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The best games of 2021 (so far)

Best games of 2021 - Forza Horizon 5
(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Santa can skip reading all his mail this year and just read this best games of 2021 list to prepare for the holiday shopping season. With so many big titles released this year it's easy to lose track of what your collection is missing, but we're here to make sure you haven't missed any of the real gems, from comic book capers to incredible indies. 

The PS5 and Xbox Series X have pushed developers to set new standards for visuals and the  PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch are all holding their own with ever-increasing libraries of must-play games. 

 We use our own review scores to separate out the best games for every month of the year so far, and we update the list every month so you'll always know what you need to play next. Want to see what might make it on to the list next? Check all the new games of 2021 (and beyond) to get excited about. 

November Game of the Month - Forza Horizon 5

Best games of 2021 - Forza Horizon 5

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Platform(s): Xbox Series X and PC
GamesRadar+ review score: 5 Stars

Forza Horizon 5 is the racing game that could make even the most dedicated ecoterrorist want to guzzle gas. It's not just the impeccably detailed graphics, stellar audio design, and smooth controls that make it so addictive, it's the sheer variety of racing challenges, all delivered across the new Mexico map that's full of surprises. With Road Racing, Cross-Country, Dirt Racing, and Street Racing, and PR Stunts like Danger Signs, Speed Traps, Drifts Zones, and Trailblazer courses to conquer, you'll struggle to get bored for even a second in Playground Games' triumphant return. Rachel Weber 

November Game of the Month (Runner-up) - Solar Ash

Solar Ash

(Image credit: Heart Machine)

Platform(s): PS5, PS4 and PC
GamesRadar+ review score: 4.5 Stars

Solar Ash is the latest game from Hyper Light Drifter developer Heart Machine, and what a game. Skating through a dreamy neon world, this third-person platformer you'll glide and fight and rail grind, encountering Shadow of the Colossus giant monsters called Remnants along the way. Underneath all the buttery smooth mechanics is a thudding heart of a story. This is one indie you don't want to miss. Rachel Weber

October Game of the Month - Age of Empires 4

Best games of 2021 - Age of Empires 4

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Platform(s): PC
GamesRadar+ review score: 5 Stars

It's been 16 years since Age of Empires 3, but Age of Empires 4 was worth the wait. The strategy game builds on the best parts of the iconic series and uses all the opportunities afforded by more powerful PCs to make its battles and building a treat for casual commanders and history buffs alike.  There are now lush historical explainer videos to deep dive into weaponry and tactics which are fascinating - oh my god I'm turning into my father - and a soothing, almost ASMR-ish narrator to talk you through the events of the single-player campaign. New civilizations add new tiny toys to play with, and plenty of multiplayer and custom map options mean you've probably got another 16 years before you get bored. Rachel Weber 

October Game of the Month (Runner-up) - Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

Best games of 2021 - Marvels Guardians of the Galaxy

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Platform(s): PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, and PC (with DLSS and ray-tracing)
GamesRadar+ review score: 4 Stars

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is Eidos Montreal's take on the team made famous by the comics and movies and has made that story all its own. All your favorites, Groot, Rocket, Gamora, are still there, but with new and surprising backstories you've not seen before, giving everything an almost What If... alt-universe vibe. You play as Star-Lord, leading the team through combat and puzzles as you try to stop a chain of disasters you might just have been the cause of. Rachel Weber

September Game of the Month (Runner-up) - Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Best games of 2021 - Kena: Bridge of Spirits

(Image credit: Ember Lab)

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is eye candy with a side of bittersweet salad, an action-adventure that throws you into a world of cute little creatures called the rot, angry spirits, and giant monsters to battle. As Kena, you can use your special light pulse power to solve puzzles and banish spirits, while the rot can help with binding tricky enemies, clearing the world of its poisonous contamination, and lifting heavy objects. There are shades of Zelda and Pikmin in Ember Labs' first game, but where it really wins is on its beautiful world and Pixer-esque character design. Rachel Weber

September Game of the Month - Deathloop

The best games of 2021- Deathloop

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Platform(s): PS5, PC
GamesRadar+ review score: 4.5 Stars

Deathloop is so much more than just another shooter. It's a shooter with the Arkane immersive sim secret sauce and an addictive time loop mechanic that's as delightful as it is tricky to master. Playing as Colt in the single-player campaign, you're tasked with killing all the misfit "Visionaries" to stop the single-day time loop the island of Black Reef is trapped in. The catch is that if you fail to kill all of them in that 24 hour period, they'll resurrect the next morning and you'll have to start all over again. That means you'll need to do some investigation and come up with a way to make sure they'll be in one place at one time, and make sure you're equipped with all the special powers and weapons you'll need to make it happen. As with all Arkane games, the real joy is in experimenting until it feels like you're about to break the whole game, and it's impossible to think of anything else quite like Deathloop that you can play in 2021. Rachel Weber

August Game of the Month (Runner-up) - Twelve Minutes

The best games of 2021 - Twelve Minutes

(Image credit: Annapurna Interactive)

Platform(s): Xbox One, Xbox Series X and PC
GamesRadar+ review score: 4.5 Stars

Stock up on Omega-3 supplements, because time-loop domestic mystery Twelve Minutes is going to give your brain a workout. You play as guy who comes home from work, sits down to dinner with his wife, and ends up stuck in a 12 minute time loop after a cop busts into your apartment accusing your wife of murder. The time loop takes you back to the moment you walk into your apartment, and if you try to leave you restart the time loop, so the game becomes a race to find out what you can about what the hell is happening through trial and error. The lack of consequences means you can experiment without guilt, whether you drug your wife to go through her pockets for clues, try stabbing the cop, or choose the rudest dialogue options. It's smart and satisfying and despite a fumble at the end - where the way to finish the game is just bafflingly unclear - a very special indie experience. Rachel Weber

August Game of the Month - Psychonauts 2

Psychonauts 2

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
GamesRadar+ review score: 4.5 Stars

A sequel to the 2005 game, expectations could not have been higher for Psychonauts 2. Lucky the cerebral caper has met them all and then some, offering a blisteringly original adventure that whizzes you through violently varied landscapes as you take on the sinister Maligula. There's plenty for fans and first-timers alike as you use Raz's psionic abilities like Telekinesis, Psi-Blast, and Pyrokinesis to solve puzzles and fight enemies. Favorite characters make a return, Raz's family and history as a circus performer play a key role in the plot, and the humor that made the original so special has matured to leave you giggling even when things get tough. Rachel Weber  

July Game of the Month (Runner-up) - The Ascent

The Ascent

(Image credit: Neon Giant)

Platform(s): PC, Xbox Series X
GamesRadar+ review score: 2.5 Stars

Neon Giant's The Ascent is a visually ambitious twin-stick shooter that will give you plenty to look at, but the fun can sometimes get lost in the mayhem. It's part action RPG, part shooter, sort of a mash-up of Diablo's combat and loot and Cyberpunk 2077's aesthetics, but skips over letting you interact with the world with anything other than a hail of bullets. In its best moments, it can deliver the same adrenaline highs as a Housemarque creation, at its worst, the game's design around inventory and check-pointing will leave you raging at the screen. Rachel Weber

July Game of the Month - The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD

Skyward Sword Wii

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
GamesRadar+ review score: 4 Stars

The Nintendo Switch has given The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD a second chance at glory, with the 2011 Wii game getting remastered visuals and a new control system. Those changes allow the brilliant dungeon design and more experimental gameplay of Skyward Sword to shine, delivering 35 hours of Zelda goodness as Link explores the floating island of Skyloft. Whether you skipped the original ten years ago or are ready to replay it and wallow in some nostalgia, the game is a worthwhile addition to your Nintendo Switch library. Rachel Weber

June Game of the Month (Runner-up) - Scarlet Nexus

Best PC games - Scarlet Nexus

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S
GamesRadar+ review score: 3.5 Stars

The latest anime action game combines an excellent battle system with a compelling plot to deliver 20 hours of JRPG joy. Play as either Kasane or Yuito, members of the Other Suppression Force, tasked with protecting their world from various monstrous mutants. The combat is real-time, and your special telekinetic abilities mean that as well as just bashing enemies with standard attacks, you can chuck anything you can lift at them too. As well as the main story, Scarlet Nexus also packs in missions designed to bond you with side characters, with classic tasks like "go and find this pen that is bafflingly important to me." Overall though, there's plenty of fun to find in Bandai Namco's newest title. Rachel Weber

June Game of the Month - Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart

Ratchet and Clank Rift Apart walkthrough: Sargasso

(Image credit: Sony)

Platform(s): PS5
GamesRadar+ review score: 5 Stars

A game that makes the PS5 price tag (and stalking retail sites for elusive stock) feel absolutely justified, the latest Ratchet and Clank adventure kisses your eyeballs while punching you in the feels. Every hair on Ratchet's adorable ears looks super sharp, the combat is like a firework display of color and bullets, and the storytelling has leveled up to compete with Marvel's best movies. As you zip between planets and characters you're treated to a festival of different gameplay mechanics - from massive firefights to aerial acrobatics and tricky puzzles - making it basically impossible to get bored. Even if you've never been a lombax stan before, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is a must-buy for any PS5 owner. Rachel Weber

May Game of the Month (Runner-up) - Knockout City

Knockout City

(Image credit: Velan Studios)

Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
GamesRadar+ review score: 4.5 Stars

You might not expect the developers of AR toy game Mario Kart Live to put out an intense online dodgeball battle game as their sophomore effort, but we are so very glad they did. Knockout City is the freshest multiplayer competition we've played in a long time, where matches are won not by those who can click on heads the fastest but by those who know just the right moment to lob an arcing ball of vulcanized rubber. Knockout City feels like nothing else to play, and unlocking new items to customize your retro-futuristic brawler and their crew will keep you dipping and dodging for hours to come. Connor Sheridan 

May Game of the Month - Mass Effect Legendary Edition

Mass Effect Legendary Edition photo mode

(Image credit: EA)

Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox One
GamesRadar+ review score: 4.5 Stars

Mass Effect Legendary Edition brings the iconic trilogy back with a fresh coat of paint that shines like the Normandy's hull. Mass Effect 1's combat and vehicle mechanics get a complete overhaul, and its updated graphics are the most surprising glow up of the trilogy. The game looks and feels galaxies better than its original release, and when you get to Mass Effect 2 and 3, it's only up from that point. Mass Effect Legendary Edition includes every piece of DLC in the trilogy save for one that its devs lost the source code for, so you're also getting a ton of extra content at no extra cost. Yes, all three Mass Effect games plus all their DLC for just $60? That's a game of the month if I've ever seen one. Alyssa Mercante

April Game of the Month (Runner-up) - Outriders


(Image credit: Square Enix)

Platform(s): PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC
GamesRadar+ review score: 3.5 Stars

A co-op shooter from the team behind Bulletstorm, Outriders is brash, bold, and all about shooting and looting. What the game lacks in story it substitutes with in-your-face action and violent superpowers. The game's campaign takes you to the world of Enoch, a human colony on a distant planet, which is facing trouble from monstrous wildlife and mutants created by a massive storm called the Anomaly. This sci-fi gubbins results in four classes to cause havoc with - Trickster, Devastator, Technomancer, and Pyromancer - and lots of "go here and kill that" quests that you can play alone or with friends. 

April Game of the Month - MLB The Show 21

MLB The Show 21

(Image credit: Sony)

Platform(s): PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X
GamesRadar+ review score: 4 Stars

Sony's latest version of its baseball series is a solid upgrade for fans if not exactly revolutionary. MLB The Show 21's Visual upgrades for the PS5 version (this is a Sony game after all) are especially impressive, down to the expression on your pitcher's face, and lighting as the sun moves through the sky. All versions come with the new Stadium Creator feature which lets you build your own field of dreams, and then share it online. Rachel Weber

March Game of the Month (Runner-up) - Monster Hunter Rise

Monster Hunter Rise review

(Image credit: Capcom)

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
GamesRadar+ review score: 4 Stars

The arrival of Monster Hunter Rise on the Nintendo Switch just works. The game pulls off the delicate balance between keeping the epic scale of the adventure series and creating a more compact experience for players. It's also a great introduction to the Capcom classic thanks to its carefully crafted tutorials and improved accessibility. There's lots to enjoy and fiddle with for those who are thrilled by tools and menus, but there's also plenty to delight people who are just here to boop monsters on the nose. Rachel Weber

March Game of the Month - It Takes Two

It Takes Two

(Image credit: EA)

Platform(s): PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One
GamesRadar+ review score: 5 Stars

Hazelight has made the perfect co-op game with It Takes Two, a Pixar-esque adventure set around a quarreling couple. This isn't a quick time event about who didn't unload the dishwasher though, the mechanics use everything from cloning to turning into plants to anti-gravity boots to get you and your co-op buddy working together and enjoying it. Just when you think you've mastered something, there's a surprise around the corner. You won't find a better game to share with friends, family, or the other half of your quarreling couple.  Rachel Weber

February Game of the Month (Runner-up) - Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
GamesRadar+ review score: 4.5 Stars

If you're in any way a fan of the small Italian plumber, you owe it to yourself to play Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury. It packs together a Wii U title fans might have missed, with the added appeal of a brand new Mario adventure in the vein of Super Mario Odyssey. If nothing else, you really need to experience the Super Bell power-up, which turns you into a cat that can climb walls and scratch enemies. The different levels are total eye candy and brilliantly varied, and full of textbook Nintendo charm. There's local and online co-op too, which makes for some chaotic fun. Rachel Weber

February Game of the Month - Bravely Default 2

Bravely Default 2

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
GamesRadar+ review score: 5 Stars

Bravely Default 2 is the kind of classic JRPG that we dreamed of when the classics were still brand-new. It's taken everything we love about the genre and elevated it with innovative turn-based combat, engrossing character customization, and stunning art that sings on the Switch. It's a globetrotting tale of unlikely heroes and unfair circumstances, but the bright-eyed optimism of its save-the-world setup is balanced out by strikingly grim societies and deeply hateable – if sometimes hammy – villains. Because it's a standalone story with all-new characters, it's easy for new players to get into, and existing fans of the Bravely series will find more of what they loved plus welcome refinements. And there is so much to this game, including the most ambitious post-game twist and epilogue in the series. You could sink over 70 hours into this triumph without batting an eye – and you absolutely should. Austin Wood 

January Game of the Month (Runner-up) - The Medium

The Medium

(Image credit: Bloober Team)

Platform(s): PC and Xbox Series X
GamesRadar+ review score: 2.5 Stars

Sure, The Medium doesn't have a rave review, but it does have some interesting ideas and a bleak tone that feels absolutely fitting at the start of 2021. You play as Marianne, a woman who can travel into the spirit realm and hear the voices of the dead. Perhaps foolishly, she travels to the Polish wilderness and an abandoned resort (known for being the site of an infamous massacre, of course) on the promise of learning more about her powers. The game uses a sort of split-screen mechanic when Marianne is in the spirit world, and being able to move through it is essential to solving puzzles and finding new paths in the real one. Created by Blooder Team, who also made Layers of Fear, this is an ambitious curiosity that horror fans should check out. Rachel Weber

January Game of the Month - Hitman 3

Hitman 3 review

(Image credit: IO Interactive)

Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch
GamesRadar+ review score: 4.5 Stars

Hitman 3 is a delightful puzzle box of murder that takes  Agent 47 around the world, hanging off skyscrapers in Dubai, DJing at a Berlin club, and even playing detective in a Knives Out style murder mystery in Dartmoor. With a tightly plotted narrative arc built around delicious little episodes of death, it's slick, polished, and lets the player decide how their target will meet their end. Every level is an intricately designed diorama full of things for you to mess with - rat poison in the cakes, an unfortunate electrical accident, a really quite dangerous wine press - so even failure feels like a little adventure. It's the perfect swan song for our favorite brutal baldy, and even comes in a PSVR flavor. Rachel Weber 

Rachel Weber

Between Official PlayStation Magazine, and Rolling Stone I've picked up a wide range of experience, from how to handle the madness of E3 to making easy conversation with CEOs and executives of game companies over seafood buffets. At GamesRadar+ I'm proud of the impact I've had on the way we write news, and now - as managing editor in the US - the huge traffic successes we're seeing. Most of all I'm proud of my team, who have continued to kick ass through the uncertainty of 2020 and into 2021, and are what makes GamesRadar+ so special.