Microsoft recently shared its list of the 30 or so games coming exclusively to Xbox in 2021. Some, like The Medium, have already arrived — you can check out Luke’s The Medium review to see what he thinks — while the rest of the list ranges from major launches like Halo Infinite to the more unexpected and intriguing entries, like the musical cosmical adventure game The Artful Escape. At a glance, this sounds pretty impressive: 30 games coming exclusively to Xbox consoles this year, and with quite a range in genres and titles. But oddly, this list has much less of an impact than it should, simply due to the fact that we haven’t really heard anything about most of the games on there.
Some were covered during Microsoft’s Xbox Games Showcases last year, but either because we haven’t heard much since, or because there just doesn’t seem to be much marketing around them in general, most seem to have been forgotten before this roundup by the Xbox team. “30 exclusive Xbox games” sounds a little less catchy when, after reading through the list, it starts to turn into “30 exclusive Xbox games, most of which I don’t know, and the rest I can’t remember” — which seems to be the general opinion, going by the poll we made for just this reason. We asked you which of the Xbox exclusives coming out in 2021 you are most looking forward to, and while over 1,500 chose Halo Infinite, a large number of you picked “none” and commented to say that you either hadn’t heard of a number of titles on the list, or that you weren’t too interested in them from what we’ve seen so far. All in all, it does seem odd that these are now presented as a major lineup of Xbox exclusives when it a lot of players wouldn’t recognise any from name alone.
There are a great number of interesting games on that list, however, so we thought we’d go through again and make our own roundup with more details, gameplay info, and trailers to give a bit of an idea of what’s coming to Xbox this year. We've paired each game with a brief description so you can tell straight away if it's for you, and then if you read on, like what you see, and can't wait a second longer to play it, we've also added a "for fans of" section with recommendations of games that share the same theme, genre, art style, or even just the same brand of weirdness. So, without further ado, this is what's coming to Xbox this year:
In brief: An adventure game with a strong narrative focus.Adios kicks off the Xbox 2021 exclusives list with the most randomly specific premise we’ve seen in some time. Have you ever sat back and wished there was a game that let you experience what it would be like to be a pig farmer disposing of bodies for the mob? Well, you’re in luck: Adios is a first-person adventure game about exactly that. You’ve decided you no longer want to loan out your pig farm for body disposal, and when a hitman turns up with another body, you tell him so. He’ll try to talk you out of it, and developer Mischief says “how you respond will determine the rest of your life.”
Just for pure weirdness, Adios sounds a little like The Stanley Parable, but with much more of a focus on the story. Adios is all about “sticking to a complicated decision.” Your hitman friend will take time out of killing people to hang about doing chores with you while trying to change your mind — this sounds very nice of him, until you remember he’ll have to kill you too if you do end up deciding to stop helping the mob. It sounds like you’ll already have your hands pretty full with trying not to be killed, but Mischief adds that Adios is an interactive game: “you can fix a car, talk with your would-be killer about why you love fixing soda machines, even fish for an elusive giant catfish.” It’s not a sentence I expected to write, but I am now extremely invested in the decisions of this pig farmer mob employee. Adios is expected to launch this year.
For fans of: The Stanley Parable, Firewatch, What Remains of Edith Finch
The Artful Escape
In brief: A psychedelic musical action-adventure game.This one is seriously interesting. It’s been on the way for some time, having first been revealed at E3 back in 2017, and is all about Francis Vendetti and the “cosmic wanderings of his own imagination” as he sets out on a quest to make it as a musician. The Artful Escape looks weird and wonderfully wacky — developer Beethoven and Dinosaur describes it as a “psychedelic, multidimensional journey to inspire his stage persona.” You start out on Earth — more specifically, Colorado — on the day of Francis’s first ever performance. There has already been an iconic musician in the family, and Francis is starting out in the shadow of his own uncle Johnson, who the devs say is sort of comparable to Bob Dylan in the universe of The Artful Escape. But soon enough, Francis is leaving earth and heading to the world of Glimmerdim in search of a jazz club that “never appears in the same place twice.” It’s in this cosmic other world that Francis can “jam on his guitar” to hover, jump, and slide around. Beethoven and Dinosaur says the creatures of these other planes will sort of harmonise and interact with Francis through music — a bit like if we were going on an adventure with the older brother of the bard from Wandersong. There’s no release date yet for The Artful Escape beyond 2021, but we’ll keep you posted.
For fans of: Wandersong, Sayonara Wild Hearts, AfterParty
In brief: A cyberpunk action RPG about the fall of a megacorporation. In a complete change of pace, we have The Ascent: a solo and co-op action RPG about a cyberpunk world and the collapse of mega corporation The Ascent Group. Daniela Pietrosanu, communications manager at Curve Digital, describes The Ascent Group arcology as "a self-contained corporate-run metropolis, stretching high into the sky and filled with creatures from all over the galaxy." The trouble is, The Ascent Group owned everybody, including you. You were an indentured worker and are now left stranded by the collapse of The Ascent Group. The void left in the wake of this collapse leads to a power war between corporations and gangs, and "it’ll be your job to take up arms and uncover what’s happening before it’s too late."
The Ascent will arrive for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC in 2021, arriving onto Xbox Game Pass at launch, and will target 60fps and 4K on the Xbox Series X, along with “increased fidelity, Ultra HD support, and improved loading times.”
For fans of: Cloudpunk, Blade Runner, Cyberpunk 2077
The Big Con
In brief: An adventure game set in the 90s.The Big Con is an adventure game which takes you back to the 90s, as a teen con artist on a mission to save your family's video store. You’re Ali, who’s ditching band camp in favour of getting revenge on the loan sharks in “classic 90s con movie style.” Developer Mighty Yell says you’ll be wearing disguises “and too much plaid,” pickpocketing, solving puzzles, attempting to “rip people off to save the day,” being an awkward teen, and perhaps jumping on “the latest collectible plushie craze.” So, to recap: video stores, plaid, and plushies all combine for a big ol’ 90s nostalgia trip. The Big Con is set to launch for Xbox One and Xbox Series X this year.
For fans of: Hypnospace Outlaw, ToeJam and Earl, Stranger Things
In brief: A first-person shooter with a single-player campaign and multiplayer elements.Based on Smilegate’s online first-person shooter Crossfire, CrossfireX is a competitive first-person shooter set to arrive for Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC in 2021, after having been delayed from its initial 2020 launch. CrossfireX focuses on the “global conflict between the world’s two most formidable private military factions,” and the free-to-play multiplayer portion of CrossfireX, in development from Smilegate, has you choose to join either the Global Risk or Black List mercenary squads for a variety of multiplayer modes. The campaign, in development from Remedy Entertainment, gives us “a series of action-packed stories told from both sides of the conflict.” CrossfireX launches for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S this year.
For fans of: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Battlefield
Dead Static Drive
In brief: An apocalyptic driving/horror open-world RPG.Dead Static Drive is an open-world RPG which offers a mashup of survival, horror, and driving elements, and which is described as a “road trip in a world of existential cosmic horror.” It’s been on the way for quite some time, with development having started in 2014, and from what’s been said since then, Dead Static Drive really does offer something intriguing. Creator Mike Blackney spoke to Kill Screen back in 2016, with his vision for the game described as “like Grand Theft Auto … but more like Grand Theft Cthulhu.”
In Dead Static Drive, you’re setting out to reconnect with estranged family members. Unfortunately, the world just so happens to fall apart around you as you go. Over on the game’s Steam page, the devs tell us “your friendships will make every bit of difference as order collapses and the people you meet fight for their own survival,” and you’ll be sneaking, scavenging, and doing everything you can to survive: “there's no escape; there's only what you choose to do with the little time that's left.” We haven’t had too much info on Dead Static Drive recently, but that 2016 interview gives us a fair bit of gameplay info to get on with. The travelling itself apparently takes the backseat to the real focus, which is the exploration options and side quests you’ll find in the towns you pass through. Dead Static Drive is definitely one to keep an eye on. There hasn’t been word of a specific release date yet, but it is set to launch in 2021.
For fans of: The Final Station, The Organ Trail, GTA V
In brief: A pixel adventure game set in the 90s.Echo Generation is a turn-based adventure game with a retro pixel art style, a mix of turn-based and real-time combat, and a bit of a Stranger Things vibe. According to developer Cococucumber, Echo Generation is set in the early 90s and revolves around a group of kids who band together to investigate “supernatural events,” all while “battling monsters and mechs to save their hometown.” You’ll be recruiting other kids and pets to your party and battling everything from monsters and robots to giant rats in an effort to “save your home from complete destruction.” So, you know, no pressure.
Echo Generation is filled with places like video stores and abandoned cabins, which Martin Gauvreau, game director and co-founder of Cococucumber, says are “inspired by classic coming-of-age films and horror novels from the 80s and 90s.” If you enjoyed the wacky world of Riverbond, Echo Generation might be one for you. Cococucumber developed both, which also explains the similarities with the voxel art style in both games. “We have been working hard to push the unique voxel art style of our games even further through Echo Generation,” Gauvreau says. “Here you will see a charming mix of retro pixels and voxels in a gorgeous stylized world that we hope will evoke your sense of nostalgia… we wanted to tell a story inspired by our childhood growing up in small-town Canada. That feeling of being a kid in the summertime and getting wrapped up in a mysterious adventure.” Echo Generation launches for Xbox Series X and Xbox One in 2021.
For fans of: Riverbond, Costume Quest, Grounded
In brief: An online FPS about the battle for control of a planet.Exomecha is a free-to-play online competitive FPS set on the planet Omecha. Omecha is rich in resources, but was unfortunately discovered around the same time by a number of species who are now at war with each other for control of the planet. TwistedRed’s Nursan Akinci says this will be reflected in the game’s environments and maps, which will be natural at first but which will change as more species arrive to join the fight.
ExoMecha features large team battles, a battle royale mode, boss battles, a “small scale objective-based game mode,” and a variety of combat styles. You’ll be piloting your own mech, equipped with firearms for long-range combat as well as melee weapons like swords and shields, to help defend against the enormous bosses littering the planet. From the sounds of things, even though you’re all already fighting each other for control of Omecha, you will still have a common enemy in the form of an AI-controlled dragon which will show up at random throughout matches and start attempting to roast everybody in reach. It’ll be a significantly tougher fight if you decide to attack, but you’ll get better rewards. Along with your mech, you’ll be equipped with a variety of gadgets, abilities, and vehicles.
ExoMecha is currently expected to launch in Q3/Q4 this year. It will come to both Xbox One and Xbox Series X, and will have the options for a 4K high fidelity mode or an 120 fps mode on Xbox Series X. Akinci says that 120 fps mode will still be 4K, “but it will be a dynamic resolution.” ExoMecha will also be cross-generation.
For fans of: VirtualOn, Phantom Crash, Mobile Suit Gundam
In brief: An open-world space exploration game.Exo One's title holds true as, bless its heart, it did not do quite so well on our Xbox exclusives poll — out of over 3,000 votes, only one of you had it down as your most anticipated Xbox game of the year. Exo One does sound pretty interesting: developer Future Friends Games describes the open-world adventure game as “a surreal, exoplanetary exploration.” That sense of pure exploration and discovery sounds a little like The Outer Wilds, but it seems Exo One might have more of a contemplative tone. Surreal definitely seems to be the perfect description of what it’ll be like to play it: you “drift and flow across enigmatic alien landscapes using a gravity based movement system” to see “high-sci-fi planets… and drift toward alien horizons.”
We get just a little bit more of an explanation over on the game’s Steam page, which tells us that it’s an “interplanetary, gravity-defying journey through space and time,” and that Exo One itself was actually created after from blueprints transmitted by an alien signal on the exact anniversary of the “Jupiter accident.” Confused? Intrigued? So are we. Either way, the prologue for the game which launched on Steam last year was met with a pretty impressive response, so it might be worth keeping an eye on Exo One, which is expected to come to Xbox Series X sometime this year.
For fans of: The Outer Wilds, No Man's Sky, Haven
In brief: An adventure game set on an alien world.Like Echo Generation, the styling of the title “The Gunk” — scrawled across the screen like an 80s horror movie — also has a pretty retro feel to it. The Gunk is a sci-fi adventure about heading to an alien world and discovering, you guessed it, The Gunk. You run a scavenging operation with your friend, heading across space looking for anything you might be able to sell, and one day run smack into the Gunk. Something about the Gunk is corrupting the planet, and your friendship will begin to fray as you decide whether to fight the Gunk and save the planet, or to just look out for yourselves. Gameplay will be a mix of combat, exploration, crafting, and puzzle-solving, and according to developer Image & Form Games, The Gunk is set to launch in fall this year.
For fans of: Grounded, SteamWorld Heist, Journey to the Savage Planet
In brief: An FPS about the Master Chief and the fate of humanity.Unsurprisingly, Halo Infinite was the most popular choice on our Xbox exclusives poll, with over 1,500 of you voting for the first-person shooter as your most anticipated Xbox game of 2021. Developer 343 Industries says the narrative team is working to make sure the story will be accessible for new and old players alike: “our vision for Halo Infinite’s “spiritual reboot” was to create a story and experience that’s inviting to new players and welcomes them to fall in love with Halo the same way many of us did years ago without any prior knowledge required. Meanwhile, longtime fans will also pick up with the continuation of the events of Halo 5: Guardians and be rewarded with new mysteries to unravel.” A nine-minute gameplay trailer gave us a look at a sliver of the campaign, taking place several hours into the story, with Master Chief first found floating in space before being pursued by the Banished — the mercenary group that rebelled from the Covenant Empire. The single-player campaign will run at a locked 60 FPS on the Xbox Series X. Halo Infinite will also feature a free-to-play multiplayer portion, which will run at 120 FPS on the Xbox Series X.
News on Infinite has been a little sparse in the years since it was announced, with 343 keeping details close to its chest, but the game is still expected to launch in 2021 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Windows.
For fans of: Titanfall 2, Doom Eternal, delays
The Last Stop
In brief: A supernatural adventure anthology about the intersecting lives of strangers.The Last Stop is another intriguing entry on the list. Described as an “anthology drama” with three stories wound up in one, it’s a single-player third-person adventure game set in London, detailing how the lives of three different characters — Donna, a high school kid, John, a single dad, and Meena, a “ruthlessly ambitious professional” — intersect after a “supernatural crisis.”
Watching the trailer above will likely leave you with more questions than answers — Murder? Affairs? Is that body-switching? And what on earth’s going on with Meena? — but the game’s Steam page gives us just a little more to go on. The reason Donna is spying on her neighbours is because she’s looking for adventure after feeling a little too stifled at home. This, somehow, leads to her and her friends becoming “unexpected kidnappers in a game of amateur detective gone wrong.” John is jealous of his neighbour’s “ free and easy… twenty-something” lifestyle.” Again, this somehow connects to something completely random — “when the pair unwittingly fall foul of a vengeful stranger, a cursed artefact threatens to transform their lives forever.” Meena, who seems to work in a Mission Impossible movie, might be a little stressed out because she’s both fighting for a promotion and also preparing to deal with “something ancient” in the basement at work. You’ll be playing as each of these three conflicted characters. We definitely want to know more about this game, and we’ll let you know when we do.
For fans of: The Stanley Parable, Tell Me Why, Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy
In brief: A relaxed open-world adventure game.Like The Big Con and Echo Generation, Lake seems to be a bit of a nostalgia trip — this time, it’s heading back to the 80s — but, as you can tell from the trailer above, Lake will be decidedly more laid-back. The gentle art style and music gives Lake a relaxed feel, and it seems like a good contender for anyone looking for a more chilled-out open-world adventure game. You play as Meredith Weiss, who’s heading back to Providence Oaks for a few weeks to take over for her dad as the local mail carrier. Meredith is leaving behind a career at a software company, and just in tone, it seems Lake might have a little in common with lifestyle sims like Stardew Valley, which sees you leaving behind a hectic city life for a complete lifestyle change.
The focal point of Lake seems to be the friendships and relationships Meredith will form, and the decision she has to make at the end of her trip — whether to go back to the city or stay in her hometown. It’s not exactly a walking sim, since she’ll be driving her mail truck around, but Lake does seem as though it could have the same mellow vibe as some of the more relaxed games in that genre. According to Lake’s Steam page, Meredith will be chatting to friends, reading books, and helping neighbours in a “branching story that doesn’t shy away from slice-of-life themes.” Lake is set to arrive for Xbox Series X|S in Spring this year.
For fans of: Eastshade, Life is Strange, Deadly Premonition (but maybe just the side missions)
Little Witch in the Woods
In brief: An adventure game/life sim about an apprentice witch.Little Witch in the Woods looks like an ideal choice for anyone searching for some peaceful escapism in a pixel fantasy world, or for fans of Stardew Valley-style chilled-out life sims. Like all the best life sims, Little Witch in the Woods has you move to a new town only to find that your new home is completely dilapidated. You’ll be playing as Ellie and starting from scratch in your life as an apprentice witch, learning potions, gathering materials, and generally living your best witchy life in an adorable enchanted land.
Little Witch in the Woods comes from Korean indie developer Sunny Side Up. It doesn’t yet have a more concrete release date other than 2021, and the most recent update on the game was that trailer above, which came out in summer last year, so it’s hard to guess how soon we might be playing this one. We’ll keep you posted.
For fans of: Stardew Valley, Ikenfell, Celeste
Microsoft Flight Simulator
In brief: A highly detailed and realistic flight sim.After Halo Infinite, the next game everybody seemed most excited for on the poll was the Xbox Series X|S launch of Microsoft Flight Simulator for consoles this summer. To make it even more appealing, it will be available with Xbox Game Pass at launch.
The PC version of Microsoft Flight Simulator has already drawn a great deal of praise for its incredible level of realistic detail — Sean called it a “truly remarkable and beautiful aviation simulation” in his Microsoft Flight Simulator review. Luckily, the Xbox Series X|S version should look just as good. Jorg Neumann, head of Microsoft Flight Simulator, said it should be "virtually indistinguishable" from the PC version. When the Xbox Series X|S release date was announced, Neumann added that "simmers on Xbox Series X|S can expect the same level of depth as the PC version, allowing you to experience the most authentic and realistic flight simulator we have ever created." The Flight Sim team is also working with third-party partners to bring "additional peripherals to Xbox Series X|S that will make your console simming experience even more immersive." Microsoft Flight Simulator is known for its detailed recreation of Earth, and the fact that you can pretty much fly anywhere on the planet — a fact apparently cheerfully ignored by most of us at first, since 70% of Microsoft Flight Simulator players flew home on their first flight.
For fans of: Microsoft, flight, and/or simulations
In brief: An RPG about making an RPG.RPG Time: The Legend of Wright is all about a schoolboy and his aspirations to become a game developer. He’s created his own RPG in his sketchbook, and we will be making our way through the hand-drawn pages of his imagination. You can see the inspiration from other RPGs scattered across the pages of his sketchbook in the trailer above, with the fantasy themes, battles, puzzles, and progression of the RPG’s main character interspersed with graffiti, pencils, sharpeners, and all the other classroom paraphernalia of its schoolboy creator. RPG Time looks like an explosion of colour and imagination, and is set to arrive for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S this year.
For fans of: Knights of Pen and Paper, Comix Zone, Paper Mario
In brief: An adventure and exploration game set on an alien world.Visually, Sable is strikingly beautiful. It’s a “coming-of-age tale of discovery” set in a desert on an alien world, and looks like another promising entry for anyone looking to get completely lost in a sci-fi, cosmic-style mystery.
Sable sees its titular character embarking on her “gliding” — a sort of rite of passage which developer Shedworks says “will take her across vast deserts, through landscapes littered with fallen spaceships.” You’ll be travelling around on a hoverbike, exploring, solving puzzles, meeting other travellers, and “unearthing mysteries long forgotten,” all while Sable attempts to discover her own role in the world. Sable looks ideal for fans of Journey, both in the setting and the sense of exploration on such a grand scale, but also in its structure — there doesn’t seem to be a storyline as such, and you’re free to move through the game however you like. Sable is set to arrive for Xbox Series X|S this year.
For fans of: The Sojourn, Journey, Rime
In brief: A graphic horror/shooter game.This is one for the list of anyone looking for their next horror game. From the trailer above, Scorn is just going to be all-out grotesque (go ahead and watch the trailer if you’re ready to be creeped out and confused) and is described as being “designed around the idea of ‘being thrown into the world.’”
If you manage to get past the weirdness in the video above and the Xbox Series X gameplay trailer — why is everybody inside out? Is that weapon alive? Why is everything so squelchy? — the story and gameplay details still seem intriguingly vague. One description tells us you “explore interconnected regions in a non-linear fashion. The unsettling environment is a character itself” in a “nightmarish universe of odd forms and sombre tapestry.” Each region is made up of a maze of different pathways, and you’ll be learning skill sets, mastering new weapons, and apparently just attempting to “comprehend the sights presented to you.” Scorn doesn’t have any cutscenes, which should boost the immersion of this unsettling horrorscape even more. Scorn’s creepiness seems to be working for it — votes on our Xbox exclusives poll were pretty spread out across all 30+ games, ranging from a sizeable 46.47% vote for Halo Infinite to a sliver of 0.15% for Echo Generation, but Scorn did still stand out as one which you seemed to gravitate to more than most on the list, with over 140 votes. Scorn launches this year for Xbox Series X|S and will be available with Xbox Game Pass.
For fans of: Alien, Dead Space, Clive Barker’s Jericho
She Dreams Elsewhere.
In brief: An adventure RPG exploring mental health and self-identity.If Scorn hasn’t sufficiently unnerved you, you could also try She Dreams Elsewhere: a turn-based, adventure RPG about Thalia, “an anxiety-ridden, comatose woman who delves into her dreams and confront her inner nightmares after realizing she's trapped in a coma.” She Dreams Elsewhere features turn-based combat and revolves around themes of “mental health and self-identity.” Visually, it looks a little like Minit, but with decidedly more “mind-bending levels, and a surreal, visually-striking world ripe for exploration.”
It’s Ninja Theory that comes to mind when thinking about games that explore ideas of mental health issues, since the studio worked so closely with specialists when depicting psychosis within a psychological horror setting in Hellblade, or when creating its new game Project: Mara, a "representation of mental terror”. We’ve yet to see how She Dreams Elsewhere will deal with these ideas itself. According to the devs, She Dreams Elsewhere will feature a “variety of nightmarish beings” to be fought with an “easy to learn, difficult to master turn-based battle system,” but you’ll also meet a “charming cast of characters” who you’ll interact with through the game’s Connection system. It’ll be interesting to see what more we’ll learn about She Dreams Elsewhere, which launches this year for Xbox One and Xbox Game Pass.
For fans of: Celeste, Minit, Gris
In brief: A snowboarding game with single-player and multiplayer elements.Shredders is a snowboarding game in development from I-IIIusions and Let it Roll, all of whom are keen on snowboarding or skiing themselves. The devs are fans of the Amped snowboarding games, saying, “they balanced simulation and fun with fine controls in an easy to learn and discoverable way. Shredders accelerates the spirit of those games with cool next-gen tech and kick-ass physics.” You can play Shredders solo but it’ll also have “multiplayer baked into its core,” and Let It Roll’s CTO Marcus Forsmoo says, “in the same spirit as snowboarding, we want to give the player freedom and agency over themselves. It should be rewarding to explore the mechanics and find your own style.” Shredders will arrive for Xbox Series X|S this winter.
For fans of: Amped, SSX, Steep
Song of Iron
In brief: A brooding Nordic action-adventure.In a complete change of pace from Shredders, Song of Iron takes us to a “dark Nordic world” of forests and caves for a brooding action-adventure game “full of mystery and danger.” You’ll be seeking the Great Temple of the Gods with the hope of saving your people. Unfortunately, everything in the world of Song of Iron seems to want nothing more than to get in your way, and “man, monster and nature itself will try to stop you.” You’ll be armed with a bow, axe, and shield, but since the combat will be brutal and violent, you need to watch your weapons carefully to make sure you don’t lose or break them. Despite that danger, it seems you’ll need to throw yourself into the fray as much as possible, as developer Escape says you need “the blood of your ancestors and valor regained along the way” to keep fighting. With its dark and brooding tone and Nordic setting, it’s a little reminiscent of Niffelheim, where you play as a lost soul trapped in a hostile realm. It’s been a while since we’ve heard much about Song of Iron, which is due to launch sometime between spring and mid-2021, but we’ll keep you posted.
For fans of: Niffelheim, Unto the End, Last Kingdom
In brief: An action-adventure about a small fox exploring a mysterious world.We’ve been looking forward to Tunic for a while. Originally featured during Microsoft’s bit at E3 2018, Tunic is an action-adventure game about a small adorable fox. It features a mix of combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving, and its creator Andrew Shouldice says the game “wears a lot of influences on its sleeve.” Shouldice adds that there were a few things he “actively admired” while working on Tunic: “the feeling of dodging through an attack and being perfectly positioned to land your own hits, from Bloodborne. The sublime, perfect isometry of Monument Valley. The mystifying, ever-present text of FEZ. The sprawling yet intricately connected world of Dark Souls. The imposing and boxlike villains in The Secret of Kells. The ruined world of a powerful civilization, from Nausicaä and Laputa. The dumbfounding and world-spanning riddles of La Mulana and Myst,” and that if it were to be compared to a Legend of Zelda game, it “would be, more than any other, the very first one.” Despite the Bloodborne and Dark Souls inspirations, Tunic definitely seems to have a wholesome vibe, with its tiny fox and his tiny tunic running through beautiful woodlands in search of ancient secrets.
For fans of: Legend of Zelda, Riverbond, Monument Valley
In brief: A mystery/thriller where you’re stuck in a time-loop.Twelve Minutes looks seriously intriguing, and not just because it brings us James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, and the dulcet tones of Willem Dafoe. It’s an interactive thriller about a man trapped in a time loop, and just so happens to be one of those games that only raises more questions every time we see something new about it. To start with: you will have to solve your own murder. You witness the same events and live out the same 12 minutes over and over again, with a police officer bursting into your house, accusing your wife of murder, and killing you. Each time you live through the loop, you have the chance to learn a little more about what’s going on.
Twelve Minutes is in development from Luis Antonio. It was originally intended to launch at the end of 2020 before being pushed back to this year — hopefully, the game will shed enough of its mystery to give us a new release date soon.
For fans of: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, Shadow of Memories, Beyond: Two Souls
Unexplored 2: The Wayfarer’s Legacy
In brief: An action-RPG with roguelite elements.Unexplored 2: The Wayfarer’s Legacy looks beautiful. The art style is a little similar to that of Sable or Bad North, and the whole thing is accompanied by an ethereal orchestral soundtrack. Unexplored 2 is an roguelite action-RPG with a top-down view, set in a procedurally-generated world, in which you are on a quest to destroy the Staff of Yendor. You’ll be facing “magical creatures and dangerous foes,” exploring mountains and ruins, and finding “mythical weapons and historic items.” So far, Unexplored 2 seems to be checking off everything on the list of necessary ingredients for a fantasy adventure, but a key part of Unexplored 2’s story happens when you die — which will apparently happen a lot — because then your character is gone for good. Developer Ludomotion has most of the game’s info over on Epic, which tells us that autosaving or quickloading won’t save your little Wayfarer. You can opt to start back up in that same world, but you’ll be playing with a new character several years after the death of your first. Your new Wayfarer will be able to see your mistakes, and you can leave items for the next Wayfarer to pick up as a slightly creepy gift from beyond the grave.
This legacy system sounds seriously interesting. Over on the game’s Fig campaign page, the devs give one example of the consequences of the actions of the previous hero. If your last Wayfarer saved a village from a pack of wolves, your next hero might find that same village prospering and happy to sell useful items to you. However, if your last hero chose to leave the wolves alive, the village might have been abandoned, meaning you can’t pick up those valuable items needed for your journey, and “making the way forward more challenging.” Plus, dying in the final mission doesn’t just end you, but also the whole world. The only way to keep playing is to start up in a new world, so you’re warned to “make sure you are prepared well and know everything there is to know” and to make sure you’ve discovered all the secrets of the old world before heading to the new. The gameplay looks to be a mix of exploration, combat, puzzles, and tactics — taking into consideration whether you have enough supplies to head into the desert, for instance, or whether you’re ready to face a mysterious beast. Unexplored 2: The Wayfarer’s Legacy launches this year.
For fans of: Bad North, Unexplored, Rogue Legacy
Warhammer 40,000: Darktide
In brief: A co-op action game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.Over 150 of you chose Warhammer 40,000: Darktide as your most anticipated Xbox release of 2021. The latest instalment from developer Fatshark, Warhammer 40K: Darktide is a four-player co-op game. Once a convict, you now fight for the Inquisition, and need to team up with Inquisition allies to defend Tertium and Atoma Prime from the cult known as the Admonition. Warhammer 40K: Darktide features “deep and balanced gunplay,” and is “built on the legacy of Vermintide 2’s highly-praised melee combat.” You can choose your class, customise your character and their skillset, and upgrade your gear while facing huge waves of enemies in the fight against the Admonition. Warhammer 40K: Darktide arrives for Xbox Series X in 2021 and will also be playable in Xbox Game Pass.
For fans of: Warhammer: Vermintide 2, Left 4 Dead, Killing Floor
Way to the Woods
In brief: An animal adventure with a focus on atmosphere.Way to the Woods is an atmospheric third-person action adventure game in which a deer and a fawn make their way through a strangely abandoned world while trying to keep ahead of the pack of wolves on their tails. It’s been solo developed by Anthony Tan, who says his inspiration includes Studio Ghibli films like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. Way to the Woods looks utterly absorbing, and seems to revolve around the connection between the deer and her fawn, and their journey together to “unravel the mystery of Cat Town, evade a hounding pack of wolves, and find their light to explore a world filled with the relics of the old gods: humanity.” Way to the Woods is expected to launch for Xbox One this year.
For fans of: Spirit of the North, Studio Ghibli, Lost Ember
The Wild at Heart
In brief: A game about childhood adventure and escapism.Visually, The Wild at Heart looks very reminiscent of Knights and Bikes, and it seems both games also aim for that sense of childhood adventure and escapism. Developed by Moonlight Kids, The Wild at Heart is about “two childhood friends fleeing hardship” and ending up in the secret world of the Deep Woods. These woods are populated with mystical beings, and you’ll amass a small army of magical creatures called Spritelings — adorable, glowy little oddballs — to help you on your travels. They can help you out as you explore, find paths through the woods, and fight the host of enemies — both animal and supernatural — that you’ll run into. Not everything is as cute as the Spritelings, apparently; “malevolent beings” wander the Deep Woods at night and the devs say you might want to stick to a campfire until daylight. As you travel through The Wild at Heart, you’ll be gathering everything from random electrical parts to “magical crystals” in order to craft new stuff to help you survive, and, aside from your rambling horde of Spritelings, you’ll be armed with “your trusty vacuum, the Gustbuster.” The Wild at Heart comes to Xbox One this year.
For fans of: Knights and Bikes, Drake Hollow, Carto
...And that’s just the exclusive stuff: there’s also Far Cry 6, Resident Evil Village, and Psychonauts 2 coming in 2021 to name a few, along with any other surprise announcements. What do you think? Have you changed your mind about any of these now that you know more about them? Let us know in the comments!