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System: Switch
Release date: October 5, 2021
Developer: SEGA
Publisher: SEGA


I experienced a wide range of conflicting emotions while playing Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania. I often caught myself laughing, usually after successfully guiding my expressive, energetic monkey across a particularly gauntlet-esque stage with only seconds to spare. Just as often I found myself sighing or yelling “nonononoooo,” typically as my encapsulated simian plummeted off a platform to its doom… again. But no matter how well I was doing (or not) at playing Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania, I was almost always having a wonderful time – and considering that this remaster contains stages and minigames from three of what may be the best games in the franchise, I expect I’ll be doing so for a long time.

System: Switch
Release date: September 30, 2021
Developer: Milestone
Publisher: Milestone


There was a time when games based on popular toys were a dime a dozen; it used to be impossible to walk into the video games section of your local supercenter without seeing shelves filled with licensed games, many of middling quality. That’s not really the case today, as many of the smaller studios that previously produced those types of games have since shut down, been absorbed, or are now producing mobile games instead. So, I was pleasantly surprised not only that Milestone announced Hot Wheels Unleashed in 2021 as a major new release for the franchise, but also that the game had potential to be of higher quality and creativity than previous games. In fact, Hot Wheels Unleashed feels like a game built primarily for today’s adults who grew up with Hot Wheels years (decades?) ago rather than kids – a bold choice. But does Hot Wheels Unleashed manage to be a good game underneath its many layers of die-cast nostalgia?

System: Switch
Release date: September 14, 2021
Developer: Raw Thrills
Publisher: Raw Thrills


It’s genuinely challenging for me to recall the last time I experienced a game that’s as comprehensively absurd – and so confident in embracing said absurdity – as Cruis’n Blast. While delivering arcade-style racing in what’s perhaps its purest, most straightforward form, Cruis’n Blast simultaneously feels like what would happen if an energy drink company hired a group of obnoxious teenage boys to design a video game. It’s ridiculous, over-the-top fun that never takes itself even remotely seriously, and I loved every minute of it.

System: Switch
Release date: September 7, 2021
Developer: SEGA / Blind Squirrel
Publisher: SEGA


By the time the credits rolled during my playthrough of Sonic Colors: Ultimate, a remaster of the well-received 2010 Wii exclusive Sonic Colors, I had been converted from a skeptic into a believer. Beyond dabbling in a few of the 2D games as a kid, I had long been hesitant to dive into a modern 3D Sonic game; this is a franchise with baggage, so much so that not even Sonic Team seems certain how to please its most diehard fans. So I’m thrilled to report that Sonic Colors: Ultimate is not only overwhelmingly fun to play, but also that the Switch is an excellent place to play it.

System: Switch
Release date: June 25, 2021
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Publisher: Activision


There’s a very specific vibe that permeates every second of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, out now on Nintendo Switch. I’d like to think it’s more than nostalgia – although I would be lying if early 2000’s skateboarding games didn’t hold a special place in my heart – but there’s just something romantic about grinding down a staircase at a California skatepark while Rage Against the Machine’s “Guerilla Warfare” blasts in the background. Having barely touched a skateboarding game since Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 on the GameCube, I was excited to see how this ground-up remake of two of the series’ highest-rated games would hold up on a handheld.

System: Switch
Release date: June 22, 2021
Developer: SEGA
Publisher: SEGA


Some people eat, sleep and breathe sports. I’m not one of those people, but even I can appreciate the Olympics and what they represent – the coming together of cultures, the excitement of seeing the best athletes in the world compete against each other, and of course, all of the associated spectacle. I decidedly do not enjoy, however, the decidedly average minigame collections that typically get churned out every few years to tie in with the event. That is why I’m thrilled to report that not only is Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Videogame an excellent Olympics game, but it is also one of the best pick-up-and-play sports games I’ve experienced in a long time.

System: Switch
Release date: May 14, 2021
Developer: Mages / Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo


Plenty of video games have elements of mystery in their narrative – that feeling of unraveling something ambiguous can be a highly effective means to motivate a player to see the end of a story – but it takes something special to truly evoke the feeling that you are a real detective. It’s a feeling that I hadn’t really experienced in a game since L.A. Noire released, but I’m thrilled to report that both Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir and its prequel game The Girl Who Stands Behind, excel at being compelling, immaculately produced mystery stories that I didn’t want to put down.

System: Switch
Release date: May 25, 2021
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus


Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster is an exhausting game. I don’t just mean exhausting in that it has a long name that I’m already tired of typing out, but rather, exhausting as an experience overall. Its world is bleak, barren and void of any semblance of hope for its inhabitants. Its gameplay, consisting almost entirely of archaic turn-based combat, can be unforgiving and occasionally opaque. And while the game has been given a small facelift for this 2021 rerelease, it largely embraces its PlayStation 2 origins and does little to modernize itself today’s audiences. Depending on what type of player you are, this may be enough to turn you off from the game entirely, but those who enjoy patiently unpacking a cryptic, challenging experience will likely find themselves deeply absorbed in Shin Megami Tensei III.

I’ve enjoyed digging into sprawling, dense RPGs ever since I was a kid, but Shin Megami Tensei has long been one of my gaming blind-spots. That’s despite me being a huge fan of the Persona series of spin-off RPGs – which are so popular in 2021 that still calling them spin-offs feels a bit reductive. So, when Atlus announced that Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne would be getting an HD remaster for Switch and other platforms, I was excited to finally experience a classic game in the franchise on a more modern, convenient platform.

System: Switch
Release date: March 26, 2021
Developer: Arzest / Balan Company
Publisher: Square Enix


When Square Enix revealed Balan Wonderworld to the world in 2020, I immediately felt that fans of 3D platformers would soon be experiencing something special. Not only did the game’s trailers exude a bold sense of style and charisma that felt genuinely endearing, but the game was also being helmed the creator of the Sonic the Hedgehog and Nights franchises. I was sold on the concept before I had even seen any gameplay – after all, with such an industry heavyweight leading the game’s development, what could possibly go wrong?