End of Year 2021: Favorite Game Feel

Feel. An enigma when it comes to talking about games. We often struggle for the right language to describe it and rely on overused terms like ‘visceral’ and ‘clunky’, but it’s such an important part of the overall experience that it’d be irresponsible to not try to talk about it. When you grip a controller or place your hands on a keyboard, you’re getting a sense for how a game feels. How do we describe this sensation, and how do we quantify it?

The truth is, when a game feels good, you just know it. A game’s feel is the sum of several things, often barely noticed. It might be controls that feel tight and responsive, a button layout that feels natural, a difficulty curve that feels satisfying, animations and sounds that make your actions feel weighty and real, or a wide range of settings you can adjust that allow you to make the game feel just right for you.

Or perhaps it’s something greater - games that feel great can be the most immersive or captivating. The world melts away. We forget about ourselves, and are transported to a place where we can be who we want to be. Powerful, agile, intelligent, caring, with the agency to affect the world around us. The game becomes an extension of ourselves. The impact we have, and how that impact feels, are core to an experience that only games can deliver.

With all of that in mind, what were the games that had your favorite feel? And even though it may be difficult to explain, what is it about them that makes them feel so good?

[Hub Thread]

This goes fully Metroid Dread to me, especially once Samus is fully decked out with all her missiles and powers. There’s something wonderfully satisfying about the missile barrage power. The double jump and flash step really give you a ton of escape options, so even ridiculously-hard seeming bosses like the final one are quite doable.


This is a difficult one, if I limit myself to games I played for the first time this year.

Whilst there’s not a lot of actual “mechanics” in it, I think I have to give some credit to Sayonara Wild Hearts, for being a rhythm game that effortlessly, and mostly smoothly, maps inputs to a range of actions (from sword fighting, to surfing on a skateboard along neon subspace, riding a stag through an enchanted forest, and firing arrows at bats summoned by the incarnation of Death), in a generally satisfying way. If you get it mostly right, it really does feel like being in a (neon) pop music video.

1 Like

Cruelty Squad is a game that is intentionally very strange to play. You must physically drag the mouse down and back up to cock your gun, in a way almost reminiscent of arcade shooter mechanics. Clunky, inconvenient, but wow does it add a lot of tension and atmosphere. Add to that the equally clunky and ugly atmosphere, and it’s hard to name another game with a more distinct feel. I loved it.

Shout out to kinda-a-2021-release-because-I-played-on-Switch, Umurangi Generation. Motion controls are fun, sometimes.


The game I had the most fun mechanically this year was Necromunda: Hired Gun not a perfect game by any means but the speed of the combat and the wild level of mobility the character has was a joy to me. Give me more games where I can slide, grapple and air dash, love bouncing around levels.

Got a couple of answers for this one.

First is a game that feels awesome to play from the get-go: UNSIGHTED. There’s a parry in the game that, while not strictly necessary for the most part, is extremely rewarding to execute. I spent 90% of the combat encounters in the game exclusively parrying enemies because it’s just extremely fun to do! (That and you can stun enemies to instantly defeat them too.) Another great game feel thing that I didn’t find until I was almost done with the game was the grappling hook, which lets you lock on and grab or zip towards enemies during combat. It’s also a pretty fun traversal tool too, especially when you get two of them!

Next is a game that I found immediately fun to play that’s stayed that way as I’ve played more and more of it, Melty Blood Type Lumina. I struggle with a lot of anime fighting games (in the mechanical sense) because of how dense the systems can be on top of the ridiculous amount of technical skill and knowhow one needs to succeed offensively and defensively. Having played it since day one and playing it on a regular basis, Type Lumina is probably the only anime game I’ve played that I really get. Like to the point where I surprise myself by instinctively doing stuff on offense that gets me a win or defend against nonsense I’ve never seen before or successfully counter a tricky setup. Although the game’s a little limiting in the grand scheme of things, I really like the way I’ve been able to express myself as a fighting game player within it.

And lastly, a game that improves in terms of game feel; Scarlet Nexus. Being a game with a lot skills to unlock, you don’t really get the full sense of what you can do in Scarlet Nexus in the first hour as you can in the 50th. The basics of the combat are fun on their own but the amount of tools you get by the time you fill out the skill tree and max out your bonds with your party members make the combat a lot more kinetic and explosive. So much so that I was more than a little disappointed when I eventually exhausted all the content on my first playthrough because I didn’t really have an excuse to engage with the combat anymore!

I also think the post-launch updates they’ve done have have improved the feel of it too. There was a free update a while back that added a lot of options (mostly related to the camera, lock-on settings and how fast some animations happen) that immediately made the game feel a whole lot less awkward in spots once I fiddled with them. The paid DLC pack they did also had a new cool-looking combat mechanic but I haven’t actually seen it in action because there’s no real reason left for me to fight stuff!


I am going to be a broken record over the next couple of weeks because I am going to be nominating the same game for a bunch of these, but when it comes to Returnal, I think this is probably the one it deserves most.

There are a hundred different pieces that go into making Returnal feel brilliant to play. The fluidity of the motion is one thing — Selene has a jump, a dash, and a sprint, and you can chain them together in ways that make navigating through Atropos feel smooth and instinctive. It feels so good to move around in Returnal that I eventually tried to learn a basic speedrun — genuinely the only time I’ve ever been deep enough into a game to do — and the simple movement tricks that make up the basis of its speedruns only make it feel better and better.

But the real MVP is the PS5’s controller with its vibrations and speaker. Every gun in the game has a noticeably different windup and sound; all of them feel different to use, and the variety of options is one of the things that keeps the game interesting as a roguelike. The melee attack is also incredibly satisfying because it’s super powerful — one hit is enough to dispatch most basic enemies, which means that you can occasionally play the game like 3D Hyper Light Drifter dashing and slashing your way through a crowd. But it also adds depth to the game’s environments — in the first biome, where it’s eternally raining, the controller feels like it’s being plunked by raindrops. The game’s 3D audio also just works — part of the difficulty of designing a bullet hell game in 3D is the player’s blind spot, and this game solves that by making it possible to hear enemies (and approaching bullets) approaching from behind you. I was really skeptical of what “next gen” really meant for this wave of consoles, but these kinds of tech really did augment the experience of playing that game, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how else they’re implemented in the future.

That’s all to say that Returnal is responsive in a way I’ve really never felt a game to be before. It reminded me of Dead Cells, a former game-feel-MVP, at the start, but by the end of my time with it it had gone far beyond that. But it also feels like every decision the devs made when designing its movement and combat was to create flow — the way melee attacks can also cut through bullets (or negate hits when they happen at the same time as a kill), or how the adrenaline system rewards stretches of good play with various new abilities and tools. The game has a grapple hook that you acquire maybe 25% of the way through that becomes an integral part of combat. And it’s all so good that its physics still feel amazing in its water level. In the end, the only thing that annoys me about this game is how few people are actually able to play it.

1 Like

100% with you on Unsighted and Scarlet Nexus. Unsighted’s parry is feels amazing to hit and its quite approachable (especially as someone who bounced hard off of sekiro). Scarlet Nexus had such fun juggling and finishers. My only problem is that with it is that when I would do long combos with Kasane, the frame rate would dip. Thats more of a limitation of my old setup rather than the game I guess.

My main addition to this thread is Webbed. Its really fun and easy swinging around and also my favorite platformer to control with mouse & keyboard.

Oh, oh, I guess I’m also going to talk a bit about a bunch of games that were too hard for me to complete, but definitely felt good to play.

Risk System has some lovely implementations of bullet-hell mechanics (grazing misses charge you up), and in general just feels good to play, especially if you time a roll/dodge well. If it had an endless/non-story procgen mode, I’d still be playing it now.

Similarly, Polybius has a lovely and responsive arcade feel (unsurprising, since it’s a Jeff Minter game) - it feels good to get faster going through the acceleration-boosting checkpoints, and the usual Minteresque “throwing chipsynth sounds and lightsynth effects at you” approach works well with the trippy design. (It’s also much harder to play if you don’t have a VR rig - like 90% of humanity including me - since it’s v dependent on depth perception to actually thread-the-needle through the course).

How has no one mentioned Halo Infinite yet? I haven’t enjoyed a multiplayer shooter this much in a long time.

First of all, it feels good to play a shooter where you are encouraged to constantly jump around during gunfights.

Second, grappleshot energy sword lunges feel so great to pull off. The grappleshot moves you way faster than you can run, so you can effectively lunge at people with a sword from much farther away. The only counter to that is to parry the sword user with a gravity hammer, which ALSO feels great to do.


Lol, I was gonna nominate Infinite but I’m feeling like a broken record on this forum cheerleading for it. But you are very right!

1 Like

Can I say DOOM: Eternal: The Ancient Gods - Part II? It’s mostly just more D:E with new enemies added to the battle-chess puzzle. But boy, if you’re into pushing the high-level play that of that game, it just continues to demand more and more from the player and incorporate each new lesson into your play is absolutely exhilarating. I adore the somewhat deliberately cartoonish art direction that is particularly visible in the design of armored barons and the Dark Lord.

Speaking of which, the Dark Lord final bossfight was absolute pulse-pounding fun. Round after round, each of us taking turns landing blows and healing from the other’s. It the closest a game has ever made me feel to sparring/dueling an enemy. It was a marathon boxing match.

Solar Ash
It’s not a surprise that the Hyper Light Drifter devs new game feels fantastic, but goddamn it’s good. It’s a 3D platformer where you’re skating around like Jet Set Radio or the jetboot sections from Ratchet and Clank and it’s one of those games where it just feels fun to move around in it. I searched every corner of every level just because I was enjoying the movement systems that got me there.

A little gameplay as an example:


My 2 game feel mentions this year are
The Pathless for the way it feels when you gallop across the map and the nice camera movements to accentuate movement speed and the bow draw.
And Stonefly! You hop and glide around in a little bug mech and it is delightful. The naturalistic soundtrack is maybe my favorite for this year and help out that bug-on-a-tree feel.

This looks awesome… I was wondering why I’d never gotten much buzz about it, and then I realised it’s an Epic Games Store exclusive :frowning: I thought we’d gotten past that thing happening?

Nope, unfortunately Epic are still throwing money around to try and make PC storefronts more like Consoles.

Solar Ash came to mind but I haven’t played it to be able to see if it feels as good as it looks.

My pick is Boomerang X.


My pick is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, which may come as a surprise to some! Specifically aiming any of the projectiles while in handheld mode! It just feels great to line up a shot 95% of the way using the right stick, and then getting those last 5% using gyro controls. It’s incredibly intuitive, and way closer to a one to one relationship between intention and results. It even feels great using the pro controller! It’s honestly kind of surprising that I haven’t seen this implemented much on AAA releases on PS4 or 5. It’s such a small thing, but it’s incredible for game feel!


Since I played it in January and February this year, I’m definitely picking Hades. The combat was so tightly designed that I could lose myself in the flow of all the hacking, slashing and dashing, despite having no prior experience with this type of game.

My other pick is Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, even if I think it might be 90% due to the PS5 controller integration. The adaptive triggers enhanced the feeling of power behind the stronger shots and the rumble was done really really well - I still remember how it felt walking on a metal floor. The controller added a lot to the already fun experience.

1 Like

It is Halo: Infinite. Now, I’ve only played the multiplayer so maybe the campaign isn’t this tight but they made Halo ass Halo. That counts for something right? Honest to goodness felt like I transported back in time without all the stuff that comes with playing with a bunch of 17-year-old boys at a LAN party.