Looking back, the Xbox Series X|S launch was a strange one. With Halo Infinite delayed at the last second, the consoles didn’t really have any compelling system-selling software that players couldn’t find elsewhere. The Xbox Series X in particular is a powerhouse that can stand toe-to-toe with gaming PCs, but fans are still waiting for a good reason to push it to its limits.
Luckily, 2021 should give players plenty of opportunities to play their Series X|S. It’s shaping up to be a particularly strong year thanks to third-party games like Hitman 3 and Resident Evil Village. While Microsoft has less exclusives on the horizon than Sony does for the PlayStation 5, there’s still a few exciting upcoming titles that should take advantage of the system. Of course, that includes Halo Infinite, which is now slated for a fall 2021 release.
We’ve rounded up our most anticipated Xbox Series X|S games of 2021 below to give players a taste of what’s realistically in the pipelinefor next year. Several of these games still don’t have a firm release date, but are expected to release sometime in 2021, so keep that in mind.
For those who haven’t played them, Io Interactive’s previous two Hitman games are both hidden gems from last generation. The stealth titles are essentially elaborate puzzle games where players need to find clever ways to assassinate enemies. Hitman 3 takes that to new extremes with more locations and wackier scenarios, like a Knives Out-style whodunit mission. The game’s developer, IO Interactive, is about to have a major breakout moment as it’s working on the next 007 game, so Hitman 3 seems like a perfect way to get familiarized with the studio.
Microsoft doesn’t have too many exclusives lined up for the Xbox Series X in 2021, but The Medium is the first big one that’s dropping (it was supposed to launch in 2020, but was moved — likely to avoid competition with Cyberpunk 2077). The survival horror game looks positively creepy. Players control a medium who can access the world of the living and the dead, leading to a split-game experience that’s sure to push the limits of the Series X. The game is developed by Bloober Team, who are seasoned horror veterans at this point, so this has the potential to be an early hit as the year kicks off.
Next year will be busy for Ubisoft. The studio plans to release Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game — Complete Edition, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake, Far Cry 6, Tom Clanc’ys Rainbow Six Quarantine, and many more titles in 2021. One of the more interesting games on its slate, however, is a new IP: Riders Republic. It’s an extreme sports game with a heavy social component and an emphasis on customization. It’s looking colorful, wacky, and just plain different. It’s hard to know how the final product will come out, but it feels like it could be a throwback to early 2000s action sports games, which is a welcome nostalgia trip.
Developer Hazelight is known for its commitment to co-op multiplayer games like A Way Out, and its latest game is another step in that direction. It Takes Two looks way more bombastic than anything we’ve seen from the developer so far, with bright colors and wildly inventive gameplay. It looks like a big fantasy cartoon meant for two players. Those who buy a copy will get an extra code that they can pass to a friend so you can enjoy the game the way it’s meant to be played.
If nothing else, Nier Repicant ver. 1.22474487139 certainly has the most memorable title of the year (though hardest to remember, too). The game is a remake of the PlayStation 3 game Nier, which later spawned a hit sequel, Nier: Automata. Considering how absolutely adored Nier: Automata is by fans, the idea of modernizing the original Nier game in the same engine that made that game work is exciting. The sequel is sure to bring more of Yoko Taro’s signature weirdness to the table, which is always welcome.
It’s crazy to think that Halo Infinite was originally supposed to be out already. The game was slated as an Xbox Series X launch title before getting indefinitely delayed. The team at 343 Studios recently provided an update, confirming that the game is now planned for a fall 2021 release. Luckily, it looks like it could be worth the wait. Halo Infinite appears to be taking a much bigger approach to the franchise, with expanded combat options and a more open world. The fact that it’ll be available as part of Xbox Game Pass only sweetens the deals.
There are a lot of reasons to be excited for Gotham Knights, the new Batman game by WB Interactive. While Arkham series developer Rocksteady is off working on a Suicide Squad game, Gotham Knights is building on that series’ fluid combat and adding multiplayer to boot. Most excitingly, the plot revolves around the wider Bat Family and the villainous Court of Owls, who are standout baddies in the Batman comics. All of those ingredients seem like the perfect mix for another exciting trip to Arkham City.
It has been 15 years since the first Psychonauts game released. The 2005 platformer is one of developer Double Fine’s most beloved games, which is no small feat considering its track record. While Psychonauts 2 has felt like vaporware at times, it actually seems to be on the verge of coming out. Recent trailers have given players their deepest glimpse into the game yet — and it looks nothing short of delightful. It’s always hard to live up to the hype with any game as legendary as Psychonauts, but the sequel really looks like it could pull it off.
Capcom has been on a roll when it comes to the Resident Evil franchise. Resident Evil 7 successfully brought the survival horror series back to its roots, while a pair of excellent remakes gave two classics the modern spins they desperately needed. In 2021, the rebooted series takes its biggest leap forward with Resident Evil Village. The latest installment looks more in line with Resident Evil 4, as it revolves around a smaller village filled with zombies. The trailers shown so far almost give off an air of mysticism, so it’s possible that this could be a bit of a turning point for the series as it delves deeper into weirdness.
When it comes to the Far cry series, consistency is king. Ubisoft’s long-running first-person shooter franchise delivers reliable action time and time again. The latest installment, Far Cry 6, has the potential to kick the quality up even further. The game is set in a fictionalized location loosely based on Cuba, and it looks particularly cinematic. That’s largely thanks to an appearance from Giancarlo Esposito, who plays the game’s fascist dictator. While we don’t know too much about the gameplay itself yet, the initial reveal trailer teases a tense story about guerilla soldiers fighting back against a ruthless dictatorship.
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