EGM’s Best of 2021: #10 ~ #6

EGM’s Best of 2021
Our Top 10 – #10 through #6

At this point, we’re all a little tired of lengthy writeups about “the way things are now.” We could probably sit here and waste a few paragraphs’ worth of your life talking about these trying times, and game delays, and hardware shortages. But we’re tired. You’re probably tired. Let’s just agree to jettison all that for a year and get to the good stuff.

So without (much) further ado, here are the first five games on our countdown of the year’s best. Check back throughout the next week to see the rest of our choices—including our Game of the Year—and our editors’ personal picks.

10 Metroid Dread

Metroid Dread is a fantastic adventure that reminds the world why “Metroid” is part of “Metroidvania.” But it’s that name—Metroid—that has caused a bit of dread over Dread. For some longtime fans (including our reviewer), the game’s faster action, QTE sections, and stronger emphasis on story feel rather alien when looking back at the early days of Samus Aran’s career as a bounty hunter. And yet, much like Samus herself, the Metroid series must keep evolving if it wants to avoid extinction, and evolution is what Nintendo and MercurySteam have given us here. Metroid Dread certainly isn’t your parents’ Metroid—and that’s not a bad thing.

09 Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Plenty of Marvel games put a lot of effort into capturing the powers of their starring heroes. It’s much less common to see a game that captures their heart. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy does a phenomenal job building its versions of Rocket, Groot, Gamora, Drax, and Star-Lord into fully believable, deeply wounded people—just the way writer-director James Gunn did in his films. But rather than retreading the same beats, developer Eidos-Montréal weaves something new, mixing original ideas with storylines and characters from the comics that the MCU movies have yet to explore. Throw in some solid action gameplay that puts a big emphasis on working together with your AI teammates, and you’ve got the makings of the best Marvel game this side of Insomniac’s Spider-Man efforts.

08 Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5 feels like the culmination of all the smart work Playground Games has put into refining its open-world racing formula over the past nine years. Sure, there aren’t a ton of new gameplay features compared to the last game, but the changes we did get, like a more open-ended progression through events and Expeditions that feel like free-roaming mini missions, are all smart improvements. The real star, however, is the new map, which condenses Mexico into a larger and more diverse playground for putting the massive roster of cars to the test. What other game lets you throw a Jeep off the side of a volcano, career across a desert, and wind up on a picturesque beach while looking this dang good? Equally admirable is the focus on accessibility, with settings that can let almost anyone of any skill or mobility level make it through a race.

07 Tales of Arise

In a year that provided Shin Megami Tensei V, Monster Hunter Rise, Bravely Default 2, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade, and remasters such as Mass Effect Legendary Edition and NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…, having the one RPG to make our Top 10 list be Tales of Arise might ruffle a few feathers. Here’s the thing: While it might be the 17th entry in a seemingly never-ending series, Arise feels like something of a fresh start for both the franchise and the Japanese RPG subgenre itself. The game is one heck of an adventure, no matter if you’re new to Tales or a longtime fan, and it serves as a spark to ignite hope for what’s to come that’s as hot as the legendary Burning Sword.

06 Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

We’re still new enough into this latest console generation that we haven’t seen many examples of what “next gen” really means this time around. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a honking big exception to that rule. Its PlayStation 5 exclusivity isn’t just about better graphics and ray-tracing (though it certainly uses both to great effect). Instead, it’s how Insomniac has used the system’s SSD to open up gameplay that would’ve been impossible on earlier hardware, with reality-breaking rifts that can shift Ratchet and Clank (and Rivet and Kit, and all the pairings thereof) into different dimensions seamlessly and instantaneously. The fact that Insomniac came up with a few distinct and smart ways to use that power in gameplay doesn’t hurt, nor does the fact that the game remains as engaging to play and packed with personality as the rest of the franchise.

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