2021 has had some ending when it comes to video games. Metroid Dead, Deathloop, Eastward, Unpacking. And we still have: Halo Infinite and a couple of cheeky Pokemon remakes, among others.
Here’s our list of the best games 2021 has had to offer so far…
It’s hard to imagine a video game about unpacking boxes being a compelling game of the year candidate, but here we are.
Unpacking is a video game about moving house and putting objects in the right place, but it’s also a unique tale about the objects that make up out lives. It’s a unique narrative device used to tell a story that absolutely only could have been told through video games. Give it a chance.
It’s not every year we get a major new Metroid release. Thankfully, Metroid Dread lives up to the hype. Following the 2D Metroid story established by games like Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion, Metroid Dread takes a shopworn formula and elevates every element to new, perfectly polished levels.
Metroid Dread is familiar, but it rules regardless.
Enjoy games like Zelda: A Link to the Past and Earthbound? Of course you do. You’re a reasonable adult with great taste.
In that case you have to try Eastward, a new top down game in the vein of every 16-bit RPG you ever loved. It’s slow-paced and takes a while to get going, but it’s well worth the investment. Just an incredibly beautiful and stylized experience. Gorgeous on every possible level.
Deathloop is the best reason there is right now to buy a PlayStation 5. It’s a murder puzzle game about waking up on a beach only to find you’re stuck in a timeloop — truly, an age-old tale that never goes out of style. The combat system allows for thrilling experimentation, and excellent voice acting brings a memorable cast of characters to life. The star of the show, however, is the setting of Blackreef Island, which you’ll want to explore loop after loop.
Disco Elysium achieved many accolades upon its 2019 release, including a perfect score from GameSpot, many Game of the Year nominations and several Best Narrative wins. An expanded Final Cut launched on PC and PlayStation (4 and 5) earlier this year, adding extensive voice acting (as in, over a million words of voice acting) and extra quests. Xbox and Switch releases are planned for later this year.
Play this if you haven’t already.
Resident Evil Village, aka Resident Evil 8, marks 25 years of the illustrious survivor-horror franchise. It’s a celebration of everything that makes the series great: suspense, memorable characters, explosive combat and surreal locales. And, of course, horror. So much horror.
Resident Evil Village is a no-brainer for fans of the series — and worth playing for anyone who thinks they’re up to it.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is the latest AAA exclusive, and it just might be the best so far, too. Like Demon’s Souls and Returnal before it, it shows off what the PlayStation 5 is capable of — which is to say that this game looks amazing. Not only that, but it uses the PS5’s SSD hardware to not just shorten load times, but to shape level design, too. An excellent adventure that any PS5 owner can enjoy.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is the latest example of the Wii U being among the Switch’s most valuable assets. Like Mario Party 8, Bayonetta 2, Pokken Tournament and Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, Super Mario 3D World was originally a Wii U game. It’s been brought to the Switch alongside the short-but-sweet Bowser’s Fury add-on, making a wonderful package for those who missed it the first time around. (Which is pretty much everyone.)
Hitman 3 is the culmination of IO Interactive’s Hitman reboot that kicked off in 2016. Though it’s without Hitman 2’s multiplayer element, it takes the fantastic level design of its predecessors, adds new spins and improvements and sends this incarnation of the franchise off in the right way. You can also play it in VR, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Nightclubs within air-condition ducts. One-on-one Street Fighter-esque showdown with a squirrel. It Takes Two has it all. It follows Cody and May, a married couple with plans to divorce who find themselves trapped in the bodies of toys made in their image by their daughter. Y’know, typical stuff.
This is a game about spousal teamwork and problem solving, and as such is an exclusively two-player affair. If you’ve got a partner who’s around enough to play through 12 hours of co-op platforming, you’re sure to have a charming time with It Takes Two.
If you’ve played a Monster Hunter game before, you very much already know what to expect with Rise. If you haven’t, it’s essentially a progression of boss fights against increasingly powerful monsters. Defeating them nets you better gear, which in turn allows you to hunt bigger monsters. Rise introduces mechanics that make combat more fluid, as well as a new roster of outstandingly designed monsters to hunt. There’s also lots here: You’ll spent well over 50 hours seeing everything the game has to offer.
It took over 20 years, but Nintendo finally gave us a Pokemon Snap sequel. The aptly named New Pokemon Snap is surprisingly fun — considering “take photos of Pokemon” sounds far more like a free mobile game than a full-priced title in 2021. But New Pokemon Snap does more than simply justify its existence. It’s a fun jaunt that’s guaranteed to keep Pokemon fans smiling.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition takes the first three Mass Effect games, chucks in all of their DLC — that’s heaps of DLC — and turns it all into 4K. And although the resolution upgrade is significant, it’s not the only improvement. Options have been added, quality-of-life features have been included, and controls have been tightened, particularly in the original Mass Effect.
If you’ve never played through the franchise before, this deal may be the best bang for your buck for 2021. There is a lot of Mass Effect here.
Psychonauts is a sleeper. Either you missed the original 2005 game, or you played it, loved it and have been awaiting a sequel ever since. A cool 16 years later, it’s here in all of its quirky, charming and creative glory. This vibrant platformer has been heaped with critical praise, and has been called one of 2021’s most memorable games. GameSpot called it an “astonishing achievement in nearly every regard,” and this astonishing achievement is an especially sweet deal for Xbox owners, who can play the game on Xbox Game Pass.