Starfield is a full 17 months away. Elden Ring arrives in January. Obsidian is making The Outer Worlds 2, but its announcement trailer was a silly cinematic—we won’t be playing it for years. That’s often how it goes at E3, with big game announcements getting us excited for games long before they’re finished. And that can be fun. But isn’t it better when you get to watch a trailer and realize the game can be in your hands in just a few months?
Every game here is out soon. Or at least soon-ish. 2021! That’s this year, and it’s been a pretty quiet one for new games so far, but the summer and fall are looking up. This is the best of 2021 that E3 had to offer.
When’s it out? July 20
Why we’re excited about it: Bird with sword
The concept of Death’s Door is just super cool—a crow whose nine-to-five job is collecting the souls of the dead. But then! A soul is stolen, and you have to track it down through strange lands. This is simply a beautiful top-down action game from an indie team that proved it knows how to make slick action in 2015’s Titan Souls. Looking back, Titan Souls seems like a dry run for these developers really flexing their creativity. Death’s Door is really leading the charge for #YearoftheBird.
When’s it out? September 23
Why we’re excited about it: The vibe. And no more delays!
Sable was once going to come out in 2019, and a full two years later we’re finally going to play it. Sable makes a hell of an impression with its art style and lonely vibe—it’s perfect for trailers, in other words, which makes us curious how effectively that translates to a full game. Shadow of the Colossus was a masterpiece of lonely exploration. Can Sable pull off something similar? Will Japanese Breakfast’s soundtrack be the best game music of the year? Is that hoverbike as fun to fly as it looks? So many longstanding questions we’ll know the answer to in three months.
Forza Horizon 5
When’s it out: November 9
Why we’re excited about it: “There are no tricks—this is in-game”
Damn, this game is pretty. The Forza Horizon series is a consistent delight—we loved both Horizon 3 and 4—and Forza Horizon 5 looks like an absolute stunner. Sim racing games tend to push PCs and consoles really hard, particularly when it comes to raw details in the car models, but Horizon maintains that pedigree while being much more approachable than a sim. We wrote a whole article about its tech here, but there are also some new features for online play that seem designed to make it easier to link up with friends and get racing. And you can design your own races this time. And there’s a volcano. Can we play it yet?
When’s it out? Fall 2021
Why we’re excited about it: Absolver was great, kung fu is cool
Sifu got a cool nightclub fight trailer at E3, but our interest is mostly based on conjecture right now: it’s a singleplayer kung fu brawler from Sloclap, a developer that might be able to produce a really, really good kung fu brawler. We don’t have a clear picture of how the combat system in Sifu works, but Sloclap made the complex, customizable fighting of Absolver, so expect something challenging and thoughtful. Unlike Absolver, though, Sifu won’t include multiple fighting styles, instead focusing on a specific kung fu school, Pak Mei, with consultation from a master of the style—a detail we learned when we interviewed Sifu’s executive producer earlier this year. Read that Sifu interview for more details.
When’s it out? September 2
Why we’re excited about it: Extreme(ly goofy) sports on a massive scale
A lot of open-world games position themselves as “playgrounds,” but Riders Republic’s massive map is actually one expansive playground to do a bunch of extreme sports in. In Ubisoft’s gameplay reveal we saw snowboards, bikes, jetpacks, paramotors, wingsuits, and parachutes. Somehow they all look equally fun, like how I couldn’t decide between the hovercraft, kart, or plane in Diddy Kong Racing. Ubisoft is going big on player count, too. Those clips of several dozen players bumbling down the same hill on bikes reminds us of the giddy chaos in Fall Guys (but in a format we actually want to play). It’s deliberately goofy, vibrant, and out in just a few months.
When’s it out? 2021
Why we’re excited about it: Confusion
It’s a bit hard to get excited about new deckbuilders right now. There are a lot of them! But Inscryption looks bizarre and even scary, not things we usually associate with card games. The developer’s description makes it clear we’re in for something unusual here, blending a roguelike with “escape-room style puzzles and psychological horror into a blood-laced smoothie.” When you learn it’s from the developer of Pony Island, it starts to make a lot more sense. Likely candidate for a sleeper hit later this year.
When’s it out? “Holiday 2021”
Why we’re excited about it: Multiplayer
Infinite’s multiplayer looks really promising. It’s going to be free-to-play, a big shift for Halo. Some of the new inclusions are really smart: there’s a training mode for introducing players to the Halo basics, and for the first time, you’ll be able to set up bot matches to practice against.
The multiplayer footage we’ve seen so far just looks really dang fun—introducing some new equipment abilities like the grappling hook and a deployable shield, but largely sticking closely to the feel of moving and shooting in classic Halo. Hopefully Infinite’s campaign is great, too, but this feels like the first time in more than a decade that Halo’s multiplayer could be truly big. Also, it’s just cool that for the first time in Halo’s history, it will be available on PC day one.
When’s it out? October 22
Why we’re excited about it: That part in the trailer with the jet and the bazooka
It’s about time Battlefield was really good again, right? I’m not talking about Battle-old World War 2, I’m talking jets, tanks, and (apparently) freaking grapple hooks. Battlefield 2042 is going back to a modern (near-future) setting with a revamped class system centered around specialists with unique gadgets. That, and the fact that DICE is focusing entirely on multiplayer that supports up to 128 players, is very exciting news.
Battlefield is best when you’re desperately fighting for a flag and dodging tank fire just as two jets suddenly collide midair. DICE’s debut trailer totally embraces that attitude.
When’s it out: August 5
Why we’re excited about it: Death (also trash)
Honestly, why would you want to play anything cyberpunk when you could instead play Death Trash, a gorepunk game hitting Early Access soon. Aside from the excellent name, Death Trash looks like an RPG with a singular aesthetic, the kind of messed up world you’re driven to see more of, even if you know it’s going to be upsetting. More games that make it hard to sleep at night, please.
When’s it out? Fall 2021
Why we’re excited about it: Playing with our food
When we said this soup looked hot, we meant it. Realistically rendered food makes us hungry, but it also satisfies on some deeper level. It’s great when games can focus in on a simple concept and execute on it this lovingly—in this case being able to make something like 100 recipes, including grilling and skewering. That’s right: we’re going beyond soup. The recipes pull from Filipino and South Asian cuisine and were vetted with chefs, so you’ll be able to make them for real, too.
When’s it out: August 5
Why we’re excited about it: Isometric colony building
Chucklefish’s long-awaited space station builder popped up at E3 this year with a welcome Early Access release date announcement. Just watching space stations come to life in the trailer sells Starmancer. They look so cool—the pixel art conveys real personality, and it’s easy to imagine scrolling around a completed station admiring it, like a thriving city in Cities Skylines. There’s also a bit of combat and mad science in the trailer that hints at what you’ll be doing other than building space utopias. It looks fantastic even before you find out that Starmancer is the product of a two-person dev team.
When’s it out: Fall 2021
Why we’re excited about it: A beloved South Korean MMO finally localized
Lost Ark isn’t a new game, but it’s never been playable in the west. That’s finally changing thanks to Amazon Game Studios, and we wrote about why that’s exciting. The short version is Lost Ark’s Diablo-style combat is a whole lot of fun in an MMO, and it has some other cool features, like relationships with MMOs and the ability to build a boat, sail the ocean, and settle your own island. Action-RPG players who blast their way through Diablo 2: Resurrected may want to give Lost Ark a shot, too.