I was torn on whether or not Disco Elysium: The Final Cut would be a fair recommendation as one of the best games of the year. However, in my mind the experience present in this ultimate version of ZA/UN’s exceptional RPG is worth a place here.
This largely comes down to what must have been a gargantuan task of adding voice acting to the entire cast. I’m not one to shy away from extensive reading, but the charisma provided by the VO cast really helps keep you totally hooked to what’s happening at any given moment. Special shoutout to Mikee W Goodman, whose performance as a vast and bizarre range of characters stood out to me as especially appealing after my first playthrough. Not just the guttural voices inside the protagonist's head either! I’m talking specifically about one of the game’s older characters whom I will not dare spoil.
This compliments an already astounding project from ZA/UN. The in-house artist talent from Kaspar Tamsalu and Aleksander Rostov portrays an impoverished city riddled with the scars of conflict, and capture of the equally ruined police detective that stumbles around it. Special mention goes to Anton Vill, who painted the otherworldly and disturbing thought cabinet for the game.
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut is one of those games that stick in your head long after you’ve beaten it. You’ll be washing up at night and wonder “What is inside that storage container?” or “Is there really a bigger power move than shooting yourself in the head?” It sticks on you, like PVA glue. You’ll find little scratchings of it beneath your finger nails long after you think you’re clean off it.
It does touch on some heavier topics, but if you’re happy to brave the occasional and entirely intentional discomfort the game puts you through, I promise you it’s a deeply touching experience. It’s a tad artsy too, so you can talk to all your friends about it and sound hella pretentious if that’s your thing!
Legends of Runeterra
I remember first picking up Legends of Runeterra when it first came out and not thinking too much of it. It was fine, an adaptation of the hugely popular day ruining software League of Legends, but it didn’t really catch me. Going back in recent months has revealed that while I had pushed this digital card game out of mind, it had been slowly morphing into one of my favourite time vampires.
Obvious additions, like there now being way more cards and seasonal battle passes, are nice of course. But there’s also alternative game modes like the brand new Path of Champion that adds a lot of additional content for you to chew through. You don’t have to develop a love for battling other players to get something out of Legends of Runeterra.
It’s also one of the nicest online card games out there in terms of giving you free stuff. It’s only a matter of time before you’re able to build any deck you want, which allows you to hop back in a seamless process without anything too frustrating oozing out and ruining things.
Guilty Gear Strive
This game stands out as one of my favourites of 2021 due to it injecting some fun into a genre that was having a rough time during COVID and lockdown. Many fighting games out there, your Tekkens and Street Fighters, suffer from rough netcode which makes playing online a hassle. Guilty Gear Strive has great netcode, and is a super enjoyable fighter to boot!
It’s a high damage, fast paced, ultra-cinematic fighter developed by Arc System Works. Even if you’re not a weeb it’s worth picking up due to intentionally low barriers to entry, with plenty of depth to grow and get better. It also helps that it looks gorgeous, real Imperial Mint levels of eye candy here.
It rekindled my passion for the genre during a time when I struggled to justify investing any time into it. I even travelled to Ireland for a tournament last month, where I got bodied by strangers. But losing to strangers and getting tipsy is sort of what these sorts of games are all about, so thank you Guilty Gear Strive for allowing me to do that again.
As VG247’s new live service game writer, I should also mention that I’ve actually been having a good time with MiHoYo’s Gaccha nightmare game Genshin Impact! Those with a keen eye may have noticed that my character’s name is “Who Cares” in screenshots. That’s because when I first picked up it, I thought Genshin was a lame game for losers.
Over time, it grew on me. In 2021, with the release of Inazuma and a big ramp up in the game’s story, I found myself genuinely having a blast going through the game and navigating my way through all the new content. For those who want to play a genuinely enjoyable party-based action RPG, Genshin is a good option even now. Just don’t go and blow thousands on digital boyfriends, buddy.
For more on our picks for the best games of the year, head over to our GOTY 2021 archive page.