2021 was a year of self-reckoning for video games. Sometimes, that simply meant revisiting classic franchises, with Ratchet & Clank reviving itself after nearly a decade of hibernation, and Resident Evil launching one of its most ambitiously weird installments in recent memory.
More often, though, games in 2021 reflected on themselves more directly, sending players Groundhog Day-ing their way through an enormous array of virtual time loops. These could run from the apartment-constrained action of Twelve Minutes, to the comedic violence of Arkane Studios’ Deathloop, to the far-flung space action of Housemarque’s Returnal. Given the long lead times on games production, it’s hard, as ever, to pinpoint why so many of the year’s games found themselves trapped in these cycling prisons—or to account for the wide variety of the end results.
The latter of which is what we’re set to do here, in The A.V. Club’s ranking of the best games of 2021. We’re breaking with tradition this year, offering up a ranked list, instead of our more traditional “Games We Liked” format. Partly, that change is intended to standardize Games with our colleagues over in Film, TV, Music, and Books; it’s also in the hopes of taking a somewhat stronger editorial stance on what gaming got right this year. (Don’t be afraid to tell us what you loved this year in the comments, though.)
And now, without further adieu: The A.V. Club’s Best Games Of 2021.