That Nerdy Site’s Best Games of 2021

With another year behind us, Trevor, Cameron, Frank, and Logan sat down to discuss their top games of 2021. You can listen to/watch the full episode here or read on for the breakdown of how those lists came together to create the overall site’s Game of the Year list.

As we have in years past, we went through our individual lists together and Trevor tallied up the overall results. Number 10 games earned 1 point, number 9 games earned 2 points, and so on with each of our number 1 games getting a full 10 points toward their overall total. Then the top-scoring points defined the list. Among the four of us, we featured 26 unique titles across our lists this year. Here are the honorable mentions that appeared on at least one person’s list, even if they missed the overall Top Ten.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
  • Alan Wake Remastered (Logan)
  • Astro’s Playroom (Logan)
  • Boyfriend Dungeon (Cameron)
  • Call of Duty: Vanguard (Logan)
  • Far Cry 6 (Frank)
  • Forza Horizon 5 (Trevor)
  • Genesis Noir (Frank)
  • Grand Theft Auto: Definitive Edition (Logan)
  • Guilty Gear Strive (Cameron)
  • Maquette (Frank)
  • Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (Cameron and Frank)
  • Persona 5 Strikers (Frank)
  • Scarlet Nexus (Cameron)
  • Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order (Logan)
  • Tales of Arise (Cameron)
  • Wildermyth (Cameron)

Now on to the list.

10. Life is Strange: True Colors (Deck Nine, Square Enix)

Trevor banged the drum on Life is Strange: True Colors since its release in August but none of the others were able to find the time for it. As Trevor’s #2 game of 2021, it just barely cracked the Top Ten. He praised the performances, beauty, and emotional resonance, declaring it his favorite Life is Strange title and one that everyone else should definitely try and find the time to experience.

9. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (Insomniac Games)

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart technically had the same overall point total as Life is Strange: True Colors and could be considered a tie, but with the support of both Trevor and Frank, we gave it the edge over the prior title. Rift Apart is an excellent new chapter in the Ratchet & Clank series, with the trademark action platformer feeling as good and looking better than it ever has. The multiverse-hopping adventure gave Insomniac the opportunity to introduce great new characters and litter the game with Easter eggs galore.

7. Resident Evil Village (Capcom) and It Takes Two (Hazelight Studios, EA Originals)

Our only true tie of 2021, Resident Evil Village and It Takes Two both earned accolades from Logan with Frank and Trevor, lending their added support behind these two titles, respectively.

Logan and Frank both appreciated how well Resident Evil Village felt to play and how the gameplay was a great continuation of the first-person survival horror elements introduced in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard but they also agreed that the game might burn through its most interesting characters and ideas a little early in the campaign.

Meanwhile, Logan and Trevor praised the endlessly varied and charming gameplay ideas of It Takes Two (which you can enjoy via their full playthrough playlist here). But they also agreed that, despite what The Game Awards may have deemed, it is not a Family game and the unlikable characters, story, and uneven pacing were among the game’s weaker elements.

6. The Artful Escape (Beethoven & Dinosaur, Annapurna Interactive)

The Artful Escape was Frank’s runner-up for Game of the Year in 2021 and, with a couple additional points from Trevor, was able to claim the #6 spot. Trevor praised the same style and aesthetic that led the game to earn his PAX East 2020 Game of the Show accolades but it really resonated with Frank, who loved the music, look, story, and overall presentation of Francis Vendetti’s journey of self-discovery across the cosmos.

5. Psychonauts 2 (Double Fine, Xbox Game Studios)

Another entry championed by Trevor and Frank, Psychonauts 2 breaks into the Top Five. Despite having only ever played the opening of the original Psychonauts in the lead up to this entry, Trevor absolutely adored his time with Raz and his supporting cast of wonderful characters.

The game also earned Frank’s personal Game of the Year, as an incredible culmination of the storytelling he has long been a fan of from Double Fine and Tim Schafer. The gameplay was routinely excellent with some of the best and most creative level design of the year and the game’s examination of mental health was top notch, adding a much appreciated dose of heart to the fun adventure.

4. Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker (Square Enix)

For the first time since launching That Nerdy Site in 2019, we had two members with the same Game of the Year. Both Trevor and Cameron had the latest expansion for Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker atop their lists.

Trevor spent a few hundred hours in 2021 playing through all of the rest of the Final Fantasy XIV story to get ready for Endwalker and found the entire experience to be a great deal more welcoming than his prior 2017 efforts to get into the game. And Endwalker topped his rankings as a phenomenal culmination of the ten years of the Final Fantasy XIV storyline.

Cameron even went so far as to declare Final Fantasy XIV his new favorite game of all time, dethroning Tetris Effect, thanks to the incredible characters and story that Square Enix has shared across this wonderful ongoing MMORPG.

But, even with two of That Nerdy Site’s editors giving the game top marks, it wasn’t enough to crack the top three.

3. Hitman 3 (IO Interactive)

Hitman 3 fittingly takes the third place spot in our Game of the Year rankings, just ahead of Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker. As the first game on our list with support from 3 out of the 4 gaming editors, Trevor, Cameron, and Logan all got behind the game this year.

All three finally came around on the incredible design work IO Interactive has been building upon in their World of Assassination trilogy of games, taking the opportunity to play through many of the levels from the prior two installments in the series since Hitman 3 made it easy to enjoy all three games from within the same launcher. Trevor and Logan playing through the Dartmoor level for the first time was one of our favorite That Nerdy Site Plays of the year and IO Interactive’s continued support of the game made it one of our favorites to keep coming back to. Logan especially can’t wait to see what they do next with their eventual James Bond game.

2. Deathloop (Arkane Studios, Bethesda Softworks)

Our runner-up for Game of the Year – with support from Trevor, Cameron, and Logan – is Deathloop. Arkane continues to set themselves apart as masters of the immersive sim genre, creating incredibly-designed levels for us to explore and traverse as we decide whether or not to approach a stealthy gameplay style or go on a murder-spree.

The assortment of weapons and abilities made Deathloop fun for a wide array of playstyles and the way the maps changed throughout the day or as certain objectives were met made every loop engaging on the way toward completing the “perfect” day.

While Trevor still prefers the low/high chaos approach of the Dishonored series and the options for non-lethal takedowns and gadgets, he, Cameron, and Logan all agreed that the retro-futuristic aesthetic of Deathloop was easily more engaging than the whalepunk vibes of Arkane’s earlier work and the world they’ve created this time might be their best yet.

1. Emily is Away <3 (Kyle Seeley)

Trevor predicted, during a Game of the Year Watch podcast that we recorded back in July, that Emily is Away <3 was probably going to be That Nerdy Site’s game of the year, given the fact that it was beloved across all four editors and sure enough, six months later, that’s exactly how things played out.

As with Borderlands 3 and Ghost of Tsushima before it, Emily is Away <3 also continues the tradition of the Game of the Year being the only title across all four editors’ personal lists and it follows in Ghost of Tsushima’s footsteps as being Logan’s personal Game of the Year, as well as the overall site’s winner.

We all found Emily is Away <3 to be a wonderful culmination of the work Kyle Seeley has produced, moving beyond the AIM-centric nostalgia of Emily is Away and Emily is Away Too into the Facebook era with the latest title. Emily is Away <3 moves away from the chase of trying to be with Emily (or Evelyn) and gives the player the opportunity to live in the relationship with her over the course of senior year. The cast of characters expands beyond those romantic interests as well and does an incredible job fleshing out the larger high school experience. And once again, Kyle expertly hones in on nostalgic elements of the era of Facebook many of us had otherwise forgotten like the lists/surveys or giving digital birthday gifts.

With full playthroughs of the game from Cameron and Trevor, Trevor’s full playthrough of Emily is Away and Logan joining him for Emily is Away Too, a full spoilercast, and an interview with creator Kyle Seeley, Emily is Away <3 was probably the most covered game for That Nerdy Site in 2021, so it’s fitting that it also takes the overall Game of the Year award.

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