The COVID-19 epidemic was devastating for the gaming sector. Each new version of coronavirus leaves many people stuck in their own worlds, and often, alone. You have the opportunity to discover other worlds.
In 2021 however, gaming is no longer pure entertainment. While the video game industry is no stranger to controversy—from gamergaters harassing female video game creators to gaming companies forcing their programmers to work endless, unpaid overtime—pandemic-related delays, widespread worker burnout and sexual harassment accusations across many major developers have forced a reckoning over the last year, among both game consumers and creators.
California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit in July alleging that Activision Blizzard, the company behind the popular video game “Actionivision Blizzard”, was guilty of violating the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Duty Call games) encouraged a “frat boy” culture in their offices. Activision executive employees claimed that they encouraged gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, and even rape among their staff. According to employees, Activision executive enabled sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination including rape. Wall Street JournalC.E.O. Bobby Kotick did not just cover these claims, but threatened to kill his former assistant. (The board of the company released a statement supporting Kotick. He remains in his current position. Activision employees staged walkouts and signed a petition asking for Kotick’s resignation. Ubisoft, a French videogame producer best known for its “The Last of Us” series, was also involved. Assassin’s Creed Series) and Riot GamesLeague of LegendsThis year, ), were also accused of being victims to sexual harassment at their jobs.
Yes, video games can be enjoyed. It is important to reflect, consider, and conduct research on how consumers can help ensure safe, sustainable video game company practices in the future, particularly 2021.
Learn More ‘Cube Crawls’ and ‘Frat Bro’ Culture: California’s Huge Activision Blizzard Lawsuit Alleges Yet Another Toxic Workplace in the Video Game Industry
For the large companies 2021 represented a break point, but for indie developers it was an year of innovation. Fewer AAA releases this year allowed TIME’s staff a chance to explore a few more independently-produced games, like Chicory: An enchanting taleA moving tale about a dog and its magic paintbrush. InscrytpionThe atmospheric puzzle game combines horror and mystery elements. Innovative storytelling about time loops (perhaps inspired by our mutual, increasingly hazy sense of time during the pandemic) and couple’s counseling also caught our attention. We also returned to our favorite nostalgic franchises like Halo Metroid.
Here are TIME’s favorite games of the year.
10. It takes two
The first ever videogame that can double as relationship therapy was created. It takes two centers on a couple on the brink of divorce who suddenly find themselves trapped inside the bodies of their daughters’ toys. The couple must collaborate to navigate their house and get back to their bodies. You must play the game cooperatively. If one player is handed the hammer the other has to hold the nails. You can play dozens of games in this game. Mario-like adventure. And while the metaphors about fixing a marriage can be a bit ham-fisted in the creators’ efforts to achieve Pixar-level poignancy, there’s always some new and exciting challenge around the corner to suck you back into the game.—Eliana Dockterman
Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Playstation 5, Playstation 4, PC
It is a desert landscape stretching for miles. Amazing sunsets with craggy mountains and steep cliffs. It’s a really fast bike. This is the In SableIt is as crucial as the mission to have positive vibes. A charming story about a young woman named Sable as she embarks upon a journey that will allow her to travel the globe on her own. If you’re looking for an open world full of monsters to slay and enemies to shoot, look elsewhere. Sable‘s stress-free story is a breath of fresh air when every other game’s attempt to raise the stakes usually means an even bigger gun. Sable’s comic-like, cartoon-like images, influenced by Moebius artists allow him to create a unique world. One that is full of depth and life in not-so empty sandy waters.—Patrick Lucas Austin
Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Colt Vann plays the role of an assassin on an island and must kill eight people. As the name might suggest, every time Colt fails his mission, he’s sent back to the beginning of his day. A window might open in a different part of the island, so you can return at different times. You might overhear a piece of gossip essential to your mission in the afternoon that you couldn’t hear in the morning. Deathloop is a game that rewards careful exploration and observation—the final chapter of the story is rather thin if you haven’t ransacked the island for diaries and audio recordings to fill in the story. But the stunning and stylish art direction makes up for any small lapses on plotting.—Eliana Dockterman
Playstation 5 PC
7. Halo Infinite
Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
You play as Selene (a stubborn interstellar spy who crashes on an exquisitely-crafted planet). As she makes her way across the planet—shooting at many-tentacled monsters as she goes—Selene will inevitably die, die and die again. Even her own corpses are discovered. Retoural It can be a tiring experience. It can take up to an hour for a single run. The game didn’t have a checkpoint system when it was released. This made it difficult for people with children or jobs to get to a save point. (I may still feel guilty for ruining my husband’s playthrough by absentmindedly turning off the PlayStation instead of setting it to rest mode.) But innovations in the gameplay, like the controller rattling as the rain hits Selene’s helmet, are unsettlingly, delightfully realistic. Small, smart design touches and the mystery at the story’s center compelled me forward. And the designers have thankfully remedied the checkpoint problem, which means anyone can play this eerie game filled with intriguing horrors, both real and existential.—Eliana Dockterman
Playstation 5 available
5. Hitman III
The final game in the “World of Assassination” trilogy is perhaps its best yet. Your mission as Agent 47 is to once again enter the hallowed halls and take down your targets. This game rewards creativity and ingenuity. You must make every kill seem like an accident, not a murder. It is a challenge that will test your patience. They strike the perfect tone, with some hilarious and bizarre situations. If you were really determined, you could even kill someone using a fish to hit them. Although the story may be a little thin, the game is an intelligent satire on the secret agent genre that revels in capitalism’s accoutrements. In this game you begin at the world’s tallest skyscraper in Dubai skyscraper and descends into an underground rave fittingly named Club Hell. Hitman Developer IO has begun work on a James Bond-themed videogame. Hitman 3, I’m excited to see what they do with 007.—Eliana Dockterman
S.|S, Xbox One, Playstation 5, Playstation 4, PC
4. Chicory: An enchanting tale
Its surface is a beautiful white. ChicoryThis is a cute game that involves a small dog and a paintbrush. You name the dog after a favorite food—though consider this choice carefully, lest you wind up with a cumbersome name like Lemon Bar. Chicory the rabbit, an artist with a magical brush and who is #1 favorite of Chicory’s pup. All the colors in the world will disappear when Chicory is gone. It’s up to you to restore pigment and joy to this game. You are the world’s coloring book. Color trees and houses magenta or aqua with your brush strokes. ChicoryIt might seem a bit saccharine, if it weren’t for the poignant tale about artistic anxiety. Every character in the story struggles with anxiety, imposter syndrome, and various other mental disorders. Through these conversations and encouragements to express yourself artistically, no matter what others may think, the story gently teaches you to be kind to yourself and others.—Eliana Dockterman
Playstation 5 Playstation 4 PC
3. Forza Horizon 5
Forza’s HorizonFor years open-world racing has been refined by a series of games. Forza Horizon 5They may finally have it down. Mexico. Forza Horizon 5 puts you in the driver seat at the Horizon Festival, which spans the entirety of the game’s expansive open world. Its vibrant landscapes and arcade racing sensibilities, combined with the Forza series’ expertise in the racing simulator genre, make it one of the most enjoyable games on the Xbox, hands down. All types of supercars as well vintage and modern classics are available for you to drive on any type of terrain. Tweaking your car and its specs with new shocks, aero parts, brake pads and more makes you feel like a gearhead who knows what they’re doing (mostly). Whether you’ve got a controller or a racing wheel, customizing your car can make it feel all your own, even before you add a custom paint job made by yourself or the Forza Horizon community of players you can race against. Racing against friends along winding highways, muddy roads, lush forests and ashen trails turn Forza Horizon 5 into an enjoyable experience as well as a visual masterpiece, no matter how fast you’re going.—Patrick Lucas Austin
Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Can I interest you in a life-or-death game that’s probably rigged against you? No? No? Cryptography doesn’t care. It’s a half-deck-building game and half point-and click adventure. CryptographyThis puts you in the hands of an unidentified, cabin-dwelling, dark-skinned weirdo. The only thing you have to keep you alive is a rulebook, your wits, and…a talking playing card. It has a decidedly retro aesthetic and haunting imagery, as well as turn-based gameplay that gives it a nostalgic appeal. As you play, you can explore both the map narrating your journey as well as the cabin in which you’re trapped, and hopefully find a way out before your eventual demise.—Patrick Lucas Austin
Accessible on PC
1. Metroid Dread
Most people associate Nintendo with child-friendly characters such as Mario or Pikachu. Samas Aran is a badass intergalatic bounty-hunter of the galaxy. Metroid fame, has long earned her place on the Mount Rushmore of the company’s characters. After more than 10 years without any proper accompanist, she finally got one. Metroid game, Samas returned in a big way with this year’s Metroid: DreadA 2D side-scrolling game for Nintendo Switch, called. Our hero is being pursued by intelligent robots who are able to kill him. It is a terrible placeIt is a long-lasting Metroid producer Yoshio Sakamoto has been cooking up on and off for nearly two decades, is often legit scary—thought not quite on the level as something like an Isolation from Alien—and a delightful return to form for a classic and beloved franchise.—Alex Fitzpatrick