Video Games are a very collaborative effort from small and large teams, but there’s still a direction from one of a few people driving the project to become what it is on the day it ships. Whether it’s a cinematic co-op adventure like nothing before it, or the moody and atmospheric loop on an alien planet that won’t let you die, or the various worlds and multiverse hopping adventures in one of modern gaming mascots latest adventures, the direction for each of these games is the reason it’s as memorable, and a standout from the past year.

Here are our picks for the Best Video Game Directions in 2021.

5.) Psychonauts 2 – Tim Schafer

A dormant franchise for twelve years needs a steady hand to lead its revival; with its first mainline game since 2005, Tim Schafer brings Psychonauts 2 to life, building upon the world he established initially. Psychonauts has always been a world of the absurd, but it takes a clear direction to open up the world to the sizeable accessible audience within the Xbox ecosystem. Psychonauts 2 is a complete story told as much throughout its moment-to-moment gameplay and the ongoing narrative. Exploring the Motherlobe and the surrounding areas, it is clear to see the attention to detail within the world at large and within every moment and character interaction that happens within it.

– Ciaran Marchant

Psychonauts 2 Review

“Double Fine has found a way to integrate them seamlessly within both the world exploration and the high paced combat.”

4.) Rachet and Clank: Rift Apart – Marcus Smith/Mike Daly

The task of making a new Ratchet and Clank game, 12 years after the release of the last full-length original entry in the series, could not have been easy but the team at Insomniac managed to find the right balance of feeling like the original games but moving things forward. While the dodging, shooting and platforming all felt like second nature when you started playing, the different traversal elements added to the game are great as well, especially when on the large world maps of the game.

The way the game utilised its rift and multiverse elements was a great continuation of some of the time puzzles we experienced in the PS3 games, especially on Cordelion where you shift between universes to progress through this underwater base in various states while trying to avoid a creature hunting you. Seamlessly shifting from one universe to another was one of the best showcases of what the PS5 is capable of this year. Rift Apart played like we remember the old games were while feeling new a fresh as well, mixing all the platforming and action elements we loved into a fantastic new experience.

– Ashley Hobley

3.) It Takes Two – Josef Fares

Before release, Game Director Josef Fares made a bold claim that anyone who gets bored playing It Takes Two would be paid $1000. His confidence in the game being inherently fun through its entire run time is built on the many different gameplay systems that the game throws at you and taking them away again long before you can grow to be sick of them. 

It Takes Two’s excellence in direction has come from how these systems are so well integrated with a co-op experience. At most times, you are learning the new toolkit that your character has been given and your partners and the way your new abilities interact. These systems are polished to a shine, always working as intended, and importantly, always fun to use. It Takes Two always knows when you are tiring these systems and quickly shuffles them around or when you want to switch from linear platforming to having a more open space to explore. It all feels timed to a second. The way It Takes Two balances all the different gameplay styles it throws at you whilst making a co-op experience where neither player feels like “player 2” puts it amongst the best direction in a game in 2021.

– Wil James

It Takes Two Review

“Some rather insane levels and gameplay mechanics for you to discover with a partner.”

2.) Returnal – Harry Krueger

The pick up a gun, shoot aliens, die, repeat structure of Returnal isn’t built like any other roguelike. What you keep between each death is minimal, and until the recent changes that let you suspend the game and back-up saves, there wasn’t an excellent way to brute force yourself through the game. Yet, Returnal is a challenging game that rewards those seeking a game about learning weapon mechanics, room design, enemy spray patterns and boss attacks. Meld this all together with a haunting and oozing alien world that has you constantly feeling odd-pace, and Returnal is a game with the vision behind it from Harry Krueger, even if it’s a vision that kicked your ass a lot.

– Dylan Blight

Returnal Review

“The action is fast, frantic, and like nothing else on the market at the moment.”

1.) Deathloop – Dinga Bakaba, Sébastien Mitton

With the limited parameters of a repeating day on the Island of Blackreef, Dinga Bakaba and Sebastien Mitton were able to keep the experience flowing through their direction. Deathloop excels at making players feel progression as they explore Blackreef even if they are returning to areas and times of day that they have visited countless times before. The story progresses at a rate that the player never feels stagnant, and there is always a new element coming to life. Many games within the time loop genre lose players within the first few hours, but Deathloop succeeds where many others fail through its direction.

– Ciaran Marchant

Deathloop Review

“Allowing players to find their style within the game and using it to conquer any challenge put before them”

Dylan Blight, Ashley Hobley, Ciaran Marchant & Wil James compiled this Top 5 list. The Video Games nominated must have released or had a sizable update within December 13th 2020 – December 13th 2021 and have been released in Australia.