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Kotaku's 2021 Games Of The Year

From blockbusters like Halo Infinite to smaller gems like Unpacking, 2021 offered a wonderful range of outstanding games

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Agent 47 from Hitman, Selene from Returnal, and Alex Chen from Life Is Strange: True Colors, along with a label that reads Kotaku 2021 Year In Review.
Image: IO Interactive / Housemarque / Deck Nine / Kotaku

Here, as is our custom at Kotaku, are our collective picks for the 12 best games of the past year, shared in the early days of the new one. But before we get to the games, I want to say a few words about the list, and why we present it the way we do, unranked, in alphabetical order.

Kotaku, like any site, is a collection of individuals, each with our own voices, tastes, and perspectives. Though we do our best to arrive at a list that reflects what we as a site collectively feel are the best games of the past year, well, the truth is that games, like any art form or medium, are subjective, and no list of 12 can actually capture the complexity of our overlapping and diverging opinions. While most of us love most of these games, not all of us love all of them, and there are a few games some of us strongly feel should be here that aren’t. That’s just the way it goes. Some difficult choices were made.


To pick a single game of the year would reduce that complexity even further, particularly in a year like this one, in which so many games excelled in so many different ways that measuring them against each other seems to perhaps miss the point. How can you really evaluate Unpacking against Halo Infinite? This list allows us to present both games, as different as they are, as among the year’s very best, emblematic of the wonderful variety of ways in which games can entertain us and offer us meaningful experiences. We get to put the micro-budget and the AAA on equal footing, acknowledging that the landscape of games would be significantly diminished if any of them were missing.

Part of what I love about reading great games criticism is getting to see the range of perspectives out there, reading an argument celebrating a game I dislike, or arguing against one I admire. This list lacks our individual voices but thankfully, to get the fuller picture of our individual tastes, you can (and should) read Ari’s, Fahey’s, Ian’s, Jeremy’s, John’s, Luke’s, Renata’s, Sisi’s, and Zack’s personal lists. And if you want to know more about any of the games on this list, each one links either to our review or some other coverage that should tell you something about how it earned its place here.


Without further ado, here are Kotaku’s Games of the Year for 2021, in alphabetical order. Now, let’s see what 2022 has in store for us, shall we?

Death’s Door

A diminutive figure in black stands before a taller figure in grey feathers who stands before an ethereal black door hovering in a rocky landscape.
Screenshot: Acid Nerve

Forza Horizon 5

The rear of a turquoise Lamborghini on a beach, its license plate reading Z000000M.
Screenshot: Microsoft / Kotaku

Halo Infinite

Master Chief regards the blue female AI construct known as The Weapon.
Screenshot: 343 Industries

Hitman 3

Agent 47, in a long coat and with his back to us, stands on a street drenched in neon light.
Image: IO Interactive

Life Is Strange: True Colors

Alex Chen looks toward the camera, mouth slightly open, while Steph stands blurred in the background.
Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Star Lord is being held up by an unseen assailant while Gamora and Drax look on in the background.
Screenshot: Square Enix / Kotaku

Psychonauts 2

Raz and his family stand on a starry night looking at something that appears to have them worried.
Screenshot: Double Fine


A human figure is difficult to make out in an alien environment of glowing blue tentacles.
Screenshot: Housemarque / Sony


A figure rides a hovering vehicle across desert sands with rock formations in the background.
Screenshot: Shedworks


A living room depicted in pixel art, with a TV, game consoles, couch, stereo speakers, shelves, weights, boxes and other things.
Screenshot: Witch Beam


A woman in blue armor stands on the right side of a menu screen with options for Map, Chips, Cogs, Blueprints, Items, and Contacts, as well as weapon slots.
Screenshot: Studio Pixel Punk


Three human adventurers in varying garb are in a dungeon with a large serpent-like monster and a horned, insect-like creature.
Screenshot: Worldwalker Games