Video Games and Me in 2021

The ones I loved…

Guardians of the Galaxy

This one surprised me. It reads like one of those cheaply done movie-to-game tie ins that we saw a lot of in the early aughts. The three note combat loop certainly gives that first impression. I appreciate that the developers did their best to mix those three combat notes into a melody, but it’s not the shooting that makes this game hit my list.

It’s the outstanding characters. This isn’t just a regurgitation of the movie, or the comic books. The built a game rooted in the trauma the team has been through (mixed from bits mined from decades of comic books and, yes even the movies) AND then the developers went to work on actually processing that trauma. In all of pop culture I can probably name a handful of things that have actually done the work of processing trauma.

None of this would have mattered if the voice and motion capture work hadn’t been spot on for what the game was trying to say. If you didn’t give a damn about Star Lord’s lost family then you wouldn’t be so pulled into the final act. It’s a save the galaxy story beat that feels earned unlike most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

When the final credits started rolling I was happy to have played through this game, and wishing to play it again already. The sign of a great game. Check it out even if that horrid Avengers game turned you off to the MCU-videogames. This is one not to miss.

Halo Infinite

Six years. It’s been a long wait and that last minute delay last year really hurt. So? It’s great... but it also feels like the first chapter of a larger story and world yet to be built. Where Zelda Breath of the Wild felt like a full return to form and  throwback all at once, so too does this game do the same for Halo.

The semi-open world delivers on promises the first Halo made 20 years ago, but this is just a foundation for things we’ve yet to play. The environments are limited, the story runs in place until the last hour, and while full of fun moments the developers don’t seem to have really understood what they had in their hands until they were done making it. I look forward to seeing them deliver the full experience now that they’ve learned how to run.

There’s equally as much ink I could spill on the transition of the multiplayer experience from a buy it once to a free-to-play model... but lets just say instead that great gameplay can’t survive the current shitty monitization model they’ve built that ignores a decade of lessons other developers (including other studios at Xbox) have learned along the way.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition

One of the only “remasters” that delivers what we want from all of them: revisiting old friends who look better than we remember them. The characters and adventures still deliver those emotional gut punches that made the trilogy one of the defining landmarks of that generation of video games. Here we now have a three in one pack that softens the old rough edges, cleans up gameplay mistakes of developers now gone, and gets out of it’s way to let new players discover what the rest of us have known all along: Trust in Shepherd.

Hitman 3

Each level is a rube goldberg machine of death. It’s as if you get to play in your own personal Groundhogs Day simulation, but instead of learning to play the piano you learn the most efficient way to kill targets with piano wire. And that’s before you find the chicken costume that will let you blend into the party where you’ll kill your target with a banana peel.

The developers give players enough breadcrumbs to find their way to a basic takedown, but the game engine will let your creativity shine as you find multiple other ways to dispatch targets. Lots of replayablity and rediclulousness here that outshines the by-the-numbers revenge storyline.

Forza Horizon 5

A love letter to driving cars. Note that I said driving, not racing. There’s a difference that one learns to appreciate quickly. Impressive visuals mix with wonderful feeling car handling that takes you across Mexico as you drift, race, jump off stunt ramps and search for collectables. Easily the most entertainment contained in a single game released this year.


A charming little indie game about finding zen through unpacking moving boxes. The pixel art seems innocent at first, but over time you start to find the story in the objects being carried forward from home to home. How do you fit into student housing? What does it say about a relationship when you move in and they don’t make a lot of room for you? What does your taste in art say about your first home? What parts of your childhood do you pass on to the next generation? It sounds like a ridiculous premise for a video game, but it deserves to be amongst the biggest and loudest of games released this year on the winners podium.

The Artful Escape

It looks like a beautiful 2D side scroller platforming game that you’ve played a hundred times before, but its really a meditation on what it means to create art for yourself vs what society expects from you. Indie folk music bleeds into a David Bowie-esq space glam rock soundtrack that services a story that will keep you playing until the end. Worth a few hours of your time just to hear and see the hero find himself.

Special mentions go to…


It wasn’t released this year or it would have been my game of the year. I would have written a whole essay on it, but instead it came out in 2020 and I just got a chance to play it this year. It won a ton of awards, including best game of 2020, and it quickly becomes obvious why after you spend an hour with it.

You play as the prince of hell as he attempts to escape his fate and find his mother on the surface. This simple premise sets up an amazing gameplay loop of battling through randomly generated dungeons, dying, and using the resources you’ve collected to grow - slightly stronger. Each loop you get a little closer.

That’s usually enough for the genre, known as rouge-likes, but Hades mixes in storybeats with the characters you meet that keep you coming back for more each time. What new nugget of knoweldge or secret will they share with you? How will your bonds change as you push against your father and the other gods of Olympus? Only one way to find out.


First person puzzler in the vein of Portal. That’s all you need to know going in and all that matters. Play it!

Destiny 2

This game got me and a few friends through some rough patches of the pandemic by giving us a weekly excuse to leave Earth’s orbit and save the galaxy. We’ve dropped out of the grind recently, but... I could see us coming back if other games don’t give us a good reason to play video games together every Saturday morning.

The Forgotten City

It’s a time loop game that mixes Roman mythology with Groundhogs Day mechanics. It’s an incredible mystery. I’m still working on finishing the loop, but I can already tell this is a special game.

The Gunk

A refreshing little indie platformer that mixes puzzles in with a stellar pair of characters that keep you engaged as you vacuum up the proverbial ‘gunk.’ Bonus points for being one of the few games to take inspiration from Luigi’s Mansion.

The ones that wiffed it…

Metroid Dread

It looks cheap. It controls super clunky. The game starts with the impression that it doesn’t have to work to earn your investment, which is a bad attitude for any piece of media to have in 2021.

Back 4 Blood

Did the people making this game know that players on console will be using a controller? Because it seems like they didn’t know that based on how poorly it feels to move, aim and shoot... you know the three most important things you do in a first person shooter. Easily one of the most clunky, and boring, openings to a video game I’ve played in years. Also, it’s impressively unfun even when playing with other people... which is hard for a game to do.

12 Minutes

The concept aims higher than the execution. The time loop’s short duration asks for dexterity in movement and action that the controls can’t deliver. The inability of the character and game to respond to you doing things “out of order” quickly breaks the illusion. And, the final reveal at the end leaves such a bad taste in your mouth that you wonder why on Earth anyone involved went along with it.