The top ten articles on DDNet in 2021

11 mins read
List by Matt S.

What a year it has been. Just when we thought life would get back to normal and COVID-19 would fade away, it came back with a roar (and then another one), forcing us to all endure yet another year of lives and lifestyles being put on hold. But at least the games have been good! And it has been an excuse to work on DDNet.

The DDNet from the start of the year is so much different to the DDNet now. We have a magazine now, and a merchandise store. The YouTube channel has nearly doubled in subscriber count (and we’re slowly getting better at making those video things). We’ve produced an incredible range of high-quality art featuring our mascots. And, of course, we’ve written hundreds and hundreds of articles for this site. Around 900, at a rough count. We’ve conducted high-profile interviews, reviewed almost all of the major games, boosted our coverage of the indies, and become one of the largest websites that predominantly focuses on Japanese games.

All of that success and growth has been because we have the best audience out there, and I thought you might be interested in what the top ten articles of the year have been! See below, let us know your own highlights of 2021, and let’s look forward to the New Year!

1) Reviews: Catching up with Nintendo Switch visual novels

(Read the article here)

I would never have predicted that a “catch up” of visual novel reviews would be the most read article on DDNet in 2021, but there’s a good reason for it – in that collection of reviews, we covered The House In Fata Morgana. We were one of the seven or eight Metacritic-listed sites that gave the game a perfect 100/100 score on the aggregate site for a couple of weeks, and this caused a lot of discourse across the Internet for a while. It was fun to watch and, in a way, be a part of. Fata Morgana does deserve a 100/100 on Metacritic, as an aside. The critic that ruined that gets a big pfffffffffft from me.

2) Review: Metroid Dread

I’m not going to talk about this one too much, mostly because it annoys me that it was as well-read as it was. For a while I was the lowest score on Metacritic (a 7/10, which is anything but an actual low score). The Metroid fans just couldn’t handle that I didn’t like their toy as much as they did, though, so they went absolutely ballistic at me. I had to close the comments on that one. It was getting unpleasant. Here’s to hoping fandoms grow the hell up in 2022 (they won’t).
3) Gadget review: Anbernic RG351V – the best emulation handheld yet

Over the last couple of years, I’ve developed a deep interest in emulation consoles from China – cheap and cheerful devices designed to play all your favourite games from yesteryear. I’ve got over a dozen of these consoles now, and in writing about them it seems that DDNet has picked up a bit of an audience for them. Even with more devices coming out every few weeks, the RG351V stands out as one of the highlights of these devices, so that article remains very relevant if you’re looking to turn it into a hobby yourself.
4) Review: Balan Wonderworld

Balan Wonderworld became an infamous game very, very quickly. The traffic that came to my review of the game was a consequence of me being one of the few people in the critical space the really enjoyed it. I still do, too, and I have a genuine suspicion that a decade or so from now people are going to rediscover this game as being a whimsical and thematically clever little game. Was it executed well? No. But the artistic and creative credentials of the game are real, and that’s something I always like to see at DDNet.
5) Review: Hatsune Miku Logic Paint S

As much as I loved Hatsune Miku Logic Paint S (it’s nonograms and Miku – there is no better combination!), this is an incredibly niche game to be one of the top ten most-read articles on DDNet. I suspect that it’s because my obsession with Miku means that people read anything I write about her, and that also that I was one of the few that reviewed it at all. People spotting that low-priced Miku game on the eShop will probably search for it online, and they’ll come across my review. Hopefully, I inspired them to buy it. Because it’s great. 
6) DDNet Game of the Year Awards: The Game of the Year

The GOTY awards have actually become quite a big investment of time and energy for the DDNet team, so I do like that they feature in the most-read articles of the year. I like to think of the DDNet Awards as being a niche alternative to some of the bigger ones out there. We might not have the production values (or hours and hours of advertisements) as a certain other awards, but what we do very well is identify the best games for the audiences outside of mainstream gaming culture. This year was the biggest year for awards yet. I hope you all enjoyed it!

7) The man behind the Blue Reflection series

It’s not often that you get to interview one of your favourite artists, but I got that opportunity this year, when I got to chat to Mel Kishida, my favourite anime/Japanese games artist of all, about Blue Reflection: Second Light. I’m glad the interview trafficked well, because it was a good chat and the feature has turned up really nicely, I think. 
8) Samsung’s new mascot is… well, she ain’t Hatsune Miku

This happens every year. A brief news article or random thought I throw out there catches some kind of SEO train on Google, and ends up trafficking like crazy all year long. I don’t go out of my way to do that – I’m one of the few publishers that focuses on writing quality and I’m willing to go with a smaller audience in exchange – but sometimes the stars align and it just happens. My little rant about how terrible Samsung’s mascot character is didn’t deserve to be a top-10 article, but there you go. It is.
9) What the games industry should learn from Cyberpunk 2077 is not the lesson that it will learn

Everyone had hot takes and deconstruction of Cyperpunk 2077, and that in turn generated a lot of traffic as people shared ideas and talked across and through articles. My own take, in which I criticise Cyberpunk over its superficial treatment of the source material, and discuss how this is a lesson that the games industry has no interest in learning, was a bit of a hit for DDNet this year. Sadly I doubt it convinced any of the big AAA-studios to actually change their ways. Oh well. I tried. 
10) Microsoft’s done a great job with backwards compatibility, but we still need “piracy”

Last but not least is an article supporting my ongoing crusade for games to be properly preserved. We’re at risk of losing so much great art because publishers won’t (or can’t) preserve their games to continue working on modern hardware. Earlier this year Microsoft did some great work in preserving what it can, but there are still hundreds of games that are at risk of being lost if the pirates don’t do their thing. That’s what this article is focused on, and it seems there are a lot of other people out there that are as concerned about this as me.
So, there we go! That’s the top ten of DDNet for 2021. Thank you everyone for tuning in over the year, and we look forward to continuing to serve up excellent content in the year ahead. 

– Matt S.

Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb

This is the bio under which all legacy articles are published (as in the 12,000-odd, before we moved to the new Website and platform). This is not a member of the DDNet Team. Please see the article's text for byline attribution.

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