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2021 Year in Review

On 01/01/2022 at 05:15 PM by The Last Ninja

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It's been quite a year! I played a ton of games this year, and there were plenty of games that I wanted to play that I didn't get to (too many games!). Some of those games will roll over into next year. For 2021, I beat a total of 25 games! Instead of talking about all of those, I'll just highlight the ones I really enjoyed this year and after that, I'll tell you my personal Game of the Year. So here are the games I beat this year that I really loved. 

Hades (Switch eShop)


I'm not a fan of rogue-likes, but I had to try this game since everyone was gushing about it. And it's truly an amazing game! The story alone is done masterfully with an awesome cast of characters and dialog that never repeats (astounding). The different gods and goddesses also have unique personalites and the voice acting here is really great. The combat is fast and fluid, and the upgrade options kept me coming back to do "just one more run." This game was so hard, but I was determined to beat it. Overall, it's extremely satisfying and deserving of all the praise that it gets. 

Cyber Shadow (Switch eShop)

cyber shadow

This was a great action platformer in the vein of Ninja Gaiden (NES). It was actually longer than I thought, and had a compelling story that combined sci-fi with mysticism. Level design, progression, weapons/powerups, bosses, and music were all excellent. Gameplay is fast and reflex-intensive, making the game pretty tough at times. Checkpoints were too far sometimes for my liking, but overall, this was an excellent game that I thoroughly enjoyed. 

Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (DS)

dragon quest

I was so excited to play this game as many regard it as one of the best (if not THE best) of the DQ series. After playing it, I think that DQ XI is the best due to its welcoming nature, whereas this one is far more difficult. This is a classic JRPG (I'm not a fan of grinding). The story here is really cool. You'll start by playing as the father, then eventually the son becomes the main character, and after getting married, you'll play as your kids. You also get to choose who you marry, which is really funny and was such a neat idea. This game is also known for its monster collecting. You can recruit monsters and have them join your party, which is so cool (this was before Pokemon, so props for that). The story has a few twists along the way that will shock you (the game can get dark). Overall, a fantastic game that I completely recommend. 

Bowser's Fury [Super Mario 3D World] (Switch)

bowser's fury

This small new game mode blew me away! It's the first truly open world Mario game. Exploring the different islands is so cool, and when Fury Bowser shows up, it's intense! I really enjoyed the fights against Fury Bowser, even if they were very simple. Also, getting different powerups and holding them is a wonderful new addition to the Mario formula--there were times when I needed to be Cat Mario to climb something, so I just used a cat bell that I had in reserve, and bingo! While this game was very short, it was amazing, and we're all hoping that this is the direction of the next 3D Mario game (it has to be, right?). 

New Pokemon Snap (Switch)

new pokemon snap

I was so excited for this game. It easily surpasses the first game in length, gameplay, and replayability. There's a lot to do here. This is a very relaxing game, I loved moving through the environments slowly while looking at the different Pokemon and snapping pictures. However, at certain points the game requires you to do a very specific thing, and sometimes it's not clear what to do. I had to actually look up walkthroughs at times, and even then, it was still confusing. This doesn't ruin the game, it's just a bummer. The "boss battles" were also cool, where you have to snap pictures of a rare Pokemon, and the professor will only accept a very specific shot. These were actually kinda tough. Overall, great game! 

Yoku's Island Express (Switch eShop)


This is the first and only pinball Metroidvania game. Wow. It works! I loved the world, the characters, and the atmosphere. It's an island, so there are plenty of tropical things with natives that resemble the Hawaiian people, but there are also caverns and tall snowy mountains. The mechanics are a lot of fun, shooting the ball around, although there were times when it was difficult to hit a specific spot or object. The length of the game is also just right. It's not a long game at all, but it's not super short either. Hopefully they'll make a sequel. 

WarioWare: Get It Together! (Switch)


I was so excited when this got announced. This game was able to retain that WarioWare feel while still being unique thanks to the new character system. I loved using the different characters, although some are frustrating to use (like the Ninja twins and Penny). The story mode is quite basic, but I liked it, and it actually kept going at the end when I thought it was over. Playing co-op is a lot of fun, but the 4-player minigames are awesome. Pucker Up is clearly the best one, but there's some other great ones, such as the balloon game (which returns from the GCN game) and the Super Smash Bros-esque fighting game. Good game. Now if only they'd make a new Wario Land game...

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles (Switch)

ace attorney

I'm a huge Ace Attorney fan, so I freaked out when this was announced. We've been waiting for ages for these games to get translated for the West, and it finally happened! This is a collection of two games, and they were written by the original Ace Attorney writer Shu Takumi. These are prequels, taking place in England in the late 1800s. Right off the bat, the characters are fantastic, with a very likable protagonist, assistant, and side characters. Perhaps the best of all is Herlock Sholmes, who is often hilarious and endearing due to the fact that he often gets the facts wrong and you have to fix them (but he never gets mad at you for correcting him LOL). It's true that the first game is a bit slow, leaving a bunch of threads hanging that have you asking, "What about that?" But that's where the second game comes in! The second game is WAY better than the first because it resolves all those threads, and it's amazing! The last case will blow your mind and satisfy every curiosity. The only problem here is that these cases are super long, but again, it's an enjoyable ride. As an Ace Attorney fan, I was really happy with this game. 

Metroid Dread (Switch)


This was a big surprise this year. Getting a new 2D Metroid game was great, but who knew that it would be so good? This is probably my favorite 2D Metroid game after Super Metroid (which is basically untouchable). Mercury Steam nailed it! The atmosphere is perfect. The controls are fluid and satisfying. The design is excellent. The bosses are really cool. And then there's the E.M.M.I. which I wasn't sure if I would like, but they work really well! These moments are really tense and I died a lot, but I liked that because it allowed me to learn from my mistakes and figure out a better way (which makes me feel like a beast when I blast the EMMI's face off). Also, the story here is really cool with an ending that was satisfying. Hopefully this game sold well enough for Nintendo to let Mercury Steam make another 2D Metroid game. 

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom (Switch eShop)

monster boy

I'd been wanting to get this game for awhile because I heard really good things about it, and Wow--this is an exceptional game! First of all, the hand-drawn artstyle is gorgeous, but beyond that, it's a large Metroidvania game with great level design. Some of the puzzles were too confusing and some of the bosses were tough, which means this isn't a "kiddie" game. Also, it's a much longer game than I expected. The music is also fantastic, led by the legendary Yuzo Koshiro. Highly recommend! 

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow [Castlevania Advance Collection] (Switch)


I've been hearing that this is the best Metroidvania Castlevania game after Symphony of the Night, so I had to play it when the Advance Collection came out. And yeah, it's really good. Certainly better than the other two GBA games. The castle is huge and fun to explore. Enemies and bosses are good. A unique feature is the soul system, which I thought was really neat. I even went out of my way to get the three souls needed to get the "Good" ending. Honestly, this is probably a superior game to the DS games because there's no gimmicky touch controls. Certainly recommended. 

Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition (Switch)


I played this with my nephews and we had a blast. This is one of the funnest muliplayer games out there. The gameplay is very simple and easy to understand and the level design is great with all kinds of creative ideas (like when the game turns into a shoot 'em up or the levels that are rhythm games). The chase levels can be difficult, but thankfully, there are plenty of check points and unlimited lives. There's also a whole bunch of different characters to choose. And I have to mention the extra mode called Kung Foot, which everyone loved to death. It's just a 2D soccer game, but it's really addicting and fun. 

Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon (Switch eShop)

shovel knight

I love Shovel Knight, so I had to get this spinoff puzzle game. All the characters you love are here, plus a few new characters that are excellent. This is a hard game, but thankfully, they let you adjust the difficulty, which makes the game beatable. This game could be called a "rogue-lite" as it has different items for each run and the dungeons are randomly generated. It's addicting, fun, has plenty of things for completionists (which I'm not), and even has a "true" ending that I had to get. I haven't been able to play mulitplayer with anyone, but it has a multiplayer mode, and I'm sure it's really fun too. 

My Personal Game of the Year is....

Metroid Dread 


I've seen several people proclaiming Dread as their GotY, which thrills me to no end. The truth is, we were all excited for a new 2D Metroid game, but Dread surpassed our expectations. The game is so meticulously designed and the controls are so tight and fluid that you can't help but be in awe. The game is beautiful too, with plenty of awesome cut scenes and story moments that live up to the Metroid name. I was planning on making The Great Ace Attorney my GotY, but Dread impressed me so much that I had to change that. Speedrunners are also very happy with Dread as it welcomes speedruns (perhaps even more so than Super Metroid). I think this game was snubbed at the Game Awards--it deserves to be GotY, and so many people agree with me. 

What about you? What was your personal Game of the Year for 2021?



Cary Woodham

01/02/2022 at 07:25 PM

I wanted to review Cyber Shadow but was denied a review code, so I didn't play it.

I asked for Super Mario 3-D World + Bowser's Fury for my birthday because I didn't want to spend full price on it.  Bowser's Fury is fun, but it's just a over-glorified Mario Odyssey level.  Glad I didn't pay full price for that.

Since you read my GOTY blog, you know I picked New Pokemon Snap as my GOTY for 2021.  I just really liked it!

I reviewed Yoku's Island Express back in the day and loved it.  One of the best indie games I've played in a while.  Here's my review:

WarioWare: Get it Together is a bit light on content, but still fun.

I'm still playing through the second set of cases in The Great Ace Attorney.  Such a great game.  It came real close to being my GOTY, along with Ys 9.

Unfortunately Metroid Dread has fallen a few pegs because I can't beat that last boss.  I even looked up a guide and it said there were three phases, and I can't even get past the first one!  Sheesh!  I didn't have that much trouble with the other bosses.  Making the final boss ten times harder is just bad imbalanced game design. No thank you.

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom was such a great game but it got a little too hard around the volcano and haunted house levels.

I kind of want to try the Castlevania GBA collection, but I'm not a big fan of Castlevania so I may wait for a price drop like I did with the other Konami collections.

The newer Rayman games have been pretty good, with very solid play control.

I'm working on reviewing Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon right now!  It's fun, but a bit too hard.  Kind of like the first game!

The Last Ninja

01/03/2022 at 12:13 PM

I disagree with you on Bowswer's Fury. It's the first truly open world Mario game and it's bigger than any level in Odyssey. It also adds new things to the Mario formula that need to be in the next Mario game. It's short, I'll give you that, but keep in mind that they also enhanced 3D World, so I think the full price is well worth it. 

As for Dread, the final boss is really tough, but by the time you get there, you should be a master of the controls. The fight is demanding as it requires you to use all the moves you've learned, so it's just a matter of reflexes and learning the boss patterns. It's a bummer that you can't beat it because the ending is really cool. I sympathize because there have been plenty of games where I got to the final boss and couldn't beat it. Very frustrating! 


01/03/2022 at 02:13 PM

Yes, I expected you to give the Game of the Year nod to Great Ace Attorney but Dread is very deserving. Samus Returns was fine but nothing special and I expected something similar with Dread. I cannot believe how much of a better game it is over its predecessor!

The Last Ninja

01/04/2022 at 11:10 AM

Yeah, it's amazing. I sure hope Nintendo has Mercury Steam make another 2D Metroid game since they have such a good understanding of the formula now. 

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