We’ve put together a full and complete list of all the videogame launches you’ll want to keep an eye out for in 2021, complete with predicted launch dates. These, however, are the games we feel the most expectant for. It may well be nervous suspense, of the fingers-crossed “I sure hope they pull this off” variety, because the games that get us most excited are often the ones that make ambitious promises—that sell themselves with clever ideas, or by promising to follow on from some of our all-time favorites. They’ve got a lot to prove.
Not all of these games have been confirmed for 2021, and several of them were delayed after being promised for 2020. If every one of them makes it out in the next 12 months we’ll be surprised. But again: fingers crossed.
Hollow Knight: Silksong
Team Cherry can take as long as it needs to craft the successor to the best Metroid-style game since… hell, Hollow Knight is the best of the bunch. This sequel stars Hornet, a character from the first game who’s faster and more acrobatic. The exploration and mood will likely feel very Hollow Knight, but Hornet’s entirely new moveset should make the moment-to-moment action and platforming feel very different.
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
Detective RPG Disco Elysium was dense enough to be worth replaying, and an extended edition with full voice-acting, new characters, quests, and even clothes will be a perfect excuse to do just that. Here’s the real reason it’ll be worth sinking back into the divided city of Revachol, though: “an additional 150,000+ words!”
Total War: Warhammer 3
We were expecting an announcement about the third and final Total War: Warhammer in 2020, but didn’t get it. Fingers crossed that 2021 is the year the trilogy is complete, and the tabletop armies yet to be represented appear: the Ogre Kingdoms, Daemons, and Chaos Dwarfs. Rumor has it that a less monstrous faction might be playable as well—Kislev, who were previously NPCs in the first game. They’re a fantasy mélange of Russian, Polish, and Czech culture led by an ice witch and a bear-riding tsar. Yes.
There are plenty of reasons to be excited about Deathloop. It’s about an assassin trapped in a timeloop who has to kill eight targets within 24 hours to end the loop, a strange and intriguing idea. It’s got combat like Dishonored, but with more open, sandbox levels, which is an exciting combination. But the only reason you need to be excited about Deathloop is this: it’s by the people who made Prey.
Dying Light 2
Having a city four times the size of the original is the kind of thing you’re obliged to announce about a new open world game. Having double the number of parkour options is more impressive. Another reason to look forward to the survival horror sequel is that Techland’s lead narrative designer for Dying Light 2 is Karolina Stachyra, formerly of CD Projekt Red, and the writer credited with much of the work on The Witcher 3’s Bloody Baron questline.
Arthur doesn’t outlevel Excalibur. Frodo doesn’t swap Sting for something with a better chance to crit. Heroes hang onto their weapons. Boyfriend Dungeon takes this idea to the next level. When you leave its dungeon with a magic talking sword, that sword transforms into a cutie and Boyfriend Dungeon transforms from an action-RPG into a dating sim. Those swords are called bae blades by the way, and if you have a problem with that we don’t trust your judgement.
Resident Evil Village
Part of what made the first Resident Evil memorable was its mansion setting. While the sequels have visited plenty of scary locations, the only time they’ve gone back to something so classically gothic has been RE4’s village and castle combo. What have we seen of RE8? A village of course, and a castle whose interior looks a lot like the Spencer Mansion. Plus werewolves, a spooky forest, and what seem to be vampires (the most classically gothic of all monsters). Bring back that decadent creepiness.
Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines 2
After the lead writer and creative director working on Bloodlines 2 were fired, and its senior narrative designer left shortly after, excitement has definitely cooled. We’re still anticipating it, but in the way you might anticipate a bus on a collision course with your family sedan. Rik Schaffer, the composer from the original game, is still involved, so at least the music will be good.
Like a great “bottle episode” of a TV show, 12 Minutes is all about getting maximum use out of minimum space—an attacker is coming into your home, and you have just a few minutes to relive the situation, Groundhog Day-style, to figure out what’s going on, why, and how to survive. Time loops are nothing new, but the presentation and mystery of 12 Minutes makes it feel like it could be something special.
Nier: Automata deserves all the praise it gets for its inventive story, but it wasn’t the first time creator Yoko Taro had pulled the trick of making us finish a game more than once to unravel its story. Replicant is a remaster of the Japanese version of the first Nier, which did something similar, and had some surprisingly great characters and writing. The highlight is the interplay between Weiss, a haughty talking book, and Kaine, a foul-mouthed, half-possessed warrior who takes absolutely no shit. Also, the soundtrack is phenomenal. Combat was a real weakness in the original, so hopefully this update kicks it up a notch.
The modern Hitman games are stealth at its best. No other game in the genre comes even close to what IO has accomplished. Agent 47 can slot into every playstyle under the sun. It’s not just the impressive crowd tech and complex AI. IO has iterated on the “social stealth” concept to the degree that donning disguises and blending into crowds has never felt better. Agent 47’s permanent poker face and deliberately slow gait gives Hitman a contemplative, almost voyeuristic pace that rewards caution, timing, and improvisation. IO is wrapping up the trilogy with a new bundle of maps and the end to a story that started back in 2016. We can’t wait.