There’s no way around it; 2021 has been a crappy year. Personally, few things have managed to counteract the misery (bet you’re glad you clicked this link, eh?) except for the Eurovision Song Contest returning in full force to make me cry; Little Mix thanking the Spice Girls and Sugababes during their historical Brit Awards win and making me cry; Strictly Come Dancing being its magical-self and making me cry; and the Christmas charity float returning to my home town and making me cry.
But since N For Nerds isn’t exactly the place for a 1,000-word blog on girl bands and glitter (I’ll get around to a Spice World video game retrospective at some point), there have been a handful of great video game moments that have stood out for either providing somewhere else to direct our exhausted attentions to or just 15 hours of pure joy. Here’s five that did that for me.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
Like most people, I didn’t hold out much hope for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy given the disappointment that was last year’s Marvel’s Avengers, but Eidos Montreal delivered with Star Lord and company in a colourful, comic book jaunt across the galaxy.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a straightforward first-person adventure and while you spend it leading Peter Quill through various alien environments, jet booting along to an 80s soundtrack, I loved how the Guardians interacted with each other whether through well-scripted quippy dialogue or chaotic huddle formations in combat, enlisting each of their unique skill sets to overcome challenges. It benefits from not being overstuffed with superfluous collectables, and the singular narrative allows each of the characters time to shine, so much so you quickly forget any obvious movie comparisons. It’s just a good time.
Life is Strange: True Colours
I’ve enjoyed previous Life is Strange games but I was not prepared for this one. A tragic event in a new town forces protagonist Alex Chen to use her suppressed supernatural empathic gifts, presented through colourful auras, to uncover the truth. The characters and relationships are so well written and performed that even the sometimes overly sentimental moments managed to genuinely tug at my heartstrings, aided by the kind of gorgeous soundtrack we’ve come to expect from the series. This is a game you can take your time with. I soaked up every bit of Haven Springs, digging through the local record store and scouring notice boards for community tidbits, and I thought carefully about the potential consequences of every decision made. It’s an emotional one but absolutely worth it.
Resident Evil: Village
Apparently, nothing brings the internet together like a nine feet tall lady in a big fancy hat, and that makes me happy. Resident Evil Village is the perfect blend of classic horror, action and puzzling tied together by a bizarre story and wonderfully crafted lines from poor old Ethan Winters’ such as: “God dammit! Why is everyone dying on me!”
Having never been particularly gifted when it comes to the whole not hiding behind a pillow when scary things are on screen thing, I’ve found myself recommending Resident Evil Village to anyone similarly horror-averse as the ideal entry point to the series. Each area offers something completely different, from a mechanical funhouse of horrors to a quiet dollhouse steeped in dread. It’s easily my game of the year and I’m just as surprised as you.
I’d been looking forward to this one for some time purely because I like organising things but Unpacking also got to me on an emotional level. I’ve often wondered, what do my belongings say about me? If someone were to walk in my living room they’d know straight away that I play guitar, will buy just about anything that comes in seafoam green, and have an unhealthy obsession with Lara Croft. But if my flat was the subject of Unpacking, a player might pay more attention to the dinosaur-shaped ruler that my sister sent me seven birthdays ago when she lived away in Germany for a year, and while it doesn’t match a single thing on my desk, will always take pride of place. That, to me, is the magic of Unpacking. As you go through a person’s life, you notice the items they deem important enough to take with them, what that looks like when you blend your belongings with another person’s, and the interests you grow out of and replace with new ones. But mostly, it’s just a very enjoyable, relaxing puzzle game. And the pixel art GameCube is super cute.
Cyberpunk 2077 (… yes, really!)
If 2021 has felt like some sort of bad 2020 hangover then it stands to reason that a badly received game released towards the end of last year could make it onto a 2021 list. I really enjoyed Cyberpunk 2077. Maybe it’s because I played on PS5 and managed to finish the main campaign with only a handful of glitches, maybe it’s because I’d jumped on the hype train quite late and didn’t have eight years of expectation clouding my judgement, or maybe it’s because I’ll take all the Keanu Reeves in leather pants I can get. I shouldn’t have liked this game. I don’t enjoy first-person, I hate busywork, and I tend to prefer a linear narrative. So even I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed driving around Night City listening to Refused, and running into new missions. Sure, not all of them are great and the possibilities aren’t quite as endless as promised, but I truly felt as though this world was lived in and found myself invested in its central characters. But most of all, I honestly just had a lot of fun with it, and sometimes, that’s enough.
Well, that’s Laura’s best video games of 2021 list. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below. Also don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel and if you’re feeling generous feel free to donate to our Patreon, thanks for reading.