AusGamers Top 10 Games of 2021 - Honourable Mentions
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 12:07pm 10/01/22 | Comments
A list of the 10 games or gaming experiences that didn't make our final AusGamers Top 10 Games of 2021 list, but still deserved a highlight list of their own...
No Top 10 Games of list comes “here’s one we prepared for you earlier” ready. These things take time to whittle down from a larger collection of suggestions and walk-up entries. But, they are fun to put together. Our overall list might be shy of a few highly regarded AAA franchises of the annual or biannual type, but that’s not a deliberate exclusion on our part.
Rather, it’s a reflection of the quality of games released in 2021 and of game development in general where, maybe, all the bells and whistles and bankable names aren’t what gamers crave anymore. That and the past year saw its fair share of disappointments arrive at a regular clip. Even so there were still many titles outside of our Top 10 proper worth highlighting and celebrating. Including a couple that may not have been eligible due to their “remaster” status. Something that we talked about quite a bit in terms of “can it be included?”
Without further ado, here’s a rundown of the games that fell just shy of the Top 10 in non-sequential form.
As far as genre descriptions go, things don’t get much more convoluted than Daniel Mullins Games’ Inscryption. This folk-horror-inspired tabletop roleplaying roguelite deck-builder is actually a much more seamless title to jump into than its many genre descriptions might suggest. In fact, the whole affair is best summed up as Hand of Fate-like, in that you’re something of a prisoner forced to play a deadly card game against a mysterious GM. Inscryption presents the player with a meta narrative where progress is less represented in your burgeoning deck, and more in what your surrounds and the slowly-evolving narrative let on. In this way, Inscryption is more mystery and menace; a brooding tale that baits the player within a confined world by just being surprisingly alive, and oddly dynamic.
Resident Evil Village
For better or for worse, Ethan Winters is here to stay and Resident Evil now has a couple of proven first-person outings under its belt. What does this mean for the series? Time will only tell, but one thing we know from Resident Evil Village is that the series is still allowed to be as silly as it wants, while also helping to push both Capcom and Japanese-based development, on the whole, many steps forward. Not the best Resident Evil title in the franchise’s long history, but still one of 2021’s more enjoyable single-player romps.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
Nintendo has found quite a bit of success remastering and updating games from the Wii U and bringing those forward to the Switch. And with the Wii U being Nintendo’s worst performing mainline console to date games like Mario Kart 8 have found the audiences and success they deserve. Case in point, the co-op focused Super Mario 3D World is a gem well worth revisiting. That said, the addition of Bowser’s Fury is the reason why it’s getting a nod here. Nintendo’s take on an “open-world” Mario is a short and breezy platforming romp, albeit one that still feels like a great follow-up to Super Mario Odyssey.
Diablo II: Resurrected
Diablo II: Resurrected plays every bit like the original 2000-era classic, except with a modern coat of paint that layers impressive 4K 3D visuals over an ageing 2D-core. The end result is a remaster by way of remake, and a reminder why it's still considered an all-timer and one of the most important action-RPG releases of all time. Even though you’re getting what is a 20-year-old experience, the addition of controller support and a few very welcome quality of life changes help instill enough of a sense of the now. And with new content on the way, Diablo II is basically getting a second-run.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition
With a number of high profile delays and somewhat spotty launches over the past couple of pandemic-heavy years we’ve also seen a rise in re-releases, remasters, and ports of older games. Very much a remaster, BioWare’s Mass Effect Legendary Edition goes one step further than simply updating the visuals, it overhauls the original to bring its controls, mechanics, and feel in line with the trilogy’s more polished second and third entries. What was once a somewhat dated and clunky entry-point is once again the sci-fi epic it was upon original release. And as we’re talking about another all-timer, it also became one of 2021’s most notable drops.
Little Nightmares II
This is one of those titles where you don’t need to have played the original to get the most out of the sequel. Little Nightmares II might feature a similar tone and visual style to the first outing, but the creepiness and intense horror is anything but derivative. Creepy would probably be the best way to describe it, where you get a mostly ambiguous set of visions drawing on the grotesque and real in ways that will stick with you. Plus, it’s a great little puzzle/platformer with a fascinating and memorable ending.
Norse mythology, procedurally-generated worlds, survival mechanics, brilliant multiplayer and a minimal visual style come together in the Early Access hit, Valheim. Developed by the small team at the Swedish-based Iron Gate Studio, even though Valheim may look like another title in the long-line of titles focusing on crafting and survival -– it manages to capture the awe and wonder of exploration and discovering new things in a strange land. Every expedition -- no matter how small -- feels like an adventure here. And whether you’re rustling up a new dish to boost your stamina or sailing off into the unknown, it’s no wonder so many of us ventured off into Valhalla.
Monster Hunter Rise
The next mainline entry in Capcom’s beloved series made its debut on the Switch but felt more like a sequel to the non-Nintendo-console-entry – the smash hit Monster Hunter: World from 2018. As an evolution of the winning formula Rise introduces a number of new mechanics and quality of life features in addition to refining the core Monster Hunter experience that has seen the series becoming increasingly more popular with each passing year. And for good reason, it’s one of the most rewarding and unique RPGs out there.
A game that essentially plays itself, in that you don’t have direct control over battles. Instead you get to set-up the board as the Hero of Loop Hero completes one lap around the map after another, hoping to take home a bit of treasure. In between adventures you get to unlock new cards to play and manage an RPG town of sorts. Like all great loops, once you get into the flow there’s nothing quite like it.
Tales of Arise
When you nestle in between at least the top two of all entries in a series, you’re doing something right. And for all of Tales of Arise’s antiquated cultural concepts, it’s surprisingly forward-thinking as far as this long-running franchise is concerned. And it’s absolutely massive. If you’re already a so-called “weeb” you’ve no doubt collected all the owls there are to find in this expansive title, amongst other things. For everyone else, this is a decent foray into the JRPG world as it borrows a lot from the genre’s past, while paving a bit of a future. It has a kick ass fighting system, too, so there’s also that.
It’s worth noting we’ve left out of our mullings other GOTY-style categories like “Top 10 Voice Actors” or “Top 10 DLC Updates”. At a point it just gets too much and you can get bogged down in too much nuance. Instead we’ve felt -- for the better part now of four years -- that this approach helps us achieve a list of highlights that best reflects AusGamers and the sort of coverage we present. That said, we feel the way in which we’ve refined our annual AusGamers Top 10 Games of list is pretty good, and we’re very proud of the results.
In the same way, each game and experience that does make it onto both of our lists, and the creators behind them, should be proud of their efforts. And not just for the year in which the respective experience launched, but in the development time behind that. Making games is not fast or easy exercise and we’re acutely aware of that. And so to you, dear creators, we say a huge thank you.