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5 Games That Carried the 2021 Holiday Season

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5 Games That Carried the 2021 Holiday Season

Halo Infinite

Games That Carried the 2021 Holiday Season

If there was one game that dominated video games and the discourse around them in December, it was Halo Infinite. The return of Master Chief to our screens was welcomed by veteran Spartans and newcomers alike and saw the series take its first steps into the open-world format for the first time. Hopping back inside the Spartan armor of Master Chief felt familiar with the fantastic gunplay the series is renowned for, while also feeling distinctly different thanks to the freedom that the open-world design of Zeta Halo offered and the grapple hook that the Chief inherits early on in his adventure.

Thrown in the fantastic free-to-play multiplayer and Halo Infinite is the true return to form the series desperately needed after a very average outing in Halo 5. With co-op campaign and more maps and game modes coming to multiplayer in the near future, there’s plenty of reason to keep it installed on your hard drive in 2022, too.

Forza Horizon 5

Games That Carried the 2021 Holiday Season

games carried 2021 holiday season

Microsoft was on a bit of a roll in the tail-end of 2021. September brought the delightful platformer Psychonauts 2, and Forza Horizon 5 kept that momentum going when it drifted its way onto Xbox consoles and PC at the end of October.

Playground Games’ open-world racer was a smash-hit, delivering a 90 on Metacritic and going down just as positively with fans, reaching an impressive 10 million players in its first week. Already, there’s a thriving community of players sharing their own custom decals, challenging one another on online leaderboards, and generally just having a blast fooling around in the Horizon Festival this time around set in Mexico.

It’s the open world that makes it so easy to sink countless hours behind the wheel of your favorite ride, too. Mexico is an enormous, varied landmass just waiting to be fully explored. Danger signs lure you towards epic stunt jumps, a series of tight hairpins make up a road that winds its way up the side of a volcano, and the large stretches of dunes make for some seriously fun off-roading action.

The stunning visuals, roster of 500+ cars, and rotating weather seasons every fortnight only furthered Forza Horizon 5’s lead over the trailing pack of racers out there, and with two upcoming expansions set to give racing fans even more content to sink their teeth into in the future, the future is looking mighty bright for the Mexico stint of the Horizon festival.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl

Games That Carried the 2021 Holiday Season

Surprising absolutely nobody, one of the big hits of the holiday season in 2021 was Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. Bringing the generation of Pokemon that brought us the legendaries of time and space, Dialga and Palkia respectively, alongside the much-adored Poffins. Oh and there was that cool legendary Giratina, too, I guess.

Providing ample quality of life improvements and a fantastic soundtrack befitting of a 2021 remake, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are the best way to experience Gen 4, though the lack of Pokemon Platinum content in these remasters feels a little disingenuous.

Still, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl did exactly what was required of them. It helped fill the time between a traditional Pokemon adventure and the exciting next chapter arriving this month in Pokemon Legends: Arceus, promising a truly open-world experience.

FFXIV Endwalker

Games That Carried the 2021 Holiday Season

games carried 2021 holiday season

While Amazon Studios’ New World may have taken the MMO world by storm in September of last year, it was Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker that came out on top following its December release.

The expansion offered up yet another enormous main story questline, a new job in the form of the Sage, new dungeons, and new locales to explore, including, yes, the moon. Dogecoin would be proud.

Raid’s got a new Pandaemonium difficulty level, the level cap got bumped up from 80 to 90, a new alliance raid was added, and players could even spend their hard-earned Gil on becoming a homeowner in Ishgard. In other words, there was an absolute ton of new FFXIV content for players to sink their teeth into, and unsurprisingly, it all went down a treat with fans.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Games That Carried the 2021 Holiday Season

games carried 2021 holiday season

Every time I read the name ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ I immediately burst into a strange mix of shout-singing “I CAN’T STOP THIS FEEELIIINNNNG!” No more of the song, no less. Just the one line and then I’m done… It’s not gone down well with my fellow passengers on the bus or tram.

I’m not telling you this to make myself feel better about my strange habit, but because Guardians of the Galaxy is its soundtrack, and that was something I was incredibly interested to see how the team at Eidos Montreal handled in its video game interpretation of the rag-tag space bounty hunters in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

The good news is, the team knocked it out of the park. The soundtrack was an exceptionally well-curated selection of classic bangers that feel right at home within the Guardians of the Galaxy theme. But the developer didn’t just stop there.

The characters feel true to themselves, not in a “copy the MCU versions” way, but down to their core traits and characteristics that make them such a lovable bunch of bandits. The voice acting goes a long way to achieving this, with Rocket’s lines delivered with an appropriate level of arrogance and condescension, or Peter’s witty remarks exclaimed with that lighthearted manner that juxtaposes so beautifully with the severity of the situation the Guardians find themselves in.

Wrap the whole thing up with a simple but effective combat system and a beautifully-realized galaxy with stunning panoramic views and fantastic set pieces and you’ve got a game that feels deserving of the franchise’s iconic name.

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