Cary’s Best Games of 2021 SO FAR Awards Show!

I’d like to say this year’s been better than the last, but it really hasn’t.  Even though it’s improved, we’re still having to deal with a lot of COVID crap.  And then we found out my mom had breast cancer late last year and we had to deal with the surgeries this year.  Luckily she’s cancer free now, which is a miraculous and wonderful thing, and I thank God everyday for that.  But man it sure was rough for a couple of months there.  You have no idea.  But anyway, around this time of year I like to make a list of my best games SO FAR, because usually the AAA titles are released later in the year during the holiday season, and the titles that came out earlier tend to be forgotten.  So here’s when those games get their due.  Keep in mind that this is my list only and no other outside opinions contributed.  And if a game isn’t on this list, it either just didn’t appeal to me as much or I haven’t had a chance to play it yet.  Ok with that out of the way, let’s begin!


Ys 9: Monstrum Nox (PS4)

If there was ever a time I wanted to give the best game award to two games as a tie, this would be it.  Between the other game that got the better award, Ys 9 is certainly the longer, more fulfilling game.  But the other title won out in the end for reasons we’ll get to in a bit.  Ys is an action adventure hack and slash RPG series with a long and interesting history, and I’ve always been interested in them, even when they weren’t quite as readily available to play in the US.  Luckily they are now, and while Ys Seven is still my favorite, I really liked Ys 8 as well.  It had a neat tropical island setting with dinosaurs, and one of my brothers even called it “Jurassic Park: The JRPG.”  It also added some new gameplay elements like being able to build your own castaway town.  Ys 9 has a more dark, goth theme as you explore a dirty city and giant prison instead of a colorful tropical island.  So didn’t think I’d like it as much, but I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would.  Ys series hero Adol finds himself in this town and cursed by a mysterious lady, and is forced to stay inside the city with a bunch of other cursed people.  This ‘curse’ gives each of the team a superpower, and while useless on their own, once you get enough powers and can grapple hooks, glide, and climb walls, it’s really fun to explore the sprawling city.  Gameplay wise it’s pretty much the same as Ys 8, with you building up a pub in town instead of a castaway village.  There are lots of refinements to the things added in Ys 8, though, especially when it comes to sidequests.  The characters are really likable, too, my favorite being Raging Bull (can you guess why?).  In fact, when I beat the game, I was a little sad that I wouldn’t be able to interact with these characters further.  So yeah, while it may not be as good as the previous two Ys titles, if you want a great action RPG you can really sink your teeth into, Ys 9 will really fit the bill!

Runner Up:

Balan Wonderworld (PS4)

A lot of reviewers bashed on this game, and for good reason.  But I didn’t think it was THAT bad, so that’s why I put it on the list.  Granted, it’s not that great either, but it at least kept me interested until almost the end.  In the game you play as a kid who is sad for some reason, but a mysterious magical flying dude with a top hat lures him to an abandoned theater where he is whisked to a magical land so he can help out others with their problems.  The kid can don different suits that give him powers, and you must collect statues to open up new areas.  If parts of this premise sounds like NiGHTS, there’s a good reason for that.  Yuji Naka, creator of Sonic and NiGHTS, made this game, too!  Neat side story: one time at E3 I StreetPassed Yuji Naka on my 3DS!  Anyway, like Sonic and NiGHTS, I feel like Yuji Naka has a lot of good ideas, they’re just not executed very well in the games he’s involved in.  Here is no exception.  My main problem with this game is that you have to collect way too many statues to proceed.  After I opened up all the main areas, I still had 15 left to go before I could reach the final boss, so that’s when I stopped playing.  I think this game probably would’ve been more accepted if it were released in the GameCube era.  We just don’t get as many colorful 3-D platformers like this anymore.


Pac-Man 99 (Switch)

Battle Royale games usually pit you against 100 or so other players as you fight to the death with the last one standing the victor.  Most of these kinds of games are shooters, and because of that, I never thought I’d play a Battle Royale style game.  But a couple of years ago, Nintendo released Tetris 99, which I still play from time to time.  Later they released a similar game called Super Mario Bros. 35, which I dabbled in a little bit, but not much (I’m not as big of a fan of the original Super Mario Bros. game as people think I am).  But boy they sure got me with their latest ‘99’ Battle Royale style game featuring a classic.  This time with Pac-Man 99, where you play the original Pac-Man game against 99 other players!  It’s available as a freebie to Nintendo Switch Online users.  It’s a lot of fun, and I can usually get pretty high in the rankings.  I’m better at it than Tetris 99 anyway.  Plus it has a lot of cool DLC which I bought because I’m such a Namco freak.

Runners Up:

NEO GEO Pocket Color Selection vol. 1 (Switch)

Game maker SNK is known for their fighting games, but they also made their own consoles, like the NEO GEO and subsequent arcade machine.  When it came time for them to compete with Nintendo’s Game Boy Color, they brought out the NEO GEO Pocket Color.  This was a really awesome little handheld, and for a short while, I even liked it better than Nintendo’s portable offerings.  And now you can play a collection of ten NGPC games on the Switch!

Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World (PS4)

There is a series of obscure, but still fun 2-D platformers called Wonder Boy.  There’s some interesting history behind them, and they even tie into the Hudson’s Adventure Island series in a way.  But the fourth game in the series didn’t even star a boy at all, but a girl named Asha instead.  Originally this game was only released in Japan on the SEGA Genesis (called Mega Drive over there).  But a while back they re-released it on the PS3, and I reviewed it a long time ago and loved it.  And now they’ve remade it with 3-D graphics and other improvements.  I love some of the quality of life features, like being able to save at any time now.  In the original game, you could only save at certain parts when you talk to sage.  That sage is still here, but when you first talk to him he says, “Did you know you can save at any time now? Guess that means I’m out of a job!”  Anyway, if you like Shantae games, you’ll definitely want to check this one out.


Game Builder Garage (Switch)

I don’t know if this was in response to Sony’s “Dream” game, but Game Builder Garage lets you create your own simple 2-D and 3-D games.  It’s kind of like WarioWare D.I.Y. except a lot more involved.  It also feels like it uses a lot of assets from the Labo games, except without the cardboard.  The game also has easy to follow, step by step lessons on creating games, and I think that they’ll give kids the confidence to try programming themselves.  It’s one of those games where I can imagine kids saying, “I can do this.”  And the words “I can” are very powerful indeed!  And in today’s world where programming skills are going to be in high demand for a long time, any way to get kids to be interested in learning more about these skills is very important.


Mario Golf: Super Rush (Switch)

This one kind of wins by default, since it’s the only sports game I’ve played all year.  But it’s a lot of fun.  Simple pick up and play controls, and lots of modes.  You have your standard golf, but also a Speed Mode where everyone plays at the same time and you make them run to the ball to hit it again!  But my favorite is Battle Mode where all the holes are in a stadium arena, and the first to sink three holes first wins!  You can also use items to hinder the others here, too.  There’s also a Story Mode where you play as your Mii and take on Mario characters in tournaments and level up your stats and such.

And now for my Best Game of 2021 SO FAR award.  Taiko drum roll, please…


New Pokémon Snap (Switch)

I loved the original Pokémon Snap, and countless fans, myself included, have wanted a sequel for many years.  And now we finally got one!  Took it long enough.  Kind of surprised it didn’t happen on the Wii U or 3DS, since both of them had motion controls AND cameras.  Anyway, many people were worried about the new game, since the old one was made by HAL and the new one by Namco Bandai.  But you needn’t worry about my favorite game company Namco, as they blew it out of the water.  More Pokémon, better graphics, more things to do, and the main game is about ten times as long!  I thoroughly enjoyed it and the game has universal appeal and that’s why it wins the award.  Will it be able to keep the award by the end of the year?  We’ll just have to wait and see.  It’ll have a lot of stiff competition in the form of games like Metroid Dread and WarioWare: Get it Together!

And those are my best games of the year SO FAR.  In the comments section, let me know what you think of my list, and tell me YOUR favorite games of the year so far.  That’s all for now!  Later!  –Cary

Discussion Area - Leave a Comment

Tired of typing this out each time? Register as a subscriber!