Best of 2021: Elena’s Choice

With 2021 quickly nearing the end it’s time to look back at our favourite games of the year.

Over the last three years, I’ve been really into roguelikes/rogue-lites, especially card games. So I can’t help but recommend two such titles, plus one highly anticipated indie gem.

Whether you play to challenge yourself or to relax, I hope 2022 will be a fine year of gaming for you. Thank you for hanging out on LadiesGamers, and drop us a line if you loved any of these games!


Genre: Deckbuilder, rogue-lite. Developer/Publisher: Klei Entertainment

LadiesGamers Griftlands
At first glance: Card game with a Star Warz-y feel.

What it’s about: Build two powerful decks of cards, one for combat and one for negotiation. At almost every plot juncture, decide if you’d rather solve problems with weapons or words. As a result, you’ll either make friends or enemies out of the Griftlands’ inhabitants. They’ll either help or hinder you in future battles.

Why it’s awesome: It has what Slay the Spire didn’t have: world-building, plot, and pets. Plus stellar writing. It’s hard to find one bland conversation in Griftlands, and each of the three protagonists has their own meaningful tale. As roguelike deck builders go, this one does well in every department including gameplay, replayability, art, and sound.

Also, Smith. That hammerhead/frog-looking dude is Griftlands’ best protagonist. Maybe even the best protagonist of all deckbuilding games. How often, in this genre, do you get a funny story AND cool card mechanics?

Read more: Here’s my full review.


Genre: Action, adventure. Developer: Pixpil. Publisher: Chucklefish.

LadiesGamers Eastward
At first glance:
 Winner of “Most Charming, Heart-Warming Apocalyptic Game”

What it’s about: Gruff tough John and his cute adoptive daughter. She has special powers. He has a frying pan. The pan whacks monsters and cooks food to restore hearts, Zelda-style. They journey eastward.

Why it’s awesome: The art’s undoubtedly amazing, but I didn’t expect the music to be just as fantastic and memorable. Right after finishing this 30-hour journey, I revisited the soundtrack to relive its climactic moments. Inspired by 80s and 90s games, the music was composed by Joel Corelitz (e.g. Halo Infinite, Death Stranding). While Eastward‘s plot is riddled with unresolved questions, the overall journey was emotionally satisfying. Just be forewarned: there’s tons of un-skippable dialogue.

The game is often called a love letter to classic games like Zelda and Earthbound. I think it’s also a love letter to East Asia: trains, hot spring, takoyaki, oyakodon . . . such beautifully packaged nostalgia.

Curious Expedition 2

Genre: Strategy, rogue-lite. Developer: Maschinen-Mensch. Publisher: Thunderful.

LadiesGamers Curious Expedition 2
At first glance:
Feels like a survival board game. Danger and disaster are deliciously ever so near, and you wouldn’t want it any other way.

What it’s about: Fame is the aim of this game. Play an intrepid 19th-century explorer, leading expeditions to mysterious foggy islands. Treasures abound, but not without many dangers. Manage your party’s sanity and supplies well if you want to make it home!

Why it’s awesome: If you dig the 19th century, Indiana Jones, and The Adventures of Tin Tin, it’s hard not to feel the pull of Curious Expedition. A new art style brings freshness to a formula that’s old but still addictive. But this sequel does more than paint a new coat. It adds an easier difficulty level (much appreciated) and lots of fun new content.

Beneath the surface is a compelling strategy game. I enjoyed weighing the risk/reward of each move and micromanaging a colorful inventory. Also, I love disaster movies and this game feels like one sometimes. There’s a certain thrill to fleeing erupting volcanoes and giant legendary monsters.

Read more: Here’s my full review.

Special Mentions

I’m still playing through two games, but they’re worth mentioning: Great Ace Attorney Chronicles and Signs of the Sojourner. Both were ported to the Switch in 2021.

LadiesGamers Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
I have to reserve full judgment on Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, but I do recommend it to fans of the series. Victorian-era London is fun to learn about, especially from the perspective of Japanese protagonists who find themselves in this foreign land. There are a few annoying characters, but the amusing Herlock Sholmes makes up for all their faults. If you’re tired of thumbing through reams of dialogue, or stuck in a conundrum, then hit “Story Mode” and the game will play itself automatically!

LadiesGamers Signs of the Sojourner
Signs of the Sojourner, meanwhile, is worth trying for its unique concept. Wholesome yet real, it’s a card game about communicating with people. This deck builder isn’t about fighting (and neither is it a roguelike). Rather you’re trying to get along with new people you meet while travelling from town to town. If conversations go well, you’ll obtain goods from merchants, learn their backstories, and even help them with personal problems. Playing cards with matching symbols seems too easy at first but soon presents a nice challenge.

What I love most about Signs is how your character changes along the way due to your deck’s limited space. You might successfully master new communication styles (e.g. “direct and forceful” cards) but, as a result, end up forgetting old ones (e.g. “empathetic and deferential” cards). That can be a bit of a pickle! Read more: Here is Paula’s full review.

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