It’s quite a lineup
2021 almost feels like it didn’t happen. It can be difficult to remember the time when everything is uncertain. I find it more difficult to track time with all of this. These are the games that stand out in my mind and I also remember the characters I met and loved.
It’s amazing that games studios can still produce quality games in the middle of a pandemic. Despite all the chaos we have had to deal with, we still managed some pretty amazing games and that is something I am grateful for. So, without further ado, let’s celebrate them with a list of the Destructoid staff’s favorite new video game characters of 2021!
Let us know your favourite characters in the comments.
Noelle Warner: Alex Chen from Life is Strange: True Colors
Considering I didn’t much like the original Life is Strange, I was skeptical of True Colors when it released in September of 2021. However, I was delighted to be proved wrong when I fell in love with Alex Chen, the protagonist of the game. I was impressed by Alex’s rich inner life and found myself empathizing with her in a way that I haven’t felt with a videogame character for a while.
Alex had many qualities. Apart from the fact that she dealt with loss and grief, which I can relate to like most people over the years, Alex also had a positive personality and a variety of interests. She even enjoyed flirting and bantering with other characters in True Colours .. I could not project my feelings onto her as she was a living person. She took me on an emotional journey that brought me to tears.
A story-driven game’s player character must feel complex, real, and most importantly, enjoyable to spend time alongside. Alex did that admirably. Because of her character, and plenty of the others in True Colors‘ cast, frankly, it was one of my absolute favorite games of the year.
Jonathan Holmes: Lady Dimitrescu from Resident Evil Villiage
I played five times more hours of video games in 2021 than I did in 2020. You might get that in year 2. There were so many games that piqued my interest. For over a decade, I had been eagerly awaiting No More Heroes . Axiom verge 2 is a shorter buildup but still has an emotional story about parenting with neuro-physical limitations. Skyward Sword, the Zelda game with the best NPCs in the franchise’s history, got a new and improved re-release. The creator of Chulip put out a new kissing game. The Chozo, a fictional race of bird people from a series I’ve loved since 1986, finally got the spotlight in an all-new 2D Metroid game. You can go on.
In the end, though, the character that defined “2021 in games” for me wasn’t in one of my favorite releases of the year, and the game that she was in only featured her for a few hours. As the old saying goes: “There are no small parts. Only small actors.” Lady Dimitrescu is as small as it gets. No other video game character of 2021 tapped into the unique fears and desires that so many people are experiencing right now better than she did. She is a delicate monster, predatory but protective, carnal yet refined, elegant and surreal. Her presence in gaming is an icon.
Or should I say fandom?
Regardless of if you’re into Lady D for her sensual strengths, her high-class gothic aura, her status as a horror stalker for a new age, or any combination of the three, there’s no doubting that she was the most impactful, memorable character design of 2021.
Whispering Willow: The Loporrits from Final Fantasy XIV & Echo 216 from Halo Infinite.
Well Holmes got Lady D, so let’s look at what I have …
Would you like to just relax? Well, I probably shouldn’t say too much about the Loporrits of Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker for sake of spoilers but these adorable moon dwelling throwbacks from FFIV are as entertaining as they are accomodating
How adorable? To have playable Loporrits, I would give my soul to all Viera and Lalafell. These handy, dutiful buns will most likely have some connection with crafting, but why stop there! Let’s be them!
Who could not use a vacation on a moon with kind bunbuns looking after their needs? Well, we all could, but as 2021 game characters go, it’s probably Echo 216 from Halo Infinite.
Echo 216 is a mood. He doesn’t want to be here today, and he will tell you. He is trapped in an endless nightmare, feeling futility and worthlessness. He’s very much a character for 2021. It was comforting to know that Master Chief is there for him.
I think Echo 216 is also the only person who has hugged Master Chief. Fair enough, I believe that it’s long overdue.
Zoey Handley: Sam Boole from Psychonauts 2
The original Psychonauts had a loving focus on its characters, and they really made the game stand out amongst other platformers. Psychonauts 2 could have been carried on the back of that same cast, but instead decided to dump most of it and introduce an almost entirely new one. The new characters are just as rich as those in the original game and add a new flavor to the sequel.
Sam Boole was the sister to Dogen Boole. This character is from the first game and blew up squirrels. Sam Boole is just as insane as Dogen, but she’s more confident than Dogen. This makes her more dangerous. Although her psychic ability allows her to communicate with animals, she mostly uses it to antagonize and torture them. Her selfishness masked by an intangible creepiness was hilarious to me. Raz and she had a great conversation about pancakes, which was a highlight of an already impressive game.
If the ditched cast of the original Psychonauts is any indication, this may have been the last we’ll see of Sam Boole. For the amount of time we got to enjoy her, she was a dash of just plain dirt in the delicious stack of pancakes that was Psychonauts 2. For the UMAMI …
Eric Van Allen: Julianna Blake from Deathloop
Deathloop might focus in on its targets, but just as core are its dueling protagonist and antagonist: the time-looping Colt and the assassin who’s always hunting him, Julianna Blake. The mixture of hunter and hunted is what creates a great deal of tension in Deathloop, culminating in incredible moments of banter and surprise firefights throughout each area.
And it all comes down to Jules’ genuine charm. Ozioma Akagha’s portrayal Julianna is equal parts snarky, emotional, and a mix of cold hunter/sneering competitor. Julianna taunts Colt every time you go into areas and turn around.
In just the introduction, Julianna makes an impressive entrance. She literally plays with Colt, trying to help him remember what’s happening and why. Julianna stays with Colt until the end, encouraging him to try again and sometimes failing. As core as characters can be to a narrative, Julianna is absolutely crucial to both Deathloop‘s story and its gameplay, and one of the most memorable antagonists of 2021.
CJ Andriessen: Gina from Gnosia
One of the most memorable gaming experiences I had in 2021 was my trip on a doomed spaceship in Gnosia. The much-loved intergalactic version of “Werewolf”, originally released in Japan exclusively for the PlayStation Vita, was released on Switch consoles early this ye. It features arguably the most memorable cast of characters from last year. Every single one of them deserves a place on this list. The one with the cat in his neck is not a bad one, but I chose to focus on Gina because
- Her outfit is fucking amazing and something every cosplayer should rock
- In a journey full of lies and deceit, she really was one of the only people I could depend on through each loop.
Gina hates to lie. She’s actually really bad at lying. This means she was someone I could rely on as a human, and it also meant that she was often a target of the Gnosia to try to end my loop. Gina was someone I trusted, which made my existence in the kill-or-be killed game even more sad. She is often the first to be killed in cold sleep. She’s like Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow, but you hate to see her die. She was truly driven to help others, and even risked her life to do so. That kind of selflessness ea