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Polygon’s favorite stories of 2021

A selection to keep you company over the holidays

And just like that, the end of 2021 is upon us. It’s been another, shall we say, interesting year, and we hope we’ve been able to offer you some respite from ... *gestures at everything* ... in the wide range of stories and videos we’ve sent out into the world. From the deepest secrets of The Lord of the Rings to the magic of playing games on an ancient television (and everything in between), we’ve got you covered. Thanks, as always, for joining us on this wild journey we call Polygon. We look forward to continuing to serve you in 2022!

The Year of the Ring

An orc from Lord of the Rings covered in hearts Illustration: Petrana Radulovic/Polygon | Source images: New Line Cinema

In honor of the 20th anniversary of these enduring cinematic classics’ debut, we’re exploring every aspect of Peter Jackson’s trilogy, from J.R.R. Tolkien’s source material to the best scenes and moments, along with the continued influence of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King on modern pop culture. Read the stories

Playing games on my ancient TV connects me to the present

by Jordan Starkweather

Illustration of vintage CRT game screens in various shapes and sizes and colors Illustration: Jinhwa Jang for Polygon

CRTs may be big, but they offer something a flat-panel TV never will. Read the story

Break-ups, porn, and bakas: The legend of the Barnes & Noble manga section

by Ana Diaz

A young man standing browsing some manga in the manga section of Barnes and Noble Photo: Ana Diaz/Polygon

What if we kissed in the manga section of Barnes & Noble? Read the story

A guide to the first 15 seconds of every game

by Patrick Gill

When you boot up a video game, you see a bunch of logos and stuff you might not recognize. Welcome to the exciting world of middleware! Watch the video

D&D’s Drizzt books were built on racist tropes. R.A. Salvatore wants to change that

by Charlie Hall

timeless a Forgotten Realms: Drizzt book cover by RA Salvatore Image: Harper Voyager

“If the drow are being portrayed as evil, that’s a trope that has to go away ...” Read the story

In the ’80s, she was a video game pioneer. Today, no one can find her

by Patricia Hernandez

Illustration of a computer tragic woman on a green background looking at a question mark Illustration: James Bareham/Polygon

The search for Ban Tran. Read the story

Netflix has a troubling problem with its biracial characters

by Petrana Radulovic

georgia doing ginny’s hair in Ginny & Georgia Image: Netflix

It keeps removing parents of color from their coming-of-age stories. Read the story

The origin of Noob Saibot

by Michael McWhertor

Noob Saibot from Mortal Kombat X Image: NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Mortal Kombat’s secret ninja was even a secret to the man he was named after. Read the story


Image of the character Shrek made from hundreds of pictures of Shrek Graphic: Alyssa Nassner/Polygon | Source images: DreamWorks

A collection of stories thinking about the ogre himself, 20 years after his origin story. Read the stories

My living room has three TVs and is the harbinger of human evolution

by Ryan Gilliam

Abstract illustration inspired by digital screens in lime green, sage and grey colors Illustration: Inkee Wang for Polygon

What’s the best TV to put in your living room based on size and wall availability? The answer is not one TV, but three. Read the story

A mini oral history of Willy Wonka’s gross chocolate river scene

by Matt Patches

Augustus Gloop falls into the chocolate river in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

“That scene probably wasn’t OSHA approved.” Read the story

It took me two years and 300 hours to beat Sekiro

by James Bareham

a collage of different scenes from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice video game Illustration: James Bareham/Polygon | Source images: FromSoftware/Activision

I don’t consider myself a gamer. When I first announced to a few experienced gamer friends that I was going to play Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, most of them suggested I steer clear of it. I didn’t listen to them. Read the story

An investigation into the lack of kissing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

by Joshua Rivera

The Avengers are kiss emoji Photo composition: Joshua Rivera/Polygon

Do the superheroes know there are many reasons to kiss? We should tell them. Read the story

Why Assassin’s Creed Unity can’t rebuild the Notre-Dame Cathedral

by Simone de Rochefort

Our perception of historical accuracy needs major retooling. Read the story

Street Fighter: The Movie: The game: An oral history

by Matt Leone

An illustration shows Kylie Minogue fighting Jean-Claude Van Damme while the Incredible Technologies staff records footage Illustration: Eli Baum

Our Street Fighter history series continues with a look at the time Capcom copied the copycats. Read the story

Inside the Neopets black market

by Nicole Carpenter

a yellow grundo in front of a keyboard Image: Neopets/JumpStart

‘Black market’ players want you to know they’re not boogeymen. Read the story

MiSTer 101: A classic gaming device to rule them all

by Christopher Grant

Illustration of game controller, cables and a MiSTer FPGA console Illustration: Justin Volz for Polygon

If you care about accurately playing the games from your youth, exactly how you remember them, look no further. Read the story

Deathloop’s big twist is unearned and underbaked

by Maddy Myers

art showing the hero of Deathloop running away from a time vortex Image: Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks via YouTube

The main characters of Deathloop, Julianna and Colt, spend the game trading bullets and quips with each other. Their chemistry was my favorite part of the game — until Deathloop’s big twist and downer ending left me cold. Read the story

The Sonic Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade crash: An oral history

By Jack Yarwood

Sonic The Hedgehog - Thanksgiving Day Parade Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Sega of America

The infamous moment, as told by those who were there. Read the story

Activision Blizzard workers walk out, call for CEO Bobby Kotick’s resignation

by Nicole Clark and Nicole Carpenter

Activision Blizzard employees stage a walkout in the response from company leadership to a lawsuit highlighting alleged harassment, inequality Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Employees protested at Activision Blizzard’s offices and online. Read the story