8. Castlevania Advance Collection - Even if not all the games in the collection are great, this is a great collection. Aria of Sorrow is worth the price of admission alone. The SNES emulation for Dracula X still has the same issue previous collections did with the stretched out pixel perfect mode, but the GBA emulation is great and that's what really matters. The extras, like the gallery and music collection, are also much better than what was in the Castlevania and Contra Anniversary Collections. You really can't go wrong with this for $20, even if you only play one game on it.
7. Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin - This is a huge improvement over the first game and a great recreation of Monster Hunter gameplay in turn-based RPG form. The graphics aren't technically impressive, but it has a cute art style and a great soundtrack. I really liked the battle system and thought it was just fun to play. There's not a lot of turn-based RPGs I can say are actually fun to battle in.
6. Bloodstained Classic Mode - This is about as close to a Castlevania remake as Bloodstained can get without getting sued by Konami and I love it. It's like Rondo of Blood meets Castlevania 1. It feels more like a Classicvania than the Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon games. The controls, items, and level design are all spot on. Yes, this is just a new DLC mode for RotN, but it's some of WayForward's finest work. I hope we get both more of this and Curse of the Moon games.
5. Astalon: Tears of the Earth - The best Metroidvania I played in 2021 by far. I think the different characters and tag team style party system give the game a unique flavor and the focus on finding keys and hitting switches reminds me of 8-bit RPGs and action adventure games. I love the story of the world, which is not something I can say about many indie Metroidvanias, and both the music and graphics are very well done for an NES style game. A breath of fresh air among indie Metroidvanias trying to copy Symphony of the Night and Super Metroid.
4. Cyber Shadow - This game is like discovering a long forgotten NES hidden gem. It's a wonderful mix of classic 2D action games, like Mega Man X, Ninja Gaiden, and Sunsoft's Batman. It has simple 2 button controls with lots of moves, amazing level design, tough but fair bosses, and beautiful NES style graphics. It's exciting, challenging, and tons of fun. I absolutely love this game and think it deserves just as much love as Shovel Knight and its expansions.
3. Ghosts ’n Goblins Resurrection - This is one of the hardest games I have ever played, but I had so much fun with it. Harder than Cuphead. The level design is just so challenging. Every section of every level is like trying to get a first down in a football game. I played both versions of every level multiple times, got every spirit, and beat the real final boss on the second playthrough to 100% the game. I wouldn have quit after the first run if the game was just OK. If you like a challenge and are a fan of old-school arcade action, I highly recommend this.
2. Halo Infinite (campaign and multiplayer) - The campaign was a lot of fun and I like the new direction for the series. I love both the open world stuff and the traditional levels. I look forward to "The Endless", which I guess is more story content. Multiplayer is also a lot of fun. The challenge system and weekly rewards are both pretty bad, but even after completing the Battle Pass and getting the weekly doodad, I still play it every day because I just enjoy the gameplay.
1. Monster Hunter Rise - This is by far my most played game of the year. I had so much fun with it. I love everything they did with the controls and the Wire Bug. This is the best MH has ever felt. I can't even go back to MHW anymore. I also really like how the game is so much easier to pick up and play than ever before. I love that everything is soloable and takes a lot less time to do. I don't think I'll get it on PC, but I'm really looking forward to the Sunbreak expansion.