Our individual Game of the Year articles allow our lovely team of writers to share their own personal PS5 and PS4 picks for 2021. Today, it's the turn of associate editor Stephen Tailby.
5. Death's Door
For me, the year has been peppered with several smaller games, and most of them have been very good, but I think Death's Door does enough to stand out. I was expecting to enjoy it, but I was struck almost immediately by the game's responsive, smooth gameplay — everything just feels right. However, it's not just the combat that impresses; enemies are distinct, bosses are memorable, and the world-building is surprisingly strong. It's a quietly confident game that punches above its weight in almost every aspect.
I remember the frankly terrible debut trailer for Knockout City, but when the game itself was shown, it always looked promising. Thankfully, after spending hands-on time with the online dodge-brawler, I was convinced — this is a fun, brilliantly designed multiplayer game. It's an easy game to write off, as its cartoonish visuals, emphasis on cosmetics, and seasonal updates are not for everyone. That would be a mistake, though; satisfying, deceptively deep gameplay keeps me coming back for more. I've not enjoyed a multiplayer title this much since Rocket League, and it'll be a mainstay on my PS5 for some time.
3. It Takes Two
Playing this with my partner for review was an easy gaming highlight for me this year. I'll be the first to admit It Takes Two isn't perfect — the narrative and characters let the side down — but it's otherwise an absolute blast from start to finish. With co-op at the core of its design, it constantly finds new ways to engage both players at the same time. The sheer variety on offer here is astounding, but perhaps more impressive is that each gameplay mechanic is just as polished and fun as the last. If you enjoy co-op games at all, this is an absolute must.
Hades only made it onto PlayStation this year, but man, it was worth the wait. I'm not sure what I can really add to the conversation at this point, to be honest. It's a fantastic dungeon crawler that makes each weapon fun to wield. It embellishes that core with great rogue-like randomness, meaning your character's build is unique every time. Where it really excels, though, is in its storytelling, cleverly weaving a narrative that responds to your actions and the random generation of the game. Throw in interesting characters and an addictive end-game grind, and you have yourself a winner. A top-drawer effort from Supergiant.
Returnal certainly isn't a game that will gel with everyone, but personally, I've not enjoyed a game more all year. It really got its hooks in me with its oppressive setting, intriguing story, and eye-meltingly frenetic combat. The core gameplay is really what makes it so addictive — this is about as responsive and slick a third-person shooter as you'll find. The random elements make it a compelling game to explore, too, as it gradually feeds you new items, weapons, and narrative points. It takes real advantage of its platform as well — the PS5's SSD, 3D audio, and the DualSense's bells and whistles are all put to excellent use here. The combo of white-knuckle action, constantly shifting environments, and an enigmatic story add up to bring us one of PS5's standout games, and my personal favourite of the generation so far.
What do you think of Stephen's personal Game of the Year picks? Feel free to agree or berate in the comments section below.