Control is Remedy at the height of its abilities. Finally, the studio's expert handling of tone and story is met with gameplay that's just as engaging and refined. As an experiment in nonlinear world design, Control doesn't just stick with tried-and-true waypoints and forests. Its Oldest House is a brutalist masterpiece, and the characters inhabiting it are just as unforgettable. All told, it's going to be one of the most memorable games of the year.
Carrion doesn't just flip the horror script—it's the ultimate power fantasy, packed into a tight, uncompromising space. It might utilize some video game tropes, but it doesn't seem too concerned with accepted video game values. It's a 2D side-scroller without platforming, an action game where you dictate the action. The Doom Slayer might talk a big game about ripping and tearing, but Carrion's meatball monster puts its money where its many mouths are.
Hitman 3 is a fantastic capstone to a standout series. Yes, a lot of what you experience will seem familiar if you've played the last two games, but IO Interactive continues to take interesting risks that largely play off while still perfecting the elements that make Hitman so special. The best compliment I can pay Hitman 3 is that I want to finish writing this review so I can go back to playing it.
New Pokémon Snap might be one of the most thoroughly pleasant games that's come out for the Switch, if not ever. While the core gameplay is the same as it was in 1999, everything about the 2021 game is better. The environments are visual delights, the Pokémon are lovingly recreated, and the progression and pacing are just right. If the hobby of gaming has started to feel like a second or third job, then New Pokémon Snap might just be the vacation you need.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the first game I've played since the ninth-generation consoles launched that feels like a true next-gen title. Insomniac Games has done everything that it needed to do in making both a sequel to its longest-running franchise and a true next-gen exclusive. While it might not technically be a PlayStation 5 launch title, it feels like one-a real preview of the console's capabilities. But beyond that, Rift Apart is just an absolute blast to play.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD improves on the original in every conceivable way. The visual and performance upgrades make it feel like a new game, and the motion controls feel much more responsive, thanks to the Switch's Joy-Cons. But the new button controls are the biggest improvement; instead of fighting against the motion controls, players can now savor the satisfying combat and genius level design. What was once the outcast of the 3D Zelda games now stands tall as one of the best in the series.
Players coming in fresh to Neo: The World Ends with You might have a 14-year history to contend with, but that won't stop them from falling in love with Shibuya. Whether it's the complex and likable characters, the wickedly twisting storyline, or the frenetic yet strategic combat system, the long-awaited sequel has a lot to offer fans of action RPGs and the cult-classic series alike. Whether it was worth the wait depends on how long you've been waiting, but newcomers shouldn't shy away from this fantastic game.
Hell Let Loose is one of the most unique and fulfilling first-person shooter experiences that a console player can have. Its deep strategy metagame and intricate mechanics can be intimidating to new players, but if you stick with it and give it the time it needs, Hell Let Loose will reward you with emergent and unforgettable moments.
Battlefield 2042 brings the sandbox back to the series in bold and controversial ways. The new Specialist system might seem like sacrilege at first, but it opens up gameplay opportunities that weren't possible in previous titles. The massive, well-designed maps offer plenty of room for experimentation and emergent stories, and the modes are a blast. And that's just All-Out Warfare. Between that, Hazard Zone, and the expansive Battlefield Portal, Battlefield 2042 has something for everyone, without feeling like it's stretched too thin. It's a true evolution of the series, one that pushes back against a stagnation that threatened the series' future. It won't be for everyone, but for players who crave imagination and fun from their Battlefields, it will give them everything that they crave and more.
Sure, this might be the third time that Naughty Dog has released The Last of Us, but it's also the most fully realized version. The enhanced visuals and animation bring Joel and Ellie's story to life in a way that was previously unimaginable, and the gameplay still holds up, despite not totally catching up to Part II. Whether or not you want to pay to play the same story for a third time is up to you, but that won't change the fact that it's better than it's ever been.
Shovel Knight Dig isn't just a cash-in on the series' popularity. It's a game that stands on its own merits as a worthy prequel to the original. The titular hero's moveset translates perfectly to a more vertical orientation, and Nitrome's bite-sized level design makes full use of Yacht Club's well-established gameplay style. The 16-bit-style visuals and music are an absolute treat, especially for fans of the series, and the roguelike elements present a nice sense of progression and replayability. Shovel Knight Dig might not be the exact sequel that fans have been clamoring for, but it's the next best thing.
Pentiment is a true achievement of marrying story, style, and theme into a magical and cohesive whole. In lieu of 3D graphics that try too hard and still fail to represent an authentic-feeling world, Obsidian's artists opted for a more illustrative aesthetic to tell their gripping story of a murder in an abbey, a choice that resonates throughout the entire game. While it might not satisfy every player, especially those expecting a more traditional RPG or adventure experience, those who can immerse themselves in Pentiment's vision of 16th century Bavaria will find one of the best games of the year.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze makes another strong case for the argument that Nintendo needs to port every single one of its Wii U games to the Switch. DK's latest adventure is one of the most clever, joyful platforming experiences I've had in a while, and it adds just enough newness to the series to keep the formula engaging without going overboard. There might not be enough (or anything) to convince Wii U owners to play it again, but long-lost Nintendo fans who came back for the Switch have another must-play game to add to their growing libraries.
The formula that has kept Rocket League fresh translates exceedingly well to Nintendo's hybrid system, whether docked or portable. Less polished visuals are a small price to pay to be able to play Rocket League anytime, anywhere, at a performance level that never quits, though the notable jaggies and (through no fault of its own) a hindered party system mean that the Switch version isn't the most competitive version of the game.
Monster Hunter: World has found a way to lower its barrier of entry for newcomers while still delivering an immersive experience that long-time fans of the series crave. The combat has a bit of a learning curve, and multiplayer could use a few tweaks, but no matter your experience level with the series, this will be time well spent for all hunters ready to pick up a sword, bowgun, or gunlance.
Laser League's simple concept belies a ton of hidden depth in its character classes and map-specific strategies—It's the definition of easy to learn and hard to master, without requiring mechanical godliness to succeed. While its core mode is somewhat lacking in variety and its basic gameplay might get too repetitive for some players, it already feels like a concept that's been around much longer than it has, and manages the tall order of balancing for casual and competitive gamers alike.
The Missing's clever innovations on the platforming genre are more than just gimmicks. They underline the game's deeply emotional core and create a uniquely affecting experience. Like any Swery game, you might run into some technical difficulties, but those are easy to overlook when the experience as a whole is so fully realized. The Missing is like a dream in every sense, but it's one that you won't forget after you wake up.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a must-have for Switch owners who skipped the Wii U. Packaged with two complete games and a plethora of challenges to complete, the Deluxe version will give you plenty of bang for your buck. Even if you already owned the game, it's worth trying on the Switch, if only to have a mobile, 2D Mario game at the ready. It might not be as difficult as past Mario games, but it's never not fun.
My Friend Pedro is an enthusiastic, stylish take on the shoot 'em up genre that's elevated by its complex level designs and clever puzzles. It combines so many mechanics from so many games that you might lose track, but these elements all come together to create a unified, singular experience. If you ever wondered what you'd get by crossing Hard Boiled and Super Mario Bros., it would look a lot like My Friend Pedro.
Pit People offers a ton of game to chew on, and while it might not be the deepest tactical RPG, it manages to translate The Behemoth's distinctive style while providing an entertaining, often engaging strategic experience. It might not reach the insane heights of BattleBlock Theater's take on the 2D platformer, but Pit People almost does something even more impressive, by taking an often opaque genre and turning it into an enjoyable romp.