Forget Bitcoin! These were the 5 crypto assets you wish you’d held in 2021

Crypto is growing up. Here are the five best performing tokens in 2021, and Bitcoin wasn’t one of them…

| More on:
A metaverse character reigns supreme wearing a crown.

Image source: Getty Images

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Last year was a good time to be a crypto investor, as the alternative asset class received renewed optimism.

The largest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation, Bitcoin (CRYPTO: BTC), posted a 57% gain during the year. However, this pales in comparison to the outlandish performance of other cryptos and tokens in 2021.

When discussing investment returns we would usually be talking in the realm of tens or hundreds of percent. But today we’ll be referencing returns in excess of 15,000% in a single year.

For this collection of best performing cryptocurrencies in 2021, we have filtered down to the top 100 by market cap, according to CoinMarketCap. This removes the lesser-known and more volatile cryptos from our view.

Without further ado, here are the five best cryptocurrencies/tokens of the year gone by.

Governance and metaverse tokens make top 5

Kicking off our list of the best performing crypto assets in 2021 is Terra (CRYPTO: LUNA). This blockchain-based protocol supports stable programmable payments using algorithmic means.

In other words, Terra, and its LUNA token, provide stability to cryptocurrencies. Simultaneously, the LUNA token acts as a governance token, which allows holders to vote on decisions for the underlying protocol.

An influx of decentralised applications being built on the Terra blockchain has helped this token achieve mind-blowing returns by the end of 2021. To be specific, the LUNA token was propelled 15,970% higher last year.

Beating out Terra in 2021 was a token that is well known in the metaverse community. The Sandbox (CRYPTO: SAND) token rapidly appreciated in value after Facebook announced its rebrand to Meta Platforms Inc (NASDAQ: FB) amid its push to be a big player in the digital world.

Being one of the most prominent names in blockchain-based digital worlds, The Sandbox and its native token enjoyed a substantial boost after Facebook acknowledged the metaverse in a big way. In turn, the increased attention pushed returns for The Sandbox token to 17,387% in 2021.

Great year for game-based cryptos amid NFT craze

Axie Infinity is a blockchain-based game that tapped the non-fungible token (NFT) explosion last year. The game’s characters, known as Axies, are represented as NFTs — giving players ownership of their playable creatures.

Additionally, the game operates on a pay-to-earn model, allowing players to win crypto. Players can also exchange their Axie NFTs as another way to potentially profit from the game.

It appears the game has been a success, with daily active users surpassing 2 million. Similarly, the game’s token Axie Infinity (CRYPTO: AXS) has erupted, gaining 20,043% in the span of 12 months.

This return might seem extremely impressive, yet the next best crypto on our list trumped those returns. The Gala (CRYPTO: GALA) token showered investors with profits in 2021, netting a staggering 49,368% gain at the end of the year.

Although Gala is also in the gaming realm, it’s a little different from Axie Infinity. Setting it apart, Gala Games seeks to provide people with control over their games and in-game assets. In addition, the platform offers token holders the ability to vote on what games get funding and are developed.

From ‘underdoge’ to king of crypto returns

It wouldn’t be the top five cryptos without the token that took the world by storm last year. Shiba Inu (CRYPTO: SHIB) is a decentralised cryptocurrency aspiring to be an Ethereum-based alternative to Dogecoin (CRYPTO: DOGE).

Many would know that these tokens are inspired by memes. However, some may not know that Shiba Inu is more than a meme. The Dogecoin alternative has created an entire decentralised finance platform, allowing users to exchange between different tokens and earn rewards from staking.

If you were an investor of Shiba Inu at the start of 2021 and held throughout the year, there’s a good chance it’s made you a millionaire. The crypto recorded a head-spinning 24,330,175% return last year.

Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Motley Fool contributor Mitchell Lawler owns Bitcoin, Dogecoin and Meta Platforms, Inc. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. owns and has recommended Meta Platforms, Inc. and Bitcoin. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Meta Platforms, Inc. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

More on Cryptocurrencies

A man sits in despair at his computer with his hands either side of his head, staring into the screen with a pained and anguished look on his face, in a home office setting.
Cryptocurrencies

Could this key metric signal more bad news for the Bitcoin price?

Crypto investors are keeping a close eye on the signals that could see the US Federal Reserve begin to ease…

Read more »

Man sitting at a desk facing his computer screen and holding a coin representing discussion by the RBA Governor about cryptocurrency and digital tokens
Cryptocurrencies

Is it smart to use dollar cost averaging to buy Bitcoin?

Should investors consider a DCA strategy for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin?

Read more »

A hip young guy works at his home workstation with two screens and a gamers chair, keeping an eye on his crypto investments.
Share Market News

Bitcoin price dips in August after soaring 22% in July. What’s going on?

The greater presence of institutional investors in crypto markets looks to be adding to the correlation between cryptos and other…

Read more »

A very sad beagle cross dog lays dejectedly on a sofa with his short legs stretched out in front of him in a pose of flat defeat as he stares sadly at the camera.
Cryptocurrencies

Expert panel slashes 2022 outlook for Dogecoin price. Here’s why

Originally created as a joke, Dogecoin still has a market value of nearly US$9 billion despite crashing 91% from last…

Read more »

an image of a gold bitcoin and a gold ethereum coin side by side against a backdrop of a graph with reda and green bars representing rising and falling prices.
Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin price dips. Is Ethereum on track to dethrone the top crypto?

Bitcoin is up 22% since 1 July while Ethereum has leapt 56% higher.

Read more »

A woman holds a bitcoin token in her hand as she smiles at the camera in the background.
Cryptocurrencies

Why El Salvador is doubling down on Bitcoin despite the 2022 price crash

El Salvador still intends to issue a US$1 billion Bitcoin-backed bond, once market conditions improve.

Read more »

a mysterious person wearing a black hoodie points a finger to a vast illuminated graph tracking bitcoin value with bitcoin symbols floating above the chart.
Cryptocurrencies

The Bitcoin price is leaping 10% higher today. What’s going on?

Only a single one of the top 100 cryptos by market cap has lost value since this time yesterday.

Read more »

A person sitting at a desk smiling and looking at a computer.
Cryptocurrencies

The Ethereum price just shot up 12%. Here’s why

Investor risk appetite was spurred by Fed chair Jerome Powell’s comments that the rate of future interest rate increases may…

Read more »