Our list of the 21 most anticipated video games of 2021 is, as you might expect, stuffed to the brim with indie games.
Just as dawn always follows the night, the “most anticipated games of next year” list must follow the “best games of last year” list. Well, it doesn’t have to, but you lot like lists and to get excited about new stuff, and we like people reading the site so we can continue paying the bills so… we sort of have to?
As is usually the case for these things, there’s a bit of logic to how we handle our big lists:
- Why did you pick 21 games? Because it’s 2021. We did 20 last year and we’ll do 22 next year. No, we can’t imagine still doing it that way in 2057.
- How did you select the games? We had a bit of a chat and wrote it down. Then the editors had the final say on putting it together.
- Why are they in that order? Well, it’s alphabetical, isn’t it? Imagine trying to put them in chronological order with the moveable feast that is video game release dates. Nightmare!
- What are the honourable mentions? They might be games that other people are excited about, but we personally aren’t. Or they might be games that are allegedly going to release in 2021, but we don’t believe it. (Or they might be things we think are bad and we want to poke fun at.)
- Why did you pick this game over that game? Because criticism of any form of art, media, or entertainment is highly subjective!
- But I’m really upset! Who do I complain to? Just write your complaint down on a slip of paper and pop it into our suggestion box.
- And where’s that? Any rubbish bin or trash can will do. If it’s meant to be, your complaint will find its way to us, we promise.
And now, on with the list.
The 21 most anticipated video games of 2021
12 Minutes – TBC 2021
Publisher Annapurna Interactive, which is on something of a hot streak, was already onto a winner with this one: a short-form, choice-driven narrative game set in a 12-minute time loop. Then the game’s cast – Daisy Ridley, James McAvoy and Willem Dafoe – was revealed, and we all got very excited for 12 Minutes.
Anno: Mutationem – TBC 2021
Everybody’s talking about the other cyberpunk game – you know, that one – but there are lots of other interesting games out there that are, quite frankly, an awful lot more punk than Cyberpunk 2077 will ever be. One of those games is Anno: Mutationem, a cyberpunk RPG that blends 2D and 3D art with remarkable effect.
Backbone – TBC 2021
Backbone is a noir adventure where you play as a gumshoe raccoon. I mean, that’s a hook, right? But if you’re still not convinced, you can play the game’s prologue for free right now, in advance of its anticipated 2021 release.
Deathloop – 21 May 2021
Deathloop is Arkane doing what Arkane does best: stylish, clever, creative. Expect this one to be a smash hit in May of this year.
God of War: Unnamed Sequel – Maybe 2021?
We have no idea if the as-yet-unnamed sequel to God of War’s 2018 reboot – God of War: Ragnarok, maybe; that’s our prediction, anyway – will actually come out in 2021. But the list of AAA games we’re looking forward to in 2021 was pretty slim, so we put it in the list anyway. Fingers crossed, boy.
The Good Life – Summer 2021
Hidetaka ‘Swery’ Suehiro, of Deadly Premonition fame, founded new studio White Owls a few years back. The studio’s second game, The Good Life, centres on a photographer who visits a sleepy English village to investigate a mystery and discovers that the residents all turn into cats at night. Honestly, we’re not making it up. You’ll see for yourself that it’s very real in summer 2021. (Note: Not to be confused with the Felicity Kendal sitcom of the same name.
Goodbye Volcano High – TBC 2021
Revealed at a PlayStation event in 2020, Goodbye Volcano High is a narrative game from KO_OP with a striking visual style and a familiar, high school setting. (Except everyone is a dinosaur, obviously.) Think somewhere between Life is Strange and Night in the Woods, then, but with the threat of an extinction-level meteor at the end.
Hitman 3 – 20 January 2021
A lot of the games on this list are quite speculative with their dates, so it’s nice to say that Hitman 3 will be here very soon. If IO Interactive just does more of the same following the series’ reboot in 2016, it’s going to be another critical success.
Hollow Knight: Silksong – Maybe 2021?
On a list that contains sequels to God of War (2018) and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it’s astonishing to think the most anticipated game is probably Hollow Knight: Silksong. We don’t know for sure that this one is coming in 2021, either, but we’re hopeful.
Lake – Q1 2021
We first learned of Lake via its technical artist on social media, posting videos of lush landscapes, swaying pines, beautiful water shaders, and the like. You play as Meredith, who returns to her hometown in rural Oregon to escape the big city for a simple life as a postal worker. Like Death Stranding, then, but not a batshit, Kojima-fied version of rural mail deliveries.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 – Maybe 2021?
Like that God of War sequel, there’s no real evidence that Breath of the Wild 2 will actually release in 2021. (But we’re hoping that it will.)
Little Nightmares 2 – 11 February 2021
Little Nightmares is like HBO’s Chernobyl series: kind of hard to recommend, because it’s so unsettling, but also something everyone should probably experience if they can face it. Expect more of the same with Little Nightmares 2 next month.
Nuts – TBC 2021
Nuts has an arresting visual style, that’s for sure, but it’s the premise that really has us excited. Did you ever wonder what squirrels got up to? They’re just a bit secretive and suspicious, aren’t they? Well, we have, anyway, and Nuts – with its core mechanics centred around surveilling the bushy-tailed nut hoarders – aims to help you find out.
Psychonauts 2 – TBC 2021
As if the prospect of Psychonauts 2 wasn’t tantalising enough, Double Fine head honcho Tim Schafer has added his good friend Jack Black – of Tenacious D and Hollywood fame – to the game’s cast. The last time that happened, in Double Fine’s Brütal Legend, it was magic.
Resident Evil Village – Q2 2021?
Following a breach of Capcom’s systems, a lot of details about Resident Evil Village leaked. You’re going to want to stay away from that. Spoilers. But if the contents of the leak are to be believed, we should expect to see the eighth mainline Resident Evil game in Q2 2021.
Riders Republic – 25 February 2021
Steep, from Ubisoft Annecy at the foot of the French Alps, is secretly Ubisoft’s best game. It takes all of the open-world nonsense that bogs down the likes of Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs and turns it into brilliant outdoor pursuits. Here’s hoping Riders Republic, the sort-of sequel to Steep, is more of the same. (And doesn’t lean too hard into trying to be “cool” – its all inherently cool stuff as it is.)
Sable – TBC 2021
Sable was one of the biggest hits, indie or otherwise, at E3 2018. Its combination of stunning visuals and open-world hoverbike exploration captured imaginations and anticipation has grown for it ever since. Maybe this is the year it will be released?
Season – TBC 2021
Like Goodbye Volcano High, Season is a relatively new addition to most people’s “most anticipated games” list, but it sails right in there. Announced during The Game
Awards Adverts 2020, its a gorgeous bicycle adventure that we can’t wait to get lost in.
Skatebird – TBC 2021
It’s skateboarding, but you’re a bird. Skatebird, get it? Sadly, Tiny Hawk’s Pro Skater was probably a bit close to the knuckle; a small indie game doing its best doesn’t want to get sued by Activision and Neversoft. Crucially, it’s also a lot of fun, as skating games must be.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game – Complete Edition – 14 January 2021
It’s weird for a game as old as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game to be so anticipated, but scarcity drives demand. Players have been begging Ubisoft for a re-release of the 2010 arcade, side-scrolling beat ’em up and it’s finally coming in just over a week.
Stray – TBC 2021
Stray appeared on social media a few years ago, with a few short videos and gifs of a cat exploring a neon cityscape. And that was it. But we knew we had to have it, even from that tiny tidbit. Then things went quiet for a while, until it sprung up on Sony’s PS5 stream in 2020. We can’t wait for this one.
- Age of Empires IV (maybe 2021?) – this one hasn’t been confirmed for 2021 yet, but we’re hopeful based on recent chatter
- Back 4 Blood (22 June 2021) – it’s a bit derivative, but if Valve isn’t going to make any more Left 4 Dead games, why shouldn’t someone else?
- Balan Wonderworld (26 March 2021) – a fantastical platformer from Sonic veterans
- Control: Ultimate Edition (Q1 2021) – the PS5/Xbox Series X (definitely not free) upgrade of the brilliant Control
- Cyberpunk 2077 (TBC 2021) – the PS5/Xbox Series X upgrade, sure, but also, maybe a functional version of the game for everyone else?
- Disco Elysium: The Final Cut (TBC 2021) – more Disco Elysium, but with full voice-acting
- Dordogne (TBC 2021) – a beautiful watercolour narrative adventure
- Dying Light 2 (maybe 2021?) – this one has been “coming soon” forever; is this still happening after the exorcism of Chris Avellone? (see also: Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2)
- Exo One (TBC 2021) – we’ve no idea what’s going on in Exo One, but it sure is atmospheric
- Far Cry 6 (TBC 2021) – it’s more Far Cry, but with Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito on the roster
- Ghostwire: Tokyo (TBC 2021) – a spooky Tokyo adventure (sadly, with fan-favourite Ikumi Nakamura no longer on staff)
- Gotham Knights (TBC 2021) – it’s a Batman game; people rather like those
- Halo Infinite (Q4 2021) – we’ll believe Halo Infinite will release in 2021 when we can hold the game in our hands
- Hogwarts Legacy (TBC 2021) – does anybody actually like Harry Potter any more? Just read Philip Pullman instead (he’s a lot more tolerant)
- It Takes Two (TBC 2021) – Josef Fares is determined to make people play nicely together; you’ve got to admire that
- The Lord of the Rings; Gollum (TBC 2021) – this is one of those classic next-gen games that doesn’t really look like much, yet
- The Medium (28 January 2021) – more horror from Bloober Team, good stuff expected
- Microsoft Flight Simulator (TBC 2021) – the Xbox Series X|S port of the brilliant flight sim might come this year
- Monster Hunter Rise (26 March 2021) – a big Monster Hunter game for Nintendo Switch is bound to be a hit
- Nier Replicant v1.22474487139 (23 April 2021) – not played the first Nier? You can fix that in a few months
- Olija (28 January 2021) – a smart platformer with a clever hook (literally, a magical harpoon)
- Open Roads (TBC 2021) – another masterful-looking narrative adventure from Fulbright, the crew behind Gone Home and Tacoma
- Outriders (
2 February 20211 April 2021) – another one of those next-gen games that looks fancy, but we’re not really sure what the hook is
- Overwatch 2 (February 2021?) – is this still happening? We’d forgotten all about it, to be honest
- Party Animals (maybe 2021?) – a lovely, funny physics game that found fame on social media
- Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (Q2 2021?) – an impressive showcase for the PS5, but doesn’t really grab us
- Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II (TBC 2021?) – a sequel that might launch sometime soon maybe?
- Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury (12 February 2021) – looks great, but we’re still annoyed about the artificial scarcity of 3D All-Stars, Nintendo
- Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion (TBC 2021) – this is, erm, exactly what it sounds like
- Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 (TBC 2021) – presumably this release date was also massively set back following the exorcism of Chris Avellone (see also: Dying Light 2)
- Weird West (maybe 2021?) – an immersive sim from Prey and Dishonored alums, but from a Wasteland/classic Fallout perspective
- Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World (Q2 2021?) – yes, please! Put more modern Wonder Boy directly into our veins
Want more neat stuff?
If you want to keep abreast of the latest news, features, reviews, guides, and sales, we can send all our latest articles and great content straight to your inbox. You know, collated together, once or twice a week, in a newsletter. We wouldn't send them one at a time – that would be weird and annoying!
Recommended for you
Latest from Thumbsticks
New Nintendo Switch releases: September 27-October 1, 2021
Darksiders III and FIFA 22 are among this week's new Nintendo Switch eShop releases.
New Xbox releases: September 27-October 1, 2021
The upcoming lineup of Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One releases features a battle between two footballing giants.
Everything featured in the September 2021 Nintendo Direct
The September 2021 Nintendo Direct was a bit of a mixed bag, really. Here are the high- and low-lights from...
The Nintendo Switch eShop Blockbuster Sale is now live
Nintendo Switch owners can save up to 75% on some excellent games (including some rare first-party discounts) in the new...
Planet Zoo announces North America Animal Pack DLC
We're trying to avoid making jokes about Planet Zoo's beaver. (You have no idea how hard it is right now.)
Ashley Tisdale discusses The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes
In a new interview, actor Ashley Tisdale speaks about the experience of making The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes.
Save on great games in the PlayStation Store Big in Japan sale
The latest PlayStation Store sale discounts some excellent PS4 and PS5 games from Japanese developers and publishers.
Surprise! Nintendo announces September 2021 Nintendo Direct
There's a September 2021 Nintendo Direct presentation happening very soon. Nothing like a bit of notice, eh, Nintendo?