Oliver Cragg / Android Authority
2021 was a strange year in gaming, with next-gen consoles and graphics cards still nearly impossible to get your hands on. Still, there were some absolutely great games released on all platforms. We have a lot of gamers on staff here at Android Authority, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to share our picks for the best games of 2021.
We’ve also included a few games we’re looking forward to next year at the end of the article, so keep scrolling to the end to see them!
Phoenix Point (PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Stadia)
First up is my pick, which technically first came out at the tail end of 2019. However, 2021 saw the game release on Stadia as well as Xbox and PlayStation consoles, which is a game-changer for those of us who still can’t get our hands on a decent graphics card.
Billed as the spiritual successor to X-COM, the turn-based tactical strategy game is filled with the same intense (and occasionally frustrating) gameplay. Thanks to a plethora of customization options and a randomized map, it also has lots of replayability. Plus, I’m really just a sucker for turn-based strategy RPGs.
To be honest, the game on console was a mess at launch. It froze multiple times in every mission, with soft locks every few missions, as well. Since then, several updates have smoothed things out, and as of December 9, 2021, the game has now been upgraded for next-gen PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S consoles.
It Takes Two (PC, Xbox, PlayStation)
Next up is newsletter guru Tristan Rayner’s pick, It Takes Two. True to its title, the game does not feature a single-player mode, and requires two players to play, either by local co-op or online play.
Nominally a game about a couple trying to work through their marital difficulties, It Takes Two is a rare example of a game where everything falls perfectly into place. The visuals, gameplay, voice acting, and level design are all spot-on, making it the ultimate co-op game to play with a friend or loved one. Even better, with the Friend Pass program, you can share your game with a friend online and play together without them having to purchase the game.
But Tristan isn’t the only one who loved it. It recently won Game of the Year at the 2021 Game Awards, as well as a host of other accolades.
Resident Evil 8: Village (PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Stadia)
Our resident Resident Evil fan C. Scott Brown picked the latest entry in the series as his favorite game of 2021. I’ll let him take it from here:
I’m a HUGE Resident Evil fan and I loved Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. Since this game is a direct sequel to that, my hopes were high, and this game hits all the right marks. It is definitely more of an homage to RE:4 than anything else, but who’s going to complain about that?
It took the best of RE:7 and mixed it with RE:4 to make something incredibly fun to play. It is less scary than RE:7, sure, but that baby scene makes up for it. That baby scene is probably the most scared I’ve ever been in a video game.
Metroid Dread (Nintendo Switch)
This year wasn’t the most exciting for Nintendo Switch exclusives (Breath of the Wild 2 in 2022, please), but Metroid Dread was likely the biggest release on Nintendo’s portable console, and it earned a pick from our very own Dhruv Bhutani. Here’s what he had to say:
I mean, it’s the first new 2D Metroid game in almost 20 years, that alone is enough to make you want to check it out.
The developers nailed the fluid combat, sense of exploration, isolation and music that makes Metroid so amazing. It takes a lot to have a genre named after a franchise and Dread lives up to it while pushing the formula to the next level.
Mafia: Definitive Edition (PC, Xbox, PlayStation)
Sticking with the theme of throwbacks, copy editor Paula Beaton picked Mafia: Definitive Edition as her favorite game of the year. Technically it came out in late 2020, but we’re allowing some wiggle room due to the ongoing pandemic time warp. Here’s what she had to say:
It’s just an absolutely stunning remaster of a 19 year old game — amazing story, fantastic characters that you grow close to, beautiful graphics, great soundtrack. I was sad when it was finished!
The game was released as part of a remastered Mafia: Trilogy, but it received by far the largest update of the three, with new voice acting and fully reworked gameplay. It truly is a new experience that fans of the series shouldn’t miss out on.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart (PlayStation)
Ratchet and Clank has been a fan-favorite series for nearly two decades, and the latest release is one of the few PlayStation 5 exclusives on the market. That earned the attention of Luke Little, who picked it as his favorite game of 2021. Here are his thoughts:
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart was fantastic for many reasons. Definitely a well-done reboot of the franchise and I can’t wait for more of it.
Rift Apart maintains a lot of what makes the series great, with new gameplay mechanics in addition to the obvious graphical improvements. Chief among them is the Rift Tether mechanic, which allows seamless teleportation between locations in-game. This is only possible on the latest PS5 hardware, so you’ll have to hunt one down if you want to give it a try. Good luck.
Art of Rally (PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Switch)
Next up is another late 2020 release, but one with enough charm to win over my South African colleague Hadlee Simons. Art of Rally is a stylized racing game that perfectly captures the nostalgia of rally car races with a fresh aesthetic and killer soundtrack. But that’s enough from me, here’s Hadlee:
I honestly haven’t played many new games in 2021 at all (I just started Halo: Infinite but I’d rather not pick it just yet). In saying so, I’d have to say Art of Rally. The visuals make it look like a Micro Machines racer but it’s such a love letter to classic rallying.
The developers really nailed the feeling of rally driving, from throwing a car around and leaping over crests, to the people crowding the routes and the seemingly generic cars that are thinly veiled tributes to classic models.
The game is available on just about every platform there is. Even better, it’s included in Xbox Game Pass, so subscribers can try it out on PC, Xbox, and the cloud via Xbox Cloud Gaming.
Pavlov: Shack (Oculus Quest)
For VR fans, Roger Fingas’ pick should ring a bell. Pavlov: Shack is a scaled-down version of the PC shooter Pavlov VR, which runs on the mobile hardware found in the Oculus Quest. Here’s why he picked it:
It combines two things I love in gaming: total immersion and Counter-Strike, which I played endlessly in my late teens and early 20s. It takes a little time to get used to, but quickly feels like second nature — it’s like playing paintball in VR. I recommend doing the tutorial, and sticking to the SND (Search and Destroy) and TDM (Team Deathmatch) modes for the best time.
Not only is it one of the best VR first-person shooters, it’s also currently free! Learn more at the link below.
Psychonauts 2 (Xbox, PlayStation, PC)
Finally, we have the quirky sequel to cult favorite platformer Psychonauts. Picked by Oliver Cragg, the multi-platform release was saved from obscurity when Microsoft purchased Double Fine under its Xbox Game Studios banner. Here’s what Ollie had to say about it:
The long, long, long awaited follow-up to a cult classic that’s one of my favorite games of all time. It doesn’t quite recapture the same chaotic energy of Double Fine’s original game but Raz’s brain-hopping adventures are as charming, irreverent, and inventive as they were 16 years ago. A standout for me in what was already a stellar year for platformers.
Psychonauts 2 is available on Xbox Game Pass, and despite being a first-party Xbox game it’s also available on the PS4 and PC. Don’t worry too much if you haven’t played the first one, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Games we’re looking forward to in 2022
After consistent delays throughout 2020 and 2021, 2022 is absolutely stacked for high-profile game releases. Even better, most already have official release dates in the first half of the year, so you won’t have to wait long.
- Breath of the Wild sequel — We had this on our list last year, but it looks like 2022 might finally be the year we see one of the most anticipated Switch games of all time.
- Dying Light 2 — You won’t have to wait long for the sequel to 2015’s Dying Light, with a multi-platform release scheduled for February 4, 2022.
- Horizon Forbidden West — Yet another highly anticipated sequel, this PlayStation exclusive is finally slated for release on February 18, 2022.
- Hollow Knight: Silksong — Hollow Knight really managed to make a name for itself in a crowded field of Metroidvania games, and the sequel looks to be even better. We’ve got our fingers crossed for a mid-2022 release.
- Sons of the Forest — Survival horror fans are also in for a treat with Sons of the Forest. The brutal sequel to 2014’s The Forest will hit Steam on May 30, 2022.
- God of War: Ragnarok — Originally set for a 2021 release, the finale to God of War’s Norse setting should finally come out next year, but we don’t yet know when.
- Gran Turismo 7 — The eighth installment (because numbers are hard) of Sony’s hit racing series is expected in March of next year, and thankfully you won’t need a PS5 to play it.
- Hogwarts Legacy — This deep-dive into the history of Hogwarts was also delayed last year, but hopefully we’ll hear some news about the multi-platform title soon.
- Stray — Who doesn’t love cats? This upcoming adventure game lets you explore a dense city as a street cat. It was first announced in 2020, but it’s currently set for an early 2022 release.
- Elden Ring — This highly-anticipated collaboration between Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin and Dark Souls developer FromSoftware is currently in beta, and will see widespread release on February 25, 2022.
- Starfield — Announced all the way back in 2018, Bethesda’s upcoming epic space action RPG is currently scheduled for a November 2022 release, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it gets pushed into 2023. Disappointed, yes, but surprised, no.
- Overwatch 2 — We had this on our list last year too, and to be honest it’s surprising it hasn’t come out yet. Blizzard has made some vague claims that the game will come out in 2022, but the company is deep in turmoil, so who knows when it will see the light of day.
What were your favorite games of 2021?