GamesBeat news writer Rachel Kaser’s favorite games of 2021


If you’ve listened to the 231st episode of GamesBeat Decides, you already know about my picks. I’ve explained my thought process somewhat about that show, but I’d like to get into it here.

For my personal list, I don’t want to spit back the same list that the Gamesbeat team released earlier this month. So the games on this list are the ones that have given me the most pleasure this year, not necessarily the most technically exceptional. 2021 was a tough year, and if I survived a race, it must have been special.

He’s not Phoenix Wright, but I still like him.

I’m a big fan of Ace Attorney to begin with, so I was excited about The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles before it launched. It scratches two of my itch: mystery and historical fiction. Getting both with the signature Ace Attorney flair – serious lawyers, flamboyant prosecutors, and the most extra side characters ever – was all I wanted.

I agree with Mike that the game takes some time to get going (ironically), but when it’s in full Ace Attorney swing it’s so much fun. I enjoy the addition of a Sherlock Holmes adjacent character, especially because he’s as bewildering to hero Ryunosuke as I imagine he would be to anyone not called Watson. The mysteries and story also have surprising depth, touching on issues of racism and xenophobia.

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Nice family.

I have already honored Village with my year-end awards, recognizing that it is not perfect, although it is memorable. But I didn’t need it to be perfect – I wanted it to be Resident Evil. While Village is like Capcom revisiting the series’ biggest hits – RE4’s gothic European setting, RE7’s gameplay, RE2 Remake’s villainous design – I can’t say I really liked it. I enjoyed all those games just like I enjoyed Village.

There’s something serious about a Resident Evil game in form that really captivates me. It may not do everything right, but it presents even its most ridiculous ideas and plots with such conviction and passion. That’s enough to keep me playing to the end, despite Chris Redfield’s occasional stumbling block or unwelcome appearance.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart will define the PS5 generation.

When Rift Apart was first announced, the main focus was on how it would test the limits of the PlayStation 5’s SSD. Before I played the game, I couldn’t have told you anything about the story, except that there was a female Lombax and another universe in it. Once I booted it up and started playing, I had so much fun that the last thing I noticed was the lack of loading times. The game is very charming and simple, uncomplicated fun to play.

Rift Apart feels like a throwback to a simpler time to me – my PS2 era Spyro the Dragon days, when I searched for the lava level or the forest level in every game. For the record, Rift Apart has both. The game also experiments with different types of level design, with one level being a funny, yet unnerving scream at Alien Isolation. It has its drawbacks: I still say that Rivet needed a different gameplay than Ratchet. But 2021 was a tough year, and if I cared enough about a game to finish it, it must have done something right.

Life is Strange: Alex Chen of True Colors.

I wasn’t a fan of the first few Life is Strange titles. I appreciated what they were trying to do – and heaven knows there aren’t enough video games focused on exploring the trials and tribulations of being a teenage girl. But something about them didn’t sound authentic. Personally, I blame the dialogue. Then True Colors comes along and does everything the first game did, only better. Alex Chen is a delightful character, dealing with a whole host of personal demons while empathetic and supportive of those around her. You like to see it.

I like adventure games and small town mysteries, so the combination of both was already a tick in the pro column for me. True Colors is a good example of the latter genre, where everyone has their secrets and complex interior lives. Like almost all the other titles on this list, it’s not a complicated or long game. But it does what it’s supposed to do well and good, and it puts a smile on my face.

While I enjoy a huge open world, or a smorgasbord of enemies to kill, I enjoy more games that can give me a full experience without a lot of extra fanfare and padding. Unpacking manages to tell a complete, moving story with very little text, no dialogue and only the briefest appearance of the characters on screen. Instead, it tells you about characters through their stuff. I had George Carlin’s monologue on “Stuff” in mind while playing: “Your house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.”

The unpacking is complete without feeling short, relaxing without being boring, and deep without feeling stuffy. No, it won’t make you pump blood or test the limits of your hand-eye coordination. But I was more invested in the unnamed protagonist’s life and troubles than in just about anything I’ve played in 2021. Unpacking becomes a very specific kind of game, and it accomplishes that almost perfectly.

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