Merry Christmas, readers! Here are five essential 2021 games every player should request for their Christmas stocking this festive season. Or perhaps, more appropriately, please enjoy this curation of must-play titles guaranteed to top your Santa wishlist! (Must remember cream with the mince pie)
For many, 2021 has been one of the worst years on record. And so, understandably, the new year can’t come soon enough. By which point, I hope we’ll have put the pandemic behind us, once and for all. So, my fingers remain firmly crossed for all of us.
But despite the worldwide pandemic, our video game industry has endured and persevered like so many aspects of societal life. As a result, throughout 2021, we’ve been spoilt by some spectacular gaming experiences. So, what better way to commemorate the year than with a festive count down of its most unmissable titles.
Don’t worry. The list’s on us. So, stockings at the ready!
Almost two decades in hot demand, this year Nintendo’s iconic IP finally received the modern makeover it so rightfully deserved in Metroid Dread. Merging immensely gratifying combat, a scaling sense of player progression, immersive exploration, and some of the most entertaining boss battles in recent memory, Metroid Dread does extreme justice to the longstanding series. Meanwhile, offering an impressively polished traditional style side-scroller, flush with innovation and fit for the modern age.
In recent years, we’ve been used to the likes of Ori and Hollow Knight leading the charge, but in Metroid Dread, Nintendo has proved it still can produce side-scrolling masterpieces.
In modern times, roguelikes have been experiencing a somewhat remarkable renaissance. What with last year’s critically hailed Hades picking up plenty of plaudits from players and critics alike. However, the latest iteration in the ever-popular genre to steal the spotlight is Sony’s exclusive title Returnal.
Incredibly, developer Housemarque has managed the impossible, seamlessly fusing fast and furious arcade-style shooting with a fascinating, ever-escalating story packed with cinematic richness. Like Hades before it, player death progresses the plot forward in intriguing ways while keeping gameplay loops fresh through an everchanging set of collectibles attached to the randomness of each run.
In true Housemarque fashion, Returnal cleverly retains the chaotically intense, bullet-spraying carnage so synonymous with the studio while offering an intriguing, other-worldly, often hostile planet to explore. All in all, Returnal is a must-play!
It Takes Two
In truth, I can’t think of another title more deserving of Game of the Year than It Takes Two. Round of applause for that tremendous feat, guys! Combining cleverly conceived platforming mechanics with fun cooperative play, It Takes Two expresses such creativity in game design that it should instantly be recognized as one of the finest, most enjoyable multiplayer experiences of any generation.
Let alone of this year. In short, It Takes Two provides an immersive tandemly played adventure worth every penny! With its sheer volume of worlds whose complex level design entirely pivots on cooperative play, It Takes Two idyllically encapsulates the mutual magic of teamwork while conjuring one of the most fulfilling yet uniquely inventive gaming experiences ever.
So, if you can play with a buddy over Christmas, I highly recommend you take the plunge!
Bolstered by wackily wonderfully storytelling and endearing, well-written characters that warrant emotional investment, Psychonauts 2 rekindles the franchises’ most memorably charming aspects while ushering in surprising elements of innovation along the way.
As a sequel, Psychonauts 2 pays homage to the traditionally simplistic action-platformers of the past, so it’s slightly archaic in that sense. Yet thanks to its compellingly quirky cast of characters and a more immersive universe this time around, Psychonauts 2 successfully expands on its predecessor’s unique formula. Thus, producing an enjoyable platformer guaranteed to warm the hearts of franchise fans. Great job Double Fine.
Resident Evil Village
No year-end list of essential stocking fillers would be complete without a horror listing, which is why Resident Evil Village secures our last spot instead of Deathloop. What can I say? I’m wholeheartedly a horror hound. Recalling elements of Resident Evil’s iconic history, Capcom’s Village successfully mixes intense action sequences with disturbingly visceral injections of horror – that corridor Baby scene people, c’mon.
In addition, franchise fans can expect plenty of satisfying callbacks to established Resident Evil canon. And although the series’ traditional themes of suspense and survival act as solid supporting casts rather than the star attractions, in favor of a more action-orientated affair, that only makes those tension-smeared claustrophobic scenarios hit twice as hard—especially scenes with Lady Dimitrescu hot on your heels.
That concludes our list of essential Christmas stocking fillers. And gosh, what a year for games it has been. Here’s hoping 2022 can reproduce the incredible quality of its predecessor. Given that we’ve recently entered the latest console generation, I’m looking to the future with keen optimism.
As always, be sure to send in your year-end favorites down below, and I wish you all a Merry Christmas!
Robbie is a lifelong gaming enthusiast who grew up in the glorious era of Goldeneye split-screen multiplayer. Although he's excited for Ragnarok, Robbie is often found delving back into his retro roots; entirely convinced Metal Gear Solid 1 and Ocarina of Time are masterpieces of equal merit.