Everyone likes the sparkly new thing but a shiny new coat on something you love is sometimes just as good, if not better. And while the new kids on the block get the lion’s share of praise at the end of the year, it’s not right to forget the old staples that have been plugging away giving us hours and hours (and hours) of fun. These games have kept us entertained with great updates throughout the year, so we salute their service.
The best game updates of 2021
After becoming the breakout indie hit of the pandemic, Among Us didn’t have to go as hard as it did this year. The social deduction game added new crewmate and impostor roles to shake up the dynamics of games, much in line with its more complex real-world variants like Werewolf and Mafia. Developers Innersloth also added new cosmetics, including some rarer collabs with other games, and introduced a progression system and microtransactions in order to help them keep the servers on. This might be the one time in history a game has added microtransactions after release to the cheering delight of fans, which is wild to see. Everyone wants to support the little guy that lets you murder your friends in space and get hats for doing it.
No Man’s Sky
What a journey it’s been for Hello Games. Enjoying the status of most anticipated game half a decade ago, flopping the landing on release and then steadily turning a nightmare launch into the game everyone always dreamed it could be. This year’s big No Man’s Sky update, Prisms, isn’t as feature-rich as previous years, opting instead to add new layers of shine to an already gleaming jewel. Next-gen consoles (and beefy PCs) benefit from screen-space reflections, DLSS, prettier rain, stars, and hyperdrive warp FX. Basically anything that could get a bit sleeker and shinier has had a new digital coat of paint. It’s the finishing touch to a game that has floored us with updates, and deserves its time in the limelight again. Now, if we can get the same treatment for Cyberpunk…
Speaking of updates with an air of finality about them, Sakurai gave us our last DLC fighter for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate this year, finally earning his rest. And, of course, it had to be everyone’s main boy, Sora. The fan favorite appears to be a decent pick, and his reveal was suitably hype, so all in all a fitting end to Smash Ultimate’s crossover carnival.
Obviously the real heroes here are the army of high-powered lawyers who managed to even get Sora into the game, given the number of strange caveats he came with. He still gets his magic from the power of friendship, though Goofy and Donald have just been completely memory-holed, replaced with generic patterns even on the artwork for his signature stage background. Still, that’s Disney™ ®️©️All rights reserved.
After becoming a surprise hit at the end of last year, Genshin Impact’s developers MiHoyo didn’t sit back on their laurels. The summer event of the gacha RPG saw a throwaway island chain serving host to a heart-warming beach episode of sorts, while the big adventure to the new Inazuma region hasn’t disappointed with six new islands to explore, each with their own stories and quests. That’s not to mention the entire Animal Crossing-like world designer in the Serenitea Pot which has continually been updated with new furniture and a way to bring your favorite characters in to make a cosy little home for yourself. Time to take a nice winter break before preparing to head off to Sumeru next year.
Mario Golf: Super Rush
At release you could be forgiven for thinking that Nintendo’s first new entry in the cult favorite Mario Golf series for more than 16 years was a little on the light side. But since then, Mario Golf: Super Rush has doubled the number of courses you can play through, added half a dozen new characters, a new ranked online multiplayer mode and a tee-off challenge Target Golf mode. The only thing we could ask of them is more outfits and club options, but we’ll take what we can get from a spin-off party game.
Final Fantasy XIV Online
What can you say about a game update that literallyforces the developer to stop selling it until they get their server queues under control? Endwalker has been so popular among the critically acclaimed MMORPG’s fans, and successful in bringing new players into the hype (with an expanded free trial that lets you experience the entirety of A Realm Reborn and the award winning Heavensward expansion up to level 60 for free with no restrictions on playtime) that developers Square-Enix have temporarily stopped letting new players in. The memeworthy free trial is no more, for now.
By all accounts from those who have managed to get past the server queues, Endwalker is a worthy addition to FFXIV’s growing pantheon of world-class MMO content, completing the game’s incredible redemption arc from the lows of 2011.