Last year was a huge year for gaming. A new generation of consoles was released. Pivotal indie darlings like Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout and Among Us brought the world together during tough times. PlayStation continued their domination in delivering game-changing exclusives like Dreams, Ghost of Tsushima, and The Last of Us: Part II, and Cyberpunk: 2077’s release ended the year in a way oddly fitting for 2020 with its game-breaking bugs and bad news behind the scenes.
This year, however, is still a bit of a mystery since there aren’t many big games to look out for just yet.
We do know Nintendo is bringing Pokémon Snap back. Bethesda will be delivering a PlayStation exclusive in Deathloop after being acquired by Microsoft. PlayStation is publishing a game on Xbox for the first time ever with MLB: The Show 21, and Halo: Infinite will drop if it doesn’t get delayed again.
Yet, there’s only one genre that’s showing up big in 2021 – horror.
It’s been quite sometime since we’ve seen such a tantalizing horror lineup. There’re big horror franchises making a terrifying return and some new blood that fans are ready to sink their teeth into. If we’re lucky enough, we might even see a beloved cult horror film series make a big jump into the gaming world. There’s a lot of greatness to expect from the horror genre this year and Bloober Team, developers behind Layers of Fear and Blair Witch, already kicked things off with The Medium. Although it received mixed reactions, The Medium showed Bloober Team’s skills in delivering a unique psychological horror experience that splits the screen to trap players into two grim worlds. With there still being plenty to look forward to, let’s delve into what horrors await us in 2021.
The first upcoming game, releasing this month, is the highly anticipated sequel to the 2017 indie horror hit Little Nightmares. The clay-like art style, incredible lighting, and interesting lore-building created a unique environment for a 3-D platforming puzzle game. Add in some pulse-pounding chase sequences where players are escaping the deadly grasp of grotesque characters and you have everything that made Little Nightmares so perfect for horror fans.
Now its sequel looks improve on everything the first game built by continuing the story of Six as she encounters a new bag-headed friend named Mono and the two traverse the hypnotizing and horrific Pale City. Just from watching the trailer, the game looks absolutely chilling with some new characters and eerie environments that players will encounter as Mono. Little Nightmares II looks like the perfect kind of horror sequel that fans of the original will be eager to delve into.
Soon after, now on April 30th, PlayStation will debut a new potential exclusive horror franchise with Resogun developer Housemarque’s new game Returnal. Personally, this game is easily one of my most anticipated for the year with its incredible premise of players assuming the role of a space pilot named Selene that’s forced to survive on an alien planet while attempting to break a time loop.
Housemarque has always been known for great gameplay and eye-dazzling visuals, but Returnal looks like it’s going to be their greatest masterpiece. The rouge-like gameplay offers some swift tactics players can utilize for survival along with some cool looking weaponry to take down alien creatures that give off amazing cosmic horror vibes. Even better is that Housemarque is utilizing the PS5’s Dualsense controller capabilities, like haptic feedback triggers, and 3-D spatial audio to immerse players into the strange psychological horror experience they’ve concocted. Returnal might not be out yet, but damn does it look unbelievably cool.
This year also sees a strong return of the mainline Resident Evil franchise as Capcom puts their efforts on remakes to rest, for now, to deliver Resident Evil: Village (also known as Resident Evil VIII). With the return of a seemingly European village setting, a charming merchant, and briefcase inventory system, Resident Evil: Village looks to embody the look and feel of RE4 while maintaining REVII’s first person perspective. Not many plot details are known about the game yet, but what we do know is that this entry is trading in standard zombies for other iconic horror creatures. For the first time, the series will see werewolf and vampire enemies introduced that fit incredibly well into the village setting.
Fans already seem intrigued by this change – especially when it comes to the game’s main antagonist Lady Dimitrescu. The domineering figure has already become beloved within the fanbase as plenty of great fan art and cosplays have flooded social media. Capcom was so appreciative of the love that they delightfully revealed to fans her height – a towering 9’6.
Recently, Capcom also released a visual demo on PS5 called Maiden that has gotten the hype train started for the game and although they might be leaving zombies behind, there’s a lot of reminiscence and risks that Resident Evil: Village is taking that could make it one of the most memorable entries yet when it releases on May 7th.
If you are looking for a strong return to classic zombies games however, look no further than Turtle Back Studio’s Back 4 Blood – the spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead. With the game containing the same kind of chaotic zombie killing carnage that made Left 4 Dead so iconic and it all coming from the studio that created it, Back 4 Blood is that “Left 4 Dead 3” that fans have been demanding for years. The game brings players back into a post-apocalyptic world filled with infected called “the Ridden” where they take the role as a group of survivors called “The Cleaners” to decimate hordes and deadly new enemy types. Right when it was unveiled at the Game Awards, it showcased the kind of four player co-op and fast-paced hordes that Left 4 Dead fans love.
Turtle Back has made it clear, however, that Back 4 Blood isn’t just a Left 4 Dead clone though as it features protagonists ready to take the Ridden head on rather than run and a card system that adds in player upgrades. So, if you’re hungering for some nostalgic zombie-killing, Back 4 Blood will have you covered when it releases on June 18th.
Now, it’s worth noting here that the rest of the big horror releases mentioned don’t have specific release dates yet and there isn’t a whole lot to go on yet in terms of details. They’ve been announced, have trailers, and currently have just a 2021 release window, but it’s still up for debate whether or not we’ll be getting our hands on them this year. They’re definitely worth mentioning though since their release would elevate the horror presence this year to new heights.
Out the four remaining games to talk about, Bethesda and Tango Gameworks’ Ghostwire: Tokyo, initially launching as a PlayStation exclusive, has the best chance of releasing this year since, well, it at least has an October release window. Set within a Tokyo filled with otherworldly spirits and mysterious figures wearing Hannya masks, the game looks to deliver a unique conspiracy horror experience.
Even though the game is described as a first-person action-adventure rather than a survival horror game, the striking visuals and creepy character designs say otherwise. What Ghostwire: Tokyo is really all about is still a mystery, but the more that’s said about it, like combat director Shinichiro Hara describing the game’s combat as “karate meets magic,” the more intriguing the game sounds making it more and more of an anticipated release for horror and non-horror fans alike.
Another likely outcome is Supermassive Games delivering the next chapter in the Dark Pictures Anthology with House of Ashes. Teased at the end of Little Hope, Houses of Ashes sees High School Musical alum Ashley Tisdale lead a fresh horror experience that’s looks to be very reminiscent of The Descent. With Supermassive consistently delivering a yearly, top-quality choose your own adventure horror experience, there’s a very good chance that House of Ashes could come around Halloween like Little Hope did to give fans a perfectly timed horror trip.
Another game we could likely see drop in the fall is the next installment in the Outlast series with a spin-off titled The Outlast Trials. Deterring from the mainline series a bit to send players into a disturbing and unnerving story about test subjects of an experiment held during the Cold War, developer Red Barrels has been pretty tight-lipped about when we could see this new game. Aside form a creepy teaser trailer released last year, it’s fair to say that Red Barrels could surprise, shock, and scare the world at any moment with a release date.
Out of all these games though, the one that’s the most exciting for horror fans must be Evil Dead: The Game. With the Evil Dead franchise seeing a big resurgence in recent years, largely in part to the success of the Ash vs. Evil Dead TV series, it’s the perfect time for Evil Dead to make a return to the gaming world. The trailer that dropped during the Game Awards offered everything that fans could want to see. A playable map of the iconic cabin in the woods from the films, representation from both the film and TV series, and Bruce Campbell’s face as Ash Williams being the face for the game. As a whole, the gameplay details are still unknown, although we do know that there will be multiplayer that will let players control other fan-favorite characters like Kelly and Pablo from Ash vs. Evil Dead. There’s still a lot about the game we don’t really know about, but there’re so many possibilities that could make this game special for fans to see if/when the game releases this year.
Keep in mind that these are all big games that we know about – so far. There’s certainly room for other horror titles to come out of the woodworks and scare the hell out fans. Even if nothing else ever comes though, this lineup is just plain stellar and all that can be said now is that it’s a really great time to be a horror fan.