The Best Games of August 2021

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The Best Games of August 2021

We can be a little hard to please here at Paste. We don’t always do a month-by-month round-up of the best new games because there isn’t always enough new games worth putting on such a list. August was good, though. We liked the games we played in August. We liked enough of them that August actually met the five-game minimum I arbitrarily require for a “best games of the month” piece. It’s the first month to do that in a while. (Don’t bother checking the archives to figure out the last time we did this—it really doesn’t matter.) August had some games that we liked, so we wrote about why we liked ‘em, and now it’s time to sum all that up in a single piece that will hopefully bring in some readers who wind up checking out both these games and the other pieces we’ve written about these games. That’s how this business works: we write stuff, and hopefully you read it. Thanks for your participation on that front—we couldn’t do this without you.

Anyway. Here it is: the games we most dug in August. Yes, the best games of August.

Thank you, and have a good September!

5. The Ramp

Platforms: PC

Minimalist skating game The Ramp doesn’t have missions. It doesn’t keep score. You don’t collect things. You just skate. You build up speed by holding down or letting go of the A button to build up speed at specific spots on the half-pipe or empty pool, angling for ample airtime to pull off a cool trick. And then you do it again, and again—or maybe you just glide back and forth, enjoying the breeze on your face. The Ramp doesn’t ask you to do anything other than skate, for however long you like, with whatever level of exertion you like. The stakes are about as low as you’ll ever find in a game, and that’s partially why The Ramp is so refreshing. You can just kind of bliss out to it.—Garrett Martin

Read our full The Ramp feature.

4. Black Book

Platforms: PC, Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4

At first, Black Book feels familiar. Its card-based battle system borrows from the explosion of deckbuilding roguelikes, most obviously Slay the Spire. The way the game structures itself around gaining new cards and expanding potential strategies will be familiar to anyone who has played games like this before. However, rather than using a slight narrative framing to hold up a number crunching strategy game, Black Book’s combat feels like the metaphor of a JRPG. It is a system that deepens its themes of people living in a dying ancient myth.

Black Book is interested in a world beyond the material, beyond its mathematical parts. Even as it uses math to represent the ephemeral, it tries to ground the numbers in the mythical. Black Book is a fun deck builder; more than once I have found myself stuck against a particularly hard boss, only to retool my deck and find an easy victory. It has the satisfaction of tactical play. It also tries, with general success, to make that play meaningful in the context of its own world.—Grace Benfell

Read our full Black Book review.

3. Death Trash

Platforms: PC

Usually, when a game enters an early access program, it’s for two reasons: to build interest before the official release, and to gather player feedback to polish the game. In the case of Death Trash, my only feedback is this: you are perfect the way you are. Don’t ever change.

Death Trash is everything I love about Fallout (and the very few things I enjoyed about Zelda II). It’s crude, dark, and just a little gross. And it combines exploration with RPG conventions to create a complex ecosystem of dialogue, side quests, and random encounters that are unique to each playthrough. So far, the game has gotten a lot of praise for its use of the early Fallout formula. And while Death Trash deserves to stand on its own feet, I can’t help but add to the chorus. For those of us missing the glorious complexity of open-world storytelling, Death Trash is a welcome return to form.—Holly Green

Read our full Death Trash feature.

2. The Vale: Shadow of the Crown

Platforms: PC

The Vale has only the most cursory connection to “video” and then almost purely as a kindness to sighted players. The kneejerk response to “a videogame without graphics” is obviously a text adventure, but that would be wrong. While it certainly borrows ideas from text adventures, and video-driven videogames themselves, The Vale has far more in common with radio plays. This is an interactive audio drama.

An audiogame. It’s not the first, it’s not the only. But it’s one that delivers an experience in line with big RPG/Adventure titles like Skyrim or The Witcher. And while it might not be the AAA of games for the blind and visually impaired, it might just kick AAA asses into understanding there is both a market for games that cater to these players, and also that there are ways to bake accessibility into existing games that are designed around sighted players.—Dia Lacina

Read our full The Vale review.

1. Psychonauts 2

Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC

Psychonauts 2 feels like a game made by real people who care about real people. Many games have come down the pike the last several years with a focus on the psychological state of its characters, and thus its players, but too often they lack any tact or any legitimate insight into how people think and feel. They use sorrow and violence as shortcuts, relying on cheap scares and easy provocation. It’s like they’re made by machines, or the board room, or some algorithm that slightly rearranges previous AAA hits into something that’s supposedly new. Too many of these games fall into that witless trap of thinking something “serious” and “important” must also be humorless and dark, unrelentingly grim and fatalistic. Psychonauts 2 reveals that for the nonsense that it is, showing that you can more powerfully and realistically depict emotion when you use warmth, humor, humanity—the whole scope of emotions that make us who we are. Psychonauts 2 asks “how does it feel to feel?”, and then shows the answer to us—and the games industry at large—in brilliant colors.—Garrett Martin

Read our full Psychonauts 2 review.

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