Saturday, January 1, 2022

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2021 Awards - Recap

The year is over and so, too, is another awards ceremony here at SuperPhillip Central. The SPC Best of 2021 Awards was a lot of fun to do, so I hope you had fun and were entertained by the show as well. Now that the dust has settled, here is a comprehensive list of all eight categories--seven top fives and one final top ten--that shows all of the winners in order, for your convenience! 

Top Five Best Original Soundtracks

5) Ys IX: Monstrum Nox 

4) Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania

3) Monster Hunter Rise

2) Death's Door

1) Bravely Default II

Top Five Games That Kept On Giving

5) Forza Horizon 5

4) Knockout City

3) Animal Crossing: New Horizons

2) Mario Golf: Super Rush

1) Fortnite

Top Five Most Overlooked Games

5) Dodgeball Academia

4) Game Builder Garage

3) Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World

2) Kaze and the Wild Masks

1) NEO: The World Ends With You

Top Five Biggest Surprises

5) Knockout City

4) Cruis'n Blast

3) It Takes Two

2) Chicory: A Colorful Tale

1) Death's Door

Top Five Remakes & Remasters

5) Sonic Colors: Ultimate

4) Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139...

3) Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl

2) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD

1) Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania

Top Five Platformers

5) Blue Fire

4) Kaze and the Wild Masks

3) Psychonauts 2

2) Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

1) Metroid Dread

Top Five Multiplayer Games

5) Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

4) Monster Hunter Rise

3) It Takes Two

2) Halo Infinite

1) Mario Party Superstars

Top Ten Games of 2021

10) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD

9) Halo Infinite

8) Death's Door

7) It Takes Two

6) Psychonauts 2

5) Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

4) Monster Hunter Rise

3) Resident Evil Village

2) Metroid Dread

1) Forza Horizon (GAME OF THE YEAR 2021)


Thank you, everyone, for making the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2021 Awards a great success, and just for making SPC a wonderful site in general. Your continued love and support is always appreciated, and I hope the site can continue to see success in the new year as we approach our 14th anniversary this June. Have a great 2022, everyone! See you later next week for the first official content on SPC for the new year!

Friday, December 31, 2021

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2021 Awards - Top Ten Games of 2021

With 2021 quickly drawing to a close, 2022 arriving in but a few hours here on SuperPhillip Central and seven awards and lists out of the way, we now stand at the main event: it's time to crown 2021's Game of the Year here as part of SuperPhillip Central's Best of 2021 Awards! While the year itself saw the pandemic still raging on and a world in continued crisis (as if this were 2020: The Sequel in some regards), gaming offered a nice respite, an escape from the chaos of the world--how ever brief it may be.

These ten games are some of the best that were played this year. They offered unparalleled design, fantastic worlds to do some escaping that was previously mentioned, took our imaginations to new heights, made us laugh, made us happy, and made us for a moment forget about our cares. The latter of which was something truly special in these intensely trying times. 

If you need to catch up on past lists from the SPC Best of 2021 Awards, look no further than these links:

Without further ado, though, let's see which ten games made the list this year and which will be crowned with SPC's Game of 2021! Note: None of the games on this list received a grade less than an A- this year, which for this site is quite special! 

Now, onto the list of the Top Ten Games of 2021!

10) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD (NSW)

Starting off the countdown of the Games of 2021 we have a blast from SuperPhillip Central's past. The original Skyward Sword was named SPC's Game of the Year in 2011, and now The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD kicks off this countdown ten years later. This HD remaster of the Wii classic brought with it the motion-controlled swordplay, as well as the bomb-rolling, arrow-shooting, Clawshot-launching goodness of the original, but also featured analog controls for those who may not want to or be able to utilize motion controls as easily. Venturing back into the realm of Skyloft and the surrounding areas (and of course the surface below) was a most welcomed return, and with the quality of life upgrades (such as less interruptions from Fi), and you have a much better game than what was already available in 2011. 

9) Halo Infinite (XBS, XB1, PC)

Master Chief returned, and despite all the hubbub and commotion over the much reported issues surrounding the development of the game, Halo Infinite defied all odds and came out a winner in the end. Releasing piecemeal with its multiplayer in November and its single-player campaign this past month (co-op coming in 2022), Halo Infinite delivered exciting firefights on a bold, grand new scale. The game was sort of a Breath of the Wild moment for the Halo series, presenting a robust open-world to explore, which was substantially made more fun due to the all-new Grappleshot accessory. This allowed Master Chief to propel himself across distances both horizontal and vertical with a shot of his grapple, and made his mobility even more impressive and fun. This was featured in the multiplayer component, which somehow improved even more as a multiplayer experience than it was already. By the end of Halo Infinite's campaign, I was yearning for more, and thankfully for me, co-op is again coming soon, and there's plenty to see and discover on the Ring as I wait and players online to slay (or in my case, get slayed by)!

8) Death's Door (Multi)

The sole indie game on this list of stellar titles (but don't let yourself think indies didn't have their fair share of excellence this year in gaming), Death's Door delivered a delightful cross between Dark Souls and a traditional Zelda adventure. The action was immense, the exploration was enjoyable to search every nook and cranny of the game's world for secrets, and the world itself was lovingly crafted to make for a brilliant game. Then, there's the sensational soundtrack, which did well for itself in SPC's Best of 2021 Awards Best Original Soundtrack category. Death's Door was a tour de force in game design, offering a magnificent Zelda-like with a melancholy world and set of characters, superb puzzles, challenging fights--whether they be against groups of foes or bosses, and interesting dungeons to dive into. A real winner this year, feel free to knock on Death's Door and give the game a playthrough or two. You won't regret it.

7) It Takes Two (Multi)

A co-operative game that masterfully weaves multiple polished gameplay set pieces together, each idea that could be formed into their own games, It Takes Two was a masterclass of multiplayer design. With each of the two player characters in the game having asymmetrical roles, players needed to depend on one another to get through the game's platforming levels, action sequences, and of course, boss battles as well--some of the most impressive from 2021. Whether you gelled well with your co-operative partner or not (online or off), you were going to get an equal dose of fun, laughter, and great times. I mentioned this already in previous awards categories, but It Takes Two gave my older brother and I some truly terrific times together. For that, I will always appreciate the game, not just for that, but also just for being a well-polished and wonderful co-operative game in general.

6) Psychonauts 2 (XBS, XB1, PS4, PC)

With mind over matter, Double Fine dished out a much anticipated, long awaited sequel to the original Psychonauts, fittingly titled Psychonauts 2, and this sequel upped the ante quite considerably. Bigger worlds, more to see, more to do, and plenty of kooky characters to fall in love with made Psychonauts 2 a pleasure to play and fully complete for this particular player. Speaking of upping the ante, Psychonauts 2's levels regularly did just that. Whether reuniting a band in a trippy musical world or trekking through a mix between a hospital and a casino, just when I figured the development team at Double Fine had run out of ingenious ideas for levels, boom! A new one was introduced that impressed me even more. While combat wasn't the game's strong suit by any stretch of the imagination, Psychonauts 2 excelled in other areas so highly that I can't be too upset that the game dropped the ball when it came to battles.  

5) Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury (NSW)

Continuing with our platforming theme, we have the king of the genre: Mario, and Nintendo brought back one of his greatest 3D adventures while adding a whole new one based off its mechanics with Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury. The former featured full online play for the first time in a 3D Mario game, while the latter showed us a potential glimpse at what an open world Mario game might look like in the future. Bowser's Fury was a tantalizing tease and prototype for a possible open world Mario, and if this is the foundation, oh my, are we in for something really special! Really, that's what Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury was this past year: something really special. It was a combo of old and new, the comfortably familiar and bold and daring, and it made for one of my favorite platforming games of 2021 and one of my favorite games released this past year period. 

4) Monster Hunter Rise (NSW)

A duo of Capcom-developed and published games sit on the next two spots of this countdown, and we begin with Monster Hunter Rise. I'm not telling tales here when I say that Monster Hunter as a series had never felt more entertaining, more enjoyable, and more satisfying to play with this latest entry. The Wirebug ability brought some much needed (and much fun) mobility to the Monster Hunter series, allowing quick escapes from monsters' clutches as well as new ways to interact with the world and said behemoth beasts. The gameplay loop of hunting down monsters, collecting their drops, and then recycling them for better equipment was here, present, and addicting as always, and the online multiplayer shined as some of the year's best. Monster Hunter Rise was overall one of my favorite entries, if not my favorite entry ever in this long-running franchise. It was THAT good.

3) Resident Evil: Village (Multi)

Poor Ethan Winters had a lot on his hands (and off his hands, too, heh) in Resident Evil: Village. Bad news for him, but it was very much good news for us, as Village stands as one of the most satisfying entries in the series yet. It reminded me of a stellar cross between Resident Evil 4's action and structure mixed with Resident Evil VII's scares and first-person perspective. Village was indeed a horrifying game, scary to boot, but also one with fantastic gunplay, superb set pieces, excellent action, and a world that was most definitely fun to explore and search for its many secrets. Resident Evil Village was a thrill ride from beginning to end for players to sink their teeth into, like a Lycan into Ethan's flesh. It was something I could easily recommend playing again and again, and at the end of the day and at the end of Ethan's adventure, I could not have asked for a better Resident Evil game from Capcom all things considered.

2) Metroid Dread (NSW)

After nearly two decades without any wholly original 2D entries in the Metroid franchise, Samus Aran returned to two-dimensions for a brand-new mission, and man alive was the wait worth it. Metroid Dread delivered a difficult, tough-as-nails, but always fair adventure for players to dive into. Intense boss battles, awesome exploration, clever backtracking and signposting so players seldom got lost, frantic EMMI sequences where one false or careless move could mean an instant game over, and a story that nicely wrapped up Samus' current saga with the Metroids, Metroid Dread was a remarkable return to form for the franchise. If I had to nitpick the game at all, it'd be for these paltry reasons: a less than memorable soundtrack and some annoying shinespark puzzles required for 100% completion, but when a Metroid game is THIS good? Those are but things to shrug one's shoulders at, as Samus Aran's latest mission ended in total success not just for her, but for the players who got the privilege to experience it.

And SuperPhillip Central's Game of 2021 award goes to...



1) Forza Horizon 5 (XBS, XB1, PC)

If you can believe it, this is the first time an Xbox first-party game has received Game of the Year honors on SuperPhillip Central, but things seemed to have come up Xbox with all the work Microsoft has put into building a steady portfolio of development teams under the Xbox umbrella. Forza Horizon 5 was one such games that came racing down the pipeline from this work, and the excellence seen in this superb open-world racing game was something to behold.

Not only was I not expecting to enjoy Forza Horizon 5 as much as I did, I was surprised by how addicted I became to competing in seasonal events: earning points to unlock new cars and playing multiplayer matches (whether those be traditional races or arcade mode shenanigans). I loved cruising around Mexico searching for new events to participate in, experience boards to smash, PR stunts to perform like speed zones and jumps, as well as just earning experience for doing pretty much anything in the game.

While a game with so many moving parts does have the occasional issue or glitch--Forza Horizon 5 is no exception here--I greatly adored and cherished my time with the game despite any issues, showing just how much I could overlook by virtue of Forza Horizon 5 being masterful in almost every other category. Yes, that's control, all of the numerous accessibility options (such as the super helpful and optional racing lines and rewind functionality), the myriad races and events to participate in, and just having my mind blown constantly by how impressive it all looked. Forza Horizon 5 is a game that I will most definitely be jumping back into the driver's seat to play this upcoming year. It's for all these wonderful reasons why Forza Horizon 5 is SuperPhillip Central's Game of the Year. Congrats to the team and Xbox in general for one hell of a 2021!


That concludes another year and another awards ceremony here at SuperPhillip Central. Before we part, I'd like to provide everyone with well wishes for the new year. May it be a better, more prosperous year for all of us. See you in 2022.

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2021 Awards - Top Five Multiplayer Games

Multiplayer games can bring us together, even when we're doing some good-natured trash-talking or ribbing of our friends and family members. This next award on the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2021 Awards is all about this very subject: multiplayer games. Whether featuring competition or focusing on cooperation, these five games were some of the best multiplayer experiences in 2021.

5) Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury (NSW)

We kick off this countdown of magnificent multiplayer experiences with some Mario, specifically the Super Mario 3D World portion of Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury. Like the Wii U game, when you get more than one person in the game to run and jump around the colorful and hazard-filled courses of the game, you're in for an absolute treat. Now, with the Nintendo Switch port of the game, players don't have to limit themselves to purely an offline multiplayer experience. No, now the multiplayer mayhem can happen online, too, with up to four players. When the connection works well, it's a wonderfully fun and chaotic game, and it created some of my most cherished multiplayer moments this year.

4) Monster Hunter Rise (NSW)

Imagine, if you will, staring down the face of a behemoth Royal Ludroth, or worse an electrifying and all too terrifying Zenogre. A scary prospect when you're all alone, but unite up with three other hunters and it's an absolute blast. That's what Monster Hunter Rise bestowed onto Nintendo Switch owners earlier this year, offering some of the most mechanically sound, enjoyable multiplayer hunts in Monster Hunter series history. Part of that is due to the wirebug attachment that allowed players to shoot through the air, zooming past monster defenses and unleashing heavy damage onto them. Battles could already get heated in Monster Hunter games, but never as hot as it was in Monster Hunter Rise. Whether playing with friends or teaming up with total strangers/randoms, Monster Hunter Rise was always a good time to get a feel for the thrill of the hunt.

3) It Takes Two (Multi)

The idea of a co-op only game sort of totally falls apart if the multiplayer isn't up to snuff. Thankfully for It Takes Two, the co-op multiplayer featured here, whether done locally or online, was incorporated wonderfully to create one of gaming's most unique and enjoyable multiplayer experiences of 2021--if not ever. Two players teamed up together, supporting one another, working mostly asymmetrically with different tools and equipment to help each other through the game's wondrous worlds. New ideas popped up constantly, and better yet, they were consistently polished well. Playing It Takes Two with my older brother locally made for some of the best times the two of us have had sharing a game together in a looong while, and for that, I will very much appreciate the game. That's on top of what I already appreciated It Takes Two for: simply being an exquisite co-op based adventure.

2) Halo Infinite (XBS, XB1, PC)

Halo multiplayer is seldom a bad time, and Halo Infinite brought the series' marvelous multiplayer, its deathmatches, and its team skirmishes to an entirely new level. Whether playing online in custom-made matches or ranked play, players could compete in the ridiculously enjoyable first-person firefights that have made Halo a cornerstone in the FPS genre and as a multiplayer shooter. The ability to zip around the battlefields with the new Grappleshot (as used by Master Chief in the also-excellent campaign) opened up a whole new layer of mobility and strategy to matches. Couple all this with the ability to play offline against bots (THANK YOU, 343 Industries!), and you have one stellar multiplayer showcase for the Xbox brand. But, perhaps that's to be expected from Halo as a series after 20 years.

1) Mario Party Superstars (NSW)

Nintendo finally did it. It developed and published a Mario Party game that not only returned the series to its roots but managed to surpass past efforts in many ways. First and foremost: online play that actually works and was fully featured! It made the past hassles of poor connections, disconnections, lag, and connection errors seem like a distant memory. The ability to quit a match mid-game and return to it later whilst online was a fantastic and most welcome addition, stickers--how ever spam-able--were cute inclusions, and being able to have the CPU join in when a human player disconnects was also wonderfully added. Throw in the five boards from Mario Party 1-3 and the 100 mini-games from Mario Party 1-10, and you have one positively stellar party package with Mario Party Superstars. The amount of fun I had this year playing with offline and especially online friends (some of whom I met just this year and have grown close with) will be something I will always cherish, putting Superstars at the top of this list of Top Five Multiplayer Games in 2021.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2021 Awards - Top Five Platformers

Are you ready to jump, jump around? I hope so because it's time for the Top Five Platformers of 2021 as part of night four of SuperPhillip Central's Best of 2021 Awards! You can tell the platformer means a great deal to me as a genre, being my absolute favorite. Why? Because it's the only genre of game that gets a dedicated awards category every year. These five platformers, whether 2D or 3D delighted me with their exceptional control, tremendous gameplay, and creative and imaginative worlds.

5) Blue Fire (Multi)

Taking cues from Hollow Knight and Dark Souls (then again, what game of this nature DOESN'T take cues from the latter nowadays?), our first game to kick off this countdown of the Top Five Platformers of 2021 released early this year on all platforms: Blue Fire. This indie 3D platformer featured intense sword-based combat, challenging platforming, and an interconnected world to explore to make for one stellar action-platformer. Those who opt to aim for 100% will definitely discover some insanely difficult platforming challenges to contend with, as the game's obstacle-laden and death trap-infested rifts demand platforming perfection to complete them. If you can overcome the somewhat high level of challenge from Blue Fire, you'll find one excellent and exceptional 3D platformer.

4) Kaze and the Wild Masks (Multi)

While Blue Fire took cues from Hollow Knight and Dark Souls, our next game takes inspiration from Rare's Donkey Kong Country trilogy from the Super Nintendo era. Seen previously in the SPC Best of 2021 Awards in the Most Overlooked Games of 2021 category, Kaze and the Wild Masks feels similarly to playing Donkey Kong Country 2 or 3 entirely with Dixie Kong. Kaze can twirl her ears to slowly descend on platforms, as well as having the ability to pick up objects with said flappy appendages. The levels in Kaze and the Wild Masks routinely deliver sensationally clever mechanics and platforming gimmicks to keep the 5 hour adventure feeling fresh from beginning to end, and the boss battles offer a high degree of challenge, albeit quite fair challenge. The titular Wild Masks are like DKC's animals, transforming Kaze into various forms to tackle levels with new move sets and mobility. It all ends up being one satisfying platforming adventure.

3) Psychonauts 2 (XBS, XB1, PS4, PC)

Double Fine's 3D platforming tour de force, Psychonauts 2, is a highly creative and ingenious game. Diving into the minds of its kooky cast of characters, which serves as the main levels of the game, offered a wide variety of atypical platforming settings. From rolling a bowling ball across a pit of mucus and slime in a city setting to bringing back a band in a way trippy world, the levels in Psychonauts 2 definitely delighted from beginning to end. Each new level brought upped the creativity factor immensely. The hub worlds were a joy to explore as well, soaked and sprinkled with secrets to find and side quests to complete. While Psychonauts 2's combat left something to be desired, the rest of the platforming package was certainly something special.

2) Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury (NSW)

We have a twofer as the number two Platformer of 2021. It's Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury. What was old was new again with all five playable characters in Super Mario 3D World being faster than ever before, really giving returning players of the Wii U original game new ways to tackle old levels. And these levels in Super Mario 3D World were just as fun to play again as they were in the Wii U game. The adventure and obstacle course levels were still as sublime as ever. Online co-op meant the fun could be enjoyed with friends and family outside of one's bubble: especially important in these pandemic times. Meanwhile, Bowser's Fury gave us a glimpse at what a possible open-world Mario might look like. Its sandbox style approach to its design offered a playground for Mario to run, swim, and climb around in, making it a highlight of 2021 for sure. As a whole package, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury brought platforming power to the Switch in a big way and was well worth the price of admission.

1) Metroid Dread (NSW)

Samus returned for her next mission in the Metroid saga, and it concluded things on a masterful note. Samus has never had more magnificent mobility, awesome powers, incredible agility, and massive firepower than she had in Metroid Dread. The game itself was full of intriguing and interesting interconnected environments, from harsh lava lands to vibrant jungles. The bosses upped their game considerably, demanding near-perfect precision and fast reflexes to overcome their offenses on Samus. Metroid Dread was indeed a difficult game, but there was no better reward than actually persevering and overcoming all that stood in Samus' way in one of her most thrilling adventures yet. We had to wait nearly 20 years for Samus to receive a brand-new 2D entry, and with how awesome Metroid Dread was, here's hoping we won't have to wait that long for a follow-up. 

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2021 Awards - Top Five Remakes & Remasters

What's old is new again with this awards category as part of the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2021 Awards. These games brought back classics in a great way with updated visuals, quality improvements, and even some new features to make these remakes and remasters some of 2021's absolute bests. Here's the list of winners.

5) Sonic Colors: Ultimate (Multi)

Although its launch was a bit of a rocky one, perhaps one sabotaged by Dr. Eggman (that dastardly doc!), Sonic Colors: Ultimate shaped up to be a stellar HD remaster of the Wii original Sonic Colors, one of the Blue Blur's best 3D outings bar-none. It's not just a good Sonic game, it's a great game in general. The upgraded visuals look stunning, the remixed music alongside the originals are true bops, and the added features like Metal Sonic races and the ability to customize Sonic made for an HD remaster that rolled around at the speed of awesome.

4) Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139... (PS4, XB1, PC)

The original Nier was an oft overlooked game, so it was a blessing that Square Enix gave the game a second chance to shine--and boy, did it ever shine! Not only did the sales top over a million copies, blasting past projections, but the improvements and upgrades to this remaster made a great game even better. The most obvious of these upgrades are within the visuals, which delight and captivate with a fresh coat of paint. However, there is also that of the combat improvements, which made Nier a far less frustrating game than the original title. Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139... is a stellar remaster overall.

3) Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Pokémon Shining Pearl (NSW)

Despite not really digging the chibi art style of this duo of Sinnoh region remakes, the visuals eventually grew on me and dare I say I managed to discover somewhat of a fond appreciation for them. Sometimes a remake doesn't really need to really reinvent the wheel, and that's what makes Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl such great remakes. This pair of titles doesn't deviate too far from the blueprint laid out by the Nintendo DS originals, which may disappoint some, but new features such as character and Poké Ball customization, The Grand Underground, and Super Contest shows add to the value of these remakes. If you wanted the fun and challenge of the Nintendo DS Pokemon games with some added features and in a fresh coat of paint, you got them with Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl. 

2) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD (NSW)

SuperPhillip Central's Game of the Year way back in 2011 shined brightly ten years later with a glorious HD remaster of one of Link's lesser liked 3D adventures. The development team added a slew of new features and quality of life improvements to Skyward Sword to make it a more welcoming, less tedious journey for both players and Link. The most prevalent of these was that of traditional analog controls for sword slashing, using the right stick to maneuver Link's blade. The standard motion controls were also included, offering similar swordplay and gyro-fueled goodness to the Wii game, albeit with more syncing needed. All in all, it was a pleasure to be able to revisit Skyloft, the Sacred Grounds, and all parts of Skyward Sword's world all over again with this HD remaster, and being able to experience the game once more was an absolute privilege to do.

1) Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania (Multi)

Essentially remaking the levels of Super Monkey Ball 1, 2, and Deluxe, and packaging them together in one forty dollar, content-rich game, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania served as the series' 20th anniversary title. And, goodness gracious, what a way to celebrate 20 years of Monkey Ball madness. Banana Mania was a return to form for the Super Monkey Ball series, offering oodles of delightful and exhilarating gameplay, countless in-game challenges to complete, cosmetics to unlock, levels to overcome, and mini-games to enjoy. While not a 1:1 perfect recreation of the original Super Monkey Ball games' physics (so purists may be disappointed here), what is present is one of, if not the best Super Monkey Ball game to date. The value is extraordinary and the game itself is a banana-fueled blast.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2021 Awards - Top Five Biggest Surprises

Night three of the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2021 Awards brings with it two more awards categories. The first of these is the Top Five Biggest Surprises of 2021. These positive surprises in game form were either ones that knocked folks out with their unexpected quality--being better than they had any right to be--or just came from who-knows-where to absolutely delight players. Here is the list of winners.

5) Knockout City (Multi)

Our first game on this list of biggest surprises of 2021 features some good old fashioned dodgeball. Well, actually it's more dodge-BRAWL. I was amazed by how much I became addicted to Knockout City, whether it was the game's enjoyable easy-to-learn, hard-to-master matches, sensational style, copious amounts of cosmetics, and just all-around fun. I did not expect to enjoy Knockout City as much as I did, but you won't see me complaining about that fact at all. I'll be too busy to complain, sniping opponents with dodgeballs and rushing around the arenas of the game.

4) Cruis'n Blast (NSW)

I knew full well of the existence of Cruis'n Blast in arcades, but never got the opportunity to try it out, especially with the pandemic now. Thank the heavens--or rather, in this case, developer Raw Thrills, for porting this high-octane, insane, point-to-point arcade racer to the Nintendo Switch so I could finally get my hands on the game and have a... *ahem* blast. Racing as a car is fine and all, but when you take control of a triceratops, U.F.O., or even a unicorn, going 100+ miles per hour through dinosaur domains, chaotic cities, and even through a Midwestern twister, you are in for an absolutely wild ride. That's exactly what Cruis'n Blast delivered to me in spades with its September release, and I'm happy to have played it.

3) It Takes Two (Multi)

I didn't know exactly WHAT to expect with a wholly co-operative adventure with It Takes Two, but the end result ended up being one of my favorite gaming experiences of 2021. Playing multiplayer with my brother was a hilariously good time, having us use teamwork to get through the game, and the amount of variety on display in the gameplay was exhilarating. The fact that essentially every individual moment in the game, varying wildly from the last, worked so well is a testament to the developers. It Takes Two is a polished and pretty awesome co-op game, and it's certainly worthy of all of the Game of the Year nominations it has been bestowed with thus far.

2) Chicory: A Colorful Tale (Multi)

These last two games came out of nowhere to pleasantly surprise the gaming populace, including myself. Starting off as a console exclusive on PlayStation platforms, Chicory: A Colorful Tale allows you to journey through a whimsical world all the while painting the environments to solve puzzles and just make things pretty and vivid rather than the otherwise drab and dull black and white (though that is still pleasant to look at!). In some ways, Chicory reminds me of a Zelda game in its design, and that is one high compliment to receive! Chicory: A Colorful Tale ended up positively coloring my opinion of the game as one of my favorite experiences this year to partake in.

1) Death's Door (Multi)

Death's Door delivered a phenomenal Zelda-like adventure with tough-as-nails battles, awesome areas to explore, and a magnificent soundtrack to accentuate the action and more melancholy moments of the game's world. I absolutely adored Death's Door, so much so that I double-dipped on the game, purchasing it on the Nintendo Switch as well as the original Xbox release. That was a surprise to me all on its own, but the positively high quality of the game--the reason for double-dipping to begin with--was the biggest surprise of them all this year. And more surprising is that we're not done focusing on the game this year. Let's just say we haven't seen the last of Death's Door on the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2021 Awards and leave it at that! After all, why would spoil the surprise? 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2021 Awards - Top Five Most Overlooked Games

This is always a fun awards category and list to do at the end of the year at each SPC Best of Awards, and it's of course back this year with a new batch of five games! These are those games that didn't get the credit they deserve, that fell through the proverbial cracks, and quickly slipped out of the limelight, if they were ever in it to begin with. Make no mistake: There are so many worthy games to be on this list, so no worries if your favorites aren't featured. Now, onto the list of winners!

5) Dodgeball Academia (Multi)

We aren't any stranger to dodgeball on the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2021 Awards, at least not so far, but how about an RPG based on the gym class sport of choice? Dodgeball Academia is just the game for you, offering intense real-time dodgeball matches, special abilities, BALL-timate attacks, equipment to wear, items to use, and a fantastically funny and well-written story full of humorous dialogue and eccentric, quirky characters. The art style is drop-dead gorgeous too, bringing with it balls-to-the-wall beauty. If you're looking for an 8-10 indie adventure more than worthy of your time, hit the court with Dodgeball Academia. 

4) Game Builder Garage (NSW)

A budget release for the Nintendo Switch, Game Builder Garage is a piece of software that delivers the opportunity to make your own games. This is nowhere near as complex or decidedly convoluted as say, Dreams, but it does offer a lot of ability to push your creativity. The amount of tutorials, each centered on a different genre of game, comes packed with lessons that slowly and steadily teach prospective game builders how to use the lessons learned to design their own would-be masterpieces. Plus, challenges that put what you've learned to the test are sprinkled between games to make sure you can practice what's been preached and successfully do so. It's essentially coding for beginners with the cute and whimsical No-dons that connect to one another to perform functions in each project. All in all, Game Builder Garage didn't light the Switch world on fire, but it did give a lot of wannabe beginning game makers an entry point into the wonderful world of game design.

3) Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World (NSW, PS4, PC)

There has been no shortage of classic games getting remarkably well done remakes and touch-ups these past few years. The Wonder Boy series alone has seen three thus far, with Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World being one of those. While faithful to the original game perhaps to a fault with some obtuse design, super challenging gameplay at times, short length, and miss-able collectables along the way, there's no question that a lot of love was poured into this remake of Monster World IV. The game looks absolutely adorable with brilliant and vivid colors, detailed polygonal graphics, and it's all accentuated by some superb sound design. Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World definitely delighted this player of the game, and it's my wish more folks give the game a shot.

2) Kaze and the Wild Masks (Multi)

For those looking for an outstanding indie game that shows true appreciation to and takes inspiration from Rare's classic Donkey Kong Country trilogy, look no further than Kaze and the Wild Masks. This charming 2D platformer is far from just a clone, it's a highly competent adventure with exceptional level design housing myriad well-hidden secrets, tricky platform placement, and some fun obstacles and gameplay gimmicks inside them. The Wild Masks that Kaze wears at specific parts of the game are essentially DKC's animal transformations, offering unique gameplay hooks to each. Throw in a visually stunning art style and a well done soundtrack, and you have a real winner. Don't sleep on Kaze and the Wild Masks, people!

1) NEO: The World Ends With You (NSW, PS4, PC)

On one hand, it's quite fortunate of an event and we're lucky that a true sequel to The World Ends With You even exists. On the other, it's an absolute tragedy how many gamers and potential players passed on the game. I don't blame the gaming populace for this aforementioned tragedy either, as Square Enix did next to nothing to promote or even push the game, not even featuring it in its E3 2021 conference. All that notwithstanding, NEO: The World Ends With You stands as an excellent modern JRPG with terrific action, a masterful visual style and soundtrack, and a riveting story and cast of characters. It all gels well to make for one of the more engaging titles of 2021, and yes, sadly, also one of the most overlooked games of the year, as well.

SuperPhillip Central Best of 2021 Awards - Top Five Games That Kept On Giving

Our second award to be handed our via countdown as part of the SuperPhillip Central Best of 2021 Awards took a hiatus during last year's ceremony after debuting in 2019. Well, now it's back and in fantastic form in 2021! It's the Games That Kept on Giving. These games, whether released originally in 2021 or not, and whether free or paid DLC, continued to provide players with an abundance of outstanding content. This list presents just a sampling of some of the greatest games that persisted in pushing forth more bang for one's buck and more goodness out of their original game purchase.

5) Forza Horizon 5 (XBS, XB1, PC)

The most recent game released on this list, Forza Horizon 5 is a phenomenal open-world racing game, and one of the ways the game puts the pedal to the metal and its hooks into players is through seasonal events. These weekly events present new racing challenges for players to participate in to earn points that subsequently unlock new vehicles for players' garages. There is a whole slew of events, such as races, Forza Arcade challenges, PR stunts to perform and complete, and so much more. There is certainly a sense of FOMO to be found here, especially as I mentioned, these seasons last four weeks each with each week presenting a new set of challenges to take on. Still, it keeps me jumping right back into the driver's seat for some Forza fun in Mexico.

4) Knockout City (Multi)

This won't be our last time seeing Knockout City tonight, but for the meantime, we're celebrating the game for going above and beyond with its seasonal events. From the Hollywood movie-focused season to its extraterrestrial escapade, Knockout City not only continued to push forward new ideas for its seasons, but also a robust repertoire of cosmetics to unlock, modes to engage in, and new maps to learn. It's a big reason why I occasionally see myself returning time and time again to the dodgeball brawls of Knockout City long after its spring release this year.

3) Animal Crossing: New Horizons (NSW)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is no stranger to the SPC Best of Awards--in fact, the title won Game of the Year honors last year at the SPC Best of 2020 Awards. As the culmination of all things New Horizons, Nintendo decided to end the game's content with a bang with Animal Crossing: New Horizons - Happy Home Paradise. This paid DLC offers the ability to design homes--both indoor and outdoor--for a list of clients based on a usually simple theme. That's just one part of the additional content brought to New Horizons by Nintendo. There was also free content in the form of Brewster's Café, a host of new Nook Miles rewards, new furniture, ceiling décor, and so much more. Even if you didn't invest in Happy Home Paradise, what you get with just the base free content more than makes a worthy and welcomed batch of new content for Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

2) Mario Golf: Super Rush (NSW)

Who doesn't love free? That's exactly what Nintendo and Camelot gave players with Mario Golf: Super Rush, which recently concluded its free series of downloadable content. All in all, Nintendo added five new characters (including Toadette, Wiggler, and never-before-playable Ninji), five new courses (a pair of which possessing two versions each: an Amateur and a Pro version), a multitude of modes like Target Golf and One-On, One-Off, and plenty of additional quality of life improvements to make what was a near-bogey of a golf game into a bona fide albatross of a time on the links. That makes for one outstanding offering with Mario Golf: Super Rush, and while the game may not have been worth its price at launch, it's very much worth picking up now.

1) Fortnite (Multi)

Fortnite is certainly a megahit, and "megahit" might be understating things quite a bit. This free-to-play battle royale game sees 100 players competing against one another, facing off, running and gunning down each other in hopes of being the last player remaining. The recent brand-new chapter and season brought a whole host of changes and alterations to the game, with the most prevalent of which being an entirely new island to explore. Like the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's life, the island got flipped and turned upside-down, revealing a wholly fresh battleground. New characters like Spider-Man, Gears of War's Marcus Fenix and Kait Diaz, and even Star Wars' Boba Fett made their debut in the Battle Pass, and an item shop known as The Foundation opened for business. The way that Fortnite continues to innovate on itself despite being around for seemingly ages now, as well as how much substantial new content was added, make Fortnite SuperPhillip Central's choice for the best Game That Kept on Giving in 2021.