One of our favourite games of 2021 is free, so I just spent an hour playing it rather than writing this

A Loop Hero Steam card showing the Lich.
(Image credit: Four Quarters)

Loop Hero won PC Gamer's 'best design' award in 2021 because it is one of those games that is just small but perfectly formed. "If Diablo is a 10-gallon tank of pleasant ARPG liquid, Loop Hero is a thimble of hyperconcentrated essence," said PCG Editor-in-Chief Evan Lahti. "The loop: Build level. Fight enemies (automatically). Equip loot. Repeat. How does combat feel this engaging when you have essentially zero control over it?"

I too got sucked into Loop Hero's endless cycles at the time and, booting it up to refresh my memory this morning and take a few screens, spent way longer than I should have done falling in love all over again. The game is deceptively simple at first, before you begin to realise how it scales and the kind of long-term planning you need to apply to wring utterly everything out of a given layout: what's so irresistible is you're essentially building the loop that you want to exploit.

To summarise: Loop Hero is a very good game indeed. It's well worth the $15/£12.50 but now you don't need to even think about that: it's free on the Epic Game Store for a week. While you're there you can also bag Bloons 6 TD for the same low price, which is a cutesy tower defence game with monkeys.

It's maybe an appropriate choice of partner title, because if Loop Hero does anything it inverts that classic tower defence style and creates almost its own genre through doing so. You establish the defences you're going to wreck, the resources you want to exploit, and try to judge your loop's damage output to the Nth degree: just enough to almost kill your character while filling them full of lovely XP, then sitting back and hoovering up the rewards.

The Loop Hero dream? To achieve something like this madman, a 13,283 loop level where Christmas just keeps on coming. This is one of the most intricate and satisfying games in years, with gorgeous art and a surprisingly expansive meta-structure outside of the core loop-de-loops. For free you can't go wrong and, if you're starting fresh, here's some tips to get started. The second is just good life advice really: "know when to GTFO."

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."