After the Tom’s Guide staff chose the best games of 2021, we realized we would be remiss if we didn’t also discuss the games you missed this year. With only 15 slots in our “game of the year” story, some excellent titles were bound to get left out. We also wanted to take a moment to highlight some games that aren’t all-time classics, but still gave us something new and different to play.
In this list, we offer an eclectic selection of first-party games that are worth a second look, third-party games that try something new and indie games that are unlike anything else you can play right now. We can’t promise that you’ll love each and every one of these games, but we can promise that you’ll find something that you didn’t expect to enjoy. Read on for the games you missed in 2021.
Boyfriend Dungeon (Multiple Platforms)
One of the more unusual games from 2021, Boyfriend Dungeon is half isometric dungeon crawler, and half dating sim. You play as a young man, woman or nonbinary person who spends the summer in the idyllic seaside town of Verona Beach. There, you meet six eligible singles (and one free-spirited cat), each of whom can transform into a different weapon.
While Boyfriend Dungeon has a strange premise, the gameplay is rock solid, from its deep dungeons and challenging boss fights, to its heartfelt conversations and romantic side quests. The weapons feel distinct, and they get stronger as you forge closer bonds with each potential love interest. The game is short, but sweet, and should appeal to both old-school RPG fans and visual novel aficionados. – Marshall Honorof
Chivalry II (Multiple Platforms)
While 2021 offered us new entries in the Call of Duty, Battlefield and Halo series, the multiplayer game I keep returning to is Chivalry 2.
This delightful sequel to 2012’s Chivalry: Medieval Warfare prioritizes fun over everything else. Whenever I play Chivalry 2, I have a blast, no matter how I’m ranked on the scoreboard. Even when I’m getting decapitated by an armor-clad knight, who then uses my detached head to beat one of my teammates to death, I’m still grinning away.
The game thrives on utter chaos, but don’t there’s still plenty of tactical depth to Chivalry 2. The melee-focused combat system is richly rewarding if you put in the time to learn its core pillars. Developer Torn Banner Studios also deserves huge credit for how often it’s updated and added new content to Chivalry 2 over the past six months. I’m sure I’ll still be playing this one deep into 2022. — Rory Mellon
Death’s Door (Multiple Platforms)
Death’s Door has earned a lot of praise among those who’ve played it. It combines gameplay mechanics from Dark Souls and classic Zelda games, and adds a healthy amount of Tim Burton-esque artistic sensibilities. Each of the otherworldly creatures you face poses a challenge, but boss battles are where the game’s precise hack-n-slash combat truly shines. Imaginative puzzles keep your brain working when you’re not fighting for your life.
Death’s Door conjures memories of similar titles from yesteryear, but still feels like a modern title. I recommend this one to anyone who wants a break from the usual big-budget offerings. — Tony Polanco
Eldest Souls (Multiple Platforms)
Eldest Souls is beautiful and punishingly difficult pixel art boss rush. You play as a nameless hero fighting the old gods in a forgotten and decrepit keep. The boss battles are harrowing experiences, each with its own mechanics and quirks to learn if you want to succeed. As the “Souls” in the title implies, this is a game about getting up and trying again after your inevitable failures. Death is more common than success in Eldest Souls, making that success all the sweeter. If you’re up for a challenge, then I recommend checking this game out. — Jordan Palmer
Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade (PC/PS5)
Final Fantasy VII Remake was one of our favorite PS4 games. Thanks to Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade, the game is now even better on PS5. From a technical standpoint, FFVIIR Intergrade optimizes the game for PS5, offering higher resolutions, improved frame rates, more detailed textures and faster loading times.
The more substantial part of the package, however, is Final Fantasy VII Remake Episode Intermission: a brand-new playable adventure that casts you as upbeat ninja Yuffie Kisaragi. This five-hour adventure offers a fresh perspective on FFVIIR’s story, and digs deep into Final Fantasy lore to introduce some unexpected characters. Throw in some extremely challenging optional bosses and an epilogue that teases the next part of the story, and Intermission reminds fans why they fell in love with this ambitious remake in the first place. — Marshall Honorof
Guilty Gear: Strive (PC/PS4/PS5)
Fighting games have been a bit absent from next-gen consoles so far, but Guilty Gear: Strive is a fantastic exception. Strive is the most accessible and beautiful game in the Guilty Gear series so far, so even occasional or brand-new fans of 2D fighters should make sure they give it a try.
Even if you’re not fussed about the game’s surprisingly deep visual novel-style story, there’s plenty to do. Beyond fighting other players online or battling the CPU, you can also work your way through an in-depth tutorial, teaching you everything from basic movement to full high-damage combos. Plus, with additional characters introduced every month or two, this game will stay fresh for a long while yet. — Richard Priday
Kena: Bridge of Spirits (PC/PS5)
Kena: Bridge of Spirits proves that 3D platforming titles are still viable in the modern world. Sure, the game isn’t exactly doing anything innovative — but so what? It has fast and fluid combat, challenging enemies, tricky puzzles and harrowing platforming sections. And if you’ll forgive me for saying the same thing as other reviewers, the game’s graphics make you feel like you’ve dropped into a Pixar film. Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a great example of what a video game is supposed to be, so you shouldn’t miss out on it. — Tony Polanco
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD (Switch)
I spent 10 long, lonely years championing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on the Nintendo Wii as an underrated and worthwhile entry in the Zelda canon. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD on the Nintendo Switch finally justified my faith. This remastered game tells an origin story for the Zelda mythos, finally exploring why Link, Zelda, Ganon, the Master Sword and the Triforce are destined to meet again and again, in an endless cycle.
While the original Skyward Sword suffered from inconsistent motion controls, you can play Skyward Sword HD entirely with a regular controller. This means that you can focus on the game’s clever dungeons, devious enemies and gorgeous vistas rather than its dodgy inputs. With plenty of areas to explore and secrets to uncover, Skyward Sword HD is worth revisiting, particularly if you hated the controls the last time around. — Marshall Honorof
Little Nightmares 2 (Multiple Platforms)
Little Nightmares 2 came out way back in February 2021, so people may have already forgotten about this game. However, as a fan of the first title and its DLC, I can confidently tell you that the sequel was nearly perfect. Playing as a little paper bag-clad boy named Mono, your goal is to travel across an abandoned city where childhood horrors, such as school bullies and creepy mannequins, lurk around every corner.
As we covered in our Little Nightmares 2 review, the environment and sound design are the game’s best features. You’ll find yourself constantly admiring the game’s chilling atmosphere as you attempt to maintain your composure throughout some nerve-wracking chases. The game is also full of its fair share of emotional twists and turns. Overall, Little Nightmares 2 is a must-play for fans of the horror/platformer genre. — Denise Primbet
Persona 5 Strikers (PC/PS4/Switch)
I was a little late to the Persona 5 party. But when I finally got round to playing the lengthy JRPG I instantly fell in love with The Phantom Thieves. Getting to spend another 30 hours with the gang in the Persona 5 Strikers spinoff was a genuine treat.
I should note that Persona 5 Strikers isn’t a cheesy side story, but a full canonical sequel to the original games. The entire original cast is back (sans the new party member from Personal 5 Royal), and hitting the road to once again change the hearts of corrupt adults.
The switch to a real-time hack-and-slash combat system might disappoint longtime fans who prefer the more thoughtful turn-based battles from the mainline Persona games. But developer Omega Force has done a remarkable job in making Strikers feel quintessentially Persona, in both gameplay and overall structure. This is a spinoff done right. — Rory Mellon
Riders Republic (Multiple Platforms)
Extreme sports video games have become quite uncommon over the past decade or so, but Riders Republic gives the genre a welcome shot of adrenaline.
Setting you loose in a massive map, which mashes together several real-world national parks, Riders Republic lets you traverse its gorgeous environment on a bike, snowboard or pair of skis. You can even take to the skies with a rocket-powered wingsuit strapped to your back. It’s not especially realistic, but it’s great fun regardless.
The single-player campaign offers hundreds of challenges to complete, but Riders Republic shines brightest in multiplayer, with its 64-player mass races being a real highlight. If you ever get tired of the competitive grind, then just taking in the sights instead can be a surprisingly zen experience. — Rory Mellon
Scarlet Nexus (Multiple Platforms)
Scarlet Nexus is a refreshing JRPG that shrugs off some of the genre’s usual shackles. There’s still an elaborate and winding story with plenty of characters. It’s also a certifiably weird game, with strange superpowers, otherworldly monsters and an intertwining plot. It will definitely keep your interest once you get going. Scarlet Nexus is a great game for people who like the JRPG story formula, but who also want something with higher stakes and more action. You have two stories to work through, which should last for about 40-50 hours of gameplay. — Jordan Palmer
Super Mario 3D World: Bowser’s Fury (Switch)
Nintendo re-released Super Mario 3D World on the Switch to attract new players, and convince returning fans to try this Wii U title again. The addition of Bowser’s Fury was what convinced me to buy the game. It’s also the part I enjoyed the most.
Unlike the traditional Mario formula, with discrete levels, Bowser’s Fury takes place in the open map of Lake Lapcat. Here, a new, more monstrous form of Bowser has set up shop. As you zip back and forth among areas to gain more Cat Shines, Giga Bowser will appear to rain fire on you. You can either work your way around these obstacles, or fight back against them with your own Giga Bell form. The experience feels like a mix of traditional Mario platforming and the more open games, such as Super Mario Odyssey. Bowser’s Fury provides a few short hours of fun that are well worth your time. — Richard Priday
Twelve Minutes (Multiple Platforms)
It’s rather surprising that a game with a star-studded Hollywood cast — James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley and Willem Dafoe — could fly under the radar, and yet here we are. After its announcement in 2015, Twelve Minutes went through multiple delays before finally coming out this year, which may have contributed to its lack of fanfare.
Twelve Minutes is a unique take on the point-and-click adventure genre. The entirety of the game takes place in a small apartment, which forces you to think outside of the box as you try to escape an infinite time loop. The story twists and turns with every clue you discover, gradually giving you the upper hand each time you restart the loop. The game may seem frustrating at times, but the overall experience feels worthwhile. — Denise Primbet
Watch Dogs: Bloodline (Multiple Platforms)
Watch Dogs: Legion was one of the biggest games to come out in 2020, but the Bloodline expansion pack didn’t arrive until earlier this year. Watch Dogs: Bloodline links Legion with the first two Watch Dogs games, bringing back Aiden Pearce and Wrench as playable characters. But this time, they’re in London.
Unsurprisingly, the expansion is similar to the main game, albeit a little more streamlined. This isn’t a bad thing, considering that Legion spent a lot of time sending you off on wild goose chases to recruit civilians to the cause. Aiden Pearce, on the other hand, doesn’t do friends — or causes, for that matter. — Tom Pritchard