Games We Are Thankful For In 2021

Americans celebrate Thanksgiving every November. It’s a time when families gather, friends reconnect and communities unite. On Thanksgiving you also announce what you’re thankful for in life, so several of our writers decided to let everyone know exactly which video games they’re thankful for. These thanks are comprised of releases from Thanksgiving 2020 to Thanksgiving 2021 and made up of a variety of reasons. Read on to see the titles everyone decided were personally meaningful enough from the past year to make the list!

Sam is thankful for Hitman 3 (January 20, 2021)

While I’ve dabbled with various live service games in recent years, I’ve ended up falling off most of them after completing their campaigns, as new games come out and the best post-launch content is usually trapped behind an additional paywall. And yet, the allure of a game that I could continue to return to months or even years after completing the main content still sounds appealing. Although Hitman 3 may not be the first game that pops to mind when thinking of live service titles, IO Interactive has done an excellent job with adding new content to play since the game launched back in January. Between a combination of brand new and returning elusive targets that feature some of the game’s most high-stakes scenarios, seasonal events that put a unique spin on past locations and featured community contracts, Hitman 3 continues to regularly offer multiple reasons a month to boot the game back up and see where Agent 47 is heading next. And all of this has been available at no additional cost, which is welcome news since IO Interactive could have easily restricted this new content to those who purchased the Seven Deadly Sins DLC. While it’s unclear what the future may hold for Hitman 3 as it nears the end of what may be its final season, I’m thankful for the ability throughout the year to immerse me in the role of an assassin with new contracts to accept and targets to eliminate.

Chris is thankful for NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… (April 23, 2021)

The game I’m thankful for in 2021 is NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… The original NieR was a unique action RPG. It had one of the more emotionally-charged stories in gaming with potential for greatness but because of subpar game mechanics would never attain success greater than having a cult following. This changed with NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… where the developers went all out to rework the original into the game it was meant to be. Graphics were improved, music was enhanced, new content was added but most importantly the clunky mechanics were improved. Playing as Yonah’s brother instead of her father was an adjustment for fans of 2010 NieR, but the story was just as compelling. NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… took a game that was a personal favorite despite its flaws and made it as great as it always could have been. This is also introduced the game to a greater number of people who could enjoy the experience.

Kirstin is thankful for Famicom Detective Club (May 14, 2021)

The two original Famicom Detective Club titles saw release on the NES with SNES ports later down the line, where the series would stay Japanese exclusive until just this year. For the first time ever, players in the west got a brand new taste of a first-party Nintendo title that was unrecognized to them. For me it was a complete surprise, but as someone with a deep profound love of whodunnit dramas and detective sleuthing, it was something I never realized I needed so badly. Tie that into the fact that the Switch remake was fantastically animated and included apparently needed quality-of-life changes, and it made for a wonderful first time experience for many players around the world. The fact that it got translated into other languages besides Japanese almost feels like pure luck, but it’s something I’m thankful was given a chance to release to many more players than ever before. Visual Novels are niche as it is, but seeing something so drastically different from what Nintendo is known for available to new players was easily one of the best highlights 2021 had to offer. Over thirty years later and Famicom Detective Club has done a great job making itself well worth the wait and if luck continues it won’t be the end of what the series has to offer.

Kevin is thankful for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (June 11, 2021)

2021 was not as awful of a year as 2020, though that doesn’t mean it was a stupendous year. The COVID-19 pandemic raged on thanks to the delta variant and the long-awaited reopening of the world was delayed. 2021 was another year for video games to shine by helping players across the globe escape the grim reality. The best way to fight grim is with fun and no game provided more of that in 2021 than Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Insomniac Games’ beloved franchise had always been a great source of levity, humor and fun gameplay. Rift Apart delivers that, but it hit differently in 2021. After more than a year of doom and gloom, it was refreshing to play a game more concerned with consistently putting a smile on my face than completing time-gated Battle Passes. That’s not to say Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart doesn’t tackle serious topics or successfully builds its characters. The game delivers strong narrative and characters throughout its runtime while maintaining that sense of fun the franchise is known. For a second grim year in a row, I’m thankful to have a fun game like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.

Kyle is thankful for Death’s Door (July 20, 2021)

Typically, the game I’m most thankful for is the game that ends up being the biggest surprise. Something that came out of nowhere, is a new IP, feels wholly original in one way or another, etc. The type of game that we should generally all be thankful for any time of the year. 2021, however, was trickier than usual, though, because due to either a larger crop of stellar indie titles, delays to 2022 for all of the bigger titles, or both, there were way too many games to be thankful for this year. If had to pick one title to be a representative for the whole group — the turkey is this Thanksgiving banquet, you could say — it would be Death’s Door, Acid Nerve’s superb action game that explores the nature of death via this creative, stunning world that expertly blends together bits of Zelda, Dark Souls and Miyazaki in order to create an experience that blew me away, one vastly greater than the sum of its parts. And making up the stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and more at this banquet are Inscryption, Young Souls, Loop Hero, Genesis Noir, Everhood, GRIME, Bustafellows, Eastward, Lost in Random, Overboard!, Wildermyth, and…oh man, I think I’m gonna burst…

Marcus is thankful for Bustafellows (July 31, 2021)

Aksys Games have long dominated the English-language otome gaming space. Over the years, they’ve grown comfortable in this position and fans know what to expect. What fans didn’t know was that PQube were going to dip their toes into the otome space in 2021. Bustafellows is their first release in the genre, but it’s a smash hit. This title is beloved for many reasons, spanning from the gorgeous artwork to the entertaining storyline and engaging cast of handsome criminals. The writing feels fresh and modern, and there’s never a dull moment. Throughout the visual novel you uncover more about each guy and can’t help but want to play every single route to conclusion. Bustafellows is one of the best otome releases in years and it’s fantastic that English-speaking gamers can finally play it for themselves.

James is thankful for No Man’s Sky Frontiers (September 1, 2021)

A long time ago a game came out that didn’t live up to the hype, but through hard work and endless updates not only reached its potential but exceeded it. No Man’s Sky got update after update, fixing bugs and taking feedback into consideration, and then kept on expanding. Proper multiplayer made its way in, as did player owned frigates, base building both on land and underwater, and even the entire galaxy got reset a number of times as newer and fancier planets were added to the mix. This year saw the addition of settlements, small towns the player gets to make decisions for and slowly grow into thriving communities, and that was the final push to get me to start a new save. It had been about two years or so since I last looked at No Man’s Sky and at the time I enjoyed it, but between one thing and another I didn’t get far. This year, however, is a different matter entirely, with all the systems providing endless distractions from each other amounting to a game where if I don’t feel like doing This, there are an endless amount of Thats to work towards. Fleet missions, base building, exploration, companion pets, side-quests and dozens upon dozens of smaller goals amount to endless hours in a big universe that can feel lonely one moment and bustling the next. There’s a lot to be thankful for in No Man’s Sky, whether that be something as simple as being a game that you buy with no microtransactions or other games-as-a-service silliness, or that it got to keep growing over the years long after it would have been reasonable to see at least a few of the expansions added as paid DLC, but mostly I’m thankful for a galaxy with so much to do and no pressure to chase after it beyond the desire to see what the next planet might hold.

Beck is thankful for Tales of Arise (September 10, 2021)

Thanks to a certain pandemic, plenty of games continue to get delayed. Whether it’s Elden Ring, Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker, Horizon: Forbidden West, Dying Light 2 or the various others, we’ve had to wait longer for our favorite developers to perfect their craft (hopefully). Fortunately, there were a handful of games that came out this year that I’m thankful for, and one of them is Tales of Arise. This is a series that has gotten stale for the last decade, not progressing or evolving as we had hoped it would. Fortunately, with Tales of Arise we saw that the developers still had a few tricks up their sleeve. The first being that they actually created a setting that feels like a living and breathing world, especially when it comes to dungeons which are no longer linear caverns or landscapes. On top of that, the visuals are gorgeous, with the environments matching the detail of the character models, creating a consistent level of beauty. This is a breath of fresh air for not only the franchise but for JRPGs in general, and a game I’m grateful to have played in 2021.

Steve is thankful for Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania (October 5, 2021)

When being immersed at E3 2012 with some of the most highly-touted upcoming games, it came as a surprise that one of my favorite moments was when I visited SEGA’s booth and played half an hour of PS Vita’s Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz. While I was overloaded with exciting upcoming releases, simply standing on the show floor experiencing the classic gameplay of Monkey Ball reminded me of the basic fun of gaming that originally attracted us all. Not much has changed almost ten years later, with the release of Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania reminding us how time-tested and simply fun the series is. Developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio — best known for their Yakuza series of games — Banana Mania is a redux of Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, which compiled the original two console Monkey Ball games. With over three hundred stages, a redone story mode, twelve multiplayer party games, several new modes (including Reverse Mode which is surprisingly gratifying), Banana Mania is packed with simian-rolling goodness and will likely stand as the definitive Monkey Ball experience. A lot has happened in the twenty years since the series debuted, but the gameplay has stood the test of time and it’s easy to be thankful to Sega for continuing to carry on the legacy of one of gaming’s most purely fun franchises.

Jacob is thankful for Metroid Dread (October 8, 2021)

I’m thankful for Metroid Dread. It’s been a long, hard wait for all the Metroid fans out there, so it was exciting to have a new game both announced *and* released this year. What’s more, it’s a direct sequel to Metroid Fusion, the one we’ve been waiting for since 2002. For me, Metroid Dread would’ve been a favorite even if it was only “just okay,” but it’s so much better than that. Metroid Dread is arguably the best 2D Metroid game, right up there with Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion. Not only did it revive my hope for more Metroid, but it showed me that the series is still capable of greatness.

Jordan is thankful for Metroid Dread (October 8, 2021)

I’ve learned not to set expectations too high. Call it a look-back on high profile releases over the years coming out to dismal results or my general outlook on life being that of a more tempered perspective. If there’s one rule to follow above all else, be it video games or otherwise: never let yourself get washed up by the hype or excitement alone. Unless of course it has to do with a new Metroid game…in which case, go wild. But in my defense, with the wait for an original mainline release having been as long as it has, like so many around the world having gone through Other M and Federation Force, the coveted Metroid 5 tease has been a life-long absence we’ve all wished would materialize in some form or another. Prime 4 exists, but as a mere title card alone. So it’s no surprise that, in merely existing, Metroid Dread is a game I am thankful for. But to see such a thing — a new mainline entry set after Fusion in the series time-line — get so much right with its design, philosophy and very understanding on the roots of Metroid’s appeal as a fictional Universe. Providing and delivering things I hadn’t even begun to imagine were feasible. I rarely set my expectations as high as I had done prior to release, but I’m thankful that Dread proved that, on occasion, even the highest of expectations can still be succeeded.

Jake is thankful for Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl (November 19, 2021)

I’ve been a Pokémon fan ever since the series started. Each generation of the series brings something new and special but for some reason, I’ve poured hundreds of hundreds of hours into the original release of Pokémon Diamond making it my most-played Pokémon game. And just for fun, I would often restart Pokémon Platinum to keep things fresh. That’s why I’m thankful for the release of these gen 4 re-imaginings. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl has new, adorable art style and 3D gameplay making these versions a refreshing addition to the series. Now that I get to experience my most-played Pokémon game in a redesigned fashion, I can enjoy nostalgia on another level. It gets me excited to see how the future of Pokémon remakes will evolve.

As you can see, there has been a diverse line-up of video games to be thankful for this past year. Let us know one of your favorite releases of 2021 in the comments below and share how it may have impacted your life in any way!