This post is part of a ten day series on my top ten games of 2021. You can find previous entries here.

10. Deathloop

9. Hitman 3

8. It Takes Two

7. Metroid Dread

6. Resident Evil Village

5. No More Heroes 3

4. Returnal 

3. Psychonauts 2

2. Guilty Gear Strive

1. Monster Hunter Rise

Monster Hunter has been one of my favorite series since 3 Ultimate back in 2013. However, I always struggled with playing it on the 3DS. When the Switch was yet to be revealed and all of the talks of a hybrid console were going on, I was immediately excited by the idea of Monster Hunter coming to a console that I could play on my tv.

Then Monster Hunter World came along and all was well in the world. My first few months of 2018 were mostly spent on World, eventually getting to the point where I had maybe overdone it and eventually I just stopped playing. I tried getting back into it a few times over the years, but for some reason I couldn’t. I just figured that maybe I had my fill of Monster Hunter. So when Monster Hunter Rise was announced I didn’t really pay it any mind. Trailers and demos would be released, but I just wasn’t interested.

For whatever reason, I decided to pick up Monster Hunter Rise on a whim. This ended up being one of the best decisions I had made all year.

Monster Hunter Rise near-instantly skyrocketed to become my favorite Monster Hunter game. It finally feels like they’ve perfected the formula. World made huge steps towards streamlining the experience and it felt incredible to play. The only real thing missing was more mobility options to speed up the game. Rise went ahead and added multiple in the form of wirebugs and doggies.

Wirebugs are basically a grappling hook, allowing you to scale heights that typically wouldn’t be possible in a standard MonHun. They also work as a resource for your weapons switch skills, which are special actions you can perform. Meanwhile, Palamutes are the new dog companion, like palicos, they help you during hunts, as well as allowing you to ride on them to get around faster and even perform sick drifts on them. These new mechanics may feel like slight changes to the formula, but they make a world of difference to the pace of the game.

The star of the show in any Monster Hunter game are, of course, the monsters themselves. Both new and returning, the roster of monsters selected for Rise is exceptionally strong, with only one or two puzzling inclusions (here’s looking at you, Jyuratodus). Rise’s setting is Kamura – a village inspired by feudal Japan – by extension, the new monsters are primarily inspired by Japanese folklore and Yokai such as the Namahage-inspired Goss Harag. Rise also has the honor of having possibly the best flagship monster in the series, in the form of Magnamalo; a giant tiger-like beast with spines in the appearance of samurai armor.

Monster Hunter has always had a high quality soundtrack throughout the series. Rise is no different. New compositions like Barbarous Beast: the theme of Magnamalo and, my personal favorite, Sandy Plains: the battle theme from the area of the same name. Rise also has Japanese-inspired remixes of classics like the series main theme – Proof of a Hero and Zinogre’s battle theme, which gets taken to a whole other level, arguably eclipsing the original.

Monster Hunter Rise came at the perfect time. I was in the midst of my biggest depressive phase in a long time. I didn’t really feel like playing anything as I just couldn’t get invested, then -on a whim – I bought Rise and it completely ensnared me. It’s the only game that I stuck with all year, and even one I’ve played far into 2022. There was really no other choice for a game of the year for me. I loved pouring all of that time into the world of Monster Hunter Rise… and I fully intend to do the same when Sunbreak releases this summer.