2020 has come and gone, and with it a host of fantastic game of the year contenders like Final Fantasy 7 Remake, The Last of Us Part 2, and many more. While I enjoyed much of what 2020 had to offer, 2021 appears to be shaping up in its own right. Several of my favorite developers are poised to leave a lasting impression on the gaming world in 2021, and baring any unfortunate delays, it’s shaping up to be a big one! Join me for a moment as I take a quick look at just a few of the games that are on my radar as we move into the new year.
I played a ton of the original God of War games on the PS2 and PS3, but like most gamers, did so at the behest of the over-the-top violence and not the gripping story or characterization of lead man, Kratos. Well holy shit, did the 2018 “reboot” of the franchise change my outlook. By turning Kratos into more than just a rage and vengeance-fueled murder machine, Santa Monica Studio made me care about him as a character; more specifically, as a father. The story of God of War (2018) remains one of my favorite of the generation, and the mix of new and old combat styles was exactly what this franchise needed. God of War ended with a great teaser for what we all assumed would be the inevitable sequel, and if the PS5 showcase trailer is to be believed, we don’t have long to wait.
One of, if not my actual, favorite games of the PS4 generation is Horizon Zero Dawn. This game had everything I love about video games, including a fantastic lead character in Aloy. As a father of two little girls, seeing Aloy as a strong female lead gave me hope that my own children will be able to see themselves in the medium that I love so much once they’re older, although maybe without all the necessitated murder.
Outside of Aloy herself, the rest of the supporting cast, especially in the Frozen Wilds DLC, put together a fantastic story wrapped up in a world where hunting down a variety of robot dinosaurs takes center stage. The gameplay loop of tracking and taking out a herd of these gigantic robots never felt repetitive and I loved the variety in each encounter.
Horizon: Forbidden West looks to expand on the world building with new locations, including what appears to be a complete underwater area for Aloy to explore. Given that Zero Dawn was the first foray into this style of game design from Guerrila Games, I can’t wait to see what the studio can do now that they’ve had a chance to stretch their legs. To this end, Forbidden West remains my most anticipated game of this year (hopefully).
The Mass Effect Trilogy remains one of my favorite series in gaming history. Controversially, Mass Effect 1 is still my favorite in the series, despite some of its clunky mechanics. The story of Shepard versus Saren and the Geth may not be as bombastic as the suicide mission from Mass Effect 2, but the more direct RPG-like nature of the game is what sold me on the franchise. Watching the series slowly morph into a more fast-paced action game hurt my feelings quite a bit. This is the same way I feel about Bioware’s other impressive trilogy, Dragon Age, in which the first one has the best combat mechanics which was slowly whittled away in favor of more real-time action.
The remaster has been rumored for years, and to have EA finally breath life into the rumors gives me nothing but joy. I am well aware that these games will likely be modified, specifically the RPG features that I love so much about the first game, but the idea of getting to replay these incredible space operas in 4K with new textures, faster (non-existent) load times (bye-bye elevator rides), and whatever other improvements are being poured into this makes me giddy. In the years since release, I have only ever replayed the trilogy once, despite having owned them all on PC for as long as I can remember. This might be my most anticipated title, even amongst the other heavy hitters on this list.
I haven’t played *all* of the Ratchet and Clank games, but I’ve played most of them. These games are always a joy to play and the witty banter of the series has always been a high mark for me. Insomniac’s “re-imagining” of the first game was nothing short of a visual masterpiece and it was a game that kept a smile on my face the entire time. I’m not normally one for “collect-a-thon” games, but the tried and true nature of the series wacky weapons and fun combat kept me coming back for more and I wasn’t satisfied until I grabbed every single bolt, RYNO card and weapon upgrade. The announcement trailer and gameplay reveal for Rift Apart sold me nearly instantly, and out of everything we have seen running on the PS5, this looks like the most next-gen in development. Games like God of War, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and Horizon Forbidden West, may all end up on PS4, but this may be the first TRULY next-gen only title. If that holds true, it might be the game that pushes me into the next generation of PlayStation gaming.
I am not a fan of intentionally difficult games. Series like Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, or the current one-off of Bloodborne can all fuck right off. With the exception of rogue-likes, the idea of constant death being part of the gameplay loop is one that I just refuse to vibe with. That, and the idea that I usually play games to be immersed in the story, unless I’m playing a shooter like Paladins or an arcade game like Tetris. Yes, Tetris is an arcade game; I will fight you on this!
Along comes 2017 and with it, the introduction of Cuphead! Like virtually everyone else I know, the art direction of this game instantly grabbed my attention, and it was impossible to look away. After hearing about its difficulty, I began to worry that it would become another game in the growing list of games that I would pass on, based solely on my predisposition to hate the genre. I could not have been more wrong. After playing through an early level at my cousin’s house, I was hooked! Cuphead became an absolute obsession. I was mixed with frustrations as dozens and dozens of restarts, often at the final leg of stage, followed by unrivaled elation whenever I finally overcame said stage or boss fight. The highs associated with beating those bosses were as close to some of the most adrenaline-fueled shouts of joy I’ve ever experienced in gaming.
Studio MDHR promised us the Delicious Last Course DLC back in 2018 and has since been pushed back to 2021. I’ve been waiting for this one for years, and I really hope that the Moldenhauer brothers and team have taken the extra time to make the much anticipated release as special as possible. I know I have dozens, if not hundreds of 1940’s era cartoon deaths in my future, and I can’t wait to curse and scream at each and every one of them!
There you have it. Just a few of the games that I am sure will be making headlines over the next 12 months. I am sure more than a few will be pushed into 2022, but if that’s what they need to avoid any Cyberpunk 2077 levels of embarrassment, I’m all for it.
What about you? Leave a comment with some of your most anticipated games or tweet at me directly at @SGTBones_ and tell me what you think.