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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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NeoTheFox 21 Dec, 2021
Loop hero is one of these games you can get sucked into for a very long time without knowing it.

As the year comes to a close it feels a bit sad that my absolute favorite game of the year, Cruelty Squad is not a native Linux title, despite being made with one of the most Linux-friendly engines, Godot.
Lofty 21 Dec, 2021
What 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.
Arcadius-8606 21 Dec, 2021
My most played game this year was Shattered Pixel Dungeon both on desktop/laptop and phone.
Mar2ck 21 Dec, 2021
FYI: The demo for Loop Hero was hidden from Steam but it's still accessable via this page
ObsidianBlk 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.

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...
mirv 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...

One of the reasons behind Mantle (the AMD graphics API that ultimately lead to Vulkan and DX12) was showing that some optimisation is still very much beneficial!

And yes of course there are arguments to be had about "good enough", and there's often tradeoffs with maintenance, and technical knowledge required, etc. All completely valid and not what I'm commenting on.

What I truly wonder, is if those games that do have the resources to really push the envelope, what would happen if they used it for gameplay elements rather than just essentially bling? The lighting in Doom 3 was used to great effect, for example. Portal, of course less resource hungry by today's standards, used the signature portal effect as a gameplay element. I recall in Raven Shield where a little detail of breath from enemies in snowy areas gave away their location - and it wasn't a "hint: look for breath clouds" thing, it was just something added by the artists.
These are little examples that make me wonder what could really be done if the effort for bling was given into tying that into gameplay too.
Pipe dream though, because most gameplay innovation comes from indie teams that simply don't have the resources to push things quite that far.
CatKiller 21 Dec, 2021
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Quoting: ObsidianBlkWhile 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!
Much, much less. "I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter." Fine-tuning file sizes takes a lot of expensive time, which means there's less of those resources for everything else.
Xpander 21 Dec, 2021
Nice.. Valheim is matching with my list. Can't wait for future content updates for this game!
My list is in the youtube video if anyone cares:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=do9TuJngDH8
scaine 21 Dec, 2021
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Most played games this year (that came out this year):

Native
Roguebook
Griftlands
Legend of Keepers
Ziggurat 2
Loop Hero

Proton
Mass Effect Legendary Edition
Phantom Abyss

Only two Proton titles, because everything I play using Proton tends to be much older, either because of my rule of rarely paying full price for Proton games (hence, needing to wait for a big sale, usually the following year), or because of Denuvo. I would have paid full price, in a heart beat, for Deathloop, but hey ho. Bethesda have forced Arkane to push that shit on every title they've released since Prey, so it's a hard pass from me until it's removed.
ShabbyX 21 Dec, 2021
I'm playing Northgard now, and it's very addictive! It's very different but somehow gives me a warcraft vibe.
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