2021 Community Game of the Year

Are you... surprised?

That's right, I'm launching the GOTY thread a little earlier than usual. Not because it might be impacted by delays in shipping (do be aware that those are happening, folks), but simply on a whim. Because good cheer is sometimes in short supply in this day and age. So I'm officially kicking off this 2021 Community Game of the Year thread. On this day of (US) Thanksgiving, I'd like to thank ClockworkHouse, my predecessor who, to this very day, continues to be a patient sounding board and amazing source of support, as well as Staygold for his enthusiasm and new ideas. And of course, you. The community. The goodjers from all over who keep bringing your joy and love of gaming to this thread. I cannot thank you enough.

You know the drill, the rules haven't changed. In a nutshell, you, the GWJ community members vote for your favorite games of the year. Limit yourself to games you played for the first time in 2021, new releases or no. It must be new to you. Additionally, if you change your list during the course of the month, PLEASE, for the love of Stan, do not edit your post, but make a new one and tell me you've changed your mind. Finally, I'm carrying this over from 2020, but I ask that you skip or spoiler your "disappointments." Let's try to keep this centered on the good stuff, because of (gestures wildly) ...everything.

Polls will be closing on January 1st, 2022, 9am GMT+1 (that's 3am EST, or midnight PST). I'm already giving you a few extra days, so don't expect any leeway this time around.
Complete guidelines in Q&A form in the post below, and final results will be posted on the Front Page!

Below are the Official Rules of the 2021 Community GOTY Voting Thread, Q&A style.

  • What games can I vote for? Any game you played for the first time in 2021. Say every one had been telling you how awesome Katamari Damacy is and you picked it super cheap and loved it? You can absolutely put it on your list. But if you're into your third playthrough of Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice and already made it #1 on your list last year, then you don't get to vote for it again. Voting this year is still open to any game on any platform from any year.
  • How do you know if I really played it for the first time this year? Despite all evidence to the contrary, I don't have psychic powers. That'll be between you and your conscience, so we're on the honor system. But really, why would you try to rig a forum poll?
  • What if I didn't finish it yet? That's just fine. If you feel you've played enough of this game for it to surpass others you've played this year, go ahead and put it on your list. Sometimes, we don't have to play more than 5 hours of a game to know we're going to love it (not to mention that some games are really suuuuuuuuuuper long: you might not have finished it, but still know it's awesome).
  • Why are we doing it this way? Because we're all busy and free time is a precious commodity. Because 2021 was hard and many things got disrupted. GWJ is a community mostly populated with mature, adult gamers with jobs (it's right there in the name of the site), family obligations, hobbies, and other things that take up our time. And we can't all afford the new hotness as soon as it's released. Most of us have piles (see 2021 - 12 Month Pile Program, now run by our very own trueheart78), and though we try to play through them, we don't often get a chance to say that we really love something even if it's a bit older.
  • What if the top game ends up being from 2012 or something? In over ten years, that's never happened. I'd be very, very, very, very surprised.
  • So how are votes counted? Games in the top spot on a list get ten votes, second place gets nine, et cetera, et cetera, with tenth place getting a single vote. If your list is out of format (lists that aren't ranked and/or lists that go over ten), games on your list will get one vote each for the first ten games only. If you do not abide by the format, I'll make an executive decision and sort it all out.
  • Can I vote for an expansion pack? For the purposes of vote counting (and my sanity), votes for expansions are folded into votes for the base game. So for example, a vote for The Witcher 3: Blood & Wine is counted as a vote for The Witcher 3.
  • I played a game before, but this year I played the remastered Director's Cut with new content on a new platform. Can I vote for it?
    Nope. Again, the spirit of this thread is to vote for things that were new to you this year, and replaying a game you love with spiffier graphics runs contrary to that. That's right, folks, I'm saying it here and now, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is not eligible if you've played the games before. I know, it breaks my heart too, and it would place high on my list too, but if this isn't your first time with the trilogy, then it isn't new to you. I do hope (and know) some people played it for the first time this year, though, and that's awesome.
  • Can I list a game multiple times so that it gets more votes?
    Absolutely not. That's annoying, an asshole move cheating not fair to other people and other games. And why would you want to rig this and ruin it for everyone?
  • When does voting open? When does it close?
    You can vote now. Yes, now. Right now. As soon as the thread goes up. So post your list if you want to! Or wait until the holidays if you're holding off for new releases! Voting will close on January 1st, 2022 (9am GMT+1, 3am EST, midnight PST).
  • Are you going to do anything really neat and special with the results?
    Most likely! You can look for the traditional community's top ten list & special mentions. Your posts could very well contribute to the front page too!
  • What if I change my mind after I posted my list?
    As previously mentioned, under no circumstances should you edit your post. Simply post a new list indicating you've changed your mind (it happens!). Editing will majorly mess up the tracking of new posts and make my life more difficult.

If you are so inclined, you can check out previous years!

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Eleima wrote:

What if I change my mind after I posted my list?
As previously mentioned, do not edit your post and post a new list indicating you've changed your mind (it happens!). Editing will majorly mess up the tracking of new posts and make my life more difficult.

To clarify that you can post a new list, can I suggest:

As previously mentioned, do not edit your post! Instead, post a new list indicating you've changed your mind (it happens!). Editing will majorly mess up the tracking of new posts and make my life more difficult.

Thanks for doing this again!

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Oh boy. I was just looking at my list today but figured it wouldn't start until Dec 1. Probably have to wait until I finish my 2 current pile games.

Wait! It's way too early! I've only just finished making the list of games I need to play before the end of the year to see if they make my top 10 list!

ComfortZone wrote:

To clarify that you can post a new list, can I suggest:

As previously mentioned, do not edit your post! Instead, post a new list indicating you've changed your mind (it happens!). Editing will majorly mess up the tracking of new posts and make my life more difficult.

Thanks for doing this again!

Well I’m glad at least someone read the rules in the past five years! It’s not just that you can, it’s that you should. I’ve edited so that it’s even firmer than your suggestion.
Not too worried, though, because there have been zero instances of that happening in the past two or three years.

Technical Question: I have previously played Mass Effect 2 and 3, but this year was my first time playing ME1. But I did play all of them in the Legendary Edition this year.

So does Mass Effect Legendary Edition qualify, or just Mass Effect 1?

Thanks!!!

This is one of my favorite events of the year.

Look forward to seeing everyone's lists and thoughts and going over my notes.

I’m embarrassed to say I don’t even know what the new hotness is. I’ve been playing and enjoying Halo Infinite recently but what is this year’s equivalent of Hades?

Eleima wrote:

Finally, I'm carrying this over from 2020, but I ask that you skip or spoiler your "disappointments." Let's try to keep this centered on the good stuff, because of (gestures wildly) ...everything.

Happy to see this change this year, and spoilering them is probably a good middle-ground. Those sections may not be for everyone, but I find the why game X didn't work for me to be just as interesting as the actual top-10 lists. I'm the sort of person who bought No Man's Sky because the negative reviews made it sound like something I'd really enjoy.

UpToIsomorphism wrote:

Technical Question: I have previously played Mass Effect 2 and 3, but this year was my first time playing ME1. But I did play all of them in the Legendary Edition this year.
So does Mass Effect Legendary Edition qualify, or just Mass Effect 1?

That's a pickle. Honestly, I've been pondering this since yesterday, and there doesn't seem to be a good solution for it. I've got an idea or two running around in my brain and it's completely reasonable to put Mass Effect 1 on your list if you'd never ever played it (so glad you decided to remedy that!). You can put it on your list as ME1 (MELE) or something to that effect.

billt721 wrote:
Eleima wrote:

Finally, I'm carrying this over from 2020, but I ask that you skip or spoiler your "disappointments." Let's try to keep this centered on the good stuff, because of (gestures wildly) ...everything.

Happy to see this change this year, and spoilering them is probably a good middle-ground. Those sections may not be for everyone, but I find the why game X didn't work for me to be just as interesting as the actual top-10 lists. I'm the sort of person who bought No Man's Sky because the negative reviews made it sound like something I'd really enjoy.

I'm glad it works better for you, but to be completely transparent, it really didn't seem that unreasonable a request, especially when there are threads where you're basically banned from talking about the problematic aspects of a media because folks just want to enjoy their games/film/show without thinking too hard about it.

Eleima wrote:
UpToIsomorphism wrote:

Technical Question: I have previously played Mass Effect 2 and 3, but this year was my first time playing ME1. But I did play all of them in the Legendary Edition this year.
So does Mass Effect Legendary Edition qualify, or just Mass Effect 1?

That's a pickle. Honestly, I've been pondering this since yesterday, and there doesn't seem to be a good solution for it. I've got an idea or two running around in my brain and it's completely reasonable to put Mass Effect 1 on your list if you'd never ever played it (so glad you decided to remedy that!). You can put it on your list as ME1 (MELE) or something to that effect.

This is funny because for me I never played ME3 and I only played it because of the Legendary Edition. I don't remember if I played part of ME2 or just some demo so I am not counting it as new. So now we have one person who skipped the first and one who skipped the last. I think Mass Effect 3 (MELE) works but I am not sure there will be enough people playing Mass Effect for the first time to swing the vote even if they are all combined into one voting block.

My was a console issue. ME was for a long time only available on Xbox 360 and PC, and I was a PS3 guy. By the time it was ported to PS3, I played a little bit, put it down, and never went back. Fast forward to last March, I got the LE, and played a complete run of all three games. That was definitely the best gaming experience I had this year, but only one of those games technically qualifies under the rules, unless the Legendary Edition itself qualifies.

Let me rephrase then and be perfectly clear: the ME:LE itself will not be admissible under current and past GOTY ruling (as it is a remaster, no more, no less).
I hope that helps.

Eleima wrote:

Let me rephrase then and be perfectly clear: the ME:LE itself will not be admissible under current and past GOTY ruling (as it is a remaster, no more, no less).
I hope that helps.

You’re no fun.

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But a Fair and Just ruling all the same. It surely was a painful decision by Mighty Eleima to disallow Mass Effect anything, but also a sagacious and wise one, worthy of the kings and queens of old. Solomon himself would have faltered.

SpacePProtean wrote:

But a Fair and Just ruling all the same. It surely was a painful decision by Mighty Eleima to disallow Mass Effect anything, but also a sagacious and wise one, worthy of the kings and queens of old. Solomon himself would have faltered.

Solomon has split my baby into three parts, and only let me keep one.

No! I'm not ready to pick my favorites! It's too hard!

(Never mind this has already been on my mind for a month)

hmm...i don't *think* there's anything else due out this year i'm massively invested in, so it might be time to get the ol' list together if i can find a spare minute to do so...

Wow. It's that time of year already, huh? Ok time to go to the spreadsheets...

I'm game. I have one or two more games I may play before the end of the year, but my list has been taking shape for awhile. The only tricky part is the writeups for the top 2 or 3 games.

I guess the nice thing about hardly finishing a game is I have a short list!

1. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart.

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2. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

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See told you it was a short list!

I think I might have my list already? I realised that one of the games on my list is ineligible - I forgot that I had played about a quarter of it about 5 years ago. But I think I have a late entry! On the other hand, ranking these are going to be difficult.

farley3k wrote:

1. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart!

Never played a Rachet game, should I check this out?

UpToIsomorphism wrote:
farley3k wrote:

1. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart!

Never played a Rachet game, should I check this out?

Try the 2016 one if you have it. It was a PS+ freebie at some point. I played it this summer while everyone else was playing the brand new one and I had a blast. New one is on my list waiting for a good sale now.

1 Dragon Quest Builders 2

There is building, but also quests!

Great variety of things with great balance of freedom and direction. Wonderful Dragon Quest monsters and silly characters.

Technical issues warning:

Spoiler:

Had to load a community save in order to get past the intro on PC.

2 Dragon Quest VIII

The tone of the game is really great. It's a wonderful introduction to Dragon Quest.

The characters and monsters are silly and the bosses are more often misunderstood or confused rather than evil.

A highlight for me was when, unprompted, Yangus took out a King Metal Slime after he'd been missing constantly while I was controlling him.

3 Persona 5 Royal

The original ending is really something. I did not expect that.

A great introduction to Persona!

It's becoming a theme, but like Dragon Quest, this is consistently fun. There is a good balance between freedom and direction and it never feels very repetitive even though the game is very long for me. I liked the smaller stories quite a lot.

4 Control

Fun movement, fun setting, and fun combat.

Main story was decent and the DLC, particularly the Alan Wake DLC was a nice twist.

5 Life Is Strange: Before the Storm

You can listen to someone's demo song on their phone as the characters bob their heads. For the whole song.

I love how the game asks you to take breaks to provide a space to think over what's going on. Games and movies are so often charging forward, that this was a really nice shift.

I ended up playing Life Is Strange again almost immediately afterwards and they did a nice job of integrating the stories.

6 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I found myself having to break habbits and try and just wander around and see what happens.

The simulation aspects (interactions between objects) and exploration work well and work pretty consistently.

It often wants to invisibly guide you to learning how things work, and that almost always works well too.

7 Dragon Quest XI

Quite liked how they worked with the multi-act structure of the story.

Consistently fun, occasionally very fun, mostly along for the ride.

The full auto combat and quick animation options had the game mostly play by itself which wasn't bad.

8 Persona 4 Golden

"Weeeeell, we go rescuing people who've been kidnapped by jumping into the TV! And theeen, we do stuff like, ""Persona!"" with our Personas and beat the crap outta Shadows..."

I like most of the characters and had more fun with random dungeons than I thought I would. Continued to surprise me.

Content warning:

Spoiler:

Gender and sexuality topics are explored and presented in seemingly realistic, but disappointing ways. These sections of the story are quite prominant.

9 Pokemon Unite

Slowbro's surf attack is fun to pull off.

For about a month, this was a fun light MOBA. The characters are different enough, the games are really short and to the point, and there is enough customization to be fun without feeling overwhelmed by choices.

10 Nethack

Warning: Not a computer hacking game.

A lot more going on than Rogue.

Final thoughts

This year, I think I slowed down and was happy to keep going through games that I would have considered VERY long previously. I also appreciated the shorter games that moved slowly. Maybe for that reason, I didn't feel as pressured to buy new games on sale and try to focus more on what I have now. :shrug:

Thanks again and look forward to reading everyone's lists and thoughts!

Quick edit was to specify Persona 4 was the Golden version...

Thank you farley3k and PikaPomelo for your lists! That **was** a short list, Farley! Apologies for stepping away for a few days, but I buckled down to wrap up NaNoWriMo and kinda dropped off every radar.
But the two lists have been tallied and I'm looking forward to seeing more!!

Lots of gaming time in those Persona and DQ games! Nice list.

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Only played one game this year. Been busy with work.

1. Monster Hunter Rise.