Given the state of the world of late, we need video games more than ever to entertain and enlighten us. Luckily, the release train hasn't stopped in 2021.
With the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S now out and the Switch still going strong, there are loads of upcoming games on the horizon, including some we thought we’d be playing by now. We're halfway through the year now, but there's plenty more on the back half, including the return of beloved franchises and plenty of fresh fare as well.
Here’s our current list of our most anticipated upcoming games of 2021, but stay tuned: we will be expanding this list and then updating regularly throughout the year as games release and new titles are announced.
1) Horizon Forbidden West
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4
Horizon Zero Dawn was one of the PlayStation 4’s absolute best exclusives, a brilliantly compelling and utterly gorgeous adventure that just couldn’t be matched on Xbox or elsewhere. It was also a serious showcase for the power of the PlayStation 4 Pro.
Now it looks like Horizon Forbidden West will do much the same on PlayStation 5, exploring a brand new land full of robotic beasts with dazzling sights. This one’s slated for the second half of 2021 and looks far enough along to actually make that target.
Due: Q3/Q4 2021
2) Metroid Dread
Many, many fans’ dreams came true during Nintendo’s E3 event when “Metroid 5” appeared on the screen. The official name is Metroid Dread, and it’s the first completely new 2D entry in the seminal action-adventure franchise in nearly two decades - and it’s coming this year. Picking up after 2002’s Metroid Fusion on Game Boy Advance, Dread carries on the series’ legendary legacy with some new twists - such sliding along the floor and countering enemy attacks. From what we’ve seen so far, you needn’t dread a letdown with this overdue revival.
Due: 8 October
3) Forza Horizon 5
Platforms: Xbox, PC
Surprise! A new Forza Motorsport game was announced last year and expected this holiday, but instead the open-world Forza Horizon series is coming back first with a new entry set in Mexico. The first footage showcases more of what we love about Microsoft’s raucous racing spinoff, including hilarious-looking new minigames, dazzling and authentic-looking Mexican terrain, and gorgeous licensed cars. It’s bound to be a serious Xbox Series X showcase too.
Due: 9 November
Platforms: PS5, PC
Arkane’s work on Dishonored and Prey made clear that they don’t make typical shooters, and Deathloop is coming to put an exclamation point on that statement. It looks to blend elements of those previous games, but with a whole new schtick.
Deathloop takes place within a time loop that keeps repeating unless your assassin lead can take out eight targets - but there’s also a rival assassin on the island looking to muck up your plan. You can even control her and hop into other random online players’ games to play spoiler. It has been delayed from its planned May launch, but we say take all the time you need to get this upcoming game absolutely right.
Due: 14 September
5) Far Cry 6
Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, PC
Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito serves as an intimidating presence in every show or movie he appears in, and it looks like he’ll do just the same for Far Cry 6 as an authoritarian leader (and garbage dad) in a fictional Caribbean island nation.
You’ll play as a freedom fighter attempting to take him down, and if the series’ history is any indication, we should see an exciting open-world adventure full of unpredictable elements and beautiful sights. Ubisoft has this frustrating habit of showing potentially hot-button topics in trailers and then never really having anything meaningful to say in the actual game, so we’ll see.
Due: 7 October
6) Halo Infinite
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC
We should’ve been playing Halo Infinite already, and it was supposed to be the big Xbox Series X/S launch game. Instead, it looked like the game could potentially use a fair bit more polish, and it wasn’t long after blowback that Microsoft and 343 Industries decided to push the shooter sequel into 2021.
Surprisingly, it’s now slated for an upcoming autumn release - but the stakes are high here. Halo 5 was a letdown and Halo Infinite is supposed to be the big boost the flagging series needs, so Microsoft can’t afford to rush it. We’ll wait… and hopefully be rewarded with an Xbox epic late in the year.
Due: Autumn 2021
7) Battlefield 2042
Platforms: PS5, Xbox, PS4, PC
We’re still waiting to hear what Call of Duty is up to this year (as of this writing), but it’ll have to put up a serious fight to withstand the barrage from its chief competitor. Battlefield 2042 is bulking up on new-gen consoles and PC, delivering vast battles for up to 128 players (last-gen consoles are limited to 64). There’s no campaign this time around, but the near-future story will be told through multiplayer amidst the huge, dynamic conflicts.
Due: 22 October
8) Ghostwire: Tokyo
Platforms: PS5, PC
Tango Gameworks' The Evil Within games put a surreal spin on survival horror, but for its next upcoming game, the studio aims to enter even wilder territory with a brand new action title. As the trailer shows, Ghostwire: Tokyo has some trippy sights and first-person action, with combat that one developer described as “karate meets magic.” Sold! It was already promised as a PS5 timed console exclusive before Microsoft bought publisher Bethesda, so it won’t show up on Xbox until late 2022. At least PS5 and PC players can put this on their calendar for Halloween this year.
Due: October 2021
9) Back 4 Blood
Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC, PS4, Xbox One
It might say Back 4 Blood on the box, but make no mistake: this is unofficially Left 4 Dead 3. Valve has left the franchise dormant for nearly a decade now, so original developer Turtle Rock Studios has stepped up to pick up where it left off.
And this upcoming game looks every bit as intensely fun and frenetic as the source material, delivering four-player co-op action against zombie shamblers. It’s already in closed alpha testing as of this writing and early impressions are very positive, so this should be a fun one come autumn.
Due: 12 October
Platforms: Xbox, PC
However this game ends up playing, we’re already sold based on the aesthetics of it: the dazzling, Moebius-inspired terrain and graphics style plus the beautiful original soundtrack by indie rocker Japanese Breakfast. It’s a feast for the senses. But there’s also plenty of intriguing bits in play here, including cruising around on a hovercraft and floating through the air in some kind of magical bubble. And it’ll be a Xbox Game Pass launch title, no less.
Due: 23 September
11) FIFA 22
Platforms: PS5, Xbox, PS4, Switch, PC
We might still be mourning the fact that football didn’t come home, but at least you can count on bringing FIFA 22 home come October. The first trailer above doesn’t give much of a sense of gameplay, but it showcases the defining feature of the new-gen console versions: HyperMotion, a new animation system based on a pairing of machine learning and performances captured with motion capture suits. Looks cool, sounds cool - but will FIFA 22 be a sizable upgrade over its predecessor? Time will tell.
Due: 1 October
12) Kena: Bridge of Spirits
Platform: PS5, PS4, PC
Kena: Bridge of Spirits was the first PlayStation 5 game shown that really made us say “wow,” and it was planned as a launch title but slipped into 2021. That’s fine: we’ve seen much larger titles from huge teams launch in a messy state, so this small upstart studio should take their time.
Hopefully not too long, though. This gorgeous upcoming adventure game looks like a clear Zelda homage, with some Studio Ghibli influence in the mix and a lot of charm along the way. Will it play as good as it looks? Fingers crossed on that front.
Due: 24 August
13) Riders Republic
Platforms: PS5, Xbox, PS4, PC
Ubisoft’s Riders Republic looks like the ultimate all-around experience for extreme sports nuts, bringing together snowboarding, BMX biking, wingsuits, rocket-powered wingsuits, and skiing into one wild open-terrain experience. You’ll earn stars for everything, including just exploring the sights, so there’s incentive to dabble and try it all along the way. The 64-play mass races look especially wild.
Due: 2 September
14) Life is Strange: True Colors
Platforms: PS5, Xbox, PC, PS4
Square Enix’s Life is Strange franchise has delivered some of the most emotionally gripping and surprisingly affecting game experiences of the past several years, and now Deck Nine - developer of the earlier Before the Storm prequel spinoff series - is stepping up to make what’s being billed as the third core game of the bunch.
Life is Strange: True Colors breaks from previous entries by being released as a single game, rather than a series of episodes, but it keeps the supernatural twist. This time, you’ll play as Alex Chen, a young woman who can feel others’ strong emotions… a skill she’ll need to find the truth when her brother mysteriously dies in a seemingly tight-knit community.
Due: 10 September
15) Pokémon Brilliant Diamond + Shining Pearl
Continuing the series’ habit of gradually remaking its classic games with modern hardware, the Nintendo DS’ Pokémon Diamond and Pearl will be reborn later this year as Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl on Switch. They’ll be reborn as 3D titles more in the spirit of recent games, while keeping the familiar Sinnoh region and creature set of the originals. Consider it an appetizer before 2022’s totally new, open-world Pokémon Legends Arceus.
Due: Late 2021
16) Moss: Book II
Platform: PlayStation VR
The original Moss was one of those rare games worth buying a PlayStation VR headset for, so we’re thrilled to find that Moss: Book II is on the horizon. It looks like another thrilling, emotional quest that’ll be amplified by the atmospheric view of VR - more so than you’d expect from simply watching a trailer. We’re not convinced that it will release in 2021, and to be honest, we wouldn’t be surprised if this gets pushed to next year’s new PS5 headset. Still, we can’t wait.
17) Guardians of the Galaxy
Platforms: PS5, Xbox, Switch, PS4
Square Enix’s Guardians of the Galaxy had been rumoured for years, but still we didn’t expect that it would be coming so soon - especially right after last year’s hit-or-miss Avengers game. We like a lot of what we’ve seen so far, though. Like Avengers, this is an original take on the franchise that has more than a whiff of the films’ style and attitude around it, but this time around it’s purely a single-player campaign with some Mass Effect-like narrative branching involved.
Due: 26 October
18) Solar Ash
Platforms: PS5, PS4, PC
Heart Machine’s Hyper Light Drifter is one of the coolest-looking pixel games you’ll ever see in action, and now the studio seems intent on securing the 3D crown as well with Solar Ash.
As the State of Play trailer shows, however, how Solar Ash looks is probably at least as important as how the game feels in motion, with silky movement a key aspect of the experience. It looks like a blend of Gravity Rush and Journey in design, and like an absolute dream in terms of aesthetic. We’ll see this one on PlayStations and PC sometime later this year.
Due: TBA 2021
19) WarioWare: Get It Together!
Every Nintendo system needs a WarioWare to call its own, and thankfully the Switch is finally getting one this autumn when WarioWare: Get It Together! releases in September. The basic premise is much the same, as it flings you through a series of fast-paced microgames that require quick reactions and a sense of humour. However, this time the experience has been expanded with two-player gameplay and varying character abilities that impact the way you interact with puzzles.
Due: 10 September
20) Rainbow Six Extraction
Platforms: PS5, Xbox, PS4, PC
Originally named Rainbow Six Quarantine and nixed because of… well, you know… Ubisoft’s tactical shooter spinoff is releasing this autumn as Rainbow Six Extraction instead. The Tom Clancy franchise usually trades in real-world enemies, but this time around they’ve been swapped out for a menacing alien threat, along with some neat fictional tech. This looks a bit like a Left 4 Dead-like experience, no doubt, but with more of a strategic edge.
Due: 16 September
21) Death Stranding: Director's Cut
Platform: PlayStation 5
The weirdest game of 2019 will probably be the weirdest game of 2021 all over again as Death Stranding: Director’s Cut comes to PlayStation 5 this September. Along with visual and performance upgrades for the new hardware, this edition comes with a load of new content created for the game after the original release. Given Hideo Kojima’s bold and wild vision for everything, the new stuff is sure to be a treat. You can upgrade from the PS4 version for a small fee, too.
Due: 24 September