Year In Games 2021

2021’s best exploration game makes relaxation thrilling

Sable is an absolute gem.

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Exploration is the backbone of many games, but even in those considered “exploration games,” it often takes a backseat to something else.

Maybe you’re exploring to unlock new parts of a map, gather crafting resources, or just get to the next beat in a story.

Few games take exploration — and discovery as a reward in itself — as seriously as Sable.

As the titular Sable, you’re literally charged with a mission of discovery, not to find a new home for your people or a way to ward off some threat, but to find yourself.

In a rite of passage called the Gliding, you’re meant to explore the world outside your home village, try new things along the way, and in the process, decide what you want to do with your life.

In practice, that sounds like a lot of video game quests: You’ll roll up on some settlement, stick your nose into a stranger’s business, and help them sort out their problems.

But where other games just ignore how bizarre it is for the fated hero to spend time killing rats in someone’s basement, Sable centers this directionless chore-running in its story.

The Gliding is your time to experience the world and choose a path for your life. The people you meet are more than happy to give you the valuable experience of solving their problems.

It’s in the spaces around these tasks that Sable shines.

You’ll spend most of your time in Sable just moving through its world.

Climbing...

gliding...

or riding your hoverbike over the dunes.

The act of moving through Sable feels incredible, with each upgrade to your stamina or your hoverbike go a little further, a little faster.

You’ll explore crashed spaceships in Sable, work out the fates of your ancestors, and uncover buried secrets, but only if you choose to and only for the sake of knowing.

The world doesn’t need saving in Sable, and you are not a savior.

Sable does away with the endless conquest and acquisition that make up so many games. You’re here to see and to learn.

When you come across a ship graveyard, a massive skeleton in the sand, or any other incredible sight I don’t want to ruin for you, find them is its own reward.

Sable’s gotten a lot of criticism for its bugs and less than stable framerate. That’s fair, but those problems didn’t detract from my experience with it in any real way.

What sticks with me instead is the feeling of freedom and discovery it imparts, and the many moments that are among my best experiences ever with a game.

Sable broke the mold, trading polish and mechanical complexity for a sense of wonder, being an unforgettable experience and one of 2021’s best games in the process.

Raw Fury

Year In Games 2021 is an Inverse celebration of the most unforgettable adventures, stories, innovations, and characters in interactive entertainment.