With many of us spending 2021 predominantly indoors, gaming has become a super-common pastime. Consider the rise of Discord and Among Us – in just a year, gaming has gone more-or-less mainstream.

While we saw several dozen hits (and misses) this year, a few standout experiences deserve a special mention.

Here’s our list of the top five video games for 2021:

 

5. Monster Hunter Rise

Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC (Upcoming)

Monster Hunter is a pretty paradoxical series. The base concept of bashing up monsters with buddies is great, however, the fiddly and still-old fashioned game mechanics? Not really my style.

That said, the series has come a long way – much of that progress has come through trimming the fat. 2021’s Rise has been a runaway hit – with fantastic music and art direction, a wholesome Japanese-inspired setting, and insane verticality compared to previous entries. With a PC port and expansion pack on the horizon, things are looking great.

Just don’t expect your FIFA bros to pick this one up all too easily – Rise is still notoriously inaccessible for newcomers, and requires a lot of time to reach endgame.

4. Forza Horizon 5

Platform: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

I’ll admit – after jumping on the Forza bandwagon since Forza Horizon 3, I’ve developed something of a love-hate relationship with this game. The blend of arcade and simulation physics? Bang on. The graphics? Eye-wateringly beautiful. The car roster? Don’t even get me started.

What holds, and has always held the series back, is a meaningful progression system. The game constantly throws car after car at you in an endless vehicular waterfall – making each new ride consistently less meaningful.

This, coupled with a hit-or-miss weekly achievement list and a horrendously buggy launch week has slightly soured our journey through Mexico. Fortunately, the devs seem to have slowly brought the game back on track – giving us a rewarding (if sometimes shallow) gem of a racing game.

3. Genshin Impact 2.0

Platform: PC, iOS, Android, PS5, PS4, Switch (TBA)

Yes, Genshin is something of a cutesy anime-slots-machine of a game – but surrounding its ‘gacha’ core is an absolutely stunning labor of love from Chinese devs Mihoyo.

Genshin is a simply stunning game that brims with personality and charm, with unique heroes to play as, light yet refreshing worldbuilding, and some of the best animation work I’ve ever seen in a modern action RPG.

The recent launch of new region Inazuma gave players a chance to find challenging new enemies to duel and exciting maps to explore. With a responsive and prolific team behind the scenes, the game constantly feels fresh, evolving, and poised for long-term success

2. Halo Infinite

Platform: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

It seems that Master Chief just never ever gets to retire peacefully – the badass fan-favorite super soldier returns for another interesting romp through a fresh, semi-open world to explore.

While Halo has usually stuck to a very linear style of gameplay and storytelling, Infinite actually succeeds at turning the formula upside down.

There’s better gunplay, better visuals, better mobility and lots of alien-shooting in store for fans – a now-free multiplayer experience makes the journey even more accessible.

1. Inscryption

Platform: PC

To be fair, I always had a soft spot for card-based roguelike games – Mega Crit Games’ Slay The Spire is easily one of my most-played games of the last couple years.

Inscryption brings a very nuanced, atmospherically charged energy to this idea – giving what we naively assume to be simple game mechanics a deep, even philosophical meaning. This is a game that delights in messing with its audience – you simply never know what to expect next from this absolutely grim, surreal puzzle-box of a game.

After several hours of twists, turns, and moments of narrative genius, I can confidently say that few games have f*cked around with a gamer the way this has with me – earning it my top vote for 2021.

(Image Sources: Microsoft Game Studios, Capcom, Mihoyo, Devolver Digital, Playground Games)