Noisy Pixel Picks: Bailey’s Top Five Games of 2021

2021 delivered an impressive array of stellar video games of varying genres. Still, I’m a JRPG nerd, so that’s where my interests tend to lie. However, a few other genres snagged some spots. Below are my top 5 video games of the year in sequential order.

5. Lost Judgment

Lost Judgment 1

I’ve always been middling on the Yakuza franchise. While I’ve never outright disliked it, the only entries I genuinely enjoyed are Yakuza 0 and Judgment (I haven’t played 7 yet). This isn’t to say I loathe Kiwami through 6, but I merely find them mediocre at best. Yakuza lacks meaningful, lasting connective tissue with its characters, making it difficult for me to feel attached. Additionally, it has a habit of killing off characters for what I find to be needless reasons. I always lament the wasted potential.

Lost Judgment feels far, far different, though. It feels more directly connected to its prior game than how any of the Yakuza entries are like, making my attachment immediately apparent. Yagami plays a distinct role in that thrill since I feel immensely more attached to him as a character than I ever have for Kiryu. I don’t mean to make this a Yakuza beatdown, but the more I’ve played Judgment and Lost Judgment, the more I’ve realized how much more I enjoy these games. Lost Judgment simply provided more of what I loved about the first game. Its cast is back and better than ever with fantastic new additions. The side activities are wackier than before, and the narrative, while dark, is genuinely transfixing. It’s a hallmark RGG Studio experience that I hope the developer continues to build off from.

If you missed it, check out our review.

4. Scarlet Nexus

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Scarlet Nexus is a game I initially had little interest in, merely seeing it as an appetizer to the upcoming Tales of Arise that would release later in the year. Sure, its premise and combat intrigued me, and the demo hooked me, but I’d say my hype was moderate at best. And, to be honest, my experience with the first half of the game was rather mixed. I loved the combat, but nothing about the story or cast really clicked with me. It wasn’t until the second half where I became engrossed with the narrative.

So, with that being the case, why is it my number 4 exactly? Hindsight is an amusing mess. The more I’ve reflected on and ruminated on Scarlet Nexus, the more I’ve come to love everything about it. Its world and character relationships are regularly on my mind when I couldn’t care less during the beginning hours of my first playthrough. Further, I admittedly find its combat more enjoyable than Tales of Arise’s.

Additionally, the English dub is terrific, and the post-launch content has been shockingly qualitative, which is rare for any JRPG to boast. And, first and foremost, I truly adore this cast. Sloppy handling during the first half of the title aside, I’ve come to highly appreciate everyone’s bonds and their well-written interactions. I’m desperately hoping this IP gets the chance to continue and span off into multiple sequels because it truly deserves that.

If you missed it, check out our review.

3. Tales of Arise

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Tales of Arise was bound to be on this list somewhere. It was one of my most anticipated games of the year since I’m a massive Tales of fan. It’s one of my favorite series, and it’s felt like it’s been eons since Berseria, the last fully new console game. My expectations for Arise were astronomically high, and it managed to exceed those lofty hopes. Its cast felt fully realized, with skits and main story plights that tugged at my heart in ways few games do. The world was gorgeous, genuinely making this feel like a true, next-generation Tales of experience. The linearity of progression perfectly melded with an appropriate degree of openness and freedom that felt euphorically fulfilling.

Admittedly, I found the combat and overall story to falter a tad during the second half, but not enough to sour my collective impressions. There hasn’t been a Tales of game that’s left me feeling this fulfilled in a long, long time. Thankfully, Tales of Arise has been a monumental success, and I sincerely hope it leads to Bandai Namco porting over as many older games as possible and localizing those that have remained Japanese exclusive.

If you missed it, check out our review.

2. Ys: IX Monstrum Nox

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I’m an embarrassingly enthusiastic Falcom fan, at least regarding Trails and Ys and Zwei. I’ve been following Ys and Trails for about 10 years at this point, so to say that I was thrilled for Ys IX’s localization is an understatement. VIII set the bar pretty high, even when accounting for its initially subpar localization and still problematic PC port. Thankfully, IX’s release was fathoms better. Sure, there were some launch issues, but the overall quality of what was published was not even in the same league as VIII. Moreover, I found myself loving IX as a game far, far more.

I’ve always preferred Trails regarding characters and stories, and that hasn’t changed. Still, Ys IX felt ambitious in a way no prior Ys game was with its setting and intricate narrative. It was also a love letter for franchise fans, calling back to several spoilery facets, making me reflect on the decade-long journey I’ve had with this series. As if that wasn’t enough, this was the first game to take place after Ys VII, my first ever-Falcom and Ys game. It felt like I finally came full circle. Additionally, the Ys staples such as a fantastic soundtrack and addictive gameplay loop were present. I had little to no qualms with my experience aside from a lack of difficulty that only felt challenging on Lunatic.

If you missed it, check out our review.

1. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

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I love Ace Attorney. It’s one of many series I discovered during my late childhood/early teenage years that has stuck with me ever since. I wield an immense degree of nostalgia for the original trilogy and Apollo Justice, though I do still appreciate the Investigations games, Dual Destinies, and Spirit of Justice. However, The Great Ace Attorney is a duology I never had the pleasure of experiencing during their initial launches. Neither game received official localizations, and though there was a fan translation effort, I didn’t really follow it.

Truth be told, part of me was nervous regarding this release since, over the years, I’ve always seen The Great Ace Attorney treated on the same level as Miles Edgeworth: Investigations 2, where it’s supposedly the cream of the crop. And well, I’m not the biggest fan of Investigations 2. Plus, I’ve noticed that if a gaming franchise has Japanese-only entries, then those games are placed on a pedestal of praise purposefully meant to knock down the other titles, emitting an undeniable air of superiority. It’s rather frustrating, and I saw elements of that treatment surrounding The Great Ace Attorney and its sequel from their Japan-only 3DS releases.

Thankfully, my experience with The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles was nothing but positive, and the annoyances I had with any history of its existence were practically non-existent. Each case’s cohesion with one another, the utterly enthralling narrative, delightful characters, and terrific soundtracks were sublime. The second game has become my favorite entry in the series, though my favorite case is still Spirit of Justice’s finale. I have nothing but good things to say regarding The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, and if you haven’t played it, I highly recommend it. It’s perfectly suitable for series beginners and veterans.

If you missed it, check out our review.

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.