2020 has certainly been a tumultuous year for video games. Thanks to the current situation worldwide, plenty of video games saw delays into 2021 as most game developers adjust to working exclusively from home.
Even with the release of a new console generation, inventory shortages have led to more headaches than happy customers. And most importantly, toxic practices in the industry — namely at CD Projekt and Ubisoft — were made public. While it’s upsetting to think a medium that serves as a source of happiness for so many can bring such pain to others, bringing attention to these injustices will hopefully lead to positive change in the long run.
As we leave 2020 behind, it’s time to look ahead to 2021 and the games to come. However, since the world will still feel the effects of the current situation well into the new year, there’s no telling if release dates for upcoming games may be bumped further— even into 2022. With that said, let’s take a look at the most anticipated games of 2021.
In 2016, IO Interactive took the Hitman series in a brand-new direction. Instead of the level-based missions of past games, this new Hitman focused on open-ended sandboxes filled with targets for Agent 47 to assassinate in any way the player chose. In addition to the open-world structure, IO would update the levels with new content on a regular basis, making the levels in Hitman feel like living breathing environments. From this bold new direction, IO built the World of Assassination trilogy, which will see its final entry, Hitman 3, in 2021.
Story-wise, Hitman 3 sees Agent 47 take on the “most important contracts of his entire career.” While that’s a bold claim, it does give IO an excuse to drop Agent 47 in some exotic locales, like a skyscraper in Dubai. Even better, owners of the previous games will be able to import all levels and progression to Hitman 3 at no additional cost.
With such a high pedigree, Hitman 3 will certainly impress when it releases for PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Stadia, and Switch on January 20.
Persona 5 Strikers
From fighting games to rhythm games to first-person dungeon crawlers, Atlus likes to dabble in different genres for their Persona spinoffs. While many assumed the Persona 5 spinoffs to be in the same genres, Persona 5 Strikers will add a new genre to the mix when it releases for PS4 and Switch on February 23.
Developed in collaboration with Koei Tecmo and Omega Force, Strikers is an action RPG that pulls its combat from Musous, a type of game where players single-handedly fight hundreds of enemies at a time. Instead of the turn-based combat of mainline Persona games, players fight enemies in real-time. However, you can pause the action to select special skills or switch Personas.
If the mix of genres doesn’t excite you, the story may just do the trick. Picking up months after the events of Persona 5, the Phantom Thieves decide to go on a summer road trip. Unfortunately, their joyous reunion doesn’t last as a corruption from a realm similar to the Metaverse threatens to overtake Japan.
Monster Hunter Rise
While Monster Hunter World dramatically pushed the series forward on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, Switch owners were left with an enhanced port of the 3DS’s Generations. Fortunately, Capcom didn’t forget the Nintendo faithful that supported the series when the 3DS was its home.
Releasing March 26, the Switch-exclusive Monster Hunter Rise blends classic Monster Hunter gameplay with the innovations of World — namely the open environments. Although Rise has the standard additions of new monsters, weapons, and armor sets, the game’s biggest addition is the Wirebug.
The Wirebug is the centerpiece for Rise’s traversal. Using this tool, players can fling themselves in any direction. Even better, players can use the Wirebug in combat to dazzle monsters with special combos.
In Deathloop, you play as Colt, an assassin tasked with eliminating eight targets on the island of Blackreef. To complicate matters, Blackreef is stuck in a time loop that forces the inhabitants to relive the same day over and over again. Fortunately, eliminating the eight targets will break the loop. Unfortunately, Colt must compete with Julianna, whose sole mission is to keep the loop going by any means necessary.
From the developers of Dishonored, Deathloop combines Arkane Games’ signature open-ended gameplay with a roguelike. As such, players can deal with all eight targets in any way they please. However, failure will lead to players starting at the beginning of the loop. If you ever tire of Colt’s story, Deathloop offers players the unique ability to take control of Julianna in another player’s single-player campaign.
If you want to take a stab at escaping this endless cycle, check out Deathloop for PS5 and PC when it releases on May 21.
Back in 2005, Double Fine’s Psychonauts surprised gamers with its inventive levels, charming characters, and gut-busting humor. Despite quickly becoming a cult hit, fans had to wait 10 years for the announcement of a sequel. Five years later, the wait for Psychonauts 2 will soon be over.
As is par for the course with sequels, Psychonauts 2 promises more of what fans loved from its predecessor. So, expect crazier level designs, new psychic abilities, and an impressive voiceover cast of returning favorites and special guests, such as Jack Black.
Despite releasing for PS4 and PC, Microsoft, the new owner of Double Fine, has big plans for Psychonauts 2. As such, the game is being optimized for Xbox Series X and will see a simultaneous release on Xbox Game Pass whenever it comes out in 2021.
Ratchet & Clank: A Rift Apart
Although some may not see Ratchet & Clank on the same level as other first-party titles from Sony, Insomniac does a good job of proving the naysayers wrong. Case in point, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
When you watch the initial moments of its announcement trailer, Rift Apart looks like any Ratchet & Clank from the past two generations of PlayStation. Then, the protagonists jump between disparate gameplay scenarios without any buffering or loading — and your jaw is on the floor.
While stunning graphics aren’t everything, the combination of high graphical fidelity, seamless gameplay transitions, and Pixar-level animation makes Rift Apart feel like the first true next-generation PS5 game.
Most people expected Halo: Infinite to launch alongside the Xbox Series X/S. Unfortunately, there was a mixed reception to its first gameplay demo.
After years of teasing, this gameplay demo looked too rough to elicit confidence from fans. Many criticized the graphics for its flat textures and lack of details. Others were confused about the story’s reliance on villains fleshed out in Halo Wars 2, a real-time strategy spinoff. As a result, Halo: Infinite was delayed to a nebulous point in 2021.
Now rescheduled for Fall 2021, 343 Industries is focusing on addressing the criticism levied at Halo: Infinite. As such, the developer promises to share more frequent updates on the game in the year ahead. Considering how little is known about Infinite, frequent updates should alleviate the confusion and frustration surrounding the game.
Horizon Forbidden West
Not many games can stand toe-to-toe with the best of Nintendo. Releasing only days before The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn did well to stand out despite its similarities in gameplay. Players gravitated to Zero Dawn’s unique take on a post-apocalypse, which envisioned a futuristic world brought back to the stone age. Plus, fighting the robotic wildlife — especially the giant robot dinosaurs — is a thrill unlike any other game on the market.
Horizon Forbidden West continues where Zero Dawn left off. To save Earth from extinction, Aloy journeys to the distant lands of America. This new setting brings an expansive open world with diverse environments, mysterious threats, and rich cultures of people. Moreover, the added processing power of the PS5 should lead to improved load times and richer graphics.
For those that have yet to upgrade to the PS5, Horizon Forbidden West will release on PS4 as well. Much like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, expect some concessions to be made in an effort to fit Forbidden West on the previous generation.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2
Here we are once again. We still know nothing more about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 than the initial trailer from E3 2019.
Despite plenty of rumors swirling around this incredibly secretive title, Nintendo’s only Zelda output for 2020 came in the form of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, a Musou spinoff set 100 years before the events of Breath of the Wild. And who knows how or if Age of Calamity’s story will factor into Breath of the Wild 2.
Even though there’s a lack of new information, Switch owners still eagerly await the sequel for Breath of the Wild. Fingers crossed that we don’t go the whole of 2021 without any news. However, 3D Zelda games are notorious for their long development times.