With 2020 behind us, it’s time to focus on what’s important – forgetting 2020 and focusing on what’s important. This includes ignoring the video game backlog that we killed and buried in the backyard, because we were kids and had our whole lives ahead of us. Sure, the FBI agents are knocking on our door and asking us where we buried that collector’s edition of Dishonored 2 still sealed in plastic, but we’ll never tell them. Like weaponised cyborg kittens the future is meow, and in that spirit we shed our shackles of the past and look to the gleaming promise of games releasing this year. So what’s got WellPlayed’s team squinting hopefully into 2021’s crystal ball?
Monster Hunter: Rise – Monster Hunter is an IP that took me (and the rest of the gaming market) by storm in 2018 with the release of Monster Hunter: World. It’s well documented that this release sold incredibly well for Capcom and it was only a matter of time for a new game from the portable team to be released for the Nintendo Switch. With a great mix of the intricacies from Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate and the quality of life improvements found in World, the announcement of this game and its release date immediately shot it up to my most anticipated release of 2021. I’ll be sure to love it and I need more Monster Hunter in my life.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin – Surprise, surprise. More Monster Hunter. This one is more of a spinoff rather than just a traditional Monster Hunter experience created by the portable team. Using monsters to fight other monsters while being treated to an incredibly gorgeous art style? Sign me the hell up. Capcom, you know how to make 2021 a great year for me.
Hollow Knight: Silksong – Look, I’m not even sure if this one is coming this year. It has felt like I’ve been saying “It’s coming soon!” for far too long, yet my excitement for it has not changed at all. Hollow Knight is one of the best indie games I’ve ever played. It struck such a beautiful note for atmosphere, level design, environmental storytelling and boss design. I would argue it’s the best game to come out of Australia and Team Cherry has been hard at work creating the sequel.
Honourable mentions: NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…, Halo: Infinite, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Stray
Monster Hunter Rise – Almost unusually for me I am super excited for this game. I never really got into Monster Hunter previously as I either found the learning curve off putting, wasn’t really drawn to games with active combat or I had too many other things to play first. But that changed instantly when they announced a Monster Hunter game for Nintendo Switch with World’s quality of life improvements. The demo has certainly convinced me that I am now a monster hunting fan. Come on March!
Rune Factory 5 – When Rune Factory 4 Special was announced for Nintendo Switch and that 5 was in development, I was asking myself how I had missed this franchise, particularly as I love farming sims. I have been thoroughly enjoying 4 Special so obviously I’m keen as a bean for some more farming/monster taming/dungeon exploring action on my beloved Switch.
Hollow Knight: Silksong – Hollow Knight is both a very proud achievement in Aussie game development and a superb game, with interesting enemies, world building and combat. So with Team Cherry sharing the bombshells that Silksong was going to be a whole new game, bigger than the original and not just some DLC, I needed new jorts. I don’t care that it’s been delayed, I will wait for another experience that matches or even tops Hollow Knight any day.
Honourable Mentions: Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, Eastward, Hoa, Mineko’s Night Market and hopefully most of Nintendo’s mystery line up for the year.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – What Ash said. While the PlayStation 5 already houses plenty of great-looking games, there’s yet to be much of anything that truly taps into things that could only be achieved with its truly ‘new-gen’ features like the super-fast SSD and DualSense controller. Rift Apart looks to correct all that, never mind the fact that it’s one of my favourite video game franchises by far. The 2016 soft reboot showed that the duo still has a place on modern platforms, and Insomniac has been firing on all cylinders since with its top-shelf Spider-Man games, so I’ll be very surprised if this doesn’t wind up one of my absolute favourites for the year.
Psychonauts 2 – It’s 2021 and two of my three most anticipated games are platformers – that fucking rocks, my friends. This one is truly special, though. Not only was the original Psychonauts a solid, fun and ridiculously creative adventure, but it quietly did some tremendous things with its representations of the human condition. It’s a game that I come back to time and time again, and consistently come away with brand-new feelings about it. I legitimately wept when the sequel was announced years ago, and threw a fair amount of cash at the Fig campaign. Finally, after a few major delays, it looks like the game is properly on track for release this year. Brain it on. Er, bring it on.
God of War Ragnarok – I can’t think of a single game last generation that wowed me in the way that 2018’s God of War wowed me. It wasn’t just the epic and emotionally-mature narrative, the impeccable pacing and level design or the beautifully-rendered world steeped in Norse mythology. It was the way that all of those things were so far removed from the aging, angst-ridden hacking and slashing that the series was known for and was struggling to escape from. It’s going to be interesting to see if Santa Monica Studio can hit those same highs a second time with the template already established, but even if all we get is more of the same it stands to be another absolutely corker.
Honourable Mentions: NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, No More Heroes 3
Monster Hunter: Rise – Look, Monster Hunter World was incredible – but even after so, so many months of content, it still didn’t quite reach the same content-rich plethora of monsters across its wilderness as previous Monster Hunter games. It took the series in a much more accessible direction, and I will forever adore it for that reason – but what I am truly hungry for is the old school, portable experience of Monster Hunters past, just with the trimmings of Monster Hunter World to keep my boomer-reflexes in check.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin – I absolutely ADORED the last Monster Hunter Stories game on the 3DS, so having a more feature-rich and graphically gorgeous experience on the Nintendo Switch is an electrifying thought for me. Creature battle games that thrive away from the rigid Pokemon format are a long time guilty pleasure of mine, while I have no ill will towards the ‘Mons at all. ALSO, PALICOS.
God of War: Ragnarok – I have to know what happens next. God of War 2018 told a phenomenal story that had me riveted from start to finish, but planted enough seeds to continue the adventure in wondrous ways. Even the after-credits scene did just enough to keep my sizzle. Not a single shred of excitement has fizzled away – I have a delightful simmer dedicated to what Atreus and Kratos may experience next, and I gladly treasure my PS5 for that very reason.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart – Every title I have enjoyed on my PS5 so far has looked…great. The Mortal Kombat upgrade, Demon’s Souls and even now, Immortals Fenix Rising – they all look ‘great’. But I am still hungry to see a title that actively blows me away – something that really stresses the hardware and showcases what it looks like when you blast the roof clean off graphical fidelity. So far, the trailers for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart have done a good job with wowing me, but I am still cleanly in the camp of wondering if they are ‘bullshot’ or not.
Back 4 Blood – It has been quite a while since a multiplayer-focused game has gotten me hyped, but with Turtle Rock Studios back at it, I think this is the year. Obviously taking influence from their Left 4 Dead days, TRS are promising to bring back the zombie genre in the new era with updated visuals and new perk-driven gameplay. All I can hope is that this game gives me a good hit of nostalgia of my high-school days playing L4D for hours on end with my mates, and inevitably yelling at my friends for alerting the hoard.
Sports Story – Sidebar Games’ first-ever game, Golf Story, was one of my stand out games of 2017. A fun and simple arcade golf game with a witty and entertaining story, it was exactly the game I needed to break away from the AAA rat race of the year. With its initial announcement last year, Sports Story looks to build on the solid foundation of its predecessor, adding new sports to play (like cricket, tennis and fishing) and also creating a bizarre story experience that I’m sure will have me in stitches.
GhostWire: Tokyo – Ever since Ikumi Nakamura’s “spooky” reveal of the game back in 2019, GhostWire: Tokyo has been sticking in the back of my mind. The unsettling tone of the trailers along with the neon-drenched streets of Tokyo have me very eager to see if Tango Gameworks can carry over the momentum from The Evil Within 2 (in terms of improvements in gameplay and story) into another new IP that looks to be full of potential.
Honourable Mentions: Deathloop, Gran Turismo 7
Returnal – I can’t tell you how many hours I lost playing Resogun on my criminally underrated PS Vita. The smooth yet anxiety-inducing gameplay, the slick visuals, the thumping soundtrack – all of the pieces came together to create an addictive and satisfying experience. Now Housemarque (the devs behind Resogun) are stepping up into the big time with a third-person, bullet-hell/rogue-like hybrid on the new and shiny PS5. Returnal grabbed my attention from the instant that gameplay was shown and I can’t wait to dive into that frantic, fast-paced action. This is a time loop that I’ll be all too happy to be stuck in.
GhostWire: Tokyo – How can anyone watch Nakamura’s reveal of GhostWire: Tokyo and not be hyped? Aside from the former Creative Director’s passionate stage presentation, GhostWire demanded my attention by having an eerie setting and an equally eerie tone, plus it’s developed by the team behind The Evil Within, so that certainly helps. Admittedly, the gameplay isn’t at all what I expected it to be based on the initial launch trailer, but I’m pumped to give it a play all the same. Bring on spooooky, supernatural Japan.
God of War: Ragnarok – I don’t think I need to justify my excitement for the follow-up to, in my opinion, one of the greatest games of all time in God of War, but I will anyway. No one could have foreseen just how excellent the reinvention of the God of War series was going to be. The evolution of this franchise is truly something else; from the direction and tighter combat, to the narrative and Kratos himself as a character – everything about the IP has matched the direction that the gaming medium has been heading in over the last few years. I can’t expect Santa Monica to be able to surpass what they’ve already created, but as long as I get to spend more time in this mature, brutal world that they’ve created then I’m happy.
Honourable Mentions: Back 4 Blood, Riders Republic, Outriders, Gotham Knights
Resident Evil Village – As an old-school Resident Evil fan, Resident Evil 7’s introduction to new characters and pivot to first-person didn’t jive with me as much I was hoping. I mean I liked it, I just didn’t love it, and playing through 2019’s Resident Evil 2 remake reminded me of just how much I love the third-person formula and my man Leon Kennedy. Alas, I’ve accepted that Capcom will cash in on third-person remakes while first-person titles move the series forward. Thankfully everything I’ve seen and read about Resident Evil Village has me very excited. I love the Village setting, love the introduction of werewolves and love the possibility of Chris Redfield being a villain. There’s definitely hints of Resident Evil 4 about Village, and if they can deliver half the game RE4 was then we’re in for a cracking time.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 – Despite the shitshow that has been VTMBL2’s development, the trailers and snippets of gameplay that we’ve seen have impressed me enough to keep caring about this game even though I’ve never played the original. It’s got all the ingredients to satisfy this…thirst I have, like a ton of jank (not Euro jank sadly), vampires, and massive Dishonored vibes. If developer and publisher can get the game’s wheels back on track, then VTMBL2 could be a cracker of a time.
Evil West – Only announced at The Game Awards last year, Evil West has the potential to scratch an itch that no game has for a very, very long time – the Darkwatch itch. For those who don’t remember, Darkwatch combined cowboys and vampires and it was a match made in heaven. Evil West looks like it’s cut from the same cloth, featuring a gunslinger tasked with taking down a vampire threat against a western backdrop. It can be played either single-player or with co-op, and nothing strengthens a bond like two cowboys blowing off some steam together (and killing vampires).
Honourable mentions: Oddworld: Soulstorm, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, Atomic Heart, Biomutant
Resident Evil Village – RE7 proves that Capcom still know how to create an unnerving time, and also that they know how to sidestep the RE universe’s convoluted lore and focus on turning the jorts brown. Resident Evil VIll4g3 looks like it will try and do the same, and so far its twisted setting that would make the Brothers Grimm proud looks stellar. It also looks to add credence to the fact that Chris Redfield is actually just a sentient pile of chunky steaks smooshed together, something I’ve suspected since the beginning.
God of War Ragnarok – I want to be that guy that doesn’t mention this one because everyone else did. I want to be the cool aloof kid that smokes durries behind the bus stop in high school and only listens to free-range Scandinavian lo-fi trip hop and wears a trenchcoat (don’t we all?). But alas, I am not. I’m a middle-aged father of two that wears thongs and gym shorts (shirt optional) who loved every single damn thing about the God of War reboot. I gave it a 10/10 in my review, and I regret nothing. But now, papa must feed once more on the AAA delights of Santa Monica – hook this one straight into my veins, boys.
Horizon Forbidden West – Horizon Zero Dawn featured one of the most interesting settings to grace gaming in a very long time, and serves as a cautionary tale for us all – make self-replicating, weaponised robots that endlessly consume natural resources and you’re going to have a bad time. I loved the clever subversion of the concept of a technologically advanced future where humans have reverted to the primitive at the mercy of their rogue creations. Also, robot dinosaurs. I imagine Forbidden West will expand on this fascinating world which has practically infinite potential, and give us the same wonderfully refined hunting gameplay with some new enemies to conquer.
Honourable Mentions: Deathloop, The Medium, Halo: Infinite
Resident Evil Village – The Resident Evil series has solidified itself as one of my favourite gaming franchises over the last couple of years, with my journey actually beginning with Resident Evil 7. After appreciating the hell out of older RE entries alongside the recent remakes of RE2 and RE3, I’m finding myself extremely excited to see Resident Evil attempt first-person survival horror again. Capcom has been on a high the last few years now, so hopefully Resident Evil Village continues this fine form.
Far Cry 6 – For anyone that knows me or has read my content on WellPlayed, it is common knowledge that I’m the ‘Far Cry Guy’. I really enjoyed my time with Far Cry New Dawn in 2019, and while it didn’t change things up as much as I’d have liked, it was still an impressively fun romp. Far Cry 6 has the opportunity to change things up for the better, with badass actor Giancarlo Espositio playing the role of a fascist dictator. If the game can ensure the story is good while offering up some new gameplay tweaks and additions, I’m sure it will be one of my favourite games this year. At the end of the day I find myself anticipating it regardless.
God of War Ragnarok – I honestly don’t think I’ve played a game in the last few years that compares to the brilliance that is 2018’s God of War. An enthralling narrative and world, quality characters and thoroughly gripping and rewarding gameplay experience make it a game that keeps you fastened in awe from start to finish. I’m hoping to have a similar experience when God of War Ragnarok releases at some point this year, and while I find it difficult to see how Santa Monica could craft a game better than 2018’s God of War, you best believe I’ll be there on day one hoping they’ve proven me wrong.
Honourable Mentions: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Horizon Forbidden West, Deathloop, Kena: Bridge of Spirits
Oddworld: Soulstorm – Oddworld is a series that I’ve gotten much more appreciative of as time goes by. Its political narrative may have been carried by the atmosphere of the late 1990s, but has even more weight today in our increasingly capitalistic world. With this year’s (for real, I’m sure) Soulstorm, the original vision for 1998’s Abe’s Exoddus can finally come to light in all its bleak glory. All of its newer gameplay features, however, do drip some unease into my mind. But if the story is anything as good as I hope it’ll be, we’re in for some delightfully depressing stuff.
New Pokemon Snap – I really, really, really like old-school Pokemon. Nostalgia aside, the vision of those first two generations is comfy and colourful. Those early years are also the match that lit several golden fires, but what’s kept being fascinating is the wild world of Pokemon spin-off games. The most iconic from those baby years is arguably 1999’s Pokemon Snap. New Pokemon Snap, due for release in April, promises more on-rails photography action in a game that many of us have been waiting our entire lives for. Just let me take a picture of a Crobat smiling. Please.
Atomic Heart – I really couldn’t care less about how fancy-pants Atomic Heart’s graphics are gonna be, because my PC won’t be able to run half of them. What I’m interested in, as I’ve written about before, is the game’s setting. Any game that celebrates the Soviet Union’s obsession with robotics and outer space is bound to be a cracker, especially if it lets me take an axe to said robots in my latest attempt to prove that I’m totally on the side of the meatbags. Don’t worry, I certainly won’t betray anybody when the robot uprising happens. I promise.
Honourable mentions: Deathloop, Humankind, Warhammer 40K: Darktide
There you have it, WellPlayed’s most anticipated games of 2021 (for now at least). Let us know in the comments or on social media which games you’re keen for this year.