The Gamepur Staff’s Games of the Year 2021

10 very different titles stood out to Gamepur — which ones were your favorite?

Images via Bandai Namco, Nintendo, Capcom, Xbox Game Studios

This story is part of Gamepur’s Best of 2021 round-up.

The conversation surrounding the concept of “game of the year” has always been strange. No matter what time of year it is, players have a mindset going into certain games that this will surely be a game of the year contender, and the industry continues to base itself off of superlatives. While Gamepur has put out several individual “Best of” lists by our expert and enthusiast writers, we are taking a group approach to what is generally a subjective and arbitrary process.

The Gamepur Staff’s Games of the Year 2021 list is based on poll responses to all staff writers, contributors, and editors. Each respondent wrote their favorite games that released in the calendar year of 2021 and marked one as their overall favorite title. The following list of 10 games takes into account how many times a game was marked as a top game, with the final list ranked by volume of frequency. Below is a reflection of the Gamepur staff’s tastes and interests at large — each title includes a blurb from a Gamepur author explaining why it is their top game of 2021.

10. Wildermyth

Wildermyth
Image via Worldwalker Games
  • Released on June 15, 2021
  • Devoloped by Worldwalker Games LLC
  • Published by Worldwalker Games LLC and WhisperGames

Wildermyth is a game that feels like it should be impossible. Branching narratives, surprisingly effective character development, and genuinely meaningful choices abound in this procedurally-generated role-playing game. It’s a game that finally delivers on the narrative promise of the medium: everything you do and every choice you make changes your party, the story, the world. With so many little branching points along the way, each session is different. It’s such a break away from the linear, cinematic bombast of the likes of The Last of Us and God of War and such a perfect exemplar of the possibilities of video game narratives. — Max Fagandini

9. Tales of Arise

Image via Bandai Namco
  • Released on September 10, 2021
  • Developed and published by Bandai Namco

Tales of Arise revitalized a classic JRPG series that was in desperate need of a radical shakeup. The reworked combat system took cues from modern action games by emphasizing quick reflexes, long combo chains, and flashy character abilities; battles with even the lowest enemy grunts felt exhilarating. What really cemented Arise as one of the year’s best games was its surprisingly political plot, which dealt heavily with issues of colonialism, slavery, and social oppression. The mature and captivating story of rebellion was further enhanced by emotionally complex and well-developed main characters, who made for the best Tales cast in years. — Nick Ransbottom

8. Deathloop

Image via Bethesda
  • Released on September 14, 2021
  • Developed by Arkane Studios
  • Published by Bethesda Softworks

The beauty of Deathloop is the freedom it affords you. You’re tasked with killing eight targets in one day, but how you do that is up to you. You can use a sniper rifle to kill from afar, utilize your diverse range of powers, or even go on a one-man rampage if you’re feeling bold. But perhaps the most rewarding way to kill is through trickery. Whether you’re rigging one’s fireworks display to explode, luring your target into a meat grinder, or turning enemies’ automated turrets against them, the end result of each method is simply satisfying. With multiple weapons and playstyles to experiment with, Deathloop is chock-full of replay value, making it a title well worth sinking your teeth into. — Jon Yelenic

7. Metroid Dread

Screenshot by Gamepur
  • Released October 8, 2021
  • Developed by Mercury Steam & Nintendo
  • Published by Nintendo

Metroid Dread was well worth the wait to conclude Samus Aran’s five-game arc. It contains all the fantastic elements that make a Metroid game great and worthwhile. From exploring its expansive map to hunting down new weapon and suit upgrades, Dread was quintessential Metroid. The addition of the stalking EMMIs enhanced the gameplay and really hammered in the sense of dread as you traveled through the many areas of planet ZDR. The story was expertly crafted and presented in a way that pulled you in and made you want to learn more. It was a complete joy to jump back into the power suit and run around as bounty hunter Samus. — Scott Roepel

6. Loop Hero

Loop Hero
Screenshot by Gamepur
  • Released on March 4, 2021
  • Developed by Four Quarters
  • Published by Devolver Digital

Loop Hero is one of the standout games of the last year, giving players a fun and addictive game that manages to be both accessible and deep. In Loop Hero, players wander a loop, trying to survive as long as possible, gathering cards, and fighting monsters. The more you loop, the tougher it gets, but the better the cards get. The simple risk of taking one more loop or retreating back to your base to build it up some more easily leads to highly tense moments that are either crushing or rewarding. — Aidan O’Brien

5. Forza Horizon 5

Image via Xbox Game Studios
  • Released on November 9, 2021
  • Developed by Playground Games
  • Published by Xbox Games Studios

It’s hard to find a game that was released in 2021 that is more in-depth than Forza Horizon 5. From a unique single-player story campaign that takes players through Mexico and its historical landmarks, AI changes that make offline racing more challenging, to the vast amount of racing modes and options available to players, this title is not just a dream for fans of cars, but video game enthusiasts in general. Aside from the online connectivity issues that have plagued the game from the onset, Forza Horizon 5 is an immersive experience that deserves a ton of recognition. — Chris Studley

4. Hitman 3

Image via IO Interactive
  • Released on January 20, 2021
  • Developed and published by IO Interactive

With such a range of respected franchises tainting their image this year with bug-ridden installments, kudos has to be given to Hitman 3 and the quality it was able to uphold from launch day on. Not only was it near immaculate from a technical standpoint, but the game’s emotional tale is a gripping swan song that sees Agent 47 as more than just a vengeful assassin. Regardless, what gives Hitman 3 endless replayability is its massive locations, each being filled to the brim with its own outlandish NPCs, weapons, and even side missions. It will be bittersweet if this is the last of Hitman from developer IO Interactive; but then again, you really cannot ask for more than Hitman 3. — Ryan Willcox

3. Psychonauts 2

Psychonauts 2 Psitanium Capacity
Image via Double Fine Productions
  • Released August 25, 2021
  • Developed by Double Fine
  • Published by Xbox Game Studios

Double Fine did something nigh-impossible with Psychonauts 2. It’s a sequel that came 16 years later, yet still captured all the magic of the original game while opening up the world so much more. The Psychonauts’ Motherlobe headquarters both expands the lore and provides a playground for protagonist Raz’s new abilities, and his family camped out in the woods nearby are a delightful bunch. The Psychic Six’s stories are beautiful, tragic, and woven into the themes of every level in such imaginative ways, from bottled islands representing alcoholism, to a Woodstock-inspired drug trip to regain the five senses, to an “It’s A Small World” theme park ride chronicling the downfall of an Eastern block monarchy. Every inch of Psychonauts 2 is expertly planned, executed, and worthy of praise. — Tony Wilson

2. It Takes Two

It Takes Two The Garden
Screenshot by Gamepur
  • Released on March 26, 2021
  • Developed by Hazelight Studios
  • Published by Electronic Arts

Hazelight and director Josef Fares have developed a co-op gaming masterpiece in It Takes Two. In this action-adventure platformer, a duo of players step into the lives of Cody and May, an estranged married couple in the throes of separation who are accidentally turned into toys by their despondent daughter. The heavy themes of divorce and its effects on children permeate an otherwise whimsical, charming, humorous, and deeply engaging cooperative journey through an array of unique levels, each of which is designed around a new gameplay mechanic. This seamless melding makes It Takes Two a more than exceptional co-op game. — Caleb Greer

Gamepur Staff’s Game of the Year – Resident Evil Village

Image via Capcom
  • Released May 1, 2021
  • Developed and published by Capcom

From the infamous Jill Sandwich to Mr. X bursting his stupid head through a wall, the Resident Evil series has always embraced the campy side of horror. Resident Evil Village takes that to a new level by stuffing the game full of the wild and wacky, making for one of the most ridiculous games in the franchise.

For some, that might sound like a dig; however, we see things differently. Going all-in on Ethan Winters’ quest to reclaim his daughter from a menagerie of increasingly weird villains is a masterstroke. It lets the developers play around with several different horror genres in a single title, while constantly surprising players and keeping things fresh. These are some of the most fun characters the RE developers have ever created. 

Image via Capcom

Lady Dimitrescu took center stage in the promotional materials, but the other three Four Lords are just as memorable in their own rights. In fact, in a game of pulse-pounding scenes and jaw-dropping moments, Lady D might end up being the least interesting character. Considering she’s a ten-foot-tall vampire woman with three daughters who are actually groups of flies that have taken on the appearance of women, that’s saying something. This rogue’s gallery of villains is one of the best in series history.

On top of that, the late-game sequence is one of the most thrilling power fantasies series fans have ever seen. We won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say that hopping back into the shoes of one of RE’s favorite characters is incredibly satisfying. And the post-credits scene sets up a ninth Resident Evil that promises even more good times in the RE universe. Village is a must-play that pays homage to everything that came before in the franchise while delivering a tantalizing look at what’s to come. — Ricky Frech