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Best games of 2021 hitman 3 art

15 Best Video Games of 2021

The looming threat of COVID-19 did little to stop quality video games from arriving in both digital and physical marketplaces. Sure, there have been a few delays, but still no shortage of new content to keep us engaged throughout the year. From award-winning AAA titles to innovative indie gems, we’ve managed to narrow the list down to the top 15. We’re sure you’ve played some already, but you could uncover some surprises to invest in over the holidays and well into 2022.

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How We Pick the Best Video Games

Check out our criteria for selecting the best video games below:

Audience/Critic Views: Each of the chosen titles received a Metacritic rating of at least 75%, with the majority landing in the 80s, ensuring both an audience and critical appreciation of the 15 games below.

Original Releases: This year was big on re-releases, with some of the best including Mass Effect Legendary Edition, Alan Wake Remastered, Super Mario 3D World and Skyward Sword. To keep things fair, we’ve excluded re-releases from our list of best video games for 2021. Otherwise, The Legend of Zelda could win every year Nintendo decides to do a remaster.

The Game Awards 2021: The Games Awards recognises and upholds the creative and technical excellence of the global video game industry. The winners for 2021 were recently announced, and this recognition played a part in our selection criteria.

Overall Execution: The Man of Many team played and reviewed lots of games in 2021, so the selection was also based on our own experiences.

In no particular order, here are our 15 best video games of 2021:

1. Hitman 3

Hitman 3 tops the list of best games of 2021 simply because it was the first of the best to release. Launching back in January, Agent 47’s World of Assassination trilogy came to a close in a way that could be described as saving the best for last. Some of the strongest maps and most creative kills in the series’ 20-year history are on display, and the sheer quantity of content means we’re still playing it almost a year later.

Available on: PC, PS5, PS4, XSX/S, XB1, Switch
Metascore: 87%
The Game Awards: Best VR (nominee)
Developer: IO Interactive
Director: Mattias Engström
Genre: Action-adventure

2. Resident Evil Village

Drawing heavy inspiration from fan-favourite Resident Evil 4, the latest entry in this long-running franchise ups the action, taking the recently introduced first-person perspective to immersive new heights. Resident Evil Village may be more action than psychological horror, but it excels every step of the way, so we can’t fault it for diverging from the series’ roots. And the revival of Mercenaries mode helps sew this spine-tingler in as the best horror game of 2021.

Available on: PC, PS5, PS4, XSX/S, XB1
Metascore: 84%
The Game Awards: Best Performance (Winner), Game of the Year (nominee), Best Audio Design (nominee), Best Action/Adventure (nominee)
Developer: Capcom
Director: Morimasa Sato
Genre: Survival horror

3. Loop Hero

What Loop Hero lacks in cutting edge graphics is made up for with highly addictive gameplay. Blending roguelike mechanics, tile placement and automated movement, you wouldn’t believe how such a small game can steal so much of your time unless you’ve been on the receiving end. There’s no other game quite like Loop Hero. We need a mobile version, so there’s an excuse to never stop playing.

Available on: PC, Switch
Metascore: 82%
The Game Awards: Best Indie (nominee)
Developer: Four Quarters
Genre: Roguelike

4. Returnal

As the PlayStation 5’s first must-play exclusive, Returnal elevates the roguelike genre to AAA status, and the results are simply breathtaking. Fast, frantic and furious, this bullet hell shooter is one of the best looking games we’ve ever seen, and its time-loop story stacks up to the competition. However, it’s the gunplay that stands above and has us constantly pushing through for one more run. Combine these elements, and Returnal is one of the best games of 2021.

Available on: PS5
Metascore: 85%
The Game Awards: Best Action Game (Winner), Best Game Direction (nominee), Best Audio Design (nominee)
Developer: Capcom
Developer: Housemarque
Director: Harry Krueger
Genre: Shooter/Roguelike

5. The Forgotten City

The Forgotten City is an Australian made adventure game that hurls you 2,000 years into the past to a secluded Roman city where if one person sins, everyone dies. What began as a Skyrim mod evolved into a standalone title that’s arguably the best written and best-acted game of the year. It’s certainly not the longest or most action-packed on the list, but the twisting, turning, beautifully realised story will stay with you long after the end credits.

Available on: PC, PS5, PS4, XSX/S, XB1, Switch
Metascore: 85%
The Game Awards: Best Debut Indie (nominee)
Developer: Modern Storyteller
Director: Nick Pearce
Genre: Adventure/RPG

6. NBA 2K22

In our comprehensive review, we described NBA 2K22 as the best in franchise history. With next-gen graphics, unparalleled realism and well-balanced basketball, you’re looking at the culmination of 20-plus years of experience and refinement bundled into a memorable baller that we’ll be playing well up to the inevitable release of NBA 2K23.

Available on: PC, PS5, PS4, XSX/S, XB1, Switch
Metascore: 76%
Developer: Visual Concepts/2K Games
Director: Mike Wang
Genre: Sports

7. Death’s Door

Drawing inspiration from classic Zelda titles, Death’s Door merges action, exploration, dungeons and puzzles into a top-down adventure that’s equal parts charming and grim. There are very few new ideas brought to the table. Instead, Death’s Door walks familiar territory, mastering it along the way. The moody world must be explored and the memorable boss battles conquered for yourself.

Available on: PC, PS5, PS4, XSX/S, XB1, Switch
Metascore: 88%
The Game Awards: Best Indie (nominee)
Developer: Acid Nerve
Designers: Mark Foster, David Fenn
Genre: Action-adventure

8. Age of Empires 4

The king of the RTS genre returns in Age of Empires 4. The latest entry in this classic series acts as a homage to what came before and pairs the familiar gameplay with a compelling, lengthy campaign. You won’t find many new ideas, but if you grew up playing the franchise, it’s worth it for the nostalgia alone. Unfortunately, you won’t see this Age of Empires arrive in a box of Corn Flakes.

Available on: PC
Metascore: 81%
The Game Awards: Best Sim/Strategy (Winner)
Developer: Relic/World’s Edge
Director: Adam Isgreen/Quinn Duffy
Genre: Strategy

9. Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5 sets a new standard for open-world racers thanks to the power of the next-gen hardware and a development team hitting the peak of its craft. Not only is this the best-looking racing game to date, but its varied Mexican landscape is brimming with exciting things to see and do, and the enormous selection of real-world vehicles will please everyone from novices to the most discerning gearheads. Forza Horizon 5 is one of the best video games of 2021 and is escapism at its best.

Available on: PC, XSX/S, XB1
Metascore: 92%
The Game Awards: Best Sports/Racing (Winner), Best Audio Design (Winner), Innovation in Accessibility (Winner)
Developer: Capcom
Developer: Playground Games
Director: Mike Brown
Genre: Racing

10. Deathloop

In our review, we said there’s no other game quite like Deathloop. This time-looping shooter borrows familiar tropes from popular franchises and reinterprets them in a way that feels fresh and often unique. With its dazzling 60’s style and hilariously vocal protagonist, Deathloop is one of the best games of 2021, whether you’re playing solo or invading a friend’s game, making them regret not switching that function off.

Available on: PC, PS5
Metascore: 88%
The Game Awards: Best Game Direction (Winner), Best Art Direction (Winner), Game of the Year (nominee), Best Narrative (nominee), Best Score and Music (nominee), Best Audio Design (nominee), Best Action Game (nominee), Best Performance (nominee x 2)
Developer: Capcom
Developer: Arkane Studios
Directors: Dinga Bakaba/Sébastien Mitton
Genre: First-person shooter

11. Metroid Dread

Bounty hunter Samus Aran returns to her 2D roots for a heavy hit of nostalgia and classic action-exploration formula. This long-overdue sequel doesn’t push the franchise to new heights. Instead, developer MercurySteam gives longtime fans everything they want from the series – great platforming, exploration, puzzle-solving, gunplay and memorable boss battles. Metroid Dread is the epitome of the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Available on: Switch
Metascore: 88%
The Game Awards: Best Action/Adventure (Winner), Game of the Year (nominee)
Developer: MercurySteam/ Nintendo EPD
Directors: Jose Luis Márquez/Fumi Hayashi
Genre: Action-adventure

12. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Last year’s Avengers game was somewhat of a letdown, so expectations were low for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Thankfully, Deus Ex developers Eidos-Montreal applied their skills and appreciation of the source material to craft an experience that’s as funny, entertaining and action-packed as the films. Except, here they achieve this feat and maintain it for the total 15 hours of gameplay.

Available on: PC, PS5, PS4, XSX/S, XB1
Metascore: 84%
The Game Awards: Best Narrative (Winner), Best Score and Music (nominee), Innovation in Accessibility (nominee), Best Action/Adventure (nominee)
Developer: Eidos-Montréal
Directors: Jean-François Dugas/Patrick Fortier
Genre: Action-adventure

13. Inscryption

Inscryption is a blood-soaked card game/virtual escape room mashup that becomes something else entirely. We won’t spoil it for you, as discovery is much of what makes this indie gem so good! There are hints of other popular deck-building games, but hiding beneath the surface are different genres waiting to be found. Inscryption doesn’t conform to any rules other than its own, and it takes the cake for the most original video game of the year.

Available on: PC
Metascore: 85%
The Game Awards: Best Indie (nominee), Best Sim/Strategy (nominee)
Developer: Daniel Mullins Games
Directors: Daniel Mullins
Genre: Rogue-like/puzzle

14. Far Cry 6

A lot of reviews criticise Far Cry 6 for not breaking new ground. We’d say it doesn’t have to. Not when the core gameplay is so engaging, and the gorgeous nation of Yara is brimming with unique encounters and randomness that can’t be found anywhere else. It’s a familiar experience refined and elevated thanks to Giancarlo Esposito’s villainous Anton Castillo. Let’s face it. That guy makes everything better.

Available on:
PC, PS5, PS4, XSX/S, XB1
Metascore: 75%
The Game Awards: Innovation in Accessibility (nominee), Best Action Game (nominee), Best Performance (nominee)
Developer: Ubisoft
Directors: Omar Bouali/Alexandre Letendre
Genre: First-person shooter

15. Halo Infinite

Finally, Halo Infinite completes our list of 2021’s best games. Hero Master Chief returns for a fresh round of galaxy-saving Spartan action. The new open-world structure feels like a natural evolution for the series and provides more freedom to approach familiar scenarios. But it’s the free-to-play multiplayer experience that steals the show and ensures Halo remains one of the dominant forces in competitive shooters.

Available on: PC, XSX/S, XB1,
Metascore: 86%
Developer: 343 Industries
Directors: Joseph Staten
Genre: First-person shooter

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General FAQ

What are the best video games of 2021?

Some of the best games of 2021 include shooter Deathloop, Returnal, Metroid Dread, Hitman 3, NBA 2K22, Halo Infinite, Loop Hero and Forza Horizon 5, to name a few of the highest-rated.

Who won at the Game Awards 2021?

Of the 30 Game Awards categories, Deathloop earned Best Game Direction, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy took Best Narrative, Kena: Bridge of Spirits took Best Indie and the overall Game of the Year award went to co-op adventure game It Takes Two.

What games are coming out in 2022?

2022 is set to be a huge year. Some of our most anticipated games include God of War Ragnarok, Starfield, Gotham Knights, Pokémon Legends, Dying Light 2, Arc Raiders and Breath of the Wild 2. Of course, there are many more on our radar.

FREELANCER

Michael Vane

Michael Vane is an experienced journalist, copywriter and content creator who has produced fun and informative content for Man of Many since 2016. Specialising in gaming, technology and entertainment reporting, Michael is extremely adept at navigating new technologies and providing reviews on the latest releases. He possesses a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Media Studies from Griffith University, and his work has been featured in publications such as Game Informer, Pilot, Wine Selectors and PowerUp!, to name a few.