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Sunday, June 26, 2022

The 15 best video games of 2021 | Games

15
Wildermyth

A genuinely inventive tactical role-playing adventure that uses procedural generation to allow for player-created stories, all taking place in a fantasy world constructed from luscious papercraft set-pieces – like a digital board game.

What we said: “A sumptuous virtual tabletop experience that plays like a tale told over a campfire, deep in the woods.”

14
Monster Hunter Rise

An arcade-like new spin on Capcom’s long-running series about going out into the world with a giant sword or lance or bowgun and tracking down mythical creatures. This time, when the monsters team up on chaotic rampages, you feel more like prey than hunter. It’s a bit easier on the player than its big sibling, Monster Hunter World, a bit more playful, and as camp as ever.

What we said: “It’s absurd, it’s theatrical, it’s inane, and it’s fun, a delightfully silly recalibration of a time-tested and powerfully absorbing adventure.”

13
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury

A well-timed return for the best multiplayer Mario adventure, less chaotic than its New Super Mario Bros stablemates and no less enjoyable. Every level is a one-off creative idea, done perfectly, then put aside to make way for the next surprise. Paired with Bowser’s Fury, a new and delightful compact Mario adventure starring a kaiju-sized Bowser and Cat Mario, this is an essential Switch game.

What we said: “It is like a never-ending fountain of fun, combining the linear, discrete, themed levels of 2D Mario games with the joyous freedom of movement of 3D Mario.”

12
The Artful Escape

As the nephew of a famous folk artist, you have to find your own true musical direction in this pretty, unusual game – and of course that direction is prog rock. This spacey rock opera, with flavours of Ziggy Stardust and psychedelic sci-fi, lets you bust out guitar solos to do everything from communicate with aliens to soar through the air.

What we said: “Behind the shimmer, this is a touching tale of how to break free of the creative expectations of others.”

11
Resident Evil Village

Set immediately after the critically acclaimed Resident Evil 7, Village transfers the action to eastern Europe, where troubled hero Ethan Winters must save his family from vampiric aristocrats and their monstrous followers.

What we said: “A sublime puzzle box dripping in blood, gore and truly abysmal dialogue. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

10
Halo Infinite

After 20 years, Master Chief’s saga is beginning to feel like a tale as old as time, but there’s still something magical about this grand-scale space shooter. The multiplayer takes us back to a purer time of arenas and weapon spawns, where you can have fun without razor-sharp reflexes and fiddling with complex loadouts. If this is a swan song for the series, it’s a fitting one.

What we said: Infinite’s star isn’t a character but Master Chief’s new grappling gun … This touch of Spider-Man points to Halo’s status as an undeclared slapstick comedy, its violence as wacky and infectious as its story is po-faced.

9
It Takes Two

Taking elements of Toy Story and the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids franchise, this enchanting co-op game has a warring couple battling to reach their daughter when they are magically shrunk to the size of dolls. The allegory on marriage is a little mawkish, but the puzzles are brilliant.

What we said: “A truly engaging family adventure that develops into a considerable challenge.”

8
Overboard!

An ingenious crime adventure, in which faded screen idol Veronica Villensey kills her rich husband on board a luxury passenger ship and then spends the rest of the journey constructing an alibi. Instead of investigating the murder, the player helps to cover it up.

What we said: “From its modest graphics, confined world and small cast, Overboard! conjures something that feels expansive and alive.”

7
Unpacking

Who would have thought that a game about unpacking someone’s possessions as they move into a series of flats and homes throughout their life would be so utterly engrossing? But with its beautiful pixel art and clever narrative technique, Unpacking is exactly that.

What we said: “This is a small game, but its meaning and intent are large. Like any domestic drama, it tells us as much about our own lives, tastes and experiences as it does about the characters we are bonding with.”

6
Forza Horizon 5

A road-trip holiday through Mexico in a variety of supercars, rally cars and any other shiny vehicle you can think of, is absolutely bursting with races, contests, stunt challenges and things to do. Forza Horizon 5 is undeniably a little bloated, but it offers such a cornucopia of driving fun that you’ll enjoy yourself no matter what you do.

What we said: Like any great holiday, there is nothing to think about here except which thing to do next … there is no more fun way to drive virtual cars than this.

5
Hitman 3

Barcode-tattooed assassin Agent 47 returns with another set of enticingly open and multifaceted kill missions, travelling from English country estates to Argentinian wineries, donning costumes, experimenting with unlikely weapons and causing mirth, murder and mayhem wherever he goes.

What we said: “The final part of the modern Hitman trilogy is a minor masterpiece, a treasure trove of unforgettable player-generated moments.”

4
Deathloop

You’re an assassin embedded within a mysterious island community, living the same day over and over again, and your only hope of escape is to kill the sociopathic cult leaders responsible. Action game innovator Arkane Studios does it again.

What we said: “If you didn’t think you needed a hyper-violent interactive version of Groundhog Day directed by John Woo in his prime, with sets stolen from the Moulin Rouge, you clearly haven’t played Deathloop.”

3
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

This wonderful game about a lonely space-critter, his robot pal and their cross-dimensional twins is a PlayStation 5 showcase. There is beauty and astonishing detail everywhere you look, from Ratchet’s fur to the background animation and cute little aliens going about their business. It’s funny and family-friendly, like a fuzzy Star Wars, and the script brings just as many laughs as experimenting with bizarre, cartoonish weapons.

What we said: “It’s hard to overstate how technically impressive Rift Apart is, and how much that contributed to the joy I felt playing it. This family-friendly action game might not do anything revolutionary with its structure or storytelling, but it does elevate the spectacle and fun to a new dimension.”

2
Psychonauts 2

The kind of run-and-jump adventure game that just doesn’t get made that often any more, starring a boy acrobat with psychic powers who delves into people’s minds to prod around in their motivations and neuroses. Psychonauts 2 is fun, unpredictable, surreal and effortlessly funny, a madcap assortment of strange and well-executed ideas.

What we said: “I’ve rarely played anything that is so unashamedly itself. Each hour is different, each character distinct and memorable, each new psychic playground full of surprises.”

1
Returnal

This eerie time-loop sci-fi game is one of the greatest and most darkly fascinating third-person shooters ever. Running, jumping and shooting your way around its desolately beautiful planet feels so good that you don’t even mind restarting from the beginning every time you’re killed by one of its ominous alien life-forms. It’s intimidating, and requires a lot of your time, but the rewards are great. A rare game that remains as intelligent and compelling as it first appears to be.

What we said: “Forget about seeing the end. Once you do that, you can lose yourself in the near-infinite pleasure of the movement and combat, and the near-infinite mystery and creeping horror of Atropos. Every try is different, and yet also the same. But, with the right mindset, you can find meaning and pleasure in that instead of despair.”

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