TAG24's big 2021 gaming review: These are our top games of the year

San Francisco, California - 2021 had some great games this year that added a splash of joy into our everyday life. Now that we covered the year's gaming flops, it's time to reveal which titles the TAG24 team loved the most.

Annika's game of the year: Life is Strange: True Colors

Alex Chen's powers are a gift...or a curse.
Alex Chen's powers are a gift...or a curse.  © Square Enix

I've been longing for a game that you can immerse yourself in and forget everything around yourself with the click of a button.

The third installment of the Life is Strange series is that elusive treat and it came at just the right time in September.

Life is Strange: True Colors is a story-driven experience that offers an intoxicating mix of suspense and melancholy moments. While some players might criticize the slow pace of the storyline, that's exactly what made me enjoy it.

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The game is at its strongest in the quiet scenes that focus on the gradual development of characters and interpersonal relationships, with the grandiose indie soundtrack and atmospheric visuals creating a very special mood.

The story also comes with some exciting twists and turns, and of course the tricky and often very emotional decisions that the series is so well known for.

True Colors did this so well that sometimes I sat in front of my controller for minutes and just didn't know which choice to make.

I couldn't have picked a better game to add a few special hours to my everyday life, and the fictional town of Haven Springs and its inhabitants won a special place in my heart.

Marco's game of the year: It Takes Two

The title says it all, and teamwork makes the dream work in It Takes Two.
The title says it all, and teamwork makes the dream work in It Takes Two.  © Screenshot/EA & Hazelight Studios

This game came into my – or rather, our – life at just the right moment.

My eldest child joined me in romping through It Takes Two's moving story of a girl whose parents want to separate.

The souls of mom and dad end up in two toy dolls. Together, they have to find the way back to their daughter – and to themselves.

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The name of the game actually says it all: you can't go it alone.

My daughter really connected with the game, which put the game on an even higher pedestal for me.

Sure, her mom and I weren't transformed into toys (which is probably for the best, given the choice of singing Elsa dolls and Playmobil ballerinas) the real life parallels make the game even more powerful.

The journey of the characters, who eventually find their way back to each other, comes packaged in a beautifully crafted story with exciting action adventure elements and tricky challenges.

The special factor for us was finding a way to support each other in a new situation. To play the game, you have to work together.

That turned It Takes Two into a very special gaming experience for me in 2021, and is my unexpected favorite, especially when enjoyed with someone dear to you.

Eric's game of the year: Monster Hunter Rise

Monster Hunter Rise makes getting around a blast on your noble steed/hound.
Monster Hunter Rise makes getting around a blast on your noble steed/hound.  © Capcom

2021 really didn't make it easy for me to choose my favorite game, but Monster Hunter Rise took the prize.

The latest Monster Hunter installment for the Nintendo Switch sticks to the familiar franchise formula: you hunt impressively designed monsters, craft better gear from their parts, and experience an entertaining B-movie story along the way.

This Monster Hunter entry impressed me with some quality-of-life improvements, like a noble hound to ride around, as well as other improvements to the gameplay that make an already great recipe even better.

There's no question that Rise is the best Monster Hunter developer Capcom has released to date, and the fact that I can play it on the go thanks to the Switch puts the icing on the cake for me. Maybe 2021 wasn't all bad after all.

Michi's game of the year: Returnal

Astronaut Selene finds herself alone on an alien planet, trying to escape.
Astronaut Selene finds herself alone on an alien planet, trying to escape.  © Sony Interactive Entertainment/Housemarque

I never expected this game to top my personal best list at the end of the year, but Returnal actually blew me away!

And the game managed to do that even though I've always had an aversion to the roguelike/roguelite genre, since dying in-game and then having to start all over again seemed like a waste of time to me.

But developer Housemarque's PS5 debut action shooter does so many things right that you don't want to put the controller down, even on the umpteenth run.

The game is set in a beautifully scenic world. The controls are so buttery-smooth that you can actually take down the game's varied bosses and bathe in the glory of seeing the ending sequence finally flicker across the screen.

In the end, my playtime was almost 30 hours, as I relentlessly chased the highest achievement in the game. This is a must-buy for every owner of a Sony console!

A new update now lets players save during a run, making my 2021 favorite even better.

Cover photo: Collage: Square Enix + Screenshot/EA & Hazelight Studios + Capcom + Sony Interactive Entertainment/Housemarque

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