If you grew up on video games like I did, there’s a good chance that you might turn to them when you need a little pick me up. I don’t know about you, but I definitely needed a pick me up quite often in 2021. Here are my favorite games from 2021!
1. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was my favorite game as a child and it still might be, but unfortunately I don’t have a Wii(U) and it hasn’t been remastered for Switch yet. Instead, Breath of the Wild provides enough nostalgia to be calming and enough new-ness to be exciting! With its in-depth story telling, fun mechanics, and epic open world, I don’t think this game will ever bore me. Zelda: Breath of the Wild has over 100 quests in total, and hundreds of secrets! This critically acclaimed game really made my year, and the anticipation for Breath of the Wild 2, set to be released this year, is enough to make me try for full completion by the end of this year!
2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Another game I’ve been playing for years and years: Skyrim. It reached its 10 year release anniversary in 2021, and it’s still a game I come back to over and over again. I’ve been playing it on and off since its release in 2011, and in spite of the relatively long intro, it never fails to entertain me and take me back to simpler times, when dragons at the watermill were my biggest worries.
In this wildly popular RPG, there are several classes to choose from, although I still haven’t explored all of them. My favorites are assassinate and destruction mage; close combat is a little scary for me, so I like to embrace the Dark Brotherhood and attack sneakily from a distance so no one can see me, especially in the Dwemer Ruins. When I do quests, I often switch to being a mage, burning and shocking my enemies to complete my quest relatively unscathed.
3. The Sims 4
I only recently got into Sims 4, and my wallet is definitely not happy with me because of it. But this game is really a game for escapists. Making a little family with their own story, redesigning all of the houses in Willow Creek, and creating a new town from the blank slate of Newcrest can really take up a lot of time. But it can be so satisfying to see a story play out just the way you had it in your head, to make your little Sim become successful even while you’re stuck at home feeling deep in your heart like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill every day.
(Disclaimer: if you do start to feel too much like a certain cursed hero, playing Sims probably won’t make you feel better. It would probably be helpful to break up your schedule so your day doesn’t feel so bland, and if you ever feel hopeless, there is no shame in asking for help!)
4. Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley! Another critically acclaimed “cozy” game! This calm farming game by Concerned Ape boasts a rich storyline, fantastic characters, and plenty of secrets and side quests. You can explore the valley, take a trip to the desert, and defeat the monsters in the mines, all while romancing your favorite villager (or if you play your cards right, more than one!) and maintaining your farm. It’s a fun game for all player levels, with simple mechanics and fantastic top-down gameplay.
However, hidden just below the surface of this cute story about a cubicle worker who quit their job to work on their late grandfather’s farm is a darker and more mature narrative that even long-time players are still finding out. Stardew Valley also hides an insightful commentary on the drudgery of corporatism and the gradual urbanization of small towns that happens every day in real life. This is another game that I will definitely be playing for many years to come.
Another game I don’t think I will ever get bored of for very long; I’ve been playing Minecraft since it was a simple browser game with only a few block types. I remember begging my parents to let me buy it once it monetized. I even made a presentation about how it would help me with my geometry and critical thinking skills to convince them. Eventually, they conceded, and it was one of my favorite games for years. I have fond memories having Minecraft LAN parties with my siblings and making my first online friends via Minecraft servers in middle school.
Things haven’t changed much. I still play with my friends and siblings, and my building skills have improved a lot. I’m not sure how helpful Minecraft actually was for my math skills, because I still have a hard time doing the simple math required to make a house geometrically correct the first time, but Minecraft is still a great game to stretch my creative muscles while also having some nice social time.
6. My Time at Portia
I spent much of my free time during the summer playing My Time at Portia before eventually getting busy and forgetting about it for a while (I should really start playing it again though). I originally started playing it to pet the dog for one of my friend’s youtube video ideas. He didn’t end up using the clip, but the game was worth it.
Set in a post-post apocalyptic nation, Portia, the player is a builder who helps the town grow, carefully avoiding mistakes that caused the apocalypse in the first place. It has wonderful commentary about pollution and is decidedly solarpunk. The player spends a lot of time gathering resources, which makes the game a bit more grindy than I’m used to playing, but the storyline and relationships with the townspeople that the player must build up to advance make the game worth playing. The cute animation style, well-written storyline, and loveable characters are what will keep me going back to this game.
This early 2000s game celebrated its 22nd year in 2021. I don’t know many Gen Z-ers or young Millennials who didn’t play Neopets at some point. Now, since the Flash apocalypse (aka Adobe Flash End of Life), there are significantly fewer mini-games on Neopets, and actually my most favorite mini-games have succumbed to whatever terrible fate awaits outdated Flash mini-games. But Neopets is still a satisfying hit of nostalgia. Just visiting the Soup Kitchen to feed my poor starving neopets or visiting Jhudora’s Bluff to have her scorn me for not bringing her her quest items in time gives me the shot of serotonin I need to eventually motivate me to finish my homework or make dinner or whatever Important Task it is I’m avoiding.
Spiritfarer is another game I played quite a lot over the summer. The summer of 2021 was a difficult one for me. It was a tumultuous time for my family at home and I was having a rough time in isolation in Belgium, so I returned home to help out around the house as much as I could. It was the longest period of time I had been home since I moved out in 2018, so there was double the amount of adjustment, both in re-finding my place at home and with the necessary conflict in my priorities between the house, my school, and my mental health, which was already suffering when I came home. Spiritfarer did so much to keep me emotionally stable during that time.
Spiritfarer is another calm, cozy game where you play as Stella, who takes over the role of Charon, the ferryman of the dead. This game tackles grief and other feelings that come with death, and it’s really beautiful. I haven’t finished it yet, but I know that when I do come to another rough place in my life, this game will be there for me. It feels like a warm hug.
9. Divinity: Original Sin 2
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a top down, semi-open world, semi-turn based tabletop style RPG. One of my friends got me into it and I have been obsessed ever since. You play a character of one of 4 races, or an undead character, to try to figure out what went wrong in the highest ranks of their theocratic government and stop what seems to be a genocide on Sourcerers.
Maybe it’s the depth of the story, or the sheer variety of choices available that make it fun every time, or maybe it’s the number of class combinations you can try out that make Divinity so fun. But in any case, this game is exciting to play alone or with friends. The world is well made, the quests are interesting, and there are dozens of ways to play this game, save the Sourcerers, and become Godwoken.
Teamfight Tactics is a relatively new strategy game by Riot Games. It feels like a trading card game mixed with a board game, where you collect the League of Legends champions and pit them against each other on a board. It seems quite complicated if you watch it, but once you play it it’s so fun. Plus, there are insanely adorable Tacticians to choose from and, at least at lower levels, TFT doesn’t have the toxic player environment that League of Legends is so infamous for! This is the only Riot game I’ve played that I will play alone, and trying to find the best combinations for all the champions is very fun. The newest set, 6.5, comes out next week on February 16! It’s all very exciting and I’m really glad that Riot finally came out with a game that is possible for more casual play.
Bonus: League of Legends
I am admittedly not the biggest fan of League of Legends. The environment is toxic, playing without a full pre-made can be really scary, and there’s a high learning curve. But if you can find a good group of friends to play with, especially those who have already braved the flaming “necessary” to pass through to become a good player, this game can actually be really fun! I spent much of 2021 tentatively dipping my toe into this game. While I hold out hope that the League community will become less harmful in the future, in any case, I’ll just stick to my friends.
What are your favorite games?
Games are really personal and can become an integral part of a person’s life. Did I miss some of your favorite games? Do we have some of the same comfort games? Comment down below what games you keep going back to no matter what!