Don’t look now, but 2021 is already halfway over and that means we’re halfway through a year of video games, and what a year it’s been. With the effects of 2020 still being felt, we’ve seen many delays across the industry. This was expected, but as a result, it’s led to many of us feeling like this has been a slow year in video games. Delays will do that, but they have been a drop in the bucket compared to the numerous games that have come out in 2021 so far.
It’s the summertime, E3 just happened, everyone is taking it easy and not releasing anything major right now. Obviously, we’re still seeing games coming out, but most of the must-plays won’t be making their appearances until August at the earliest. This is usually the perfect time to tackle a huge RPG, or maybe go out and 100 percent an open-world game, but it’s also the perfect time to dig into that backlog and see what’s there or maybe catch up on a few games that came out earlier in the year and flew under the radar. It’s too hot to go outside so let’s stay in and dive into the year that has been 2021 in gaming, so far.
January is rarely ever a heavy-hitter month and 2021 was no different. That said, Cyber Shadow and Hitman 3 are both really great games to give a try over the summertime. In Hitman 3 it is possible to play maps from 1 and 2, creating lots of hours to sink into if the player wants. Cyber Shadow on its own is not a very long game, but the homage to the NES is incredibly challenging. That can be nostalgic for any longtime gamers that want to relive their youth via smashing their controller in the ground because they can’t get past that one part.
Persona 5 Strikers
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
Bravely Default 2
February saw games starting to pick back up for the year. Persona 5 Strikers is a spin-off of the incredibly popular Persona 5 and was highly anticipated after being out in Japan for a full year first. Bravely Default 2 is the third game in the franchise and is a must play for anyone that grew up playing some of the original Final Fantasy games. That’s the summer-long RPG for anyone that is looking for that kind of time kill. They can also put quite a bit of time into Persona if they wish.
For anyone that doesn’t want a time crunch, but does want something that feels nice and beachy, then the Bowser’s Fury expansion to Super Mario 3D World is a must. While 3D world is a port to the Switch, Bowser’s Fury is in every way a brand new Mario game. Yes, a new Mario game came out in 2021 and it’s pretty good! It’s not too long, but it can make for a fun weekend. It also has the perfect summer aesthetic with the beach-like water setting.
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town
March was the first month where it really did feel like there were fewer games to play. Typically there’s a lot of games released during this time period to try and get some money in the bank before the end of the financial quarter, but March was light in terms of major releases. That said, it featured some really strong indie titles and a beloved return to farm gameplay — the most intense gameplay some would argue. Story of Seasons is actually a Harvest Moon game so this is the latest for anyone that really loves those games. It may not look like much, but this is actually a pretty strong month! Loop Hero and Maquette are both challenging and will get your brain moving, then it’s time to relax with some farming.
New Pokemon Snap
This is when some of the heavy-hitters started to really come flying. Nier is a remake of the original Nier that came out in 2010 while Outriders is another take on the class-based action RPG genre. Both can eat up a lot of time for anyone that wants to commit to them, but for players that are looking for a more relaxing experience they can turn to New Pokemon Snap. The sequel nobody expected, New Pokemon Snap is a beloved follow up to the original Pokemon Snap on the Nintendo 64 and it’s one of those games that’s impossible to not smile during.
That said, not all of us are made of money so if you’re someone that has a Nintendo Switch online subscription, but can’t afford a brand new game, then Pac-Man 99 is the game for you. It’s a free-to-download Battle Royale and features some of the most fast-paced Pac-Man gameplay anyone will ever experience. Be careful though, some of those other Pac-Man players are ruthless.
Resident Evil Village
Mass Effect Legendary Edition
May was a strong month for video games in 2021. We saw the return of Resident Evil, a remake of arguably the best franchise from the 360/PS3 era of consoles, and a brand new multiplayer IP that is incredibly addicting. All of these games are worth the time, but for anyone that really wants to sink their summer hours away, it’s impossible to not recommend the Mass Effect series. These games are classics and beloved by fans everywhere for good reason. However, during breaks maybe give Knockout City a try. That game is great and deserves so much more love than it has gotten so far.
Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis
Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Game Builder Garage
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
Mario Golf: Super Rush
Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade
June is E3 month and that typically means few interesting games, aside from maybe an indie or two, get actual releases. Yet here we are with June as one of the busiest months of the year. There’s way too much to go into individually, but all of them are games that are worth at least trying. The biggest names on the list are definitely Ratchet and Clank, a PS5 exclusive, and Mario Golf. These were both major announcements and are considered console sellers. If you’re somehow caught up on your library of games already then dive deep into these for the next couple of months!
An honorable mention needs to go out to Chicory. The indie title has a chance to be a smash hit during Game of the Year considerations thanks to the incredibly unique way it handles overcoming an individual’s depression. Stacey Henley from The Gamer put it best, “Chicory Is The Closest I’ve Come To Seeing My Depression On The Screen.” Emotional experiences like that should be rewarded. For anyone that wants something a little more mindless and fun, Scarlet Nexus is an action RPG that just came out and the clips of it are incredibly over the top. It looks like a popcorn movie as a video game.
If June is anything to go by then 2021 is going to finish way stronger than it started for gaming. So anyone that’s behind in their backlog better get to work now, because by August/September it’s gonna be all hands on deck for major releases again. At least we have plenty to play until then.