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My favourite 2021 games played on Linux

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Here we are, the year is ending so here's a few of what I consider to be my favourite games played on Linux that had a release during 2021.

As always, these are highly personal and are only based on what I actually played. There's masses in my backlog I haven't yet, that I will likely kick myself during 2022 for not getting around to earlier. The trouble is also, that most of my favourites were released back in 2020 and earlier - because newer simply isn't always better! So many games had huge upgrades across 2021 too that sucked me back in. However, these are my personal standouts.

Valheim

I had to include this, to not do so would be a big fat lie. Valheim is absolute magic from such a small team and absolutely absorbed me for a great many hours. I woke up wanting to play it and went to bed thinking about what I would be building next or what I would discover next. Valheim is a great example of how games don't need to have next-gen AAA ray-tracing realism.

Playing Valheim was truly a breath of fresh air. Such a sense of freedom, with no real goals to achieve outside of taking down bosses. While you do progress towards that as you go, it doesn't feel like it ever pushes you to do so. It doesn't really push you towards anything and that's why I like it so much. The scale of it is impressive too and I truly cannot wait to see more from it. For a year that in many ways offered so little fun, Valheim was a needed break.

The co-op aspect of it too is excellent. While you can play it alone, and I've done plenty of that, sailing around with friends in a big boat is an absolute blast. Just watch out for those dastardly Deathsquitos, they'll get ya.

Also, the Swamp is thoroughly spooky at night.

Valheim is available to buy on Humble Store or Steam. Linux native.

Loop Hero

Even the demo of Loop Hero had me totally hooked on it. It really doesn't look like much at all and the pixel-art isn't even especially great on it but it does still look good enough. The pull though is quite literally - the loop. A game that requires you to do the same thing over and over again to progress in it, which might sound a little boring but it's so finely-tuned to get you to keep doing it. What's really going on? You want to find out.

Build up a deck of cards that you place down to change the world, while your little hero travels around a loop battling creatures and collecting equipment. It's weirdly intoxicating. Then there's the parts outside of the loop, where you build up a little village and unlock more of the game from cards to characters. Then you realised there's lots of secrets to find and — it just keeps looping in your mind.

You can buy Loop Hero on GOG.com and Steam. Linux native.

Voxel Tycoon

Honestly I end up burning out pretty quickly on games that need you to keep building up and micro-manage business stuff but Voxel Tycoon is something that feels a bit special. In some ways, it feels like a next generation of Transport Tycoon. Not quite hitting every mark on that just yet but the promise it showed right out of the game was remarkable.

There's a lot you can build in it already and the world can be huge, although to really hit the promise of the infinite world, it's going to need plenty of optimizations.

You can buy Voxel Tycoon on Steam. Linux native.

Despot's Game: Dystopian Army Builder

Another game that's very much like Loop Hero, with a supremely satisfying loop that makes you itch to come back for more. Catching me thoroughly by surprise with the weirdness, it's a mixture of a dungeon crawler with an auto-battler where you build up a squad of completely ridiculous people from someone wielding Excalibur stuck in the stone to someone that looks like Dr. Otto Octavius from Spider Man, there's a lot of very fun variety here.

You can buy Despot's Game: Dystopian Army Builder on Humble Store and Steam. Linux native.


I imagine things are going to look very different by the end of 2022 and not because I'm expecting anything in particular in regards to new releases. With the Steam Deck approaching, which I am thoroughly excited for, I do honestly expect my gaming habits to change a little with it as it's a device I can genuinely see myself using plenty. The amount of evenings I've wished for such a device to relax elsewhere with - what joy it will bring.

What did you enjoy the most for gaming on Linux during 2021? Let us know in the comments and perhaps a bored reader can find their next favourite.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly.
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53 comments
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undeadbydawn 21 Dec, 2021
Quoting: scaineZiggurat 2

Holy wow. A legit Linux-native non-pixel art full 3D FPS? How the hell did I not know this game exists?
Beamboom 21 Dec, 2021
If the requirement here is games I've played natively on Linux this year, I hate to realise that I have barely played a single game. But the two native games I have played were great:
#1 Half-Life Alyx
#2 Deus Ex Mankind Divided (released some years ago though, but been in my backlog for too long)

If we are to count gaming via Proton I think my top 2 this year must be:

#1 Cyberpunk 2077 - clearly #1
#2 Horizon Zero Dawn


Last edited by Beamboom on 21 December 2021 at 8:14 pm UTC
Torqachu 21 Dec, 2021
I think torchlight and warhammer 40,000: space marine.
is grand prix circuit (accolade) with dosbox staging valid?
g000h 21 Dec, 2021
Some of my favourite games of the year:

7 Days To Die - Alpha 20 experimental (and Alpha 19, for that matter) - The new Alpha has lots of great new content e.g. Feral Sense, the new building mapping algorithm, and the large number of new buildings to explore.

Prodeus - A fast FPS in a retro style, but impeccably produced. The developers really know how to craft a good shooter. Brings back Doom, Quake, Duke 3D vibes but on modern hardware.

Ring of Pain - Windows title, playing with Proton - Finally, a roguelike game which has the same sort of strategy elements and gameplay feel of Slay The Spire. Similar concepts but fresh and different to STS.

Colt Canyon - Windows title, playing with Proton - Isometric, Western shooter, random-gen maps. Lots of characters, weapons, sneaking and/or guns-a-blazing. This one really grew on me, even though it didn't look special before starting.

Fury Unleashed - Shooter, Platformer, done in a comic-book style. Random gen maps. Plays very nicely.
eldaking 21 Dec, 2021
Quoting: LoftyWhat this small list of games show is that you don't need a mega expensive GPU to enjoy quality games.

And Honestly it's not all that bad in some ways, If we keep seeing this as a trend then we can expect some really creative titles to come out that run on lower spec systems that optimize and take advantage of the existing power available.

Considering how much AAA sucks nowadays, not having a mega expensive GPU probably helps.

More seriously, not only quality games, but quality brand-new games. We don't need a recent GPU to enjoy the old "classics", obviously, but people are still making great games today without those crazy requirements. And not games that are good because "gameplay is more important than graphics" - Loop Hero for example looks incredible.
Anza 21 Dec, 2021
Here's my list:

Valheim

One of the few survival games that I have actually played bit more than just a bit. It can be as harsh though as if you're not careful and don't have proper contingency plan, you can lose your stuff in a place that's hard to reach without proper gear. Also because of procedural generation, few remaining content packs might need regenerating the world.

PS: screenshot in the article looks like a boat accident is about to happen

Ziggurat 2

In short, it's a rogue-lite arena shooter. Plenty of guns, amulets and perks to collect and it does have permanent progression system. As there's so much stuff, everything is not totally unique, but there are few things here and there that change the gameplay in some way. One thing that Ziggurat games are doing right is difficulty levels, which make them lot more accessible than most rogue-lites. Ziggurat 2 has gone way past the other roguelite shooters that I have played.

Rain On Your Parade

Is it a bird? Is it a aeroplane? No, it's a cloud that will ruin you day. Game is pure mayhem with lot of references to other things mixed in. Hasn't gotten as much playtime as the others as there's levels are relatively smalḷ. Once you have beaten the game, you can replay the levels with more difficult objectives and now there's even DLC with more content.

Luck be a Landlord

Luck be a Landlord is what you get when you combine rogue-lite with slot machine. What makes the game interesting that it has equivalent of card collection mechanic that adds layer of strategy. Interplay between "cards" is turned almost up to 11 and it's up to you spot the potential synergies and switch your strategy based on what you get. I have completed the game two or so times already. There should be content pack coming up though, hopefully soon.

I give honorary mentions to Loop Hero and Griftlands. I haven't spent as much time with either of them as they deserve. On top of that last time I checked, Loop Hero was broken for me and I haven't debugged what's going on.
Anza 21 Dec, 2021
Quoting: undeadbydawn
Quoting: scaineZiggurat 2

Holy wow. A legit Linux-native non-pixel art full 3D FPS? How the hell did I not know this game exists?

It's mostly flying under the radar. It's in bit of a niche genre, but within rogue-lite shooters it's pretty good one.

Otherwise if you look for Linux natives, you have to appreciate what indie industry is able to produce. Those teams can be pretty small, so if they want to actually release a game, they have to cut corners somewhere.
Arehandoro 21 Dec, 2021
Probably my only native game of the year is Shadow of the Tomb Raider. I did spend several dozen hours to Dragon Ball: Kakarot and Cyberpunk, though. Very good games.
F.Ultra 21 Dec, 2021
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Quoting: ObsidianBlk
Quoting: LoftyWhat this small list of games show is that you don't need a mega expensive GPU to enjoy quality games.

And Honestly it's not all that bad in some ways, If we keep seeing this as a trend then we can expect some really creative titles to come out that run on lower spec systems that optimize and take advantage of the existing power available.

Not to be too tangential, but I've felt, for several decades now (maybe since Windows became the OS for most people) that there's been a loss to the art of optimization. As our technology gets larger (in storage, not size) and faster, I hear a lot more developers (game developers, especially) kinda shrug off optimizing in many areas because "space is cheap". While I understand that mindset, I just wonder, if developers still nickel-n-dimed every bit and byte of their code-base like they used to with 8-bit and 16-bit machines of yester-year, how much more we might actually be able to pack into our games today!

Just look the first game of any console generation and compare it with the last game of any console generation. In general the hardware doesn't change, but the latter games tend to be far more sophisticated than their initial counterparts. So many optimizations to processes and compression of resources to produce greater effects with the limited hardware! Imagine if we kept up with that mentality!

I know this is an oversimplification, but I still wonder...

Well the answer, as usual, is both yes and no. On the one hand, yes many devs today are lazy and use frameworks that are layers upon layers upon layers. But on the other hand, modern software also have to move a LOT of more data around than what we used to do back in the 8-bit days, on the C64 we could rewrite the entire screen by writing just 1000 bytes while a modern 4K screen requires 35389440 bytes for the same operation, and then you have to do geometry calculations (since 3d), light tracing and so on and on.
Koopacabras 21 Dec, 2021
Award of bug fest of the year... and the winner is: Cyberpunk 2077.
Valheim bugless gameplay and clean mechanics laughs at you. And it's still in Early Access lol.
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