Shindig’s most anticipated games of 2021

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The new year is finally here! And with it comes plenty of exciting new games and things to look forward to. It’s going to be a year in which the new generation consoles, having launched late last year, start to gain momentum with new exclusives and games that start to really make the most of the new hardware. It’ll be a year with lots of new ideas, but also plenty of trips down memory lane with new takes on old favourites.

It’ll no doubt be a year with plenty of surprises, with games that we haven’t even heard about yet. But of what we do know is coming in 2021, here are the games I’m most looking forward to.

Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy

Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout was a remarkable success in taking a more mainstream approach to Atelier without losing the slice-of-life charm, delightful characters, and deep crafting systems that make the series what it is. Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy‘s action-adventure twists to ruin exploration looks like a whole lot of fun, but most of all, it’s the chance to spend more time with the wonderful Ryza herself (and her adorable friends) that makes the the return to Atelier Ryza‘s world so appealing.

Coming to PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC on January 28.

Balan Wonderworld

A brand new game from the creators of Sonic the Hedgehog and Nights into Dreams, Balan Wonderworld is a colourful, creative 3D platformer that sees you delving into a theatrical dream world that blends imagination and reality in an effort to help people resolve their troubles. A wide variety of costumes, each bestowing the player with different abilities, opens the door to plenty of creative platforming possibilities, in a game that looks like a pure embodiment of joy.

Coming to PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC on March 26.

Bravely Default II

Classic-style JRPGs don’t get much better than Bravely Default. It superficially channels ’90s-era Final Fantasy in its job system and Crystal mythos, but also finds ways to push the boundaries with a brilliant twist on turn-based combat and a subversive approach to traditional JRPG storytelling. If nothing else, Bravely Default 2‘s new characters, world, and jobs will be a delight to meet, explore, and play around with, but given the series’ history, expect some big narrative twists that turn the whole genre on its head.

Coming to Nintendo Switch on February 26.

Dordogne

Dordogne looks like a watercolour painting come to life. It’s not an uncommon aesthetic in videogames, but few manage to sell the effect as convincingly as Dordogne does in its trailers and screenshots. With a nostalgic story about a woman revisiting her childhood summers spent at her grandmother’s home, seen from the perspectives of both then and now, Dordogne might end up being one of the most endearing games of the year.

Coming to Nintendo Switch and PC in 2021.

Guilty Gear Strive

A new entry in the best fighting game series of all time is always going to be cause for celebration. Guilty Gear Strive is shaping up to be a very different game to Guilty Gear Xrd before it, and while “different” is always going to be divisive, it’s going to be interesting to explore Strive on its own merits once it’s out in the wild. It takes Arc System Works’ signature 2D-look art style to stylish new extremes and packs a killer roster (Anji’s back!), so even if it doesn’t make a competitive splash (which seems unlikely, it’s still Guilty Gear after all), it’ll at least be a fun game to mess around with.

Coming to PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC on April 9.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits

The debut title from indie outfit Ember Lab, Kena: Bridge of Spirits looks like it’s shaping up to be something truly special. It’s a fantasy action-adventure game that sees you, a young spirit guide, uncovering the secrets of a secluded forest full of mystical creatures. The Rot, little forest spirits that join you on your journey, look truly adorable and are a refreshing change from “rot”—an essential, life-giving part of the cycle of nature—being used as a motif for evil and corruption. Ancient ruins, cute mascot characters, a heartfelt story, and an original twist on environmental themes seem like a winning combination.

Coming to PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC in 2021.

Monster Hunter Rise

It’ll be hard to top the excellence of Monster Hunter World, but if anything can do it, it’s Monster Hunter Rise. With a focus on verticality in its level design (hence “Rise”), new ways of navigating the environment (Wall-running! Grappling hooks!), and seamless transitions between areas, exploration should be more exciting than ever. The return to Monster Hunter‘s handheld roots also means the return of local four-player co-op, and of course, there’ll be some new monsters to hunt.

Coming to Nintendo Switch on March 26.

NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…

The original NieR passed me by in 2010, but it’s something I’ve grown curious to check out, especially after NieR Automata quickly earned a spot among my favourite games of all time. Getting hold of a copy of NieR is tricky, though, thanks to its limited print run and lack of a digital release, so a remaster in the form of NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… feels like it’s been a long time coming. This is the game that really put Yoko Taro on the map as the game industry’s “mad genius” with its transgressive approach to the very nature of videogames and its philosophical storytelling, and it’s finally getting another shot at the spotlight it deserves.

Coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on April 23.

Persona 5 Strikers

The Warriors franchise is a perfect vessel for any sort of licensed game. The core 1-versus-1000 formula is so intrinsically satisfying and lends itself so easily to new characters and worlds, with plenty of scope for creative reinterpretation of the original material. Persona 5 Strikers is what happens when you take the action of Warriors and mix it up with Persona 5‘s characters, dungeon exploration, and sheer sense of style, and that sounds like a great time.

Coming to PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC on February 23.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time Remake

There’s nothing else quite like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, with its unique approach to an action-adventure game, clever puzzles, stunning setting, and surprisingly nuanced storytelling. But good and influential as it is, it’s still an action game from 2003 that’s showing its age. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time Remake is an attempt to breath some new life into a genuine classic, with the promise of staying true to the original while also polishing up what needs to be polishing up. That’s a hard balance to get right, but this remake looks like it’s got the goods—and if it sticks the landing, it’ll be a great way to return to a series that’s been dormant for far too long.

Coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on April 21.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Ratchet & Clank feels like the zenith of the buddy-mascot 3D platformers, with its expansive, playful levels, wealth of outrageous weapons and gadgets, and plenty of humour. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart brings all that to a new generation with a PlayStation 5 exclusive, with the console’s power lending itself to some reality-bending tools that look like a whole lot of fun to play with. Rift Apart looks like everything that makes Ratchet & Clank great, made bigger and better, with some neat new ideas thrown into the mix.

Coming to PlayStation 5 in 2021.

Returnal

Housemarque are masters of their craft, as proven time and again with games like Resogun, Nex Machina, and Matterfall. But with Returnal, a studio known for its arcade-style shoot-’em-ups is turning to a psychological horror third-person shooter, and that’s a very exciting prospect. Creative twists on familiar game mechanics and plenty of style are Housemarque’s forte, and this will be a chance for them to flex those muscles more than ever before.

Coming to PlayStation 5 on March 19.

Rune Factory 5

Rune Factory‘s blend of farming life sim and action RPG is a recipe for pure gaming joy ever since the first game launched as a fantasy Harvest Moon spin-off, but it’s been a long time since Rune Factory 4 launched in 2012. Though Rune Factory 4 Special did a great job of bringing the series back from hiatus last year, a brand new game feels like it’s been a long time coming. Rune Factory 5 is that game, and it’s looking better than ever with its sprawling 3D world, revamped combat system, the groundwork for an exciting story, and a colourful cast of townsfolk to get to know and fall in love with.

Coming to Nintendo Switch in 2021.

Scarlet Nexus

Scarlet Nexus is a game that’s overflowing with style. A new action RPG from Bandai Namco, its “brainpunk” setting depicts a future where extrasensory powers are commonplace and strong psychics fight to protect humanity from alien invaders. With a combat system built around telekinesis, monstrous alien designs, and plenty of visual flair, Scarlet Nexus looks like it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

Coming to PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC in 2021.

Shin Megami Tensei V

There’s nothing quite like Shin Megami Tensei‘s blend of apocalyptic world-building, dark, philosophical stories, outlandish enemy designs, and complex, often unforgiving RPG systems. Shin Megami Tensei V is the first new game in the series in a while, and though it remains shrouded in mystery, teaser trailers hint at a game that stays true to the series’ roots and comments from director Kazuyuki Yamai suggest a thoughtful exploration of the current state of the world.

Coming to Nintendo Switch in 2021.

SkateBIRD

“What if Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater but you’re a cute little bird on a fingerboard?” That’s the idea behind SkateBIRD, and it looks utterly delightful. It’s all score-chasing and wild tricks of a skateboarding game, but with the cuteness and silly antics of fluffy little birds, in little bird-sized skate parks made of cardboard, bendy straws, and whatever other everyday objects are lying around. It’s full of little birds, big tricks, and plenty of heart – “Above all, skate birds try their best!”

Coming to PC in 2021.

Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town

Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town looks like it’ll shake up the farming life sim that its predecessors invented in a big way. Rather than simply inheriting an overgrown farm and bringing it back to life, you’re building one from scratch in an untamed wilderness—chopping trees to make space for fields, taming wild animals, and collecting new plants, and with that comes more freedom to customise your farm than ever. But it’s still got all the small-town life-sim charm that Story of Seasons is known for, with festivals to take part in and plenty of cute townsfolk to get to know. 

Coming to Nintendo Switch on March 25 (NA) / March 26 (EU/AU/NZ)

Stray

Honestly, “you play as a cat” is a convincing sell for any game, and that’s where much of the appeal in Stray lies. But you’re not just any cat—you’re a cat with a backpack, in a neon-lit city where robots seem to have replaced humans entirely, on a journey to find your way home. Stray has the makings of a unique spin on a familiar genre with its feline approach to action, exploration, and stealth (“Be nimble, silly, and sometimes as annoying as possible”!) as you unfold what looks to be a playful yet poignant story.

Coming to PlayStation 5 and PC in 2021.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury

Nintendo continues its apparent quest to bring every Wii U game to Switch with Super Mario 3D World, one of the Wii U’s best games and a real highlight of the Super Mario series as a whole. The original combined the best parts of 3D Mario‘s exploration-driven games with classic 2D-esque platforming, and now it’s getting remastered and expanded for a Switch release. Like so many Wii U games, Super Mario 3D World deserved more success than that console’s limited install base allowed, and it’ll finally get that chance.

Coming to Nintendo Switch on February 12

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox looks like quite the departure for Ys, at least in terms of world design—the latest in a series most acquainted with sprawling forests and natural landscapes takes place almost entirely within the high walls and gothic architecture of the “Prison City” Balduq. But this opens up some fascinating new opportunities for exploration, and it’s something Ys IX seems to be leaning heavily towards with a wide variety of tools to help you navigate this concrete jungle. Add the trademark Ys action combat and killer soundtrack to the mix, and this should be an exciting new addition to beloved series.

Coming to PlayStation 4 on February 2 (NA) / February 5 (EU) / February 12 (AU/NZ) and to Nintendo Switch and PC in 2021.

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About Author

Matthew is a writer based in Wellington. He loves all things pop culture, and is fascinated by its place in history and the wider social context.