Mischief Maker’s Top 20 Games of 2021!

20. Doki Doki Gravity Dive

Devil Daggers meets Mario Galaxy; your ship hops between “Little Prince”-sized wraparound planetoids orbiting a black hole and fighting off an endless army of hostile invaders who can attack you from land, sky, and other planetoids.

19. Dice Legacy

A beautiful citybuilder-puzzle hybrid set on a ringworld. Your villagers are represented by dice whose faces determine the tasks you can assign them. You juggle rerolling citizens for important tasks against providing the food they need to survive all those rerolls.

18. Okinawa Rush

An arcade brawler/platformer hybrid ala. The Ninja Warriors where one of three karate masters tears through an army of ninjas using Street Fighter-esque special moves to take revenge against the Oni who wronged you.

17. The Magister

A collection of minigames akin to classic Microprose titles like Pirates, you play a traveling judge in a steampunk fantasy world investigating a randomly generated murder case at a remote village in a mix of Clue and Phoenix Wright.

16. Bright Memory Infinite

Short but sweet guns, swords, and magic FPS with AAA production values despite its indie team. Does what the modern Shadow Warrior games tried to do, but better, with magic and guns feeding each other ammo respectively.

15. Inscryption

By the developer of Pony Island, you are trapped in a cabin playing a card battle game against a spooky shadowy figure. Things get very meta. It’s best if you come in to it blind.

14. R-Type Final 2

A kickstarted revival of the classic memorizer sidescroller, this game brings the 70+ ship roster of fighters from the PS2 original, and puts them in better designed levels, including several remixed stages from previous titles.

13. Jupiter Hell

Spiritual sequel to the roguelike DOOM RL, Jupiter Hell brings 3D graphics and an intuitively displayed cover system that makes for Die Hard-style gameplay. Don’t let its true roguelike label scare you, it’s much simpler than Nethack.

12. Tainted Grail: Conquest

An atmospheric card battler in the style of Slay the Spire based on the board game of the same name. 3 character classes (Fighter, Summoner, Archer) with 3 subclasses each, an extensive town-building metagame, and excellent music.

11. Huntdown

The greatest Sega CD game that was never made. A Cyberpunk run’n’gun platformer with heavy John Carpenter vibes. Uses methodical cover-shooting like Elevator Action Returns. Memorable gang, level, and boss design from start to finish.

10. Drox Operative 2

An ARPG inside a space 4X. As part of a Bene-Gesserit-style secret society, you present yourself as an elite mercenary to the developing factions and use quests and cash to manipulate them politically and keep them in the Drox’s pocket.

9. Curse of the Dead Gods

Resembles Hades, but plays more like Dark Souls with a stamina bar, deliberate strikes, and perfect-blocking. There’s a strong emphasis on keeping combat arenas lit so you can hold weapons instead of a torch, but braziers can break.

8. Loop Hero

A unique combination of auto-play RPG and reverse Tower Defense. Your hero traverses an endless loop in a void while you place down random enemy-spawning landmarks to maximize XP and equipment gains without overwhelming him.

7. Conquest of Elysium 5

A basic strategy game on a massively complex world map. You play one of 20+ wildly different factions trying to seize control of the continent (and maybe its neighboring elemental planes) with increasingly apocalyptic armies and spells.

6. Fights in Tight Spaces

A super-cool spy-themed mix of Slay the Spire card battling and Into the Breach positional tactics. Smart players can trick enemies into punching and shooting each other as you build up your combo for super finisher moves.

5. Ziggurat 2

Delightful sequel to the best roguelite FPS of all time. Painkiller-style horde-shooting with magical weapons (wand=pistol, book=shotgun, staff=machine gun, alchemy=grenades) on garishly colorful random maps.

4. Trials of Fire

Better than Gloomhaven, IMO. Card-battle positional tactics game with a heavy emphasis on cover and party formation. Smooth intuitive interface and flashy combat effects for your unit tiles on a game map that resembles a pop-up book.

3. Clone Drone in the Danger Zone

3rd-person melee combat roguelite with a voxel-based damage system that’s the best Jedi lightsaber game ever made, even if not an actual Star Wars property. Lots of black humor from robotic Don Meredith and Howard Cosell’s commentary.

2. Slipways

Brilliant combination of 4X strategy and puzzle game as you nonviolently colonize a random infinite universe with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface for FTL trade lanes and seek to create the most prosperous empire in 25 years.

1. The Riftbreaker

By the developers of X-Morph Defense, this is an ARPG/RTS/Tower Defense hybrid that sees your robot exo-suit harvesting the resources of an alien world to build a fortress and defend against armies of thousands rendered in 3d by their buttery-smooth engine.

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