All the Games I Beat in 2021
Listed in order of completion
Another year has come and gone, and that means it’s time for this post to finally see the cold light of day. I loved writing last year’s entry, so this has once again brought me much joy.
This article sums up all the games I beat in 2021. That’s next-generation monstrosities, handheld RPGs, and the occasional retro classic all on one lengthy list. I wrote a paragraph or two summarizing my thoughts on each game, all written in real-time after I finished the title out.
I set out once again to hit some gaming goals. I’m using last year’s as a jumping-off point. I have three this year:
- Get five platinum trophies on PS5 (my goal every year)
Sounds easy, and it usually is. I got my PS5 the second week of January, so this beautiful piece of next-gen hardware served as the battlegrounds for my completion mission. Come hell or high water, I want to have five platinum trophies earned before December 31st.
2. Work on my backlog
I have a lengthy list of all the games I’d like to play. There is 62 titles total, and I want to play and beat 20% of them. Once again, very manageable. I will buy new games of course, but this backlog focus is ever-present.
3. Complete another Pokedex
My love of the Pokemon franchise is well documented at Game Loot. Completing the Pokedex in Pokemon Shield was my first time doing so in the 20 years I’ve been playing this franchise. My goal is to pick one Pokemon title and catch ’em all a second time. I think I have my candidate picked out, but we’ll see.
4. Take my time
Perhaps this last goal goes against the others. I’m no expert. But I don’t want this to be a stressful thing. I do this because I love games, and I don’t want to treat this like some job or chore. I want to explore these worlds as the developers and writers intended, even if that means slowing down a bit and taking some well-deserved deep breaths.
I also wanted to allow myself some space to replay some games just for the fun of it. I had a couple of games that had PS5 updates, so I couldn’t help but try them out once again.
Without further ado, here’s the list…
1. Astro’s Playroom
Platinum trophy #18!
My first game beaten of the year. My first Platinum of the year. My first PS5 game EVER. Astro’s Playroom marks a lot of firsts for me.
After listening to a couple of podcasts and reading several articles that showered praise on this new platformer, I knew that I’d love this game. What I didn’t expect was how impressive it actually is. Astro’s Playroom served as the perfect introduction to the newest Playstation. It showed off graphical power, unique features, and all the new hotness that comes with the new controller. It also celebrated everything PlayStation through cute references and a dozen or so collectibles.
I’m so glad I played this game. Astro’s is just sheer and utter fun from top to bottom. The joy that this game brings is a simple reminder of interactive media’s charms. Don’t underestimate Astro’s Playroom. This is a must-play game and a highlight of my January.
2. Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Platinum trophy #19!
My second PS5 game, my second Platinum for 2021! I adored this game. This is Insomniac’s second take on the famous web-head, but this time with a twist. Miles Morales is in the suit, and Peter Parker is out of town for a few weeks. It’s a peaceful Christmas season in NYC. Of course, things don’t stay that way for long. Miles is soon fighting to protect his neighborhood from a terrorist organization and a bloodthirsty corporation.
This hits all the superhero beats, and it hits them in a few hours. If you mainline Miles Morales, you can finish this game on a Saturday. This is not a compliant! I played through this game once and did everything. All collectibles, all challenges, all upgrades bought. I saw the story through its conclusion and then went back for new game plus and my nineteenth platinum trophy.
Honestly? I loved every second of it. The winter environments of New York City are beautiful and refreshing. This game looks amazing on PS5, and plays as smooth as Peter Parker’s web-sling. The combat is varied and fun, and it once again feels good to be Spider-Man.
3. Resident Evil Village: Maiden Demo
I went back and forth on whether to include Resident Evil Village’s short demo on this list, and you can see where I landed.
Maiden is a concept showcase; I got to see the barest of glimpses into this most terrifying manor. I watched the Resident Evil showcase in January when Maiden was announced; to say I was excited would be an understatement. Getting a chance to wander through these areas and dig into lore ended up being a lot of fun. This reminds me of an indie horror game, but this has about 10,000x the budget. It’s twenty minutes, and it cements my excitement for Village this coming May.
4. Call of Cthulhu
Platinum trophy #20!
What can I say? I’m a sucker for Lovecraftian video games.
Though I think Call of Cthulhu has lots of weak points, it’s the best game rendition of the works of H.P. Lovecraft that pull directly from the source material. Games like Darkest Dungeon and Bloodborne do Lovecraftian horror SO much better, but Call of Cthulhu borderline pastiche takes the cake for faithfulness. If you love these tropes — insane academics, cursed paintings, cults in seaside towns — this game is for you.
Call of Cthulhu felt janky and outdated when I played it two years ago, and it felt the same in 2021. The stealth is bad, the character models are silly, and the locations that we see in the game get dull pretty much immediately. But still. This game has its own charm. Maybe it’s the hacky dialogue? The crime scenes bathed in grotesque colors?
It was a quick play-through, and I think it was worth it just to see the remaining endings. The ending where the call is answered gave me chills. It’s an incredible moment, and I appreciate the developers for having the courage to go there.
Answering the Call of Cthulhu (again)
A second look at Cyanide’s Lovecraft Detective Simulator
5. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World: The Game Complete Edition
Liz and I played through this over a week or two. There are a lot of things to love about Scott Pilgrim. The levels were (mostly) fun. They came to be a little grindy and more than a little bit annoying, especially with the rampant bugs and glitches. Levels refused to load and the game crashed six or seven times throughout a five-hour campaign. We got annoyed, but we pushed on.
I love the music and the look of this game. It reminds me of Edgar Wright’s comedy classic, but it doesn’t compare. This game feels its age, for better and for worse.
6. God of War (2018)
This is one of the greatest games of the last generation, and it’s back with a new sheen on PS5. After the update was released, I couldn’t help myself… I wanted to journey through the realms with Kratos and Atreus again.
Ragnarok is supposed to drop in 2021, and I want to be ready. I’d somehow forgotten how incredible every element of this game feels. It’s just so finely tuned and sculpted from top to bottom. Both the Leviathan Axe and the Blades of Chaos control perfectly and make every combat encounter memorable. The world-building is virtually unmatched in our gaming medium. How this universe feels so deep and yet so mysterious still leaves me a bit speechless. I also really want to fight Thor, and I hope that Ragnarok delivers. Kratos has an ice weapon and a fire weapon. Is it wrong to think that a certain electric hammer is going to be added to Kratos’ belt of awesomeness?
I’m glad that I came back for a replay, and I hope Santa Monica brings the heat again.
(Note: as always, I’m playing multiple games at one time. Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Crash 4: It’s About Time, and Destiny 2: Beyond Light on console, with Pokemon Soulsilver on my 3DS while I’m watching TV with Liz. This is early March, and I was also tied up with school and work. It took me a minute to finish another game, especially once Destiny 2 had its hooks back into me. But here we go…)
7. Destiny 2: Beyond Light
I fell back into Destiny 2 pretty hard. Though there are times that I hate the choices that Bungie makes, I love so much about what they put together as a studio. Beyond Light (the newest expansion) shows off what they do best. The new Statis Powers are an absolute revelation, and make so much of the story missions and PvE events a blast to play. Beyond Light’s story missions are interesting, though I don’t think they quite reach the eldritch highs of Shadowkeep. The new Exotics and the quests are lengthy, but not disrespectful of your time. The environment of Europa is suitability and predictably breathtaking, especially on the new consoles.
I have a distinct feeling that I’ll be playing Destiny 2 off and on again throughout the year. I would really like to earn the Platinum trophy for the base game. A lot of quality-of-life improvements have put Bungie back on track from the bad place I think the game was in mid-2020.
8. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time is a gauntlet. Even after replaying the Insane Trilogy in 2020, It’s About Time felt brutally difficult. We died a lot in this game, even rivaling the lives that I dropped in the tough but rewarding Celeste.
For the first dozen or so hours, I didn’t enjoy the game. It felt unforgiving in a way that all good platformers shouldn’t. With time though, I grew to appreciate the love and care that went into every level. I still had issues with some of the elements here, but my opinion changed with every rapid run. The new environments proved interesting. I enjoyed seeing what lay around the bend, even if the humor of the game tended to grate on my nerves a bit.
When Crash 4: It’s About Time feels like classic Crash, it really works. I can’t help but think; What will Crash 5 look like? I’ll be curious to see what the talented team at Toys for Bob conjures up next.
9. Hypnospace Outlaw
I took a work trip in early May, so I was greeted with two international plane rides. I bought a Nintendo Switch Lite and left my console at home so Liz could keep our New Horizons island on the up and up. This meant I had some time to knock out a Switch game or two!
I started with Hypnospace Outlaw. The game is a little wild, so I won’t spend too much time talking about its premise. While I had several issues with the game (mainly the story and some of the end missions) it’s a video game unlike any other. It’s truly an experience, and I mean that in a good way. Ancient internet pages, odd subcultures, and meme music make this game worth checking out.
I beat this on the return flight to England. It turns out that adventuring for one minute at a time is the perfect way to while away some flight time. Minit is a charming and wonderful little game. It has distinct Legend of Zelda vibes, but with cute little beasties instead of the Zelda franchises’ usual ghouls and goblins. Solving the simple puzzles and making incremental progress was addicting. Minit was a satisfying change of pace from some of the other games that I’ve been playing.
Minit won me over, which is surprising considering my general disinterest in roguelikes. Designer Vlambeer made a delightful genre mash-up, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it.
11. Ratchet & Clank (2016)
Ratchet & Clank 2016 has been on my backlog since I got my PS4. It’s one of those games that I kept picking up and then putting back down again for one reason or another. With the big shiny next-generation sequel incoming (at the time of this update) I forced myself to see this game through.
I can’t help but shrug. It’s fine. I have moments where I enjoy the bolt carnage and the quick swaps between the whacky guns. But my tolerance for a game with this creaky of a base turns out to be pretty low. Even with a new coat of paint, it feels outdated. The humor was almost always a miss for me, though Mr. Zurkon’s murder-joke deliveries usually made me smile.
Maybe the sequel will make this series work for me? It looks breathtaking, but I worry that won’t quite be enough.
12. Resident Evil Village
This is the most fun I’ve ever had with a Resident Evil game.
While Resident Evil 7 is far scarier, I believe that Resident Evil Village is a better video game. The time and effort that was put into this entry is clear: each area’s distinct feel and take on the horror mythos is nothing short of inspiring. The action-centric horror focus is a different mood, but one that worked better for me than 7’s grimy atmosphere.
This newest entry brought an action-heavy focus that I honestly didn’t expect. Thankfully, the developers found ways to avoid overdoing the gunplay. Exploration and light puzzles are a small part of the game, but those quiet moments were often more disturbing than the skirmishes that bookended them.
Village is a memorable game: the denizens of this cursed village will hold a special place in my heart for a long time.
This is my Game Of The Year for 2021 thus far.
13. Ratchet & Clank: A Rift Apart
Platinum trophy #21!
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a joyful game. It has moments of defeat, but for the most part, it’s all about the next big level, the next new gun. This game takes serious glee in galaxy-ending danger, and it’s hard not to be swept up in it.
As a relative newcomer to this franchise, the 2016 remake of the first game left me severely underwhelmed. Thankfully, Rift Apart is miles ahead of its predecessor. Funny, heartwarming, and utterly gorgeous. A PS5 title worth its bolts.
(Note: due to some kind of trophy glitch (!), I was not able to earn the Platinum trophy immediately. I had to do a second play-through, which I didn’t necessarily want to do right away. I solved all the Glitch puzzles, but the trophy did not pop. Gross. I got there eventually though. Fourth for the year!)
Bolts Ahead: A Brief Look at Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
A New High Standard for this Sony Duo
14. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2
I beat this over one long July 4th weekend. I still got out and had some fun, but this nostalgic gem was waiting for me back at home. Though I played both of these titles back in the day, I think I was too young to spend the time to beat them. I’ve rectified that here in 2021!
I love the progression system: each park has a series of objectives, and you must complete a certain number of them across all parks to unlock the next area. This allows you to pick and choose: if you had trouble with the Sick Score in one section, you can just skip over it! A competition park would break up the tedium before showing you your next area to skate in. I liked this game. Even once I found that new level…
Oxenfree has been on my Backlog for quite some time. Now that I’ve seen Edwards Island and discovered a few of its mysteries, I’m kicking myself a bit. I should have played this years ago. Radio signals from beyond. A family secret. The death of a loved one. These are horror staples, and the team behind Oxenfree have created characters that bring these creepy staples to life. It’s a coming-of-age story and a good one at that.
The sequel is due sometime soon, so I’m curious to see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
16. Final Fantasy 7 Remake
I started Final Fantasy 7 Remake in April, but ended up finishing it all the way in July. Granted, I took a break to play some other games, and came back when the new update came through on the 10th of June.
While I have always liked Final Fantasy games, I never played the original version of this one. My PS1 days were spent on Crash Bandicoot, not the mission of Cloud and his eco-teammates.
For the most part, I enjoyed Final Fantasy 7 Remake. The game has odd charm in spades. It looks beautiful and the combat was a blast, even as the later battles really put me through the wringer. Materia and the shifting skills that accompany them are nuanced enough to feel worth it to tool around with. That being said, the game ran a bit long. The environments grew extremely dull and the puzzles eventually became tedious. The ending did suck me back in, even if a lot of it felt like nonsense.
Overall, FF7 Remake was a bloated, goofy JRPG that could have used some editing. I love Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith. I want to see what lies next for this crew. I just hope that it moves along a little quicker next time.
17. Rage 2
I already had 17 hours into Rage 2 from 2020, so I knew this would be an easy kill off the Backlog.
What can I say about Rage 2? Coming back to it after a year away was a bit jarring. The game controls are needlessly complex, and the action is not worth it. It’s flat-out boring to play, especially compared to one of the newer Doom titles. This also has to be one of the ugliest games you can play on modern systems. Graphics usually don’t bother me much, but Rage 2’s look repeatedly broke immersion for me. You fight similar sets of enemies in dull backgrounds, all in service of a story that you can safely fit on a sticky note.
But still… I can see the draw of this game. Just like the first Rage game, Rage 2 doesn’t do anything fun or interesting. It’s a cookie-cutter open world, but if you just want to blow a few things up and not care about a story, you could do worse?
Journey is the exact opposite of Rage 2. While the angry sequel feels like it was designed by committee, Journey is an inspiring experience. It finds stark beauty and terror in its wondrous setting, trying hard to avoid the hand-holding that comes with some platformers. Visual splendor is Journey’s speciality, and it knocks it out of the park. Couple all of that with one of the best scores in gaming history, and you can see why Journey is oft-considered a masterpiece.
There is so much to love in this tiny game. You blink and it’s practically over. I love that it doesn’t pad itself out or overstay its welcome. Journey is an art piece that has truly stood the test of time.
19. A Circle That Ever Returneth In
This is a Twine adaptation of one of Orrin Grey’s short stories. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure story, printed most recently in his collection Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales. Orrin Grey is easily one of my favorite horror authors and A Circle That Ever Returneth In is an experiment that went extremely well. While it was awesome to see this story featured in print, it was also pretty great to play it here. It was put together by a developer named Reyna, who formatted it in this cool look.
You can play it here. The question remains. Who will you follow? The Sell-Sword, the Cutpurse, or the Doll Mage?
20. Super Smash Bros Ultimate
There is a reason the Smash Bros franchise is so beloved. For starters, they are the most accessible fighting game in the business. They also have a roster that pulls from nearly every gaming franchise around. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been exploring all the different game modes within Super Smash Bros Ultimate and unlocking the entire roster along the way.
The Spirits mode is a massive beast of a thing and a mode that I’ll be working my way through for the foreseeable future. I’ve completed Ultimate’s bonkers roster, and I’ll consider that a win.
21. Pokémon Soulsilver
After over 100 hours with Pokémon Soulsilver, I’m confident in a few things.
Number one: this is no longer my favorite Pokémon game. So much of the systems in Soulsilver have aged poorly, especially in regards to modern standards. For the time, this was a masterpiece. But it has certainly been outclassed. I would like to one day write a piece on what makes a good Pokemon game, but it won’t be in 2021.
Here’s number two: I love this game. Johto will forever be one of my favorite regions, and the additions to the Pokédex with Generation Two are top-shelf. I’m glad I was able to replay this game, and I’ll cherish these adventures with my Soulsilver team. I have the badges, I have a nearly completed Pokédex, and I let Red know the business.
Final thought: I played Pokémon Soulsilver all year long and I still haven’t completed the Pokédex. I’ll clarify: I am 6 Pokémon away. I’m required to send two starter Pokémon from my copy of FireRed, but my copy of FireRed is fake, so I wasn’t able to do so. I will 100% complete this. Eventually.
Deathloop has quickly shot to the top of my Game of the Year list for 2021.
It’s not hard to see why. Arkane has created yet another unforgettable world for us to sneak, shoot, and explore to our heart’s content. While I enjoyed the Dishonored games, stealth has never been my favorite. Being punished for using Dishonored’s insane powers always kind of stung.
Deathloop rectifies that, and it does it with style! The PS5’s haptic feedback and the new gen’s polish make for an experience unlike any other. Deathloop’s ending does leave some gargantuan questions, but whatever form its sequel takes will likely give some gargantuan answers.
23. Alan Wake Remastered
I was actually really excited when Alan Wake Remastered was announced. It was a game that I missed out on when it was originally released, and I never really forgot about it. This release finally let me play it without dusting off my Xbox.
I played this during the month of October, finishing it on the 25th, just six days before Halloween. I enjoyed my time with it, even though it really shows its age. Its setting and premise are its strongest assets. The light-based combat grew pretty old by the end, but I can’t help but be charmed by Alan Wake’s terrible narration. It has a lot in common with Call of Cthulhu in regards to charm, but this is the better game by a long shot.
Cheesy, but also fun. That’s Alan Wake Remastered, even if it has grown a bit long in the tooth.
24. Destiny 2
Platinum trophy #22!
The Destiny 2 Platinum trophy is by far my most hard-earned one. I’ve written about this game a few times, but my mind has changed a bit over these last 11 months. I still have certain gripes with the way the game is designed, but I also know that Bungie has found an excellent balance between story and gameplay that it didn’t have this time last year.
I’ve played Destiny 2 off and on since the game launched. I still prefer the single-player part of this game, but I’ve dived further into the rabbit hole than ever before. Single-player is my comfort zone, so it did sting a bit. Completing a Nightfall strike on Grandmaster was the final trophy I needed. I had to reach the level cap before I could take it on, which took me several months of steady play. I had a blast, and I’ll probably keep playing here and there. The Witch Queen is shaping up to be an incredible piece of content, and my Guardian will be there when the time comes.
(This was my fifth platinum trophy of the year! One goal met!)
(Note: This was early November, just as an onslaught of games started dropping. I picked up Shin Megami Tensei V and Pokemon Shining Pearl on day one, and I’m looking at Black Friday sales for the others. I also started in on Batman: Arkham Knight, hoping to get the Platinum in early 2022.)
TOEM is a lovely little game. You play a character who is tasked with taking a photo of the titular Toem from his grandmother. This adventure — always adorable and very original — takes you through a series of dense areas. To progress from area to area, you must help the denizens of this world. The only tool you have is a camera. At first, you can zoom and that’s basically it. But as you help more and more people, you gain additional camera add-ons.
Over the course of about three hours, TOEM’s clever levels pulled me forward. It helped that the animation and art style create a world filled with cute animals, other people, and even some sad ghosts. For a game with only one verb, it stays compelling and never overstays its welcome. Finally, I just loved being a good samaritan. It’s a little sappy, but I think that’s okay sometimes.
26. Death’s Door
Death’s Door is quite special. It’s an enormous mash-up of video game genres, pulling from a lineage of action design to become something fascinating. You play as a Crow that is tasked with soul-reaping for a bureaucratic agency that controls death in the universe. After a job goes wrong, your Crow is tasked with saving the universe from an immortal threat.
This is done with concise combat and affecting bits of exploration. While your Crow starts off pretty weak, various levels give you magical spells and a couple of new weapons. You also find shrines that increase your health/magic bars, which let you survive a bit longer against the game’s many hostile locales. Combat is tough, but not frustrating. Even at its worst, Death’s Door’s side characters and off-beat humor were always waiting in the wings.
27. Pokemon Shining Pearl
Sinnoh Pokedex Completed! Every Pokemon caught, goal completed.
When Pokemon Black/White released in 2010, I realized that the Pokemon formula had grown old to me. I still loved the games, but the franchise’s skeleton had begun to creak. I’d enjoyed the original Diamond/Pearl as well, but they had felt like a chore to get through. It wouldn’t be until Pokemon X/Y that I’d fall back in love with Pocket Monsters. This love has endured to 2021, and Pokemon Shining Pearl has done nothing to dampen it.
I bring up the Pokemon formula because this new duo of games follows it to a T. It is a Pokemon game, through and through. You fight the Gym leaders, build a team, and then defeat the Champion. If you’d like, you can then fall into the post-game, which is a digital ocean’s worth of RPG magic. If this RPG magic has grown old to you, you may want to skip them. But if you enjoy an adorable and faithful Pokemon remake, you won’t be disappointed. Modern design has spruced up the rougher bits, (fully on Exp. Share, no more HMs, upgraded Underground, etc.) which makes for an experience that at least feels like it belongs in our modern-day.
28. Doom (1993)
One of my upcoming 2022 gaming goals is to play more classics. I realized through this website that I’m missing a lot of early benchmarks from my video game repertoire. Playing the original Doom was me getting a jump start on the goal. I understand now how important Doom is. The DNA of the modern shooter is all over this thing. It also helps that it has a killer soundtrack and the level design is so brazenly convoluted. I got lost a lot in this game, but I didn’t mind all that much. Blasting ugly monsters is oddly satisfying and the perfect way to see 2021 out.
What Didn’t I Beat?
The first game I dropped in 2021 was Lucid Game’s Destruction Allstars. It’s not a bad game, just very unremarkable. It was the free PS5 game on PS Plus for both February and March. I played through the tutorial levels and did a handful of matches both on and offline. I’ll be curious to see if this develops a cult following like other games in this situation have. My guess is no, but we’ll see by year’s end.
The next game I didn’t finish is a perfect showcase for the fact that sometimes I don’t finish good games: I’m talking about the PS5 exclusive Returnal. I completed the first area pretty quickly but stalled on the second boss. These kinds of games aren’t my jam, but Returnal’s sci-fi horror flavor is absolutely unparalleled. As the generation continues, there is a chance I will come back to Returnal. Maybe.
As the year wrapped, I was still working my way through Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (for Retro Coin) and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. They are both lengthy games, but I enjoy them and hope to finish them out in early 2022.
Because of COVID, many massive games have been pushed back into 2022. They join titles like Pokemon Legends: Arceus, God of War: Ragnarok, Elden Ring, Triangle Strategy, and Destiny 2: The Witch Queen. That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
I’ll be setting up my 2022 goals early in the new year. Five Platinum trophies, a Backlog goal, etc. I was able to complete all of my goals for the year, but what I found interesting between this year and 2020 is the number of games I completed. I beat seven more last year, which in retrospect seems like a lot. When I do this next year, I’ll be curious to see how many I’ll complete. Is 35 an anomaly? Or is this more of an average?
Thank you for joining me in year one of Game Loot. I’ll see you again in the New Year.