The 10 Most Anticipated New Games of 2021

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The 10 Most Anticipated New Games of 2021

Part of me can’t believe it’s already 2021. It still feels like March, you know? But then, at the same time, yesterday feels like 20 years ago. This has just been an absurd and absurdly eventful time for our country, but because we’ve all basically been stuck in stasis during the pandemic, it’s hard to keep a grasp on the timeline. Everything’s constantly changing around us while we’re standing still. There are going to be some long-term effects from all of this, not just on the societal level, not just for those who lost loved ones, but on the basic mental health of everybody who’s lived through this era.

But hey, at least there are still videogames?

Part of the conundrum of today is that entertainment, including games, feels especially insignificant, while also being more necessary than usual to just make it through the week. There’s far more for us to be concerned about right now than games, but games have helped so many tolerate the state of everything around them. Imagine those early days of the pandemic without Animal Crossing, or the last couple of months without the new consoles (for those lucky enough to find them, of course). It’s the same with movies, TV, books, and pretty much all entertainment: it’s never been more or less important than over these last 10 months.

I don’t expect that to change too much in 2021, at least not until the vaccine is widely distributed enough. That might put an extra burden on the 10 games below—we’re not just looking for a good time, but a psychological lifeline—but it’s one they’ll hopefully be able to bear. Based on what I’ve seen of these games, they all might just be what we’re looking for in the months to come.

Here are the 10 games we’re most excited for in 2021, listed in alphabetical order.

Deathloop

Platforms: PlayStation 5, PC
Release Date: May 21, 2021

Arkane Studios established itself as one of the premier designers of big budget game spaces with the Dishonored series. Their new game, Deathloop, seems to focus more on fast-paced gunplay and action than Dishonored did, but that trailer above is still dripping in character, from the assassin Colt and the city surrounding him, to the secondary player character Julianna, who can invade other players’ games for some Souls-style multiplayer fights. Between that multiplayer trick and the game’s central conceit of a constantly recurring 24-hour time loop, Deathloop might be juggling too many gimmicks, but Arkane earned a good bit of leeway with Dishonored 2.


Hollow Knight: Silksong

Platforms: Switch, PC, Mac, Linux
Release Date: TBA

When the trailer for Hollow Knight: Silksong came out almost two years ago, I cried. And I’ve cried internally every day since Team Cherry went quiet to finish the game. To say I’m excitedly awaiting literally any word on the sequel to my favorite game ever is a gross understatement. Hopefully, it’ll finally make its way out to the world in 2021.—Moises Taveras


Horizon Forbidden West

Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4
Release Date: Second half of 2021

Horizon Zero Dawn’s reputation has grown steadily since a relatively low key response in 2017, and Aloy’s continuing adventure has become one of the biggest games on Sony’s release schedule. Forbidden West’s folkloric, quasi-mythical approach to post-apocalyptica sets it apart from so many other end-of-civilization games that focus on the years right after the fall. By setting Aloy in a world centuries after our own society collapsed, the Horizon games can tap into something more beautiful and more elemental than, say, just another zombie game. I slept on the first game for too long, but am looking forward to the sequel.


The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2

Platform: Switch
Release Date: TBA

Okay, we’re being a bit hopeful here. Nintendo hasn’t given any hint of a release date for the sequel to 2017’s game of the year, but given it was first announced over a year and a half ago, it’s entirely possible it could come out in 2021. It’s also entirely possible that it doesn’t come out for another three years, or just disappears entirely. Who knows. Weirder things have happened in the world of games. No matter when it finally comes out, a return to this gorgeous, mysterious version of Hyrule remains near the top of our gaming wish list.


Maquette

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC
Release Date: TBA

The first game from new studio Graceful Decay looks like another winner from Annapurna Interactive. Maquette is a puzzle game that plays with size and scope in a world that holds increasingly smaller versions of itself. It’s a concept that opens up a potentially dizzying array of design opportunities, and we can’t wait to explore them all. Also bonus points for the clear amusement park influences on the game’s architecture.


The Medium

Platforms: Xbox Series X and S, PC
Release Date: Jan. 28, 2021

Acclaimed horror devs Bloober Team have played the long game with The Medium. Originally announced in 2012 for a suite of consoles that included the Wii U, the psychological horror game was shelved, revisited, and eventually announced as a launch window title for the Xbox Series X. Instead it slipped into January, which might be for the best—now it has the spotlight essentially to itself. As the first true Xbox Series X console exclusive, expect a lot of eyes to fall on this one.


Open Roads

Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: TBA

The third game from Fullbright (the studio behind Gone Home and Tacoma) stars Keri Russell and Kaitlyn Dever as a mother and daughter on a road trip to unravel a family mystery. Whether they’re set in space in the near future, or in a family home in 1995, Fullbright’s games are driven by the humanity of their characters, and Open Roads promises another emotional story of discovery.


Playdate

Platform: Uh, itself: it is a platform
Release Date: Early 2021

Playdate isn’t a game. It’s a one-of-a-kind handheld system with unique, custom-made games by some of the best and most acclaimed designers working in the art form. The Playdate intentionally evokes the look and feel of early handheld systems like the Game Boy, but its most notable feature breaks from nostalgia to offer genuine innovation: it’s a hand crank on the unit’s side that opens up new avenues for gameplay. With original games from Zach Gage, Bennett Foddy, Keita Takahashi, and more, Playdate holds a massive amount of promise in its tiny frame.


Psychonauts 2

Platforms: Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, Linux
Release Date: TBA

The long-hoped-for sequel to Psychonauts will actually, finally be happening in 2021—supposedly. I mean, everything seems real this time—Double Fine raised millions for development through Fig a few years ago, there have been multiple trailers since, and announcements of a release across multiple systems. At this point it’d be more shocking if it didn’t come out. Still, it’s been over 15 years since Double Fine’s original game came out, and hope for a sequel has come and gone multiple times in those years, as publishers simply weren’t willing to fund the game to the level Double Fine knew it deserved. Hopefully the sequel is as fun and inventive a platformer as the original.


Stray

Platforms: PlayStation 5, PC
Release Date: TBA

What will happen to cats when people have died off for good? Well, they’ll get to live in some neon-drenched cyberpunk city ruled by robots with Apple II monitors for heads, at least if Stray successfully predicts the future. Oh, and wear pretty sweet harness / vest things that make them look a bit like a superhero. (Or maybe I’m just still hung up on Spider-Man the Cat.) French studio BlueTwelve is bringing us this story of a stray cat surviving in a post-human world, and although that trailer above doesn’t give a lot of info about what to expect from the game, it’s such a compelling piece of film that it has us hungry for more.


Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, music, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.

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