We finally did it. We killed another year — 2021 this time — and now laugh and dance on its atemporal corpse. Its reign of tyranny is over and now we feast… on some very good video games. Specifically, we’re taking a look at Fanbyte Game of the Year 2021 coverage. All of it! Literally every written piece and podcast about video games (and a few more things) we experienced this year.
Baby New Year 2022 is only freshly woken from its sarcophagus, but will soon grow into the putrescent hulk that torments our lives with daily horseshit. The flowing rot of billionaires, politicians engorged on self-satisfaction while their citizens die by the millions, and crypto hawkers squawking ever louder to sneak in one last scam before the world rebels (or burns and drowns at the same time). We need some stuff to enjoy. Sometimes that’s video games!
So here they are: the games we played and loved. We’ve gathered every Fanbyte GOTY 2021 list, article, and podcast in one place for you to find out what we think and how we weathered one absolutely terrible year. Will the next year be any better? Maybe! Maybe not. Maybe the one after that will improve. Whatever the case, looking back to appreciate the games that moved us, touched us, helped us get through the day, and more always helps put things in perspective. It shows that this year, too, can be toppled and even enjoyed (if only in small, important moments). These were some of those moments.
(Presented alphabetically and unranked.)
Before Your Eyes
“It’s hard for me to talk about Before Your Eyes without getting deeply personal about it or spoiling it, but I’ll do my best. This indie game has you experience a story about a young boy’s life from birth to adulthood. This narrative notably progresses with every blink, for your webcam detects your eye movements and translates them into the game. Before Your Eyes deals with some heartbreaking themes that left me in what felt like physical pain because I’ve been through something similar myself. It isn’t a fun game, but it’s a deeply moving and powerful one about difficult family dynamics and trauma from a rather unique perspective. I would go as far as saying Before Your Eyes is a game that touched me more than any other in many, many years, because of how authentically it delves into processing trauma and the almost universal urge to push away — or even erase — our darkest memories.”
Chicory: A Colorful Tale
“Logically, I know there’s no such thing as a perfect game. Emotionally, it’s absolutely a thing, because Chicory: A Colorful Tale is perfect. Months after playing it, I’m still trying to find some sort of flaw. It’s what people like Chicory — the game’s titular character, whose dedication to creating art is inseparable from the mental illnesses which threaten to overwhelm her — and I do. But unlike myself, I’m convinced this game exists without flaws.”
Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker
“As games exist today, the only place you get a story like Endwalker is through Final Fantasy XIV. That does mean you have to play through hundreds of hours of expansions prior, and should probably read some extra side stories, then watch cutscenes from its defunct 1.0 version. It’s all worth it, though… I don’t know how to convince anyone; I haven’t nailed that formula down outside of using the silly critically acclaimed copypasta. All I can say is that I promise it’s worth it. It’s worth the few hours of fetch quests here and there, it’s worth needlessly long dungeon cutscenes, it’s worth grinding through old raids, and if you do the side bits, those pay off too.”
“It’s the most fun I’ve had playing a video game in years. The multiplayer mode sends me back to the best parts of on-campus LAN parties in college and mixes that nostalgia with the delight of being able to share a nearly perfect competitive experience with my current crop of friends and coworkers. I love the maps, the feel of the guns, the gadgets at your disposal — heck, I even love the cosmetics system. I’ve only put a few hours into the campaign mode, but it makes an interesting first impression. The elaborate, grand interior design of older Halo games greets you at the door, but soon you’re led to something much more similar to a Far Cry game, for better or worse. So far, it’s for the better. Come on, they give you a grappling hook!”
“Agent 47 returns in the final entry in the World of Assassination trilogy. Hitman 3 is the culmination of everything IO Interactive has done with Hitman: Season One and Hitman 2, offering you so many ways to disguise yourself and have hilarious fun murdering a target. Sabotage a man’s parachute so he voluntarily jumps off the world’s tallest building to his doom, use an exploding golf ball to keep your target from reaching par, or simply let someone’s beloved family member kill them instead. In a year where everything continued to go wrong, there are exceedingly few pure joys like murdering horrible rich folks in the weirdest, most comedic way possible. That’s what Hitman 3 brings to the table.”
“Daniel Mullin Games’ Inscryption claws through the frightening monotonicity of 2021, and screams for metamorphosis. Just like a strange larva, each chapter of this eerie card game is constantly evolving. Complacency is its enemy, and it won’t stop fighting. Every chance Inscryption gets it flips the stakes, jumps genres, and jumbles your motivations. It starts off unsuspecting, but it quickly tells an ingenious transmedia narrative that leaves a deep imprint.”
It Takes Two
“The level design is not only superb, but it’s also incredibly creative. The title borrows a lot from the three-act structure of Mario games where players learn, execute, and then finish with a showstopper for every new mechanic. It Takes Two does that again and again with dozens of new items and mechanics, managing to feel fresh the entire way.
There’s a bit of a danger with co-op games, where rating them based on an experience can be misleading. It’s difficult to separate the quality of the game from the quality of the time spent with your co-op partner. I think, after a trepidatious year where we slowly eased into the ability to see people again, one of those things feeds into the other. It would be easy to mindlessly progress through a game with someone else while enjoying their company — but it’s much harder for the game to make people enjoy themselves playing the game together.”
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…
“As I think more about life, death, and whatever the hell it is I’m doing here, games like NieR Replicant provide a sobering lens to view tragedy and trauma. From the strength we exhibit to confront and overcome those things to the mistakes we often make in doing so, NieR Replicant’s story and characterizations represent our humanity in ways few games can.”
“I think about the levels in this game every day — from the way they showcase character design as level design (levels are based on characters minds, after all), from the cooking show as performance anxiety stage of ‘Compton’s Cookoff’ to the champagne barf sea of ‘Bob’s Bottles,’ to the bowling ball bacteria city of ‘Strike City.’ It’s weird and colorful and honestly beautiful. I will always remember flying through Psi King’s Sensorium having the time of my damn life, where I decided to just stand in one place, peering over the psychedelic architecture and blissfully (here’s that word again) vibing. I actually said, ‘oh wow’ and sat there on my couch for minutes. That really just… doesn’t happen anymore in my life.
Psychonauts 2 somehow made me feel the kinds of things I come to games for. Creativity, gentle challenge, wackiness, a legitimate sense of wonder and surprise. It’s the kind of game I don’t frankly see very often, or nearly enough. But it felt, in ways that are hard to articulate, like a genuine gift.”
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
“Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the first game I’ve 100 percent’d since 2009’s Modern Warfare 2. It’s only the fifth game I’ve ever completed like this joining the likes of the aforementioned Call of Duty title alongside Halo 3, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and the original Modern Warfare.
I don’t have time to explore everything in a game like I used to in high school, but completion in Rift Apart is something that snuck up on me. Before I knew it, I had just a few things to check off my list and I had experienced everything the game had to offer.”
“By the end of Wildermyth‘s five narrative campaigns — each of which is by turns funny, surprising, and dramatic — I had truly come to care about my characters. I’ve started writing fiction about them, that’s how much this game has gotten me invested in these randomly-generated paper doll people. Drawing much more on fairy tales and myth than the now-standard Tolkienesque western fantasy world, Wildermyth feels genuinely unique, and its modular structure means that it should be easy for modders to develop new encounters and campaigns.
If you’re at all interested in interactive narrative, you have to play Wildermyth. Trust me, you’ll get past the aesthetic — and you’ll probably become just as attached to your unlikely little band of heroes as I have to mine.”
All The Fancies in One Place:
- Channel F Presents The Fancies 2021 (Part 1)
- Channel F Presents The Fancies 2021 (Part 2)
- Channel F Presents The Fancies 2021 (Part 3)
- Channel F Presents The Fancies 2021 (Part 4)
- The Fancies 2021: merritt’s Top 10 Games of the Year
- The Fancies 2021: Kenneth Shepard’s Favorite Games That Weren’t Mass Effect
- The Fancies 2021: Natalie Flores’ Game of the Year List
- The Fancies 2021: Collin’s Guide to Picking Your GOTY
- The Fancies 2021: Danielle’s Top Games of 2021
- The Fancies 2021: LB Hunktears’ Games of the Year
- The Fancies 2021: Andrea Shearon’s Game of the Year List
- The Fancies 2021: Elise’s Top Games of the Year
- The Fancies 2021: Some of Imran’s Top Games of the Year
- The Fancies 2021: The Cool Mike’s Top 10 Games of the Year
- The Fancies 2021: Michael Higham’s 10 Favorite Games That Aren’t FFXIV Endwalker
- The Fancies 2021: Je’Nae Singh’s Games of the Year 2021
- The Fancies 2021: Niki’s Normal and Regular Game of the Year List
- The Fancies 2021: Dillon Skiffington Breaks the Rules Again
- The Fancies 2021: John Warren’s Top 10 Games of the Year
- The Fancies 2021: Colette Arrand’s Top Wrestling Games
- The Fancies 2021: Steven Strom’s Game of the Year List
- The Fancies 2021: Fūnk-é’s Games of the Year 2021
- The Fancies 2021: Fanbyte Community Picks
- The Fancies 2021: The Fanbyte Mod Squad’s Game of the Year Lists
- The Fancies 2021: Steven Nguyen Scaife Presents Great Indie Games
Have a great rest of your year, folks! We’ll get back to you in January. Unless you’re reading this in January of 2022 (or beyond). In which case you know our future. That’s pretty cool. How do I die?