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Cary's Best Games of 2021 Award Show!

On 12/18/2021 at 09:06 AM by Cary Woodham

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Boy this has been one roller coaster of a year, with lots of ups and downs.  But it’s the end of the year so you know what that means?  It’s time for my “Best Games of 2021 Awards Show!”  Keep in mind that this is my list only and no other outside opinions contributed.  And if a game isn’t on this list, it either just didn’t appeal to me as much or I haven’t had a chance to play it yet.  Ok with that out of the way, let’s begin!


Ys 9: Monstrum Nox (PS4)

If there was ever a time I wanted to give the best game award to two games as a tie, this would be it.  Between the other game that got the better award, Ys 9 is certainly the longer, more fulfilling game.  But the other title won out in the end for reasons we’ll get to in a bit.  Ys is an action adventure hack and slash RPG series with a long and interesting history, and I’ve always been interested in them, even when they weren’t quite as readily available to play in the US.  Luckily they are now, and while Ys Seven is still my favorite, I really liked Ys 8 as well.  It had a neat tropical island setting with dinosaurs, and one of my brothers even called it “Jurassic Park: The JRPG.”  It also added some new gameplay elements like being able to build your own castaway town.  Ys 9 has a more dark, goth theme as you explore a dirty city and giant prison instead of a colorful tropical island.  So didn’t think I’d like it as much, but I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would.  Ys series hero Adol finds himself in this town and cursed by a mysterious lady, and is forced to stay inside the city with a bunch of other cursed people.  This ‘curse’ gives each of the team a superpower, and while useless on their own, once you get enough powers and can grapple hooks, glide, and climb walls, it’s really fun to explore the sprawling city.  Gameplay wise it’s pretty much the same as Ys 8, with you building up a pub in town instead of a castaway village.  There are lots of refinements to the things added in Ys 8, though, especially when it comes to sidequests.  The characters are really likable, too, my favorite being Raging Bull (can you guess why?).  In fact, when I beat the game, I was a little sad that I wouldn’t be able to interact with these characters further.  So yeah, while it may not be as good as the previous two Ys titles, if you want a great action RPG you can really sink your teeth into, Ys 9 will really fit the bill!  This game also wins because it was there for me to escape when I was having to deal with a couple of rough months in the beginning of the year.

Runners Up:

Balan Wonderworld (PS4)

A lot of reviewers bashed on this game, and for good reason.  But I didn’t think it was THAT bad, so that’s why I put it on the list.  Granted, it’s not that great either, but it at least kept me interested until almost the end.  In the game you play as a kid who is sad for some reason, but a mysterious magical flying dude with a top hat lures him to an abandoned theater where he is whisked to a magical land so he can help out others with their problems.  The kid can don different suits that give him powers, and you must collect statues to open up new areas.  If parts of this premise sounds like NiGHTS, there’s a good reason for that.  Yuji Naka, creator of Sonic and NiGHTS, made this game, too!  Neat side story: one time at E3 I StreetPassed Yuji Naka on my 3DS!  Anyway, like Sonic and NiGHTS, I feel like Yuji Naka has a lot of good ideas, they’re just not executed very well in the games he’s involved in.  Here is no exception.  My main problem with this game is that you have to collect way too many statues to proceed.  After I opened up all the main areas, I still had 15 left to go before I could reach the final boss, so that’s when I stopped playing.  I think this game probably would’ve been more accepted if it were released in the GameCube era.  We just don’t get as many colorful 3-D platformers like this anymore.

Psychonauts 2 (PS4)

I was really excited for this one because the original was my Game of the Year back in 2006.  This one is still very good, but I didn’t like it as much.  The writing is still clever, but not as funny.  Also I was mad this game didn’t get a physical release.  There are other reasons why I don’t like this one as much, but we won’t go into that here. 


Metroid Dread (Switch)

This one kind of wins by default, since it’s the only really good 2-D game I played this year, but it’s still a very good game that would’ve been hard to beat otherwise.  It was so exciting to hear about this one back at E3 because it had been around 20 years since they first hinted of Metroid Dread back in Metroid Prime.  Here’s what I think happened.  When Metroid Prime 4 got switched back to Retro Studios developing it, Nintendo reached out to the developers of Samus Returns on 3DS and asked them to make another one like it so people wouldn’t have to wait so long for a new Metroid game.  Then they just put the “Dread” name on it to get people excited for it.  Only problem I have with this game is that as of this writing, I still can’t beat the last boss! 


Pac-Man 99 (Switch)

Battle Royale games usually pit you against 100 or so other players as you fight to the death with the last one standing the victor.  Most of these kinds of games are shooters, and because of that, I never thought I’d play a Battle Royale style game.  But a couple of years ago, Nintendo released Tetris 99, which I still play from time to time.  Later they released a similar game called Super Mario Bros. 35, which I dabbled in a little bit, but not much (I’m not as big of a fan of the original Super Mario Bros. game as people think I am).  But boy they sure got me with their latest ‘99’ Battle Royale style game featuring a classic.  This time with Pac-Man 99, where you play the original Pac-Man game against 99 other players!  It’s available as a freebie to Nintendo Switch Online users.  It’s a lot of fun, and I can usually get pretty high in the rankings.  I’m better at it than Tetris 99 anyway.  Plus it has a lot of cool DLC which I bought because I’m such a Namco freak.

Runners Up:

NEO GEO Pocket Color Selection vol. 1 (Switch)

Game maker SNK is known for their fighting games, but they also made their own consoles, like the NEO GEO and subsequent arcade machine.  When it came time for them to compete with Nintendo’s Game Boy Color, they brought out the NEO GEO Pocket Color.  This was a really awesome little handheld, and for a short while, I even liked it better than Nintendo’s portable offerings.  And now you can play a collection of ten NGPC games on the Switch!

Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World (PS4)

There is a series of obscure, but still fun 2-D platformers called Wonder Boy.  There’s some interesting history behind them, and they even tie into the Hudson’s Adventure Island series in a way.  But the fourth game in the series didn’t even star a boy at all, but a girl named Asha instead.  Originally this game was only released in Japan on the SEGA Genesis (called Mega Drive over there).  But a while back they re-released it on the PS3, and I reviewed it a long time ago and loved it.  And now they’ve remade it with 3-D graphics and other improvements.  I love some of the quality of life features, like being able to save at any time now.  In the original game, you could only save at certain parts when you talk to sage.  That sage is still here, but when you first talk to him he says, “Did you know you can save at any time now? Guess that means I’m out of a job!”  Anyway, if you like Shantae games, you’ll definitely want to check this one out.

Space Invaders Invincible Collection (Switch)

Space Invaders is just as iconic of a classic video game as Pac-Man or Tetris.  We probably wouldn’t be where we are today without it.  And now you can play nearly a dozen games in the series with Space Invaders Invincible Collection.

Cotton Reboot! (PS4)

“Cotton” is a series of 2-D horizontally scrolling shooters that were very popular in the 90’s during the 16- and 32-bit eras.  They star a candy-obsessed witch girl named Cotton who flies on her broom as she shoots down foes in spooky yet silly settings.  It’s an example of the “Cute ‘Em Up” subgenre of shooters similar to titles like Twinbee, Parodius, Fantasy Zone, or Ordyne.  And now the series is coming back with Cotton Reboot!, based on the original game.  Darkness has fallen over a fairy kingdom, and a fairy named Silk enlists witch girl Cotton’s help to save the day (with a bribe of candy, of course).

ActRaiser Renaissance (PS4)

When this was first announced during a Nintendo Direct, most people kind of brushed over it but I was really excited for it.  I loved the original ActRaiser and rented it all the time on the SNES, so a remake was a big surprise.  The only big thing I don’t like about it is they added tower defense stuff to the town building mode, and I’m not a big fan of tower defense.  Here it just feels like they did it to pad out the gameplay.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania (Switch)

This is a collection of levels and mini-games from Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2, the best ones in the series.  Only problem is they somehow ruined Monkey Target!


Game Builder Garage (Switch)

I don’t know if this was in response to Sony’s “Dream” game, but Game Builder Garage lets you create your own simple 2-D and 3-D games.  It’s kind of like WarioWare D.I.Y. except a lot more involved.  It also feels like it uses a lot of assets from the Labo games, except without the cardboard.  The game also has easy to follow, step by step lessons on creating games, and I think that they’ll give kids the confidence to try programming themselves.  It’s one of those games where I can imagine kids saying, “I can do this.”  And the words “I can” are very powerful indeed!  And in today’s world where programming skills are going to be in high demand for a long time, any way to get kids to be interested in learning more about these skills is very important. 


Mario Golf: Super Rush (Switch)

This one kind of wins by default, since it’s the only sports game I’ve played all year.  But it’s a lot of fun.  Simple pick up and play controls, and lots of modes.  You have your standard golf, but also a Speed Mode where everyone plays at the same time and you make them run to the ball to hit it again!  But my favorite is Battle Mode where all the holes are in a stadium arena, and the first to sink three holes first wins!  You can also use items to hinder the others here, too.  There’s also a Story Mode where you play as your Mii and take on Mario characters in tournaments and level up your stats and such. 


The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles (Switch)

I love the Phoenix Wright series so I was so happy to finally get this game in the US, as it was never released on 3DS outside of Japan.  It’s really two games in one, and pretty meaty, too.  As of this writing, I’m still playing through the second set of cases!  Not only is this game weird because you play as a lawyer, but also because it’s set in the 1800’s in mostly London and you play as Phoenix Wright’s ancestor!  Even weirder is that you match wits and team up with Sherlock Holmes!  Well, they call him “Herlock Sholmes” in the game, but we know who he really is!

Runner Up:

WarioWare: Get it Together (Switch)

I love the WarioWare games, and they’re always weird.  This one’s a bit light on content, but still fun.


Picross S: Genesis and Master System Edition (Switch)

It wins by default and it’s just a Picross game, but I love it when they make Picross games where you make pictures based on other video games.  I wish they’d do that more often.  I want a Kirby Picross!


World Flipper (iPad)

I’ve always liked video pinball games, even when I was a kid.  One of the video pinball games I remember on the NES was Pinball Quest.  It stood out because it combined elements of pinball with an RPG fantasy quest game.  Granted the game was super frustrating but the idea was neat and I’m surprised game makers haven’t revisited that concept more.  But now they have with World Flipper, a free-to-play mobile game that combines both pinball and RPG elements.

And now for my Best Game of 2021 award.  Taiko drum roll, please…


New Pokémon Snap (Switch)

This was one of those years where there wasn’t one sure-fire GOTY for me, like there was last year with Animal Crossing: New Horizons.  But there was a lot of smaller, really good games this year that could’ve won the GOTY for 2021.  And that’s not a bad thing either.  I could’ve easily given this award to games like Ys 9 or The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles instead.  But I gave the award to New Pokémon Snap because it was just as fun and way more accessible.  I loved the original Pokémon Snap, and countless fans, myself included, have wanted a sequel for many years.  And now we finally got one!  Took it long enough.  Kind of surprised it didn’t happen on the Wii U or 3DS, since both of them had motion controls AND cameras.  This was one of those years where a lot of long dormant franchises got their due!  Anyway, many people were worried about the new game, since the old one was made by HAL and the new one by Namco Bandai.  But you needn’t worry about my favorite game company Namco, as they blew it out of the water.  More Pokémon, better graphics, more things to do, and the main game is about ten times as long!  I thoroughly enjoyed it and the game has universal appeal and that’s why it wins the award. 

And those are my best games of the year.  In the comments section, let me know what you think of my list, and tell me YOUR favorite games of the year.  That’s all for now!  Later!  --Cary



The Last Ninja

12/18/2021 at 12:41 PM

My GOTY is Metroid Dread (which got snubbed at the Game Awards). Loved it so much! It's the hardest 2D Metroid game by far, so it's understandable you're stuck on the final boss, but keep at it, I think you can beat him if you keep trying. 

Great Ace Attorney was my most played game this year--82 hours! So take your time, but dude, the last case is nuts, you're gonna love it. 

Also, my nephew is getting Mario Golf: Super Rush for Christmas, so I'll be playing that with him, looking forward to it. It's a shame that no one's talking about that game any more. Also, no one's talking about New Pokemon Snap (which I loved) or WarioWare: Get It Together anymore, which is a shame because these are great games. 

Cary Woodham

12/18/2021 at 08:44 PM

Yeah the only other Metroid game I've never been able to beat was Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.  So I'm not BAD at Metroid games.  That last boss in Dread just sucks!

According to Nintendo's records, The Great Ace Attorney is my 2nd most played game this year on the Switch. 1st was Animal Crossing. :)

That's one of the reasons why I do a GOTY blog halfway through the year, to honor those games that get forgotten during the Christmas rush.

Casey Curran Staff Writer

12/20/2021 at 06:27 PM

Metroid Dread is my GOTY though Halo Infinite could pass it by the end of the year. Between the open world campaign and how much the MP is bringing back the glory days with my buddies I'm very happy with it. Honorable mentions would be Ratchet and Clank Rift Apart, Psychonauts 2, Deathloop, and yes, New Pokémon Snap.


I really need to get back to Ace Attorney.

Cary Woodham

12/21/2021 at 08:12 AM

My brothers loved the Halo games.  I would always call the vehicles you ride around in those games Tractors.  Not sure why, they just made me think of tractors.

Other games like Ys 9 and The Great Ace Attorney came REAL close to getting my GOTY award.  New Pokemon Snap won out in the end, but those others were real close.

Casey Curran Staff Writer

12/21/2021 at 08:46 AM

I still haven't played a Ys game. I hear they're good and look neat just looks like one giant rabbit hole to delve into and I barely have enough time for the games I'm playing.

Cary Woodham

12/21/2021 at 09:02 AM

Ys games are great, but yeah, that's the ONLY Falcom game series I play.  I don't have time for Trails in the Sky and other stuff they do.


12/27/2021 at 03:18 PM

I'm really excited to play all the retro stuff and Pokemon Snap on my new Switch (which I still haven't opened yet). Also: Pac-Man 99, Neo Geo Collection, Space Invaders collection (Lunar Rescue ftw), ActRaiser Renaisance. 

I don't really have a GotY game this year. I've jumped around a lot and played some stuff under most people's radar, free2play games, indie stuff, most I don't even recall at the moment. I am excited for The Gunk, which just came out. I'm hoping it's just like my last year's GotY game Journey to the Savage Planet. 

Cary Woodham

12/28/2021 at 01:52 AM

When you do open your Switch, Pac-Man 99 is free, but you have to have an online account to play it.  But you can get an online account for only 20 bucks, so I'd say give it a try!


12/29/2021 at 06:35 PM

$20 for a whole year. I think I'd do that. 

Cary Woodham

12/30/2021 at 06:12 AM

Yeah Nintendo's online service sucks, but at least it's cheap.  You can get a more expensive package that lets you play N64 and Genesis games, but I've just stuck with the $20 package for now.


01/13/2022 at 12:14 PM

How is it bad? (I still haven't unpacked my Switch)

Cary Woodham

01/14/2022 at 08:06 PM

Online play isn't as smooth as it is on Xbox or PlayStation.  They don't have anything like Game Pass or PS+. Stuff like that.  Very bare bones.


01/20/2022 at 11:02 PM

In a way, it's kind of refreshing not to have all those online services. I get overwhelmed by it all on Xbox. 

Cary Woodham

01/21/2022 at 08:30 AM

I suppose...but you probably feel like you get your money's worth, right?


02/01/2022 at 12:47 PM

Yeah, Game Pass saves me a ton of money because I would usually get a fair number of first-party microsoft games that are now releasing day-one on Game Pass. 

Cary Woodham

02/02/2022 at 08:46 AM

Would be cool if Nintendo did that, but I doubt they ever will.


12/29/2021 at 04:45 AM

Capcom was really on a roll this year, what with Resident Evil Village, two Monster Hunter games, and all their other stuff like Ace Attorney. I think they were probably the best publisher/developer of the year.

I got the Space Invaders Invincible Collection, despite the fact that it was really too expensive, mostly because I wanted to be able to play Space Invaders along with Centipede and Galaga. Those were the "big three" shooters of the early 80s. I also played Lunar Rescue for the first time. I'd played a clone of Lunar Rescue that was made by Broderbund on the Atari 8-bit computers. I wish they had a comprehensive Taito collection, on Switch one that had games like Space Dungeon, Jungle King (yeah, I know it would be Jungle Hunt), Arkanoid, Bubble Bobble, Rastan, and Zoo Keeper.

My Switch sure got me through some rough times this year. 2021 wasn't a good year for me personally. Hopefully 2022 will be better.

Cary Woodham

12/30/2021 at 06:16 AM

I only played The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles from Capcom this year.  I would've liked to have played Monster Hunter Stories 2, but you can't play all the games out there!  Not enough time!

There is a Taito collection coming out on Switch this coming year, but it's by no means comprehensive.

Yeah, 2020 and 2021 were really sucky years for me, too.  At least in 2021 I found out my mom is cancer free, which is some of the best news I've heard in a long time, but I had to go through three months of hell to get there.  I don't really have high hopes for 2022 yet.  Just sucky times right now.


01/03/2022 at 02:18 PM

I'm not surprised at your GotY choice, Cary. I'm still slowly working through it myself. I'll finish it eventually! I'm glad to see Ys IX get some recongnition though. I've had Ys VIII loaded on my Switch for at least a year now. Maybe 2022 will be the year I get to it.

If you wanna start a petition for Kirby Picross, I'll gladly sign it! Laughing

Cary Woodham

01/03/2022 at 09:14 PM

Yeah I just really liked New Pokemon Snap.  Ys 9 and The Great Ace Attorney were also close picks, but I felt New Pokemon Snap was more accessible to all in the end.  Ys 8 is a very good game, too.  I hope you get a chance to try it!

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