In an industry where so many releases are either too restrained or way too serious, it's refreshing to have these games that are anything but. While there is a fair amount of newness to be found in the proceedings, some might argue that No More Heroes III doesn't do an awful lot to differentiate itself from the two previous mainline installments. Although some might normally see that as a negative, when you consider just how great this franchise is and how much it differs from most of the other stuff that's out there, it's hard to see that as anything but a touchdown.
At any rate, Metroid: Dread was a return to form for the exact same kind of quality 2D platforming Metroidvania action that fans had been (mostly) forced to go without for so many years. The game looks great, plays well, and has just enough new qualities to keep things fresh and interesting. As one of Nintendo's best and most-overlooked series, any solid new entry should be worthy of substantial praise and attention.
Best PlayStation 5 Exclusive
That it's the best-looking series installment to date should come as little surprise, thanks to the considerable graphical capabilities of the PlayStation 5, but Rift Apart also happens to have one of the best storylines as well. Additionally, the game boasts unique new weapons and features such as the novel rift-tethering mechanic and the incredibly well-optimized use of the PS5's adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. Not only is Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart one of the best entries yet, but it's also an outstanding showcase of the features and graphical power of the PlayStation 5, itself.
Eidos managed to create a Guardians of the Galaxy game that is both visually impressive and great fun to play. The real highlights, however, are the fantastic retro soundtrack and the authenticity of the characters. Somehow, despite not featuring a single actor from the movies, their extremely talented voice-doubles (and writers) still managed to make the game feel like a hilarious, brand new interactive Guardians of the Galaxy film. An impressive feat to be sure, and one that put this game squarely among the very best to come out in 2021.
Ultimately though, it would still be a long, delay-filled additional 6 years before the game's incredibly long-awaited, release in 2021. While a 16-year gap between installments (not counting the 2017 VR side-project, Rhombus of Ruin) would usually result in a pretty disappointing sequel, thankfully, this was not at all the case. With Psychonauts 2, Double Fine was able to bring the magic once again, delivering a humorous, incredibly charming and, above all, faithful Tim Burton-esque headtrip that absolutely must not be missed by anyone who loves the original, or even simply good games in general.
Whereas last year's Guilty Gear - Strive did offer several interesting new changes to the tried and true formula, unfortunately, not all of them were for the better. Additionally, the cast of fighters was still somewhat lacking compared to past editions. While Melty Blood: Type Lumina did also have some regrettable character omissions, nearly everything else about the game was either exactly what fans wanted and/or expected or an improvement to the already outstanding formula. Even though Guilty Gear may have won the fight in 2016, it was Melty Blood: Type Lumina that delivered the knockout in 2021.
Best Multi-Platform Game
Best Xbox Game, Game of the Year