While 2021 might have felt like a crude rehash of 2020 for some people, it has been an excellent year for games. I’ve played at least around 20 games I’d genuinely consider among my favorites of all time, and it was excruciating to get only five here. So I decided to go with a very personal list that doesn’t even cover some games I actually consider better to show exactly the kind of experience that strikes my fancy.
As such, my list is a little simple. In fact, I almost ended up with a full list of only visual novels but decided to at least make it, so I didn’t include any ports. Only for that reason does The House in Fata Morgana: Dreams of the Revenants Switch version not enter this list, for instance. So without further ado, here are my top five games of 2021.
Mamiya tells the story of a group of young men who had a friend in common. After his funeral, they go back to daily life as if nothing happened. However, each of them meets a weird being called Mamiya, and their lives develop into a spiral of self-destruction. It’s an emotional tale with a somber, dreadful atmosphere that weighs down on its relatable cast. Though the ending is likely not to satisfy some players, it’s an experience that lingers in mind afterward.
4. Ys IX: Monstrum Nox
I’ve been in love with Falcom games for about a decade now. I honestly love most games of theirs that I have had the chance to play so far. Though they may not work with the highest budgets, their expertise in crafting fun gameplay systems definitely shows. Ys IX is the latest in their number one action RPG series, and it’s one of their peaks. I’m especially fond of exploring Balduq using the Gifts, but I believe Bailey’s review explains well why this is a must-get.
3. Bravely Default II
I have a weird love-hate experience with the Bravely series. I wouldn’t say I liked the original game for particular reasons (mainly unrelated to the repetitive structure). At the same time, I enjoyed Second but felt the story felt more watered down for the most part. Bravely Default II felt like the developers learned from the errors of both titles and made an exceptional experience that I enjoyed a lot more than both previous games.
From developer Overdrive comes a great new music-focused visual novel which is supposed to be their last title. Though I haven’t experienced Deardrops or Kira Kira yet, I knew the titles, and I had some expectations for it. Nonetheless, Musicus! was far beyond what I could expect. Carefully crafted, this story deeply resonates with me in its uneven mix of raw realism and hopefulness. It can be lengthy, but it’s a great ride all the way.
1. Full Metal Daemon Muramasa
I had heard the rumors, and I knew about Muramasa and Nitroplus much before its announcement. With an alternate setting where giant robots have made weapons mostly obsolete for centuries, it tells the story of a young man called Minato Kageaki who has to live by the saying, “Where there are demons, I slay them. Where there are saints, I slay them.” Though it may seem edgy at first, it’s impressively ambitious and coherent.
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