The pandemic has devastated much of the entertainment industry, but one market remains in good health: video games.
Last year saw the release of tentpole game like The Last of Us, Part II, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Cyberpunk 2077, plus a litany of great indies, including underworld battler Hades and Irish visual novel If Found.
As neither console has released many exclusively next-gen games, many players are excited to get a better sense of what the new technology is capable of.
So, from AAA blockbusters to under-the-radar gems, here are the games we’re most looking forward to this year.
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Super Mario 3D World & Bowser’s Fury – 12 February (Nintendo Switch)
Originally released on Nintendo’s forgotten pre-Switch console, the Wii U, Super Mario 3D World is one of several games being put before a larger audience with a current-gen re-release. The original was an enjoyable cross between the classic side-scrolling Mario and the three-dimensional adventures of Mario 64, et al; an impressive-looking expansion called Bowser’s Fury makes this game well worth a look for any Nintendo fan.
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut – March TBC (PS4, PS5, PC)
When Disco Elysium was first released on PC in 2019, there had been nothing quite like it. ZA/UM’s one-of-a-kind RPG, in which you play as a substance-addled amnesiac detective solving a politically fraught murder in an alternative reality, was nothing short of a masterpiece. It finally arrives on consoles – on PlayStation in March and Xbox and Switch later in the year – complete with new storylines and quests, as well as new voice acting, in what is being called The Final Cut.
Returnal – 19 March (PS5)
One of the first PS5 exclusives to be released by Sony Interactive Entertainment, Returnal has all the ingredients of a terrific game. Set on an alien planet, the game is a dark action sci-fi with an intriguing time-loop premise.
Deathloop – 21 May (PS5, PS4, PC)
Another game with a time-loop hook, first-person shooter Deathloop is set to be released in May. Much is still unknown about the game, including exactly how its time-jump mechanics will work, but the slick, stylish trailer sells the premise immediately.
Far Cry 6 – TBC (PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One, PC)
Ubisoft’s sun-baked open-world shooter franchise has featured some politically dicey material before, and the next Far Cry, set on a tropical paradise ruled by a ruthless dictator, is unlikely to be any different. But the high-end production values are sure to make this a hit with fans, and putting Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad’s Gus Fring) at the forefront of the cast seems like an easy win.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – TBC (PS5)
Of all the releases announced for PS5 over the course of last year, it was this kid-friendly platform sequel that seemed the most technically impressive. Letting its characters travel across dimensions with unprecedented rapidity, thanks to the PS5’s fast-loading solid-state drives, this looks like a seriously inventive spin on a genre which too often settles for what’s simple. Given it was originally set to be released during the PS5 “launch window”, this game could be available sooner rather than later.
12 Minutes – TBC (Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One, PC)
Annapurna Interactive have a reputation as one of the foremost publishers of indie games (such as Kentucky Route Zero or What Remains of Edith Finch), and their intriguing line-up for this year includes 12 Minutes. Set inside a couple’s apartment during a terrible, sudden confrontation, the game has you live out the encounter over and over, trying to piece together what’s happened and working out how to stop it. It’s got a lot of promise, and a starry cast: a Hollywood trifecta of Daisy Ridley, James McAvoy and Willem Dafoe.
Halo Infinite – TBC (Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One, PC)
Delays mean that we won’t be getting our hands on the much-anticipated Halo sequel – originally positioned as the Xbox Series X’s flagship launch title – until later this year. Early impressions of the game footage has been mixed, but that’s partly due to the weight of expectation: for Xbox players, this has “hype” written all over it.
Lord of the Rings: Gollum – TBC (All platforms)
It’s been a while since we’ve had a really great Lord of the Rings game (though Shadow of Mordor has its cheerleaders). While Gollum lacks the epic heroism of some of the franchise’s other characters, the premise of this – a stealth adventure set in middle earth, seemingly around the time of the film trilogy – should pique the interest of many a Tolkien fan.
Open Roads – TBC (PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X and S, PC)
Another Annapurna indie title, Open Roads stars Keri Russell and Kaitlyn Dever as a mother and daughter on an emotionally and psychologically fraught road trip. If the trailer is anything to go by, the visuals are great, and it’s being developed by Fullbright, the team behind the superb 2013 game Gone Home.
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Resident Evil: Village – 7 May (PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One PC)
Sometimes there’s nothing more terrifying than village life. Taking a leaf from Hot Fuzz’s book, the popular horror franchise heads to an isolated settlement for its tenth instalment, Resident Evil: Village. With last year’s Resident Evil 3 remake failing to set the world alight, it’s good to see RE venture out into new territory; though any story involving an infectious virus outbreak is going to feel a little too close for comfort.
Dead Static Drive – TBC (Xbox, PC)
This indie driving/action game has been billed as Grand Theft Auto meets HP Lovecraft, and from the look of things, it’s an effervescent combination. The snippets of the game that have been shown to the public seem impressive, and the art style really pops.
Gotham Knights (PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One, PC)
Gotham Knights was one of two forthcoming DC Comics adaptations announced to jubilant reactions last year, the other being RockSteady’s Suicide Squad game. Borrowing elements from the acclaimed Batman: Arkham franchise, Knights gives players the ability to inhabit a team of Batman-adjacent heroes: Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin, and Red Hood. Judging by the trailer and early gameplay footage, this looks like a sure-fire winner.
Horizon Forbidden West (PS5, PS4)
A sequel to 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn, this action-adventure RPG seems to boast everything you could want in a game: a visually stunning open world, an epic, lore-filled storyline, and giant robot dinosaurs to fight. Slightly stupid name aside, Forbidden West is positioned to be a major release for Sony’s new console.
Untitled God of War sequel (PS5)
Almost nothing is known about this game, which is nominally set to arrive by the end of 2021, though a trailer released last year led some to believe it will be called Ragnarok. Following on from one of the most acclaimed games of all time (2018’s God of War) is a tall order, of course – it may just take a deity.