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Post Arcade’s top 10 games of 2021

From clever killers to cute critters — and everything in-between — game critic Chad Sapieha picks his favourite plays of the year

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2021 has proven to be another one of those years most of us would rather forget — except, perhaps, for some of the games we played.


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It turned out to be a year of comfort food for me, as I ended up spending much of my time with newly remastered versions of old favourites, like the Mass Effect trilogy and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic . Even many of the new releases I liked most were sequels that played it pretty safe in long-running franchises like Resident Evil and Halo.

But there was also the occasional burst of inspiration in games like Deathloop and Wildermyth . Plus, we got to see just what new visual delights were possible on Sony and Microsoft’s new systems in games like Forza Horizon 5 and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart .

But that’s enough preamble. Let’s get to it. Here are my 10 favourite new releases of 2021.

Forza Horizon 5 Photo by Microsoft Game Studios

10. Forza Horizon 5 | Xbox Series S/X, Xbox One, Windows PC

It doesn’t do much new, but the latest entry in Playground Games’ Xbox exclusive open-world racing series is polished, pretty and a pleasure to play. I also found it perfect for just about any amount of time I might have available, equally capable of killing 15 minutes while my wife is getting ready to go out or a whole lazy Saturday. With hundreds of challenges — not including random social races and events — there’s never a lack of something to do. And half the fun is in experimenting with how to go about doing it by trying some of the more unusual cars in your stable, like the Morgan Three-Wheeler, or 1945 Willys MB Jeep. It’s just plain fun.


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Death’s Door
Death’s Door Photo by Acid Nerve

9. Death’s Door | Xbox Series S/X, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Switch, Windows PC

This mildly eccentric indie action game, which puts players in control of a crow who’s been contracted out as a grim reaper of sorts, is all about unlocking and exploring new paths in a labyrinthine world. Presented from a raised isometric perspective, you’ll get into little skirmishes with imaginative enemies, be confronted with the occasional moderately challenging contextual puzzle and meet a bizarre cast of characters — like a fellow whose head is a pot of soup from out of which he pours servings as you attempt to carry out your reaperly duties.

Fantasian Photo by Mistwalker

8. Fantasian | iOS, Mac OS

Anchored by a pair of Final Fantasy veterans, this mobile RPG has a wonderfully distinctive look — several of its sets are actually real-world dioramas lovingly crafted for and scanned into the game — as well as magnificent music composed by renowned Final Fantasy scorer Nobuo Uematsu and a satisfying old-school fighting system. But it also mixes things up by allowing players to bypass easier battles and group all of these skipped enemies together for an epic and much more interesting confrontation later on. And since it’s an Apple Arcade exclusive, there are no annoying microtransactions or cheap pay-to-win schemes, which is like a breath of fresh air when playing a mobile game these days. If you’ve got an iPhone, this is a must-play.


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Halo Infinite
Halo Infinite Photo by Microsoft Game Studios

7. Halo Infinite | Xbox Series S/X, Xbox One, Windows PC

After creating a bit of a narrative mess with the last couple of Halos, 343 Industries has taken the series back to basics in Halo Infinite . We’ve got one hero — the Master Chief — and one ring, Zeta Halo. It feels like a concentrated effort to bring old Halo veterans (like me) back into the fold while casually introducing modern concepts and mechanics where it makes sense, like turning the ring into a more-or-less free-to-roam world. Most importantly, it’s extremely playable. Gunfights are a mix of power and precision, vehicles are overpowered and chaotic, and online multiplayer — still a work in progress — is basic but compelling.

Hitman 3
Hitman 3 Photo by IO Interactive

6. Hitman III | Xbox Series S/X, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Switch, Windows PC

Full disclosure: Before the reboot, I wasn’t a Hitman fan. But the new series changed my tune — especially this one, which provides a master class in level design. Precious few games make playing through the same maps again and again so rewarding and surprising. Players are organically encouraged to change gear and tactics to meet new objectives or just to see what they can get away with. Reconciling the towering cyclone of if-then statements swirling through each environment must have taken an enormous effort from both designers and testers. Oh, and it looks pretty swell to boot — especially on the new consoles.


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Age of Empires IV
Age of Empires IV Photo by Relic Entertainment

5. Age of Empires IV | Windows PC

Expectations were high for the return of this real-time strategy heavyweight after a 15-year hiatus, but Relic Entertainment — taking over from previous series stewards Ensemble Entertainment — managed to pull it off. Surprisingly accessible yet profound of strategy, it leads players through several historic battles from the first half of the second millennium, then challenges us to use what we’ve learned in customizable skirmishes against the computer or take on a true challenge versus other human players online. RTS rookies and veterans alike are bound to find something to love, even if it’s just the beautifully made historical documentary shorts unlocked after campaign missions.


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Players are stuck in an infinitely repeating time cycle in Deathloop, and the only way to escape the nightmare is to plan a perfect day of assassinations.
Deathloop Photo by Bethesda Softworks

4. Deathloop | PlayStation 5, Windows PC

One of the most original games of the year, Arkane’s Deathloop oozes visual style and has a delightfully dark sense of humour. I’m generally not a big fan of roguelike or roguelite games (which is to say, games that force players to restart almost from scratch upon each death), but Arkane’s combination of smart storytelling and a compelling objective — you need to set up a perfect day in which you can kill all of the main baddies in a single run — sunk its hooks into me right away and never let go. It does get a little repetitious by the end, but the payoff is a terrific conclusion that I, for one, didn’t see coming.

Wildermyth Photo by Worldwalker Games

3. Wildermyth | Windows PC, Mac OS

Designed by a tiny team of two, this bold little indie RPG combines the stories of multiple generations of characters, allowing us to watch our heroes grow old before our eyes. We get to create and command multiple groups, sending them to towns and forests dotting a small map, and taking direct control of each little fellowship when battles start. Battles are turn-based, and feature a curious but engaging mechanic that allows our heroes to “interfuse” with random objects to do things like create traps or set fires to damage enemies. There’s a creative spark in almost every facet of the experience, making it one of the most memorable games I played in 2021.


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Resident Evil: Village
Resident Evil: Village Photo by Capcom

2. Resident Evil Village | Xbox Series S/X, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Windows PC

The giant vampire lady got all the love, but there’s a lot more to Capcom’s latest survival horror adventure than this one colossal boss. Creepy locations, panicky action and a twisty narrative combine to make Village one of the best latter-day Resident Evils. As 343 Industries did with Halo Infinite , Capcom took what everyone loved from early games in the series — an atmospheric mansion, spine-chilling audio, beautifully rendered story scenes — and added some modern touches, including refined combat and crafting. Resident Evil is officially back on track.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart Photo by Sony Interactive Entertainment

1. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart | PlayStation 5

If you want to see what your PlayStation 5 is capable of, this is the game to get. From stunning visuals to imaginative weapons and gear that take advantage of the DualSense’s two-stage triggers, this colourful action game is purpose-built to make Sony’s console shine. We’re also introduced to a female Lombax with a magnetic personality and provided imaginative, kinetic combat that will keep even veteran players on their toes. The end result is one of those too-rare games with potential to appeal to just about anyone, regardless of age or gender.

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