If you’re reading this, congratulations: You made it to 2021. And you’re right to be hopeful that this year will be better than the last.
While 2020 was a rough year for, well, just about everything and everyone, many of us found refuge in games. From the chill lifestyle simulation of Animal Crossing: New Horizons to the just-one-more-run addictiveness of Hades to the virtual tourism of Microsoft Flight Simulator, there was a lot to enjoy while sequestered indoors. But 2021 promises some wonderful games too, including many we hoped we’d be playing already.
Our look forward at the games of 2021 includes plenty of optimism. In other words, it includes FromSoftware’s Elden Ring, Nintendo’s sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Blizzard’s Overwatch 2, highly anticipated games that don’t have confirmed release dates, but which we’ve known about for years. It also includes a handful of titles from last year’s list that were delayed beyond 2020, which is to say that nothing’s guaranteed when it comes to video game release dates.
Of course, there are plenty of games were anticipating that didn’t make the list, including re-releases and remasters of titles like Super Mario 3D World and the Mass Effect trilogy. And if you’re looking for some of the smaller, great-looking indie games coming in 2021, we’ve got a separate list where they can shine.
There are many games coming in 2021 that have yet to be announced, or that have not been given a release window. But as of now, here are the 50 games (listed alphabetically) that point to a brighter year.
Back 4 Blood
Turtle Rock Studios, the developer behind the original Left 4 Dead, is making the Left 4 Dead 3 that Valve won’t. Back 4 Blood adheres closely to the four-versus-horde formula established by the Left 4 Dead games, but aims to add to the longterm replayability with player progression and unlockable ability perks that will let players customize their survivors. If Turtle Rock can balance the 4v4 competitive side of Back 4 Blood, the component that made the Left 4 Dead games so thrilling, it could be the multiplayer game of the summer. Back 4 Blood is bound for PlayStation and Xbox consoles, as well as PC.
Balan Wonderworld is a single-player 3D platformer that takes place across 12 different tales and features an emphasis on showmanship — there are some 80 costumes that players can wear in battle. It’s the debut game from the Square Enix studio Balan Company, co-developed with Japanese studio Arzest. Game director Yuji Naka and art director Naoto Ohshima have worked together before, to great success, on Sonic the Hedgehog and Nights into Dreams. Balan Wonderworld will be released on PC and all major consoles, both last-gen and current, on March 26.
Bravely Default 2
Bravely Default 2 is actually the third title in the Bravely Default role-playing game series, following the first Bravely Default and Bravely Second. You don’t have to be familiar with the other two Bravely Default games to jump into this one, though, because it’ll feature a new cast of characters and an unrelated story. The Claytechworks game will be released on Feb. 26 for Nintendo Switch.
Deep Silver’s atmospheric shooter set in outer space puts you in the shoes of Nara, a skilled warrior and a fugitive on the run from a cult. She’s got a sentient spaceship named Forsaken and a set of deadly super-abilities to unleash on anyone who gets in her way. The game’s release window is 2021, and it’s planned to come out on both last-gen and current PlayStation and Xbox consoles, as well as PC.
Arkane Studios, best known for the Dishonored series, developed this action game about an assassin named Colt who’s stuck in a time loop. He has to take out eight targets before that time loop resets. Meanwhile, another agent named Julianna is after him. Deathloop also includes a multiplayer component that allows players to take on the role of Julianna as they mess with Colt. The game, published by Bethesda Softworks, will be released on PC and as a timed exclusive on PlayStation 5.
Blizzard hasn’t put a firm release date on Diablo 4 — it rarely does this far out — but the studio’s next hack-and-slash action role-playing game already played great at BlizzCon 2019, so we’re hoping that we’ll get the sequel this year (or at least a beta). Diablo 4 is Blizzard’s attempt to return to the darkness of Diablo 2, while looking beyond that with a bigger, MMO-like scope to the world of Sanctuary. Diablo 4 is also coming alongside a smaller take on Diablo, the pick-up-and-play mobile game, Diablo Immortal.
Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance
Console gamers who played in the early ’00s will fondly recall the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance games, a pair of Diablo-like action-RPGs set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe. Finally, a sequel from Wizards of the Coast and Tuque Games is en route, featuring characters from R. A. Salvatore’s The Legend of Drizzt series of novels, and the cooperative action of past Dark Alliance games. Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is coming to consoles and PC, and features both online and local co-op play.
Dying Light 2
Techland’s Dying Light 2 refines the original game’s first-person parkour action gameplay with a focus on swiftness and skill. Once again, you play a hardy protagonist who must leap across rooftops, trying to avoid direct engagements with zombies. Useful items, like hooks and paraglider wings, can help. The game’s city-based location is built in such a way that higher elevations are less dangerous than lower floors. Dying Light 2 is coming out in the first half of 2021 for PC, PlayStation, and Xbox.
For FromSoftware fans, 2020 was especially rough. After the 2019 announcement of Elden Ring — the dark-fantasy role-playing game being developed with Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin — developer FromSoftware has been distressingly silent about its next game. Game director Hidetaka Miyazaki calls Elden Ring the studio’s “biggest title yet,” which may explain its painfully long gestation period. Elden Ring was announced for PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One, but will likely come to new-generation consoles too, at this stage.
Far Cry 6
Far Cry 6 will star villain extraordinaire Giancarlo Esposito as a dictator in complete control of a fictional Caribbean island. Players will take control of Dani Rojas, a guerrilla soldier fighting to free the island from the totalitarian regime. Like most Far Cry games, this one will have players taking on enemies in an open world, which Ubisoft describes as “a tropical paradise frozen in time,” with a variety of weapons and tactics. Far Cry 6 is set to come to consoles and PC sometime in 2021.
GhostWire: Tokyo takes place in a version of its titular city where nearly every living person has disappeared. Players have to use a combination of magic and martial arts to combat the ghosts that now occupy the city. The new game from the developers behind the Evil Within series looks bizarre and intriguing, even if its story remains a complete mystery. Based on its completely bananas trailers alone, GhostWire: Tokyo will be worth checking out when it’s released in 2021 on PlayStation 5 and PC.
God of War: Ragnarok
We know little about Sony’s sequel to the 2018 God of War reboot (including whether the final title is actually God of War: Ragnarok), but we do know that the PlayStation 5 game will arrive sometime this year. And it’s very likely that Kratos, along with his son Atreus, will be back in the god-killing business, given that Ragnarok foretells the death of gods like Odin, Thor, and, uhhhhh, Loki in Norse mythology. At the very least, we expect Kratos to get a sick new hammer out of his next adventure after he puts ol’ Thor down.
In Gotham Knights, Batman is dead, and it’s up to the rest of the Bat family — Batgirl, Robin, Red Hood, and Nightwing — to watch over the streets of Gotham. The game’s not set in the world of Rocksteady Games’ Arkham series, although it is being developed by WB Games Montréal, the studio behind Arkham Origins. The action-adventure game will be released for PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X; it’s single-player, with the option for two-player co-op.
Gran Turismo 7
Polyphony Digital’s racing sim is back with a numbered sequel in 2021. Gran Turismo 7 promises to be the best looking Gran Turismo yet, with support for 4K, HDR, and 60 fps frame rates, and will be a showcase for the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller with haptic feedback and adaptive trigger features that should make the “real driving simulator” more lifelike than ever. Expect hundreds of cars, super-fast load times, and features from more than two decades of Gran Turismo games in this follow-up to Gran Turismo Sport.
The Gunk is about two space truckers who find a beautiful but seemingly abandoned planet full of plants and valuable resources. However, they also discover that a mysterious Gunk is infecting the planet and they’ll have to save the planet if they want to get out alive. The Gunk, from the studio behind the SteamWorld games, is set to come to Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC in 2021.
343 Industries’ upcoming Halo game was planned as a launch title for the Xbox Series X in 2020, but instead, it got delayed to sometime in fall 2021. When the studio debuted Halo Infinite gameplay in 2020, fan reactions were mixed, with many comparing its look to Halo: Combat Evolved, the first Halo game that launched with the original Xbox. If you want to ease the wait for Halo: Infinite, at least Halo: Combat Evolved is on Game Pass right now as part of Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
Like the previous games in the series, Hitman 3 will put players in the constantly changing shoes of Agent 47, an international assassin who can assume any identity and use virtually any tool to take out his targets. Freeform murder has always been the Hitman series’ strength, and with the power of the new consoles, players should have even more freedom to creatively solve Hitman 3’s assassination-based puzzles. Hitman 3 is set to release on Jan. 20, 2021 on PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Stadia, and Nintendo Switch.
For many years, fans of Harry Potter have longed for an open-world adventure game set in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world. Warner Bros. plans to deliver in 2021, with Avalanche Software designing the upcoming role-playing game in which a player-designed character learns magic at Hogwarts during the 1800s. Many fans who once longed to play a game like this one are no longer looking forward to it, though. J.K. Rowling has become a prominent figure in the growing movement to roll back transgender rights in the United Kingdom, and she’s lost many fans (and potential Hogwarts Legacy players) as a result of her bigoted views.
Hollow Knight: Silksong
The original Hollow Knight was one of the best 2D action games in recent memory and its sequel, Hollow Knight: Silksong, looks to be just as impressive. Silksong stars Hornet, who appeared as a side character in the first Hollow Knight, and will feature an entirely new environment and world, with the same insect-style characters that helped make the first Hollow Knight so charming, and improvements on the Metroidvania mechanics that helped make it so captivating. Silksong is set to come out on PC and Nintendo Switch, hopefully this year.
Horizon Forbidden West
In 2021, Guerrilla Games will release its sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn, the 2017 post-apocalyptic open world game about a warrior woman who starts off looking for her long-lost mother and ends up unraveling the reason why her world is ravaged by mysterious animalistic robots. Ashly Burch returns to voice the heroine Aloy, with Lance Reddick also returning as Sylens, Aloy’s reluctant and mysterious helper in discovering the secrets of the world around them. Horizon Forbidden West will be available on PlayStation 4 and 5, sometime in late 2021.
Developed by Amplitude, the team behind Endless Space 2, Endless Legend, and Dungeon of the Endless, turn-based strategy game Humankind places the player in charge of a growing civilization. As players settle cities, build units, explore, and fight, they take on the cultural auras of various empires throughout history. It’s being published by Sega for Windows PC.
It Takes Two
Game director Josef Fares has a penchant for two-player cooperative games; he directed Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons before founding his studio Hazelight, which developed A Way Out. The latest two-player co-op experience from the mind of Fares is It Takes Two, a wacky platformer about a married couple whose relationship has lost its luster. The pair get turned into dolls by a magic spell and must work together to become human again. The game will be released on March 26 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Jett: The Far Shore
Jett: The Far Shore centers on Mei, who is sent from his small home to explore a mythical ocean planet full of forests, coasts, and challenges to be overcome. Jett looks like a cross between an action-adventure game with an emphasis on exploring, and a survival game, all set in a beautiful-looking world. Jett: The Far Shore was originally set to be released in 2020, but has been delayed to sometime in 2021. The game will be available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits
Kena: Bridge of Spirits follows a young girl named Kena who helps guide the dead from the physical world to the spirit world. To do this, she has to defend herself from various adversaries, and even employ the help of a few small creatures who will assist her in Pikmin-like combat. Players will be able to explore the absolutely gorgeous world of Kena: Bridge of Spirits in 2021 on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2
A follow-up to one of this decade’s most important, interesting, influential, and innovative games should have you very excited. The sequel to Breath of the Wild will be a direct follow-up to the previous game — a rarity in the Legend of Zelda series — and should build on the open-world systems and secret-rich environment of the first game. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity has also proven that Nintendo has all kinds of backstory just waiting to be discovered in the Breath of the Wild universe, which means that the sequel should have even more story hidden throughout its world. Breath of the Wild 2 is set to come to Nintendo Switch.
Little Nightmares 2
The first Little Nightmares gave Polygon’s reviewer an actual nightmare. Tarsier Studios’ horror platformer was challenging but short; the game’s real strength lay in its grotesque visual design and unsettling themes. Little Nightmares 2, set to be released on Feb. 11, will continue the story and keep the creepy vibes going; the former game’s heroine, Six, now serves as a helper to newcomer protagonist Mono, who has a whole different set of nightmarish circumstances ahead of him. The game will be released for PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
A far cry from the last few Lord of the Rings games, Gollum is a stealth game that tells the story of one of the ring’s most ardent admirers and tragic victims. The game will follow recognizable and important Lord of the Rings moments, but from Gollum’s perspective. The game is set to release sometime in 2021 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Windows, and Nintendo Switch.
Observer and Blair Witch developer Bloober Team has another psychological horror game in the works for Jan. 28 called The Medium. The game follows Marianne, the titular medium who can cross over into the spirit realm and unravel its mysteries. Bloober Team has been working on this one since 2013, and the studio has brought on composers Arkadiusz Reikowski and Akira Yamaoka, the latter of whom is well-known for the music he composed for the Silent Hill series. The game will be available on Xbox Series X and PC.
The title of The Outsiders’ upcoming first-person shooter conjures the image of an ear-blistering metal concert, and that makes sense, because this FPS is also a rhythm game. As you run through fiery hell zones blasting demons, you’ve got to kill them to the beat — kind of like playing Doom and “Through the Fire and the Flames” in Rock Band simultaneously. David Goldfarb, creative director and writer, has worked on other first-person shooters like Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3, and Payday 2, and as he put it to Polygon, he “wanted to make the most metal shooter ever.” The result of that effort will be released sometime in 2021 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Monster Hunter Rise
Monster Hunter Rise will bring the franchise back to its handheld roots this spring, but without some of the convoluted trappings that made pre-Monster Hunter: World franchise entries inaccessible to new players. Capcom’s team has learned a lot from their big console hit, and Rise promises that and more. All its lush levels can be explored from great heights, and there is a brand-new dog companion — the Canyne — who can take you there on its back. The Switch-exclusive title is due out March 26.
Neo: The World Ends With You
Square Enix is finally delivering on dreams of a sequel to The World Ends With You, the stylish, beloved role-playing game that debuted on Nintendo DS in 2007 and has been re-released and remixed since. Neo appears to be a prequel to that game, since most of the characters are fresh faces, but returning characters like Sho Minamimoto are now players in the Reaper’s Game. Neo: The World Ends With You is coming to PS4 and Switch this summer.
New Pokémon Snap
More than two decades after the original for Nintendo 64, we’re getting a new Pokémon Snap. The first game sent players on an island adventure where they photographed Pokémon in the wild, capturing Pikachu and friends in their natural habitat in a very different kind of rail shooter. The sequel sends players to new islands, where they’ll fill out their “Photodex” with pictures of a wider variety of Pokémon. New Pokémon Snap is being developed by Bandai Namco for Switch.
Nier Replicant Ver. 1.22474487139...
If you played the widely acclaimed 2017 game Nier: Automata but you never played the original Nier, this confusingly titled game is for you. It’s an updated and remastered version of Nier Replicant, which was released only in Japan back in 2010. Nier Replicant was a simultaneous release with Nier Gestalt, but Gestalt was released worldwide, titled simply Nier. The two games had one notable difference: In Replicant, the protagonist was a teenager with a sister named Yonah, and in Gestalt, he was a grown man with a daughter named Yonah. Square Enix’s Replicant remaster comes out on April 23 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
The Outlast Trials
The Outlast series goes multiplayer in 2021. The next title in the spooky game franchise, titled The Outlast Trials, will explore developer Red Barrels’ survival horror universe with friends, featuring cooperative play for up to four players — there’s also a solo mode — as part of a Cold War-era experiment.
Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch turns five in 2021, and its sequel seems likely to arrive this year, if only to stoke interest in the competitive Overwatch League. Overwatch 2 will retain the same multiplayer component as the original — Overwatch and Overwatch 2 players will be able to play against each other, in fact — while adding new cooperative multiplayer story missions to the game. Blizzard is also overhauling the game’s look, and adding at least one new game mode called Push.
Persona 5 Strikers
Persona 5 is getting the Hyrule Warriors treatment with Persona 5 Strikers, a Dynasty Warriors-style hack-and-slash role-playing game set six months after the events of Persona 5. The game, developed by Omega Force and P-Studio, has already been out in Japan for a year and is due to be released worldwide on Feb. 23 for the Nintendo Switch, PS4, and PC. Anyone familiar with Dynasty Warriors spin-off titles knows what to expect here: repetitive battles that will either soothe you or bore you, depending on how you feel about the genre, and a story that will probably be the real draw, because it’ll let you spend some more time with Persona 5’s charming cast.
Playdate isn’t a game, it’s a handheld that will come packed with games. The diminutive Game Boy-like system is simple in form: It features a black-and-white screen, just two buttons, a D-pad, and a crank. Yes, a crank! It will come with 12 built-in games as part of Playdate’s first “season,” but creator Panic says that additional software from indie developers like Keita Takahashi, Zach Gage, and Bennett Foddy will be released over time. Playdate is expected to go on sale in early 2021, and will cost $149.
It’s been 15 years since Double Fine released its debut game, 3D platformer Psychonauts. Although it was not a commercial success at the time, it’s since become a cult favorite. Psychonauts 2 has been in development since 2015 and was originally supposed to come out in 2018, but development has gone on longer than planned — and costs have piled up. In 2019, Double Fine got acquired by Microsoft, and according to studio head Tim Schafer, that acquisition allowed the team to add back in some boss fights that were going to be cut from Psychonauts 2 for budgetary reasons.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Rift Apart is the first Ratchet & Clank game in over four years, which means it’s the perfect time for Insomniac Games’ Lombax and his robot companion to jump back into the PlayStation spotlight. Like previous Ratchet games, you can expect this one to be full of third-person platforming and a massive arsenal of guns, gadgets, and weapons for you to try. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart will be released sometime in 2021 for the PlayStation 5.
Resident Evil Village
Capcom’s next survival horror adventure is a direct sequel to Resident Evil 7 Biohazard, and brings back that game’s protagonist, Ethan Winters, and its first-person perspective. Series mainstay Chris Redfield also returns (bigger than before), disrupting Ethan’s new life and forcing him to face new terrors (like werewolves?!) in a remote village. Resident Evil Village is coming to PS5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X.
Resogun developer Housemarque’s PlayStation 5 exclusive is a third-person shooter with a sci-fi premise: Selene, the player character, is an intergalactic explorer stuck in a time loop on an alien planet. Every time she dies, she’s resurrected, and thus forced to keep on trying to escape her strange circumstances while also fighting off extraterrestrial enemies. Returnal will be released on March 19.
Riders Republic is a massively multiplayer extreme sports game. Much like Ubisoft’s 2016 winter-sports-hangout game Steep, Riders Republic puts players in an open world with a variety of extreme-sports equipment at their disposal from mountain bikes, to snowboards, to wingsuits, to skis. Up to 50 players can compete in events and races, find the sickest jumps in a 6v6 competitive trick mode, or just pedal around the world and explore. Riders Republic is set to release on Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC, and Google Stadia on Feb. 25, 2021.
Shedworks’ Sable was first shown at E3 2018’s PC Gaming Show. It has the look of a beautiful graphic novel, with a pleasing color palette and stark lines. Players assume the role of a young explorer named Sable, who finds themselves on a foreign planet. The landscape is a pretty, stark desert, with just a few structures dotting the landscape. Originally scheduled for release in 2019, it’s been pushed back numerous times, but should finally come out sometime in 2021. Maybe.
Along with The Medium developer Bloober Team, Ebb Software is one of the first few developers to make a video game for Xbox Series X that won’t be supported on Xbox One. Scorn, a first-person horror game, features intricate visuals inspired by artists like H.R. Giger and Zdzisław Beksiński, and according to the developer’s Steam Q&A, having those visuals “run at 60 fps with a certain visual fidelity is imperative for us,” hence no Xbox One version. The game will be available on PC as well, although no specific release date has been announced.
Shin Megami Tensei 5
Atlus’ next entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series of role-playing games heads to Switch this year. In Shin Megami Tensei 5, “order itself has crumbled and chaos reigns over all,” and players will once again raise and fuse demons in a supernatural story set in modern-day Tokyo. The game’s release on Switch will be preceded by an HD remaster of Shin Megami Tensei 3 Nocturne.
From the creators of Hyper Light Drifter comes another super-stylized and colorful platformer featuring a character who effortlessly glides over magenta hills, turquoise valleys, and deep red deserts. The trailers feature pulse-pounding music and dizzying environments, all of which will hopefully feel as satisfying to play as they do to watch. Solar Ash — once known as Solar Ash Kingdom — has no firm release date but will be released on PC and PlayStation 4 and 5.
STALKER 2 is set in the outskirts of an alternate-world Chernobyl, in a world full of radiation and mutants. But far from the wacky and weird world of the Fallout games, STALKER focuses more on simulation-style shooting and survival as you hunt for the treasure and mysteries of the post-nuclear world — something players might be more ready for in 2021 than they were in 2007. STALKER 2 is set to be released on Xbox Series X and PC sometime in 2021.
A cyberpunk story of a different sort, Stray stars a lost stray cat who roams neon-lit city streets, uncovering the mysteries of a world inhabited by droids and deadly creatures on their journey home. Players will be “stealthy, nimble, silly, and sometimes as annoying as possible,” publisher Annapurna Interactive says, as they interact with the cyber-city’s inhuman inhabitants. Stray comes to PlayStation 5 and Windows PC this year.
A man opens his front door to find a cop. The cop beats the man to death and accuses the man’s wife of murder. Rewind to the moment before the man opens the door, and replay the scenario again and again, Groundhog Day-style. Overhead-view adventure Twelve Minutes from indie developer Luis Antonio is coming to Windows PC and Xbox One some time in 2021, published by Annapurna, which has a good record with indie games, including What Remains of Edith Finch, Gorogoa, and Outer Wilds.
Vampire: the Masquerade — Bloodlines 2
Although Vampire the Masquerade — Bloodlines 2 is one of the most-wishlisted Steam games set to come out in 2021, its development has been fraught. The original 2004 game Bloodlines became a cult classic, and when Hardsuit Labs successfully pitched the sequel to Paradox Interactive, creative director Ka’ai Cluney tapped original Bloodlines writer Brian Mitsoda to return. Mitsoda also brought in Cara Ellison, who had worked on Dishonored 2. In July 2020, both Cluney and Mitsoda were terminated from their positions without explanation; later on, Ellison also left the project. Bloodlines 2 has been delayed to 2021 and is planned to be released on PC, PS4, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X.