Given the state of the world right now, we need video games more than ever to entertain and enlighten us. Luckily, the release train isn't stopping in 2021.
With the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S now out and the Switch still going strong, there are loads of new games on the horizon, including some we thought we’d be playing by now. We're starting to see big games trick out and then there’s plenty more expected as the year goes on, including the return of beloved franchise and plenty of fresh fare, as well.
Here’s our initial list of our most anticipated 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) God of War: Ragnarok
Platform: PlayStation 5
Speaking of brilliant PlayStation 4 exclusives, Sony’s God of War reimagining was among the generation’s best games, and now it’s coming back in 2021 on PlayStation 5.
While not officially confirmed to be called God of War: Ragnarok just yet, the first teaser hints at that title and suggests that the Norse mythological event - which led to the end of days - will drive the latest brutally intense adventure. It’s also unclear whether this one will also come to PS4, unlike Horizon, which has been confirmed for both.
Due: TBA 2021
3) 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, the above trailer showed that it 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 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
4) Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Platform: PlayStation 5
It’s been a long while since the last fully original Ratchet & Clank game (the last one was a remake), and while Rift Apart largely doesn’t look too different from the usual series formula, the PlayStation 5 hardware unlocks some compelling new twists.
Essentially, the system’s super-speedy SSD storage enables the titular rifts, which let the heroic duo hop between worlds on the fly. Otherwise, this looks like another fun, cartoonish quest with dreamy visuals and amazingly entertaining weapons, and is due in June.
Due: 11 June
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 it right.
Due: 14 September
6) Resident Evil Village
Platforms: PS5, Xbox, PS4, PC
Capcom’s survival horror series keeps kicking, shrugging off a bloated and mediocre sixth core entry to deliver 2017’s compelling Resident Evil 7, which shifted gears to a first-person view and even offered optional VR support.
Resident Evil Village (there’s an “VIII” in there) will continue that theme, looping back on the same main character with a return to first-person horror. It’s unclear whether we’ll get VR again this time around in a quest set around an entire eerie village, but it ought to be plenty spooky however we’re able to experience it.
Due: 7 May
Platforms: PlayStation 5
Returnal is one of the most intriguing PlayStation 5 exclusives due out in the near future, with the roguelike shooter hailing from Housemarque, the studio behind such quick-hit gems as Super Stardust HD and Resogun.
Their debut PS5 game looks a fair bit more robust, yet still carries a familiar spark of tense excitement. Here, you’ll play as a spaceship pilot whose craft crashes on an unknown planet, and is forced to relive the trauma of her battle for survival and untimely death over and over again - each time a bit different. Your goal is to try and break the brutal time loop and figure out what the hell is happening in this strange place.
Due: 30 April
8) 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: TBA 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 it 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
10) Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade
Platform: PlayStation 5
No, it’s not the next episode of the Final Fantasy VII Remake. Instead, FFVII Remake Intergrade is an expanded next-gen upgrade, bringing the game officially to PlayStation 5 with a bevy of enhancements — better lighting, various other graphics improvements, speedy loading times — as well as fresh content.
The new content sees the addition of fan-favourite character Yuffie, who wasn’t in last year’s first chunk of Remake, starring in a new episode in which you’ll infiltrate Shinra to steal some powerful materia. Her combat looks frenzied and fun, and thankfully Intergrade will be a free upgrade to existing PS4 owners. Square Enix also announced a pair of FFVII mobile games releasing this year… so basically, Remake fever isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
Due: 10 June
Platforms: PS5, PS4, PC
Sifu was a very welcome surprise during Sony’s State of Play stream in February, coming out of nowhere with some truly compelling-looking hand-to-hand martial arts combat - and a twist, of course.
While the scene here can’t help but recall the iconic hallway battle from Oldboy, the hero ultimately fails… and pops back up a little older. Each “death” not only ages him, but apparently wisens him up a bit too, making him a bit more capable in combat. It’s like a riff on roguelike dungeon crawlers, except it’s a badass kung fu revenge tale. Nice.
Due: TBA 2021
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 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
14) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD
New Zelda! Wait, no: old Zelda! True, it’s not the Breath of the Wild 2 that many fans are feverishly anticipating, but this upgraded version of the Wii’s Skyward Sword still ought to be well worth a look this summer.
Skyward Sword got widely positive reviews when it released, but isn’t typically one you’ll find in the all-time pantheon of many fans. It might be a smoother experience on Switch, however, thanks to the option to skip the motion control swordplay, plus you’ll get upgraded graphics for this enhanced role-playing odyssey.
Due: 16 July
15) Mario Golf: Super Rush
Somehow, it’s been 17 years since the last Mario Golf game on a console system, so we’re here - ready and waiting - to welcome Mario Golf: Super Rush with open arms. Granted, it doesn’t look like a big departure from past entries or its Everybody’s Golf inspiration, but we’re not fazed. Mario? Golf? Yup, count us in.
Super Rush adds a new speed golf mode that looks fun, letting you tap into power-ups and abilities to beat your rivals on the course, while a story mode will hopefully give us incentive to keep plugging away at our virtual golf career.
Due: 25 June
16) Forza Motorsport
Platform: Xbox Series X/S, PC
It’s no surprise at all that Microsoft is making a new Forza Motorosport sim racer for its fresh hardware, and this trailer doesn’t really show us anything concrete or out of the ordinary for the long-running franchise. Still, Turn 10 Studios’ series has consistently been a showcase for Xbox hardware, and we’re looking forward to seeing how they can push the new Xbox Series X in ways we haven’t yet seen. No date has been confirmed, but we strongly suspect that it will be a holiday 2021 rollout.
13) 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
17) 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
18) New Pokémon Snap
More than two decades after the original hit the Nintendo 64, New Pokémon Snap is coming to the Switch this April to task you with taking more Poké-photos than ever before. By and large, it doesn’t seem to deviate from the classic formula, with you riding in an automated vehicle and looking around to find the best monster moments to capture. Even so, there are a lot more creatures to choose from this time around and there’s bound to be some fresher-feeling elements in the mix, too.
Due: 30 April
19) Mass Effect: Legendary Edition
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Mass Effect Andromeda might have been a buzzkill for BioWare’s vaunted sci-fi saga, but now they’re bringing the originals back with a seriously thick coat of paint in May’s Mass Effect: Legendary Edition. This overhaul includes the single-player experience from the first three games, but it’s more than just a remastered port.
All three games have seen notable gameplay upgrades, especially the original role-playing entry, plus a seriously beautiful 4K upgrade and much-shortened load times. Nearly all of the series single-player DLC is also bundled in, save for the “Pinnacle Station” pack due to corrupt code.
Due: 14 May