Only bangers from here on out.

So… 2021 was certainly a year… right? To be completely honest it was a year of growth for me. But that is a talk for another time. Anyways, 2021 was a great year for games. To pull a quote from Shawn Layden circa E3 2017, “it has never been a better time to be a gamer”. 2021 also saw the official resurrection of G4 as an entertainment channel (don’t worry, the finale of Celebrating G4 focusing on Portal is on the way as well); but that’s not why you are sitting at your terminal reading this. It’s for seeing the games that made the list. So. Here. We. Go.

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart game
Credit: Sony

I had mentioned on a previous episode of Player’s Club that I had never played a Ratchet & Clank game and wanted to rectify that before the next iteration of the franchise was released so I had started back 20 years prior with the first title in the series. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to complete the first Ratchet & Clank (or any for that matter). So I jumped into Rift Apart with virtually no knowledge of the greater worldview or timeline of events either. All that said, this is one hell of a game, and a great time at that.

The game, as you might assume, has to do with multiversal elements. The main characters of this game are obviously Ratchet and Clank, but their doppelgangers are Rivet; a lombax who is part of the fight against the big bad of her world, and Kit, who as Emmett said on the Game of the Year podcast, is a character with a large number of spoilers attached. So, make sure to play this game and you’ll know what I mean. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is not only welcoming for new players but shines even brighter if you have a history with the series as there were numerous easter eggs, nods to past games, and alternate versions of established characters.

With that said, there are really no problems or issues that really hampered my experience with the game. The biggest gripe I had with Rift Apart wasn’t really a problem with the game and more of an issue of me not playing all the mainline games so I could understand and enjoy the experience on a deeper level. I’m glad I played this game as the future of the franchise looks brighter than the sun.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond game
Credit: Amazon

I started playing Pokémon right at the beginning of the series debut in the late 1990s and I was obsessed from 1998 to 2004. After Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire, I stopped playing Pokémon in general. So when I got back into the series with Let’s Go Pikachu and Sword/Shield I wanted to try and pick up where I had left off. I had purchased Heart Gold/Soul Silver, Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum years ago, and… they were all fakes. So I then learned that Generation 4 of Pokémon (Diamond and Pearl), would be getting remade I got all hyped up to the point where I bought a Dialga and Palkia Switch Lite. Then I played Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.

There’s nothing wrong with Brilliant Diamond or Shining Pearl. But at the same time, there’s nothing special about them. After pouring a combined 50 hours into Let’s Go Pikachu and Shield, Brilliant Diamond felt like more of the same. The same is great but it makes you wonder what could’ve been instead. Considering it was Ilca who, prior to Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl had never fully developed a video game, that was chosen to make the remaster and not Game Freak proper who were busy working on the now released Pokemon Legends: Arceus I’m glad BD was more of the same.

With Legends: Arceus now released to the masses and downloadable content all but assured, the real question is what will come first: The 9th Generation of Pokémon or the “remaster” of Black and White? Only time will tell.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy game
Credit: IMDb

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is the second Marvel game from Square-Enix following the release of Marvel’s Avengers. Due to the stigma that the latter has attached to it (even though the story is perhaps the best part), Guardians has had heavy expectations on it following its reveal last year at E3. Perhaps even greater expectations due to the reception of Avengers. But as you can probably tell from the official VGU Game of the Year awards covering last year’s crop of games, Guardians was number two in the overall Game of the Year. Here’s why.

Rather than cash in on the MCU version of the galactic misfits, Eidos Montreal chose to create an original story that was woven by different aspects/stories about these characters. Take Peter Quill/Star-Lord for instance, his Mom doesn’t die as a result of the “grand plan” of a character with a massive Ego, but rather a variation on her demise in the comics. This game might just be the most loyal to the source material piece of media I’ve ever played. Considering that characters like Fin Fang Foom, Adam Warlock, and Nichollete Gold appear in this game (the latter of whom plays a big part in this game) along with mainstays such as Cosmo, Mantis (who may actually be the best version of the character I’ve ever seen and I want to see more of), and some characters/races I never expected to see comic-accurate versions of made me put this game above Life is Strange: True Colors. Speaking of that.

Life is Strange: True Colors/Wavelengths

Credit: Wikipedia

To say I’m a fan of Life is Strange is a bit of an understatement. When I first played Life is Strange around this time three years ago I fell in love. I fell in love with the characters, narrative, and themes of the game. The biggest is finding a place to call home and a family in that home. For most of the game, I was in love with Haven and really adored the life of the town. But as is it with Life is Strange, things aren’t as they appear to be.

It was at the end of Chapter 4 that the game took a radical shift in a dark direction. In order to survive, Alex Chen had to face her past. What you find as the player solves the big mystery of the game and in turn ruins everything that was being built in the first four chapters of the game. The moment I’m referring to is completely unearned and when factored into the story feels like the famous George Lucas quote “it’s like poetry, it rhymes.” However, after thinking about it more it could be debated that it is something greater in the grand scheme of things and is destiny calling.

All that aside, the real reason True Colors is on this list is the prequel story “Wavelengths” focusing on Steph Gingrich who made her return in True Colors after debuting in Before the Storm. The downloadable episode features Steph working at the radio station/record store and popping in at four points throughout the year. When the game is started you are asked if you saved Arcadia Bay or let it get destroyed by the storm in the first Life is Strange game. Depending on the choice made you will have two vastly different experiences. Throughout the episode, you are contacted by a character from Before the Storm, and Steph ghosts said character until Halloween. It’s at this point where I felt like I was in Steph’s shoes.

At that point in the game, Steph is filled with anger and some PTSD. Certain moments in the story trigger the event that changed Steph forever. Throughout the story, Steph is working on a song that is the narrative thread that connects all four parts of the story. There are different permutations of the song and what it can ultimately turn out to be and it may be my favorite song in all of True Colors. The tune that runs through the entire song is phenomenal and whoever it was who created it, I salute you.

Resident Evil: Village

Credit: Sony

It still feels strange that we are back in the throes of good Resident Evil games. I remember Resident Evil 6 and Operation Raccoon City as if it were yesterday. (Check out a near ten-year-old video of VGU alum Matt Mobley and myself playing ORC) Once I played 2017’s Resident Evil 7: Biohazard I knew the reemergence of the series was upon us. Instead of playing as the same characters as was the case of the first six games you were placed in the Everyman shoes of Ethan Winters who is in Dulvey, Louisiana in search of his missing wife Mia. Hilarity ensues and a familiar face comes to the rescue.

In 2020 rumors were running rampant that the sequel to Resident Evil 7 would expand the monster mash to include werewolves and vampires in a rural eastern setting and would attempt to recapture the opening of the greatest Resident Evil game (in my opinion), Resident Evil 4. I said on an episode of WiN that it was too far out there and like most times I am confident about something being correct or wrong, I was wrong. About a week later, Resident Evil: Village was revealed to the world.

While everyone in the world seemed to lose it over the giant vampire Lady Dimitrescu, I lost it at the change made to Chris Redfield who looked like he took heavy doses of HGH compared to the way he looked in his last appearance. I brought up on one of the Game of the Year podcast episodes about how little effort went into the design of Ethan Winters. The entire game feels like a commentary on Resident Evil as a series. There’s the Resident Evil/Resident Evil 2 aesthetic seen with the first area, the P.T.-inspired area where you have limited weapon usage. There’s the water-centric area where you have to be super precise and accurate. Then the area that I guarantee was inspired by Resident Evil 5 because the main villain of said area is a major edge-lord. Finally, the last area of the game is a direct callback to RE7. Once I realized what was really going on with Ethan I had a major case of “why didn’t I put two and two together?”

That’s all folks. Those were my Top 5 of 2021. Hopefully, the sequel to Jedi Fallen Order releases this year, or else I’ll have to cut a bitch…

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