So… I probably should have written this post last month back when 2021 was all shiny and new, but better late than never, right? As always, exciting new games are released every year and my backlog can scarcely keep up. In most cases I’m a ‘patient’ gamer by necessity, which means my wishlist usually ends up getting lots of love! I was looking over it recently and wanted to highlight some upcoming and ogle-worthy games, so here are twenty-one of them for good measure. There’s something for everyone this year, so let’s dig in!
Ambition: A Minuet in Power (Joy Manufacturing Co., coming 2021 for PC)
After playing Banner of the Maid, I’ve become more interested in Revolutionary France as a setting. Ambition appears to capture a similar sense of fraught social politics as BotM but with simulation style gameplay, which tasks the player to seek favour with different allegiances and influence political events. In a divided city on the cusp of change, you’ll have to navigate a dangerous dance to get to the top – else, you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of history (and the guillotine!)
Bravely Default II (Claytechworks, coming February 26, 2021 for Switch)
Hands up if you saw the title and thought: ‘Wasn’t there already a Bravely sequel?’ Anyway, this is not Bravely Second, the direct follow-on from the excellent Bravely Default, but a standalone game set in a new world with another lot of heroes with a crystal problem. Expect a return of the tactical BRAVE/Default system and a bunch of yummy jobs to collect. Fans of Octopath Traveler’s combat should also keep an eye on this slightly campier spiritual sister series.
Cris Tales (Dreams Uncorporated, coming July 2021 for PC, Switch, PS4/5 & Xbox One/X/S)
I’m calling it now. Cris Tales will be the newcomer indie darling of this year. There’s been a lot of hype for this one and it’s easy to see why. The fairytale-esque visuals are a gorgeous treat of anime and western styles and, although it calls inspiration from various beloved JRPGs old and new, the core concept of experiencing and influencing the past, present, and future in tandem is a unique hook. The game has had teething troubles in development but I’m foreseeing a bright future for it.
Digimon Survive (Witchcraft, coming 2021 for PC, Switch, PS4 & Xbox One)
Digimon crossed with tactics gameplay? Count me in! I was a big fan of the bright and cheery Cybersleuth games but Digimon Survive’s more sedate tones are a welcome change and the animated opening movie channeling the style of recent Digimon movies hints toward a compelling mystery. After being delayed in 2020, fingers crossed we get an official release date this year.
Hazelnut Bastille (Aloft Studio, coming TBA for PC & Switch)
Aloft Studio describes Hazelnut Bastille as a ‘topdown, Zelda-like ARPG, presented in a rigorously-period 16 bit style.’ From its trailer and Kickstarter campaign it’s evident that they understand the charms of that period well. As much as the beefier Zeldas get the lion’s share of acclaim, I grew up with and have a very fond spot for old 16 bit handheld ones like Oracle of Seasons/Ages and Minish Cap (on that note, please can we get a Minish Cap remake?!). Hazelnut Bastille promises an authentic experience to tickle those nostalgic bones with intriguing puzzle-exploration gameplay, familiar and novel weapons and, of course, challenging bosses (hit them in the eye!). Another victim of delays, hopefully this adventure sets out sometime this year.
Hollow Knight: Silksong (Team Cherry, coming TBA for PC and Switch)
Silksong doesn’t have an official date, not even a provisional one for this year, but it’s too notable to omit. Hollow Knight shot up my list of favourite games ever, despite my general avoidance of ‘difficult’ games. Exploring the beautifully bleak Hallownest was magical but a personal highlight was facing the enigmatic and oh so deadly Hornet. So I’m delighted that Team Cherry is making your former foe the star of Silksong in a completely new kingdom to discover. An elegant huntress, Hornet is such a unique character and therefore sports a completely different playstyle than the diminutive Knight. I’m itching to see how the developers expand this universe. If there’s any game I’d day one purchase, this is it.
Kitaria Fables (Twin Hearts, coming 2021 for PC, Switch, Playstation & Xbox)
Farming/life sims are having their heyday at the moment. Since Stardew Valley’s roaring success, many indie developers have tried their hand at evoking the charms of slow-going sims (some more imaginatively than others). Kitaria Fables pokes out amongst the crowd simply because of, well, cats. Critters make the best friends and Kitaria is full of such cuties. Gameplay comprises the holy trinity of crafting, farming and dungeoneering and, with Kitaria Fable’s emphasis on the latter, it’s sowing some sweet Rune Factory vibes.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition (BioWare, coming May 14, 2021 for PC, PS4 & Xbox One)
Quite ridiculously, I’ve never played a Mass Effect game, although it ticks my checklist in so many ways: grand space opera, character-focused narrative, stacks of lore… More ridiculously, I actually own the PS3 versions and was recently contemplating sitting my distracted arse down to play something besides a JRPG. Then, the Legendary Edition was announced with those newfangled graphics and UI tweaks and doesn’t a series like this deserve to be played in its most definitive form? Is it double-dipping, if I haven’t played them yet? I’m on the fence whether to be sensible or spendthrift, but someway or another I will play this sci-fi saga.
Monster Hunter Rise (Capcom, coming March 26, 2021 for Switch)
I haven’t played a Monster Hunter game for a while but past pursuits have been thrilling so I’m keen to dive back into that addictive hunt-loot-upgrade cycle. Trailers for Rise are stunning, boasting the kind of sweat-inducing behemoths players expect from this franchise. I’m particularly interested in the new ‘wire-bug’ feature, which opens up opportunities to grapple around diverse locales and even mount and control monsters. How cool would soaring around on a Rathalos be? Bonus shout out to Monster Hunter Stories 2 (Summer 2021 for Switch) that offers a more traditional JRPG adventure.
NEO: The World Ends With You (Square Enix, coming Summer 2021 for Switch & PS4)
I’ve mentioned NEO:TWEWY in a GG post before but this game deserves another boost considering how the original TWEWY remains relatively (and unfairly) niche. Shibuya looks more stylish than ever. Of course, there are also intriguing characters to encounter and a new reaper game pitting the newly dead against each other to overcome. Pin-based battling has carried over, although the combat appears more streamlined and in a 3D arena style. The current trailer doesn’t let the cat out of the bag and that’s probably a good thing considering some of the memorable twists in TWEWY. At any rate, it’s been a long time coming so let the games begin!
NieR Replicant (Cavia, coming April 23, 2021 for PC, PS4 & Xbox One)
NieR is undoubtedly a cult classic, so it’s great that an updated version of Replicant, which was previously only available in Japan, is getting a global release. NieR is an interesting game that initially came in two versions, Replicant and Gestalt, the latter of which was released internationally. The key difference between them was the protagonist, Nier, and his relationship with Yonah, a gravely ill girl. In Replicant, Nier is Yonah’s brother. In Gestalt, he’s her father, leading to slight differences in relationship dynamics. After over a decade, it’ll be wonderful to play Automata’s prequel on modern systems and experience the mad post-apocalyptic world of Yoko Taro!
Persona 5 Strikers (Omega Force, coming February 23, 2021 for PC, Switch & PS4)
Musou hack n’ slash games are a bit like Marmite. I’m on the side of loving them but they’ve had their fair share of flack. Although recent crossovers like Fire Emblem Warriors and Hyrule Warriors have seen a more popular reception, I hadn’t considered Persona a good fit for the one vs. thousand mold – that is, until the trailer went all-out. Seeing Arsene swoop through and send mobs flying in a trail of red sparks is exactly the flashiness Persona embodies. Style without sacrificing substance, Strikers features an extensive story and new corrupt hearts for the Phantom Thieves to steal. Plus, Morgana can attack cat-bus style – enough said.
Pokémon Snap (Bandai Namco Studios, coming April 30, 2021 for Switch)
Pokémon Snap will be a real treat for sore eyes after a long year of quarantining. Upgrade your stay-homecation by exploring the beautiful and diverse region of Lental and observe Pokémon in their natural habitat to fill out your Photodex. As I’ve said in a previous GG, the original Pokémon Snap is a nostalgic game for me and I’m excited to play a new entry that ups the graphical power. Virtual safaris don’t come better than this.
Rune Factory 5 (Marvelous Inc., coming 2021 for Switch)
Rune Factory is my favourite of the four kings of farming sims (Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons/Stardew Valley/Rune Factory). For me, Rune Factory tips the scales with beefier RPG elements alongside the usual crafting/farming cycle. One of my favourite parts of RF4 were the incredibly extensive interactions with its lovable cast and RF5 seems to be more of the same with a visual upgrade – just what the amnesiac ordered! I’ve spent an ungodly amount of time with RF4 across two consoles and I fully expect to do the same with RF5.
She Dreams Elsewhere (Studio Zevere, coming 2021 for PC, Switch & Xbox One)
I’ve had my eye on this surreal RPG about a comatose woman navigating the nightmarish hellscape of her own mind for a while. Anxiety and mental health isn’t often well represented besides on a superficial level in gaming, so I appreciate that Studio Zevere are attempting to put a spotlight on it. The trailer illustrates a very distinctive, stark – verging on oppressive – art style and turn-based gameplay with social elements, but otherwise keeps its cards close to the chest. Treading the fine line between dreams and reality, I anticipate She Dreams Elsewhere will be the type of game that plays with you as much as you play it.
Shin Megami Tensei V (Atlus, coming 2021 for Switch)
Persona’s darker sister series hasn’t been seen on a ‘main’ console for some time so its announcement, along with the HD remaster of SMT Nocturne (Spring 2021 for Switch/PS4), was exciting news. SMT is renowned for challenging turn-based combat and epic apocalyptic narratives. SMT 5 also hits the ground running, being set in a world where god is already dead and chaos reigns supreme. The trailer ends with the image of a nondescript protagonist threatened by a demonic army and leveraged into a mysterious pact. Normally, I’d be frustrated by such a cliffhanger but the end product will probably be worth the wait judging from Atlus’ legacy.
Slow Damage (Nitro+CHiRAL, coming 2021 for PC)
Here’s my BL pick for the year. There’s hardly any information out for it (just look at that link page 😂) but what an image to land on! All mystery, smoke and fading neon lights… just my sort of gig. Slow Damage releases on 25 February in Japan and an English version is also slated sometime this year (just imagine, receiving a BL translation the same year of release – what a time to live in!) Set in a fictional cash-strapped Tokyo ward converted into a casino resort run by corrupt officials, the story follows a lethargic man, who is only interested in painting people’s innermost desires. So far, Slow Damage is giving me DRAMAtical Murder (also coming ‘soon’ to PC) x Hashihime vibes, both excellent visual novels that also deserve your attention.
The Good Life (White Owls, coming Summer 2021 for PC, Switch, PS4 & Xbox One)
Alright, yet another life sim. Move to rural paradise, explore, make friends, pay debts… same old, right? Think again. This is a SWERY game and that means dialing the bizarre-o-meter to max. The Kickstarter for The Good Life is refreshingly tongue-in-cheek (of course a backwoods British town is called ‘Rainy Woods’). This is overtly a game about taking photos in the ‘happiest town in the world’ and living the good country life. Only, alongside the pictures of cute sheep and red telephone boxes, there’s a dead woman – dagger in chest – floating Ophelia-style. Oh, and the townspeople turn into dogs and cats at night. Alright, same old SWERY.
Variable Barricade (Otomate, coming 2021 for Switch)
Considering otome games have featured in each GG post I’ve published so far, I’ll be so bold to say that the state of the genre is pretty healthy over here. Aksys has revealed their three otome localisations for 2021 and Variable Barricade stands out by subverting traditional otome tropes. Rather than the usual ‘go fawn after hot guys and settle down’ stuff, this heroine shrewdly dedicates her efforts into batting away marriage candidates. Of course, it will probably still end in wedding bells but lighthearted otome are rare amongst localised affairs (even the deceptively cheerful Cafe Enchante turned into an angst fest) so I’ll take what I can get. Shout out to crime-noir BUSTAFELLOWS (2021 for PC/Switch) as well – here’s hoping pQube’s first otome localisation is successful enough to stimulate more interest in otoge!
Weaving Tides (Follow the Feathers, coming Q1 2021 for PC & Switch)
I’m not a handicrafts person but this game seems wonderfully therapeutic. Weaving Tides is described as a cozy adventure where the player rides dragons to patch up a magical textile world that has come undone. The concept is a novel take on environmental puzzles and there’s something innately soothing about gradually filling in blank spots and connecting dots, although the trailer suggests that there will be formidable encounters to weave around as well. A mellow atmosphere and intriguing characters – it looks like Follow the Feathers are knitting together the perfect way to wind down for cross-stitch challenged people like me.
Dai Gyakuten Saiban (Capcom, coming WHEN?!)
As regular readers might know, I have somewhat of an obsession with the Ace Attorney series. Unsurprisingly, The Great Ace Attorney as it’s (unofficially) called in the West is a game I fervently hope will get localised. When it received extensive fan translations, when AA: Spirit of Justice came out, and even when the original trilogy was unexpectedly brought to PC to great fanfare, each time my hopes were dashed without an announcement. Now, there still isn’t an official statement but there are rumours of data breaches whispering the localisation of this prequel that follows Wright’s ancestor in Meiji Japan. I don’t like to heed rumours too much but my desperation for more AA goodness overrides good sense. Please, Capcom, don’t let me down (and, if I can be really cheeky, can we also have Edgeworth Investigations 2 please?)
There you go, twenty-one games I will eventually burden my backlog with. One of my resolutions was to not buy as many games (and write more regularly) this year but all well 😅. What games are you looking forward to? Are you enjoying any new releases? Let me know in the comments and have a good one!