Only a month into the year, we’ve had plenty of games get unexpected delays and the next-generation consoles are expected to be tough to find for many more months. And that’s only in the gaming space, as several other newsworthy moments have happened outside of interactive entertainment. But, while it might just be the optimist in me, I still think 2021 is set to be a year full of new beginnings that, in comparison to last year, should kick of a much brighter future. But here, I wanna focus on the gaming side of that future, because despite delays and console scarcity, there is still a lot to look forward to. And the next five games are probably the ones I’m most looking forward to this year.

5) 12 Minutes

I tend to stick with more action-oriented titles, but every now and then, something outside of that comfort zone captivates me. I talk all the time about strictly narrative experiences like Life is Strange and The Walking Dead and how they are some of my favorite games of all time. Well, 12 Minutes looks like it’s going to scratch the same itch for me, but in a different way. The core concept of the narrative is what has me interested. The game takes place in a 12-minute loop in which the player character and their partner are interrupted by a knock on the door. The resulting altercation ends up with your pregnant wife being murdered, but you find yourself at the start of the time loop once again, with you being the only one with knowledge of the last loop.

As you might know thanks to my love of Life is Strange and Singularity, I am really into time manipulation stories. Time travel leads to both compelling wish fulfillment and some mind-bending concepts that consistently blow my mind. Considering that 12 Minutes is supported to be 6-8 hours long, I’m very excited to see how they fill all that time without the 12-minute loop becoming too repetitive. And the fact the cast has Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe, and James McAvoy makes me confident that, no matter where the plot goes, the performances will be strong enough to support it. I know the game received a delay late last year, but I’m hopeful this one makes the cut for 2021 because it has the potential to be outstanding.

4) Deathloop

Arkane Studios is a developer whose reputation precedes them. I’ve only played the first few hours of Dishonored, but I’ve heard everyone else sing the praises of both Dishonored 2 and Prey‘s reboot. I haven’t gotten around to either since other games caught my attention first and faster. But it’s almost time that I finally discover the secret sauce of this developer because Deathloop looks so inspired that I can’t help by be charmed by it aesthetically. But it’s more than the 70s style flair that attracted me or the dual black player characters, but it’s the gameplay that seems to finally have me itching to pick up the sticks.

While I had fun with my first few hours of Dishonored, I can recognize that the game pushed me more towards stealth gameplay. I’ve seen others take the combat of the game to fast-paced heights, but I’m not that good at the game. Even Prey, with its expanded toolset and ballistic weapon focus, is still a more slow-paced game compared to other action games I enjoy. Well, Deathloop seems to finally bring the pace of combat to my level. It combines the gunplay of Prey with the powerset of Dishonored to make a game that seems way more fast-paced without losing the systemic structure. I’m very excited to see if this once clicks with me because it has every reason to do so.

3) Biomutant

Despite the company still having egg on their face from a past scandal they have yet to fully address, THQ Nordic is one of the more excited publishers right now. Darksiders, Saints Row, Metro, and other franchises they own have given me loads of joy throughout the years despite these titles being mid-tier titles. But they aren’t resting on their classic franchises this year, because Biomutant, an original IP from Experiment 101, is set to finally release this year, 4 years after its reveal in 2017. But despite all that time away from the spotlight, the game has rarely left my mind in that time because it looks and sounds like a potentially revolutionary title.

It’s an open-world title in which you play as a customized character who can side with different factions to decide the fate of the land. Each of these factions has different priorities and leads you to different choices in the main story, similar to those in Mass Effect. Combat borrows heavily from games like Devil May Cry, and you can learn different fighting styles and wield different ballistic weapons throughout the game. And the world itself has a lot more than just these factions and the allies/enemies within, as there are many vehicles to pilot, rare items to collect, quests to complete, and secrets to discover, complete with a uniquely strange art style. And it’s all coming from a tiny team of 20 with no crunch and seemingly no hindrance to their creative vision. I can’t wait to see if it all comes together this May.

2) Ratchet and Clank: A Rift Apart

Ratchet and Clank has been one of the longest-running constants in my life. This isn’t just because the franchise has existed for nearly two decades, but morse due to it managing to be consistently engaging despite some middling spin-offs. I can’t think of a game in the franchise I didn’t enjoy at least a little. so I’ve stuck with the franchise during all these years.

I’ll soon be handsomely rewarded for that loyalty because A Rift Apart has the potential to be the best game in the franchise. Insomniac Games had taken an extended break from the series for an entire generation, with the sole exception of the PS4 remake of the original 2002 game. This has given them time to experiment with new ideas like Sunset Overdrive and Edge of Nowhere. But it has also given them time to rapidly increase in prestige thanks to the massive success of Marvel’s Spider-Man. And it’s that combination that leads me to expect big things from the 16th adventure for the dynamic duo.

This is the first time that a Ratchet game has been a launch title since the PS3. Many of us are expecting it to show off all of the bells and whistles of the PS5 much like Tools of Destruction did on PlayStation 3. Insomniac has already promised that Dualsense features and the speed of the SSD will be taken advantage of. I can only imagine how else they’ll break new technical ground. But what I’m most excited to see is how this game will bring that classic weapon leveling, collectible hunting, and platforming gameplay to both a much wider audience.

A Crack in Time is one of the best games ever made, and easily the best of the Ratchet games despite the fact few cared about it at release. Even the universal love of the PS4 reboot hasn’t lead to the series getting prestige on the level of Uncharted or God of War. But since all eyes are Insomnia after Spider-Man, and all eyes are on the PS5 as it’s the follow up the last generation’s most popular console, this could be the entire that puts the entire franchise back on top

1) Horizon: Forbidden West

Horizon: Zero Dawn is one of my favorite games of all time. It earns that title by being one of the most artistically striking games I’ve ever seen, having gameplay that made me felt helpless as often as it made me feel powerful, and by having an origin story that blew my mind with every revelation. I’m not sure if Guerilla Games can strike gold twice in a row with Forbidden West. But I have plenty of reason to believe they can. The new hardware has the potential to make the world of Horizon even more gorgeous, and hopefully with a much higher framerate. And while we don’t have much info on gameplay, I trust Guerilla to come up with new ways to interact with the world and its inhabitants.

The only thing that makes me hesitant about the sequel is what story it could potentially tell. The original game both fleshed out Aloy’s and the world’s backstory in a meaningful and satisfying way. It’s a hell of an undertaking for any game, but to pull it off with the first entry in the series is impressive. This leaves fans like me unsure of where they will take the plot next, and that uncertainty has me a bit excited.

I didn’t want a sequel to The Last of Us. I couldn’t imagine how it would top its near-perfect narrative. But the sequel not only justified its existence but still has me questioning if I enjoyed it more than the original. I know Guerrilla can’t tell that original story again. So, I’m betting that this new story is going to subvert my expectations. That’s great because I don’t yet have any. My mind becomes a blank slate when thinking of where to take the story next. The likelihood that I will enjoy anything that isn’t that blank slate is high. But I guess we’ll have to wait until it drops to see if that is truly the case.

And that’s everything! I’m hoping all of these make 2021, as I know many titles have been pushed back at this point. Even if only some of these make the cut, I still think 2021 will be a pretty great year for, at least, video games.

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