Best Design 2021: Loop Hero


We think Loop Hero is the best-designed game of the year, which is why many of our publishers have devoted over 50 hours to it. For more of the best games of the year, visit our GOTY Pole 2021.

Evan Lahti, Global Editor: This mighty little RPG cost me 50 hours during its review. It is remarkably distilled. If Diablo is a nice 10 gallon tank of ARPG fluid, Loop Hero is a thimble of super concentrated gasoline. The loop: build level. Fight enemies (automatically). Equip the loot. Repeat. How is combat so engaging when you have virtually no control over it? Retro sound design has a lot to do with this, immersing the whole game in a Halloween vibe and making weapon strikes, harpy claws, and shattered shields sharp.

Like the kind of sprawling deckbuilder that Slay the Spire has spawned, hopefully we’ll see more of this sort of thing through different themes. I can easily imagine a multiplayer version of this where you build a board for an opponent, much like Legion TD 2.

Graeme Meredith, video producer: You see a lot of games on the indie side trying to replicate or restore the mirrors. More often than not, this is a practical way to an end, but the best really illustrates the fact that the early years of gaming only scratched the surface of the potential of pixel art graphics.

Not only does Loop Hero deliver a sumptuous visual experience with this aesthetic, but it’s one of the best ‘nonspecific CRT era’ style games I’ve seen, and it’s a key part of why it’s. is so addicting. Vibrant sweep lines, grimy sprite work, and crackling sound effects suck and keep you there for hours.

That, and the rumor mill it creates for itself, something typical in pre-internet gaming. Talk about your experiences with a friend or two, and each of you may have noticed or discovered something different or unusual while performing the loop. It fills you with a desire to share information. So, it’s not just the gameplay or the visuals that fascinates you, it’s the time and place that Loop Hero creates around you that makes it so remarkable this year.

Fraser Brown, online editor: Loop Hero seemed like a game I could go through pretty quickly, and these days I like a fast-paced game, so I gave it a go. Fifty hours later, I walked out the other side in awe of this clever bastard from a game. I’m a little fed up with deckbuilders now, because they’re so trending and absolutely everywhere, but Loop Hero finds a lot of it. space for novelty in this cluttered genre. Using the deck to build a world, not just with things that will help you but things that might kill you, is inspiring, and it makes me more optimistic about the genre.

(Image credit: four quarters)

Harry Shepherd, Guide Editor: Loop Hero is exactly the kind of game I wouldn’t normally play. Deckbuilder, roguelike, CRT-aesthetic, these are the kinds of things that tend to put me off, I’m ashamed to say it. I don’t know why I tried it, really, but I’m glad I did. So, if you’re a Philistine like me, hooked on modern graphics and a familiar design, I urge you to try out the game that surprised me the most in 2021.

Yes, Four Quarters’ endless RPG seems unapproachable, with its retro sensibility and complex mechanics, but its looks belies its true accessibility. As your amnesiac hero trudges through his loop, all you really do is swap his gear and create obstacles to spawn more. It’s more of a management game for me, and I appreciated being left to decide how perilous I wanted my adventures to be.

It really is that easy to get started, but Loop Hero rewards you for your creativity. Placing cards next to each other or in certain patterns on the card can create new ones, often with advantages and disadvantages. Then the longer your run, the more cards you place, your once-blank world becomes a weirdly beautiful pixel-art portrait. Rivers, bridges, villages, mountains and forests line the path of your nameless hero by your hand, changing and changing oddly, making this grid of cards feel alive. I urge you to try it out, even if you wait to do so on its perfect future home, the Steam Deck.


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