Given the long-lasting ramifications of COVID, a slump in game releases has seemed to be a predicted inevitably.
Many outlets and industry veterans have lamented over the idea that 2021 would be a drought year, and there have been plentiful comments strewn about, labelling this year as a weaker one for games as a whole. I couldn’t disagree more. While there’s been a fair share of expected delays that have pushed certain blockbuster titles into next year, noteworthy releases have still been coming out at a pace that’s made it hard to keep up, and the winter period shows no sign of slowing.
The big three console competitors – Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo – have done particularly well this year at securing and scheduling high-quality exclusives on their respective platforms. Okay, PlayStation juggernauts Horizon Forbidden West, the sequel to 2018’s God of War (presumably subtitled Ragnarök), and Gran Turismo 7 may have been hit with lengthy delays to next year, but PlayStation has been far from quiet despite those absences.
While it’s not quite mainstream in its appeal, Returnal was a great early exclusive for the PlayStation 5 releasing back in April, and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart delivered on that blockbuster experience that’s become synonymous with the brand. Timed exclusive Deathloop is also releasing in a short couple of weeks to fill the gap in fourth quarter big releases, with stunning-looking indies such as Kena: Bridge of Sprits and Solar Ash rounding out the roster.
While PlayStation saw its biggest exclusives coming out in the first half of the year, a consistent slate of notable Nintendo Switch exclusives will be occupying the winter period, following the big spring hitter Monster Hunter Rise, and the long-awaited New Pokémon Snap back in April. WarioWare: Get It Together! has the potential to be a delightful return to form after a couple of disappointing duds, while Metroid Dread looks good enough to make fans forget about the highly anticipated Metroid Prime 4 for at least a little while.
Third-party exclusive Shin Megami Tensei V might finally be the entry to propel Atlus’ niche demon-collecting RPG franchise into the mainstream, much like how Persona 5 turned heads several years ago. Speaking of Persona, we also had Persona 5 Strikers in February, which released to critical acclaim. And regardless of any negative fan discourse surrounding the games, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are guaranteed to be huge hits.
The Xbox family of consoles has had a bit of a slower year, with several key exclusives dropping throughout 2022, but it’s been far from dry. Microsoft Flight Simulator and third-party indie darling Death’s Door both launched as Xbox console exclusives this summer to critical acclaim, and other promising titles such as Sable, Forza Horizon 5, The Gunk, and Halo Infinite are all slated for this year.
This goes without mentioning all the great multiplatform games that remain the backbone to any busy year in gaming. Psychonauts and The World Ends with You, two beloved cult classics from the 2000s, finally got their miracle sequels within the summer period, and neither disappointed in living up to their predecessors. Ace Attorney fan patience was also rewarded, with the western release of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, which many believe is amongst the better entries in the franchise.
Looking towards the mainstream, Resident Evil saw its third consecutive annual release with the highly popular Resident Evil Village, and while it’s far from my favourite entry in the franchise, it proved to be another big success with fans following 2020’s slightly more controversial Resident Evil 3 remake. And how about It Takes Two, the truly innovative co-op game from Hazelight, or the fantastic conclusion to the Hitman trilogy which released back in January?
Moving into the winter period, Far Cry and Battlefield, two huge staples in the AAA western gaming market, will be receiving their next mainline releases. And the likes of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Riders Republic have the potential to find great success within that same space.
It can be easy to write off this year as being a slower one when we know that monumental titles such as Elden Ring, Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Starfield, the sequel to Breath of the Wild and more will all be crammed together within 2022’s 12-month timeframe, but the quantity of worthwhile releases has been dense. So dense, in fact, that there’s plenty I didn’t even mention, and just as many that I haven’t had the chance to play yet. I’m sure Chicory: A Colorful Tale and The Forgotten City are as great as everyone is claiming (editor’s note: they are), but I’m still playing catch up with Returnal and NieR Replicant.
The only real gaming shortages I’ve noticed this year is the lack of available PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles. Game releases though? There’s so much fighting for my time that it almost makes me wish for a drought.
More on 2021’s excellent games:
- Here’s a list of 2021’s best games so far, as of July
- Read a review of Last Stop, a narrative-driven indie hit which scored a 10/10 from us
- It’s not a new game per se, but Streets of Rage 4‘s Mr. X Nightmare DLC back in July is some of the best DLC we’ve ever seen
- If you’re a racing fan, this summer’s F1 2021 is the best F1 game to date
- Okay, it came to PC and Switch in 2020, but last month was also the first time many of us got to play the excellent roguelike Hades, as it landed on Xbox and PlayStation