Games That Were Important To Us In 2021
In the spirit of celebrating what was important to us in 2020, we asked a few members of the team to share some of the games that mattered a lot to them. Not all of these games were released in 2021, but each one helped shine a light on a weird year in their own way.
“Sometime around the end of summer, my husband Tony and I decided to pick up The Forest. After our plane crashed, we set up a campsite near a river and slowly started venturing out into these deep caves in search of what happened to us, our fellow plane passengers and missing son. I easily got hooked on the thrill of narrowly escaping the deep caves and all the horribly mutated cannibals in The Forest that kept jumping out at us.”
— Farah Coculuzzi, producer
Forza Horizon 4
“I’ve always loved driving games but for some reason I have never really played the Forza Horizon series. My son started playing on the big console now that his hands are more capable of handling an xbox controller and I realize it might be a good game for us to play together.
I was really surprised at how much fun the game is and how much depth the game contains. It does a lot of things extremely well, from the interface, visuals, gameplay with very little friction. I have no idea how many hours we sunk into this game, we were just booting it everyday, setting ourselves new challenges and buying tons of fancy cars. My Favourite mechanic by far: the rewind system is one of my favourite dad friendly video game option when you just don’t have the time to redo an entire race because you screwed up one turn. It’s brilliant and serves the game very well. It’s also hilarious to see your 6 years old constantly rewinding because he has to be FIRST!
By the way, we just started Forza Horizon 5 and it’s already a blast.”
— Sylvain Coutouly, artist
Knights and Bikes
“It’s not new but my brother and I played through all of Knights and Bikes together over Twitch. This gave us a chance to hang out and catch up while being in two different countries. Because of the cute and fun dialogue, the variety of characters, and our desire to have fun with it, we were able to put on a bunch of voices and stream to our family members. It was great for bonding and it was an adorable story with some adult topics. It was a great, warming experience for a difficult year.”
— Christian Meyer, QA lead/game designer
“When I finally carved time to play Control, I was completely sucked into it. The game is an incredible marriage of great narrative, compelling worldbuilding, and frantic action gameplay. I’m a sucker for fantasical worlds embedded into a mundane setting, and the feeling of peeking behind the curtain of our reality to see something new. The shocks of brilliant color amongst the austerity of the offices!! The shifting world, like I was inside an eldritch god’s LEGO playset!! And the gameplay felt tight and kinetic, revelling in the chaos of destruction. The story and the construction of the world invited my curiosity and kept me on my toes… Control embraces weird in a wonderful way. You meet a fun janitor!”
— Ben Thomas, artist
“Quake was definitely not the game I was expecting to really latch onto for 2021, but here we are. Quake was a monumentally important game to as a kid. It was one of the few that I could play and that I played over and over, and that formed a strong bedrock of my interest in games. So when the remaster came out, I downloaded it immediately. There was something so intensely satisfying about revisiting locations and enemies and puzzles I remembered being so frustrated by or enamored with as a kid, and then getting to reframe my experience of them as an adult and where I am now. It made me feel proud and happy with who I’ve become and 2021 was a year where that type of affirmation was good and appreciated. But aside from that, it was also just fun. The enemies, the levels, the puzzles, all were incredibly satisfying to re-learn, to solve, and to contend with, and I can say every part of it held up to my memory of originally playing it. It was satisfying and comforting in a way that shooting cosmic horror monstrosities probably shouldn’t be, but was anyways.”
— Kaitlin Tremblay, lead narrative designer
“Like many others I got into Hades in 2021, and it really reignited my love of games. So much of my time is spent on massive blockbuster games with insane graphics, and fully mocapped cutscenes, but Hades reminded me how all of that is just window dressing. As I repeatedly died (so so so so many times), I found myself fully enraptured by Zag and all the characters he interacted with. Like him I felt a primal need to get out, even though the world was crushing me every time I tried. Weirdly though each time I died I was a little happy because it meant I got to see and talk to all the lovely characters back home. It’s been months since I put it down but that world still fully lives in my head, and part of me would be happy to get Zag killed a few more times just so I could hang out with Dusa and Than again.”
— Owen McIntosh, producer
Deep Rock Galactic
“I enjoyed playing Deep Rock Galactic in ̶2̶0̶2̶1̶ 2021. The pacing between moments of mission preparation, exploration, resource gathering, and enemy attack waves is perfect. Every class has unique and impactful abilities, encouraging teamwork and communication. Combine that with 20–40 minute missions and you’ve got an amazing cooperative experience that can fit in almost anyone’s schedule. For rock and stone!”
— Jon Maur, programmer
Editor’s Note: “I definitely didn’t say people couldn’t just pick the same game as last year!”
“The Eternal Cylinder is the game that took me most by surprise in 2021. Up until 2021, I’d appreciated the games of ACE Team from afar; while titles like ZenoClash and Rock of Ages looked incredible and came recommended by folks whose opinions I trusted, somehow I’ve never gotten around to playing them. Then, during IGF judging this year, their latest project came across my slate of games to play. I was totally charmed by it.
The premise of the game is fabulously simple and strange; an impossibly endless cylinder stretches across an alien landscape as far as you can see. Periodically, the Cylinder activates, and rolls inexorably forward, crushing every living thing in its path. You play as the Trebhum — a species of diminutive creatures native to this world, with the fantastic ability to rapidly mutate. The game contains a lot of familiar ideas: consume items/enemies to gain new abilities, ala Kirby or Mega Man. Add Trebhum to your group, which is constantly under threat of losing members, ala Lemmings of Pikmin. There are light version of other familiar systems, eg: keeping your Trebhum fed, combining items to craft new tools, and so on.
This familiarity is part of what I find so brilliant about ACE Team’s work — there is so much about this game which is deliciously odd. The creature and world design are straight out of an acid-metal album cover, the storytelling gets cosmic and weird — it’s a game that manages to expertly balance it’s strangest elements with grounded craftsmanship. The result is a game that can challenge and delight you, while still offering a solid and comforting foundation. It was one of the rare games that I devoured from beginning to end, and one I’ll fondly remember for many years to come.”
— Joel Burgess, studio director
“I still play a lot of Grindstone.”
— Matt Repetski, co-founder
Editor’s Note: “It’s a good sign when we’re still fans of our own game after two full years of consistent updates!”
Honourable Shout-Out: Inscryption
And, same as last year, we want to give a special shout out! This time it’s to Inscryption, a game that, like 2021, was full of unexpected twists, a rollercoaster of emotions, and was really just about trying to escape the same room you’ve been stuck in for a really long time.
Thanks to everyone who made the games that got us through!