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The 9 Games We Loved in 2021

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Will Bedingfield

Build a zoo, fill it with dinosaurs, and cross your fingers that nothing will go horribly wrong. (It will, of course.)

This sequel to the 2018 dino management sim Jurassic World Evolution offers a thematic twist to the usual theme park simulator formula. Rather than operating your Jurassic parks solely for profit and entertainment, you’re tasked with coordinating a series of damage control and rescue missions. Wild dinos now roam the modern globe, and it’s your job to try to corral the prehistoric returnees before they wreak too much havoc on the world’s supposed apex predators (us).

I knew this game would be a roaring good time by the second campaign mission, when a CIA agent demands that you stop some rampaging carnotaurus from fleeing to Canada. The tone throughout the game strikes a wonderful balance between cozy building sim and carnivorous lunacy. It’s the perfect pastime for someone who never grew out of their dinosaur phase.

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Construct habitats to suit the varying needs of each picky critter, take care of their health problems, and generally just make sure they’re not too freaked out by this strange new world they find themselves in. For some moments of genuine serenity, hop behind the wheel of a ranger mobile and drive through herds of triceratops grazing out in the wilderness of Washington state. Then, the next thing you know, a tornado has whipped through your park, toppled a fence, and now a T. rex is eating every human in sight.

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Boone Ashworth

I’ve been waiting until Wild Rift is out of open beta to officially review it, but I’ve played it nearly every day since it became available in March. Back in 2012, I installed League of Legends on my computer and was immediately hooked. Eventually, the game (and its often toxic community) grew stale, and developer Riot Games did too. 

While Riot is still facing some scrutiny, its mobile game Wild Rift is like a breath of fresh air—and better than traditional LoL in nearly every way. There are some differences between the two, like shorter matches and fewer champions, but so far Wild Rift is the most robust mobile game I’ve ever played. The objective is the same as the desktop version: destroy your opponents’ Nexus before they destroy yours. But the gameplay, and the community, couldn’t feel more different.

It’s easy to earn new champions and try them for free in low-pressure settings. It’s also easy to mute the errant tilted troll or two. There are tons of events and frequent free rewards, plus intuitive customizable controls and settings to adjust the player interface. Wild Rift is fast, frenzied, and way too much fun—even if you’re a support main, and even if you’re playing on your phone.

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Louryn Strampe

There’s no reason for Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl to be as good as it is. But as they say, “Only ’90s kids will understand.”

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is like Super Smash Bros, but with Reptar (Rugrats), CatDog (CatDog), and over a dozen other beloved characters from nostalgic Nickelodeon shows. It’s absolutely bananas to blow SpongeBob’s bubbles at space freak Invader Zim and, if you’re a try-hard, there is a special thrill that comes with Nigel Thornberry wave-dashing.

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