KeenGamer’s Best Games of 2021

It's time for KeenGamer's best games of 2021! Join us as we look back at a fantastic year for video games, and highlight our picks for the absolute best titles from the calendar year.

KeenGamer's Best Games of 2021 Cover

It’s almost the end of the year, and that means it’s time for us to look back and celebrate the best video games of 2021. Despite many of our most-anticipated titles continuously being delayed into an unknowable future, we were still fortunate enough to receive a plethora of great titles throughout 2021. From indie darlings to gorgeous AAA titles, there surely was something for everyone.

I recently sent out a survey to the writers of KeenGamer and asked them to name their favorite games of the year. The staff was able to nominate up to five games for consideration. The first game they chose received 5 points, the second game they chose received 4, and eventually, their fifth favorite game received 1 point. After collecting the results over the last couple of weeks, we are proud to present our list for the best games of 2021!

After checking out our games of the year list, be sure to check out the winners for categories like “Best Character” and “Best Narrative” near the bottom of the article.

#1 – Life is Strange: True Colors

Available on: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC

Release date: September 9th, 2021

Life is Strange: True Colors - Official Trailer | Square Enix Presents 2021

Our Life is Strange: True Colors review

Conor Mitchell

The world has been a strange place recently, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to mentally move to a small town in picturesque Colorado. The protagonist of Life is Strange: True Colors (Alex Chen) desperately wants to start a new life with her estranged brother, but she’s thrown a devastating curveball that’ll make her question the motives of everyone in Haven Springs. A combination of fantastic characterization, convincing dialogue, and a lot of heart makes Life is Strange: True Colors an easy pick for best game of 2021.

Callum Quinn

Life is Strange: True Colors is an absolute gem. It reinvented the Life is Strange series and brought it back to its roots of a small-town setting full of mystery. The animations and style of the game keep the nostalgic Life is Strange feeling whilst visually upgrading quite extensively. A truly wonderful game that is full of love and dedication to all of its aspects.

Ben Harris

It had an emotional, gripping story with a relatable cast of characters and a great representation of important topics.

#2 – Resident Evil Village

Available on: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC

Release date: May 7th, 2021

Resident Evil Village - 3rd Trailer

Our Resident Evil Village review

Callum Quinn

Resident Evil Village has a brilliant storyline, it’s horrifying with rather disturbing visuals, but also its characterization completely broke the internet for a time being. The world was obsessed with Miss. Vampire lady. She reminds me of Bayonetta a little bit, so instant appraisal.

Jereld Pan

Great gunplay and story, with excellent horror bits to keep you on your toes. A real modern Resident Evil 4.

William Dare

I’m a bit of a simp for Resident Evil. I thought it was a great addition to the series. A strong mix of gothic horror and Resident Evil cheese.

#3 – It Takes Two

Available on: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC

Release date: March 26th, 2021

It Takes Two Official Reveal Trailer

Jereld Pan

Great couch co-op game that had a good narrative, and the gameplay itself was just so fun, constantly mixing things up to make it interesting. The minigames also make for great replayability.

Matt Fuller

Put simply it showcases a developer who cares about the games they make, and with a great narrative and a huge amount of variety in the level design, mechanics, and narrative beats, it’s simply a game that is fun to play without any of the BS.

#4 – Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Available on: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC

Release date: October 26, 2021

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy - World Premiere Trailer | E3 2021

Our Guardians of the Galaxy review

Jessica Orr

It truly feels like taking a cosmic adventure with a ragtag group of friends. Near-perfect pacing ramps up the galactic threat of the Guardians’ universe while giving time for significant character growth to nearly every member of the team. Fantastic voice acting, storytelling, humor, and a lot of heart make Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy a special experience.

Ben Harris

A surprisingly incredible narrative packed with emotion and character development. The gameplay is a lot of fun as well.

#5 – Metroid Dread

Available on: Nintendo Switch

Release Date: October 8th, 2021

Metroid Dread - Trailer 2 - Nintendo Switch

Our Metroid Dread review

Kyle Chamaillard

When Metroid Dread was first announced earlier this year, I did my best to remain cautiously optimistic. It had been almost two decades since we last saw Samus in Metroid Fusion, and Dread was being marketed as the epic finale to a story that began over three decades ago. I wasn’t sure if Nintendo would be able to produce a game that would satisfy long-time fans of the series, while also introducing its surprisingly dense history to newcomers. After a couple of hours of playing it though, I was absolutely blown away by nearly every aspect of this amazing adventure. Not only is it one of the best Metroid games, but one of the best games of 2021.

Dread is full of surprises but also delivers on everything you would expect from a Metroid game. The atmosphere pulls you into its world through incredible environments, level design, and ambient music. The boss fights are surprisingly tough, but that just makes it feel better when you finally take one of them down. But the thing that surprised me the most is Samus herself, and how exhilarating and tragic her journey has been over the last thirty years. She has a few moments in this game that I won’t forget anytime soon, and I’m already eager to hop back into Dread over the holidays.

Ryan Woodrow

It was the first good 2D Metroid game in far too long. It was very good at pushing the player in the right direction without them noticing while retaining a sense of exploration.

#6 – Forza Horizon 5

Available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC

Release Date: November 9th, 2021

Forza Horizon 5 - Official Launch Trailer

Our Forza Horizon 5 review

Jessica Orr

The Forza Horizon franchise has always been fun, but Forza Horizon 5 elevates it to a whole new level. There are a staggering amount of activities to enjoy solo, or with friends, and even weekly challenges to work toward. Zooming across the gorgeous Mexican terrain is even more satisfying when a car is customized as realistically, or funny, as a player wants it. The custom difficulty adjusters and accessibility features also ensure that almost anybody can get a satisfying experience in the arcade-style racing game.

Kara Phillips – Ashman

The stellar soundtrack, stellar visuals, and you can just zip about in a car for hours. It’s great! There are so many challenges and competitions against fellow players that it’s never boring or tiring.

Honorable Mentions

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

Available on: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch, PC, Apple Arcade

Console release date: June 9th, 2021

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure - Launch Trailer - Nintendo Switch

Our Alba: A Wildlife Adventure review

Laura Speller

I don’t know if this counts for 2021, as the original mobile port came out in Dec. 2020, but I got it on PS4 when it came out in 2021. It’s such a lovely relaxing game. The graphics are gorgeous and the music is so beautiful. It’s fun to explore the island and take photos of different wildlife and chat with different people.

How We Know We’re Alive

Available on: PC

Release date: May 1st, 2021

HOW WE KNOW WE'RE ALIVE - Announcement trailer

Our How We Know We’re Alive review

Chris Hall

It is honestly hard to put into words why I feel this game is my best game of the year. The truth is that it isn’t the flashiest, the boldest, it isn’t the most challenging, nor is it one that I can burn hours into. But it is a title with a powerfully moving story that I honestly wasn’t expecting. One that hit me harder than any other game in recent memory and all in an understated way and without any sense of indie game pretentiousness. It is a real, beautiful, and painful story that is told in a pitch-perfect way. How We Know We’re Alive might not change the world as far as titles like this go, but it might change your life.

Hitman 3

Available on: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC

Release Date: January 20th, 2021

Hitman 3 - Official Launch Trailer

Our Hitman 3 review

Conor Mitchell

Hitman 3 was released back in January (which feels so long ago!), and despite a disappointing first year of content, it’s definitely in contention for best game of the year. The story brings the trilogy to a satisfying end but isn’t anything to shout about. Every other feature is near perfect, from the lighting to the gameplay. There were times where I would stand in one of the six locations and soak in the atmosphere. I love the creativity of each map’s myriad assassination possibilities and complexity that allows for countless hours of fun.

Returnal

Available on: PS5

Release Date: April 30th, 2021

Returnal - Announcement Trailer | PS5

Our Returnal review

Jessica Orr

Taking the best elements of roguelites, horror, and third-person shooters, Returnal turns out to be a unique action experience with a surprisingly big focus on story. Intense bullet-hell encounters await players in every room, with fun weapons to combat enemies, and fantastic use of the PS5’s DualSense controller. Even with runs lasting far too long, and successful loops relying heavily on luck, Returnal delivers an incredibly satisfying combat experience in a cosmic horror environment, with some of the best boss battles in gaming.

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart

Available on: PS5

Release date: June 11th, 2021

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart - Announcement Trailer | PS5

Our Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart review

Callum Quinn

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is another example of reinventing its series while staying true to the originals. It has upgrades in all the ways it needed while also sporting breath-taking gameplay and visuals as well as a new unforgettable journey. I really enjoyed watching them continue a series that reaches into my childhood. Though only 9/10 because Courtney Gears wasn’t involved in this game.

Monster Hunter Rise

Release date: March 26th, 2021

Available on: Nintendo Switch

Monster Hunter Rise - Announcement Trailer

Kara Phillips – Ashman

I spent hours upon hours on this game when it was first released. As a fan of the Monster Hunter franchise, I feel like I speak with a bit of bias, but it genuinely amazed me. There are so many new elements to the game to praise and adore. Plus, the monsters are equal parts terrifying and mesmerizing. It’s just excellent, and not short of content in any way.

Best Music of the Year

Winner: Life is Strange: True Colors

Jessica Orr

Life is Strange: True Colors combines a beautiful original score, covers of songs like Radiohead’s Creep, and a bustling licensed soundtrack including Kings of Leon, Koda, and Dido. There’s even a Jukebox with even more music to listen to while exploring the rustic, mountain-town bar. True Colors is every bit about music as it is story and character.

Novo Amor - Haven (from Life Is Strange) [official audio]

Callum Quinn

While not mainstream or particularly catchy, it’s a really well-constructed soundtrack. It has that mix of happiness and sadness, somehow mixing it just perfectly to set the tone of the series.

Best Character of the Year

Winner: Lady Dimitrescu

Kara Phillips – Ashman

Equal parts terrifying yet charming. I think a lot of people will agree with me when I say that she deserves the character of the year.

Resident Evil 8 Village - Lady Dimitrescu Phone Call Scene

Callum Quinn

Lady Dimitrescu. Need I really explain it?

Best Narrative of the Year

Winner: Life is Strange: True Colors

Conor Mitchell

Alex Chen’s story of discovery, loss, and adoption is one that almost all of us can empathize with. It’s a deeply personal story that encompasses all the awkwardness of being a young person with little idea of who they are in an increasingly challenging world.

Life is Strange: True Colors - Launch Trailer - Nintendo Switch

Callum Quinn

Its narrative was full of mystery right from the start, trying to uncover the killer of your sibling’s death is quite the tone-setter. The town was full of lovable characters, plot twists, depth, and weight. It’s an emotional journey for sure, and we haven’t even talked about the protagonist’s empathetic powers yet!

What are your favorite games from this year? Let us know in the comments below!

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