GOTYLY 2022: Game of the Year, Last Year (2021)

Even though it’s been two years, 2022 still feels like the aftermath of 2020 in a lot of ways. 2021 felt less like a fresh start and more like a new phase in the recovery process. From infrastructural systems to political movements to just interpersonal relations, we’re all recovering from it. With so much focus spent on that, a lot of gaming releases in 2021 flew right by us. And 2022 was a perfect time to catch up on them.

Let’s look back to 2021, the prequel to 2022. If your memory needs jogging, here’s a huge list of things that came out!

What is your favorite game of 2021? What was it at the time, and what is it now? If it’s changed, what caused you to change your opinion?

Did you grow to appreciate any games of that year? Alternatively, did you sour on any games? Did more time with, distance from, or new perspectives on a given game change how you enjoyed it?

What games did you or others sleep on that were worth the return? It’s always hard to keep up with all the releases, so a lot of us ended up playing last year’s best in 2022. What about you?

What games were the underdogs of 2021? With so many incredible titles, there’s no doubt that some of them are getting overlooked. What games just don’t get the love they deserve?

If you could summarize 2021’s year of games, how would you? Was it good? Bad? An antidote? Were there trends or themes you saw crop up in the games of 2021?

How does 2022 look in comparison to 2021? Does it look better or worse in juxtaposition? Or does it look only slightly different? Or entirely the same?

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What is your favorite game of 2021?

My favourite game of 2021, released in 2021, was Loop Hero.
I think it probably still is (although I played Cruelty Squad after 2021 ended, I think Loop Hero is the better game overall).
(My favourite game I played in 2021 is probably still Heaven’s Vault, which is brilliant.)

Did you grow to appreciate any games of that year? Alternatively, did you sour on any games?
I didn’t re-play or continue to play any games released in 2021 that I played already in 2021.
I did play Cruelty Squad in early 2022… and I guess I sort of appreciated it (even if it drove me away before I actually got to even the first ending) - tonally, it definitely hits where it intends.

What games did you or others sleep on that were worth the return?

I sleep on a lot of games from any given year - most of the games I play in any given year are from a year or more in the past.
Cruelty Squad is going to be the only 2021 game I played in 2022 though, unless we count some Quake maps…

What games were the underdogs of 2021?

I never know how to answer this question. People probably started out thinking that Cruelty Squad would be… but I don’t think it ended up that way, it was more of a blindsiding unpredictable.

If you could summarize 2021’s year of games, how would you?

In terms of the ones I played: very very indie, experimental and cynical leaning on nihilistic! I think we’re definitely in a period where (possibly tipped by pandemic too) all of the Bad Things in the world are leading to interesting indie output which is interestingly political. (But then, we said that about 2020 too, what with Umurangi Generation…)

How does 2022 look in comparison to 2021?

I played more 2022 games in 2022 than 2021 games in 2021… but there was a lot of almost nostalgia in there. (The “advanced” update to Into The Breach and Return to Monkey Island are essentially sequels to games I played before; Terra Invicta is a spiritual play on XCom, and Last Call BBS is a paean to both Zachtronics and the games that inspired them.) And, other than Terra Invicta… none of them are as strongly doused in politics or philosophy as the 2021 crop.

As with previous years though, my “GOTY” of 2022 looks likely to be a game made some time before 2022. [Heaven Will Be Mine is currently looking strong for me… and yes, it’s political and philosophical and indie…]

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What is your favorite game of 2021?

Disco Elysium: Final Cut. Still wins.

Did you grow to appreciate any games of that year? Alternatively, did you sour on any games?

I haven’t soured on any games I played last year, but I think about Eastward a lot. That game was incredible. Easily would be No. 2 if I were writing a Top 10 today.

What games did you or others sleep on that were worth the return?

I finally got to play Sable thanks to owning a Steam Deck this year and that game is great. Maybe not a masterpiece, maybe wouldn’t hang on a Top 5, but could make a Top 10. Still needs a coat of Polish sadly.

What games were the underdogs of 2021?

People slept on TWEWY 2, still are sleeping on TWEWY 2. That’s a great game, man. I like it better than the Persona games it’s competing against as stylish demon hunting YA adventures in Tokyo.

If you could summarize 2021’s year of games, how would you?

I dunno… it was a year? Didn’t feel apocalyptic at times like 2020, but felt more substantial than this year.

How does 2022 look in comparison to 2021?

2022 looks like shit. I’m just one guy, an aging guy too, but games don’t feel important somehow. The next Gen hasn’t happened yet, the big releases are few and far between, somehow big releases don’t feel as important as they did a generation ago. There was Elden Ring and that’s the one blockbuster event. Even God of War 2 is not some ultra omega showstopper, I barely see ads for it. It’s like the industry is running on momentum and just choosing that growth won’t happen. I dunno.

I went months this year without playing a minute of games. And it felt like nobody else was playing much either. I’m less active on my games discord. I’m less active on this forum. It’s terrifying. Of course websites are shutting down, there’s no content.

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What is your favorite game of 2021? What was it at the time, and what is it now?
I spent the majority of my year playing remakes and remasters other than the start of the year when I came off a Kingdom Hearts binge (shoutout Lore Reasons) straight into Hitman 3. A great game which I hoped would springboard into the immersive sim genre but alas not to be.

I did get massively into Nier Replicant. We’re talking full reading ResetEra threads, listening to the calm YouTube mixes and scanning Critical Distance for new articles. Great game. I’m surprised a couple of Waypoint Radio eps aside it wasn’t really discussed here.

I also finally clicked with Disco Elysium with the Final Cut on PS5. That game is a triumph of Fisherian melancholic leftism. Not often you can Leo Di Caprio point at the screen because an “Ultraliberal is sort of approvingly quoting Capitalist Realism” and that’s before you get into the real triumphs and vindications that come in the final moments of that game that feel, more than any other game, intensely personal to the choices and decisions I’ve made in that game.

It’s a shame given how it’s appeared to have panned out because I’ve never felt more like people like me have succeeded in their vision in as intensely a capitalistic environment as the ZA/UM team and I was eager to see what came next but at least we always have Disco Elysium and Revachol which more and more feels like the city I live in.

Did you grow to appreciate any games of that year? Alternatively, did you sour on any games?
Halo Infinite. I grew to appreciate it as the game which fundamentally changed my gaming pattern. I was always a late gamer playing well into the night. However, one morning early in December, something funny happened.

My flatmate had Covid, I had recently returned back from home and was not well either albeit free of the dreaded double lines on a test. I remember reading a post on here where someone said their favourite time to play a game was with a coffee early in the morning and the first time I did that was December 2021 where a persistent cough woke me up at 5am. I ended up accepting defeat, getting up and brewing some coffee and sitting down to continue my legendary campaign run. I watched the sun come up, cleared a major chunk of the game and then shut my console down and started a shift from home circa 8am.

and I got it. To this day I comment on how fun it was. I’m a notorious late sleeper frequently waking up 15 minutes before I’m due to leave. Now I regularly wake up early on the weekends, brew a coffee and get a few hours in before everyone wakes up.

So when I think about what I appreciated in 2021 I think of Halo Infinite which hit me at the right time and ended up changing my entire schedule of game time.

I genuinely haven’t played a second of it in 2022.

If you could summarize 2021’s year of games, how would you?
The year of rereleases. Whether it was Disco Elysium Final Cut, Nier Replicant, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade, or Death Stranding Director’s Cut it felt like the majority of my hours were put in to experiencing the “definitive” editions of things that didn’t feel that old. I loved them all though and in lieu of anyone being able to release anything new I definitely enjoyed all the remakes and remasters that fell into my lap.

How does 2022 look in comparison to 2021?

It’s been dominated by Elden Ring. I made a pledge to conquer a Soulsborne in 2021 and I managed it 6 months earlier than I anticipated in 2022 when I was convinced to buy Elden Ring. It’s going to be interesting given the dearth of real quality AAA games this year compared to the obscene achievement (valid criticisms aside) that Elden Ring was.

I hope Immortality wins something though for being the second game since Disco Elysium to feel like an achievement in writing.

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What is your favorite game of 2021?

I believe last year my answer was Deltarune, Chapter 2, and I’m still pretty happy with that. I listen to Attack of the Killer Queen like once a week. That said, I’ve probably thought more about The Forgotten City, and I won’t be surprised if I look back at a list of games in 2021 in two or three years and it’s the one that really stands out to me. We need a ‘GOTYBLY’ thread, game of the year before last year.

Did you grow to appreciate any games of that year? Alternatively, did you sour on any games?

I played more of Cruelty Squad than I had gotten to last year, and it only got better. Getting the confirm on Bloober Team remaking Silent Hill 2 has made me retroactively hate The Medium even more, in the same way where you kind of anti-hype up an actor if you don’t think they’re going to be good in a role they’ve been cast in. But I loathed it already, so I don’t know how much that counts.

What games did you or others sleep on that were worth the return?

It came out in December so I hadn’t played it in time for last years’ threads on it - but hey, love to be a space sicko over in Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator. It’s a good game to podcast to.

What games were the underdogs of 2021?

I picked up Everhood this year, a rhythm RPG with some heavy Undertale influence. Surprisingly good story despite some of the writing not clicking with me. And a very satisfying rhythm game, one of the best I’ve played since… hell, maybe Crypt of the Necrodancer.

If you could summarize 2021’s year of games, how would you?

As someone whose favorite trope/theme in any story is a time loop - Groundhog Day, Russian Doll S1, far too many fanfics I have bookmarked - last year had some bangers. The Forgotten City, aformentioned. Deathloop. Sokpop’s fantastic little Pocket Watch. Outer Wilds got an expansion. And my other least favorite game of last year, 12 Minutes. But even though I despised the latter, the time loop thing still caught my interest more than the split world mechanic of The Medium because it’s just… fun! Time loops rock, good year.

How does 2022 look in comparison to 2021?

It’s a very different year, but not bad. A better year for bigger games, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and Elden Ring blow just about every AAA game from 2021 out of the water. Pentiment isn’t out yet, but it’s certainly one of my most anticipated games from a big publisher in years, especially for a non-sequel. Citizen Sleeper and NORCO were great new additions to the loosely leftist collection of games we’ve been getting over the years. Card Shark and Neon White are innovative and fun, even if neither captures the joy I had in playing multiple time loop games last year. Can’t complain, overall!

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What is your favorite game of 2021? Looking back at 2021 I didn’t actually play that many 2021 games at release, and only caught up on a couple this year. Inscryption probably wins then by default - which feels like selling it short because Inscryption was excellent, doing a good version of the “mixed media” and meta stuff I really enjoy.

Did you grow to appreciate any games of that year? Alternatively, did you sour on any games? I was kinda lukewarm on Halo Infinite (as a singleplayer campaign - the multiplayer is a different, though equally mixed story). With more distance on it… the less I like it. The open world itself is neat but it feels more and more like a tech demo for something else that could have been. Any time you go into an actual mission the game immediately gets worse, and while I don’t hate the story, it feels like such a heavy-handed attempt to reset the board after Halo 5 specifically - throwing away (at least) two games of world-building to pseudo-reboot the original Halo as Master Chief, on his own, against the not!Covenant.

What games did you or others sleep on that were worth the return? I didn’t get a PS5 until this year (and didn’t think my PC could handle it) so only got around to Deathloop in 2022. I’d been primed for a negative reaction based on a lot of the reviews slash post-launch discourse but I really enjoyed it. Not Arkane’s best, but I tend to think their games always shine more on a replay because you start to unravel all the things about the game that aren’t obvious the first time - the puzzlebox solutions of guard placements, reactions, and choices that by necessity don’t jump out on your original run - so feeding all that through a timeloop gimmick in which you play and replay the same areas was an interesting mechanic to tease all that out in ‘one’ playthrough.

If you could summarize 2021’s year of games, how would you? I probably said this looking back at 2020 so: another year of covid delays. Games dropping at odd times or disappearing until 2022, few major touchtone releases, the stuff coming out feeling a little weird. 2022 is still not “normal” but in comparison to 2021 it has much more of the old rhythm feel of a couple of major releases dominating the early part of the year going into the summer doldrums before the fall rush. Often I look at a list of a year’s games and think, oh yeah, I didn’t actually play that, but I know it was the blockbuster release of that calendar; looking back at 2021 I barely know what was even meant to count.

How does 2022 look in comparison to 2021? Taking a really egocentric view of it, for me a good year for games is one in which I have trouble picking between potential my personal GOTY contenders. Citizen Sleeper, Norco, Signalis, as well as big budget stuff like Horizon: Forbidden West and stuff that probably shouldn’t be eligible like the next-gen release of Cyberpunk or The Last of Us Part I - and that’s before I consider things that aren’t yet out (God of War Ragnarok?) or things I’ve yet to get to properly (Immortality). So unlike last year’s “Inscryption, I guess?” this feels like a good year for games.

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My favorite game of 2021 was Halo Infinite, and probably still is, although now by a hair than a mile. I personally did not have much of an issue with Infinite’s 2022 as a lot of folks. It was nice to have a game that did not feel like a full time job to keep up with, and while the content was slight, what was there was very good. Add to that forge and campaign co-op dropping literally tomorrow and I still feel pretty good about that game. What’s brought it down to size have been the amazing 2021 games I only got to this year.

I tried Deathloop briefly last year but bounced off from the prickly opening hours. I tried it again earlier this year and got past the hump to find a very creative and beautifully designed puzzle box of a shooter. I then did a victory lap playthrough when it dropped on Gamepass a month or two back, and it was great fun having a “new game plus” just based on my knowledge of how the game was built. It still didn’t completely turn me to loving Arkane as much as some folks, but at least there is a strain of their game design that resonates with me.

OMG so many. Guardians of the Galaxy was one the best examples of AAA design in recent years, with incredible graphics and sound making for a delightful romp through the Marvel cosmos. The Forgotten City was a beautifully designed puzzle box that had me thinking for days after I finished it. Lake was a highly underrated slice-of-life that got me nostalgic for VHS tapes and local radio. And Resident Evil Village was a fantastic flex from a design team that is clearly on a hot streak.

Dot’s Home is an excellent piece of edutainment that focuses on the effects of racist housing policies on the fortunes of a Black American family over the decades. It straddles the line of teaching the player about some truly infuriating injustice while never getting too preachy or dour. It’s free on mobile and is about an hour long. Absolutely play it.

2021 was a testament to the resilience of the indie/sub-AAA industry. While big games continued be delayed or come out unfinished and buggy, indies kept dropping banger after banger at a steady cadence. This has only carried over to 2022, and while the IGN message boards continue to bleat about the lack of AAA, I couldn’t be happier with the current state of affairs.

These are always a tough comparison to me, as it never feels apples-to-apples. Like, 2022 had the higher peak with Elden Ring, an early contender for game of the decade for me. But 2021 had just so many games with fun ideas, along with returning heavy hitters like Resident Evil, Halo, and Forza. I’d put them roughly on par with one another. Neither hit the peak of a 1998 or 2007, but both were very solid years for gaming.

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Loop Hero at the time, Disco Elysium looking back (I played DE way later, the director’s cut came out in 2021 is that cheating?:joy_cat:).

Loop Hero is just, mechanically a very fun game (for me). It’s got your deckbuilding, it’s got your idleing, it’s dark and kinda nihilistic, what’s not to love and spend way too long thinking about it?

Disco Elysium is such an important game, for a lot of reasons. It’s got a lot of beautiful prose, and made me want to read more in general, which is a weird thing for a game to do, but that and more recently Citizen Sleeper did this for me.

Oh wow Sable also came out this year, that’s up there too.

I wouldn’t say I went too far out of my comfort zone, the only thing out of my general wheelhouse that I really started playing was Dark Souls-type games (none of the ones I played came out this year though hah). They finally just “clicked” for me this year, I guess.

I definitely didn’t play as many multiplayer games for the sake of just playing multiplayer games, and didn’t try to play them without people I already knew playing, and using them as more of a socialization

Shin Megami Tensei V was my travel/transit game this year, and I’m really enjoying it. I have a long list of older JRPGs that I’ve never played, so hopefully this inspires me to go back to some of them. :slight_smile:

I never know how to answer these questions because I don’t feel like I play enough sutff, but as for things I played: I wish more people had played pokemon unite with me (I need to check it out since this recent update).

I think 2021 was overall a pretty good year in terms of releases. There was a lot of stuff that came out that I enjoyed.
Gamepass got good
I think 2021 is kinda when a lot of the recent trend of acquisitions started? which, better or worse, is something that happened.
There was a lot of apocolypse/end of history stuff going on which was interesting. I also started getting into solo/journaling RPGs, which have a lot of this going on as well.

Mostly the same, I think. More acquisitions, more games (still) coming out, the financial situation overall seems pretty weird, but I don’t think anyone wants to admit it/is trying to ignore that something bad is coming, but we’ll see how that plays out, and hopefully people/games aren’t too hurt by it (I’m not claiming to know what “it” is by any means).

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I decided it was, for me, cheating (but mostly because I didn’t replay the Director’s Cut yet…). If we were allowed to pick DE, then I would have over Loop Hero in an instant.

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