We’ve arrived at the very end of 2021. It was a stacked year for games, stories, and all sorts of chaos. It’s just about time to shut it down for the holidays, but we’ve got one more Shack Chat to send things off. With that in mind, we return again to the topic of Game of the Year 2021. You’ll see the collective Shacknews Awards 2021 soon enough, but for this Shack Chat, the staff weighs in on their personal Game of the Year 2021 picks.
Question: What is your Game of the Year 2021?
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – Ozzie Mejia, Senior Editor of the Year
As someone who hasn’t had a particular affinity for the Ratchet & Clank series, I was totally blown away by Rift Apart. It was a fun love letter to their previous adventures, presented in a way to effectively sell the idea of an alternate dimension. It featured lovable characters throughout and a heartwarming story all encased in one of the best platformers of this year.
Plus, look at how well this game uses the PS5 hardware afforded to it. The rift tether mechanic is one of the coolest I’ve seen in a game like this, giving players a fun way to get around these massive worlds. And speaking of massive, I was amazed by the game’s final few hours, where the worlds got bigger, the armies of enemies got more numerous, and the PS5’s performance lag was totally nonexistent. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is both a wonderful platformer and an incredible hardware showcase, the kind of mix that I would normally expect to see from Nintendo. Because of that, it’s my favorite game of 2021.
Halo Infinite – Donovan Erskine, Editor 117
Despite the fact that I’m in love with the Halo franchise, I would have raised an eyebrow if you told me a year ago that Infinite would be anywhere near my top games of 2021. When the multiplayer first launched in beta back in November, my concerns quickly began to wash away. I suddenly felt like I was playing Halo 3 again on the Xbox 360, sitting in my dad’s basement with 5 or 6 friends just laughing and eating garbage food until the sun came up. It captured the magic that I almost forgot I was missing.
The multiplayer is incredibly fine-tuned, with combat that’s quite simply classic Halo. They scrapped a lot of the shenanigans that the franchise introduced later on in an attempt to keep up with other popular shooters and went back to what made Halo so excellent. I’ll also just put it out there that I like the customization and progression. It’s dope that I can wear any armor and use any color combination, regardless of what team I’m on. Still, it’s easy to visualize allies and enemy players.
I liked the multiplayer so much that I told fellow Shack Staffer Sam that even if Halo Infinite turned in a “decent” Campaign, it would be among my favorite games of 2021. Reader, the Campaign is wonderful. The open-world approach is a breath of fresh air and works surprisingly well for Halo. Riding around rescuing marines, bringing them into battles, and uncovering rare weapons and items was a lot more fun than I was expecting it to be. At the heart of the story is a great trio dynamic between Master Chief, The Weapon, and The Pilot. Their relationship grows organically over the course of the story and I cared a lot about the new characters by the time credits rolled. I also want to give a shoutout to Jen Taylor, who does some heavy lifting in the voice acting department here. I’ll cut my thoughts here, but just know, Halo Infinite is special.
Metroid Dread- Blake Morse, Co-EIC
It’s hard to put into words what Metroid Dread meant for me this year. I mean, I already found a way in a preview and a review earlier this year, but this is a little more personal. It is the Metroid game I’ve been waiting for since playing Super Metroid all those years ago. It brought me a lot of personal joy and I loved exploring every inch of ZDR as my favorite intergalactic bounty hunter. It made me smile ear-to-ear in a year that was full of isolation, dread, and personal hurdles. The dopamine blast I got from Metroid Dread was the biggest one I had all year and it left a lasting impression. I’m really glad to hear that it’s the best-selling title in the series as that means I’m likely to get another solid side-scrolling Metroid before I turn 60 years old.
Halo Infinite – Sam Chandler, Halo’s back, baby!
Halo Infinite is a fantastic game. I said so much about it in my Halo Infinite review, but I’ll reiterate just a bit of my thoughts here, which also match my mate Dono’s thoughts. Infinite manages to capture the magic that Halo 2 and Halo 3 offered me back in my teenage years. I was enthralled with the story in both and completely swept up in the industry-changing multiplayer. Halo Infinite manages to reach back into the past and connect with these elements, while also bringing it forward into a modern area. Everything about the experience screams Game of the Year to me.
Deathloop – Chris Jarrard, Has the best opinions on staff
Killing people in video games is usually pretty sweet. It’s even sweeter when the game has great gunplay. It reaches almost unbearable levels of sweetness when you have great gunplay and great mission design, which the video game world was lucky enough to receive with Arkane’s Deathloop. If the lovely environments and the top-tier music don’t get your brain spinning, then a silenced nail gun might also do the trick.
Hitman 3 – Bill Lavoy, Formerly of the ICA
No game brought me as much enjoyment and entertainment in 2021 as Hitman 3. Getting the conclusion to the World of Assassination trilogy was wonderful, and the sandbox provided by IO Interactive brought replayability that few games are able to achieve. Each of the six locations in Hitman 3 alone could bring a dozen hours of gameplay, and for those that have access to Hitman (2016) and Hitman 2 levels, each new gadget or suit unlocked brought more opportunities to try new things and test innovative routes and assassinations. Hitman 3 didn’t just blow me away with what it accomplished on its own, it breathed new life into the previous two games. The quality of the experience is undeniable, whether you’re talking about gameplay, narrative, or value. Hitman 3 is far and away my Game of the Year for 2021.
Guilty Gear Strive – TJ Denzer is in Heaven… or Hell, Let’s Rock.
There were a lot of games I absolutely loved this year. My top 10 list was very, very hard to make because of all the delightful things I’ve played. However, there was one game my year was hinging on more than anything. For a lot of folks, it was Halo Infinite. For me, it was Guilty Gear Strive. The difference is that I always believed in Arc System Works and had no reason to think they would fail me. Nope, instead, they exceeded my expectations by miles.
I could say it over and over again. Guilty Gear Strive has changed fighting games and we simply can’t go back. Even now, I see fighting game fans on Twitter asking what a new fighting game’s netcode looks like or if it’s on rollback more than anything else. We’ve tasted the forbidden fruit of perfect netcode in Guilty Gear Strive and there is no going back. Add to this the fact that its characters, music, stages, and overall gameplay are just impeccable, and Guilty Gear Strive was the game I went back to more than anything else this year. I’ll probably be playing it for years to come.
Deathloop – Dennis White, Social Media/Community Manager
Deathloop is a special game because it allows you to do so much with the gunplay and weapons but also manages to make you feel pretty dope when you pull off killing a target, while also making you look forward to interactions with the woman trying to kill you. The art direction really works for me in a way that some of the previous Arkane games haven’t and I love having the ability to really get chaotic if I choose to. The soundtrack and sound design are amazing as well. Getting into a firefight with the music swelling around you feels great.
Ultimately, what makes this my choice for game of the year is the incredible character interactions and world built here. I love good dialogue and every time Colt and Julianna would interact, I wanted to listen to more of their conversation. The cat and mouse experience was also fun in a way that was unique to this game and unexpected when including the multiplayer option to hunt your friends. This game is a lot and I’m really excited to see what the studio does with Redfall next.
Halo Infinite – Asif Khan, Shacknews Luminary/Lola’s Assistant
They made another good Halo game. 343 Industries has not had the best track record with this franchise, and Infinite exceeded all my expectations. I am enjoying the game even with the lack of co-op at launch, and the somewhat buggy multiplayer experience. Halo Infinite is a game that we will be talking about for years, and I am just happy to have some new, fun adventures of John Halo. Truly a good Shmalo.
These were our picks for Game of the Year 2021. What was yours? What game stood above the rest for you? Sound off in the Shacknews Chatty section below and be on the lookout for our Shacknews Awards 2021 soon!