We finally made it to 2021, and it’s looking like the start of a pretty bright year in gaming. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S are out. New graphics technology is (sort of) available and even VR is looking more accessible than ever before. With that in mind, the Shacknews team took a good look at all of the exciting upcoming titles on the horizon in 2021, whether definitely coming out this year or a little more nebulous in their fate. Have a look at our most anticipated games presented in no particular order. Also keep in mind that these aren’t indies. We’ll have another list specifically for that soon!
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
A great component of PlayStation's recent success has been its first-party lineup. Over the last few years, the best PlayStation games have been mature adventures, serious narratives, or both. For 2021, PlayStation's best game might be something more whimsical and family-friendly, because what we've seen out of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart so far looks amazing.
The classic weapon-based platforming gameplay of the past Ratchet & Clank games look to be on display here, but that's not what makes Rift Apart stand out. What's most interesting is the central plot involving rifts into parallel worlds. That these rifts can seemingly pop up at any time, either taking Ratchet and Clank into different areas or tossing in foes from other dimensions, is wildly fascinating and adds a big twist to the typical formula. That the PS5 can seamlessly put these effects to work is remarkable.
As great as Insomniac has been on the Spider-Man games, it's going to be great to see them back with the Lombax that brought them to the dance. We haven't seen many PS5 exclusives confirmed for 2021 release dates, but Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is one that we're confident we'll see this year and it could be one of the PS5's best exclusives.
Dying Light 2
The original Dying Light came out of nowhere to become one of our favorite games of its generation. The fresh mix of parkour, first-person melee combat, and vertical environment design was outstanding and helped breathe life into a tired zombie genre. The Following expansion was arguably better, adding vehicles and diving farther into the narrative.
The team at Techland have made some big promises for Dying Light 2 and the project has experienced turmoil and delays following some outstanding gameplay demos at prior E3 shows. We have our fingers crossed that the team takes all the time they need to ensure the second go-around meets expectations.
Ruined King: A League of Legends Story
One of the most exciting developments of the past year was Riot Games announcing its intentions to branch the League of Legends universe off into different genres. In a MOBA filled with brilliant characters and fascinating lore, why not take it into new places? For that reason alone, Ruined King: A League of Legends Story seems fun.
However, while the League of Legends ties obviously make Ruined King a must-play for fans of the franchise, Airship Syndicate appears to be putting together a turn-based RPG that stands out as its own intriguing tale. You don't have to be well-versed in LoL lore to enjoy it. In fact, going into it blind looks like it'll build interest in these characters and make newcomers want to jump into the grander LoL world. This one should be a lot of fun to check out.
It's been a very long wait for Psychonauts 2. Few know this better than Double Fine's Tim Schafer. He and the rest of the Double Fine team have been trying to get Psychonauts 2 off the ground for over five years. A lot has changed since then. For the studio, the biggest change was that of ownership following a sale to Microsoft. All the while, Psychonauts 2 remained in development, first delayed to 2019, then to 2020, and now to 2021.
The wait looks like it's almost over. Raz and the Psychonauts will finally look to ride again later this year. If our hands-on from PAX 2019 is any indication, the long wait will be worth it.
What is a Batman game without the Dark Knight? We're about to find out with the upcoming Gotham Knights from WB Montreal, which puts players in a Gotham City fresh off the apparent demise of the Bat.
The Batman games have been consistent winners since adopting the formula that first debuted in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Gotham Knights appears to have more of that, but the idea of playing as different members of the Bat family, each with their own unique abilities and fighting styles, looks like one of the coolest ideas in a Batman game in over a decade. Add in two-player co-op and it becomes one of the most interesting games of 2021.
Bravely Default 2
There was a lot of excitement heading into Bravely Default 2. Then the game's first demo released on the Nintendo eShop. It didn't go over well.
However, credit is due to Square Enix. They took the player feedback to heart and made a sincere effort to fix the game's biggest issues. The team addressed the grievances surrounding the difficulty, control scheme, user interface, and more. Now the game is looking more like what players were expecting from a sequel to the breakout original.
None of this was easy and it ultimately resulted in Bravely Default 2's delay into 2021. Good things are worth waiting for, though, and it looks like Square Enix might have another winner on their hands.
Resident Evil Village
The Resident Evil franchise has seen a strong resurgence over the last few years. While 2017's RE 7 ushered the genre into a new era with a unique change of style and introduction to new characters, the remakes of RE 2 and 3 were an excellent mix of nostalgia and some stunning revamps to both visuals and gameplay. Now, it's time for Capcom to continue the story established in RE 7 with the release of Resident Evil Village. With creepy cults and werewolves running amok, we can't wait to have our pants scared off once again by gaming's iconic horror franchise.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
The LEGO Star Wars games were one of the driving forces behind making the LEGO licensed video game franchise such a success. With the episodic Star Wars films wrapped up (for now), LEGO is heading back to a galaxy far, far away for an adventure like never before. Encompassing characters, locations, and moments from all 9 episodic films, LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga looks like the ultimate experience for fans of the games and movies.
For many, Halo will always be a staple in the gaming diet, and as such, we’re feeling a bit malnourished with the lack of new Halo experiences. Sure, Halo: The Master Chief Collection released on PC, bringing together six Halo games from across a decade of gaming, but fans have been holding out for 343 Industries’ saving throw. For a lot of fans, Halo Infinite is shaping up to be just that, a potential rising phoenix situation that helps players forget Halo 5: Guardians.
It hasn’t been the smoothest ride for Halo Infinite. The team behind Microsoft’s flagship series has seen change in director, lead producer, and creative director over the course of development. It’s also received delays, pushing its release date back a year. And yet despite this, 343’s communication with the playerbase has instilled confidence thanks to the team addressing the problems brought up following the first gameplay reveal.
To say some of us are tentatively optimistic would be an understatement. Even a bad Halo game is a bit of fun and, thankfully, Halo Infinite looks to be a return to the series’ roots. Players are back on a Halo ring, the combat looks like the iconic “30 seconds of fun”, and the narrative looks heartfelt. Then there are all the modern elements that look to lift the experience, like more free-form mission structure, open-world elements, grappling hooks, and the ability to yeet explosive barrels at Grunts.
Judging by what we’ve seen, the communication coming out of 343 Industries, and Xbox’s dedication to the franchise, Halo Infinite is certainly one of the most anticipated games of this year.
It's been over 20 years since the first Diablo game took us to the loot-ridden world of the mortal realm, introducing us to the addictive gameplay that would further be improved upon in Diablo 2 and Diablo 3. Since that first release, the series has gone on to spawn several copycats, eventually even spawning its own genre of games.
With the initial debut of Diablo 4 behind us, anticipation has been building and there's no doubt that fans are hoping that 2021 brings more news of the game and possibly even a release date for the upcoming continuation of the series. It's been a while since we've heard anything about the next chapter of the franchise, but that doesn't mean that the hype train is slowing down anytime soon.
Warhammer 40,000: Darktide
The rat basher known as Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide and its sequel took the slack left behind by the aging Left 4 Dead and turned it into a visceral spree of dispatching giant pests. Developer Fatshark has shown that replayable melee romps through the storied and vast Warhammer universe are in demand. Now the carnage will continue into 2021 with Darktide.
Taking place in the hive city of Tertium, Warhammer 40,000: Darktide looks like it will serve up everything we loved about the Warhammer smash-'em-ups and amp up the violence further with a jump into the sci-fi 40K end of the franchise. Fatshark promises to expand on the existing combat with deep and balanced gunplay, including more ways to customize your class and loadouts. It will take the determination of yourself and three companions to root out the Chaos deep within the hive. The God-Emporer demands sacrifice from The Inquisition, and hopefully we won't have to wait much longer to serve.
Horizon Forbidden West
Horizon Zero Dawn was a leap into new territory for developer Guerilla Games. With the official announcement of Horizon Forbidden West now behind us, we can finally look forward to the next chapter of Aloy's story.
The beautiful—but monster-filled world—of the Horizon series is by far one of the best to explore, and the continuation of Aloy's story is one that we're exceptionally excited to see. With the sequel set to include a much larger map and even more secrets for players to unveil, Horizon: Forbidden West has a lot of hype to live up to, and we're sure that Guerilla Games won't fail to deliver.
Persona 5 Strikers
A couple notable things 2020 showed us is that people absolutely want more Persona (see Person 5: Royal) and more Musou-style games (see Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity). So it is very timely then that Persona 5 Strikers is coming in 2021, bringing a game that combines both of those things in one stylish-looking package. Persona 5: Strikers already came out in Japan last year, but it may have been the success of Age of Calamity that convinced Atlus to put the gas on moving it stateside.
Theories aside, the idea of fighting Persona monsters and demons with our favorite P5 characters sounds like an absolute treat. It will be interesting to see if it's like Age of Calamity, where they incorporate meaningful portions of the RPG element (such as school life and dialogue choices) into the game, but even if it's just heading into Momentos and the hearts of evil people to steal their treasures in action-packed gameplay, we'll be down to explore heists with the Phantom Thieves in all-new ways this year.
Guilty Gear Strive
It's looking like an okay year for fighters. There's supposedly news on Street Fighter 6 coming, a fighting game adaptation of Dungeon Fighter Online is in the works, and King of Fighters 15 has already been announced. That said, there's one new fighter in particular that will set the temperature for the genre in 2021. Guilty Gear Strive is Arc System Works next flagship project and after a few delays to increase the quality of the game, we're finally supposed to be getting it in April 2021.
Much of Guilty Gear Strive's success or failure will depend on how Arc System Works implements the rollback netcode it has been working on. There's been some promising experiments, but it remains to be seen how it will play out in Strive. That said, this is without a doubt the fighting game with the potential to set a bar for which all others - ahem - strive. It is already looking glorious in its visuals and both accessible, yet technical in its gameplay. To say there's a lot of good fighting in 2021 that rides what Guilty Gear Strive does is no understatement. We can't wait to see how it finally turns out.
Ever since FromSoftware announced Elden Ring as a collaboration with Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin, everyone has been waiting patiently to learn more. Will this game be like Dark Souls? Will it be something altogether different? The aesthetic reminded of Norse mythology. Will we see a shift from FromSoftware's traditionally gothic tone? There are so many questions and many of them have been left unanswered for years because there's still so little to go on.
That said, it's been a while since FromSoftware wrapped up on Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. It feels like it's about time to learn what they've been up to, and we'd have to expect that if the studio broke silence, it would have to be about Elden Ring. Fingers crossed, this is the year in which we finally see what this game is about. It'd be a nice bonus if we could play it.
Deathloop is an amalgam of amazing things in its very conception. The first-person action/stealth pedigree of Arkane Studios, the grindhouse sensibilities and aesthetic, and a time-tripping effort to discover the proper way to off multiple high-value targets in a single loop just conjures up all sorts of wonder. But then there's seeing Deathloop in actual action. The player choices, improvisation, and change of playstyle as the situation demands has kept us watching Deathloop closely ever since it was first announced for the Bethesda E3 Showcase in 2019.
It's even got this interesting competitive multiplayer element where you might be hunted by an enemy assassin in the midst of Deathloop's regular campaign efforts. There's so much going on here, and at long last it's so close to being in our hands on PS5 and PC. Whether we're looking to break the loop or keep other player's loops intact, Deathloop is looking like a grand ol' Groundhog Day bulletfest.
Overwatch has been a perennial favorite for those seeking arena style combat, unique and well crafted heroes, and Team Fortress-esque mechanics in a class-based shooter. Those were the reasons why many of us originally started playing the game when it debuted in 2015. The sleek and optimized presentation coupled with smooth gameplay made it an instant esports classic.
It’s widely known that Blizzard pulled Overwatch together from the ashes of the cancelled project, Titan. With co-op events and the introduction of Overwatch 2, it seems more of that scrapped MMORPG is making its way back into the up-coming sequel.
So far we’ve seen a tease of new Heroes and PvP maps, including an entirely new mode called PvP Push, with a central point controlled by a robot that will push it in either direction depending on team presence. The real changes come in the form of Story and Hero Missions that promise to be quite involved and replayable co-op affairs. With the ability to upgrade your Hero throughout missions, it feels like Titan is influencing the future of Overwatch and we’re excited to see what Blizzard does with the franchise.
New Pokemon Snap
Nintendo has managed to repeat history again by surprising Pokemon fans everywhere with the reveal of an on-rails photography adventure based in the world of Pocket Monsters. The Nintendo 64 game wasn’t originally a Pokemon game at all, but one set in the land of Jack and the Beanstalk with photography featured as just one element. With quick turnarounds in development being common in the days of early 3-D games, one could only wonder how Pokemon Snap might have turned out as a full-fledged planned title.
With the announcement of New Pokemon Snap, we were all caught off guard once more. Showcasing gorgeous island vistas and Pokemon from every generation, Bandai Namco is aiming to give fans the snapshot sim they have been waiting for since the days of the original 151. We can’t wait to experience this vastly updated version on the Nintendo Switch. The console seems tailor made for Pokemon Snap, and we’re glad Nintendo saw fit to greenlight another.
Back 4 Blood
Turtle Rock Studios and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment are teaming up to deliver a spiritual successor to the beloved Left 4 Dead franchise. This alone is enough to put the game on our most anticipated list. The developers know they can’t show off the same decade plus old game with better visuals, and they are focused on making the entire experience bigger and better, as shown in a premiere during The Game Awards.
We played the first closed alpha of Back 4 Blood and early efforts are easily noticeable. The game engine is greatly improved with visual effects from the current generation applied generously. The gameplay feels familiar yet enhanced. The enemy variety has been increased with more special types to dispatch, and even goliath-sized monsters make appearances. Combined with a collectible card system that allows for customizable perks for yourself and team, this iteration of the tried and tested zombie slaughter simulator should be on the watch list for every fan of the original games.
God of War: Ragnarok
When God of War was released in 2018 it quickly became one of the best games of the year. Not only was the story incredible, featuring the relationship between Kratos and his son Atreus, but the gameplay was crisp and satisfying, with a world filled with endless puzzles and secrets begging to be tracked down. This was all enhanced by Santa Monica Studios using the continuous shot presentation, meaning zero camera cuts.
With God of War: Ragnarök scheduled to be released in 2021, fans are justifiably hyped. If Santa Monica Studios can make a game that gorgeous on the PS4, imagine what they can do with the PS5. Well, we won’t have to imagine for long — knocks on wood — because God of War: Ragnarök should be hitting PS5 this year, and we’d be shocked if it isn’t in the Game of the Year debate when all is said and done.
Hitman 3 will be one of the first big releases of 2021, so it’s easy to see why it’s highly anticipated. Agent 47 will return to wrap up the World of Assassination trilogy that began in in 2016 when IO Interactive set out to reboot the franchise. In Hitman 3, the story will finally wrap up and players will get some closure to the complicated situation involving 47, Diana Burnwood, Lucas Grey, The Constant, and Providence.
Perhaps further fueling this anticipation is that Hitman 3 will have several big selling points for players, such as Hitman (2016) and Hitman 2 unlocks carrying over to Hitman 3, the ability for players to import the levels from the first two games into the third, and the wide variety of platforms Hitman 3 will release on, including Nintendo Switch.
Hitman 3 will release on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC (via Epic Games Store), and Nintendo Switch on January 20, 2021 and we can’t wait to see how IO Interactive closes the book on this iteration of the franchise.
ARK 2? (or just more Vin Diesel)
I think that we can all agree that dinosaurs and Vin Diesel are both extremely awesome. But, will their individual awesomeness add up to extreme awesomeness to the max? That’s what the team behind ARK 2 is hoping. The popular survival-MMO is getting a sequel and they brought out none other than the star of The Chronicles of Riddick himself to star in their CGI reveal trailer. How much his character will actually factor into the game is yet to be known. It could just be a marketing thing or it could hint that the series might be taking a step towards a more narrative experience for ARK 2. Rest assured that either way fans will be hopping into ARK 2 fast and furiously when it launches.
Earth Defense Force 6/World Bros
It’s not every year that you get two installments in one of your favorite franchises but, much like in 2019, we’ll be getting two, count ’em, two new Earth Defense Force games. Earth Defense Force 6 is sure to be full of the giant bug and alien-blasting arcade-like action we’ve come to know and love over the years. On the other side of the coin, EDF: World Brothers is a whole new ballgame for the series that features cute trixel-based graphics and a much larger roster of playable characters that count a number of previous background characters among its ranks. Having to pick between which EDF game we’re more excited for is like having to pick a favorite child: It’s nigh impossible.
Monster Hunter Rise
Monster Hunter: World introduced the long-running series to a whole new audience, but longtime fans know that the series has been going strong for quite some time and has a prolific history with Nintendo’s portable consoles. Which means for some it comes as no surprise that Capcom would be bringing a brand-new entry to the Switch in the form of Monster Hunter Rise. Sure, it has some ambitious shoes to fill now that World has set the standard, so to speak. But, it’s also a chance to try a few new things out like a brand new mount/canine companion in the form of the adorable Palamutes as well as the Wirebug, which will allow players to mount and steer the big beasties they’re hunting. While some folks may be pining for a new next-gen entry, we’re also very excited to try out a new modern Monster Hunter on a portable console.
It feels like it’s been forever since we were teased with a short trailer for Bayonetta 3, but it’s actually been a little over 3 years since it premiered at the VGAs. Since then, we’ve only had a handful of updates on the status of our favorite butt-kicking, kink-friendly, witchy woman in bullet-shooting high heels. Could 2021 be the year we finally get a third installment in one of the greatest hack-and-slash franchises ever? It’s hard to say and maybe just a little unlikely since details seem to be more bound and gagged than an angel or demon trapped in one of Bayonetta’s torture devices. But fans can dream, can’t they? Here’s to hoping we at least get more info this year if not a solid launch date.
And that covers our entire list of Shacknews’ Most Anticipated Games of 2021. Anything we missed? What are you looking forward to the most? Sound off in the Chatty comment section below, watch our 2021 gaming calendar for updates, and don’t forget, our list of the most anticipated indie games is coming soon!
TJ Denzer posted a new article, Shacknews 25 Most Anticipated Games of 2021
Ready or Not missing from this list :(
spiritual successor to SWAT 4
I want to love this game, but no SWAT4 vets on the team and in fact, the main people on their team are quite inexperienced. They’re biting off an awful lot with this title. I’m bracing for jank.
I remain hopeful.
Nothing wrong with a little jank...
I’d put Ghostwire: Tokyo, Little Devil Inside and The Eternal Cylinder as three sleepers that will be very impressive.
<cough>Far Cry 6<cough> Also with any luck, maybe In the Valley of Gods (A New Video Game from Campo Santo, makers of FIREWATCH) will release this year!