While we're now into the second quarter of the year, the gaming calendar for 2021 is still filled with plenty of releases confirmed and others expected before the end of the year.
As the pandemic continues to blow up release schedules for movie studios, gaming studios have managed to more or less adapt to the new reality and still keep to deadlines, with a couple of high-profile exceptions.
Here's ten games we're looking forward to in 2021 in order of release date. We begin with...
'Returnal' - April 30th
The State of Play showcase for 'Returnal' seemed to point to something along the lines of a rogue-lite shooter initially, but both the Story trailer and subsequent videos that have dropped seem to point to something a lot more complex than one would expect. If anything, it almost feels like movies like 'Annihilation' are influencing it, what with the incongruity of seeing a typical family home in the middle of a strange alien planet. Housemarque have always tended to make interesting games that never quite find an audience. 'Returnal', however, has a lot going for it and could well end up being one of the most talked-about games of the year.
'Resident Evil Village' - May 7th
The demo for 'Resident Evil Village' gave some indication as to how advanced this new entry is compared to its beginnings. Of course, this being the internet, everyone made it weird when the giant female character appeared and had the opposite effect to scaring people. The gothic horror vibes are still there, and while it's always verging on outright silly, this latest edition of the venerable horror franchise looks particularly promising.
'Mass Effect: Legendary Edition' - May 14th
At long last, the remastering of 'Mass Effect' has happened and it couldn't have come at a better time. With people now with more free time on their hands than ever before, diving back into the world of 'Mass Effect' is like going back to a well-loved TV show with a fresh coat of paint. BioWare has promised that the remastering is done with tasteful applications of new technology, but leaving behind the essence of what made the trilogy so beloved.
'Deathloop' - May 21st
Imagine 'Dishonored' mixed with the aesthetics and music of spy thrillers of the '60s, throw in a dash of 'John Wick' and 'Knives Out', place into a shaker and serve - that's what 'Deathloop' is trying aim for. The concept of time-loops in games is nothing new, of course. Just look at 'The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask'. But where 'Deathloop' makes the change is that you're working the loop, not against it. You use each loop to learn something new and, eventually, reach a point where you can slide through enemies with ease. Or, if you're playing the multiplayer option, you're using your own knowledge of the loop to stop the other person.
'Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade' - June 10th
2021 is going to see a number of high-profile remasters, and 'Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade' is just one of three we're excited about. The game was already gorgeous to begin with, but the 'Intergrade' takes full advantage of the PS5's higher frame-rates and graphic performance, not to mention slicing load times down to size as well.
'Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart' - June 11th
The first game in the franchise made for the PlayStation 5, 'Rift Apart' has a lot of expectation on its furry shoulders. The gameplay video from a few months back looked incredibly promising, showcasing the seamless animation and familiar blaster action you'd expect. The use of ray tracing software and the PS5's DualSense controller is also in there, not to mention a far wider variety of enemies, locations, jumping between worlds, as well as the option to play in 60 frames per second or 30 frames per second with 4K resolution.
'The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD' - July 16th
If you read our ranking of 'The Legend of Zelda', you'll know that 'Skyward Sword' didn't break the top five for us, but that's no reason not to be excited about the Switch update coming in June. 'Skyward Sword' will use the Joy-cons to their full potential, allowing you to either use them like the Wii sword, or simply with the other stick. Nintendo is hoping that this remastering will keep players tied over until the sequel to 'Breath of the Wild' makes it way to screens, but even if it wasn't, this is still worth a look.
'Life is Strange: True Colors' - September 30th
Unlike previous entries in the series, 'True Colors' is releasing the entire story in one go rather than breaking itself up into episodes. As every edition of 'Life is Strange', there's a lot of emotions and a lot of mystery to expect. Not only that, 'True Colors' will boast a soundtrack that includes music from Phoebe Bridgers and Novo Amor.
'Hot Wheels Unleashed' - September 30th
If the gameplay videos released so far are anything to go by, 'Hot Wheels Unleashed' looks like a good rip of ultra-fast arcade racer silliness - exactly the right antidote to super-serious racing simulators that so often take up much of the space in the racing genre nowadays.
'Horizon Forbidden West' - Quarter 4, 2021
Far and away, 'Horizon Zero Dawn' was one of the most graphically audacious games made in the final days of the PlayStation 4, pushing it to the very limits of what the console was capable of. Now, with the PlayStation 5 in its early days, how can 'Forbidden West' hope to top it? Can it even? The early gameplay footage has been promising, but what's going to make this really exciting is capturing that same sense of freedom and exploration that the original had in spades, as well as the thrill of the hunt in the game too.
'Halo Infinite' - Quarter 3 / 4, 2021
After the disappointing gameplay footage released about eight months ago, 343 Industries went back to work and recent gameplay imagery released has vastly improved the outlook on 'Halo Infinite'. Indeed, there's plenty of YouTube videos explaining why the original gameplay footage looked so flat and bland, and comparisons with the new images. That 343 Industries haven't commited to a release date beyond 2021 has some people thinking another release date is due to be pushed back. Still, there's nothing to suggest that this is the case and seeing as how 'Halo Infinite' was meant to launch with the Xbox Series X/S, the likelihood is production is well into the final stages. The question now is whether it'll live up to the promise.