has a save game feature since a solid run can easily run you longer than a traditional coffee break. This is an addicting game and such a great game for fans of the challenging genre as well as newcomers.
You can pickup Rogue Fable III on PC.
Wildermyth is a phenomenal game. It takes the world and relationship building you would find in a TTRPG and places it into a strategy video game. Create your characters and work with them from their prime all the way to retirement age (assuming they live). There are many single player campaigns that bring about different scenarios and what I loved is how easily I became invested in the procedurally generated story. Your actions and choices through the game change your characters, their futures, and the lands that surround you. I cannot stress how amazing it is that this game pulls you into each random characters story and actually makes you care.
The gameplay is simple on the surface but can be incredibly complex and allows for all kinds of craziness to unfold during your combat sessions. My first playthrough saw a character evolving into a wolf throughout his life and with is his whole play style evolved with each transformative step. Creating characters and following them into old age is so rewarding and every time I sit down with this game I am immediately sucked in for a handful of hours.
This game could easily be my number 1. The only reason it’s not, I needed a Number 2 or else this list just wouldn’t work. Pick up Wildermyth on PC.
1. The Ascent
For anyone that has followed over the years while I streamed and even on my youtube channel, you know I love ARPGs. Specifically games like Diablo, Torchlight, Titan Quest, and more. I’ve also ranted on about how the lack of sci-fi versions of these games is an absolute travesty. Well 2021 managed to finally answer my call. In July The small team over at Neon Giant released their debut title and it blew me away. This team must have read my mind because The Ascent is the perfect example of how this kind of ARPG can work so well.
The Ascent has you working to find out why one of the largest corporations went belly up over night and fighting off the other eager corporate goons coming in to leach off the still warm carcass. As you fight off these other goons you do so with a multitude of firepower and cyber upgrades. The world is flashy, beautiful, and alive. Seriously, I’ve never felt a game world so full of life as The Ascent does. It’s truly a feat that left me constantly reminding myself that a small indie team created this. While it’s not the loot fest of diablo, it still scratches that itch for a sci-fi ARPG and I cannot wait to see what more Neon Giant has to offer.
2. Noble Fates
Well there you go, my game of the year list for 2021. This was a tough list to put together this year. I think I started around 25 games and worked my way through them to these 10. Not an easy thing to do. Also, the three honorable mentions are absolute must haves in my opinion and you should check them out! Let me know what you think and what your game of the year was down below and don’t forget to check out Erik’s top games too!