We are nearing the end of 2021. And I don’t know about you, but somehow I feel this year didn’t deliver what I expected. I distinctly remember wishing my husband a very happy 2021, adding: “2021 can’t be as awful as 2020 was, at least the vaccines are coming!” I’m talking about Covid of course. And yes, the vaccines did arrive, but so did mutations of this virus. And once again the lives of people around the world are impacted, either by the disease itself or by restrictions in everyday life.
But, as LadiesGamers is all about video games, I’ll stick to that and shut the real world out. LadiesGamers did really well in 2021, we reviewed a staggering amount of games on the Switch. We started to add games on Steam as well, and in this way did our part in promoting indie developers. That doesn’t mean we didn’t review some AAA titles as well though, but overall it was a good mix. Time to look back and list the games that made this year in gaming special for me. Here are my Best Games of 2021!
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy
Normally I find games I played recently come to mind more easily when making this tops list, but not for this one. My absolute number 1 has to be Atelier Ryza that was released in January 2021. I am a huge fan of Atelier games anyway, so maybe it’s not as big a surprise.
What kind of game is an Atelier game?
Well, an Atelier game combines the elements in gaming I like most. There’s a good storyline, it’s great to go on an adventure with the main character, the gameplay includes exploration and battles (that aren’t too hard), the visuals are ace and every game has synthesis at its core. Being an alchemist you synthesise by combining items in an intricate manner in your cauldron. The rules of synthesis are complicated and it’s up to you to make the items with the best stats. On a special note: if you too are into Atelier games, this year saw the release of the DX version of the Mysterious trilogy too on Switch.
Why is Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy the best game of 2021?
Of course, it all depends on what kind of gaming you like. Personally, Atelier games are wonderful, and Atelier Ryza 2 is the best out of the series. It is the most complete of them all, taking a huge step in adding more sim elements. The storyline is great, the added mysteries in the dungeons bring added interest and the world to explore is so big! My review for the game, adding more details, can be found here.
The game had me spellbound when I played it, and it has kept my interest because of the soundtrack. As it was available in Spotify I put it on my playlist, and have been listening to the tracks almost every day since. It’s one of those games that I just have to hear the title song for and my fingers itch to play it again!
There’s never a dull moment in Atelier Ryza 2 with a long main adventure and tons of side quests. I really felt a part of team Ryza. Without a doubt, this is my Best Game of 2021.
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town
A very close second for me. Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is the latest game in the series that started out in the West as Harvest Moon, but had a name change in 2014.
What kind of game is a Story of Seasons game?
A Story of Season game is based on farming: growing crops, keeping animals for produce and making sure your farm makes a nice profit so you can expand. But over the years the SoS games have more elements added: Farming, crafting, mining, fishing and dating one of the eligible bachelors or bachelorettes in town. You’ll like it if you like games where you have to manage something, in this case, your farm. You can’t be afraid of chores, however, because, after the first sense of wonder at everything new, it’s a busy job!
Why is Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town one of the best games of 2021?
As can be expected of such a long-running game series: Pioneers of Olive Town has all the elements perfected. It is the first fully new SoS game on the Switch, and as is often the case, you’ll have your work cut out for you as you inherit your grandfather’s farm that has been reclaimed by nature over the years.
Olive Town – just a stone’s throw away from your farm – is a port town resting gently on the coast of the peninsula. It might be a quiet little town, but it is home to a whole host of unique characters. And while the townsfolk get by well enough in this picturesque seaside locale, a little more tourism never hurt anyone. In my review here you can find more details.
The game scratched that farming itch for me, and though I hit a roadblock back then when I couldn’t get my hands on the Orichalcum that I needed to proceed in a quest to be the best farm out there, I will surely dive in again next year.
I know, I didn’t give Garden Paws on the Switch the Two Thumbs Up. But that was because of the fact that the game had quite some bugs. Nowadays developers have no problem ironing out the kinks even after a game’s release, which is a good thing in this case. That’s why Garden Paws ends up being my number 3.
What kind of game is Garden Paws?
This is a simulation game that combines a lot of elements. Like in my second choice, there’s farming, but it’s only one of many parts. There’s also foraging, loads of exploring, running a shop, taking care of animals, crafting, fishing, mining and also some fighting. So, never a dull moment, there are also seasonal events thrown in. Be ready to multi-task and run a lot of quests for the other animals that live in the game.
Why is Garden Paws one of the best games of 2021?
Garden Paws is huge. A game that started life as a Kickstarter in August 2018 and it was funded within 24 hours and landed on Steam first. By now, when it’s come to the Switch, it’s a pretty big package. There’s never a dull moment and everything feels fresh and new because Garden Paws often uses another approach than we’ve seen in other Simulation games. You can choose which of the activities you want to emphasise and go as fast or as slow as you want. If you’ve loved My Time at Portia before, then be sure to give Garden Paws a try. My review for the game is here.
Blue Reflection: Second Light
As an Atelier fan, I was excited to play Blue Reflection: Second Light. This is the second Blue Reflection game, the first one was released in 2017 on Steam and PS4, so I never had the chance to play it. There is also an anime series on TV called Blue Reflection Ray, which I never had the pleasure of watching either. That being said, as a novice to Blue Reflection I can testify the game is just as good an entry point into the world of Blue Reflection.
What kind of game is Blue Reflection?
It is what is called a magical girls JRPG, a game where girls are empowered in a certain way with fantastic powers. The powers manifest themselves at a certain event or time, making them the kind of heroines I like in my video games. In this game, the girls are Reflectors. They possess strong emotions that can take the form of Fragments. Each of the girls has a blue ring that allows them to connect to weapons they conjure out of nowhere and even transform mysteriously.
However, it’s not all down to fighting: the game includes crafting and dating, and there’s a lot of mystery to the story. Why are the girls in the abandoned school, surrounded by nothingness? Why do they have the blue rings and why are their memories locked in the Heartscapes (these are the areas to explore that magically appear). While searching through the Heartscapes they find fragments of each girls memories, played out before you with dark silhouettes.
Why is Blue Reflection: Second Light one of the best games of 2021?
All the elements that make for a satisfying JRPG/simulation are there, and I could see Gust incorporated a lot of what makes Atelier Ryza a great game. Forming friendships, crafting things, making facilities, use of the FreeSpace app, exploring the Heartscapes, fighting….all merges quite satisfyingly. If you want to know more, my review is here.
Epistory – Typing Chronicles
You know how I love games that are a bit out of the ordinary, games that have ideas in their gameplay that doesn’t follow the standard. And Epistory – Typing Chronicles certainly is one of a kind.
What kind of game is Epistory – Typing Chronicles?
In the description I read that you start off with a blank space, forming the story as you go along. The fact that every element in the game could be controlled by typing words on an external keyboard sounded great. I was reviewing it on the Switch, but that worked too: instead of a combination of words, you used a combo of button pushes. So this is an adventure game where exploration and puzzles are important and combat is the other component.
Why is Epistory – Typing Chronicles one of the best games of 2021?
Epistory starts out in a world that is a blank canvas. You are a girl riding a huge red fox with three tales. Just a small lane of paper-like tiles before you, no other choice but to follow it to see where it leads. A voice tells the story as the little girl experiences it, and while she talks, the blank pages fill with new landscapes, creatures and adventures.
Epistory: Typing Chronicles is a beautiful game with a good story, lovely puzzles, exploration and nice battles. The origami world is gorgeous, seeing new parts of the world literally unfold is magical. The soundtrack is a good match to the feeling of wonder and the storytelling is great.
So there you have it, my Top 5 of games in 2021. Did you play any of them? And what are your favourites? Looking forward to hearing from you!