The ROG team presents our favorite games of 2021

Dec 30, 2021 Written by:ROG Article

By every measure, gaming grew by leaps and bounds in 2021. More people than ever flocked to gaming platforms for entertainment, escape, and socializing. Exciting new hardware pushed the boundaries for what we could expect in digital worlds. Gripping esports competitions caught our attention as the world’s best gamers battled for victory. But the story of 2021 isn’t complete until we talk about the year’s new games. In the last year, we enjoyed long-anticipated releases and surprise sensations, immersive single-player epics and chaotic multiplayer battlefields, lavish, life-like spectacles and stylish retro throwbacks. After a year of exploring new releases, the ROG team is ready to share our personal favorites. Here’s ROG’s favorite games of 2021. 

Whitson Gordon—Deathloop 

Technically my favorite game of all time was remastered and re-released this year, but I've waxed enough poetic about Mass Effect for one lifetime. But that's okay, because 2021's Deathloop is the game I'm still thinking about months later

Like Arkane's Dishonored games before it, Deathloop put me in the middle of a unique world with a small taste of the bizarre, and said "here's the goal. You figure out how to get there." So I looted guns off my enemies, armed myself with a choice selection of superpowers, and began living the same day over and over again in an attempt to assassinate eight elusive targets at once. 


Image source: Gamesplanet

Fans of games like Deathloop call them "immersive sims" for their open-ended nature, and it's this characteristic that always hooks me. While plenty of games allow the player to choose between stealth and guns-blazing combat, few allow it with quite the same freedom, often funneling you down one of a few predetermined paths. But in Deathloop, the world is my playground. I want to avoid this batch of enemies…I wonder if I can scale that building and teleport along the rooftops. Or maybe instead of trying to find one target in a sea of many, I can bottleneck them into this little closet and shoot them one by one. Not only does it feel like my options are limitless, but I'm constantly impressed by how the developers seemed to take every possibility into account, making my offbeat actions have real consequences. 

Then there's the PvP, allowing other players to invade my mission, which scared the pants off me every time. I still want to go back and start invading others' playthroughs, so for that reason-—even though I've long finished Deathloop's campaign—it's still installed on my system, ready when I need to scratch that itch one more time. 

Daniel Esparza—Bloodhunt 

Bloodhunt has a familiar battle royale formula; set in the old city of Prague, you and two other friends are tasked with being the lone surviving coterie amid a rapidly shrinking map. There are different kinds of weapons and classes, and you search for loot while fighting off other players. What separates Bloodhunt from other battle royales is the fact that you play as a vampire. That means you are a dark and powerful creature of the night, who still must endeavor to hide from the eyes of the mortal world. The vampire motif adds a nice change of pace for the battle royale format with its mobility and skill systems. 

My favorite part of Bloodhunt is the movement system, particularly the verticality of the gameplay. As in Warzone and Apex: Legends, you can sprint and slide about while shooting your guns. However, as a vampire you can jump higher than a mortal and swiftly climb up the sides of buildings. Navigating the rooftops of Prague with this system is really fun. With practice, you learn to keep an insane momentum going as you dash from building to building. That basic movement paired with each vampire class’s mobility skill (a powerful leap, invisible dash, and line-of-sight teleportation) makes for dynamic battles. Firefights rarely take place on one surface plane as you and your enemies will constantly jump about one another. Fights may start on the rooftops, but can quickly move down into dark alleys, and back up cathedral spires before the final blow is struck. 

It would be a wasted opportunity not to have blood sucking in a vampire game. You can suck the blood of NPC mortals and absorb the dark essence of your immortal opponents. NPC mortals will give you health, and some special NPC’s blood will grant buffs for your vampire powers, such as health regen and ability cooldowns. You begin the game with three open slots for buffs, and absorbing the essence of your downed opponents will open up more slots. However, don’t get caught feasting by an NPC mortal; you will be highlighted on enemy maps for one anxious minute. 

This buff slot system is a great balance to the mobility of the game. It discourages players from running and hiding for the entirety of a match. The more opponents a player kills, the stronger they get, whereas running and hiding throughout the game will only leave you and your coterie weaker than your more ambitious adversaries. The movement gives players the tools to have exciting fights, while the buff system rewards players for engaging in those fights. 

Having powers and abilities in a battle royale is nothing new, but there’s something about being a vampire that makes the game stand out from the rest in my eyes. I love the vampire theme of dark powers and secret battles taking place in the shadows of old Europe. Each round of Bloodhunt is a fast-paced affair that when over had me saying “just one more game.” I can’t wait for the full launch in early 2022. 

Jake Kulinski—Valheim 

As the ROG Twitch streamer, I get the privilege to play a lot of games throughout the year. This year was packed with many great games, but ultimately Valheim stands out for me.  With 449.6 hours played—gross, I know—on a live server with friends, it’s clear that I really, really enjoy Valheim.  

I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun playing a game with a group of friends. Exploration, crafting, base building: it has it all and then some. If you haven’t tried it out yet, Valheim drops you into a Norse afterlife where you must face off against a series of mythical creatures, but you start out with no gear, no shelter, and no food. You have to explore its procedurally generated world to scavenge resources so that you can survive, establish a base, and craft ever-more powerful weapons to wield in battle. 

You won’t have anything more than a tattered rag tunic when you first enter the world, but at least you can enter with up to nine friends at your side. When we first started playing, I kept telling my friends that the experience reminded me of the first time I played World of Warcraft when it launched back in 2004. In both WoW and Valheim, exploring the world for the first time was terrifying, exciting, and I just couldn’t get enough of it. 

Beyond the thrill of exploring a vast, mysterious world, I fell in love with building bases with my wife. We spent countless hours in and outside of the game planning bases and executing them from start to finish. It was just too much fun, and there’s so much more to come. Valheim is still in early access, and its developer Iron Gate has many more updates planned for the game. I can’t wait to see what they add next. 

Eric Born—It Takes Two 

For me, the best game of 2021 was a complete surprise. I came into the year with sky-high expectations for a number of games: Resident Evil Village, Cyberpunk 2077, and Subnautica: Below Zero, to name a few. I had a blast playing all of them. But there’s one game that I keep recommending to friends and family, one game that stands out from the crowd of great titles I played last year, and that’s the cooperative adventure It Takes Two

I gave this game a try at the recommendation of a coworker, and I couldn't be happier that I did. This game put me and my wife in the shoes of Cody and May, a bickering couple who’ve decided to get a divorce. After they inform their daughter of their plans, she retreats to the privacy of the family garage and inadvertently casts a spell on her parents that traps their consciousnesses in the bodies of two home-made dolls. To get back to normal, they have to work together to get back to the house and repair their relationship. 

By the time we reached its emotional conclusion, It Takes Two had taken us on a journey through a wide range of gaming genres. Since we were shrunk down to the size of dolls, the mere act of traversing the yard and house was a platforming adventure in and of itself. At times, we solved intricate puzzles, though nothing as challenging as what we found in Portal 2. In one sequence, we faced down hordes of fantasy enemies as in a top-down action RPG—and in another, we ran for our lives from a swarm of moles. Regular boss battles provided welcome variety, and pitted us against a creative range of creatures including a vacuum cleaner, an overgrown plant, and an astronaut stuffed animal named Moon Baboon. 

it takes two

Image source: Gamesplanet

What made every moment so fresh and engaging was the co-op gameplay. It Takes Two has no single-player mode. EA deserves some credit for generously allowing owners of the game to play with their friends for free—only one of you actually needs to purchase the game. The game’s mechanics force you to actually play together. One player can’t carry the other through the game. Both need to carry their weight. Often, Cody and May are given different but complementary abilities that have to be used together to progress. As they battle their way through a wasp infestation in a tree in their yard, Cody has a sap-spewing gun that can coat enemies and objects in thick, sticky goo, while May has a railgun that launches lit matchsticks. When her matchsticks strike the sap, they explode. Neither one can accomplish much on their own, but together they’re a wrecking crew. 

It’s that sense of togetherness that made It Takes Two so special. My wife and I have gamed together since before we were married, and we have poured time into all manner of cooperative adventures. But this one was different. Maybe it was the way that Cody and May started encouraging each other while overcoming obstacles instead of bickering. Maybe it was the well-intentioned yet hilarious advice of Dr. Hakim, the Book of Love, that guided us through our journey. Maybe it was the way that the game forced us to truly play cooperatively, not just simultaneously. Whatever it was, we were a closer, stronger couple after finishing the game, and that makes It Takes Two stand out from everything else we played this year. 

Lane Prescott—Cyberpunk 2077 

The best stories are the ones that give you a glimpse into an alternate reality. That reality can be far from our own, with demons and monsters or teleportation and starships, or something from your own backyard. Cyberpunk 2077 landed somewhere in the middle, and transported me to Night City for a wild ride that I could believe in. With the digital avatar of infamous rocker and/or terrorist Johnny Silverhand uploaded deep into my consciousness, I lived the best life I could in a city that doesn’t care about anyone. 

After creating a main character that could’ve pulled a second shift at Lizzie’s Bar, I proceeded to immerse myself in Night City. With a pistol, sniper, and netrunning build, I had a great experience exploring all of the combat side missions the game had to offer. Special shout out to the Comrade’s Hammer, a pistol that could pretty much one hit KO any enemy in the game with the right skill build. Soviet engineering at its finest. 

What makes Cyberpunk 2077 my vote for best game of 2021 is the fact that I absolutely lost myself in it while playing. The fight against the corps, the friends, the family, the lovers, the state of the world 50 years from now, it was all so believable, relatable, and real. I really felt like Johnny Silverhand and I had a relationship at the end of the game, and I struggled with the ending when the game was finally over. If you want to rage against the machine, and have a great time doing it, please do yourself a favor and relish in the dystopia that is Cyberpunk 2077