My Most Played Games of 2021

I haven’t posted an “of 20xx” roundup to the site since 2018, which is embarrassingly only a few posts below this one in chronological order. 2019 was a speeding bullet train of stress thanks to my last job, destined to burst into flames and derail once we hit 2020. I dove headlong into work on Delisted Games while being unemployed and looking for a new job, and didn’t feel like I had anything to say about what I played in 2020. Spoiler alert: I feel even worse about, well, everything in 2021. But I made some neat graphics for Instagram and wanted to write just a bit more about a few things from the year.

[HOT 2022 UPDATE: Sony finally sent out their PlayStation stats and my numbers were a little off. I updated the graphic above and some wording below but basically it just puts Rocket League in the Top 5 thanks to all the time spent playing (and idling) with my nephew]

It’s been coming on for a while now but I think it really coalesced in 2021: I am most happy playing games that simulate work and let me grind away at a personal little empire. At the top of the list is Grand Theft Auto Online which I added another 188 hours to in 2021. The Cayo Perico heist not only introduced a whole new island to the game but it also allowed me to tackle the entire thing solo. At one point I got the run, from setup to payout, down to under 3 hours. Along with most every other activity in the game, there’s still something I find satisfying about just being thereโ€ฆ despite the overzealous griefers.

ArcheAge doesn’t have an in-game counter but by my best estimates Katy and I have already logged close to 200 hours with it in December alone. I never thought I’d go back to the game which I haven’t touched in nearly 7 years. But after the news that my dormant inventory was eligible to be transferred to a new publisher, I figured if I was ever going to check it out again, now would be the time. What I didn’t expect was becoming immediately hooked and totally overwhelmed by all the mechanics all over again. I am once again loving exploring, building, and adventuring with Katy and rediscovering favorite areas and gorgeous scenery that honestly still holds up.

What the crap!? My entire experience with Elite: Dangerous was just in 2021?? From February through April all I did was explore, mine asteroids, and try not to get trapped in outer space. All told, I probably experienced less than 0.01% of what the game has to offer after 120 hours. Things changed pretty dramatically around May, though, after we finally got a PlayStation 5. Astro’s Playroom was a dazzling diversion ahead of a ~70 hour run through Horizon: Zero Dawn. And then we discovered Tower Unite. Ho boy, that’s as close to Ready Player One’s Oasis as we’re likely to get in my lifetime. The lawless cavalcade of player-made character models is fantastic but what really hooked me was designing my own vapor cave. Beyond minigolf and go-karts, it was tailoring individual objects, colors, music, and lighting to fit my aesthetic mood. And oh what a mood it is. By far the most creative and artistic thing I made all year.

With Earth Defense Force 6 being teased again (and so, so far away from an English release), Katy and I had no choice but to go back to EDF5 for our fix. It continues to be a fantastic and hilarious experience like no other. We even picked up the spin-off Iron Rain since it was on sale but that was a much shorter and less fantastic playthrough. Getting back to the grindy, work-like gameplay, I spent not-a-little amount of time with both Snowrunner and Banished in the mornings before my actual work. Finally, with so much work going into recording, research, and modding, it’s no surprise that Dinosaur Hunting added up to a few dozen hours of in-game time in 2021.

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