The Extraordinary Video Game Worlds of 2021

We spent much of 2021 indoors, isolated from ice storms or heat waves, or just safe from new strains of the coronavirus. It has been quite a year for video games and for large masses of fans to be moved by this truly unique art form.

Thanks to online games, space collapsed and the world got excited about an Australian puzzle about unboxing a woman’s clothes. But the Pacific Northwest also received some nods. Here’s our list of our favorite worlds explored indoors in 2021.

1. Unpacking

Such a possibility exists in video games, but time and again the most prolific titles choose to explore different ways of fighting. Unpacking Rather, follows the indie tradition of gamifying the mundane by placing players in a woman’s skin as she unwraps and furnishes living spaces through the various stages of her life.

He is notable not only for his emotional resonance, magnificent artistry, and mind-blowing audio work, but also for how strongly he struck a chord with the general public despite his premise.

It is not difficult to understand why: UnpackingThe wordless tour of the life of its protagonist does not contain much drama or explicit history, but rather fragments of time and the flavor of life itself. We only see pieces of someone, which illustrate and allude to their personality and choices. We choose whether the art of his childhood is highlighted or put away. We have a hard time finding room for all of her clothes in a new boyfriend’s closet. We nervously place her personal belongings next to those of a roommate on the shared shelf. Unpacking quietly fabricates nostalgia and a sense of change, and we meditate on our own things: what they mean to us, and what they might mean to someone else playing through our own movements, shifting to sifting through our affairs and deducing our thoughts and aspirations through them.

2. Sable

In 2017, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild turned the genre of open-world games upside down and reframed our collective thinking about what such worlds might uncover. Sable is, to date, the game that best understands and reiterates this paradigm shift.

Abandoning the fight of his inspiration, Sable laser-focuses on the feeling of freedom and personal expression that Breath of the wild almost perfect, but enhances it with a more meaningful sense of progression, a more believable and intriguing world, and a sense of scale and place not dependent on different biomes.

As adults, members of the titular nomadic Sands tribe are given a bicycle similar to a sand speeder and embark on a journey to find their calling. The world, vast and full of disparate but connected peoples, embraces these travelers and hopes to help them in their introspection.

Sable asks players no more than to explore its beautiful lands and do whatever they find interesting. Her cel-shaded art imbues a surreal and mythical quality – her score consisting of a Japanese breakfast infuses a melancholy reflection. Beyond those qualities, it’s also a pretty darn fun game to play, with well-crafted puzzles and environments rivaling Nintendo’s.

3. Lost judgment

Continue the experience set up by the previous ones Judgement games (and the Yakuza series before that), Lost judgment is unsurprisingly a shifting detective drama full of absurd humor commensurate with its dramatic gravity. One moment you’ll discuss systemic bullying and flaws in the Japanese legal system, and the next you’ll spend time with a sleuth dog and skateboarding. By the end of it all, you will be wondering how it worked so well.

The games under the Yakuza Umbrella have a unique talent for creating believable and dense worlds full of life and detail that long after you finish playing linger in your mind like real places. There is a willingness to gamify things that are almost objectively unnecessary in the context of the game – picking your coffee blend in a cafe, playing darts in the bar after a shot of Glenfiddich 12, testing your owner’s cooking – that creates a feeling of briefly entering someone’s life. Play enough of these games and you will feel like a local. The quality may vary with each entry, but the whole series feels right at home.

4. Resident Evil: Village

the resident Evil series contains a whole spectrum of quality. As often as Capcom revolutionizes a genre with a masterpiece, it drops a dud that even devoted fans end up going their separate ways. Town, the eighth main game, could have gone either way, but luckily it blocked the landing with a roundup of the game’s eras that hits just about every note. The up close and personal horror of 7, the high octane madness of 4, the international super-spy absurdity of 6, the gamey puzzle box of 1 – it’s all there and kind of cohesive. A pure luxury triple A game that lets you switch off, laugh, and have an amazing time.

5. Hitman 3

the Hitman games are like mechanical puzzle boxes: intricate, nested things that beg you to push and push them to see what happens. In these spaces, your goal is simple. Kill the target. Because the levels are so layered and nuanced – not just in space but in the way the characters move and work within them –Hitman 3 becomes a game of outsmarting the target and manipulating the circumstances in your favor. Although it does not reach the heights of Hitman 2It’s the shine, it’s more what the series does best with a fresh coat of paint. Its levels are as pretty and exotic as ever, its villains so dastardly, and its childish and fun fantasy of sticking it to the rich and powerful about as fine as it gets.

Honorable mention, Pacific Northwest Game: Spine

Spine, a game about systemic violence, power structures and class disparity, is perfectly suited to its setting in Vancouver, British Columbia. In it, the city is on a par for post-Soviet decadence and the earthy, rain-slipped port city familiar to anyone who has spent time in the Pacific Northwest.

Like an old film noir, Spine covers his dystopian city of anthropomorphic animals with a layer of terror and greed. As they explore the different neighborhoods of future Vancouver, players experience what, at first glance, appears to be a “what if Zootopia were rough ”, but at the end explore a lot of meaning as the characters share their thoughts on collectivism, community and greed. The dark, gray rain in the area reinforces the melancholy, but the beautiful views of the Salish Sea and all the foliage that frames it add a bit of hope and beauty to the mix. Spine is a weird game, but definitely one that “gets” its setting and wouldn’t have performed as well elsewhere.

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