12 video games you should have played during 2021

HONG KONG, CHINA - 2021/10/26: A pedestrian walks past a Japanese action-adventure game franchise created by Nintendo for its Nintendo Switch system, Metroid, commercial advertisement in Hong Kong. (Photo by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
HONG KONG, CHINA - 2021/10/26: A pedestrian walks past a Japanese action-adventure game franchise created by Nintendo for its Nintendo Switch system, Metroid, commercial advertisement in Hong Kong. (Photo by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

Every year, we’re treated to so many video games that it’s hard to play everything that catches our eye. 2021 was no different. And while the world opened up a bit more than 2020, we still had plenty of stretches where we hunkered down in our houses/apartments/condos and kept ourselves safe and entertained.

2020 gave us plenty of video games to pour hours into, and 2021 followed suit, offering so many different genres to sate our appetites and it took us far too long to narrow down this list. But here are our 12 video games you should have played in 2021, in alphabetical order.

Alan Wake Remastered

This game felt like coming home to a simpler time. The original Alan Wake was released on the Xbox 360 in 2010 and PC in 2012. The remaster is the first time it’s been available on PlayStation systems and includes improved visuals during gameplay, better-looking cutscenes, and a lack of product placement like the original.

If you want to play a video game version of a Stephen King novel, this is it. You play as novelist Alan Wake as he tries to get to the bottom of his wife’s disappearance during their vacation to Bright Falls, Washington. It’s more of a psychological thriller with a hint of jump scares than an actual horror game.

Plus the tie-in to Remedy’s other big game, Control, made us happy.

Axiom Verge 2

Axiom Verge 2 will sate your need for a Metroivania game, especially if you want more Vania than Metroid. A sequel to 2015’s Axiom Verge created by Thomas Happ, you play as a scientist searching for your lost daughter in a mysterious alien world with a few select easter eggs that harken back to its predecessor video game.

The worlds are gorgeous for the pixelated art style, each biome a distinct new area with its horrifying creatures to battle and puzzles to figure out. One of the improvements over the first game is the ability to fast travel, so don’t let the giant map overwhelm you too much. This is a wonderful world to explore with a great soundtrack to boot.


Bethesda’s Deathloop was critically acclaimed but fell short for many gamers. While it was certainly an overhyped game and may not have met players’ expectations, Deathloop is still a fun game.

You play as Colt, the head of security on Blackreef Island in the 1960s, reliving the same day over and over and being hunted by the mysterious Julianna Blake. To escape, you need to kill every single Visionary on the island and that involves trying to figure out where they are at what time of day so you can kill them all in the single-day loop you’re given. Because everything resets at midnight and you wake back up on that beach and do it all over again.

The musical score and music cues are excellent and the voice acting is top-notch; Jason E. Kelley and Ozioma Akagha deserve all of the awards for the life they breathe into Colt and Julianna.

Besides, if you want a good puzzle that hands you the answers, this is it.


If you are looking for the epitome of a comfort game, look no further than Chucklefish’s Eastward. It’s the perfect game to play on a snowy winter day, snuggled up under a blanket with the fireplace or space heater blasting. Think the graphics of Stardew Valley mixed with WOOL by Hugh Howey.

You play as John and his adopted daughter Sam as they make their way through a post-apocalyptic world. Seriously, if you loved Stardew Valley but wanted more story (or heck, if you want a lighthearted version of The Last of Us), look no further than Eastward. It’s minimal combat and maximum dialogue/cut scenes/storytelling that can almost be overwhelming at times.

It is such a richly built world with such lovely characters and intimately designed towns and cities that you’ll just want to keep playing.

Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite is the first new Halo game in six years and the seventh overall in the series. After being delayed from holiday 2020 to December 8, 2021, we all hoped it would be worth the wait. And it seems like it is.

Taking place after the events of the divisive Halo 5: Guardians, you play as Master Chief and are given an open world to play in, which departs from the normal Halo formula. Thankfully it’s not as overwhelming as many open-world games end up feeling. The arsenal of weapons, the number of tools, and the varying classes of enemies give this series a breath of fresh air.

The multiplayer has been live since November in “beta” and it’s completely free to play. Of course, you can also sink plenty of real-world dollars into it to make it more fun, too.

Hitman 3

The final installment in IO Interactive’s series, Hitman 3 offers more of what its first two predecessors give. So if you love the Hitman series or are looking for a solid stealth game, you’re right at home.

Play one last time as Agent 47 as you travel across the globe and carry out your assassinations. What Hitman 3 gets down to science are its six maps, which are all breathtakingly gorgeous and well-lit and it’s truly hard for us to pick a favorite.

Gamers who played the first two installments in the series also can import their levels and progress to this game, which is an awesome perk.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits

We felt like Kena: Bridge of Spirits flew under the radar this year, but then it won the best indie game (and best debut indie game!) at the 2021 Game Awards, and rightly so.

You play as Kena, a spirit guide in a dying world, as she helps guide lost spirits from this world into the next on her way to this mystery world’s mountain shrine. Most of this game looks like a Pixar film, which means you’re stopping fairly often to take in the visuals, from the moving grasses and trees in the breeze to the cutesy rots that follow you around. Whenever the inevitable remake of Ocarina of Time arrives, this is how we want it to look and feel.

While some of the gameplay leaves a bit to be desired (jumping feels lackluster and I found myself always double-jumping even in a small space), having this as a debut game makes us excited to see where Ember Labs heads next in development.

Metroid Dread

It’s been far too long since we had a new Metroid game, and finally getting Metroid Dread gives us such happiness. Twenty years is a long time to wait, but the wait was truly worth it.

Everything you love about a Metroid game is on full display here. The action is fast-paced and doesn’t slow down. Upgrades increase your movement speed and help you make quick work of enemies as you progress. Some puzzles along the way will keep you stumped for longer than you think. Boss battles range from easy to frustrating.

Being able to play both in handheld form and on a giant TV makes the experience that much better. There are enough innovations to the playstyle that make it feel fresh and new but still familiar enough that it feels like a return home at the same time.

Our only complaint is that it took two decades for us to get it.

Monster Hunter: Rise

Who doesn’t love a good Monster Hunter game? And Monster Hunter: Rise is the latest in the popular franchise and a Switch exclusive until it comes to PC next year.

Terrible cutscenes and story aside, Monster Hunter: Rise keeps things streamlined. The variety of monsters feels like it’s increased over prior installments, which makes quests right off the bat even more fun (and about a third of the game’s monsters are brand new, too).

But one of the best things about Rise is the addition of the Wirebugs tool. This tool gives you the ability to jump through the air, recover from big hits much faster, and scale any wall. You can even use them on special moves in combat and it makes the pace smoother, cutting down on downtime during a fight. It’s a subtle change, but it’s one we loved.

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart

If you are a Ratchet and Clank fan and didn’t play Rift Apart, you are missing out. A welcome return to the series, we also have the welcome addition of the alternate universe versions of Ratchet and Clank in Rivet and Kit, two characters who are incredibly fleshed out and have great backstories that make you wish they had their own separate game to themselves.

The slew of weapons at your disposal offers a few new selections and plenty of old classics and you can purchase and level them up at Ms. Zurkon’s. Building out the skills of each with the found raritanium never stops being fun. What park will you unlock next?

This game also showcased just how truly powerful the PlayStation 5 is. It’s breathtaking with barely any lag, and the seamless maneuvering between rifts is something you won’t stop marveling at throughout the entire game.

Resident Evil Village

If you’re more of a Resident Evil 4 fan over Resident Evil 7, then Resident Evil Village is the perfect game for you. It doesn’t break much out of its confines of being a RE game, it’s much more of a fast-paced action game than the slower thrills of more recent installments. In the mood for an action-driven horror game? Look no further.

What makes Village stand out from its predecessors is… well, the village itself. You get to explore every nook and cranny, every horrible horror that it holds. Enemies are aplenty and varied enough that combat and encounters will keep you on your toes, although we will say that some of the boss fights fall a little flat.

Still, this is a welcome return to playing as Ethan Winters, and the internet’s obsession with Lady Dimitrescu was certainly a sight to behold.


Returnal is not a game for the faint of heart. It’s very much a Soulsborne, just with lots of pretty balls of color being thrown at you almost constantly during combat. Much like Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, this shows just how much the PS5 can handle, graphics-wise.

You play as Selene, who has crash-landed on Atropos, an alien planet that seems oddly connected to you. You stumble upon old versions of yourself with audio logs filling in the story beats and even visit your home back on Earth with flashbacks/visions that are straight-up psychological thrillers.

You will die. And you will die a lot. Bosses will stump you. Certain enemies in each world will get under your skin long after you kill them. One of the most satisfying things about this game is how great the haptic feedback is on the PS5 controller. This is a solid shooter game with an arsenal of weapons and enhancements and shooting and reloads feel like butter.

light. Related Story. Our 5 favorite announcements from the 2021 Game Awards

What video games did you play in 2021 that we didn’t cover? Let us know in the comments!