The best game in 2021

Why wait until the end of the year to hear about its best games?

Knowing which games are helping to define the year in entertainment, or pushing the state of the art forward in some capacity, is a great way to get a sense of where the industry may be headed. It’s early in the year, so this list is a little thin. It’s almost like there are other factors that may be slowing down development on top of the launch of a new console generation. Still, it’s never too soon to cast a spotlight on the best work of the year.

You may notice the inclusion of games that were either fully released or made available in early access prior to 2021. Because many games change from patch to patch, let alone year to year, we may include previously available games that receive a significant update within the year or become available on a platform that substantially impacts how that game is experienced.

Without further ado, here are Polygon’s favorite games of 2021, to date.

Persona 5 Strikers

Persona 5 Strikers feels like a true Persona game while belonging to a different genre altogether.

When the characters all dive into a new Jail — themed after a draconian castle, a carnival, and more — we still move through the shadows. This may be a Musou game, but we’re still Phantom Thieves. As in the RPG, I sneak up on enemies and initiate combat with stealth attacks. But when the battle erupts, I’m relieved of my menus and thrown into a mostly real-time brawl.

A dozen Shadows erupt from the enemy I just attacked, and a small arena forms around where I initiated combat. Instead of issuing commands, I’m mashing buttons or inputting combos to make Joker slash through enemies with his knife. At any time, I can swap to one of the other three Phantom Thieves in my party.

Ryuji can execute powerful charge attacks, or Makoto can ride her motorcycle Persona through a group of enemies — a Persona being a manifestation of each Phantom Thief’s inner being, usually based on a historical or literary character. Makoto’s Persona, the motorcycle Johanna, is based on Pope Joan, while Joker’s persona is based on Arsène Lupin, the gentleman thief.

I can summon my Persona mid-combo or hold a button to select a number of moves to strike my foes. And that’s when the action stops. These battles may be big and fast, but this is still a Persona game. Different Personas and Shadows have different elemental weaknesses, and I can freeze time at any point to pull a powerful Wind attack out of Zorro, Morgana’s Persona. By striking an enemy’s weakness, my team and I can execute a powerful All Out Attack, damaging all enemies nearby.

This is the general flow of Persona 5 Strikers’ combat. The Phantom Thieves and I battle in fast-paced brawls and then pause to strike an enemy’s weakness. And Strikers really nails the feeling of Persona 5’s combat, for being a different genre altogether. I’m thinking about how to balance my SP (mana) with how much damage I can inflict with my regular attacks during every battle.


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