Bob's Top Games of 2021
Your Retronauts co-host's favorite games from a year that certainly was a year.
2021: A year where things got better, then worse, then better, then worse again. But despite all of this, video games continued to exist. Here are my favorite ones from the past 365 days.
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
It's been a good five years since the last Ace Attorney release, so getting two at once felt like nothing short of a miracle. While the first game is a little weaker and experiments with pacing and story ideas in ways that don't always work out, the complete package stands as one of the best Ace Attorney experiences out there. But be warned: these games tend to be a little long-winded, and the 94 hours I spent playing them occupied my August to November. Still, at the end I found myself hoping for an Ace Attorney 7 announcement, so somehow nearly 100 hours of lawyer simulator left me wanting more.
Monster Hunter Rise
I knew Rise would be a good game, but I walked into it only expecting an adulterated version of 2018's Monster Hunter World. I guess I should have given Capcom more credit, because Rise crafts its own Monster Hunter experience: one that mixes in elements of World and past games for an iteration that feels like the ultimate form of the series as of this writing. Admittedly, I only sunk 20 hours into it, but I already preordered the PC version and plan on spending tons of time on Rise (and its expansion) throughout 2022.
A Zelda-like starring birds seems tailor-made for me, so I wasn't surprised to find Death's Door so appealing. Though it's a very different experience than Hollow Knight, I found myself getting the same vibes thanks to the extremely responsive controls. It speaks to the quality of Death's Door that I could fight the same bosses over a dozen times and sense myself getting better with each attempt, instead of getting frustrated with how much better I should be doing. Death's Door amounts to a much better attempt at a Zelda-like than Hyper Light Drifter, which I played this year and found pretty underwhelming.
Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir / The Girl Who Stands Behind
As a fan of Japanese adventure games, I mainly bought both of these to support the localization of classic titles with seemingly little appeal to a Western audience. I wasn't expecting to have a great time with Famicom Detective Club, but despite some obviously dated gameplay, I found myself getting pretty wrapped up in these mystery stories crafted by Metroid's Yoshio Sakamoto. These Famicom Detective Club re-releases aren't just a cool missing slice of Nintendo history; they also contain two great mysteries that have since become period pieces over the passing decades.
Sam & Max Save the World Remastered
This is technically a very late 2020 game, but Sam and Max would appreciate this kind of chaos on an end-of-year list. Skunkape Games didn't just liberate these now-classic titles from the Telltale vaults; they also did a great job of dressing up their assets to look appropriate for a 2020s adventure game. (Seriously, go back and look out how fugly the original 2006 releases had to be out of necessity.) And these small nugget-style chunklets of adventure games really made me miss the old Telltale format—though season one starts off a little shaky, even a lackluster episode doesn't last longer than three hours. Here's hoping they eventually revisit the stellar season three, because what I've played so far of their season two remaster has been very satisfying.
Back 4 Blood
I've been waiting well over a decade for a proper Left 4 Dead 2 follow-up. And while many have tried to leap this high bar, none of have closer than Back 4 Blood. While you can really sense the lack of Valve's intense playtesting, this new interpretation of the classic co-op zombie formula feels right at home as an unofficial evolution of their co-op zombie-shooting franchise. And because the versus mode sucks, I won't feel the weary obligation to get gud at it!
I wasn't expecting to love Pikmin Bloom because Pokemon Go didn't really speak to me. But since the pandemic got me walking 4-5 miles a day, I figured it was worth a shot if only to watch little meters fill up thanks to my normal exercise routine. Pikmin Bloom isn't much more than that, but somehow, that's enough. Even though it swaps out the series' comic portrayal of nature's amorality for a dress-up collection with your little plant demons, I'm happy it exists and is keeping the franchise alive until Pikmin 4 (target date: Spring 2027).
And so no one gets mad at me, here are all the games I wish I had time to play in 2021 (many of which I purchased): Deathloop, Deltarune Chapter 2, Bowser's Fury, Metroid Dread, Bravely Default 2, The Good Life, No More Heroes III, Eastward, Hitman 3 (also 2), Mon Amour, The Forgotten City, and probably a bunch of others I'm forgetting.
Thanks for giving Retronauts an amazing 2021 and please take care of yourselves in 2022!